Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ereikat: Abbas-Olmert Meeting Positive

Ereikat: Abbas-Olmert Meeting Positive
[WAFA is the news agency of the PLO]

RAMALLAH, December 23, 2006 (WAFA ) - Head of the PLO
Infatuations Affairs Department Saeb Ereikat, said late on Saturday that the
meeting between President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert was a
good meeting, adding that there was agreement on several issues.

Ereikat told a press conference in Ramallah, following the meeting, that
President Abbas discussed the issue of reviving the peace process reaching
an end of the occupation and the implantation of the Road Map, the Arab
Initiative and the rest of the final status issues.

Ereikat added that the two sides agreed to form a committee to discuss the
issue of releasing prisoners, adding that Israeli Mr. Olmert has agreed to
release $100 million in tax rebates to the Palestinian National Authority,
to be used for humanitarian purposes.

Dr. Erikat affirmed that President Abbas stressed the necessity to extend
the truce to the West Bank, asserting that a committee would be formed to
discuss issue of the wanted as well as the deportees of Bethlehem.

A.D (23:17 P) (21:17 GMT)

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM Olmert Meets with PA President Abbas

PM Olmert Meets with Palestinian Authority President Abbas
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met yesterday evening (Saturday), 23.12.06, at
his Jerusalem residence, with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.  During the meeting, which was conducted in a good and friendly atmosphere, the two men expressed their willingness to cooperate - as genuine partners - in an effort to advance the peace process between Israel
and the PA and to reach a solution of two states living side by side in
peace and security, according to the Roadmap ( ).

The two leaders agreed that the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have
suffered enough and that the time has come to advance the peace process via
concrete steps and to refrain from taking any measures that could
predetermine the number of issues that will be resolved in negotiations.
The two leaders believe that this meeting was a first step towards
rebuilding the sides' confidence and in establishing a fruitful partnership.

The two leaders emphasized the importance of direct and serious contact
between them and decided to meet frequently, thus continuing the ongoing
link between them, in order to advance current issues on the agenda.

Prime Minister Olmert expressed his concern over the continued fire of
Kassam rockets from the Gaza Strip and said that Israel could show restraint
for long if the violations of the ceasefire ( > & ) continue.

The two leaders agreed to reconsider expanding the ceasefire to the West
Bank, in keeping with the February 2005 Sharm e-Sheikh understandings
( ).

They agreed to immediately resume the joint committees, as they were
determined prior to Sharm, under the authority of the Palestinian Authority
President in order to deal with current issues: Maintaining the cessation of
violence, advancing the future transfer of security responsibility over the
Palestinian areas, and implementation of the arrangements that were
previously agreed upon regarding Palestinian fugitives and deportees.

It was also decided to resume the work of the quadripartite security
committee between Israel, the PA (via the Presidential Guard), Egypt and the
US, including the deployment of the Presidential Guard along the
Philadelphia Corridor and in the northern Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Olmert told PA President Abbas that he understood his and
Palestinian society's sensitivity on the prisoner issue and said that he
would be prepared to release to the PA President after the release of Gilad
Shalit.  It was also decided to resume the work of the joint community
responsible for formulating new arrangements and parameters on the release
of Palestinian prisoners.  This committee will begin work immediately and
will submit its conclusions to the two leaders as soon as possible.

Prime Minister Olmert said that Israel would take immediate and concrete
steps in order to ease humanitarian conditions for the Palestinian people.
To this end, the Prime Minister decided to transfer a portion of the
Palestinian tax funds being held by Israel in order to enable supplies for -
and assist in the current operations of - several Palestinian hospitals and
in order to deal with the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population.
It was agreed that this arrangement would be expanded in the future to deal
with additional humanitarian needs.  It was made clear that the funds that
would be unfrozen would not be transferred to the PA.

The two men also agreed to make a genuine effort to upgrade the crossings
between the Gaza Strip and Israel in order to facilitate better passage for
goods and people.  To this end, it was decided to improve security checks at
these crossings in order to reach a target of 400 trucks a day between the
Gaza Strip and Israel and to promote the possibilities of trade between the
Gaza Strip, the west Bank and Israel.  The two leaders said that they
intended to resume the work of the joint economic committee.  Prime Minister
Olmert told PA President Abbas that in coordination with Defense Minister
Amir Peretz, he had instructed the IDF to remove several checkpoints and to
submit a plan for the removal of additional checkpoints in the West Bank in
order to facilitate easier passage for the Palestinian population that is
not engaged in terrorism.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria's 'isolation is over'

Syria's 'isolation is over'
23/12/2006 08:32  - (SA)    
London - The international isolation of Syria is over as Western powers have realised they need to work with Damascus, Syrian deputy prime minister Abdallah Dardari told a British newspaper published on Saturday.
Dardari told the Financial Times business daily that the international community now recognised that it ought to talk to President Bashar al-Assad's regime if it wanted progress in the Middle East, particularly on Lebanon and Iraq.
"The former political isolation of Syria has ended. It is no longer there," he told the FT.
"I don't want to say there is a sense of 'I told you so' but there is a sense that people are realising in Western capitals that if you want to be influential in the Middle East, you have to come through Damascus."
Relations between the United States and Syria are tense. But earlier this week, two US senators, including John Kerry, the former Democratic party presidential candidate, were in Damascus for talks with Assad.
Dardari said that previously, the United States had simply presented Syria with a list of demands to end various practices, instead of talking about mutual interests, and that this attitude proved ineffective.
"It didn't work in April 2003, just after (the) occupation of Baghdad. If it didn't work then, at the peak of US influence in the region, it will not work now with Syria," he said.
Dardari added that Syria's priority was to secure the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.
The United States said Wednesday it supported Syrian opposition groups rivalling Assad, but said such support was overt, and not a secret bid to undermine his government.
US President George W Bush has dismissed calls for a direct US dialogue with Syria, which Washington accuses of letting extremists into Iraq and undermining Lebanon's fragile democracy by funding and training the militant Hezbollah group.
The Syrian government daily Ath-Thawra hit out on Friday at terms set out by the US government for heeding a bi-partisan panel's recommendation to open a dialogue on calming neighbouring Iraq.
The paper was following a line already set out by Assad.
"They (the Americans) have to differentiate between a dialogue and giving instructions. We are open to a dialogue, but we will not take instructions," Assad said earlier this month.

Continued (Permanent Link)

VIEW: Engaging Iran and Syria -Ammar Abdulhamid

VIEW: Engaging Iran and Syria —Ammar Abdulhamid
To read the well-known names of commentators and policymakers who are recommending engaging Syria and/or Iran is a testament to how inconsequential and cut off the Western powers have become from the realities on the ground
Despite frequent claims to the contrary, the fundamental problem in the Middle East is not intervention by the West. On the contrary, the real problem is that, for all their dabbling, the Western powers seem capable of neither war nor dialogue. This leaves everyone in the region at the mercy of the Middle East's oppressive regimes and proliferating terrorists.
Advocates of the Iraq war lacked an understanding of the complexities on the ground to wage an effective war of liberation and democratisation. As a result, their policies merely ended up eliminating Iran's two major regional rivals: the Taliban and Saddam Hussein's regime. This presented Iran with a golden opportunity to project itself as a regional hegemon, and Iran's leaders are unlikely to let this opportunity slip away.
Advocates of dialogue with the Iranians and their Syrian allies, like former United States Secretary of State James Baker, labour under the delusion that they can actually reach an understanding that can enable a graceful US exit from Iraq and help stabilise that wounded country. The delusion is based on two false assumptions: that the Iranians and the Syrians can succeed in Iraq where the US has failed, and that the international community can afford to pay the price of ensuring their cooperation.
True, Syria and Iran are playing a major role in supporting Iraqi insurgents, and Syria is still encouraging the trafficking of jihadists and weapons across its borders with Iraq. But the idea that these activities can be halted at will is naïve.
For one thing, the interests of the Shia communities in Iraq and Iran are not the same. Iraqi Shia have never accepted Iranian dictates, and many took part in Saddam's war against Iran in the 1980's. After all, the Iraqi Shia are Arabs, and if they are now willing to coordinate their activities with their Persian counterparts, their main goal will always be to secure an independent course as soon as possible, even while they carry on with their internecine disputes within Iraq. Iran is in no better position than the US to convince them to resolve their differences.
President Basher al-Assad of Syria faces a similar dilemma. Although he has opened Syria's border to jihadists and has allowed Saddam's supporters to operate freely there, that choice may not be entirely his. Syria's aid to Saddam in manoeuvring around the United Nations' oil-for food program brought Iraqi money to inhabitants of the border region, who have always been closer in customs, dialect, and outlook to their Iraqi neighbours than to their fellow Syrians. In the absence of government investment, local inhabitants' loyalty went to Iraqi Baathists who helped improve their lot. Indeed, even local security apparatuses have been unwilling to comply with dictates from Assad and his clique to seal the borders.
In these circumstances, neither Syria nor Iran seems capable of delivering anything but mayhem in Iraq. What, then, would the proposed dialogue between the US and these states achieve other than continue to empower their corrupt yet ambitious regimes?
The story gets more complicated when one considers the UN inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Assad wants nothing more than to see this affair forgotten — and the proponents of dialogue think that they can give him what he wants in the hope of breaking Syria's alliance with Iran.
But that is merely another erroneous (not to mention amoral) assumption. The alliance between Syria and Iran dates back more than two decades, and was explicitly reaffirmed by the two ruling regimes as recently as January 2005. Indeed, the two regimes are now joined at the hip. Assad's recent refusal to attend a summit in Tehran with his Iranian and Iraqi counterparts was a mere tactical move designed to appeal to the proponents of dialogue.
In fact, Iran has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Syria, and annual bilateral trade tops a billion dollars. Iran's growing influence over the Syrian security apparatus is well established, and Iran is funding an effort to create Syrian Shia militias to compensate for Assad's sagging support in the army and in the minority Alawite community.
Assad cannot turn his back on all of this. No deal would be sweet enough, even if it included the return of the Golan Heights. For Assad and his supporters, survival is more important than sovereignty.
Still, to read the well-known names of commentators and policymakers who are recommending engaging Syria and/or Iran is a testament to how inconsequential and cut off the Western powers have become from the realities on the ground in the world's most turbulent region. That, it seems, is the price of their arrogance. —DT-PS
Ammar Abdulhamid is a Syrian author, blogger and dissident. He runs the Tharwa Foundation, an independent initiative that focuses on diversity issues in the region

Continued (Permanent Link)



TEL AVIV [MENL] -- The Bush administration has blocked arms and technology
transfers to Israel.

Israeli and U.S. sources said the State Department has blocked the transfer of weapons and technology to the Jewish state over the last three months. The sources said the halt reflected deteriorating relations between the two countries since the end of the war in Lebanon in August 2006.

"Nobody will say openly that there is a problem," a government source said.
"But there is a serious problem that reflects the marginalization of Israel
in U.S. strategy."

The unofficial suspension of U.S. arms deliveries began in late September,
the sources said. They said the suspension halted the airlift of
air-to-ground and other munitions conducted during and immediately after the
Israeli war with Hizbullah.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas dismisses Olmert - Abbas meeting

Hamas dismisses Olmert – Abbas meeting

Describes meeting as 'political blackmail of PA by Zionist enemy;' Islamic judge: Al-Aqsa mosque could collapse
Yaakov Lappin Published:  12.23.06, 23:26
Hamas dismissed the Saturday afternoon meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas, saying it would "not serve the Palestine question," and adding that Hamas did not "hinge hopes" on the encounter, the Hamas English language website reported.
Ismail Redwan, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, was quoted as saying that the "Zionist enemy exploits such meetings to politically blackmail the PA," the website said.

"We don't attach high hopes to such meetings because they always fall in line with pressures on Palestinians, denying them rights and rejecting their legitimate demands," Redwan added.
 Responding to reports that the meeting would help lift a number of roadblocks in the West Bank, Redwan said: "We shifted from discussing the essence of the question that we are under occupation to discussing a road barrier or a supplies truck".
 Redwan was also quoted as saying that "the release of the Israeli serviceman, Gilad Shalit, was still awaiting reply from the Hebrew state to conditions of his captors."
 'Al-Aqasa Mosque threatened by collapse'
The Hamas website also quoted the Palestinian chief justice of Islamic courts, Sheikh Tayseer
al-Tamimi, as claiming that "Israeli diggings have reached a dangerous spot underneath the holy al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem that was threatening the Mosque's collapse."
"Tamimi addressed an urgent appeal to the Arab and Muslim Ummah (nation) to protect the holy site, noting that the Israeli occupation authority had opened tunnels underneath al-Aqsa for Jewish visitors causing cracks in its western wall," the website said.
The claim that Israel was conspiring to collapse the al-Aqsa mosque has been routinely repeated in the propaganda of hard-line Palestinian Islamist organizations for several decades, and is often used as a tool to raise funds and support from donors in Arab-Muslim states.
The Hamas website said Tamimi accused Israel of aiming "for the Judaizing the al-Aqsa Mosque and changing its landmark," and the Islamic judge added that "all Palestinian factions should set aside their differences and unite ranks in face of such imminent dangers."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza: Muslim extremists set shops on fire

Gaza: Muslim extremists set shops on fire
New group called 'The Sword of Islam' commits attacks against businesses that 'offend Islam.' Latest victims include CD shop, internet café that 'are meeting places for forbidden relations'
Ali Waked Published:  12.23.06, 22:26

The anarchy in the Gaza Strip, which has focused on the political struggle between Fatah and Hamas up until now, has taken on a new, disturbing form.

The Palestinian Authority said that a new group, which is most likely inspired by al-Qaeda, has begun acting out against 'secular' targets that supposedly offend Islam.
Anonymous persons ignited a CD shop in Khan Younis Saturday night, causing tens of thousands of dollar worth of damage.
Activists of the group, called "The Sword of Islam" went to the trouble of warning the store's owner Nidal Abdin before blowing up his shop.
The activists told him that they intended to blow the store up if he continued to sell CD's and cosmetics that "offend morals and the Muslim religion."

The PA believes that this act is also the doing of the new group that has begun activity in the past few months on the Gaza Strip.
Fear attacks may worsen
A few weeks ago another businesses selling CD's and mobile phones was set on fire in Khan Younis. In another incident that occurred in Gaza City, anonymous persons set fire to an internet café, claiming that it is used as a meeting place for "forbidden and immoral relations."
The Sword of Islam organization published a few announcements in which it declared that its men will continue to harm anyone who causes damage to the Islamic identity and the Islamic tradition of the residents of the Strip. So far, the organization is holding up to its threats.
Sources in the Palestinian Authority fear that these attacks on businesses on religious background will only worsen, following the deteriorating political and security anarchy on the Strip, and the void created by security forces, since part of them are now on strike.
With that, the Palestinian factions have agreed on a document Saturday evening that should bring the anarchy in the Authority to a halt.

The document calls for the expulsion of all forms of weapons and an end to the common carrying of weapons on the streets of Gaza.

It was also agreed that a joint organization be formed which will supervise the implementation of the decisions and deal with any tensions that may arise.

Continued (Permanent Link)

At Olmert-Abbas Meeting: PM agrees to transfer $100 million in frozen PA taxes to Abbas

Last update - 23:40 23/12/2006   

PM agrees to transfer $100 million in frozen PA taxes to Abbas
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed Saturday during a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to a series of concessions to help bolster the PA chairman, including the transfer of $100 million in frozen taxes collected on behalf of the PA. The funds will be transferred directly to Abbas, and not to the Hamas-led government.
The leaders concluded two-hour talks at the Prime Minister's Residence in Jerusalem on Saturday evening.
Chief Palestinian Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed during a press conference Saturday evening in Ramallah that Israel has agreed transfer the funds for humanitarian purposes. Erekat said the two sides also agreed that NIS 35 million would be transferred to hospitals in East Jerusalem.
The meeting is a "first step toward rebuilding mutual trust and fruitful cooperation," Olmert's office said in a statement. More meetings are planned, said Erekat.
Speaking at a news conference, Erekat said the leaders had also committed themselves to reviving a meaningful peace process.
The funds transfer will not occur immediately, but rather will be dependent on the establishment of a mechanism to ensure the money is used for the purposes intended by Abbas, and does not end up in the hands of the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas, currently in a violent power struggle with the PA chairman's Fatah movement.
Olmert also agreed to remove several West Bank checkpoints, and reexamine security procedures at the Karni commercial crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, in order to facilitate to movement of goods into Gaza.
In addition, Olmert promised to meet a quota of 400 trucks moving through the main cargo crossing between Gaza and Israel.
The two leaders failed to reach agreement on a key issue - a prisoner swap involving abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit - but decided to set up a committee to study it further. Olmert emphasized during the meeting that no Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails will be freed prior to the release of Shalit, held since June 25.
According to Erekat, Abbas asked Olmert to release members of the Palestinian Legislative Council from Hamas arrested by Israel, as well as renew a past agreement not to pursue wanted militants.
Israel has also agreed in principle to allow Egypt to provide Abbas' security forces with weapons as well as allow the PLO's Badr Brigade to enter the territories. The brigade is currently stationed in Jordan.
Olmert also warned Abbas that given the continued Qassam rocket fire from Gaza despite a cease-fire in the area, it will be difficult for Israel to maintain its policy of restraint. Responding to a request by the Palestinian delegation to extend the cease-fire to the West Bank, Olmert said the Palestinians must first demonstrate an ability to uphold the truce in Gaza.
Abbas and Olmert met informally on the sidelines of a conference in Jordan earlier this year, but the PA chairman's last formal meeting with an Israeli prime minister was in February 2005, when Ariel Sharon held the post.
Olmert emerged from his official residence in Jerusalem to greet Abbas. The two shook hands and also kissed each other on the cheek. Abbas was then introduced to Olmert's wife Aliza, an artist known for her dovish views.
The two leaders took seats opposite one another at a long table, set for a meal and covered by white cloth. Israeli and Palestinian flags served as table decorations.
The meeting comes a month after Olmert said in a speech at a memorial ceremony for David Ben-Gurion last month that he would "invite Abu Mazen [Abbas] to meet with me immediately, in order to conduct a real, open, genuine and serious dialogue between us."

Continued (Permanent Link)

UN Security Council Passes Iran Sanctions

What we don't know yet: Is this resolution like the UN resolution that led to the first Iraq war, or is it like the League of Nations sanctions against Italy for invading Abyssinia?
UN Security Council Passes Iran Sanctions
UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 23, 2006
(CBS/AP) The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on Saturday imposing sanctions against Iran for refusing to suspend uranium enrichment, culminating two months of tough negotiations aimed at pressuring Tehran to return to negotiations and clarify its nuclear ambitions.
"The Security Council resolution passed Saturday, which orders all countries to ban the supply of weapons technology and imposes a limited assets freeze, was a watered down but unanimous message to Iran that it cannot pursue its nuclear program without safeguards," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk from the U.N. on Saturday.
If Iran refuses to comply, the resolution warns Iran that the council will adopt further non-military sanctions.
"Iran's Ambassador, Javad Zarif, presented a defiant response, mocking the Security Council action," said Falk, "and as he spoke, his anger increased, his finger pointed at Deputy U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff, and you could practically see smoke coming out of his ears."
In Tehran, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini condemned the Security Council resolution as an illegal measure outside the council's jurisdiction.
Hosseini told state-run television the resolution "cannot affect or limit
Iran's peaceful nuclear activities but will discredit the decisions of the Security Council, whose power is deteriorating."
Qatar's U.N. Ambassador Nassir Al-Nassir, the only Arab member of the council and its current president, was the last to make his country's intentions known, telling members just before the vote that Qatar would vote yes "because we are concerned about the safety of Iranian nuclear facilities."
Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff expressed regret that "Iran continues to defy the international community by its continued enrichment activities" forcing the council to impose sanctions. He expressed hope that the sanctions "will convince Iran that the best way to ensure security is to abandon" nuclear enrichment.
In a final attempt to win Russian support, key European nations circulated a new text of the U.N. resolution late on Friday.
"The Security Council resolution was negotiated at the highest levels including a phone call between President George W. Bush and Russia's President Vladimir Putin in the hours before the vote," Falk said, "and the final Resolution was gutted of many of the tougher provisions including a travel ban."
"As finally passed by the Security Council, the Resolution demands that Iran end its programs of uranium enrichment, reprocessing and on heavy water reactors, but Iran's angry reaction means that the U.N. Security Council is likely to be back with tougher sanctions within short order."
During the call Saturday, the two presidents agreed on the need to move forward with a resolution, according to a spokesman for Mr. Bush.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Moscow voted "yes" because it wants to send "a serious message" to Iran "to lift remaining concerns over its nuclear program."
He stressed that the goal must be to resume talks. If Iran suspends enrichment and reprocessing, the resolution calls for a suspension of sanctions "which would pave the way for a negotiated solution," Churkin said.
The final resolution passed 15-0.
Russia and China, which both have strong commercial ties to Tehran, had pressed for a step-by-step approach to sanctions.
By contrast, the United States pushed for very tough sanctions, with Britain and France taking a slightly softer view.
The resolution authorizes action under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter.
It allows the Security Council to impose non-military sanctions such as completely or partially severing diplomatic and economic relations, transportation and communications links.
If Iran fails to comply with the resolution, the draft says the council will adopt "further appropriate measures" under Article 41.
The resolution calls on all states "to exercise vigilance" regarding the entry or transit through their territory of those on a U.N. list that names 12 top Iranians involved in the country's nuclear and missile programs. It asks the 191 other U.N. member states to notify a Security Council committee that will be created to monitor sanctions when those Iranians show up in their country.
The resolution also says the council will review Iran's actions in light of a report from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, requested within 60 days, on whether Iran has suspended uranium enrichment and complied with other IAEA demands.
If the IAEA verifies that Iran has suspended enrichment and reprocessing, the resolution says the sanctions will be suspended to allow for negotiations. It says sanctions will be terminated as soon as the IAEA board confirms that Iran has complied with all its obligations.
Before the final text was circulated, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin pressed for amendments to ensure that Moscow can conduct legitimate nuclear activities in Iran — a point Churkin stressed Saturday morning.
Russia is building Iran's first atomic power plant at Bushehr, which is expected to go on line in late 2007. A reference to Bushehr in the original draft was removed earlier — as Russia demanded.
The six key parties trying to curb Iran's nuclear program — Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States — offered Tehran a package of economic incentives and political rewards in June if it agreed to consider a long-term moratorium on enrichment and committed itself to a freeze on uranium enrichment before talks on its nuclear program.
That package remains on the table for Iran to consider.
Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at the peaceful production of nuclear energy, but the Americans and Europeans suspect Tehran's ultimate goal is the production of nuclear weapons.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated on Tuesday that possible Security Council sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel for civilian purposes or fuel for a nuclear bomb.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Islamists 'willing to court Leftists'

Islamists 'willing to court Leftists'
The Peninsula - 23 December, 2006

Islamists face a tough choice. They view the governments of their own
countries as their fiercest enemies while they argue that they are the
allies of the 'unacceptable' US-Zionist combine.

And, strangely, in their strategy to take on the might of the Arab rulers
and their American-Zionist 'patrons', they are even willing to seek help
from the Leftists in their own midst.

Although the Left movement seems to have run out of steam in the Arab
countries, as elsewhere in the world, it is the unity of the political
forces rallying against the 'common enemy' that actually matters to

Iraq and Sudan were the cradles of Communism in the Arab world in the days
gone-by. "That is history now," as one Islamist put it in remarks to The
Peninsula yesterday not wanting his name in print.

"Marxism is dying everywhere and the Arab world is no exception," he said.
However, despite their dwindling presence, the Leftists continue to have
pockets of influence in some countries. Lebanon is a good example where a
Communist Party still exists, says the Islamist.

He was here to attend the two-day conference on 'Islamists versus Arab
Nationalists', a phrase he does not approve of. "The convention was all
about forging unity in the Arab world against the common enemy," he insists.

And if you believe him, the convention did discuss ways to bring the
Leftists in the Arab world and the Islamists on a single political platform.

Islamists secretly admit they have learnt a good lesson from the Leftists
and have even set up labour wings in some countries (Egypt's labour party is
one example), although history bears testimony to the fact that the Islamic
Brotherhood movement took roots in the 1920s after the fall of 'Khilafa' and
the emergence of Communism post-Bolshevik Revolution.

"We know we are strange bedfellows, but we want strategic alliance with the
Leftists in the Arab world," said the Islamist.

He did not seem as much concerned about Arab Nationalists, who are the
followers of a movement that was spearheaded by the late Gamal Abdul Nasser
of Egypt and others before him.

"Nasser launched the nationalist movement in mid-1952 at least in Egypt and
could ensure some following because many people at the time thought
Brotherhood (Islamist movement) was losing its luster," he said.

Although Nasser was not the one who originally came up with the idea of such
a movement. There were others outside Egypt who thought of this much before.

Having seen its renaissance in the 1930s through the late 1940s due to the
Arab-Israel conflict, the Brotherhood movement had lost its steam in Arab
countries by the dawn of the 1950s.

But Islamists believe, the movement is catching momentum once again.
"Islamism is more popular and broad-based with Muslims being more than 1.2
billion in number worldwide," argue its protagonists.

Arab nationalism has, on the contrary, less appeal as the Arab population is
merely an estimated 300 million the world over and of them, some five per
cent follow the Christian faith. Arab Jews have mostly migrated to Israel
and their population in the Arab world is barely in the thousands now, they

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, December 22, 2006




By Frances Harrison

BBC News, Tehran


Iranian students say there is a second cultural revolution under way in the universities with scores of professors forcibly retired and politically active students being threatened with expulsion.


Student anger exploded with an unprecedented show of defiance when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went to Tehran's Amir Kabir University on 12 December.


Pictures shot on a mobile phone showed angry students chanting against the president, accusing him of being a fascist and a puppet of the hardliners.


They held portraits of Mr Ahmadinejad upside down to mock him and then set them on fire.


The day before the president visited, the university was in turmoil with students shouting "Death to the dictator".


Iranian television only showed a few seconds of the disturbance. Later Mr Ahmadinejad put a brave face on it saying the protest showed there was freedom of speech in Iran compared to his student days under the Shah.


'Harassment and purges'


When Mr Ahmadinejad came to power the universities were quiet.


But by trying to stop students getting involved in politics, the new government has antagonised them.


"They have stepped up the pressure to scare students," says activist Ali Nikoo Nesbati.


"We think they've done this on purpose to frighten us; to send a message that if you want to be politically active you will have problems in the future," he says.


According to student activists 181 students have received letters warning them not to get involved in politics, while 47 student publications and 28 student organisations have been closed in the last year.


"They threatened me that if I talked to the media it might make things much worse for me," says Mehdi Aminzadeh, who has been banned from doing a masters in political science because he has been too active in politics.


"But if we keep silent it's easier for them to do the same things to other people," he says.


'Three-star students'


Mr Mehdi has twice been arrested and still has court cases pending against him.


He is what is known perversely in Iran as a three-star student. That means he has three bad marks against his name for political activism - enough to be banned from the university.


"We are not working against the system here," says fellow student Mohammad Gharib Sajadi, who has also been banned.


"The constitution has given us this right to education," he says.


"Freedom of speech is being restricted more than before in Iran," says Iran's Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.


"They think students should go to their classes, read their books and then go back home and shouldn't get involved in the social and political issues around them in society - that's asking a lot!"


But President Ahmadinejad denies that his government is harassing students.


He says it has created an open atmosphere in the universities.


"The ears of the government are open to hear them," he said referring to student demands during a news conference.


Turban incident


It was the president who appointed a cleric for the first time since the revolution to head Tehran University - the country's most political and prestigious university.


Mr Ahmadinejad told journalists the chancellor should be friendly with the students, moving among them and visiting their dormitories - otherwise he should give up his job to someone else.


The first time the new chancellor entered the university, students protested by knocking off his turban - a sign of extreme disrespect for a cleric.


"If I had not been well protected I would have been suffocated and there was a possibility of a crime like murder being committed," said the chancellor, Ayatollah Amid-Zanjani, after the incident.


However he added that "students have the right to protest".


The chancellor denies student allegations that there have been 17 protests against him inside Tehran University in the last year alone.


He says apart from the turban incident there was only a protest on Iranian Students' Day on 6 December, which, he said, was attended by at most 40 people.


'Cleaning the slate'


The photographs of the event showed the crowd was much bigger.


And there is mobile phone footage from a demonstration in the summer at which the posters make it pretty clear what the students think of their new Ayatollah-turned-chancellor.


"This is not a religious seminary - it's a university," read one poster.


But it is not just students who are angry - professors have also faced problems.


The new chancellor forcibly retired 45 teachers from Tehran University. He said they were past the retirement age, although they were younger than him.


"The majority of the retired teachers couldn't reach the standard of a full professor after 30 years of teaching at this university. They didn't manage to do any research to improve their position," Ayatollah Amid-Zanjani said.


"It seems this is the start of a project to clean the slate - to get rid of those intellectuals who are secular opponents of the government," says student activist Abdullah Momeni.


He believes the purge started after President Ahmadinejad spoke about the need to remove secular and liberal thought from the universities.


Students complain the international community is not paying enough attention to the worsening human rights situation in Iran because of the obsession with the nuclear issue.


"The Islamic Republic has managed to focus the international community's attention on Iran's nuclear case and the possibility of an Israeli attack. That has diverted attention from the human rights situation in Iran," says Mr Nesbati.


He believes it is possible that one day Iranian officials will solve the nuclear crisis but "in the mean time they will have crushed all their internal critics".

Continued (Permanent Link)

Academic group seeks to make Jerusalem a violence-free city

Last update - 08:37 22/12/2006   

Academic group seeks to make Jerusalem a violence-free city
By Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondent

Is it possible to turn Jerusalem, which has known so much war and terrorism, into a violence-free zone? A group of Palestinian, Israeli and European academics and intellectuals believes it could happen. On Sunday they will meet at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies (JIIS) to discuss the idea, "Jerusalem First - City without Violence."
Between the start of the intifada in October 2000 and the first half of November 2004, there were 600 terror incidents in Jerusalem, 30 of them suicide attacks that killed 210 people. Next week the city's Tantur Ecumenical Institute will host a meeting of Jewish, Muslim and Christian clergy who will continue to discuss the idea.
"This is an embryonic, gradual attempt in which both sides, the Israeli and the Palestinian, will commit themselves to removing violence from Jerusalem at least for a certain period of time," JIIS head Prof. Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, one of the proponents of the idea, explained. He noted that a similar formula was drafted during the Korean War, in the South Korean port city of Pusan.
According to Bar-Siman-Tov, if the experiment succeeds in Jerusalem it could serve as a model for cooperation between the two sides. "This initiative," he emphasized, "does not deal with Jerusalem's political future, and focuses solely on reducing and ending violence. In the first stage the proponents - Palestinians, Israelis, Swiss and Europeans [sic] - will issue a joint statement. In the next stage, we intend to bring in public figures who live in the city - clergy and intellectuals - and in the third stage an attempt will be made to persuade policymakers on both sides to adopt the initiative."
Among the proponents of the idea are members of the Swiss-based Lassalle-Institut, which a few months ago hosted a group of Palestinians and Israelis for a series of meetings. Fifteen of the 20 Israeli participants signed the joint statement, but only seven of the 20 Palestinians were willing to sign off on the idea of turning Jerusalem into a violence-free zone, and even then only on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from extremist organizations.
Staff from Lassalle who are currently living in Israel have met over the past few months with delegations from UN member states and members of the Palestinian delegation. Dr. Anna Gamma, of Lassalle, told Haaretz that the responses from all parties have been good and that members of the Palestinian UN delegation promised to pass the message on to the decision-makers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians fire Three Qassam rockets at western Negev

Last update - 23:30 22/12/2006   

Palestinians fire Three Qassam rockets at western Negev
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired three Qassam rockets Friday evening into the western Negev.
The first rocket landed in a kibbutz residential area, shattering several windows. No injuries were reported.
The second strike caused some damage to a bank building in the center of the western Negev city of Sderot. Two people were treated for shock.
The third rocket landed in an open field and caused no damage or injuries.
Early Friday morning, a Qassam rocket landed in an open field in the western Negev causing no injuries.
On Thursday, Palestinians shot six Qassam rockets, two of which landed in the center of Sderot.
The first strike on the city, which occurred in the early evening, shattered some windows on a local structure, and several people were treated for shock. Another rocket, fired shortly afterward, also hit an area in the center of town, sending pieces of shrapnel flying into a bus. Three people were taken to hospital due to ringing in their ears.
Islamic Jihad confirmed firing the rocket in a phone call to The Associated Press in Gaza.
Another Qassam fired earlier in the day hit a house in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanun, wounding five Palestinians. Another rocket landed in a field inside Palestinian territory.
The first errant rocket blew through the home's living room and exploded in a bedroom where three children were sleeping, relatives said.
Two-year-old Samir al-Masri suffered two broken legs in the attack, said Dr. Said Judeh of Kamal Adwan hospital. The boy's 4-year-old sister and 3-year-old brother were lightly wounded by shrapnel, said their uncle, Jad al-Masri.
Another hit near a western Negev kibbutz, causing no damage or injuries, while the sixth also landed inside Palestinian territory.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. But the militant group Islamic Jihad fired at least six rockets at Israel on Wednesday, saying it was avenging the deaths of two members in an Israeli arrest raid in the West Bank.
Security cabinet to decide whether to uphold cease-fire
The security cabinet will meet early next week to decide whether to uphold the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Friday.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided Thursday to press on with Israel's policy of restraint toward the Qassam rocket fire from Gaza, which has continued despite the declaration of a bilateral cease-fire. Nonetheless, he informed Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that this restraint cannot last much longer if the launches of the past few days persist.
Olmert apparently does not want to jeopardize his planned meeting with Abbas, which he hopes will demonstrate that he is making diplomatic progress.
However, Defense Minister Amir Peretz urged Olmert on Thursday to reconsider the policy of restraint in the face of cease-fire violations, as did Ministers Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) and Eli Yishai (Shas).
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket on the Negev on Friday and six on Wednesday, two of which landed in the center of the western Negev town of Sderot.
Residents of Sderot and other towns near the Gaza Strip said Friday they plan to ask the High Court of Justice to order the Israel Defense Forces to respond to the Qassam fire.
"We will demand that [the High Court] instruct the government, instruct the IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, to defend the citizens of the state and act against those launching the Qassams," Sderot resident Avi Farhan told Israel Radio on Friday.
"We will also argue that the government is discriminating between communities on the periphery and in the center," he said. "If Qassams were being fired on Tel Aviv or Ramat Aviv, I have no doubt that the government would have acted long ago to eradicate the phenomenon."
Chief of Staff Dan Halutz and Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin told Olmert and Peretz on Thursday that an Israeli military response to the Qassams would serve the interests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad because the militant groups believe it would bolster them in their internal battle against Abbas' Fatah faction.
A senior PA official gave Haaretz an identical assessment: Hamas, he said, is making no effort to stop other organizations from firing Qassams because an Israeli military response would deflect public anger against Hamas over the recent violent infighting with Fatah. An Israeli incursion into Gaza would also force Abbas to shelve his proposal for new elections, the source said.
In addition, a government source said, though it has been breached time and again, the cease-fire has reduced the number of Qassam launches significantly, so "the benefits of ending the cease-fire would not be great."

Continued (Permanent Link)

At least nine hurt in clashes between Hamas, Fatah in Nablus

Last update - 21:14 22/12/2006   

At least nine hurt in clashes between Hamas, Fatah in Nablus
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

Gunmen loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah opened fire on Hamas members in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday, wounding at least nine people, hospital officials and witnesses said.
At least one of the wounded was said to be in very serious condition.
They said the gunmen opened fire as about 200 Hamas activists and armed men were preparing for a rally in the city of Nablus. There was no immediate comment from Fatah.
Violence between the rival factions has erupted since Abbas called for early elections a week ago. The two sides agreed on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip earlier this week, following days of fighting that killed 10 people there.
Despite the two-day-old truce, a series of heavy gunbattles between Hamas and Fatah militants broke out in Gaza City early Friday.
The gunfights erupted near the Hamas-controlled Foreign Ministry and the Gaza residence of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah. The fighting died down after about 20 minutes, as Muslim clerics and other mediators worked to restore the cease-fire. Abbas was not in Gaza at the time.
In Gaza City on Friday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas urged gunmen to spare Palestinian blood, and said government officials were working to bring the violence under control.
The violence came after a Hamas militant, Mahmoud Al-Lali, was kidnapped late Thursday night by armed men, who fired assault rifles in the streets and seriously wounded a bystander.
The factional fighting also played out on the bureaucratic level Friday. In a letter to Haniyeh, Abbas chief of staff Rafiq Husseini deemed five senior Hamas appointments to the Palestinian Authority to have been illegal.
Adnan Amr, a legal adviser to Abbas, said the president rejected 40
appointments in all.
In a related development, a top Abbas aide, Azzam al-Ahmed, reiterated the Palestinian president's offer on Thursday to resume coalition talks with Hamas, but said the offer would only be good for a week or two.
On Friday, Haniyeh pronounced Hamas ready to resume negotiations, but
indicated the group would continue to reject the international demands. "We are ready to begin discussions on a unity government on the basis of Palestinian conditions," he said.
However, after the funeral of the two men who had been killed, Fatah members in attendance went on a rampage near the cemetery where the bodies were buried, torching several cars believed to belong to Hamas.
Four cars were riddled with gunfire and badly charred, and smoke covered the windows of a nearby building belonging to the local electric company. The destroyed vehicles turned out to be cars belonging to the company.
Two TV cameramen filming the incident were roughed up by protesters, who also confiscated their videotapes and smashed them.
Gaza residents reported gunfire between rival fighters minutes after the truce, which was brokered by Egyptian mediators, went into effect Tuesday night.
A previous truce between the ruling Hamas faction and once-dominant Fatah, signed Sunday, broke down within 24 hours.
Gunbattles between Hamas loyalists and Fatah forces Tuesday also left at least 18 people wounded, medical officials said, including five children caught in the cross-fire.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sneh: Time to decide on military option regarding Iran is nearing

Last update - 23:15 22/12/2006   

Sneh: Time to decide on military option regarding Iran is nearing
By Haaretz Service and Reuters

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor) said Friday, as the United Nations prepared to discuss a resolution on sanctions against Iran, that the time for Israel and the rest of the world to decide what to do about Tehran's pursuit of nuclear power is fast approaching.
"The time for the international, and also the Israeli, decision-making point is coming closer," he told Israel Radio.
Sneh implied that effective sanctions would preclude the necessity for a military assault, saying: "Right now I think that we are truly approaching what is really the last time, that if the international community does what it needs to do - and not in a weak or pathetic way, but in a determined way... in ways that cause suffering to this regime, which is sworn to wipe us out - then there will be no need to weigh other options."
Sneh maintains that an attack is not the preferable option, but the delayed response of the international community makes alternative options seem less successful.
He said he hopes Israel would not get to the point where it would have to evaluate the militaty option.
The deputy defense minister spoke as Europeans and the United States were hoping for an early vote over a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Iran's nuclear work. However, Russia's UN ambassador said further negotiations would prevent adoption for at least a day.
Diplomats on Friday said the UN Security Council is likely to vote on the resolution on Saturday so final differences between the European sponsors, Russia and the U.S. can be resolved, diplomats said Friday.
Qatar's UN Ambassador Nassir Al-Nasser said the council will meet Friday afternoon and he expects the latest text to be amended. "But taking action, until now I think, will be tomorrow morning," he said.
British and French diplomats, who had been hoping for a vote Friday, said a delay was likely.
"I do not think there is going to be a vote tomorrow [Friday]," Moscow's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters after talks among six key nations on Thursday.
"Maybe Saturday, yes, but clearly we will need tomorrow for further thinking and maybe further discussions of the draft resolution," Churkin said, adding that there were several unresolved issues in the UN Security Council draft.
Iran has vowed to continue its nuclear program despite the resolution, even if it is approved by Russia. Russia is building an $800 million light-water reactor for Tehran at Bushehr that is exempted in the resolution.
The draft demands Tehran end all uranium enrichment work, which can produce fuel for nuclear power plants as well as for bombs, and halt research and development that could lead to atomic weapons.
The sanctions include a ban on imports and exports of dangerous materials and technology relating to uranium enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water reactors, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems.
The United States and European drafters of the resolution - Germany, France and Britain - held out hope a vote could still be called on Friday after another round of discussions with Russia and China.
"We're close to a final text," said acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff. "There are some elements that are still of concern to us [and] to other delegations."
"We're hoping for a vote as soon as possible," Wolff said. "We'll see if we can do it tomorrow [Friday]."
Churkin, according to meeting participants, wanted to dilute a provision calling for a freeze on financial assets abroad of 11 individuals and 12 organizations associated with Iran's nuclear program to prevent them from buying dangerous materials. The list is attached to the resolution.
Churkin told reporters he approved of a ban on enrichment, reprocessing and heavy-water nuclear reactors but that "other activities should not be in any way prohibited or restricted."
"Just two or three issues remain but those are difficult issues," he said, without elaborating.
In a concession to Moscow on Wednesday, the Europeans deleted a mandatory travel ban and instead told nations to notify a Security Council sanctions panel if any Iranians on the list transit through their countries.
The measure is a reaction to Iran's failure to comply with an August 31 UN deadline to suspend uranium enrichment work and resume negotiations.
The resolution is under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which makes enforcement mandatory but restricts action to nonmilitary measures. It would suspend sanctions if Tehran in turn suspended "all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, including research and development."
The bans would be lifted once Iran had fully complied with Security Council resolutions and directives from the International Atomic Energy Agency. But if Iran refuses, the council would consider further measures, the text says.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Putting Assad to the test

Putting Assad to the test
By Ze'ev Schiff

All of Israel's prime ministers, starting with Yitzhak Shamir, engaged in contacts with Syria. At first Yitzhak Shamir did not believe the intelligence assessment, which said that a significant change was taking place in Syria leading up to the Madrid Conference. The head of Military Intelligence at the time, Uri Saguy, offered to show him the raw material as proof, and Shamir was convinced. Yitzhak Rabin agreed to place a "deposit" in the hands of the U.S. secretary of state at the time, Warren Christopher, in the form of territorial concessions in the Golan. Shimon Peres' representatives then met with the Syrians at the Wye Plantation. Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak also held equally unproductive meetings.
The statement "all the prime ministers" is meant to emphasize something yet unpublicized: the fact that Ariel Sharon also had secret contacts with the Syrians. In 2004, his representatives held secret meetings with the Syrians in Switzerland. The secret file that held the related documents was called "the Swiss file." These talks apparently began when a third party important to Israel proposed they be held and made arrangements. These talks did not take off either; Sharon understood the price being demanded of him and was opposed.
A year earlier, in 2003, Sharon torpedoed the contacts that then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom opened (through Eitan Bentzur, then director general of the Foreign Ministry) with the Syrian president's brother and sister in Jordan. The war in Iraq began at the time, and Sharon proposed postoning the talks by one month. The details were leaked, apparently by his office, and that marked the end of the meetings. Today Shalom says Syrian President Bashar Assad's proposals should be rejected because a meeting with him would mean a severe blow to the moderate Arab countries. However, anyone interested in the honor of these countries should be promoting talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The problem is that Israel is saying "no" both to Abu Mazen and to Bashar Assad.
One of the explanations given for rejecting talks with Syria is based on the claim that President George W. Bush is asking Israel not to hold them, because of the Syrians' behavior vis-a-vis Iraq and Lebanon and because of their support for Palestinian terror. However, it must be recalled that another voice is being heard in the United States - that of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, which recommends opening contacts with Syria. Israel must therefore take into account that it could find itself in a situation in which Washington is holding talks with Damascus and Israel is out in the hallway. What will we say then?
The Baker-Hamilton group is not giving in to Damascus easily. Attention should be paid to their recommendations. After leveling criticism at Syria for transfering weapons to Hezbollah and supporting radical Palestinians groups, the study group emphasizes that no U.S. administration will abandon Israel. It states that Damascus must obey United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and stop supplying arms to Hezbollah, including transfering weapons from Iran to Lebanon. Syria must intervene with Hezbollah and Hamas for the release of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, stop supplying arms to Hamas and try to convince the organization to recognize Israel's right to exist. What's wrong with these conditions for talks with Syria?
Israel has an additional interest. For years it has been claimed here that an agreement with Syria would constitute a buffer between Israel and a nuclear Iran. This must be a strategic goal. For that reason, apparently, Major General (res.) Uri Saguy, who has conducted many of the talks with Syria, says that accepting the invitation to talks with Damascus is not only desirable, but vital. Syria is not, in essence, party to the extremist bloc of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction. And it we'd be better off not pushing them there. It may be that the chances of productive talks with Syria are not great, but Bashar Assad should be put to the test. Why shouldn't Olmert invite him to Jerusalem, or offer to travel to Damascus? A test of that kind would not harm Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran President Facing Revival of Students' Ire

December 21, 2006
Iran President Facing Revival of Students' Ire
TEHRAN, Dec. 20 — As protests broke out last week at a prestigious university here, cutting short a speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Babak Zamanian could only watch from afar. He was on crutches, having been clubbed by supporters of the president and had his foot run over by a motorcycle during a less publicized student demonstration a few days earlier.
But the significance of the confrontation was easy to grasp, even from a distance, said Mr. Zamanian, a leader of a student political group.

The student movement, which planned the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy from the same university, Amir Kabir, is reawakening from its recent slumber and may even be spearheading a widespread resistance against Mr. Ahmadinejad. This time the catalysts were academic and personal freedom.
"It is not that simple to break up a president's speech," said Alireza Siassirad, a former student political organizer, explaining that an event of that magnitude takes meticulous planning. "I think what happened at Amir Kabir is a very important and a dangerous sign. Students are definitely becoming active again."
The protest, punctuated by shouts of "Death to the dictator," was the first widely publicized outcry against Mr. Ahmadinejad, one that was reflected Friday in local elections, where voters turned out in droves to vote for his opponents.
The students' complaints largely mirrored public frustrations over the president's crackdown on civil liberties, his blundering economic policies and his harsh oratory against the West, which they fear will isolate the country.
But the students had an additional and potent source of outrage: the president's campaign to purge the universities of all vestiges of the reform movement of his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami.
Last summer the newly installed head of the university, Alireza Rahai, ordered the demolition of the office of the Islamic Association, which had been the core of student political activities on campus since 1963 and had matured into a moderate, pro-reform group.
Since then, students say, more than 100 liberal professors have been forced into retirement and many popular figures have been demoted. At least 70 students were suspended for political activities, and two were jailed. Some 30 students were given warnings, and a prominent Ph.D. candidate, Matin Meshkin, was barred from finishing his studies.
The students also complain about overcrowded and crumbling dormitories and proscriptions against women wearing makeup or bright colors, rules that were relaxed when Mr. Khatami came to power in 1997.
Amir Kabir University of Technology, a major polytechnic institute, has been a hotbed of student activism since before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution of 1979. Drawing on networks at universities around the country through an office that links their Islamic associations, students can organize large protests on a moment's notice. There are also student guilds, which are independent, and more than 2,000 student publications.
Mr. Zamanian, the head of public relations of the Islamic Association at Amir Kabir, said that while the situation had not been ideal in the Khatami years, Mr. Ahmadinejad's antireformist campaign had led students to value their previous freedoms.
They were permitted to hold meetings and invite opposition figures to speak, he said, and could freely publish their journals. Now, he said, their papers are forbidden to print anything but reports from official news agencies.
The students also complain about the president's failure to deliver economic growth and jobs. At last week's protest, which coincided with a now infamous Holocaust conference held by the Foreign Ministry, students chanted, "Forget the Holocaust — do something for us."
A student who identified himself only as Ahmad, for fear of retribution, said: "A nuclear program is our right, but we fear that it will bring more damage than good."
Another student said: "It is so hard and costly to come to this university, but I don't see a bright future. Even if you are lucky enough to get a job, the pay would not be enough for you to pay your rent."
Mr. Zamanian said that the protest had not been planned ahead of Mr. Ahmadinejad's visit, but that students were further enraged when they saw supporters of the president being bused in.
Although the auditorium was almost filled with the president's supporters by the time any students were let in, the protesters forced their way inside, chanted, "Death to the dictator," and held banners calling him a "fascist president." They also held up posters of the president with his picture upside down and set fire to three of them. Many of the students are now in hiding.
At one point, the head of a moderate student guild complained to Mr. Ahmadinejad that students were being expelled for political activities and given three stars next to their names in university records, barring them from re-entering. The president responded by ridiculing him, joking that the three stars made them sergeants in the army.
The president was eventually forced to cut his speech short and leave. But angry students stormed his car, kicking it and chanting slogans. His convoy of four cars collided several times as they tried to leave in a rush. Eventually the students were dispersed.
An entry on Mr. Ahmadinejad's Web log, posted Wednesday, played down the scale and significance of the protest, writing that the president had a "good feeling when he saw a small group amid the dominant majority insulting him without any fear."
A few days after the protest, former Amir Kabir students affiliated with the Islamic associations' coordinating office wrote a letter to Mr. Ahmadinejad. In it, they turned down what they said was his invitation to share their problems with him, because they believed that he wanted to use the occasion to bolster his candidates in the local elections.
The students also wrote that the president had insulted their intelligence by talking to them in the same language he uses in remote villages on his provincial trips.
"You should know that what happened at Polytechnic University was the voice of universities and the real voice of the people," they wrote. Tehran Polytechnic was the university's name before the revolution.

Continued (Permanent Link)

O, Muslim town of Bethlehem...

Having the best of all possible worlds: Muslims persecute Christians, and then blame it on the Jews.

O, Muslim town of Bethlehem...

By ELIZABETH DAY Last updated at 21:26pm on 16th December 2006

Lights of hope: Candles in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem


All is quiet in Bethlehem. On Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity stands in the pale gloom of dusk, its doors open to passing pilgrims.

But inside, the nave is empty of visitors and the collection boxes depleted of coins.

In the candlelit grotto downstairs, a silver star marks the spot where Jesus is supposed to have been born.

It is one of the most sacred sites in Christendom, but there are no tourists queuing to see it.

Just 500 yards down the road, Joseph Canawati is not looking forward to Christmas.

The expansive lobby of his 77-room Hotel Alexander is empty and he says: "There is no hope for the future of the Christian community.

"We don't think things are going to get better. For us, it is finished."

Life for Palestinian Christians such as 50-year-old Joseph has become increasingly difficult in Bethlehem - and many of them are leaving.

The town's Christian population has dwindled from more than 85 per cent in 1948 to 12 per cent of its 60,000 inhabitants in 2006.

There are reports of religious persecution, in the form of murders, beatings and land grabs.

Meanwhile, the breakdown in security is putting off tourists, leading to economic hardship for Christians, who own most of the town's hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops.

The situation has become so desperate that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, are to lead a joint delegation to Bethlehem this week to express their solidarity with the beleaguered Christian populace.

The town, according to the Cardinal, is being "steadily strangled".

The sense of a creeping Islamic fundamentalism is all around in Bethlehem.

A mosque on one side of Manger Square stands directly opposite the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, while in the evening the muezzin's call to prayer clashes with the peal of church bells.

Shops selling Santa Claus outfits and mother-of-pearl statuettes of the Virgin Mary have their shutters painted a sun-bleached green, the colour of Islam.

And in the Al-Jacir Palace, Bethlehem's only luxury hotel, there is a baubled Christmas tree in reception and a card showing the direction of Mecca in the rooms.

George Rabie, a 22-year-old taxi driver from the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala, is proud of his Christianity, even though it puts him in daily danger.

Two months ago, he was beaten up by a gang of Muslims who were visiting Bethlehem from nearby Hebron and who had spotted the crucifix hanging on his windscreen.

"Every day, I experience discrimination," he says. "

"It is a type of racism. We are a minority so we are an easier target. Many extremists from the villages are coming into Bethlehem."

Jeriez Moussa Amaro, a 27-year-old aluminium craftsman from Beit Jala is another with first-hand experience of the appalling violence that Christians face.

Five years ago, his two sisters, Rada, 24, and Dunya, 18, were shot dead by Muslim gunmen in their own home.

Their crime was to be young, attractive Christian women who wore Western clothes and no veil. Rada had been sleeping with a Muslim man in the months before her death.

A terrorist organisation, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, issued a statement claiming responsibility, which said: "We wanted to clean the Palestinian house of prostitutes."

Jeriez says: "A Christian man is weak compared to a Muslim man.

"They have bigger, more powerful families and they know people high up in the Palestinian authority."

The fear of attack has prompted many Christian families to emigrate, including Mr Canawati's sister, her husband and their three children who now live in New Jersey in America.

"I want to leave but nobody will buy my business," Mr Canawati says. "I feel trapped. We are isolated."

This isolation was heightened when, last year, Bethlehem found itself behind Israel's security wall, a 400-mile-long concrete barrier which separates Jewish and Palestinian areas and is designed to stop suicide bombers - in 2004, half the Israeli fatalities caused by such attacks were committed by extremists from Bethlehem.

Last year, tourists trying to get to the town were forced to queue for hours as their papers were checked, while Bethlehem inhabitants going the other way must now apply for an infrequently granted permit to visit Jerusalem, barely ten minutes away by car.

"It is like living in a prison," says Shadt Abu-Ayash, a 29-year-old Roman Catholic shopkeeper.

The Roman Catholic Mayor of Bethlehem, Dr Victor Batarseh, says: "The political situation in Lebanon and the instability of politics in Palestine has affected tourism and pilgrimage.

"Hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops are owned by mostly Christians so it affects them badly.

"We have 65 per cent unemployment and about 2,000 bedrooms in hotels that are empty."

Bethlehem's hotel owners estimate that tourist numbers have dropped sharply, from 91,276 each month for the millennium celebrations in 2000 to little more than 1,500 a month now.

During the past six years, 50 restaurants, 28 hotels and 240 souvenir shops have closed.

Samir Qumsieh is general manager of Al-Mahed - Nativity - which is the only Christian television station in Bethlehem.

He has had death threats and visits from armed men demanding three acres of his land - and he is now ready to leave.

"As Christians, we have no future here," he says.

"We are melting away. Next summer I will leave this country to go to the States. How can I continue?

"I would rather have a beautiful dream in my head about what my home is like, not the nightmare of the reality."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas and Fatah clash in Gaza

Hamas and Fatah clash in Gaza

Fatah supporters have clashed repeatedly with Hamas members in recent days

Clashes in Gaza City between Hamas men and unknown fighters has cast doubt on a recent truce between rival Palestinian groups.

The fighting occured in the early hours of Friday near the home of Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Palestinian foreign minister.

It was not immediately clear if the fighting involved Fatah, Hamas' rivals.

Early reports said that men loyal to a local clan had attacked al-Zahar's house.

The number of casualties was not immediately clear.

Gaza has recently been the scene of increasingly heavy fighting between Fatah and Hamas.

Tensions have been high in Gaza after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called for early elections on Saturday.

Hamas, which trounced the once dominant Fatah in January polls, said it would boycott a new poll.

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian politics a battleground

Palestinian politics a battleground
By Charmaine Seitz in West Bank

As tensions escalate between factions Fatah and Hamas, some are eying with concern how the involvement of regional rivals is playing out in Palestine.

Four more people have been killed in violence and revenge killings in the Gaza Strip and West Bank since President Mahmoud Abbas called for early presidential and parliamentary elections on Saturday.

The rising death toll comes after months of negotiations between Fatah, headed by Abbas, and Hamas over forming a national unity government. Hamas won a majority in January 2006 parliamentary elections and Fatah has resisted surrendering positions it dominated for decades.
Both factions have reached out to other countries to shore up power.

Foreign alliances
In his Saturday speech, Abbas warned against these ties. He noted the price Palestinians paid for the Palestine Liberation Organization's perceived support of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The PLO lost funding and Palestinians were expelled from Kuwait.
"We refuse any regional or international alliances," said Abbas. "We don't want to engage in a war against anyone. We are still under occupation."

But Abbas himself has hinged his position in talks with Hamas on the three conditions laid down by the Quartet.
The Quartet, comprised of representatives from the US, United Nations, Russia and the European Union, has said Hamas must recognize Israel, accept previous signed agreements, and lay down its arms before its government will receive international acceptance and funds.
A letter sent from Abbas to the cabinet after negotiations with Hamas broke down firmly set conditions for a renewal in talks – among them Ismail Haniyeh's resignation as prime minister.

United States and Iran
Some Palestinians say US-led opposition to the Hamas-led government is drawing battle lines for the entire region.
"The US administration wants to create a new Middle East," acting parliament speaker Hassan Khreisheh told
"This new Middle East demands that countries allied to the US - Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf countries - are pit against Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas."

This summer's hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel have also exacerbated conflicting interests between the Iranian- and Syrian-backed Lebanese movement, and US allies among 'moderate' Arab countries.
In July, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt indirectly blamed Hezbollah for the escalation of violence – a rift seen to be creating a common front to counter Iran's growing influence in the region.
Hezbollah's political gains in the aftermath of its war with Israel and the perception that it was militarily able to hold of the Jewish State, have also emboldened and provided  ideological support for Hamas.
Independent parliamentarian Khreisheh blamed both Fatah and Hamas for playing into this scenario by miscalculating and making grievous mistakes.

While Fatah called for a public strike and rallied opposition to Hamas, the Islamist movement further entrenched itself in the hopes of support it would receive from Arab states.
But support from Arab countries like Egypt – long considered a power-broker in Middle East conflicts – seems to be waning.
Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman surprised foreign diplomats in October when he told them that Hamas must be forced from
power, reported the Israeli daily Mari.
"I am pleased a moderate axis of countries in the Arab world has been created that wants to take part in blocking Iran's influence on the region," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Elmer said in an October policy speech.
"The Iranian threat is aimed not only against Israel and the free world, but also against Arab countries around us."
Banks take sides?
This regional tug-of-war is reflected most clearly in the cash-starved Palestinian economy.
Regional banks have also stepped into the foray as mounting concern about US anti-terrorism statues have coerced them to bar transfer of monies to the Palestinian government.
Acting Palestinian finance minister Samira Abu Either told that Arab and Muslim promises to support the government fell short of expectations due to the banking boycott and regional political concerns.
Promises of funding
As the war of words is replaced by armed clashes, each faction is now accusing the other of being beholden to foreign interests.
During a visit to Ramallah, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged $20 million to build up armed forces that report to the Palestinian president directly.

Days later, Reuters reported that the US was also giving $42 million to help support political alternatives to Hamas.
Now Iran has pledged to give Palestinians $250 million in aid, some in direct funding for the government and another portion in agricultural subsidies and development.

These commitments fall short of the government's annual budget, most of which comes from tax revenues currently frozen by Israel. 
 "We don't deny that the Palestinian field is complicated," interior minister Sayid Siam said in an interview posted on a Hamas website during an October visit to Iran, "but at this time, we reject that there are Palestinian 'sides'.
"This is a part of the plot or part of the pressure on the Palestinian government."
Border clash
When Haniya was stopped at the Rafah crossing from entering Gaza last week, it was reported he had been carrying millions of dollars for the cash-strapped government he leads.
A gun battle ensued when his guards tried to force their way through, and several people were killed and injured. Haniya was reportedly allowed to enter without the finances he was carrying.

Hamas blamed Abbas for caving in to US and Israeli pressures.
Pressure and backlash
The arming of competing Palestinian factions is reminiscent of the Cold War era where disputes between major powers were fought by proxy.

"Any help from the Americans, whether in South America, in Europe, or in Asia causes those who have direct support from the Americans to become weak," says Fatah activist Qadura Fares.

While Fares is not opposed to accepting US grants, he argues that open US support for Fatah will backfire.
"I believe that the Americans like this situation," he told
"Hamas remains in the framework of terror, and Fatah is a bit like the collaborator of the Americans and the Israelis. Then Palestinians don't believe in Fatah or Hamas, and the Israelis continue their planning, building settlements and creating a new atmosphere in Palestine."
Hamas leaders, on the other hand, say they are unfazed.
Minister of prisoner affairs Wasfi Kabaha is confident that the public will see through attempts to manipulate local politics for regional change.
"Palestinian society is sensitive and transparent," he told
"Any party can [try to] interfere in internal relations, but the Palestinian public has formed a consensus."

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Only military action can stop Iran''

'Only military action can stop Iran'

In a dramatic conclusion concerning the future of the state of Israel, the
latest edition of the Middle East Strategic Balance, compiled by the Jaffe
Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS) and released to the public on Thursday,
calls for military action to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Prepared annually by JCSS at Tel Aviv University, the Middle East Strategic
Balance provides an authoritative and indispensable guide to strategic
developments and military capabilities in the Middle East by offering a
comprehensive, insightful assessment of the complex strategic environment of
the Middle East. The report is considered something of a bible for military
analysts who follow developments in the region.

The 2005-2006 edition was compiled by former IAF Intelligence officer Yiftah
Shapir and Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvi Shatuber. Shatuber is a former ambassador
to the United Kingdom and was a member of Israeli delegations to peace talks
with Syria and the Palestinians.

"Our conclusion is that without military action you won't be able to stop
Iran," Shtauber told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.

The United Nations Security Council is set to vote Friday on a sanctions
resolution against Iran, which has been revised in response to Russian
objections. The latest draft, if approved, would order all countries to ban
the supply of specified materials and technology that could contribute to
Iran's nuclear and missile programs. The proposed sanctions would also
include freezing the assets of a list of companies and individuals involved
in the country's nuclear and missile programs.

Despite the impending vote and increased diplomatic action, Shtauber said he
believed it was too late for sanctions. "There is no longer a possibility
for effective sanctions to stop Iran," he said.

Shapir recently told the Post that Israel has the military capability to
destroy at least part of Iran's nuclear installations to the point that it
would be possible to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Earlier in the week, Mossad chief Meir Dagan said that Iran had recently
increased efforts to enrich nuclear fuel. Dagan estimated that Iran would be
able to begin building a nuclear bomb by 2009.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

For free regular subscription:
Subscribe at no charge:

For free daily digest subscription:
Subscribe at no charge:

For a copy of all reports distributed for a given day please send a
message to:

Continued (Permanent Link)

POLL: 67% Talk with Syria, 66% Don't return Golan

Poll:  67% talk with Syria, 66% Don't return Golan
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 22 December 2006

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 501 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) carried out by Dahaf  for Yediot Ahronot the week of 22 December and published in Yediot Ahronot on 22 December 2006

Knesset election vote expressed in mandates[current in brackets]

32 [12] Likud
18 [29] Kadima
12 [19] Labor headed by Amir Peretz
10 [11] Yisrael Beiteinu
10 [12] Shas
10 [10] Arab parties
07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
5.5 [05] Meretz
05 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
3.5 [07] Retirees
01  [--] Green Party (would not pass minimum)
03  [--] Undecided

[5.5 = 5-6]

other combinations:

Likud 30 Labor headed by Barak 20 Kadima 16
Likud 26 Labor headed by Pines 21 Kadima 18
Likud 28 Labor headed by Ayalon 23 Kadima 13

Should Israel enter into negotiations with Syria?
Yes 67% No 32%

Within the framework of a real peace agreement should Israel return the  Golan to Syria?
Yes 33% No 66%

Who is best to head the Labor Party?
Ayalon 36% Barak 23% Pines 16% Yatom 11% Peretz 6% None of them 8%

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria building 'death trap' villages

Syria building 'death trap' villages
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 21, 2006

Warning that Israel may face a "Syrian intifada," a high-ranking officer in Northern Command has told The Jerusalem Post that villages recently built by Syria along the border are planned to be used as "death traps" for IDF troops in Hizbullah-inspired attacks.

Since this summer's war in Lebanon, Syria, the officer revealed, has invested large amounts of money in replicating Hizbullah military tactics, particularly in establishing additional commando units and fortifying its short- and long-range missile array.

The idea is to draw Israel into an asymmetric war, the officer said, like the warfare the IDF encounters in combat against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as against Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Over the past two years, Syria has built a number of villages along the border with Israel, some inhabited and some not. At first, the IDF was not  sure of their purpose. But now, following the war, the officer said, it was understood.

"Syria drew motivation from Hizbullah's surprise success this summer," the high-ranking officer said. "They now want to copy that type of guerrilla warfare."

While for years it was assumed that Israel had a major edge against Syria's military with regard to a conventional war - tank versus tank, jet versus jet - in an urban setting, the Syrian military would be able, the officer said, to wreak havoc against IDF infantry and armored units like Hizbullah did.

According to the officer, Syria has drawn three major lessons from the war and has begun to implement them. The first is that rockets - 4,000 struck northern Israel during the 33-days of fighting - can paralyze the home front. The second is that antitank missiles can penetrate the Merkava tank and force infantry units to abandon armored personnel carriers and trek into enemy territory by foot. And the third is that in villages and cities the Israeli Air Force's abilities are limited and IDF ground forces can be defeated.

During the war, the IDF fell into several deadly ambushes in southern Lebanese villages; one in Bint Jbail killed eight soldiers from Battalion 51 of the Golani Brigade.

The Syrian military, the officer said, was conducting urban warfare exercises in preparation for the possibility of a war with Israel. The IDF has also dramatically increased its training regiments and has, at all times, between two-to-three brigades training in the Golan Heights.

Lacking clear intelligence regarding Syrian intelligence, the officer said that the Northern Command's "working assumption" was that there was a possibility of war and there was a need to prepare accordingly.

While defense officials have crisscrossed in recent weeks concerning the sincerity of Syrian President Bashar Assad's offer of peace, the top officer said that, according to "all the signs," Syria was preparing for war with Israel. The Syrian military has beefed-up forces along the Golan Heights and Israel has done the same. In the Hermon, for instance, the IDF has doubled the number of troops.

"The feeling is unfortunately that another round is needed before we will be able to engage in a dialogue or peace talks with Syria," the officer said. "It is like with the Egyptians. The war in 1973 was what made it partially possible for [Egyptian president Anwar] Sadat to come to Israel."

Syria, the officer said, has since the war ended, transferred truckloads of weapons and missiles to Hizbullah. Due to the convoys, Hizbullah, he said, was almost back at its full strength where it was before the war with Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

PA Elections / The Arab brethren support Hamas

PA Elections / The Arab brethren support Hamas
By Zvi Bar'el

The unofficial invitation of King Abdullah of Jordan to Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas, inviting the two Palestinian leaders to Jordan to iron out their differences, reflects more than anything else the extent of the problem. The last thing Abdullah would like is for the violent rivalry between Fatah and Hamas to spill over from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, and from there to his capital, Amman. The king is not the only one adopting this view, which seems to be unifying a number of rivals.
This appears to also be the response of Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Iman al-Zuwahiri of Al-Qaida; they are all opposed to the early elections that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has called for, and are rallying around Hamas, each motivated by different reasons.
The Egyptian position is based on the lack of certainty in the results of early elections, and also the fear that prior to the elections there will be further deterioration in violence. In such a situation, Egypt will have to act once more as a mediator among the Palestinian factions, and not as a mediator between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Egypt aspires to set up a government of national unity in the Palestinian Authority, that will enable the lifting of the international embargo on the Palestinians. This would allow them to focus on moving forward on the diplomatic front. They are, therefore, angry with Abbas in Egypt for not consulting with them before declaring early elections.
For its part, Syria supports a Palestinian national unity government because such a government would leave a mode of pressure in the hands of Damascus - both on Hamas, through its leadership living in Syria, and also on Fatah leaders, with whom it has restored ties a year ago.
These Arab countries fear the possibility that Fatah may lose both control of the parliament, and of the presidency. This will create a situation in which there will be no acceptable Palestinian leader who can represent the Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis the international community on the diplomatic front.
The view of the Arab states, including Syria - which is traditionally wary of the unexpected, such as election results - is now boosting Hamas. Therefore, beyond the question of its success in the elections, which at least its spokesmen are sure they will win, Hamas relies on the assumption that the opposition of the Arab states to the elections will bring about an erosion of the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority by the international community. This assumption lacks any factual basis, and has received no Arab or international commitments to that effect.
According to Hamas sources, this assumption is based on the fact that "the Arab brethren will not be able to look at the Palestinian suffering for long without breaking the siege." All the more true in light of the Iranian willingness to step in and support Hamas, and compete with the Arab states for influence over the Palestinians.
Another Hamas assumption is that the organization is holding on to two bargaining chips vis-a-vis Israel and Fatah. The one is the hudna (the cease-fire) which Hamas controls, and which it can break at any moment. The other is the prisoner exchange, which must include the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. In the latter case, Hamas and not Fatah is the sole decision maker. Both bargaining chips offer Hamas - in its view - the power to shape political developments in the territories.

Continued (Permanent Link)

State Department Weighs Plan for Palestinian State

State Department Weighs Plan for Palestinian State
Nathan Guttman | Fri. Dec 22, 2006
The Bush administration is considering a plan to declare an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders by the end of 2007.

The idea has been "kicked around" in the State Department for several weeks, according to sources. It could be one element of a new American Middle East peace plan, the sources added, if President Bush decides to push forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as part of a fresh Middle East policy he is constructing.
At the same time, in an effort to bolster the regime of Mahmoud Abbas, the administration also has begun lobbying Congress to provide $100 million to fund forces loyal to the Palestinian president.
Talk of new ideas for breaking the deadlock in the Middle East come as pressure mounts on the United States and Israel to take action toward resolving the conflict. Jordan's King Abdullah, who met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert in Amman, offered his services in brokering a deal and announced he would hold talks with all parties in an attempt to reach an agreement. The Jordanian monarch, who also has urged the United States to be more active on the issue, warned that without progress between Israelis and Palestinians, violence would increase.
The prospects for a meeting between Olmert and Abbas seemed greater this week after chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat declared Tuesday that preparations for a summit "are ongoing."
The idea of an independent Palestinian state with temporary borders is based on the American-backed peace plan known as the road map. The second phase of the plan, which was formally accepted by both Israelis and Palestinians, calls for a declaration of an independent state even before final borders are agreed upon between both sides.
Though the United States has maintained that the road map is still the only viable peace plan for the region, it never took off. This was mainly because of the Israeli insistence that the Palestinians curb terrorism as demanded in the first phase of the plan.
The State Department announced this week that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be visiting the region "early next year" and, according to spokesman Sean McCormack, will "devote a lot of time and energy" to implementing a two-state solution. Rice is not expected to present new initiatives during her visit.
A diplomatic source, briefed by administration officials on the idea of a state with provisional borders, said this week that the most significant advantage the plan has is that it would allow President Bush to achieve his goal of a two-state solution within a reasonable timeframe. If implemented, such a plan also could help generate support for the United States among moderate Arab countries and possibly assist the American efforts to gain stability in Iraq.
In a meeting with Jewish educators and students this week, President Bush mentioned the need for improving ties with moderate Arab countries, saying, according to one participant, that "as time evolves, strange relationships evolve."
A Washington source close to the issue said the administration believes that the idea of an independent state with temporary borders could be accepted by the Israelis, especially in light of Olmert's latest remarks on his willingness to give up land and push for a two-state solution.
The idea, however, may turn out to be a hard sell for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Israeli leaders have insisted throughout the years that a fundamental condition for moving forward with any diplomatic initiative is the renunciation of terror by Palestinians and dismantling of the terror infrastructure in the territories. A diplomatic official argued that, because of the chaos in the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli demands are no longer relevant, since it is clear that there is no Palestinian leader who can deliver on the issue of fighting terror. A source close to the P.A. said that such a plan could be acceptable only if America provides assurances that the temporary state does not become a final one and that the border issue remains on the table.
As long-term peace plans are being discussed and await a green light from the president and from the secretary of state, senior administration officials are working to provide temporary relief to Palestinian moderates.
The administration now intends to funnel $100 million to the Fatah-controlled Palestinian security forces, mainly to Abbas's presidential guard. In recent weeks, Keith Dayton, the American military envoy to the region, and other State Department officials have briefed key congressional staffers on the government's plan to provide funding for the Palestinian security forces.
The request, according to congressional sources, is for providing up to $100 million that was previously appropriated for the P.A. but was never delivered because of the Hamas victory in the January elections. The money is to be used for paying salaries of members of the security services and presidential guard, and for equipment, but it will not be used for the purchase of lethal weapons. Weapons for the security forces are to be provided by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, according to sources familiar with the plan.
The administration's plan for strengthening Abbas's forces is gaining support in Congress and is not expected to encounter significant resistance.
"It might just be too little and too late," said Democratic Rep. Gary Ackerman of New York, who in January 2007 will take over as head of the Middle East subcommittee.
Though Ackerman told the Forward he believes that the United States still can help Abbas "without making him look like a puppet," he criticized the administration for dragging its feet in providing support for the Palestinian leader. "I hope it's not too late," Ackerman said, promising that once he and the Democrats take over the subcommittee, they will scrutinize the administration's Middle East policy.
"The oversight will be there, you can count on that," Ackerman said.
Both Democratic and Republican staffers voiced skepticism over the possibility that America's money actually will make a difference in the rapidly deteriorating P.A. "It's between investing in the crooks or in the killers, so we invest in the crooks," one staffer said.
In the last days of its final session, the outgoing Congress passed the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which imposes restrictions on American aid to the P.A. The law, however, also includes a provision allowing the transfer of funds to forces loyal to Abbas.
Pro-Israeli lobbyists and Israeli officials said that they favor American efforts to bolster Fatah-controlled security forces, stressing the need to strengthen Abbas in light of the challenges he is facing.
Concerns in the United States of being seen as meddling in internal Palestinian politics led McCormack, the State Department spokesman, on Tuesday to say that this "is certainly not our intent." The spokesman added that the American assistance is designed to "shore up the institutions of a future Palestinian state," not to shore up support for Abbas.
Before the Palestinian parliamentary elections last January, the United States was criticized for providing $2 million worth of assistance to Abbas's Fatah party through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Some think it is too late for clarifications.
"It's a shame they made this whole issue public," said the American Task Force on Palestine's president, Ziad Asali, who just returned from a trip to the region. "This money is seen as being used against Hamas and creates a problem for Abbas."
Rice made an effort this week not to enter the Palestinian political debate, saying that the decision to call for early elections in the P.A. "is something that I think the Palestinians will decide." Rice stressed, however, that violence in the Palestinian territories must stop and that "the political crisis also has to be resolved."
Fri. Dec 22, 2006

Continued (Permanent Link)

On opposite sides of the border,the views of peace treaty diverge

On opposite sides of the border,
the views of peace treaty diverge
By Brenda Gazzar
December 21, 2006

CAIRO, Dec. 18 (JTA) — In the trendy Mohandiseen district of Cairo, 28-year-old Sharif Ramadan welcomes the opportunity to talk politics one evening in the nearly empty eyeglass store he manages.
Egyptian media had been buzzing after reports that Egypt, which recently hosted Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, could soon help mediate a prisoner exchange in which Cpl. Gilad Shalit — an Israeli soldier who has been held in Gaza since his capture by Palestinian gunmen in June — would be returned for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
A successful prisoner exchange could be the beginning of a renewed understanding between the two sides, Ramadan said — if only Israel would allow it.
"Israel always uses force and pressure," Ramadan said excitedly, repeating a common Arab analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Politically, Israeli policy is very much a failure."
More than 25 years after Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt, the Egyptian government is trying to maintain a balancing act between its "cool but correct" relationship with Israel and the fiery sentiment on the street following Israel's recent war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim told JTA in his Cairo office.
During this summer's war, there were demands to recall the Egyptian ambassador from Tel Aviv and send the Israeli ambassador home. Some called for the revocation of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty — calls heard in Egypt whenever Israeli-Palestinian tensions rise.
"This last war has damaged a good deal of what peace activists on both sides have been building," said Ibrahim, a professor of political sociology at the American University in Cairo. "The Israeli establishment has successfully and notoriously built a virtual wall with the rest of the Muslim world."
Some would question who has built the wall. Over the years the Egyptian government has steadfastly refused Israeli overtures for closer ties, and often leads the anti-Israel chorus in international forums where the Jewish state is demonized.
Egypt has benefited from the peace treaty to the tune of several billion dollars a year from a combination of factors including U.S. aid and revenues from Israeli-built oil fields in the Sinai and Suez Canal — all while continuing to stoke anti-Israel propaganda and engage in belligerent actions, some supporters of Israel contend.
"The time has come to recognize the Egypt-Israel treaty — usually portrayed as the glory and ornament of Arab-Israeli diplomacy — as the failure it has been, and to draw the appropriate lessons in order not to repeat its mistakes," U.S. academic Daniel Pipes wrote recently in the Jerusalem Post.
Egypt continues to be one of Israel's most hostile adversaries in the Arab world, even offering covert support to Palestinian terrorism by not cracking down on arms-smuggling networks, argues Israeli legislator Yuval Steinitz of the Likud Party. Steinitz recently stepped down as chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
"Egypt could quite easily finish or reduce the smuggling phenomenon, and they're not doing it," he said, noting that Jordan has successfully cracked down on arms smugglers in recent years at Israel's request.
For the past 15 years or so, Egypt has been beefing up its military with the help of U.S. aid, to the point where it long since achieved military superiority over any other country in Africa. Yet even though it faces no threat, Egypt continues to engage in regular military exercises and indoctrinate its forces toward a conflagration with Israel, Steinitz said.
"There can be no doubt they're preparing for war with Israel, and they don't deny it," Steinitz said. "They say Israel is aggressive and crazy, and they're preparing themselves because of that. But of course that's ridiculous."
The majority of Egyptians see Israel as a monolithic entity and do not believe there are Israelis working for peace, says Egyptian political analyst and journalist Ashraf Rady, who has visited Israel four times.
The tendency in Egypt to frame the conflict as a religious one between Muslims and Jews is problematic, he said. In addition, Steinitz said, secular, liberal forces that have peaceful tendencies toward Israel often are targeted in the media and accused of wanting normalization with Israel.
But Israel also is impeding peaceful relations, Rady claims. If Israel wants to make progress toward peace, "it should stop using force and then allow the peaceful developments to happen," he said.
After the peace treaty was signed in 1979, "there were these two or three years where there was relative calm on that front," Hisham Kassem, vice chairman and CEO of the independent Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm, said of public opinion vis-a-vis Israel. "Then with the invasion of Lebanon in '82 and the outbreak of the intifada, the first and the second — that's it, it hit rock bottom and it stayed there."
As for government relations between the two countries, Kassem said it doesn't go beyond the security arrangements that the two countries maintain in an effort to avoid a full-scale confrontation between Palestinian factions and the Israeli government.
Israel's ambassador to Egypt, Shalom Cohen, describes the relationship as much friendlier and more far-reaching than do many Egyptian academics and community leaders.
"We can improve it, but it's a warm peace. It's not a cold peace," Cohen told JTA recently in a Jerusalem coffee shop. "`We share a lot of mutual activities — economic, military, security, tourism, you name it.'

We exchange notes, views, knowledge. We listen to what the Egyptians have to say."
Egyptian assistance in trying to secure Shalit's return is at the highest levels and demonstrates positive cooperation on sensitive issues, Cohen said.
Bilateral relations were almost frozen when the Palestinians launched their violent intifada in September 2000. Egypt withdrew its ambassador to Israel shortly after the fighting began, but when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israeli troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, the Egyptian government understood that Israel's wish for peace with the Palestinians was genuine, Cohen said.
During the recent war with Hezbollah, the Egyptian government criticized Israeli policy, but relations were "too important for both sides to let this event destroy it," Cohen said.
In an unexpected move, Egypt even blamed Hezbollah for starting the war by launching a cross-border attack, killing eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapping two more.
The real challenge today is to bring this level of understanding to both peoples through cultural, media and academic exchanges and activities. Cohen said the young generation must believe in the need for peace today to advocate for it as leaders tomorrow.
But the Egyptian government doesn't encourage visits to Israel, places bureaucratic obstacles in the way of those who want to visit, and allows the state-controlled media to be exceedingly harsh against Israel.
Such behavior is due to Egypt's desire to lead the Arab world, which requires adopting a firm position regarding unsolved Arab-Israeli issues, says Elie Podeh, head of the Department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Egyptian regime suffers from problems of legitimacy in the eyes of its people, and therefore must heed the anti-Israel and Islamic fundamentalist voices on the street, he said.
"I think they can do more to have a warm peace, but I guess they realize it's better for them to maintain this kind of peace and not to normalize relations with Israel," Podeh said.
As to travel, Israeli tourism in Egypt once outranked tourism from all other countries, said Ashraf Hosny, an independent Egyptian tour guide who speaks fluent Hebrew. Formerly a boon to the economy, the number of Israeli tourists has dwindled significantly in recent years due to political tensions, warnings from the Israeli government and fear of terrorist attacks.
In July 2005, a series of bombings in the Sinai resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh killed 88 and wounded more than 150 in the deadliest terrorist action in Egyptian history. In October 2004, at least 34 people, mostly Israelis, were killed in terrorist attacks in the Sinai towns of Taba and Nuweiba.
Hosny, who has led thousands of Israelis through the country since 1989, argues that terrorist attacks are the exception rather than the rule. Despite Israeli government advisories in October 2005 to avoid travel to Egypt, Hosny led a group of more than 40 Israeli men to the Sinai to revisit the army positions where they were stationed between 1967 and 1973.
The trip was a success and participants said they felt Egypt was safer than Israel in terms of security, Hosny said.
Egyptian taxi driver Ali Assad Ahmed says Israel likes war and wants to take over "the whole region around it," but adds that any tourists — including Israelis — who want to visit Egypt are welcome.
"I want them to enjoy and be happy so they come back," said Ahmed, 58, who fought Israel in both the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. " Whoever drinks the water of the Nile must come back."
© JTA. Reproduction of material without written permission is strictly prohibited.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian deadlock

Palestinian deadlock

 December 21 2006 02:00 |
Last weekend's decision by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, to call
early elections has not ended the deadlock between his nationalist Fatah party
and Hamas, the Islamist movement that won a stunning victory in last January's
elections. It has instead led to the two factions shooting it out on the
streets of Gaza.

While the fighting abated yesterday as a new ceasefire appeared to take hold,
Mr Abbas's move was, in any case, a desperate gamble. It is far from clear it
will improve either the desperate lot of the Palestinians or already slim
chances of reviving meaningful peace negotiations with Israel.

The Palestinians have become regressively more isolated since the surprise
Islamist win, which provoked an international boycott by Israel and the west,
who demand that Hamas recognises Israel and renounces violence.

Opinion polls before and after the election show that voters were punishing
the party of the late Yassir Arafat for corruption and incompetence and
expressing their frustration at the failure of the Oslo peace process to
deliver them a viable homeland. They were not then, or now, rejecting an
independent state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Arab east Jerusalem as
its capital - a prospect that still regularly commands the support of
two-thirds to three-quarters of Palestinians.

What they have actually got, however, is a disaster. Hamas cannot govern. The
Palestinian economy, starved of aid, investment and taxes withheld by Israel,
is collapsing. Israel has increased the number of settlers in the occupied
West Bank, sealed off east Jerusalem and the Jordan valley and responded to
sporadic rocket-fire with a siege of Gaza that has resulted in hundreds of
civilian deaths.

Now, unless their leaders come to their senses, Palestinians face the spectre
of civil war. Hamas supporters say Mr Abbas, with Israeli and western
connivance, is launching a coup d'etat. Fatah argues that Hamas is leading
Palestinians into an abyss. Either way, new elections - that Hamas might well
win - are not necessarily the answer.

A better idea was a referendum Mr Abbas threatened last May on whether
Palestinians still want a two-states solution. That would have put both Hamas
and Israel on the spot.

The idea was based on a deal reached by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti
and imprisoned Hamas leaders. It implies de facto recognition of Israel within
its 1967 borders; Hamas membership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation
(which recognises Israel); and backs the 2002 Arab League peace offer,
recognising a Jewish state although not one in expansion.

Hamas and Fatah leaders alike must keep trying to build a government of unity
behind these proposals - a working government that alleviates rather than
exacerbates the suffering of Palestinians and that might, just might, deliver
them the state they want.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2006

Continued (Permanent Link)


Broadcasting from a secret location in Syria, Al-Qaeda and its allies now have their own 24-hour television station, Pajamas Media has learned. Known as Al-Zawraa, Arabic for "first channel," the station broadcasts enemy propaganda and rebroadcasts of Western anti-war material, including Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. It is not connected with Al-Jazeera.


Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, is delighted by al-Zawraa. A U.S. military intelligence officer told Pajamas Media that the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Masri, "has long-term and big plans for this thing." Previous attempts by al-Qaeda to set up media propaganda outlets have been limited to satellite radio and the Internet. Al-Zawraa, however, is seemingly well financed and striving for a broader appeal.

From that secret studio somewhere in Syria, al-Zawraa TV's signal extends to the entire Arab world thanks to a satellite owned by Egypt, Pajamas Media has learned.

Egypt is officially an ally of the United States in the war on terror. It receives more than $1 billion a year in U.S. foreign aid, more than any other country on Earth except Israel.

The channel's reach is not limited to Iraq—a fact that highlights the Egyptian government's apparent permissiveness. Al-Zawraa is broadcast on Nilesat, a satellite administered by the Egyptian government. Through Nilesat, al-Zawraa's signal blankets the Middle East and North Africa, thus ensuring that the insurgents' message reaches the entire Arab world.

Al-Zawraa TV began broadcasting on November 14. The channel was set up by the Islamic Army of Iraq, an insurgent group comprised of former Baathists who were loyal to Saddam Hussein and now profess a conversion to a bin Laden-like ideology, according to Middle East-based media monitor Marwan Soliman.

The Islamic Army of Iraq is subordinate to the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni insurgent groups, a military intelligence officer told Pajamas Media. The al-Zawraa network is viewed as "credible" by users of established jihadist internet forums.

Al-Zawraa's content is heavy with insurgent propaganda, including audio messages from Islamic Army of Iraq spokesman Dr. Ali al-Na'ami and footage of the group's frontline operations. The station openly calls for violence against Shia Iraqis and the Iraqi government. News anchors appear in military fatigues to rail against the ruling government, and news crawls urge viewers to support the Islamic Army of Iraq and "help liberate Iraq from the occupying U.S. and Iranian forces," Marwan Soliman told Pajamas Media.

Sitting in the Fallujah Government Center in Fallujah, Iraq, military analyst Bill Roggio, who is embedded with the Military Transition Team, watched al-Zawraa with two soldiers from the Iraqi army and a pair of interpreters. Roggio reports that songs mourned Iraqi victims of the "U.S. occupiers," and that images featured on al-Zawraa included "destroyed mosques, dead women and children, women weeping of the death of their family, bloodstained floors, the destruction of U.S. humvees and armored vehicles, and insurgents firing mortars, RPGs, rockets and AK-47s." These pictures were meant to be provocative to jihad-minded youth. His complete account can be found on his blog.

Roggio told Pajamas Media that the station's strategic role for insurgent and al-Qaeda information operations is clear: "Al-Zawraa is designed to recruit for and prolong the insurgency in Iraq. It openly espouses violence, particularly against the Shia, but also against the Iraqi government and security forces and Coalition troops."

Radio Netherlands' media analyst Andy Sennitt told Pajamas Media that al-Zawraa's broadcasts on Nilesat creates questions about the Egyptian government's role. "Nilesat is mostly Egyptian owned," Sennit said, "so it means they will turn down any customer who is thought to produce material against Egypt's national interest. So apparently the Egyptian authorities are happy with al-Zawraa."
The programming originates from Syria, where its main backer, Mishaan al-Jabouri, a well-known Sunni Baathist agitator and former Iraqi parliamentarian, recently fled to escape an Iraqi arrest warrant for suspected corruption and embezzlement. He initially set the station up in Tikrit, Iraq, but in early November its studio was raided by authorities and closed down for incitement.

Al-Jabouri, who in Damascus during the final years of Saddam Hussein's rule, is widely believed to have forged close ties with Saddam's intelligence services. More recently, he has been linked to al-Qaeda.

The speed with which al-Zawraa was able to resume its transmissions from Syria and Nilesat after the raid on the Tikrit station is unusual, according to Sennitt. Moreover, the reach of al-Zawraa's broadcasts indicates that the station is attempting to influence viewers far beyond Iraq.

Government officials tell Pajamas Media that they are trying to remove al-Zawraa from the airwaves. Jim Turner, deputy director of Defense Press Operations, told Pajamas Media in an e-mail that this is the State Department's decision because "they are the department of the US Government that would interact with another country on such an issue."

In turn, a State Department official told Pajamas Media, "We are strongly supporting the Iraqi efforts to work with the Egyptians to get this off the air." The State Department's comment seems designed to avoid diplomatic fallout, since Egypt's control of Nilesat would allow it to stop al-Zawraa's signal.

Turning off al Zawaraa without Egypt's help would be nearly impossible. Jamming its signal may prove difficult since the physical location of the signal's feed would need to be located and, according to Sennitt, it could be anywhere. "All that's needed is a dish pointing at the satellite, and a transmitter on the correct uplink frequency. The satellite will carry whatever signal it receives."

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is the author of My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin 2007). Nick Grace is the founder of, a site that tracks subversive broadcast media, and producer of the Global Crisis Watch radio podcast.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorials from the Hebrew Press 21-Dec-2006

Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem

(Government Press Office)

Haaretz -
Yediot Aharonot -
Globes -
Hazofeh -
Jerusalem Post -

Haaretz comments: "The unreasonable responses to the Syrian president's efforts to draw closer to Israel give rise to concern that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government will go down in history as a belligerent and uncooperative one. Such conduct, no matter what the reasons for it, is against the Israeli interest in making a supreme effort to prevent a bloody conflict, speaking unconditionally with whoever is prepared to speak with us and ultimately attempting to reach a peace agreement. A disparaging reaction to the Syrian president does not accord with common sense."

The Jerusalem Post writes: "Going into 2007, Israel is facing a host of challenges, some of them exacerbated by the combination of heightened expectation and the less-than-definitive outcome of the summer's war... This week's marked escalation of infighting on the streets of Gaza underlines the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian areas and the diminishing prospects of any diplomatic progress. Hamas, defense officials have warned, has used the past month of cease-fire with Israel to continue weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip and boost its wider military prowess. The IDF needs to be prepared for the possibility that the cease-fire will crumble, Kassam rocket attacks will escalate and military action will be required."

Yediot Aharonot comments on the recent murder of 13-year-old Katzrin resident Tair Rada.

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, discusses two IDF-related issues. First, the editors praise colleague Nahum Barnea for questioning the need for the army radio station, despite its popularity. Second, the editors state their adamant opposition to continuing "Shirutrom", the IDF's annual fundraising songfest telethon, saying the IDF is in no need of contributions.

Yediot Aharonot, in its third editorial, remarks that US President George W. Bush has finally caught on and admitted that his country's army is not succeeding in Iraq.

Hatzofeh asks whether the Syrians are really ready for compromise and how would Israel be able to extricate itself from the problem of the Golan Heights. By law, any concession on the Golan Height is subject to Knesset approval by an absolute majority. The editors say that Israel cannot reject non-conditioned negotiations with Syria outright.


Continued (Permanent Link)

The Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya Cessation of Violence: An Ideological Reversal


Inquiry & Analysis-Egypt
December 22, 2006
No. 309

The Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya Cessation of Violence: An Ideological Reversal

By Y.Carmon*, Y. Feldner*, and D. Lev*  .

The Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya organization, which perpetrated terror attacks in Egypt throughout the 1980s and '90s, has in recent years undergone an ideological reversal exceptional among Islamist organizations. The leaders of the organization have undertaken to forsake violence and have apologized for past attacks and now promote a new ideology of coexistence with the regime. In addition, they have gone to great lengths to argue against Al-Qaeda's ideology and to restrict its influence on Muslims.

The Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya leadership's ideological reversal is an outstanding example of a collective shift away from violence by leaders of a prominent radical Islamist organization. This paper has been an attempt to detail the chronological and ideological development of this reversal, to map the changes in the group's thought, and to explain the reasons for this change. The story of Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya has an importance that extends well beyond Egypt, as it provides insight into the ideological structure of radical Islamism on the whole and the potential found in Islam itself to defuse the Islamist trend.

This paper reviews Al-Gama'a's cessation of violence and its aftermath as reflected in the Arab media.

* Y. Carmon is the president of MEMRI; Y. Feldner is the director of the MEMRI TV project; and D. Lev is a research fellow at MEMRI.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.  Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

If you no longer wish to receive this publication via email, please reply and enter only the word "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is Carter an anti-Semite?

Rosner's Blog 
 Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent 
Posted: December 20, 2006
Is Carter an anti-Semite?
Notes and thoughts on the question that's being pondered all around the American Jewish world: well, is he?
First, about the question: What I chose to ask at the top of this piece is not merely a provocative headline meant to draw the attention of angry talk-backers. It is a question that is now being discussed around every corner and in the halls of every gathering of the American Jewish community. I keep hearing about people who debate this question, and was a witness to more than one such occasion. Is it a legitimate question? Does it make the Jews look paranoid? Should one even ponder the idea of a former President as an anti-Semite? While I'm not sure what the answers to all those questions are, I am sure that they are already out there.
The Anti Defamation League was the most visible organization to argue publicly that Carter was getting to a point in which one could call him an anti-Semite. Abe Foxman, always first to recognize the issue of the day among his fellow Jews, wrote to Carter that "In both your book and in your many television and print interviews you have been feeding into conspiracy theories about excessive Jewish power and control. Considering the history of anti-Semitism, even in our great country, this is very dangerous stuff."
But Foxman is not the only one that thinks Carter was getting there. Last Friday, at the reception for Natan Sharanski in the Israeli Embassy, I was surprised to hear the same argument from some people - Americans - who attended and debated Carter's motivations. One of them said that he "never thought Carter was anti-Semitic," but that now he feels that Carter is "trying to rally Christians against Jews." Somebody else told me that he thought "the true Carter is coming out now" and explained this by hinting that people "when they get older, tend to reveal what they really think."
In his widely publicized and highly criticized letter to 'Jewish citizens of America' Carter denied allegations that he blamed American Jews for the media bias against the Palestinians. Carter wrote that the overwhelming bias for Israel comes from the Christian community. Do you believe that this is what he really meant? One is indeed justified if one chooses to be somewhat suspicious. Look at the things he wrote in the L.A Times: "It would be almost politically suicidal for members of Congress to espouse a balanced position between Israel and Palestine...What is even more difficult to comprehend is why the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines in the United States exercise similar self-restraint...Book reviews in the mainstream media have been written mostly by representatives of Jewish organizations...?
When Carter was on C-span to talk about the book, a caller accused him of being an anti-Semite (you can join the many who watched their exchange on U-Tube here) and was quickly stopped by the host (Hey, where's this Jewish guy who controls the media when we really need him?). However, Carter wanted to answer the caller, and what he basically said is this: All I've been doing for last 20 years is to try and bring peace to Israel.
I called Kenneth Stein today to ask about Carter. Stein is the Emory University Professor who resigned from the Carter Center after being a member for many years, following the publication of the book. Is he an anti-Semite, I asked about Carter whom stein knows well. "I've never encountered an anti-Semitic word coming from his mouth in the many hours we spent together," he said. He has no proof with which to justify such claims about Carter.
And what makes a person an anti-Semite anyway? This is the question that no one is able to answer in a coherent way, especially when it comes to the more modern phenomenon of channeling anti-Semitism through criticism of Israel. In The fine line between hatred of Jews and political opposition to Israel, the State Department's first envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, Gregg Rickman, talked about the problematic nature of such definitions: "Where does the line fall between hatred of Jews and political opposition to, or even hatred of, Israel? Rickman knows that in Israeli eyes, the difference is minimal. Everyone is particularly sensitive when they are the ones being criticized, Rickman said, adding that some people consider anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism to be the same thing. He will need to come up with criteria to determine what is permissible and what is forbidden, what is anti-Semitic and what is just political when it comes to Israel."
Marty Peretz of the New Republic wrote about Carter that "he will go down in history: as a Jew hater." The reason: "He almost never has a sympathetic or empathetic word to say about the Jewish state. O.K., he doesn't say that the Jews killed Jesus. But if anybody else is killed in the area it is the fault of the Israelis." So what makes Carter anti-Semitic: The more subtle allegations of an American Jewish conspiracy that's preventing criticism (the ADL line)? Or his insistence to blame Israel for all that's wrong in the Middle East? (the Peretz line)
It's interesting to compare the case of Carter to the one of Walt and Mersheimer. When Eliot Cohen explained in the Post why he thought those two were anti-Semitic, he argued that "If by anti-Semitism one means obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews; if one accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery, of having occult powers and of participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments; if one systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group and equally systematically suppresses any exculpatory information -- why, yes, this paper is anti-Semitic."
Apply the Eliot Cohen test to Carter and the results are mixed:
A. Obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews: About Israelis - most of them Jews - yes, but does it count?
B. Accuses them of disloyalty, subversion or treachery: Not in Carter's book or appearances.
C. Having occult powers and participating in secret combinations that manipulate institutions and governments: As Foxman noted, Carter came close, but wasn't as detailed and as blatant as Walt-Mersheimer.
D. Systematically selects everything unfair, ugly or wrong about Jews as individuals or a group: If you count Israel as a "group" of (mostly) Jews - then, yes, Carter might be blamed for that.
E. Suppresses any exculpatory information: Oh, yes he does.
Can we conclude by saying that Carter is not as anti-Semitic as Walt-Mersheimer? (He is a former President, though, so any trace of anti-Semitism in his case is much more important).

Continued (Permanent Link)

Carter's Arab financiers

Carter's Arab financiers

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Published December 21, 2006

To understand what feeds former president Jimmy Carter's anti-Israeli frenzy, look at his early links to Arab business.
    Between 1976-1977, the Carter family peanut business received a bailout in the form of a $4.6 million, "poorly managed" and highly irregular loan from the National Bank of Georgia (NBG). According to a July 29, 1980 Jack Anderson expose in The Washington Post, the bank's biggest borrower was Mr. Carter, and its chairman at that time was Mr. Carter's confidant, and later his director of the Office of Management and Budget, Bert Lance.

    At that time, Mr. Lance's mismanagement of the NBG got him and the bank into trouble. Agha Hasan Abedi, the Pakistani founder of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), known as the bank "which would bribe God," came to Mr. Lance's rescue making him a $100,000-a-year consultant. Abedi then declared: "we would never talk about exploiting his relationship with the president." Next, he introduced Mr. Lance to Saudi billionaire Gaith Pharaon, who fronted for BCCI and the Saudi royal family. In January 1978, Abedi paid off Mr. Lance's $3.5 million debt to the NBG, and Pharaon secretly gained control over the bank.
    Mr. Anderson wrote: "Of course, the Saudis remained discretely silent... kept quiet about Carter's irregularities... [and] renegotiated the loan to Carter's advantage."
    There is no evidence that the former president received direct payment from the Saudis. But "according to... the bank files, [it] renegotiated the repayment terms... savings... $60,000 for the Carter family... The President owned 62% of the business and therefore
was the largest beneficiary." Pharaon later contributed generously to the former president's library and center.
    When Mr. Lance introduced Mr. Carter to Abedi, the latter gave $500,000 to help the former president establish his center at Emory University. Later, Abedi contributed more than $10 million to Mr. Carter's different projects. Even after BCCI was indicted — and convicted -— for drug money laundering, Mr. Carter accepted $1.5 million from Abedi, his "good friend."
    A quick survey of the major contributors to the Carter Center reveals hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi and Gulf contributors. But it was BCCI that helped Mr. Carter established his center.
    BCCI's origins were primarily ideological. Abedi wanted the bank to reflect the supra-national Muslim credo and "the best bridge to help the world of Islam, and the best way to fight the evil influence of the Zionists."
    Shortly after assuming office, in March 1977, Mr. Carter made his first public statement regarding a Palestinian "homeland." Since then, he has devoted much of his time to denouncing Israel's self-defense against Palestinian terrorism, which he claims is not only "abominable oppression and persecution" of the Palestinians, but also damages U.S. interests in the region.
    By the time BCCI was shut down in July1991, it operated in 73 countries with a deficit of $12 billion, which it had managed to hide with wealthy Arab shareholders and Western luminaries. Among them Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of Abu Dhabi, who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Yasser Arafat and Palestinian terrorist groups, and who branded the United States: "our enemy number one"; Former head of Saudi foreign intelligence service, and King Faisal's brother-in-law, Kamal Adham — who with another Saudi, the banker of the royal family, Khaled bin Mahfouz, staged BCCI's attempt to illegally purchase the Washington-based First American bank, in the early 1980s.
    True to its agenda, BCCI assisted in spreading and strengthening the Islamic message; they enabled Pakistan's nuclear ambitions, and helped the Palestinian leadership to amass a $10 billion-plus fortune, used to further terrorist activities and to buy more influence in the West.
    BCCI founders also supported the Islamic fundamentalist opposition to the Shah of Iran, and saw it as an opportunity to undermine Western influence in the Gulf. They assisted the revolution financially, reinforcing their position within the leadership of the Iranian revolution. Ironically, the success of that revolution cost Mr. Carter his presidency.
    BCCI's money also facilitated the Saudi agenda to force Israel to recognize Palestinians "rights," convincing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to sign the Camp David Accords in September 1978. Since then, Mr. Carter repeatedly provided legitimacy to Arafat's corrupt regime, and now, like the Saudis, he even sides with homicidal Hamas as the "legitimate" representative of the Palestinian people.
    In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mr. Carter again laid responsibility for U.S. bias against the destitute, depressed and (consequently) violent Palestinians on American policy makers' helplessness, over the last 30 years, against the menacing tactics of the powerful American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC).
    However, it seems that AIPAC's real fault was its failure to outdo the Saudi's purchases of the former president's loyalty. "There has not been any nation in the world that has been more cooperative than Saudi Arabia," the New York Times quoted Mr. Carter June 1977, thus making the Saudis a major factor in U. S. foreign policy.
    Evidently, the millions in Arab petrodollars feeding Mr. Carter's global endeavors, often in conflict with U.S. government policies, also ensure his loyalty.
    Rachel Ehrenfeld is the director of the American Center for Democracy. 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon seizes explosives from pro-Syrian group

Lebanon seizes explosives from pro-Syrian group
Thu Dec 21, 2006 7:45 AM ET

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese police found and confiscated large quantities of
explosives, detonators and timers in houses owned by members of a pro-Syrian
group in north Lebanon on Thursday, security sources said.

They said police had also moved to encircle some offices of the Syrian Social
Nationalist Party in Beirut after making some arrests in the northern Koura

Continued (Permanent Link)

PMW: PA daily: Arab leaders caused the '48 refugee problem ..

Sunday, December 17, 2006
PMW: PA daily: Arab leaders caused the '48 refugee problem

Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - Dec. 17, 2006
View this bulletin online
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
PMW has documented yet another corroboration in the official Palestinian  Authority (PA) paper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that it was Arab leaders who were responsible for the flight of Arabs from the new State of Israel in 1948. A backbone of PA ideology, and indeed of anti-Israel propagandists worldwide, is the myth that Israel expelled hundreds of thousands of Arabs from Israel and created the Palestinian "refugee" situation.
However, a regular writer for the official PA paper, Mahmud Al-Habbash, writes in a recent column that in 1948 the Arabs left their homes willingly under the instruction of their own Arab leaders and their false promises of a prompt return. He refers to these promises as "Arkuvian," after Arkuv - a figure from Arab tradition - who was known for breaking his promises and for his lies - and states that the Arabs who left their homes, and became refugees did so believing their leaders' deceptive promises. He places the blame and the responsibility on the shoulders of the Arab leaders and does not mention any so-called "Israeli expulsion."
Following is this most recent article, as well as earlier statements by Arab "refugees" that have appeared in the PA press, all of which corroborate Israel's historical narrative. The latter two testimonials are significant because they were corroborated by still other more public Palestinians, indicating that the responsibility of the Arab leaders is known in the Palestinian world. One was confirmed by
Arab Member of Knesset, Ibraham Sarsur, who was then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and the other by a Palestinian journalist, Fuad Abu Higla, in the official PA daily.

The following are four statements corroborating that Arabs fled Israel under the instruction and the encouragement of Arab leaders:
1. Journalist writing about the events of 1948 Mahmud Al-Habbash, a regular writer in the official PA paper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, indicates in his column "The Pulse of Life" that the Arabs left Israel in 1948 only after political Arab leaders persuaded them to do so by promising the Arabs a speedy return to their homes in Palestine: ".The leaders and the elites promised us at the beginning of the "Catastrophe" [[the establishment of Israel and the creation of refugee problem] in 1948, that the duration of the exile will not be long, and that it will not last more than a few days or months, and afterwards the refugees will return to their homes, which most of them did not leave only until they put their trust in those "Arkuvian" promises made by the leaders and the political elites. Afterwards, days passed, months, years and decades, and the promises were lost with the strain of the succession of events." [Term "Arkuvian," is after Arkuv - a figure from Arab tradition - who was known
for breaking his promises and for his lies."] "
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, December 13, 2006]
2. Woman who fled Israel in 1948 "We heard sounds of explosions and of gunfire at the beginning of the summer in the year of the "Catastrophe" [The establishment of Israel and the expulsion from the land in 1948]. They told us: The Jews attacked our region and it is better to evacuate the village and return, after the battle is over. And indeed there were among us [who fled Israel] those who left a fire burning under the pot, those who left their flock [of sheep] and those who left their money and gold behind, based on the assumption that we would return after a few hours."
[Asmaa Jabir Balasimah Um Hasan, Woman who fled Israel, Al-Ayyam, May 16,
3. Son and grandson of those who fled in 1948 An Arab viewer called Palestinian Authority TV and quoted his father and grandfather, complaining that in 1948 the Arab District Officer ordered all Arabs to leave Palestine or be labeled traitors. In response, Arab MK Ibrahim Sarsur, then Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel, cursed the leaders who ordered Arabs to leave, thus, acknowledging Israel's assertion. Statement of son and grandson of man who fled: "Mr. Ibrahim [Sarsur]. I address you as a Muslim. My father and grandfather told me that during the "Catastrophe" [establishment of Israel in 1948 and the expulsion from the land], our district officer issued an order that whoever stays in Palestine and in Majdel [near Ashkelon - Southern Israel]
is a traitor, he is a traitor." Response from Ibrahim Sarsur, Head of the Islamic Movement in Israel: "The one who gave the order forbidding them to stay there bears guilt for this, in this life and the Afterlife throughout history until Resurrection
Day." [PA TV April 30, 1999]
4. Article by senior PA journalist Fuad Abu Higla, then a regular columnist in the official PA daily Al Hayat Al Jadida, wrote an article before an Arab Summit, which criticized the Arab leaders for a series of failures. One of the failures he cited, in the name of a prisoner, was that an earlier generation of Arab leaders "forced" them to leave Israel in 1948, again placing the blame for the flight on the Arab leaders. "I have received a letter from a prisoner in Acre prison, to the Arab summit: To the [Arab and Muslim] Kings and Presidents, Poverty is killing us, the symptoms are exhausting us and the souls are leaving our body, yet you are still searching for the way to provide aid, like one who is looking for a needle in a haystack or like the armies of your predecessors in the year of 1948, who forced us to leave [Israel], on the pretext of clearing the battlefields of civilians... So what will your summit do now?" [Al-Hayat Al-Jadidah, March 19, 2001]

It is clear from these statements that there is general acknowledgement among Palestinians that Arab leaders bear responsibility for the mass flight of Arabs from Israel in 1948, and were the cause of the "refugee" problem. Furthermore, the fact that this information has been validated by public figures and the media in the Palestinian Authority confirms that this responsibility is well-known - even though, for propaganda purposes, its leaders continue to blame Israel publicly for "the expulsion."

Palestinian Media Watch:

p:+972 2 625 4140e:
f: +972 2 624 2803w:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran nuclear program an inspiration: Ahmadinejad

Iran nuclear program an inspiration: Ahmadinejad
Thu Dec 21, 2006 6:19 AM ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday mocked the United States and its allies for trying to stop Iran's nuclear program which he said had become a source of inspiration for other nations.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said on Wednesday he expected the U.N. Security Council to vote this week on a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran for failing to heed calls it halt sensitive nuclear fuel production work.

Iran says its nuclear program will only be used for peaceful aims, such as electricity generation, and not to make bombs as United States and its European allies fear.

Ahmadinejad said Western efforts to deflect Iran from its goal were fruitless.

"America and some European countries know well that they are incapable of doing anything against the Iranian nation," he told crowds during a speech in western Iran.

"They think the Iranian nation will wait for their permission to make progress but they should know that the Iranian nation has chosen the path of greatness of honor," the official IRNA news agency reported.

The president reiterated a prediction that Iran would announce it had become a full member of the nuclear energy club during celebrations to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution in February.

He said Western efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear plans were motivated by fear that others would follow Tehran's example.

"Iran's independence, prosperity and progress will soon become an example for other nations," he said.

"The bullying powers are also afraid that the Iranian nation's progress will raise the expectations of other nations, pushing them to stand up to these powers," he added.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki struck a more conciliatory tone in Tehran, stressing that Iran wanted to return to negotiations over its nuclear program.

"We believe it is possible to build a bridge between the two sides such that Iran can have its rights (to nuclear energy) and any question or ambiguity (about its program) can be removed," he said.

"We have to repeat that the language of threat has lost its usefulness and negotiation is the best way to find a possible solution," he told a joint news conference with visiting Pakistani Foreign Minister Kursheed Mehmood Kasuri.

Continued (Permanent Link)

71% don't believe Assad ready to negotiate, 62.4%:33.1% oppose trading Golan for "true peace"

Poll: 71% don't believe Assad ready to negotiate, 62.4%:33.1% oppose
trading Golan for "true peace"
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 21 December 2006

Telephone poll of a representative sample of adult Israelis (including Arab
Israelis) carried out by Geocartographia for Israel Radio's "Its all Talk"
on 20 December 2006

Do you believe that Bashar Assad is ready to engage in negotiations to reach
a peace agreement?
Total: Yes 21.6% No 71.0 Other 7.4%
Voted Kadima: Yes 14.2% No 79.0% Other 6.8%
Voted Likud: Yes 6.4% No 91.4% Other 2.2%
Voted Labor: Yes 28.5% No 56.7% Other 14.8%

Do you support the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for true peace
with Syria?
[IMRA:  This is the "Dumbo" question - the policy question is "Do you
support the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for a peace treaty with
Syria?"  No one can possibly guarantee that a given peace treaty can
actually provide true peace.]

Total: Yes 33.1% No 62.4 Other 4.5%
Voted Kadima: Yes 32.8% No 62.2% Other 5.0%
Voted Likud: Yes 10.4% No 87.6% Other 2.0%
Voted Labor: Yes 49.9% No 48.0% Other 2.1%

Should Israel help Abu Mazen (AL: Mahmoud Abbas) in his clash with Hamas?
Total: Yes 36.4% No 50.8% Other 12.8%
Voted Kadima: Yes 50.0% No 41.5% Other 8.5%
Voted Likud: Yes 19.3% No 74.5% Other 6.2%
Voted Labor: Yes 45.3% No 46.0% Other 8.7%

Do you support an increase in the defense budget at the expanse of social
welfare needs?
Total: Yes 36.0% No 51.1 Other 12.9%
Voted Kadima: Yes 46.6% No 41.2% Other 12.2%
Voted Likud: Yes 38.5% No 50.9% Other 10.6%
Voted Labor: Yes 39.5% No 52.0% Other 8.5%

Grade for PM Ehud Olmert's  administration after a year (1 to 10)
Total 4.1 Kadima voters 4.9 Likud voters 3.3 Labor voters 4.7

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

For free regular subscription:
Subscribe at no charge:

For free daily digest subscription:
Subscribe at no charge:

For a copy of all reports distributed for a given day please send a
message to:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qassam hits house in northern Gaza; 3 hurt

Qassam hits house in northern Gaza; 3 hurt,7340,L-3342906,00.html
Eyewitnesses report rocket accidentally hit al-Masri family's home in Beit Hanoun, injuring pregnant mother, who suffered a miscarriage, and her two children. Earlier, another three rockets fired at Israel, one lands in Negev
Hanan Greenberg Published:  12.21.06, 12:25

Three Palestinian were lightly injured Thursday morning after a rocket hit their home in the northern Gaza Strip, medical sources told the Palestinian news agency Maan.

Eyewitnesses said that the rocket accidentally hit the home of the al-Masri family in Beit Hanoun, injuring the pregnant mother, who suffered a miscarriage, and her two children.

According to the sources, the house and its surroundings suffered damage.
Earlier Thursday, another three rockets were fired at Israel , one of them landing on Palestinian soil and the other on Israeli territory.
The Sderot Municipality reported that the Color Red alert system identified the launching of a rocket at the western Negev at around 6:20 a.m. The landing site has yet to be located, but the rocket apparently landed in an open area outside the southern town.
Wednesday saw a record number of Qassam rockets launched in one day during the ceasefire which was declared last month. In total, seven rockets were fired on Wednesday and during the night, landing in the western Negev.
At least 40 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip since the truce came into force.
A senior Israel Defense Forces official, talking to Ynet, warned that "Israel's policy toward the incessant Qassam rocket fire may be interpreted as a sign of weakness."
Ynet has learned that the IDF recently decided to remove artillery batteries that were placed around the Gaza Strip a few months after the disengagement, this following the errant fire on Beit Hanoun and the truce.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Wednesday evening that Israel would rethink its policy of restraint should Palestinian terror groups continue to breach the ceasefire. He noted that the continuous fire of Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel is a blatant violation of the ceasefire.
"Israel has no intention to gamble with the safety of its citizens, there is a limit to our restraint," said Peretz.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also warned, during a meeting with his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg , that Israel's restraint to ongoing violations of the ceasefire in the form of rocket attacks at southern Israeli cities would soon end.
"Over 40 rockets landed in Israel since the ceasefire and the last one was fired as we speak," Olmert said, referring to a Qassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip at the western Negev by Islamic Jihad gunmen.
"Sometimes the difficulty has to do with others, who do not see the overall and complex picture we are experiencing in this part of the world. That is why we meet and speak and exchange views. I think this is the important thing, and not the words were sometimes hear and do not feel comfortable about," the prime minister added.
Halutz: Military need is not everything
IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz referred Thursday morning to Israel's restraint in an interview with Army Radio.
"When the prime minister decides to hold back, he is doing it out of a broader outlook than the direct military context of the need to respond to the Qassam fire. The military need alone is not everything," Halutz said, adding that "the right of self-defense is a right reserved to anyone."
Referring to the commission of inquiry into the Lebanon war , Halutz said, "My truth is my truth, and I don't plan to deviate from it and invent things. I will not make any special preparations because I do not believe I am coming to compete with Israel. I will not rent a lawyer in any case."
Meanwhile, Knesset Member David Tal (Kadima) attacked Prime Minister Olmert Thursday in light of his declarations that Qassam rocket fire would continue to be overlooked.
"How long will you overlook? Will it take 40 more Qassams or a rocket landing on a school for us to react?" Tal asked.
"Residents of the area live in constant fear and they must be provided the same peace and quiet as the rest of the countries residents," Tal concluded.
 Ali Waked contributed to the report 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslim prayer room set up at Ben-Gurion Airport

Muslim prayer room set up at Ben-Gurion Airport

Israel Airports Authority reveals plans to set up a Muslim prayer room at country's international airport in bid to build bridges with Israeli Arabs
Eli Senyor Published:  12.21.06, 11:25
The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) Thursday ordered the establishment of a Muslim prayer room at Ben-Gurion International Airport to serve the port's Muslim passengers.

The room will be expand on 20 square meters (215.28 square feet), will be lined up in a southeasterly direction and will include an alcove facing Mecca.

Rugs will cover its floor and a 35-centemeter (13.65-inch) high bench will be installed.

A small library of Quran books will also feature in the facility, which was conceived by officials at the Ministry of the Interior.
"The initiative to set up is another step in efforts undertaken by the IAA to improve relations with the Arab sector, and came about after requests to the IAA that a prayer room be established. The initiative is part of a number of projects initiated by the Israel Airport Authority to improve relations with the sector," IAA CEO Gabi Ophir said.
The IAA says that a 24-7 team has been set up to relay to the management demands and complaints by minorities.

Team members also assist Arabic speaking passengers at terminals and security check posts.

The Citizens' Accord Forum between Jews and Arabs in Israel conceived the plan that aims at encouraging dialogue between Arab passengers and the IAA.

The IAA recently launched an Arabic-speaking version of its website.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Expose Syrian bluff

Ron Ben-Yishai 
Expose Syrian bluff

Assad unable to provide Israel with anything meaningful in exchange for peace
Published:  12.20.06, 19:29,7340,L-3342459,00.html
There's no doubt Bashar Assad really wants the Golan. It's likely that he would give much in order to bring back to Syria the asset his father lost in the Six Day War, in order to gain prestige and a place of honor in the pantheon of Syrian history.
Assad junior is also very interested in extricating himself from the diplomatic isolation and relieving Syria of the status of a pariah in the eyes of the democratic and wealthy West. Yet there's one thing that is more important to the Syrian president than those two strategic matters, and that is the regime's survivability.
He knows well that if he meets even some of the demands presented to him by Israel, the United States, and Europe, his regime would face genuine danger as would the Alawite-Shiite sect he leads. Therefore, he is unable to deliver the goods even if he receives everything he wants.
He is unable to disengage from Iran because it holds a triple whip over him: It's getting stronger and assisting him in expending his ballistic missiles arsenal, which he uses to create a balance of fear vis-à-vis Israel and Turkey; Iran also controls Hizbullah, which is able to thwart overnight all of Assad's hopes regarding Lebanon.
It's enough that Hizbullah, following a hint from Tehran, change its policy and back the demand made by Lebanon's political majority to completely disengage from Syria and hold a trial for Hariri's murderers, in order for Assad to find himself in deep trouble.
Bashar may indeed respond by curbing the transfer of Iranian weapons to Hizbullah through land, but the Shiite-Lebanese group already possesses enough arms in order to be able to withstand a Syrian embargo for a long period of time, until Iran comes up with new and creative ways to transfer assistance. Iran is also the major ideological and religious backes of the Alawite-Shiite sect in Lebanon that is Assad's main power base.
If Iran withdraws its support for the Syrian Shiites, it could constitute a sign for the Sunni majority and Kurds in Syria to raise their heads and demand control of the country. The Iranians are well aware of Assad's dependence and are therefore allowing him to declare his peace intentions towards Israel.
 They too have an interest in reducing the American and European pressure on Damascus to expose Hariri's murderers and weaken Syria's hold on Lebanon. Tehran knows that it has the power to veto any Syrian move it doesn't like when the time comes for practical concessions on Damascus' part.
For this reason, Assad is unable to force Hizbullah to completely end its activity against Israel. As long as Syria provides the Lebanese organization with arms and other assistance, it has the ability to influence it on the tactical level. Yet as long as the group is supported by Iran and takes orders from Tehran, Syria has no real ability to exercise strategic influence on it so it abandons its anti-Israel activity.
In fact, Assad is strategically more dependent on Hizbullah than the organization is dependent on him. Assad knows that only Hizbullah is able to open a second front in Lebanon against Israel should it attack Syria. Hizbullah and its Iranian patrons received proof of this in the last Lebanon War when Hizbullah fought on its own, successfully in its view, against the IDF. Therefore, Assad is unable to provide Israel with what it wants in the Lebanese context.
Assad fears Iraq rebels
Assad is unable to deliver the goods not only in the Israeli context but also in the American context. He could, physically and technically, meet the American and European demand and curb the flow of money, fighters, and weapons to the Sunni rebels in Iraq. Yet he doesn't do this because he knows that if he does, they will launch a war against him and his regime with the help of Syria's Sunni sect.
The Sunni majority in Syria, and particularly the Islamic Brotherhood, are desperate for outside assistance in order to act against the Alawite-Shiite regime in Damascus. Up until now, the Iraqi Sunni rebels refrained from acting against the Syrian regime (as opposed to what they're doing in Jordan, for example) because Assad provides them a line of assistance and contact with their supporters outside Iraq.
 Should Assad stop the assistance, the Iraqi Sunnis would join forces with the Islamic Brotherhood in Syria and threaten Assad's regime. They will also resort to terrorism (possibly with Iran's assistance) in order to torpedo any attempt for Syrian-Israeli economic cooperation and any display of normalization should a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement be signed.
There's only one area where Assad can meet Israel's and the West's demands without this significantly endangering his regime. He can withdraw his support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad and expel their political leaders from Damascus. He, and particularly his father, already did this in the past for short periods without sustaining damages.
The problem for him is that if he does this as a precondition for the holding of peace talks, as Israel demands, he will lose the only bargaining chip in his control. He is also risking deterioration in his relationship with Iran, which is sponsoring both groups. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is an Iranian satellite organization just like Hizbullah.
The bottom line is that Assad, under the conditions currently prevalent in the Middle East, cannot give Israel and the West anything substantive in exchange for a peace agreement in the Golan, even if we wants to do so very much. Why then does he insist and constantly declare that he is interested in engaging in talks with Israel without preconditions, even though he knows well that the implementation of an agreement will fail even if the negotiations are successful?
The answer for this can be found in Beirut and Damascus. The reasons for Assad's peace offensive are mostly tactical: He believes that engaging in negotiations with Israel, even if indirectly, would remove international public opinion and UN pressure regarding the Hariri trial. Nobody would want to worsen relations with Syria while it's on its way to changing from a provoking and violence-supporting element in the Middle East to an element that brings peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The second reason for Assad's peace offensive is an argument currently underway among top Syrian officials in the wake of the second Lebanon War between Israel and Hizbullah. This war and its results led a large group of "hawks" in the Syrian regime to demand that Syria, just like Hizbullah in Lebanon, open an attrition and guerilla war against Israel in order to regain the Golan.
 This group is apparently led by Assad's brother-in-law, the belligerent intelligence chief Asef Shawkat. This group is facing a moderate group that argues that acts of hostility against Israel would be met with a severe reaction to the point of an all-out war that would endanger the Syrian regime. After all, the Syrian regime, which has a regular army and government institutions, is much more vulnerable to an Israeli military-aerial response than Hizbullah.
 This group proposed that Assad take advantage of Israel's relative weakness and the weakness of its government in order to engage in talks and regain the Golan at a bargain price. Intelligence officials claim that Assad is indecisive. He is leaning towards the moderate group but fears the more powerful militant group. Therefore he decided to give talks a chance before he turns to the other, more belligerent option.
Humanitarian gesture needed
This fact presents Israel with a catch-22 situation. We have no interest in easing the pressure on Damascus over the Hariri affair, but we are interested in preventing Syria from engaging in a guerilla and terror war in the Golan Heights. For internal reasons, the Israeli government has a clear interest to show that it did everything in order to avoid going to war with Syria.
This will be important particularly if eventually, in a year or two, such war is forced on us after all. Therefore, Jerusalem should be using all the diplomatic creativity it is able to draw on.
It's completely clear that the Syrians are unwilling to adopt any significant step that would even partially meet Israel's advance demands. Syria argues that it cannot limit Hizbullah and will not expel Hamas before the talks start bearing fruit.
So be it, but before we completely reject Syria's outstretched hand we can examine its intentions - and expose the Syrian bluff, through simpler means: We can, for example, demand that Syria undertake a humanitarian gesture and allow investigators on behalf of Israel to uncover the bones of Israeli MIAs buried in Damascus.
Syria (and Israel too) are closely familiar with the exact location of the MIAs graves. All it needs to do is allow a European delegation to examine the graves, and if the findings indeed confirm available information, transfer the missing deceased to Israel.

Syria can also undertake a similar humanitarian gesture for the sake of the family of Israeli spy Eli Cohen that has been trying to transfer the remains of her loved one to an Israeli grave. The Syrian regime knows that President Assad and King Hussein undertook, each in his own way, trust-building gestures to the Israeli public before starting talks regarding the very substantial territorial concessions Israel must make in exchange for peace.
Should Syria comply with these simple requests, Israel's government – any Israeli government – would be unable to reject its offer for negotiations. If it refuses, then it would be clear that Damascus' offers are a tactical move lacking real meaning. Olmert's argument that he must reject Syria's offer out of hand in order not to embarrass the US Administration is false and borders on the ridiculous.
Such argument constitutes blatant Israeli interference in internal US politics. Moreover, the current Administration in Washington can be convinced relatively easily that a genuine peace agreement between Israel and Syria would serve its regional objectives better than any other means employed by America at this time.

Continued (Permanent Link)

George W. Bush's last chance in Iraq: an Israeli view

George W. Bush's last chance in Iraq: an Israeli view
By Shlomo Ben-Ami
Thursday, December 21, 2006 

Though triggered by the need to devise an exit strategy from the Iraqi quagmire, the Iraq Study Group's grim report is a devastating indictment of the Bush administration's entire foreign policy. The report challenges the core principles of a faith-driven administration and of a president whose political gospel led him to a sharp departure from the culture of conflict resolution in favor of a crusade based on raw power.
A war that cannot be ended is sometimes worse than a war that is lost. Therefore, the Iraq report is more than a plan to rescue Iraq; it is a road map for extricating America from the mayhem of an unwinnable war. However much the study group shunned recommendations for a precipitous withdrawal and avoided strict timetables for disengagement, their report is not only an unequivocal repudiation of Bush's "stay the course" obsession, but also a counsel to cut and run.
Indeed, there is no realistic chance that the Iraqi Army and police will be able to take over combat responsibilities and effective policing any time soon. The entire security apparatus in Iraq is corrupt and infiltrated by insurgents. Nor is it at all clear to what degree the Iraqis retain a stake in the idea of a united Iraqi state worth fighting for. The report practically calls for ending all support to the Iraqi government if it fails to assume its responsibilities.
None of the Middle East's problems has a military solution, and none can be solved through unilateral action. The report is therefore right to challenge Bush's insistence on discarding both Iran and Syria as interlocutors for a more stable regional order. Iran has the most leverage inside Iraq, and Syria has become a vital crossing point for weapons and insurgents into the Iraqi battlefield. There is simply no way that Iraq can be stabilized without America moving from a policy of disengagement to one of engagement with these two major regional spoilers.
The report thus stands as a rebuke to Bush's entire "axis of evil" philosophy. It refuses to ascribe to Iran's secretive state an ideological rigidity that might not exist. Indeed, Iran has shown its ability to behave with startling pragmatism more than once, not least in its links to Israel and the United States during its war against Iraq in the 1980s, and in its assistance to the Americans in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
But it is not only Iraq that requires regional support groups to reach a modicum of stability. All the problems of the Middle East - Iraq, the Arab-Israeli dispute, the need for political reforms, and Islamic terrorism - are interconnected. The interconnectedness of the problems in the outer circle of the region and those pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict in the inner circle was shown by the first Bush administration, which, in October 1991, following the first Gulf war, organized a major international conference aimed at securing an Arab-Israeli peace.
Neither the Israeli government nor its intimate ally in the White House can be expected to applaud the Iraq Study Group's call for a repetition of that logic, for it contradicts everything the Bush administration has championed. The report's recommendation for an international conference in the style of the Madrid peace conference is not only a timely indication of the linkage between the Israeli-Arab conflict and the region's other troubles; it is also a long overdue reminder that bilateral negotiations between the parties cannot produce an agreement. That realization prompted the all-Arab peace initiative of 2002, which established the conditions for an Israeli-Arab comprehensive settlement.
Alas, however bipartisan the Iraq Study Group's report may be, it is too much to expect that Bush will endorse all of its recommendations and admit the bankruptcy of his entire foreign policy. In fact, Bush has already expressed his objection to unconditional direct talks with Iran and Syria. Nor does he seem eager to open a rift with Israel by dragging its government to an international conference, the way his father did with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in 1991.
Bush will find it especially difficult to change his policy with respect to Iran. In order to ensure that the US is too harassed to be able to threaten it, Iran has consistently obstructed Bush's mission of regional transformation. The report urges the president to understand that the spoilers will not cease to be spoilers as a precondition of negotiations, but only as a result of them. At stake is a painful choice for Bush: to lead America into coexistence with what he considers a repugnant Islamic theocracy.
But Bush does not have many choices if he is to save his presidency from going down in history as an utter failure. His was a suicidal brand of statecraft from the outset. If he does not change course in Iraq and beyond, his presidency might draw the curtain on long decades of American hegemony in the Middle East - to the detriment of its closest allies in the region.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister, was the chief negotiator of the Camp David and Taba peace talks in 2000 and 2001 respectively. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate (

Continued (Permanent Link)

Giving to Bashar Assad, and taking away

Giving to Bashar Assad, and taking away
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, December 21, 2006 

While in Beirut this week Senator John Kerry remarked, in reference to any future discussion between the United States and Syria: "Lebanon is not on the table, nor is the Hariri tribunal. So what do you do with Bashar Assad? What does he want?" The statement was reassuring on Lebanese sovereignty, but also showed why wondering about what to do with Assad can often end up being another way of saying: What do you give Assad?
That resigned logic was entrenched in the Iraq Study Group report, drafted largely by a onetime US ambassador to Syria, Edward Djerejian. Like James Baker, his former boss, Djerejian is nostalgic for when the United States could cut deals with a reliable despot in Damascus. That the despot's son is entirely unreliable when it comes to respecting his engagements has done little to discourage Baker or Djerejian. Basing themselves on a shallow assumption that Syria wants to avoid civil war in Iraq (even though it may be the state most responsible for triggering one), the "engagers" have put little effort into showing how Assad might be compelled to end his destabilization of Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Particularly for a Lebanon threatened by a Syrian return, more clarity is vital.
 But then again, when it comes to Lebanon, neither the Bush administration nor the ruling March 14 coalition, Syria's prime prey, has convincingly outlined the kind of leverage that might prevent the Syrians from reasserting their control over the country. When Kerry asked Lebanese interlocutors for their views on Monday, few of the responses were practical from the perspective of a Democrat-led Congress eager to have more of a say in the Bush administration's regional policies.
Syrian insecurity is often cited as an obstacle to a kinder more generous Syria. For example, writing in The Financial Times last week, Robert Malley and Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group saw insecurity as a reason for Syrian intransigence: "Damascus and Tehran want a different relationship with Washington. But at a time when they believe the US seeks to weaken them, they are unlikely to bend to its requests."
That may be true. But the question that the authors and others have not answered is whether a heightened sense of security will make Assad more willing to surrender valuable political cards that he feels his intransigence has allowed him to accumulate. Syria's support for Hamas, its blunt refusal to recognize Lebanese sovereignty as outlined in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, and its destabilization of Iraq, have all paid handsome dividends as far as Assad interprets things, though the reality is doubtless more complicated. The president can also see that his "insecurity" is what brings people to his door with political offerings and words of comfort - even as his behavior has changed not at all.
Perhaps a more promising avenue isn't to reduce Assad's sense of insecurity, but to heighten it so that his regime will make damaging mistakes that can be exploited. This is fraught with risks, but the Syrians, like many others, only really respond when their interests are at stake.
Take their decision to back the Lebanese opposition's campaign to overthrow or neuter Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government. The fact that the bulk of the opposition is Shiite unfortunately, though predictably, has led to an angry Sunni counter-reaction. Yet as any follower of Syrian politics will tell you, Sunni mobilization, whether in Lebanon or Iraq, might one day consume the minority Assad regime. In that case, why shouldn't the international community and Syria's Arab adversaries use the potential dangers of such mobilization as a stick to effect behavior-change in Syria, in a way that reassurances could never do?

From the Lebanese perspective, the greatest difficulty with Syria today is arriving at a modus vivendi on bilateral ties that can satisfy both sides. The Syrians simply won't negotiate. They haven't hidden their desire to return to Lebanon and still refuse to deal with the country as a sovereign entity. When it comes to the Hariri tribunal, Assad has put no prospective exchange on the table, though there are those in March 14 who would probably be willing to swap watering down the tribunal's statutes for verifiable guarantees of Lebanese independence and their own personal safety. In the absence of Syrian flexibility, however, March 14 will stick with the tribunal as the only weapon it can deploy, and for the moment it has the backing of the international community.
A third source of leverage that could be used to alter Syrian behavior is Arab antagonism toward Syria's alliance with Iran. It would be naive to suppose that so beneficial a relationship would be abandoned by Assad for the uncertain prospect of negotiations over the future of the Golan Heights. If anything, the Syrian leader will assume that the Iranian connection is what brought the Golan back to international attention. On the other hand, as Assad watches developments in the Palestinian territories, he knows that somewhere in there lies an ominous message: The Sunni Arab states are striking back against Iran's Arab allies - such as Hamas. While Assad will not soon discard his Hamas comrades, if that Arab counter-attack gains momentum, it would be unwise of the Syrian leader to remain on the wrong side of the fight, particularly if the latter is increasingly defined by sectarian identification.
Assad has overestimated his vulnerabilities, but in so doing has underestimated Syria's ability to shape and benefit from a stable region. By refusing to give up on Lebanon, the Syrian leader has hardened the wall of anti-Syrian hostility in the country, whose leading proponents are now Sunnis backed by an Arab world anxious about Iranian intentions. By encouraging Hamas' rejectionism, Assad has made the task much harder for those advocating renewed Golan negotiations. By tying Syria's fortunes to those of Tehran, he has eroded the earlier Arab consensus that would have better protected his regime from the Hariri tribunal.
It may be valid for the United States and Europe to engage Syria, but not from a position of weakness - which the Iraqi Study Group recommendations would almost certainly lead to. Assad has pushed his country into dangerous corridors that his father would have never contemplated entering. This should make for a more pliable Syrian regime, as it begins to grasp the perils that it has created for itself. Maybe it's time to think about taking advantage of this situation.

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Alliance of moderation

Alliance of moderation

21 December 2006
BRITISH Prime Minister Tony Blair has wrapped up his Middle East tour by implying, quite rightly, that the world is confronted with an ideological battle of no small proportions. This is a battle in which forces of extremism and moderation are at each other's throats – and nothing less than elimination of the enemy will do for either side.

To meet this confrontation's rising demands, he has called for an "alliance of moderation". For all intents and purposes, such an alliance should be as potent a weapon as any to counter extremism's unrelenting forces. But considering the out-of-control volatility in Iraq and that the proposed alliance is meant to focus more on Iran's growing regional influence, the call raises important questions that need to be addressed sooner than later.
While Iraq continues to burn, all eyes are on the White House in anticipation of the direction of President Bush's much awaited "new strategy". Of course, the policy change is largely a result of the findings of the Iraq Study Group report. Among other things, the Baker-Hamilton panel recommended that American troops be gradually withdrawn from the region and Washington engage in negotiations with both Iran and Syria, something contrary to the Bush administration's policy so far.
But there are clear signs suggesting that the administration is seriously considering short-term force-expansion. New defence secretary Robert Gates was in Iraq yesterday to 'assess the idea'. That, coupled with Blair's suggestion of further isolating the country with unquestionably the greatest on-ground influence in Iraq suggests that the war-on-terror proponents are more comfortable pursuing their own original course of action.
It is important to note that fighting the new ideological war with weapons and strategies of what has effectively become the old system is proving disastrous. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have become text book cases of the limits of military might in the face of an elusive enemy.

Bush's new strategy will mark the last ditch attempt on the part of forces of moderation to prevent total-loss in this stage of the ideological battle. Should it fail to turn things around, the whole world, especially the Middle East, will become much more unstable. Therefore, it is advised that diplomatic engagement rather than isolation be given more weight in the coming days.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria discussing procurement of Russian advanced S-300 air and missile defense system

Syria discussing procurement of Russian advanced S-300 air and missile
defense system

MOSCOW [MENL] -- Syria has been discussing the procurement of the advanced S-300 air and missile defense system from Russia.

Industry sources said Syrian President Bashar Assad was briefed on the S-300PMU2 during his visit to Moscow. They said Bashar has agreed in principle to procuring the S-300 and focused on price and other details with his Russian interlocutors.

"Syria wants a strategic air defense system that would present a major threat to Israeli warplanes," a source said. "I think Assad will buy and deploy the S-300 over the next few months."

The S-300PMU2, known as Favorit and produced by Almaz, has been priced at more than $600 million per unit. The sources said Russia has agreed to reduce the price of the long-range air defense systems in exchange for Russian Navy basing rights at the Syrian ports of Latakia and Tartous.
NOTE: The above is not the full item. Contact Middle East Newsline at: for further details.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Iran:] Four reasons for ranting

Four reasons for ranting
By Aluf Benn

We should not take the Iranian threat to Israel lightly. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seriously intends to erase the Jewish state from the map, and his engineers are working on the development of nuclear weapons that will change the regional balance of power. But what is the purpose of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's intensified rhetoric against Iran? Why has he abandoned the "low profile" that he preached at the beginning of his term? Four explanations come to mind:
1. To spur on Bush. The ideal scenario, from Israel's point of view, would be an American military attack that would destroy Iran's nuclear facilities and remove the threat. "We have to get the United States to carry out what it promised to do, and to create the proper international climate," explains a senior official. It is not clear what President Bush told Olmert in private talks that had him leaving Bush's office feeling so satisfied. We can only presume that Olmert is depending on Bush's religious faith and obstinacy, which will lead him to attack Iran, even in light of American public opposition to military adventures in the Middle East.
When will that happen? The head of the Mossad spoke this week about an Iranian nuclear bomb in another three years. This leaves a year for diplomacy and sanctions, and moves H-hour for a military attack to 2008, if Iran continues its nuclear development. The timing is right politically. It will be Bush's last year in the White House, and he will be busy bequeathing his "legacy." It is a known fact that U.S. election years have always been years of dramatic moves in relations with Israel, from Harry S. Truman's recognition of the Jewish state to Bill Clinton's Camp David summit, to the "Bush letter" that recognized the settlements and the separation fence.
2. To prepare for an Israeli attack. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon used to deny that Israel was planning to attack Iran on its own. Olmert prefers to hint at a military option. That's good for spurring the "world" into action, but it is also good for preparing Israeli public opinion for a complex conflict that is liable to continue for years. The experts disagree as to whether Israel has the ability to paralyze the Iranian project if it strikes it at critical points. It is clear that Israel would have to receive American approval for such an operation, and would prefer receiving it from Bush, who is friendly to Israel, rather than gambling on his successor. That is why even for this alternative 2008 will be the critical year.
3. To solve political problems. There is nothing like an external threat to calm the internal arena, and there is nobody like Olmert, an experienced politician, to use it. Expanding the coalition? Appoint hawk Avigdor Lieberman as minister of strategic threats. Paralyzing the opposition? Allow Benjamin Netanyahu to curse Ahmadinejad and call for his trial in The Hague - then he won't attack the government. Commissions of inquiry? Who has time to discuss the failures of Lebanon when the Iranian mushroom cloud threatens?
4. To remain in the territories. Olmert wants to remain in the Golan, refuses to talk to Syrian President Bashar Assad and uses Bush's opposition as an excuse: Israel needs Bush to fight Iran, and we must not annoy him by babbling nonsense about peace with Syria. This is an update to the old debate about the link between the territories and Iran.
The right has warned that the Iranian bomb would provide an umbrella for a ground attack on Israel, and therefore we must not come down from the mountains.
The left believes that withdrawal to the Green Line would take away Iran's excuse for attacking Israel. This does not interest Ahmadinejad: He wants to destroy the "Zionist regime," with or without the territories. The Green Line does not appear on his map. But his threats provide a convenient justification for Olmert, who talks like Yitzhak Rabin and behaves like Yitzhak Shamir.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ahmadinejad suffers election blow

Ahmadinejad suffers election blow  

Final results announced by the interior ministry on Thursday show that the Iranian president's opponents have won last Friday's elections for local councils.
Moderate conservatives opposed to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a majority of the seats, followed by reformists, who were suppressed by ultra-conservatives loyal to Ahmadinejad in 2004.

The vote is being seen as a sign of public discontent with Ahmadinejad's constant fights with the West which have led Iran closer to UN sanctions.
His anti-Israel rhetoric and unbending stand on the nuclear programme are believed to have divided Iranians who voted him into power last year.
Some conservatives feel Ahmadinejad has spent too much time confronting the US and its allies and failed to deal with Iran's struggling economy.
Reformists' comeback
The voting also represented a partial comeback for reformists, who favour closer ties with the West and further loosening of social and political restrictions under the Islamic government.
Leading reformist Saeed Shariati said the results of the election was a "big no" to Ahmadinejad and his allies.
"People's vote means they don't support Ahmadinejad's policies and want change," Shariati, a leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the country's largest reformist party, said on Thursday.
Shariati, whose party seeks democratic changes within Iran's ruling Islamic establishment and supports relations with the US, said: "We consider this government's policy to be against Iran's national interests and security. It is simply acting against Iran's interests."
Parallel election
Similar anti-Ahmadinejad sentiment was visible in the final results of a parallel election held to select members of the Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of 86 senior clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor.
A big boost for moderates within the ruling Islamic establishment was visible in the big number of votes for Hashemi Rafsanjani, who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential election run-off.
Rafsanjani, who supports dialogue with the US, received the most votes of any Tehran candidate to win re-election to the assembly.
Also re-elected was Hasan Rowhani, Iran's former top nuclear negotiator whom Ahmadinejad repeatedly accused of making too many concessions to the Europeans.
Mayoral poll
In Tehran, the capital, candidates supporting Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, the city's moderate-conservative mayor, won seven of the 15 council seats.
Reformists won four, while Ahmadinejad's allies won three. The last seat went to Ali Reza Dabir, a wrestling champion who won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and is considered an independent.
Final results for the rest of the country also showed a heavy defeat for Ahmadinejad supporters, and analysts said his allies won less than 20 per cent of local council seats nationwide.
None of his candidates won seats on the councils in the cities of Shiraz, Bandar Abbas, Sari, Zanjan, Rasht, Islam, Sanandaj and Kerman. Many councils in other cities were divided along similar proportions as Tehran's.
Khatami's legacy
Iran started having council elections after a reform introduced in 1999 by Mohammed Khatami, the then president. More than 233,000 candidates ran for more than 113,000 council seats in cities, towns and villages across the vast nation on Friday.
All municipal council candidates, including some 5,000 women, were vetted by parliamentary committees dominated by ultra-conservatives. The committees disqualified about 10,000 nominees, reports said.
The election does not directly effect Ahmadinejad's administration and is not expected to bring immediate policy changes.
The local councils handle community matters in cities and town across the country. But it represented the first time the public has weighed in on Ahmadinejad's stormy presidency since he took office in June 2005.
Possible impact
The results are expected to pressure him to change his populist anti-Western tone and focus more on Iran's high unemployment and economic problems at home.
In an interview posted on December 19 the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takeyh, the US think-tank's senior fellow for Middle East studies, says: "[Ahmadinejad] came into office pledging economic equality, economic justice, an end to corruption, a sort of chicken in every pot. And that has not come about, so there's a degree of disillusionment from the public that he's confronting today.
"... some of his core supporters in the lower-middle class and the working class are not that dissatisfied with him. It is the middle class that seems disenchanted.
"And also, not his conservatism per se, but his radicalism is beginning to rub people the wrong way. The confrontational rhetoric, the anti-Semitism and the opprobrium that he brings internationally to Iran is not something that's appreciated by the public."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Source:[ Israel] PM won't ditch policy of restraint despite Qassams

Last update - 09:43 21/12/2006   

Source: PM won't ditch policy of restraint despite Qassams
By Amos Harel and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondents
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is intent on adhering to the policy of restraint in face of the continued Qassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, a senior political source in Jerusalem said on Wednesday.
Three Qassam rockets were fired at Israel on Thursday morning. One of the rockets struck near a western Negev kibbutz, causing no damage or injuries, while the additional two fell inside the Gaza Strip.
On Wednesday, seven Qassam rockets were fired at Israel. No injuries were reported.
Speaking at a joint press conference with the visiting Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday, Olmert said that "for a number of weeks now I have used my authority in order to prevent a response to the continued Qassam rocket attacks, but it is clear that it is impossible to ignore this for long, so long as the Palestinians continue to shoot."
In response to the Qassam attacks on Wednesday, Defense Minister Amir Peretz declared that "Israel has no intention of gambling over the security of its citizens. Restraint has its limits. The launching of rockets is a blatant violation of the cease-fire."
Peretz also stressed that in the West Bank "there is no cease-fire. There is no reason to allow terrorists to carry out their plans and carry out attacks. If the cease-fire violations in the Gaza Strip continue, the policy of restraint will be changed."
Olmert is scheduled to hold a series of meetings with leading members of the defense establishment in which the future of the fragile cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will be evaluated.
The Prime Minister will meet with Defense Minister Peretz, Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin and the Minister of Public Security, Avi Dichter.
The issue of the cease-fire will dominate all meetings, and Olmert is keen to stress that Israel should not be the one that announces an end to the cease-fire.
Olmert has the backing of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on this matter.
Notwithstanding the continuous Palestinian violations in the form of Qassam rocket attacks, "the cease-fire provides more calm than without it," a senior political source said on Wednesday.
The source added that the cease-fire is also important for Israel diplomatically.
This is a particularly relevant point in view of the infighting that has prevailed in the Gaza Strip during the past week. Israel may choose to adhere to its commitment to the cease-fire precisely because it wants to avoid being blamed for intervening in an internal Palestinian conflict.
It would seem that so long as the Qassam attacks result in no injuries, Israel will continue its policy of relative restraint.
The cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip went into effect nearly four weeks ago, but according to the Israel Defense Forces the Palestinians fired 40 rockets against Israel during that period.
Most of the rocket attacks were carried out by members of Islamic Jihad, an organization whose participation in the cease-fire was unclear from the start.
One possibility is that the seven rockets fired into Israel on Wednesday were a response to the killing of two Islamic Jihad militants near Jenin by officers of a police anti-terror unit.
However, IDF sources say that for some time now the enforcement of the cease-fire by the Palestinians has been loose and that rockets are being fired by groups that oppose Hamas, such as radical factions of Fatah and Islamic Jihad.
The current instability and fighting among factions in the Gaza Strip is depleting the resources and attention of Hamas, which is not investing great efforts in preventing the launching of missiles against Israel.
The instability in the Gaza Strip has led senior IDF officers, mostly in the Southern Command, to call for easing the strict rules of engagement put in place for the cease-fire, and allow troops to open fire against Qassam rocket crews.
The current orders are not to shoot at the militants even if they have been clearly identified as preparing to launch rockets against Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Not welcome in Manchester, Joy Wolfe, JPost, 12/20/2006

Not welcome in Manchester

   If anyone had told me it would take the actions of a Natorei Karta self-proclaimed rabbi to get the ultra-Orthodox anti-Israel community and the Zionists to stand side by side at a demonstration I would have probably laughed in their face. But that is exactly what has been happening in a formerly quiet street in Manchester in the past week. Ahron Cohen was previously familiar as he stood alongside Palestine Solidarity demonstrators around the world to show his hatred of the State of Israel.
   While those of us who support Israel have not liked the message his personage sent out to the wider world, we have not questioned his right to freedom of speech and action, and the fact that tiny Natorei Karta and the much larger Satmar, among other sects, deny the right of Israel to exist is well known. However once Ahron Cohen decided to attend the Holocaust denial conference in Teheran and was pictured shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the man who has publicly declared he wants to see the elimination of the Jewish state, that was one step too far.
   The Manchester community from the haredi to the secular has made it very clear this man is a disgrace, and brings disrepute to us all. His claim is that he does not deny the Holocaust took place, but does not want it to be used as a weapon to "oppress" the Palestinians. And the remarkable thing is that when Zionists took to the streets with their Israeli flags, singing "Hatikva," outside the home of Ahron Cohen, they stood alongside large numbers of the haredi community, including many Satmar congregants.
   Not everyone approves of the tactics of some of the demonstrators, but the strength of their feeling and their common bond is there for all to see. Throwing thousands of eggs at the house, letting down car tires, and scrawling an obscenity on his car are not things many of us approve of or wish to see, and there has been a concerted effort, now the point of what we feel about this obnoxious man has been very clearly made, to limit the demonstrations and to control the more unacceptable manifestations of people's feelings.
   MANY SANCTIONS are being used to make it clear to "rabbi" Cohen that he is persona non grata here in Manchester. Just how long his position here is tenable remains to be seen. The Manchester Beth Din has issued a condemnation, as has the Machzikei Hadass leader. Satmar have dissociated themselves in the strongest terms. They make it clear that while they, too, do not recognize Israel, Holocaust denial - or aligning with Holocaust deniers - is an entirely different matter.
   There has been call for excommunication; his fees to the burial society have been returned to make it clear there will be no future resting place for him among Manchester Jews. Holocaust survivors have expressed their horror and pain. Shops are refusing to serve him and all the synagogue's and shtiebels where he used to worship have closed their doors to him.
   It is rumored that he will try to travel to Israel this week. Will he be welcome there? I doubt it. Antwerp has been suggested as another possible place where he might seek respite from the onslaught he has faced.
   Having lived in Manchester for more than 36 years, I cannot remember any issue that has on the one hand shocked and on the other hand united the community in such a remarkable way. One important thing is not to mix the issue of Ahron Cohen's basic right not to recognize Israel with his totally misguided view that he can express that view by standing alongside Holocaust deniers and giving them succor.
   He will not care that he is bringing our community into disrepute, or that our enemies can cite him as an example of Jews against Israel, but we need to make it clear that we care deeply. We have a duty to make it clear throughout our community and throughout the wider world that this man speaks only for himself and a handful of people who share his warped viewpoint. Even other Natorei Karta followers are able to draw the line between standing up against Israel and standing with Holocaust deniers. At a time when the number of living witnesses to the Holocaust is diminishing, the last thing we need are Jews who try to give credence to the Holocaust revisionists.
   Nothing that Ahron Cohen says to try to justify his attendance in Teheran and his reasons for being there are acceptable in any way. That is why Manchester Jews, alongside many Israeli rabbis and others throughout the world, are sending out a loud and clear unanimous message to make it very clear that there is no comfortable resting place for him anywhere in the civilized world. Maybe his best hope is to look at house prices in Iran.
The writer is life president of Manchester Zionist Central Council and of Manchester Wizo and a member of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester.

This article can also be read at

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Israel Bashing - "Zionist" organizations are doing it too

UPZ and Hillel sponsoring an exhibit about IDF "atrocities?" Ameinu likening Israel to apartheid South Africa? Amazing, but sadly true... 

Israel Bashing - "Zionist" organizations are doing it too

We all know about Israel bashing, demonization of Israel and anti-Semitism. Those are sad facts of life and part of free speech, democracy and pluralism. Organizations like PSM can lobby for boycotts of Israel, Jimmy Carter can compare Israel to South Africa, and Mr. Ahmadinejad can hold Holocaust denial conferences in Iran. Of course, Zionists and Jewish organizations can usually have their say in defending Israel too. That's also part of free speech.

However, the Israel bashing game has apparently become so fashionable that even supposedly Zionist organizations participate. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency tells us about a controversy over "Tough Love" for Israel.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-Semitism at German Schools

SPIEGEL ONLINE - December 8, 2006, 06:32 PM


Insults Against Jews on the Rise

By Björn Hengst and Jan Friedmann

Right-wing adolescents and young Muslims are displaying levels of
anti-Semitism that were long considered unthinkable in Germany. At
many German schools, the word "Jew" is becoming an insult again.
German politicians don't seem to know how to respond


The janitor at Berlin's Jean-Piaget high school in the Hellersdorf
neighborhood paints over swastikas scrawled on the walls in May, 2006.
The Jewish High School in Berlin's central Mitte district resembles a
high-security ward. Those who want to access the imposing old
building on Grosse Hamburger Strasse have to pass through a
meticulous security check. The building is surrounded by a fence
several meters high and video cameras register every move. Policemen
stand guard in front of the building.

"We're no ghetto," school director Barbara Wittig clarifies. "We
offer those children protection who have to fear discrimination at
other schools," she adds. And such cases have increased dramatically
in the past two years. "I always though Jews were integrated into
German society," says Wittig. "I would never have thought it possible
for anti-Semitism to express itself as virulently as it has recently."

As of this week, Wittig's students have included two girls who
previously attended the public, non-confessional Lina-Morgenstern
High School in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighborhood. Their woes attracted
considerable public attention. For months, one of the two girls, who
is 14 years old, suffered anti-Semitic insults from adolescents with
an Arab background. They also beat her and spat on her. Walking to
school became like running the gauntlet for her. Her tormentors would
hide in wait for her and chase her through the streets. In the end
the girl had to be given police protection on her way to school.

Anti-Semitism on the rise

These events in Kreuzberg represent an especially drastic example,
but they're not the exception. Berlin's state parliament lists 62
reported cases under the category "(right-wing) extremism" in its
study "Indicators of Violence at Berlin's Schools, 2004/2005." That's
a steep increase in comparison with the previous year, when only 39
cases were registered. The category "(right-wing) extremism"
includes "anti-Semitic, racist / xenophobic and right-wing extremist
remarks" by children and adolescents, in addition to remarks
that "incite racial hatred or express fundamentalist / Islamist
fundamentalist views."

One high school student in Berlin's Steglitz-Zehlendorf district said
in class: "All Jews must be gassed." Students in the Friedrichshain-
Kreuzberg district locked another student inside the chemistry lab
and said: "Now we'll turn on the gas." A non-German child at an
elementary school in Treptow-Köpenick insulted his teacher by calling
her a "Jew," a "witch" and a "sea cow." When a teaching aid in
Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg tried to settle an argument between
students, he was told: "Piss off, Jew!"

And the surge of anti-Semitism seems to be growing. In November,
Berlin's public authorities had already registered more cases of anti-
Semitism than during the entire previous year. A recent study by the
European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) also
criticized cases of anti-Semitism, racism and right-wing extremism at
German schools.

Right-wing extremists take up Nazi slogans

This week, in the town of Grimmen in West Pomerania, right-wing
adolescents mobilized against an exhibition on Anne Frank,
disparaging her diary as a forgery. In October, several adolescents
in Parey, a town in Germany's Saxony-Anhalt region, forced their 16-
year- old classmate to walk across the school yard wearing a large
sign during lunch break. The sign read: "In this town I'm the biggest
swine / Because of the Jewish friends of mine." It's a phrase from
the Nazi era, used to humiliate people with Jewish friends.

A teacher intervened, took the sign away and called the police. The
students responsible for the incident, who are aged between 14 and
16, are under criminal investigation. The charges are incitement of
racial hatred, coercion and defamation. One of the students is also
accused of assault.

Berlin's Jewish community has already issued warnings about "a new
dimension of anti-Semitism." Jewish children increasingly face the
hatred of Muslim adolescents in addition to aggression from right-
wing extremists. The Jewish community advises parents to send their
children to Jewish schools in case of conflicts, pointing out that
there they will at least be safe.

Skullcaps hidden out of fear

But the protected zone ends outside the school walls. A school class
from the Jewish High School was exposed to massive anti-Semitic
insults by another Berlin school class while riding the subway.
Religious Jewish adolescents hide their skullcaps under a hat
whenever they venture onto the street.

The incidents prompted Peter Trapp, a member of the Christian
Democrat Party (CDU) in Berlin's parliament, to submit a formal
query: Trapp wants to know how many such incidents have occurred
recently. He also wants to know how many of those incidents can be
attributed to "the right-wing extremist camp" and how many can be
traced to adolescents "of non-German origin." Trapp has yet to
receive a reply -- indeed, the CDU complains that it is taking
unusually long.

And yet school director Wittig insists that politicians are very much
making an effort to respond to the problem. It's just that she rarely
gets through to them with her projects and appeals, she says. Wittig
also complains that many Arab adolescents are so pig-headed it's hard
to get through to them. "And the teachers allow their students to
tell Jewish jokes," she adds.

"Jew" -- a popular insult

"Students are increasingly using the word 'Jew' in a pejorative
sense. It's climbed up a long way on the ranking of popular insults,"
reports Peter Wagenknecht from the Kreuzberg-based
project "Educational Building Blocks Against Anti-Semitism."
Wagenknecht and his associates educate adolescents about anti-
Semitism in specially organized workshops and classroom talks. The
project still receives financial support from the German government.

But not everyone who uses the word "Jew" as an insult is
automatically an anti-Semite, Wagenknecht says. Many people just act
thoughtlessly, in his view. "Many students no longer have a sense of
how charged the word 'Jew' is when it's used as an insult. They just
want to break a taboo." Wagenknecht points out that some students
similarly use the word "victim" as an insult intended to stigmatize
someone as weak.

When he started to work with young people during the early 1990s,
anti-Semitism wasn't a problem, Wagenknecht explains. He traces much
of today's anti-Semitism to two sources: Students from Arab or
Turkish families have been politicized by the conflict in the Middle
East such that their "anti-Israeli" attitude sometimes crosses over
into open anti-Semitism. German adolescents with extreme right-wing
tendencies, on the other hand, have often been exposed to right-wing
ideology and hence dispose of a correspondingly distorted knowledge
about Jews and Jewish culture.

Wagenknecht worries that more and more Jewish students are too afraid
to openly stand up to their background: "They don't want to present
themselves as Jewish. In such cases, the class often doesn't know
about their background, and the teachers keep mum." Wagenknecht adds
that the students are often acting on advice from their parents, who
want to spare their children conflicts and exposure to aggressive

School director Wittig says: "We're now the only school in Berlin
where Jewish children can stand up to their identity. Elsewhere, most
of them have to adapt to the majority."

Continued (Permanent Link)

MEMRI: Islamist Sites in French - An Overview


Inquiry & Analysis-Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
December 21, 2006
No. 308

Islamist Sites in French - An Overview

By Nathalie Szerman* .

For Islamist terrorist organizations, the Internet is a major platform for indoctrination and incitement. Most of these sites are in Arabic, but some are in European languages. The following is an overview of Islamist sites in French that promote Islamist ideology and disseminate anti-Western and anti-French incitement.

This dispatch is the third in a series of MEMRI reports presenting comprehensive overviews of terrorist activity on the Internet. The first two reports were published in 2004,(1) and led to the closing of several sites hosted on servers in the U.S. MEMRI has also recently launched the Islamist Websites Monitor project, which monitors Islamist websites in Arabic on a daily basis. 

The Voice of the Oppressed (La Voix des Opprimes)


This is a sizeable site featuring articles on Islam and jihad. The "Subjects" section (accessible from the main menu) includes the following: "Islam," "Jihad in Afghanistan," "Jihad in Iraq," "Jihad in Palestine," "Jihad in Chechnya," "The Martyred Heroes of Jihad" and "The World." The "Top Articles" section features the most frequently accessed items on the site, including several announcements by bin Laden. The first item in this section (with nearly 80,000 hits) is a video titled "Lion Praying to Allah," showing a lion in the Bakou zoo which, it is claimed, prays to Allah five times a day. The second item (with about 74,000 hits) is an article titled "We Thank Osama bin Laden" by Sheikh Mouhammad Saleh Ibnoul Outhaymine,(3) which is presented as an account of the author's meeting with bin Laden.(4)

The forum includes discussions on jihad all over the world, as well as images and videos, including an animated image of bin Laden on horseback with the White House on fire in the background ( The forum includes "all the communiqués from the mujahideen in Afghanistan," which appear to be updated regularly, and "all the videos from the mujahideen in Afghanistan" (

The homepage features a prominent link to the Islamist English portal World of Islam (, which features war videos from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chechnya, including a "documentary" showing "martyrdom operations against the coalition forces in Iraq" and "interviews with suicide bombers before they carry out operations."

The Voice of the Oppressed incites against the U.S. and the West, and in particular against France and its government. An April 30, 2006 article, which is accompanied by a photo of French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in which he appears to be giving a Nazi salute, says: "Sarkozy and the Zionist Bureau of Terrorism (DST(5) have invented the Chechen [terrorist] network to cover up their state terrorism in the war which is aimed at controlling the oil of the Caspian Sea." Another article (6) states that "the world must know that the French government - which controls almost all of the 'Islamist' networks in Morocco - was heavily involved in the May 16, 2003 attacks in Casablanca."(7) On September 8, 2005, the site published an article titled "French Terrorism in Algeria - Will France Be Able to Exploit the Saharan Algerian Oil As It Pleases?"(8) A September 11, 2005 article is titled "Dominique [de Villepin], Jacques [Chirac], Nicolas [Sarkozy] and Others: French Involvement in the
 March 2004 Attacks in Madrid."(9)

Al-Maurabitoune (10)

This is another large site dealing with Islam and jihad. The name Al-Maurabitoune refers to the Muslim jihad warriors who held the front line against Christianity. Its "Most Recently Updated" section(11) includes an article by Muhammad Asood Azhaar titled "The Virtues of Jihad - Part 1" ( which states: "During the Night of Al-Miraj [i.e., the Night Journey(13)], the Prophet was shown the magnificent palace that awaits the martyrs [in Paradise]. The martyr sacrifices his life in the battle for Allah's way, and this sacrifice is his dearest and most precious possession."

Another article, by Sheikh Muhammad Maso'ud Azhar Hafizahullah, titled "The Virtues of Jihad - Part 3"(14) (, includes a section headed "Children Needed in the Cause of Jihad," which states: "Suleyman the son of Daoud said: 'By Allah, tonight I will have sexual intercourse with 100 women - or 90 women - and each of them will give birth to a knight who will fight in the path of Allah.'" It also states: "All Muslims should be willing to turn their children into soldiers defending the faith..."

The site also has pages devoted to da'wa (dissemination of Islam), to fatwas and to jihad. The fatwa section includes an article on the "status of martyrdom operations in Islam," which characterizes martyrdom as "one of the contemporary methods of resistance" and lists the circumstances under which it should be used ( Another article in this section explains that, contrary to the claims of some European preachers "who have very little knowledge," Jews and Christians are indeed apostates (

The page titled "Top 10" includes a document titled "When Death Becomes Beautiful, Mr. Sarkozy" ( and another titled "The End of the People of Israel: A Koranic Truth" (

The "Animation" page features a clip titled "Heroes of Islam," which shows bin Laden killing President Bush and the mujahideen guide in Chechnya Mohamed Al-Khattab (who died in early 2003) killing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The site also features videos documenting jihad around the world - in the Caucasus, the Balkans, Palestine, Khorasan, and Iraq. A film titled "The Apostates' Hell"(15) ( shows mujahideen from the Salafist group for Preaching and Combat - the Jama'at As Salafiyah lil Da'wah Wal Qital Brigade - setting out on an attack against the "Algerian apostate government," as well as announcements by bin Laden.

Inshaallah.over-blog (16)

This is an Islamic site dealing with Islamic history and religion. The page headed "Veils" ( features photos of women - including young girls and even infants (for the images please visit: ) - wearing the hijab, a veil that covers the hair and ears and in some cases also the face (except for the eyes).

The articles section includes a piece that lists "the 70 Worst Sins in Islam." Among the sins listed are "fleeing the battle during jihad," "an unrighteous government that does not follow the edicts of Islam," "disobedience on the part of a wife whose husband is a righteous man" and "a slave's escape from a righteous master" (

An essay for women, titled "How to Make Your Husband Happy" includes several sections.(17) Following are excerpts:

Section 7, titled "Gratitude," includes the following: "According to the Prophet's sayings, most of the people in Hell are women, because [women] are ungrateful and deny good [deeds] that are done for them..."(18)

Section 9, "Obeying Him [i.e. one's husband]" includes the following: "[Obey your husband] in everything he asks of you, except for things that are haram [forbidden]."(19)

Section 11, "Being in Charge of the Home While the Husband is Away" includes the following: "Don't leave home without [your husband's] permission, and [when you do leave], cover yourself properly with your hijab."(20)

Section 14, "Patience and Emotional Support" includes the following: "When [your husband] abuses you, react to his unkindness with kindness...(21) Take part in organizing da'wa activities for women and children...(22) With your husband, devote part of your time to da'wa...(23) Encourage [your husband] to wage jihad if necessary."(24)


Quibla is presented as the "Online Daily of Free and Active Muslims and Their Allies." As such, it regularly posts news on Islam and the Middle East. It is pro-jihad and anti-West.

The "Agenda" section on the homepage urges visitors to contribute to the Iranian conference on "A Critical Examination of the Holocaust: Its Impact on the World," which was held December 11-12, 2006 at the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS) in Teheran. The site also presents the winning cartoons in the international Holocaust cartoon contest held recently in Iran, and reports that the first-place winner received $12,000.(26)

Quibla also has a subsidiary site called "Echoes of France"  (, This site is a response to the fiercely anti-Islam site "France Echoes" ( which claims to have joined the "resistance" against the "Islamization" of Europe. France-Echoes repeatedly uses such expressions as "Eurabia" and "Francarabia."

For its part, "Echoes of France" is fiercely anti-French. Its May 20, 2005 editorial concludes: "...Our new site will present... the dark urges of the French who have not yet converted to Islam, in order to show the bastards which [of us] is the more civilized."(27)

The site has taken a pro-Syrian stance regarding the November 21, 2006 assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.


This French-language Islamist portal began operating in 1998, and claims to have received over 5 million hits to date.

A page titled "Combat" reads: "Today, is the ultimate defender of the resistance on the Internet. It fights like the Resistance during WWII. It is, and will remain, inshallah, the voice of the voiceless who refuse to submit..." The "Mission" page includes the following: "We believe that Islam is an all-encompassing [religion] which regulates all aspects of life... Some people erroneously believe that Islam is limited to cultural or spiritual practices, thus restricting their understanding to these narrow [aspects]."

A pro-Syrian editorial on the assassination of Pierre Gemayel calls Gemayel "The Lebanese Le Pen." The editorial mocks his death: "Poor kid! How cruel it is to die so young!"(29) Another editorial refers to Sarkozy as "The Führer."(30)

The forum ( features videos showing converts to Islam, including a woman convert who appears fully veiled, with only her eyes showing.

*Nathalie Szerman is Director of MEMRI's North African Reformists Project.

(1) See MEMRI Special Report No. 31, "Islamist Websites and Their Hosts - Part I: Islamist Terror Organizations," July 16, 2004,;
MEMRI Special Report No. 35, "Islamist Websites and their Hosts - Part II: Clerics," November 11, 2004,;
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1039, "Terrorist and Inciting Messages on Yahoo," December 6, 2005,
(2) OrgName: DNS Services, OrgID: DNSSE, Address: 2280 Lakeshore Blvd, City: Jacksonville, StateProv: FL, PostalCode: 32210, Country: US, Registrant: S.T.C., ATTN: STCOM.NET, c/o Network Solutions, P.O. Box 447, Herndon, VA. 20172-0447, Domain Name: STCOM.NET, Productions, Niaguis, Niaguis Productions
ATTN: STCOM.NET c/o Network Solutions, P.O. Box 447, Herndon, VA 20172-0447, 570-708-8780, Technical Contact: Network Solutions, LLC., 13861 Sunrise Valley Drive, Herndon, VA 20171, US, 1-888-642-9675 fax: 571-434-4620.
(3) A Saudi Wahhabi sheikh who died in January 2001.
(4) The article was originally posted on a different Islamist site:
(5) "Direction de la Surveillance du Terrorisme" (DST) is a government authority for the monitoring of terrorist activity. Here, its name is distorted to "Direction Sioniste du Terrorisme" (meaning "Zionist Bureau of Terrorism").
6 French title "Révélations sur les attentats de Madrid, de Casablanca et les massacres en Algérie mis au compte du 'terrorisme islamiste'."
(7) In French: "Le monde doit savoir que le gouvernement français qui contrôle la quasi totalité des réseaux « islamistes » au Maroc est largement impliqué dans les attentats de Casablanca du 16 mai 2003."|lang_en|lang_fr|lang_iw .
(8) "Terrorisme français en Algérie: La France pourra-t-elle exploiter le pétrole algéro-saharien comme elle l'entend?"
(9) "Dominique, Jacques, Nicolas et les autres : l'implication française dans les attentats de Madrid de mars 2004"
(10) OrgName:, OrgID: WEHOST-1, Address:  391 Inverness Parkway, Address: Suite 150, City: Englewood, StateProv: CO, PostalCode: 80112, Country: US, Domain Name: RIBAAT.ORG, Created On: 31-May-2004 21:09:44 UTC, Expiration Date: 31-May-2007 21:09:44 UTC, Sponsoring Registrar: eNom, Inc. (R39-LROR), Registrant ID: O-847145-GANDI, Registrant Name: Abu Malhamat, Registrant Street1: Sector H-9 Islamabad, Registrant City: Peshawar, Registrant Postal Code: 25120, Registrant Country: PK, Registrant Phone: +92.911379113, Registrant FAX: +92.911379117, Registrant Email:
(11) "10 dernières mise à jour."
(12) "Les vertus du Jihad 1/8", April 9, 2005.
(13) Koran 17:1.
(14) "Les vertus du Jihad 3/8", November 24, 2005.
(15) "L'Enfer des renégâts."
(16) OrgName: RIPE Network Coordination Centre, OrgID: RIPE, Address: P.O. Box 10096, City: Amsterdam, PostalCode: 1001EB, Country: NL, netname: JFGNETWORKS, country: FR, address: JFG Networks, 5 Avenue Daumesnil Saint Mande 92600, phone: +33562483390, fax-no: +33562483390, e-mail:, person: Frederic Montagnon, Domain name:, Registrant Contact: SARL J.F.G Networks; Julien ROMANETTO (, +33.680598918, 5 avenue Daumesnil, Saint Mande, 94160, FR, Administrative Contact: Registrar France, Laurent Sence (, 144780566, 242-244 rue Saint Martin, Paris 75003, FR.
(17) The essay has been removed from the site, but can be found on other websites, including
(18) "D'après les dires du Prophète, la majorité des gens en Enfer sont des femmes parce qu'elles ne sont pas reconnaissantes et renient les bienfaits qu'elles ont reçus."
(19) "Dans tout ce qu'il vous demande, hormis ce qui est interdit (Haram)"
(20) "Ne pas sortir de chez vous sans sa permission et portez complètement le hijab."
(21) "Quand il vous maltraite, contrebalancer son mauvais traitement par un bon traitement."
(22) "Prenez part à l'organisation d'activités de Da'wah pour les femmes et les enfants."
(23) "Donnez une partie de votre temps avec votre mari pour la Da'wah."
(24) "Encouragez-le à aller au Jihad si nécessaire..."
(25) OrgName: Everyones Internet, OrgID: EVRY, Address: 390 Benmar, Suite 200, City: Houston, StateProv: TX, PostalCode: 77060, Country: US, domain:QUIBLA.NET, owner-name: Fausto Giudice, owner-address: 1 impasse Général-Laperrine, owner-address: 11 000 Carcassonne, France, phone: +33.468478122, fax:+33.468478122, e-mail:
(27) "...notre nouveau site donnera une large place... aux mauvais penchants des français non encore convertis à l'Islam pour bien montrer au bâtard qui sont les plus civilisés."
(28) OrgName: RIPE Network Coordination Centre, OrgID: RIPE, Address: P.O. Box 10096, City: Amsterdam, PostalCode: 1001EB, Country: NL, Domain ID: D2623424-LRMS, Domain Name: ISLAMIYA.INFO, Created On: 30-Mar-2003 16:56:06 UTC, Expiration Date: 30-Mar-2007 16:56:06 UTC, Sponsoring Registrar: Name Bay (R123-LRMS), Registrant ID: C3053753-LRMS, Registrant Name: islamiya info, Registrant Organization: L'Agence de Presse IN, Registrant City: Zurich, Registrant Postal Code:8008, Registrant Country: CH, Registrant Phone: +33.45142323, Registrant FAX: +33.45142323, Registrant .
(29) .
(30) .

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East.  Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.

MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI)
P.O. Box 27837, Washington, DC 20038-7837
Phone: (202) 955-9070
Fax: (202) 955-9077
Search previous MEMRI publications at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is tough love for Israel still love? Question splits a campus group

Is tough love for Israel still love?
Question splits a campus group
By Ben Harris
December 19, 2006

NEW YORK, Dec. 19 (JTA) — The Zionist Organization of America is spearheading an effort to have a left-wing group expelled from a pro-Israel consortium for its sponsorship of a program that brings Israeli army veterans to college campuses to speak about alleged army abuses.

In a letter sent last week to the executive director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, ZOA National President Morton Klein said the program, Breaking the Silence, "promotes outright falsehoods" and is at odds with the coalition's mission of promoting a positive image of Israel on college campuses.
Klein told JTA he has no firsthand knowledge of the accuracy of Breaking the Silence's presentation. But according to reports he has received, the program does not provide the necessary context for understanding the conflict, instead portraying a few isolated incidents of Israeli misconduct as indicative of a military culture that brutalizes Palestinians.
Breaking the Silence was sponsored on several campuses by the Union for Progressive Zionists, a liberal member of the ICC, a coalition of 31 pro-Israel organizations founded to promote an Israel-friendly environment on campus.
In a radio interview last month, Yehuda Shaul, a cofounder of Breaking the Silence, explained the group's purpose as ensuring that Israelis take responsibility for the army's actions. He also wanted the American people, whose government gives billions of dollars in aid to Israel each year, to know what the Israeli army is doing.
The dispute highlights the often contentious nature of discourse about Israel at American universities and exposes the fractures within the Jewish community, with some groups presenting a more critical view of the Jewish state.
Right-wing groups like the ZOA argue that Jewish money should not be spent on programming that provides fodder for Israel's most virulent critics. The Union for Progressive Zionists and its supporters say any criticism is offered out of love for Israel and concern for its moral rectitude.
Both sides claim to be acting in Israel's best interests and believe that their viewpoints are marginalized on campuses.
"Israel is condemned every day in newspapers around the world, by Arab groups around the world, by left-wing groups around the world," Klein said. "[The Union for Progressive Zionists and its supporters are] implying that it's not happening and this is a new breakthrough. But they're just adding to the already loud chorus of condemnation of Israel that we've been experiencing for many, many years."
But Tammy Shapiro, the union's executive director, argues that Breaking the Silence fills an important gap, particularly for Jewish participants in Hillel, who she says rarely hear about how Israel's actions in the territories hurt both Palestinians and Israel itself.
"There isn't that conversation happening in Hillel because the Jewish community is so reactionary and so defensive we become deaf," she said. "We are breaking the silence and we're venturing into territory that people are afraid to talk about."
Despite the claims of falsehoods and distortions, critics like the ZOA and Stand With Us, another Israel advocacy group that complained to the campus coalition, are hard-pressed to provide examples of untruths presented by Breaking the Silence.
Klein says the falsehood lies in the implication that a few individual cases of abuse are suggestive of the whole Israeli military.
Roz Rothstein, national director of Stand With Us, says the fact that the program's rhetoric matches with Israel's harshest critics belies the claims that these individuals are motivated by their love for Israel.
Like Klein, Rothstein has not seen the Breaking the Silence presentation, but says her group has received several complaints from students who have. She says her group ends up having to expend resources to undo the damage caused by another group in the campus coalition.
The core problem, Rothstein says, is one of context: Israeli military excesses are detailed with no mention of the terrorism, suicide bombings and rocket attacks that make them necessary.
"The pattern is that there's fact woven in with fiction," she said.
Rothstein declined to say whether she supported Klein's push to expel the union from the ICC.
Shapiro says that far from demonizing Israel, her group presents a more honest picture of Israeli society that is more credible than efforts to portray Israel as a moral exemplar.
"We think that we create a much less hostile environment to Israel because UPZ students are engaging the people who would otherwise turn toward a more anti-Zionist perspective," Shapiro said. "It's extremely important that there's that voice on campus because that's the only way they're going to change their mind."
The ICC, which is funded by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life and the Charles and Lynne Schusterman Family Foundation, a major donor to Jewish causes, is committed to the notion of a "big tent" in which a diversity of Jewish views of Israel can find expression.
But the Breaking the Silence program has severely tested that commitment and forced the ICC's executive director, David Harris, to navigate a controversy the 4-year-old coalition has never faced.
"It is not the place of ICC to govern the content that individual member organizations move forward with," Harris told JTA. "It is within the purview of the ICC to know that members' stated purpose and goals match our collective goals."
Harris said he is in the midst of a fact-finding process and expects the organization's steering committee to take up the issue at its January meeting. He hopes the coalition ultimately will hold together.
"The strongest role that the ICC can play, our greatest value to the Jewish community, is working together on areas of commonality, not the discrete issues that divide us," Harris said. "It's these areas of commonality where we all see eye to eye and can work together that are the greatest strength of our coalition."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tannenbaum admits drug deal

Tannenbaum admits drug deal
A former Israeli hostage of Hezbollah said he was abducted by the Lebanese militia while on a drug deal.

Elhanan Tannenbaum made the disclosure Wednesday while giving testimony at the trial of a former business partner.

Tannenbaum, a reserve artillery colonel, said he was lured out to a Persian Gulf state in late 2000 by an Israeli Arab friend on the promise of a $200,000 drug deal.

He accepted because of his financial difficulties, but soon found himself abducted by Hezbollah and taken to Lebanon.

Tannenbaum was repatriated, along with the bodies of three Israeli soldiers killed on the Lebanese border, in 2004 in exchange for more than 400 Arab prisoners.

The deal rankled many Israelis at the time given rumors that Tannenbaum's illicit dealings had led to his captivity.

Hezbollah accused him of being a spy, which Israel denied.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorials from the Hebrew Press 20-Dec-2006

(Israel Government Press Office)

Haaretz -
Yediot Aharonot -
Globes -
Hazofeh -
Jerusalem Post -

Haaretz comments: "In response to a petition filed by the Palestinian owners of the property on which the illegal settlement outpost of Migron was established, the State Prosecutor's Office asked the court to delay its deliberations on the case for four to five months, in order to give the state time to submit an 'update.' The justification offered for this request was that Defense Minister Amir Peretz had ordered the Israel Defense Forces to hold talks with the settler leadership in an effort to reach an agreement on the voluntary evacuation of the illegal outposts 'in the near future.' If the talks fail to bear fruit, Peretz plans to order the evacuation of Migron within six months... The failure to evacuate the illegal outposts, despite the Talia Sasson report, is an unacceptable scandal. But the case of Migron is especially shameful for the state authorities and the rule of law. The demand to evacuate Migron requires no political justification; the fact that it was built on clearly private land - not lands that were appropriated for various uses by the state, but lands for which documentary proof of private ownership exists - is enough to justify evacuating the trespassers without hesitation or delay. In a law-abiding state, the owners of the land ought to be able to expect the authorities to aid them and restore their property to them. But the government of Israel repeatedly relies on excuses and makes promises that no one believes it intends to keep."

Yediot Aharonot analyzes the deliberations on the 2007 defense budget. The editors urge the government to thoroughly evaluate the costs of the recent fighting in Lebanon "before it approves any further supplements to the defense budget that require additional cuts in social budgets."

The Jerusalem Post writes: "Just in time for Hanukka, Israelis have something to cheer about: Ben-Gurion Airport has been judged the best in Europe. Among 40 of Europe's most popular destinations - including Brussels, Zurich and Amsterdam, to name just a few - Israel's gateway won top marks in a passenger satisfaction survey conducted by Airports Council International."

Hatzofeh notes that next week will - on the Hebrew calendar - mark the first anniversary of former prime minister Ariel Sharon's stroke and completely rejects the "trend of fraudulent nostalgia" regarding his leadership. The editors speculate that, "Sharon would have dealt with the rockets from the Gaza Strip and the Iranian nuclear threat in the same way that Olmert is dealing with these issues; i.e. he would do nothing."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel may release tax funds to Abbas: sources

Israel may release tax funds to Abbas: sources
Wed Dec 20, 2006 11:17 AM ET
By Adam Entous
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel is considering handing over millions of dollars in withheld Palestinian tax funds to President Mahmoud Abbas in a move that could bolster him in the run-up to elections over his Hamas rivals, sources said on Wednesday.
Western diplomats and Palestinian sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the proposal under consideration calls for releasing the tax money to Abbas in stages with assurances it will bypass the Hamas-led government.
That could allow the moderate president to make direct payments to Palestinian civil servants, who have not received their full salaries since Hamas came to power in March. Israel is under U.S. and European pressure to help strengthen Abbas.
Abbas is expected to hold long-awaited talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in the coming days, Palestinian officials say. Olmert told reporters the meeting would be "very soon" but gave no date.
Abbas's call for new presidential and parliamentary elections has triggered fierce fighting in Gaza between his Fatah forces and those loyal to Hamas.
On Wednesday, Fatah and Hamas forces withdrew from the streets after a fresh ceasefire aimed at halting a slide to civil war took effect. The previous truce fell apart within 24 hours.
Israel is holding about $500 million in Palestinian tax revenues, an Israeli Finance Ministry official said.
Olmert's office declined to comment on Israel's plans for the money, which it collects on the Palestinians' behalf.
"We have not been officially informed. We don't know how much the sum would be," top Abbas aide Rafiq Husseini said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the ruling faction would prefer the tax money to go through the Hamas-led government.
"But under the current siege, if this money comes through any other channel, including the channel of the president, we have no objection as long as its final destination will be the employees and our needy people," he added.
Ten Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Abbas called on Saturday for early elections to break a political deadlock with Hamas and get Western sanctions lifted.
A senior aide to Abbas said the president planned to issue a decree next week to lay the legal foundations for fresh elections, which Hamas described as unconstitutional.
The expected Abbas-Olmert meeting would be the first formal talks between the two leaders since Olmert took over as prime minister in January.
Israel has been under pressure from Europe and the United Nations for months to release the tax money to Abbas, who favors peace talks with the Jewish state.
If a final decision is made to release the funds, one source said, "not all the money would go at once". The first installments could total hundreds of millions of dollars.
Israel wants assurances that tax money transferred to Abbas will not benefit Hamas or its government, the sources said.
Israel refuses to deal with the Hamas Islamist movement, which formally seeks the Jewish state's destruction.
Western diplomats said earlier this week Western powers and their Arab allies would try to boost Abbas ahead of elections, but Palestinian analysts said the effort could backfire if Hamas succeeded in painting Abbas and his Fatah faction as beholden to U.S. and Israeli interests.
Hamas, which trounced Abbas's once dominant Fatah in parliamentary elections last January, has said it would boycott any new polls. No date has been announced.
(Additional reporting by Wafa Amr in Ramallah, and Nidal al-Mughrabi and Mohammed Assadi in Gaza)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel must interfere in PA crisis

Israel must interfere in PA crisis

Israel must take action to strengthen moderate Palestinian camp
Ronny Shaked Published:  12.20.06, 12:15,7340,L-3342453,00.html
Even the second attempt to enforce the ceasefire in the Territories will not resolve the internal Palestinian crisis that has crossed every red line in recent days.
At most, they will achieve a lull that would last a few days until the next wave of violence.
This chronic crisis runs deep; it is much more complex and entrenched. It is a struggle between two completely different disciplines; the nationalist school represented by Mahmoud Abbas, and the Islamic school represented by the ruling Hamas movement. The Palestinian arena is locked in a power struggle between the West and Islam. In such a situation a peaceful resolution is unlikely.
A resolution is unlikely because Hamas, as Haniyeh reiterated again Tuesday, will neither relinquish the regime nor its worldview. Abbas cannot hold early elections even though he would like to, because this would turn Gaza into another Somalia that is stricken with a futile war and total bedlam.
Internal Palestinian hatred is rising daily. To date, it is a turf war between organizations - a struggle emanating from below, involving gunmen eager for battle and leaderships that fear it may escalate into an all-out civil war. However, if one of the assassination attempts, which have been rampant in recent days, ends with the killing of a leader, Abbas or Haniyeh, it would indeed become an all-out war.
No law and no order
Even now the Palestinian Authority is falling apart, the government is not functioning and civil systems are on the verge of collapse. The health and educational systems are still holding up, but only because they are being assisted by international aid. There is no law and there is no order; there is complete anarchy.
Only a multinational force that would cease the mutual slaughter and prevent a humanitarian disaster could maintain a long enough lull in the fighting during which Abbas could implement his policies vis-à-vis Hamas, and perhaps even tip the scales in his favor.
 However, if the international support given to Abbas does not turn into substantial aid, there's not much hope for long-term change.
 The Israeli government will not be able to sit idly by for much longer. It will be incumbent upon it to take steps that would embolden the moderate Palestinian camp vis-à-vis the extremists. Otherwise, not only will the Palestinian public be endangered, but so will we.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli forces kill 2 Jihad men near Jenin; 3 rockets hit Negev

Last update - 15:53 20/12/2006   

Israeli forces kill 2 Jihad men near Jenin; 3 rockets hit Negev
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and AP

Two wanted Islamic Jihad activists were killed Wednesday morning by special police forces near the West Bank city of Jenin, sparking a volley of Qassam fire on southern Israel.
Three Qassam rockets were fired at the western Negev early Wednesday afternoon, and in Gaza, Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was the avenging the deaths of its members.
One of the rockets landed at a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council, another landed next to a cemetery, and a third slammed into the entrance of a western Negev community. There were no injuries or damages reported in any of the incidents.
The two wanted men, named as Salah Suwafta and Hussam Ayissa, were shot dead as they tried to flee a building surrounded by the Israeli forces in the village of Silat al-Hartiya, west of Jenin.
The two had killed two police dogs accompanying the Israeli forces. Palestinian security officials said the force entered Sila and surrounded a house, waging a gunbattle with the militants barricaded inside.
The army said the two militants were involved in attempts to carry out bomb attacks in Israel, and that troops had killed them during an attempted arrest operation.
"The two were involved in attempts to carry out a number of suicide attacks inside Israel," an IDF spokesman said.
Islamic Jihad announced over mosque loudspeakers around the northern West Bank that the two men were members of the group.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ultra-Orthodox community debates boundaries of anti-Zionism

Last update - 06:38 20/12/2006 

Ultra-Orthodox community debates boundaries of anti-Zionism
By Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondent
Documents published in the United States and Israel over the past few days provide a glimpse into the current debate in the ultra-Orthodox community following last week's visit of a handful of Neturei Karta and Satmar Hasidim to Iran.
The seven members of the Tehran delegation, all of them citizens of the United States and Western Europe, wrote a letter defending their decision to attend the conference of Holocaust deniers organized by Iranian President Mahmoud Amhadinejad.
"The Iranians stand today at the head of the war against the actions of the Zionists in the name of 'Israel'," they wrote. "It is our duty to reconcile with them and convince them that the nation of Israel, the nation of the Torah, is a submissive nation, a merciful nation, a nation that seeks peace, that seeks the burden of exile with love."
The only solution to the Middle East conflict, they said, is to "wipe out Zionism, and accept the burden of exile [from the Land of Israel] as the will of God, Blessed be He."
The long document, titled "Ultra-Orthodox Among Holocaust Deniers?!," was written in Hebrew, and does not mention the delegation's members by name.
In Israel, the document was circulated in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and Beit Shemesh. Although a Jerusalem resident who distributed the document told Haaretz that delegation members were welcomed in their communities with "respect and admiration," the primary motive behind the document was intense criticism the delegation received within the zealous anti-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox community.
Anger ignored
The document almost entirely ignores anger against the delegation that has been expressed in the Haredi mainstream, and was written following a statement by the official Satmar leadership distancing itself from the delegation, which appeared in the sect's journal in the United States.
The Satmar court of justice in Israel determined that the delegation "desecrated the name of God ... in an awful manner," and while it did not call for them to be banished from the community - a far-reaching step from the perspective of Jewish law - it did call on members of the community to "keep a distance from them and condemn their actions."
But the delegation's members are not afraid to condemn the rabbis and leaders who, they claim, are giving their blessing to Zionism.
Regarding the connection between Holocaust denial and anti-Zionism, the delegation said: "The Holocaust is a source of sustenance and vitality for Zionism." The Holocaust was not just the punishment for Zionism, as the Amdor of Satmar wrote, but it is "well known" that the Zionists "irritated the hateful Nazis, for those crazy, cruel people boycotted him."
But the delegation members said they do not deny the Holocaust, saying they clearly told the Tehran conference there was a "horrible and bitter Holocaust against the nation of Israel, and no one can deny it." But the Holocaust does not "permit anyone to use the blood of the saints, may God avenge their blood, to rise up against the nations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Moshe Arens: Missing the forest for the trees

Missing the forest for the trees
By Moshe Arens

Four months have gone by since the finale of the second Lebanon war: a salvo of 250 Hezbollah rockets against northern Israel on the last day, signaling victory by a few thousand Hezbollah fighters against the Israel Defense Forces. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's tactic of stubbornly refusing to set up a state commission of inquiry to investigate the mistakes that led to this defeat has so far worked in his favor. We are being swamped by a series of investigative committee reports, reporting failings during the war at various levels of the IDF, including inadequate communications between the General Staff and the front, lack of sufficient training, inadequate logistic support, mistakes made by individual commanders, and faulty operational and strategic concepts. But the fundamental error committed by the men who led Israel to disaster in this war is being obscured. We run the danger of missing the forest because of the trees.
Throughout the war, Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz clung to the dogmatic concept that Israel should not to be dragged into the "Lebanese quagmire," and willingly accepted IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's theory that the war could be won by air power alone. Their refusal to order a ground offensive that would suppress Hezbollah's bombardment of the north with small short-range rockets left over a million Israeli civilians exposed to these attacks for over a month. David Ben-Gurion's doctrine that the IDF must immediately take war into the enemy's territory, and that in wartime, the IDF must assure the safety of the civilian population in the rear, was turned on its head, and Israeli civilians became the victims in this unfortunate war.
Although it is argued that Olmert's and Peretz's lack of experience in defense matters was the source of their mistake, no amount of experience will compensate for dogmatic thinking, and there is little reason to believe that now, with the experience of the second Lebanon war under their belt, they would perform better in another crisis. The IDF's involvement in Lebanon for many years; the losses suffered during these years; the hysteria whipped up by the "Four Mothers" organization, which called for the IDF's withdrawal from the south Lebanon security zone; and finally, Ehud Barak's abandonment of Israel's ally, the South Lebanon Army, and the hasty evacuation, followed by the subsequent illusion, despite repeated provocations by Hezbollah, that permanent quiet had settled on Israel's northern border - all these planted in the minds of those given to dogmatic thinking that the "Lebanese quagmire," once left behind, was to be avoided at all costs.
Maybe the Winograd Committee will return the spotlight to where it belongs. But according to press reports, its initial findings will become public only in March 2007, and who knows what trials await Israel in the meantime? Moreover, it would be surprising if its members pointed an accusing finger against the man who picked them for the committee.
So it looks like few, if any, advances are being made in clearly identifying the source of the errors that lead to Israel's defeat in Lebanon and the politicians and military men responsible for them. And yet time is of the essence, since Israel's defeat in Lebanon might very well set into motion further acts of aggression by Israel's enemies.
That nothing seems to have been learned from the mistakes committed in the second Lebanon war is clear from the way the IDF's confrontation with those who launch Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel has been handled. In many ways, that situation is a repeat on a smaller scale of the encounter in the north: Small short-range rockets are being launched against Israel's civilian population, and the IDF has not succeeded in suppressing these attacks for many months. Rather than using ground forces to put Sderot out of range of the Qassams, the air force has been given the task of hunting the men who launch the rockets or their commanders. The temporary incursion into Beit Hanun and the subsequent withdrawal has only caused civilian casualties among the Palestinian population, as well as property damage, bringing, as should have been expected, a return of attacks against the western Negev once the IDF was withdrawn. The same lame excuses are being offered: It is impossible to stop every last rocket, there are no magic solutions, there is no "bang and it's over." In other words, you just have to get used to it.
It seems that the very same dogmatic thinking that led to failure in Lebanon dominates the tactics in the south. We do not want to be seen as "returning to Gaza." We do not want to "conquer territory," and we are prepared to let our civilian population pay the price of this dogmatic strategy.
The cease-fire that has been established in the south, which is being honored in the breach by the terrorists, resembles closely the cease-fire in the north. Hezbollah is rearming and preparing for the next round, and the terrorists in the Gaza Strip are rearming and preparing for the next round. Will Israel be prepared when it comes?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert: No good reason why I shouldn't meet with Abbas

Last Update - 15:33 20/12/2006
Olmert: No good reason why I shouldn't meet with Abbas
By Aluf Benn, Yoav Stern and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday that he could see no reason why he should mot meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a day after his office said efforts were underway to set up talks, but no date was set.
"If it's possible to make him happy and make me happy, then I can't see a reason not to do it, and hope that it will happen very soon," Olmert said during a press conference in Jerusalem with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.
In his first public comments on the crisis in Gaza, Olmert he hopes a cease-fire between the warring Palestinian factions would stick.
"We are not happy about the developments in the Palestinian Authority," Olmert told the news conference.
"Mutual violence between Fatah and Hamas is not something we are happy to see. We definitely would be happy to see a cease-fire."
A meeting between Olmert and Abbas is expected to take place in the coming days, Palestinian sources said on Tuesday, although in Israel a date has not been confirmed.
"As far as we are concerned we can meet tomorrow," sources in the Prime Minister's office said Tuesday. "Efforts are being made to coordinate a meeting but no date has been set," they added.
Also Tuesday, Olmert made a lightning visit to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah II.
A Palestinian source close to Abbas said that the first official meeting with Olmert is likely to take place next week.
Senior PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed Tuesday that efforts were being made to set up a meeting between the two leaders.
"Preparations are being made, and the moment these are completed, the meeting will take place," Erekat said.
The source told Haaretz that possible dates are December 24 or 25, and, at the latest, January 1 or 2.
According to the source, the two leaders would like to hold the meeting before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives to the region in early January.
The Palestinians are eager to see Israel making a number of gestures that would bolster Abbas in the Palestinian Authority, including the release of prisoners and the easing of travel restrictions, the source said.
The same source said this would be an opportunity for Israel to also release some of the funds it has frozen, collected from taxes and customs on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
The visit to Ramallah of Olmert's senior policy adviser, Shalom Turjeman and Olmert's chief of staff Yoram Turbowicz last week, the Palestinian source said, was interpreted among Abbas' aides as a sign of goodwill that will bring about closer ties between the staff of the two leaders.
Releasing Palestinian prisoners prior to a deal for the freeing of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will prove that Israel is willing to initiate action, even when it does not come under military pressure, the Palestinian source said.
Olmert meeting with the Jordanian king on Tuesday revolved around the crisis in the Palestinian Authority and ways to bolster Abbas.
Following the meeting, a Jordanian source said Abdullah would invite Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to a meeting in Amman to help in mediating between Fatah and Hamas.
This is a new development in light of the fact that Abdullah has shunned Hamas because of its role in terrorism in the Hashemite kingdom.
Abdullah stressed during his meeting with Olmert that Israel and the Palestinian Authority must find a way to hold direct negotiations.
During the two-hour meeting, Abdullah warned Olmert against losing time in a peace process that is at a standstill because this would lead to violence "in which all sides will pay a price."
The Jordanian king asked Olmert to consider seriously the Arab League's initiative for peace - originally made in Beirut in 2002 and since reiterated on a number of occasions.
The two leaders also discussed strategic and economic issues of mutual interest, including the Peace Valley project proposed by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, a political source in Jerusalem said.
A very small portion of the meeting was dedicated to Iran.
Olmert's visit to Amman was prepared a month ago but was kept secret until its completion, in compliance with a request by Jordan.
Abdullah and Olmert met privately for about an hour and were then joined by aides for a broader exchange of views.
Taking part on the Israeli side were Turbowicz, Turjeman, and Major General Gadi Shamni, military secretary of the Prime Minister.
During the meeting the Jordanians raised the passage of the Badr Brigade, a Palestinian unit in the Jordanian army, from Jordan to the Gaza Strip, which is one of the ways of bolstering Abbas in the Hamas stronghold.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PCHR- GAZA: 3 Persons Killed 9 Others Wounded in Palestinian violence

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

Security Chaos and Proliferation of Weapons
Misuse of Weapons by Armed Groups and Security Personnel

Field Update 20 December 2006
In Spite of the Declaration of the Withdrawal of Gunmen from the Streets to
End Tension between Fatah and Hamas Movements, 3 Persons Killed 9 Others

According to investigations conducted by PCHR:

At approximately 01:30 on Wednesday, 20 December 2006, unknown gunmen fired
live bullets and RBJ projectiles at a site of the Palestinian Riot Control
Police near al-Yarmouk Stadium in Gaza City. Six members of the site were

1)       Ibrahim Suleiman Abu Ras, 23;
2)       'Emad 'Abdul Karim Dahlis, 23;
3)       Murad Yousef Dahlis, 23;
4)       Mohammed Isma'il al-Zahri, 30;
5)       Shihda 'Ouda Hijazi, 23; and
6)       Hinni 'Abdul 'Aal, 27.

Earlier, at approximately 00:15, an exchange of fire erupted between members
of Fatah movement and those of the Executive Force of the Ministry of
Interior, who were on their way to arrest a member of Fatah movement accused
of firing at a leader of the 'Izziddin al-Qassam Brigades (the armed wing of
Hamas) in al-Sabra neighborhood in the east of Gaza City. The exchange of
fire continued for nearly an hour, during which two persons were killed:
Mahmoud Mansour Dughmosh, 25; and Ashraf Dughmosh, 25. Additionally, two
other persons were wounded by shrapnel throughout their bodies: Mo'in Kamel
Shuhaiber, 27; and Ashraf Rafiq al-Ghefari, 24.

At approximately 16:00 on Tuesday, 19 December 2006, a member of the
Executive Force, Ameen 'Abboud, died from a wound he had sustained in the
morning during an exchange of fire between members of the Executive Force
and the General Intelligence near Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. Members of
the Executive Force had transferred 'Abboud from Shifa Hospital to a private

At approximately 16:30 on Tuesday, an armed group kidnapped Eyad al-Madhoun,
a member of the General Intelligence, when he was near his house in al-Twam
area in the northern Gaza Strip.

At approximately 19:30 also on Tuesday, 4 gunmen pursued Judge 'Azzam
Mohammed Hawash, 35, into a shop in the Northern Mount neighborhood in
Nablus. They ordered him to get into their car, but he refused. Immediately,
they fired at him, wounding him seriously with several live bullets to the
left leg.

At approximately 23:30 also on Tuesday, a number of gunmen launched a mortar
projectile at the headquarters of the General Intelligence in al-Mashtal
area, northwest of Gaza City. No casualties were reported.

PCHR is gravely concerned for the increasing number of casualties resulting
from the misuse of weapons by armed groups and security personnel, which is
part of the state of security chaos and misuse of weapons. PCHR calls upon
the Palestinian National Authority, represented by the Attorney-General, to
investigate such attacks and to bring the perpetrators to justice.


Public Document
For more information please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8
2824776 - 2825893
PCHR, 29 Omer El Mukhtar St., El Remal, PO Box 1328 Gaza, Gaza Strip.
E-mail:, Webpage

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas Terror Cell Planning Abduction Arrested

December 20th, 2006
Attributed to "security sources" [Provided by the IDF Spokesperson's Office]

Hamas terror cell planning abduction arrested

It has now been released for publication that in a joint IDF, ISA and Israeli Police operation in October 2006, security forces arrested the members of a Hamas terror cell which was in the advanced stages of planning the abduction of an Israeli in the Jerusalem area. The cell, which was being directed by senior Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip, was planning to use
The men arrested are:

* The head of the cell, Fahres Awad Abed Al Fatah Quwassma, is a 30 year-old resident of Hebron. Quwassma told investigators that he had established contact with a Hamas terrorist from the Gaza Strip during his previous period of imprisonment and had begun planning the abduction with him. Following his release from prison in May 2006, he was contacted by the terrorists in the Gaza Strip and was instructed to recruit a cell to carry out the abduction.

* Hamza Ibrahim Moussah Zahran, is a 26 year-old Hamas terrorist from the Ramallah area. Zahran was recruited by Quwassma and was tasked with acquiring weapons and recruiting additional members to the cell.

* Iyad Feisel Diab Mansour, is a 26 year-old Hamas terrorist from the
Ramallah area.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

2 Qassams fired at Sderot

2 Qassams fired at Sderot
Shmulik Hadad and Ali Waked YNET Published: 12.20.06, 13:28,7340,L-3342500,00.html

Two Qassam rockets were launched from the northern Gaza Strip towards
Israel's southern town of Sderot. One rocket landed inside the city while
the other landed outside.

No injuries have been reported. The Islamic Jihad announced it was
responsible for the rockets. [End Item]

Continued (Permanent Link)

JTA INTERVIEW with Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury - For advocating ties with Israel, Bangladeshi journalist persecuted

An interview with Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury, with his comments interspersed.
Shoaib writes:
"Bangladesh ambassador in Washington, Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury made some outrageous comments on me, which are simply lies of the highest order. Shamsher is known to be a committed liar, who had been lying with various important figures in the United States, including members of US Congress.
Below is the latest interview that appeared in the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), where you will find my comments as well comments of liar ambassador Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury with my clarifications in this color"
For advocating ties with Israel, Bangladeshi journalist persecuted
By Larry Luxner
December 19, 2006
Jewish Telegraph Agency
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (JTA) — For a man who says he could be condemned to death as early as next month, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is surprisingly calm.
Choudhury's crime: calling for diplomatic ties between his native Bangladesh and the State of Israel.
"The High Court has ruled that by conveying the message of the rise of Islamic militancy in Bangladesh to Jews and Christians, and by advocating relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem, I have damaged the image of Bangladesh worldwide," Choudhury said.
The 41-year-old journalist and editor spoke to JTA in a 20-minute phone interview last week from Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. He said his trial for sedition, blasphemy and treason, which began in September, will resume Jan. 22 after a short break.
Choudhury, who is free on bail, said there is little chance of receiving a fair trial, and he probably will be sentenced to death. He spoke from a secure landline since his cell phone is under government surveillance, Choudhury said.
"The judicial system is corrupted by Islamic radicals," he said. "By continuing this trial and convicting me, they want to send the message that anyone else in Bangladesh who thinks as I do will face the same consequences."
Choudhury is the editor and publisher of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper founded in 2003 that now has 7,500 print subscribers and another 40,000 readers online.
Those numbers may not sound impressive for Bangladesh — a nation of 145 million people packed into an area the size of Wisconsin — but the newspaper is read regularly by policymakers, businesspeople and other influential Bangladeshis, as well as foreign diplomats.
A Muslim, Choudhury first came into contact with Jews in the early 1990s while working as Dhaka correspondent for the Russian news agency Tass.
He established friendships with Jewish colleagues despite the anti-Semitic propaganda so prevalent in Bangladesh, which is 85 percent Muslim and ranks as the world's third-most populous Muslim nation after Indonesia and Pakistan.
"When I was a child, my father always encouraged us not to believe the Friday afternoon sermons of hate coming from the mosque," said Choudhury, who began a dialogue with editors at the Jerusalem Post three years ago and eventually was invited to Israel by the Hebrew Writers Association.
But Choudhury never made it to Jerusalem.
On Nov. 29, 2003, as he was about to board a plane in Dhaka for the circuitous journey to Israel, Choudhury was arrested and his passport was confiscated, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a prepared statement. He was accused of espionage and charged with sedition.
Choudhury "spent the next 17 months in hellish prison conditions, including torture, denial of medical attention and isolation" as the government tried to build a case that Choudhury was an Israeli spy, Harris said.
He was released in April 2005, thanks largely to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dr. Richard Benkin, a Jewish activist from Chicago.
Yet the sedition charge is pending, and in October, a mob of 40 Islamic militants beat Choudhury in his Dhaka office — three months after the office was firebombed.
On Nov. 14, Kirk and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) cosponsored a resolution calling on the Bangladeshi government to drop all charges against Choudhury, stop "harassment and intimidation," and "hold accountable those responsible for attacks" against him.
Choudhury initially was charged with passport violations; the sedition charges were added nearly two months later. Among other things, Choudhury was accused of writing an inflammatory column titled "Hello Tel Aviv" for USA Today.
"I never wrote any such article," he insisted. "Even the prosecution said he had no document available because it was never published."
In late October, The Washington Times published an editorial urging the Bush administration to suspend $63 million in annual aid to Bangladesh unless the charges against Choudhury are dropped. Besides the AJCommittee, other organizations that have been outspoken in the case include Reporters Without Borders, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Responding to the attacks, Shamsher Chowdhury, Bangladesh's ambassador to the United States, insisted that Choudhury the journalist is a conniving liar with a criminal past.
My response to Shamsher's comment: The ambassador wants to put the liar title, which he earned during his stay in Washington by telling series of lies to important figures in US and getting caught finally. Moreover, the ambassador comments that I have a 'criminal past'! It may be mentioned here that, before submitting the 'Charge Sheet', investigation agencies did investigate my case for more than one year and they could not find any such allegation against me of having a 'criminal past'. This is a new invention of liar Shamsher. If he is honest, let him show even one evidence.
"In Bangladesh, nobody is a prisoner of conscience," the ambassador told JTA. "There is no such thing as putting a journalist behind bars for expressing his views. We have total freedom of the press. If he's saying he was arrested for advocating ties with Israel, then he's not telling the truth. That cannot be a charge. That's not sedition."
My response to Shamsher's comment: Damn Lie! In Bangladesh eminent journalists like Saleem Samad (who is now forced to exile in Canada and running a newspaper named DurDesh), Shahriar Kabir, and Italian Journalist Bruno, Enamul Huq Chowdhury, Muntasir Mamun and many others were charged with sedition and languished in prison for speaking the truth. During the past BNP-JIB government, seven sedition charges were brought against journalists for expressing their views. Please ask any of the above named journalists and they too will endorse the fact.
The ambassador says, I was not arrested for advocating ties with Israel. Please look into the order sheet of the judge, where he said, "by attempting to travel to Israel, by praising the Jews and Christians, by predicting the so-called rise of Islamist militancy, the accused has tried to damage the image of Bangladesh to the international community".   
Chowdhury said it is "totally untrue" that the journalist was beaten by a mob outside his office as police stood by idly, as Choudhury has claimed.
My response to Shamsher's comment: Possibly the liar ambassador does not know that, right after the assault, my photographers took photographs of the attackers being supported by police. I have the evidence in hand and a case has already been lodged following this incident against the attackers and the police officer. Now, the ambassador is also trying to favor the culprits.
Far from being a "prisoner of conscience" for advocating ties with Israel, Chowdhury said the journalist in the past has been found guilty of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.
My response to Shamsher's comment: Mr. Liar Ambassador, please show even one evidence of such outrageous allegation. I had never been found guilty of embezzlement or misappropriation of funds. This is nasty lie by the ambassador representing the Islamist radicals.  
"In 2003 he leaked very classified information about the government which we thought endangered state security," Chowdhury said. "So charges of sedition were brought against him, and now the matter is before the court. He's on bail and free to write and correspond with people. He has a valid passport and is free to travel."
My response to Shamsher's comment: So, here he steps into the shoes of Islamist radicals, who claim that I am a Zionist spy. I have never disclosed any of the information about the government to anyone. The one I did, is disclosed information about rise of Islamist militancy in the madrassas. And, if this is to be considered as 'disclosing information about the government', let me ask a straight question to Shamsher, do you represent any Taliban or pro-Al Qaeda government. I think, US administration should immediately expel this pro-Islamist militancy ambassador from Washington for his naked pro-militant character.
The liar ambassador further said that, I am free to travel. This is simply ridiculous. The Bangladesh government did not allow me to travel to US to receive Moral Courage Award from American Jewish Committee in 2006 May. I was told by the senior government official even recently that the only way for me to travel abroad was on specific medical ground with court permission. And, when my lawyers sought court permission for allowing me to travel abroad in future, the court did not say anything thus simply avoiding the matter.
The ambassador claims Choudhury "is in touch with his friends here and has even thanked the Bangladeshi government for creating a situation where he can travel. He doesn't feel threatened anymore."
My response to Shamsher's comment: Another lie! I am continuously threatened as I was threatened in July 2006 by a radical Mufti. A specific case was lodged against the Mufti under Explosives Act when he bombed my office. But neither the Mufti was arrested nor interrogated. I am continuously getting threats from that Mufti, his people as well those BNP leaders who attacked my office in October, looted cash and physically assaulted me.  
Choudhury responded angrily to the ambassador's claims.
"He's a committed liar," he said. "This is nothing but a damn lie."
Benkin, the Chicago activist, said the Bangladeshi government — including the ambassador, whom he met in April 2005 with Kirk — has lost all credibility.
"The government has never produced a scintilla of credible evidence against him," Benkin said. "Over three years ago they said he was guilty. They tortured him for 17 months and they're still carrying out this persecution."
He added that the Bangladeshi government demonizes Israel, even naming a bridge after Hezbollah in the wake of the terrorist group's war against Israel last summer.
Nobody practices Judaism openly in Bangladesh, though Choudhury said 150 to 200 Jews live in Dhaka, where they keep an extremely low profile and meet secretly in private homes.
Benkin's Web site,, calls on Americans to boycott apparel made in Bangladesh — a crucial industry that employs more than 2 million people — to pressure the government to drop the Choudhury case.
Benkin, who has never met Choudhury, applied three times this year for a visa to Bangladesh but was rejected. Under pressure, however, Chowdhury the ambassador recently changed his mind and granted a visa to Benkin, who plans to fly to Dhaka early next month.
In another development, Canadian legislator and human-rights lawyer Irwin Cotler announced he would defend Choudhury in court. A former justice minister of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Cotler has represented prisoners of conscience including South Africa's Nelson Mandela, Argentina's Jacobo Timerman and Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky.
Despite the risks, Choudhury said he had no intention of asking for political asylum abroad.
"I'm not going to do that because there is no dignity, no pride or honor in quitting," he said. "I have complete faith and trust in God, and in my brothers and sisters around the world who are working on my behalf."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Britain: Fury Over Rabbi's Iran Visit

Fury Over Rabbi's Iran Visit
By Joy Wolfe - Wednesday 13th of December 2006
One of the most senior members of religious anti-zionist sect Neturei Karta was this week facing total isolation from the Jewish community after attending Iran's Holocaust conference.
Manchester-based Rabbi Ahron Cohen has long courted controversy as the mouthpiece of the British arm of Neturei Karta, appearing alongside controversial figures considered to be enemies of the Jewish people.
But anger in Manchester reached fever pitch this week after it emerged he had visited the internationally-condemned meeting in Tehran.
Indeed, feelings were running so high that the Manchester Beth Din issued a statement on Tuesday condemning Rabbi Cohen's involvement and questioning his status as a rabbi.
The statement said: "'Rabbi' Ahron Cohen has for a long time been ostracised by the vast majority of Jews for associating with and thus giving support and legitimacy to the enemies of Israel and the Jewish nation. He represents an insignificant minority and even amongst zealots is considered to have crossed the threshold which divides rational viewpoint from fanaticism.
"By attending a conference called to promote the denial of the Holocaust at which many of the most virulent deniers are present, he is guilty by association whatever gloss he may wish to put on participation. His involvement is a stab in the heart of the Jewish Community and of all decent law-abiding people and coming from one who styles himself 'rabbi', it brings disgrace on our Community and desecrates all that Judaism stands for."
Rabbi Cohen recently clashed with Zionist leaders at a Palestine Solidarity Meeting in the Quaker Friends Meeting House in Manchester, when they challenged him for giving his support at such an anti-Israel event.
Addressing those criticising him, who included Lucille Cohen, President of Manchester Zionist Central Council and Vice President Herzl Hamburger, he repeatedly shouted: "You are not Jewish, Zionists are not Jewish"
Following a recent attack on his Salford home when it was pelted with an estimated 1,000 eggs, Rabbi Cohen sought police protection.
Meanwhile, local Holocaust survivors expressed disgust at his behaviour.
"It is one thing to be anti Israel and support the Palestinians but it is quite another to deny the Holocaust," said Gisela Feldman, who escaped from Germany on the St. Louis. "We need to make our feelings known and let this so-called rabbi know what we think of him."
Among those condemning the conference was London Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford.
Baroness Ludford, European justice spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "I am appalled by the convening of this conference, the main goal of which appears to be providing a platform for anti-Semitic propaganda."
"When the list of invitees includes former leader of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke and well-known international Holocaust deniers such as Georges Thiel, the claim that this conference is about 'objectively examining historical fact' rings utterly hollow."
"On one level Holocaust denial is farcical and absurd since the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against 6 million Jews is so well-documented that no sane person could deny it. But on another level, it is very dangerous when a member state of the United Nations wraps anti-Semitism in a spurious cloak of anti-Zionism in order to stir up mischief and hate."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran acts over Israeli nukes

Iran acts over Israeli nukes
Iran has called for the UN Security Council to compel Israel to give up its nuclear weapons.

The request, made on Tuesday in a letter to the Security Council, comes after Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, appeared to admit in a TV interview that Israel had nuclear weapons.

Javad Zarif, Iran's UN ambassador, said that Olmert's comments had "removed any excuse - if there ever were any - for continued inaction by the council in the face of this actual threat to international peace and security".

He said the council should "compel it [Israel] to abandon nuclear weapons, urge it to accede to the NPT [nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] without delay and demand this regime to place promptly all its nuclear facilities under IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] full-scope safeguards".

The letter marks the first formal call for action to be taken against Israel and comes at a time when the Security Council is debating imposing sanctions on Iran in an attempt to halt the country's own nuclear programme.

Many have criticised the West as working under a double standard in pressing Iran to suspend its nuclear activities while ignoring Israeli weapons.

Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, said last June that Israel is thought to have about 200 nuclear weapons.

In his interview, broadcast in Israel on Channel 10, Olmert said: "Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

Israel has never formally acknowledged that it has nuclear weapons and has not a signed up to the NPT.

Iran, which has signed the NPT, says that its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes and will not be used to make nuclear weapons.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Chaos rules in Gaza, despite new "Cease fire"

While Israel is exhorted to make peace with the Palestinians, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Palestinians are incapable of keeping peace among themselves. For some reason, whenever Palestinians are killed or injured by Israel fire, the headlines always say "Israel kills..." even if the Palestinians also killed Israelis. But when Palestinians kill other Palestinians, the headlines say "Deaths in Gaza."
Why is that?
Ami Isseroff


Two members of Fatah, the group headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, have been shot dead as fighting continued in the Gaza Strip despite a new ceasefire.

Medical sources said that another six people were injured during the clashes between Fatah supporters and groups who support Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian government headed by Ismail Haniya, the prime minister.

Witnesses said that the exchanges of fire lasted for several hours.

They said that groups of armed men were continuing to patrol Gaza City early on Wednesday, and roadblocks - which should have all been removed under the terms of the ceasefire - were still in place.

The truce between forces loyal to Haniya and those supporting Abbas came into force at 11pm (21:00 GMT) on Tuesday, but the factional fighting has continued regardless.

Continued (Permanent Link)

A letter to Jewish citizens of America [By President Jimmy Carter]

Dec. 20, 2006
An Editorial Note From Al-Jazeerah: News articles may be reduced in size or slightly changed to conform to the Conflict Terminology  guide adopted by Al-Jazeerah. Changes also include correcting Arabic names and editing. So, readers are advised that news articles may not represent their original form in verbatim or size, according to the mentioned original sources. Al-Jazeerah comments are in parentheses.
A letter to Jewish citizens of America
By President Jimmy Carter
Raw Story.Com, December 20, 2006
Former President Carter blames media's 'pro-Israel bias' on AIPAC and 'Christians like me'
In a letter addressed to Jewish citizens of America, former President Jimmy Carter explains the media's "pro-Israel bias" partly on a powerful lobbying organization which faces no "significant countervailing voices," but primarily puts the blame on "Christians like me."
Carter's recently published book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, has caused a "stir," which was "partly intentional," the former president told Newsweek.
"One of the purposes of the book was to provoke discussion, which is very rarely heard in this country, and to open up some possibility that we could rejuvenate or restart the peace talks in Israel that have been absent for six years—so that was the purpose of the book," Carter told Newsweek's Eleanor Clift.
Carter also told the magazine that the "effectiveness" and "powerful influence" of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has resulted in more "inhibited" debates in the United States than nearly anywhere else.
"In this country, any sort of debate back and forth, any sort of incisive editorial comment in the major newspapers, is almost completely absent," Carter said.
"And any member of Congress who's looking to be re-elected couldn't possibly say that they would take a balanced position between Israel and the Palestinians, or that they would insist on Israel withdrawing to international borders, or that they would dedicate themselves to protect human rights of Palestinians—it's very likely that they would not be re-elected," Carter added.
In the letter addressed to American Jews, Carter also includes Christians like himself for limiting the debate.
"I made it clear that I have never claimed that American Jews control the news media, but reiterated that the overwhelming bias for Israel comes from among Christians like me who have been taught since childhood to honor and protect God's chosen people from among whom came our own savior, Jesus Christ," Carter writes.
"An additional factor, especially in the political arena, is the powerful influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is exercising its legitimate goal of explaining the current policies of Israel's government and arousing maximum support in our country," Carter continues.
"There are no significant countervailing voices," Carter regrets.
Full text of Carter's letter:
A letter to Jewish citizens of America
During my recent book tour I signed more than 100,000 books and was interviewed on 100 news media outlets.* The high point for me was a meeting with leaders of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix, who announced before my arrival that they would demonstrate against my book. When they invited me to meet with them, I accepted immediately. The six rabbis (three men and three women) and I were the only ones present except for a camera crew under the direction of Jonathan Demme, who was making a documentary about me and the work of The Carter Center. Demme reported that there was an equally large group of Jewish citizens demonstrating in support of the book and its call for a path to peace.
We first discussed the peace treaty I negotiated between Israel and Egypt in 1979, and the Holocaust Commission I announced on Israel's 30th birthday. Five of them had read my book completely and one partially, and I answered their questions about the text and title of PALESTINE PEACE NOT APARTHEID. I emphasized, as I had throughout the tour, that the book was about conditions and events in the Palestinian territories and not in Israel, where a democracy exists with all the freedoms we enjoy in our country and Israeli Jews and Arabs are legally guaranteed the same rights as citizens.
We discussed the word "apartheid," which I defined as the forced segregation of two peoples living in the same land, with one of them dominating and persecuting the other. I made clear in the book's text and in my response to the rabbis that the system of apartheid in Palestine is not based on racism but the desire of a minority of Israelis for Palestinian land and the resulting suppression of protests that involve violence. Bishop Tutu, Nelson Mandela, and prominent Israelis, including former attorney general Ben Yair, who served under both Labor and Likud prime ministers, have used and explained the appellation in harsher terms than I, pointing out that this cruel oppression is contrary to the tenets of the Jewish faith and the basic principles of the nation of Israel.
Having traveled throughout the Holy Land during the past 33 years, especially within the occupied areas, I was qualified to describe the situation from my own personal observations. In addition, The Carter Center has monitored the Palestinian elections of 1996, 2005, and 2006, which required a thorough and intimate involvement with Palestinian citizens, candidates, public officials, and also the top political leaders of Israel who controlled checkpoints throughout the West Bank and Gaza and all facets of the elections in East Jerusalem.
I made it clear that I have never claimed that American Jews control the news media, but reiterated that the overwhelming bias for Israel comes from among Christians like me who have been taught since childhood to honor and protect God's chosen people from among whom came our own savior, Jesus Christ. An additional factor, especially in the political arena, is the powerful influence of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is exercising its legitimate goal of explaining the current policies of Israel's government and arousing maximum support in our country. There are no significant countervailing voices.
I am familiar with the extreme acts of violence that have been perpetrated against innocent civilians, and understand the fear among many Israelis that threats against their safety and even their existence as a nation still exist. I reiterated my strong condemnation of any such acts of terrorism.
When asked my proposals for peace in the Middle East, I summarized by calling for Hamas members and all other Palestinians to renounce violence and adopt the same commitment made by the Arab nations in 2002: the full recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace within its legally recognized 1967 borders (to be modified by mutual agreement by land swaps). This would comply with U.N. Resolutions, the official policy of the United States, commitments made at Camp David in 1978 and in Oslo in 1993, and the premises of the International Quartet's "Roadmap for Peace." An immediate step would be the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, now absent for six years. President Mahmoud Abbas is the official spokesman for the Palestinians, as head of the Palestinian National Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and has repeatedly called for peace talks. I asked the rabbis to join in an effort to induce the Israeli government to comply with this proposal.
In addition, I pointed out that the Palestinian people were being deprived of the necessities of life by economic restrictions imposed on them by Israel and the United States because 42% had voted for Hamas candidates in the most recent election. Teachers, nurses, policemen, firemen, and other employees are not being paid, and the U.N. has reported that food supplies in Gaza are equivalent to those among the poorest families in sub-Sahara Africa with half the families surviving on one meal a day. My other request was that American Jewish citizens help to alleviate their plight.
The chairman of the group, Rabbi Andrew Straus, then suggested that I make clear to all American Jews that my use of "apartheid" does not apply to circumstances within Israel, that I acknowledge the deep concern of Israelis about the threat of terrorism and other acts of violence from some Palestinians, and that the majority of Israelis sincerely want a peaceful existence with their neighbors. The purpose of this letter is to reiterate these points.
We then held hands in a circle while one of the rabbis prayed, I autographed copies of my book as requested, and Chaplain (Colonel) Rabbi Bonnie Koppell gave me a prayer book.
I have spent a great deal of my adult life trying to bring peace to Israel, and my own prayer is that all of us who want to see Israelis enjoy permanent peace with their neighbors join in this common effort.
Jimmy Carter

Opinions expressed in various sections are the sole responsibility of their authors and they may not represent Al-Jazeerah's.

Continued (Permanent Link)

For advocating ties with Israel, Bangladeshi journalist persecuted

Dec. 19, 2006
For advocating ties with Israel, Bangladeshi journalist persecuted
By Larry Luxner 
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (JTA) — For a man who says he could be condemned to death as early as next month, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is surprisingly calm.
Choudhury's crime: calling for diplomatic ties between his native Bangladesh and the State of Israel.
"The High Court has ruled that by conveying the message of the rise of Islamic militancy in Bangladesh to Jews and Christians, and by advocating relations between Dhaka and Jerusalem, I have damaged the image of Bangladesh worldwide," Choudhury said.
The 41-year-old journalist and editor spoke to JTA in a 20-minute phone interview last week from Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital. He said his trial for sedition, blasphemy and treason, which began in September, will resume Jan. 22 after a short break.
Choudhury, who is free on bail, said there is little chance of receiving a fair trial, and he probably will be sentenced to death. He spoke from a secure landline since his cell phone is under government surveillance, Choudhury said.
"The judicial system is corrupted by Islamic radicals," he said. "By continuing this trial and convicting me, they want to send the message that anyone else in Bangladesh who thinks as I do will face the same consequences."
Choudhury is the editor and publisher of The Weekly Blitz, an English-language newspaper founded in 2003 that now has 7,500 print subscribers and another 40,000 readers online.
Those numbers may not sound impressive for Bangladesh — a nation of 145 million people packed into an area the size of Wisconsin — but the newspaper is read regularly by policymakers, businesspeople and other influential Bangladeshis, as well as foreign diplomats.
A Muslim, Choudhury first came into contact with Jews in the early 1990s while working as Dhaka correspondent for the Russian news agency Tass.
He established friendships with Jewish colleagues despite the anti-Semitic propaganda so prevalent in Bangladesh, which is 85 percent Muslim and ranks as the world's third-most populous Muslim nation after Indonesia and Pakistan.
"When I was a child, my father always encouraged us not to believe the Friday afternoon sermons of hate coming from the mosque," said Choudhury, who began a dialogue with editors at the Jerusalem Post three years ago and eventually was invited to Israel by the Hebrew Writers Association.
But Choudhury never made it to Jerusalem.
On Nov. 29, 2003, as he was about to board a plane in Dhaka for the circuitous journey to Israel, Choudhury was arrested and his passport was confiscated, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, said in a prepared statement. He was accused of espionage and charged with sedition.
Choudhury "spent the next 17 months in hellish prison conditions, including torture, denial of medical attention and isolation" as the government tried to build a case that Choudhury was an Israeli spy, Harris said.
He was released in April 2005, thanks largely to the efforts of U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dr. Richard Benkin, a Jewish activist from Chicago.
Yet the sedition charge is pending, and in October, a mob of 40 Islamic militants beat Choudhury in his Dhaka office — three months after the office was firebombed.
On Nov. 14, Kirk and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) cosponsored a resolution calling on the Bangladeshi government to drop all charges against Choudhury, stop "harassment and intimidation," and "hold accountable those responsible for attacks" against him.
Choudhury initially was charged with passport violations; the sedition charges were added nearly two months later. Among other things, Choudhury was accused of writing an inflammatory column titled "Hello Tel Aviv" for USA Today.
"I never wrote any such article," he insisted. "Even the prosecution said he had no document available because it was never published."
In late October, The Washington Times published an editorial urging the Bush administration to suspend $63 million in annual aid to Bangladesh unless the charges against Choudhury are dropped. Besides the AJCommittee, other organizations that have been outspoken in the case include Reporters Without Borders, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Responding to the attacks, Shamsher Chowdhury, Bangladesh's ambassador to the United States, insisted that Choudhury the journalist is a conniving liar with a criminal past.
"In Bangladesh, nobody is a prisoner of conscience," the ambassador told JTA. "There is no such thing as putting a journalist behind bars for expressing his views. We have total freedom of the press. If he's saying he was arrested for advocating ties with Israel, then he's not telling the truth. That cannot be a charge. That's not sedition."
Chowdhury said it is "totally untrue" that the journalist was beaten by a mob outside his office as police stood by idly, as Choudhury has claimed.
Far from being a "prisoner of conscience" for advocating ties with Israel, Chowdhury said the journalist in the past has been found guilty of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds.
"In 2003 he leaked very classified information about the government which we thought endangered state security," Chowdhury said. "So charges of sedition were brought against him, and now the matter is before the court. He's on bail and free to write and correspond with people. He has a valid passport and is free to travel."
The ambassador claims Choudhury "is in touch with his friends here and has even thanked the Bangladeshi government for creating a situation where he can travel. He doesn't feel threatened anymore."
Choudhury responded angrily to the ambassador's claims.
"He's a committed liar," he said. "This is nothing but a damn lie."
Benkin, the Chicago activist, said the Bangladeshi government — including the ambassador, whom he met in April 2005 with Kirk — has lost all credibility.
"The government has never produced a scintilla of credible evidence against him," Benkin said. "Over three years ago they said he was guilty. They tortured him for 17 months and they're still carrying out this persecution."
He added that the Bangladeshi government demonizes Israel, even naming a bridge after Hezbollah in the wake of the terrorist group's war against Israel last summer.
Nobody practices Judaism openly in Bangladesh, though Choudhury said 150 to 200 Jews live in Dhaka, where they keep an extremely low profile and meet secretly in private homes.
Benkin's Web site,, calls on Americans to boycott apparel made in Bangladesh — a crucial industry that employs more than 2 million people — to pressure the government to drop the Choudhury case.
Benkin, who has never met Choudhury, applied three times this year for a visa to Bangladesh but was rejected. Under pressure, however, Chowdhury the ambassador recently changed his mind and granted a visa to Benkin, who plans to fly to Dhaka early next month.
In another development, Canadian legislator and human-rights lawyer Irwin Cotler announced he would defend Choudhury in court. A former justice minister of Canada and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Cotler has represented prisoners of conscience including South Africa's Nelson Mandela, Argentina's Jacobo Timerman and Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky.
Despite the risks, Choudhury said he had no intention of asking for political asylum abroad.
"I'm not going to do that because there is no dignity, no pride or honor in quitting," he said. "I have complete faith and trust in God, and in my brothers and sisters around the world who are working on my behalf."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Indictment: Palestinian killed prostitute as acceptance test to terror group

12:07 , 12.18.06
Indictment: Palestinian killed prostitute as acceptance test to terror group
Palestinian seeking to join terror group charged with murder of Israeli prostitute as 'acceptance test', also charged with conspiracy to kill soldier and membership in terror organization
State prosecutors filed an indictment at the Haifa District Court against Yussef Kassem Abu Hanani, a 28 year old Palestinian charged with the murder of a Jewish woman in downtown Haifa in 2001.
The indictment charges that Abu Hanani carried out the murder to demonstrate his commitment to the terror organization he wished to join, with the act serving as the acceptance test. Abu Hanani is also accused of conspiring to murder an Israeli soldier, a plan which ultimately was not carried out.
The indictment claims that the defendant, along with a friend, sought to join the Omar al-Mukhtar terror group, operated by Hizbullah in Jordan. To be accepted into the organization the two were required to kill a Jew. The two terror-hopefuls then planned the murder, equipping themselves with two long knives purchased in the city of Sachnin in northern Israeli.
The two then traveled by taxi to Haifa, with the knives concealed on their person.
Attorney Lilach Tamir of the Haifa district prosecution notes that upon arrival in Haifa the two men hailed another taxi, asking the driver to take them to an area where they will be able to find prostitutes. The driver let the men down on Independence St, where the two waited for nightfall.
Charges separated from military court trial
It was then that they located known prostitute Dina Guetta and after a short haggle she and Abu Hanani headed towards a side alley. "The defendant them removed the knife from his clothes and stabbed the woman in her chest," details the indictment, "the defendant knocked her down to the ground and gagged her mouth with his left hand when she began to scream. He then stabbed her twice more in the chest and in her upper left thigh."
The indictment claims that when the woman could finally scream no longer, the defendant left the area.
The indictment also charges Abu Hanani with conspiring to murder an IDF soldier. Along with a friend the defendant had planned to ambush the soldier from behind and break his neck while his friend stabbed the soldier from the front. The plan was never realized.
The indictment was first filed in 2004 to the Samaria military court. The indictment also included a series of terror acts carried out by the defendant in Samaria; including planting explosive devices, carrying out shooting attacks against IDF troops, dealing in arms and more. Abu Hanani's defense attorney claimed during the trial that the charge of the prostitute's murder should be filed in a civilian court.
The prosecution accepted the demand, and the charges were separated from the military court trial. Abu Hanani is charged with murder, conspiracy to commit a crime and membership in a terror organization.
Justice Yitzhak Amit of the Haifa District Court extended on Monday afternoon Abu Hanani's arrest until the completion of all legal proceedings against him.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ahmadinejad: What would Jesus do today?

Dec. 19, 2006 
Ahmadinejad: What would Jesus do today?
Iranian president in New Year's message to Christians: 'God willing, Jesus will return with Imam Mahdi and wipe away oppression'
by Yaakov Lappin
Published:  12.19.06, 16:57,7340,L-3342123,00.html
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has sent a greeting to the world's Christians for the coming New Year, in which he has linked Christianity's deity, Jesus, with the Shiite messianic figure, Imam Mahdi, saying he expected both to return and "wipe away oppression."
"I wish all the Christians a very happy new year and I wish to ask them a question as well," the Iranian leader said, according to the Iranian Student News Agency .
"My one question from the Christians is: What would Jesus do if he were present in the world today? What would he do before some of the oppressive powers of the world who are in fact residing in Christian countries? Which powers would he revive and which of them would he destroy?" the Iranian president asked.
"If Jesus were present today, who would be facing him and who would be following him?" He added.
'Occupiers warned to evacuate Iraq'
Ahmadinejad then linked Jesus with Imam Mahdi, a Shiite leader believed by the Iranian president to have gone into hiding centuries ago, and who is expected by Shiite Muslims to return and usher in a period of messianic dominance for Islam.
"All I want to say is that the age of hardship, threat and spite will come to an end someday and God willing Jesus would return to the world along with the emergence of the descendant of the Islam's Holy Prophet, Imam Mahdi and wipe away every tinge of oppression, pain and agony from the face of the world," Ahmadinejad said.
The Iranian president also called on the United States and Britain to evacuate Iraq, saying, "We warn the occupiers that if they do not evacuate Iraq on their own accord, then the powerful hands of the Iraqi nation would do that and cast them out of this country in shame and humiliation."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Human rights groups reject West Bank travel ban

Dec. 19, 2006
Human rights groups reject West Bank travel ban
By Amira Hass
International organizations in the territories are still reviewing the implications of a ban prohibiting Israelis to give rides to Palestinians within the West Bank. The order was issued by GOC Central Command Yair Naveh.
Officials from a few organizations, most of them United Nations groups, told Haaretz that the issue was under legal review. The order, dated November 19, is scheduled to take effect on January 19, 2007. In a letter sent to the international organizations, the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din - whose volunteers help Palestinians file complaints against settlers - asked the foreign groups to tell Israeli security authorities they would not comply with the directive, by which they must obtain permits to drive Palestinians.
In the meantime, security authorities promised UN-affiliated groups that the order did not apply to them, and they would not be required to obtain permits. The groups asked for the promise to be put in writing.
The order explicitly includes resident foreign nationals in the ban. The order states: "An Israeli will not transport in an Israeli vehicle within the area a person who is not Israeli, except in accordance with a permit given to him or given to the person who is not Israeli." It clearly states that for this purpose, "Israeli" means "a person registered in the Population Registry ... including anyone given a visa and license to reside in Israel."
A member of one of the organizations told Haaretz the groups were aware of the threat to the rights promised to their employees and that some recognized the possibility that the authorities could at some point require the groups to apply for permits - despite the verbal promise.
Anders Fange, head of United Nations Relief and Works Agency activities in the West Bank, told Haaretz that irrespective of the military waiver, "my personal opinion is that the UN is obligated to oppose any order that can be seen as a violation of human rights or international humanitarian law. If it turns out that the law does not meet with international norms, we will bring it up before the Israeli authorities."
Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's attorney, wrote the international organizations that the order was in clear violation of international human rights law.
He drew attention to the fact that even if the foreign nationals working for the organization are immune to prosecution for violating the order, any Palestinians they transport will not enjoy immunity.
Several Israeli organizations, including the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Machsom Watch and Yesh Din, have already announced their intention to ignore the order and say they will not apply for permits.

Continued (Permanent Link)

18,000 Xmas pilgrims expected to cross from J'lem to Bethlehem

Last update - 08:13 19/12/2006      
18,000 Xmas pilgrims expected to cross from J'lem to Bethlehem
By Irit Rosenblum, Haaretz Correspondent
The Tourism Ministry will be implementing special arrangements to make it easier for an expected 18,000 pilgrims to cross from Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and Christmas day, December 24 and 25.
The steps, which are being taken in cooperation with the police, the Israel Defense Forces and the IDF liaison with the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem, include shuttles to Bethlehem, and more personnel to handle the heavy traffic at the Rachel crossing into Bethlehem. Each pilgrim will also receive a holiday greeting and gift from the Tourism Ministry.
Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog said that in the interest of ensuring freedom of religion, Defense Minister Amir Peretz has approved the passage of 500 Palestinian Christians from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank and that the ministry is also working closely with the private Palestinian tourism sector. "We view pilgrimage as a bridge to peace." Herzog added. "The ministry is doing everything it can to assist believers to obtain the greatest possible access to Christian sites in general and to Bethlehem in particular. Beyond our desire to make things easier for tourists, we are aware of the importance of tourism for Bethlehem and the Palestinian economy and are working in complete cooperation with the the IDF and the police to show maximum consideration for tourists during the holiday."
Among the arrangements for pilgrims wanting to enter Bethlehem are free shuttles every half hour from the Mar Elias Monastery in south Jerusalem to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Staff at the crossing will be beefed up and work around the clock.
Herzog also noted that ahead of Christmas, he had issued special permits for Palestinian tour guides from Bethlehem to guide tour groups in Israel as well.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hezbollah is flooded with cash to rebuild

Associated Press
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Hezbollah is flooded with cash to rebuild
Associated Press 

WASHINGTON -- Money to help rebuild Hezbollah strongholds has been pouring into Lebanon, and arms may not be far behind, according to U.S. officials familiar with the efforts to restock everything from kitchen shelves to arsenals following this summer's conflict with Israel.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the latest U.S. intelligence, say the losses Hezbollah sustained during the 34-day war have been recouped with the help of Iran, Syria and private donors around the world. The result: an emboldened Hezbollah that has staged massive protests this month aimed at toppling the moderate government.
Hezbollah's supporters, particularly Iran, have been generous. "They were able to supply families with places to live and new furniture while they rebuilt their homes. It all has to be paid for, including the workers, and there is no problem doing it," said one of the officials.
The outgoing U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told Congress this summer that Iran provides "perhaps up to $100 million a year or more" to Hezbollah. That aid flow has since increased, with U.S. officials now saying it could top $200 million annually, even before the surge that came after this summer's conflict.
Immediately after the fighting, Hezbollah started providing up to $12,000 to people whose homes were destroyed by Israeli bombs. Aid workers were seen in parts of Lebanon distributing crisp $100 bills out of a suitcase.
Much murkier is the influx of arms. One U.S. official said the porous border with Syria provides plenty of areas where shipments can move. But other officials said the United States has a hard time quantifying what is coming across the sparsely guarded, 233-mile line.
The U.S. official said Hezbollah is believed to be in the market for the C-802, an anti-ship cruise missile; the Israelis say it was used against one of its warships in July. Small, portable anti-aircraft missiles called MANPADS, including the SA-18, are also of interest to the group, as well as guided anti-tank missiles and improvised explosive devices. Small arms, already rampant in Lebanon, may also be moving in.
The official said Iran has access to the items on Hezbollah's wish list and remains the group's only reliable supplier. "It is a question of what Iran wants to replenish," said the official.
This comes despite an embargo approved by the United Nations Security Council in August, which calls for the disarming of Hezbollah and bars the supply of weapons to Lebanon without approval of its central government.
The United States and many of its Western allies consider the Shi'a Muslim Hezbollah a terror group. But it also has political elements that control 14 seats in the 128-member Lebanese Parliament and provides social services, including schools and health care, in the areas of Lebanon that it dominates. The work legitimizes the organization to some governments, which allow fundraising and other activities to bolster Hezbollah.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jordan's king hosts Israeli PM for talks

Associated Press in USA Today
Updated 12/19/2006 9:55 AM ET  
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made a surprise visit to Jordan Tuesday for talks with King Abdullah II on ways to revive Mideast peacemaking.
The palace also said Abdullah was offering to host a meeting in Jordan to help resolve Palestinian infighting between the Hamas and Fatah movements. As the statement was issued, the two groups waged fierce gunbattles in Gaza City.
Olmert's visit came in response to an invitation by Abdullah, who is eager to see Israel resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians, a senior palace official said.
In Jerusalem, Olmert's office confirmed the meeting, saying the leaders discussed the Palestinian crisis and larger regional issues.
The U.S.-allied monarch has said a return to Arab-Israeli negotiations is vital to curb rising extremism in the Middle East, fueled by the conflict in Iraq. Abdullah has called on Washington to do more on reviving the peace process, which is stalled amid the Palestinian crisis.
The palace official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Olmert's visit, said the two leaders met for two hours and the Israeli then returned home.
In the talks, Abdullah urged Olmert to "engage in negotiations with the Palestinians so that an appropriate framework could be found to relaunch the peace process," a palace statement said.
It said the king told Olmert that "in order to foster confidence in the peace process, it was critical to show people on both sides of the conflict that there are credible partners for peace."
Abdullah also voiced his vision for peace — "a two-state solution" with separate Israeli and Palestinian nations living side by side.
"This is the only logical solution and the only way to fulfill the Palestinians' aspiration to establish a sovereign, viable state and Israelis' need to achieve security and stability," the statement quoted him as saying.
The king, whose nation signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, had hosted Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June in a failed effort to get both leaders to open direct negotiations.
The peace process has been stagnant since 2000 and efforts to restart talks have failed in the face of the factional violence wracking the Palestinian territories.
The palace statement said Abdullah briefed Abbas on his talks with Olmert in a telephone call, but provided no details of the conversation.
The palace also said Abdullah would invite the leaders of Hamas and Fatah to talks on ending their conflict.
"Jordan is willing to do all it can to help the Palestinians overcome their differences and to bolster Palestinian unity," the statement said. "All options are open, including a call for a meeting in Amman between Palestinian leader (Abbas, of Fatah) and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh (of Hamas)."
The discussions would focus on "ways to end the political crisis between their Hamas and Fatah movements," the statement said.
Hamas said it had not yet received the invitation.
"If we receive a formal invitation, it will be studied and addressed in harmony with national interest," said the group's spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum.
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Posted 12/19/2006 9:08 AM ET

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorials from the Hebrew Press 19-Dec-20

**Summary of Editorials from the Hebrew Press 19-Dec-2006

[Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs]

The Jerusalem Post writes: "The fundamental choice is not between Hamas and Fatah, or even between terrorism and negotiations, but between continuing a war to destroy Israel and accepting a peace in order to build their own state. So far, the Quartet has done the right thing by forcing the Palestinians to make such a choice, in the form of its three conditions for international assistance: ending terrorism, accepting Israel's right to exist, and accepting previous agreements. This steadfastness has put Hamas in its current bind, and must continue... For years, the international community thought it was advancing the cause of peace by refraining from pressing the Palestinians to choose peace - in the belief that it was Israelis who needed the pressing. That mistake has led Palestinian belligerency and radicalization to sink in deeper than ever, despite the trend of Israeli moderation."

Haaretz comments: "Suspicions of game-fixing in Israeli soccer come as no surprise. For too long now, there has been talk of the involvement and association of criminal elements with those who are involved in the sport. The possibility that a goalkeeper in the Premier League and players in the National League are suspected of fixing a match must be investigated in depth, so that we will know whether this is an isolated incident or a plague that has infiltrated every area of the sport... The good name of the sport and the reputation of the athletes who play it are now in danger. The burden of proof is on the players and others involved in soccer, who must excommunicate all those who have any connection with match-fixing. The fact that the fans are not surprised with the latest developments is proof in and of itself of the extent to which they lack trust in the country's soccer players. After the courts convicted a number of soccer referees of match fixing in recent years, the sport now faces veritable bankruptcy in terms of the trust of fans. All this requires a serious investigation, in addition to enforcement and supervision, and punishment that will act as a deterrent. All these in unison may ensure the return of fair play."

Yediot Aharonot suggests that, "We live in the age of grey leaders and 2007 does not bode well in this regard: Bush, Blair, Chirac, Merkel, Prodi, Putin, Benedict XVI, Mubarak Assad Jr., and Olmert - none of them sets our imagination on fire."

Hatzofeh accuses Defense Minister Amir Peretz of voicing renewed concerns for Israel's weaker socio-economic strata even as he argues for increased defense spending, because he is concerned over his political future ahead of the Labor Party's internal elections.

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, believes that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to spurn recent Syrian peace overtures - because, "Peace with Syria is not comfortable for the Americans right now" - underscores Israel's dependence on the US.

Yediot Aharonot, in its third editorial, laments the passing of pianist Pnina Saltzman.

Yediot Aharonot, in its fourth editorial, comments on a local soccer-match-fixing scandal.


Continued (Permanent Link)

New Road Map to Bring Peace Among Palestinians

This is satire, by the way....

New Road Map to Bring Peace Among Palestinians <>

by Scott Ott <>

(2006-12-18) ‹ As the advocates of Hamas and Fatah, the armed political parties of the Palestinian Authority, shot at each other this weekend, President Mahmoud Abbas announced a new "Road Map for Peace" in the troubled region  <> .

"First, we will build a protective fence around each Palestinian," said Mr. Abbas in a written statement from his hidden bunker. "The fence must resist fire from AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades as well as the blast of car bombs and suicide vests."

The new personal fences would provide "an atmosphere of trust" for negotiations to produce a region with two political parties living peacefully side-by-side, the Palestinian leader said.

An unnamed spokesman for Hamas offered an alternative plan calling for "the destruction of the Zionist regime so that Hamas and Fatah partisans could live on opposite sides of the fence that now separates us from so-called Israeli territory."

"This plan is cheaper," the Hamas source said, "and has the added benefit of getting rid of the Jews who cause all of this violence."

Continued (Permanent Link)

US Strategy in the Middle East: Effects of the 2006 Congressional Elections and the Baker-Hamilton Report

US Strategy in the Middle East: Effects of the 2006 Congressional Elections and the Baker-Hamilton Report

Eytan Gilboa
Perspectives Paper No. 23, December 19, 2006


Executive Summary: The Bush Administration is under enormous pressure to dramatically alter US strategy in the Middle East during the remaining two years of the Bush presidency. This pressure stems from the repeated failures to achieve US goals in Iraq; the role that Iraq played in the Democratic victory in recent Congressional elections; the overwhelming public criticism and opposition to the war; the recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Study Group on Iraq; and the party politics related to the 2008 Presidential and Congressional elections.

However, a drastic shift in policy will be difficult.  Such a reversal contradicts President Bush's personal beliefs, ideology and concern for his place in history. In addition, policy change reveals an admission of guilt and a commitment to a misguided strategy for more than three years.

Bush anticipated the Baker-Hamilton recommendations and instructed the Pentagon and the National Security Council to conduct their own reviews of Iraq policy and develop independent recommendations. Ultimately, a revised strategic approach to Iraq is unavoidable and Bush will need to consider a phased withdrawal and more aggressive transfer of responsibilities and duties to the Iraqi government.    

Iraq and the Elections

The war in Iraq dominated the 2006 midterm US Congressional elections and is likely to remain a major factor in American politics, especially as Republicans and Democrats begin their 2008 Presidential campaigns. The voter's decisively expressed dissatisfaction with President Bush's Iraq policy by electing a democratic congress, signaling their desire for change. With the increase of American and Iraqi casualties and the escalation of the war's expenditures, the public felt that the US was not progressing in stabilizing and democratizing Iraq.

Additionally, public opinion expressed displeasure with the administration's failure to develop a reasonable exit strategy from Iraq and to virtually subscribe to an indefinite military presence and intervention in the region. The implicit message to Bush was: end US involvement in Iraq and bring the troops home as soon as possible. The election results that transferred control of the House and Senate from the Republicans to the Democrats were primarily a protest vote, meaning the public voted against a policy, party, or politician, and not necessarily for the political party they elected. The public voted the Democrats into power despite the inconsistent policy they adopted toward the war.  In 2003, many Democrat Congressmen voted for the war, and in the 2006 campaign, except for criticizing the administration, they did not offer any new credible alternative policy for dealing with the situation in Iraq.

The Democratic victory will likely increase the pressure for a strategic change already apparent in earlier public opinion polls and in actions taken by the Republican-led Congress. In many 2006 opinion polls, the public felt not only that Bush's policy was not working, but also that it was a mistake to wage war in Iraq. That same year, Bush's popularity and approval rating slipped below 35% and was relatively low even among Republicans. During the election campaign, Bush vehemently and repeatedly argued that the Democrats were the weaker party in fighting global Islamic terrorism and except for advocating withdrawal from Iraq did not offer a strategic alternative plan. However, the public did not heed this warning and for the first time in many years felt that the Democrats would do a better job than the Republicans in fighting terrorism. In this context, the election results only confirmed a growing trend of public dissatisfaction with the Bush strategy.  

Not only Democratic leaders and representatives criticized Bush; a few Republican politicians held similar reservations. In March 2006, the Republican controlled Congress formed a committee to investigate Iraq, The Bipartisan Iraq Study Group, under the leadership of former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Indiana Congressman Lee H. Hamilton. Other prominent committee members included former Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger, former CIA Director Robert Gates and former Defense Secretary William Perry. Bush welcomed the formation of the group. The selection of Baker, Gates and Eagleburger, former senior officials in the administration of George H.W. Bush and opponents of the US military intervention in Iraq, indicated a desire to change the American strategy. Bush swiftly reacted to the Democratic victory in a way that singled both partial recognition of failure (accepting the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld), and willingness to change policy (appointing Robert Gates, a member of the Baker-Hamilton Group to the job).        

New Options

During his final two years in the White House, Bush will likely face opposing forces of pressure: his fundamental beliefs, ideology and concern for his place in history will collide with public opinion and political calculations of Republican candidates for the presidency and the Democratic-led Congress. Typically, the last two years of an American presidents' second term are assumed to be dull and uneventful. The president is considered a "lame duck," a politician without political clout, who is interested only in preserving his record in history books. Bush's predecessor, Bill Clinton, demonstrated the inaccuracy of this assumption. During the final months of his second term, he attempted to broker comprehensive peace agreements between Israel, the Palestinians and Syria.

Bush is torn between two powerful forces: on the one hand, he still believes that he has a divine mission to destroy the "axis of evil" which includes, as he stated during the elections, to "stay the course" in Iraq. He believes that premature withdrawal will mean a victory for the Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East and will cause serious global ramifications. Bush feels that only tough and uncompromising policy, including UN sanctions and the threat of force, can prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. On the other hand, impatient public opinion, the Democratic victory, the main recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Group and the appointment of Gates, will all push US policy toward a new, softer and more compromising orientation. The President is still the strongest politician in Washington, but the Democratic Congress has the power to challenge and undermine his policies and programs, and Republican candidates are now likely to apply pressure on Bush to act in a way that would relegate Iraq to a minor issue in the 2008 elections.  

Any American strategy in the Middle East must not only deal with the situation in Iraq but also with Iran's quest for Islamic hegemony through (1) the acquisition of nuclear weapons, (2) gaining control or influence over Iraq, (3) replacing the pro-Western government in Lebanon with Hezbollah and turning Lebanon into an Islamic Shiite state, and (4) preventing any Israeli-Palestinian accommodation through direct and indirect support for the Palestinian Islamic terrorist organizations including Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. One other stated strategic goal is to eliminate Israel from the map. Although Syria is a secular Sunni state, it supports and actively assists Iran to achieve many of these goals. US policy towards the Middle East must address these issues as well as deal with Palestinian-Israeli violence.

The main recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton Group and writings by strategic and political experts revealed several cardinal assumptions about the US situation in Iraq and the Middle East. Prominent experts felt that the present policy of fighting in Iraq and isolating and pressuring Iran and Syria are not working and should be altered. The Israeli failure to win a decisive victory in Lebanon further supported the argument that liberal democracies cannot win low intensity warfare against terrorist organizations, which as a matter of strategy use civilian areas to attack and exploit their own citizens as human shields against defensive reprisals. The conclusion was that the US cannot win the war in Iraq and is losing the dominant position it has enjoyed in the Middle East since the early 1970s.

This was not the only assessment of the Baker-Hamilton Group. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a similar recommendation to appoint an international conference to outline acceptable conditions of an orderly withdrawal from Iraq. In his confirmation hearings, Robert Gates said that the US was not winning the war. Baker believes that the only effective way to deal with Iraq, Iran and other conflicts in the region is through negotiations and the formation of political coalitions. Richard Haass, a former senior foreign policy official and currently President of the Council on Foreign Relations, presented similar views.  

Based on these sources it is possible to construct several possible options for a strategic change in US policy. These include a phased American withdrawal from Iraq accompanied by attempts to negotiate understandings with Iran and Syria to assure the survival of the Iraqi government after this withdrawal. The proponents of this approach argue that inclusion of Iraq's neighbors, rather than their exclusion will save Iraq and will enable the US to withdraw within the next 2-3 years. Negotiations with Iran will be designed to: (1) obtain Iranian support for the stabilization of Iraq, (2) resolve the confrontation on Iran's nuclear weapons program, and (3) limit Iranian Anti-American activities in the Middle East and around the world. Negotiations with Syria will be designed to: (1) obtain Syrian support for the stabilization of Iraq, (2) stop Syrian assistance to terrorist organizations including Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the West Bank, and (3) obtain support for the existing pro-Western Lebanese government and Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

An alternative approach would confront both the situation in Iraq and the Iranian threat. It favors the establishment a moderate regional Sunni coalition against the political and military ambitions of Iran and Islamic fundamentalists. This coalition could include states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and those Persian Gulf states concerned with an aggressive nuclear Iran. Politicians and analysts believe that building this coalition requires a new and greater American effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Israeli-Syrian conflict. They cite moderate Arab leaders who unofficially say that they cannot openly collaborate with the US as long as the Arab street views the US as the closest ally of Israel, permitting Israeli leaders to use whatever force they want against the Palestinians.

Faulty Premises

These approaches suffer from strategic and logical flaws. Iran views the US and the West as a religious and cultural enemy, wants to convert Iraq into an Islamic Shiite republic and is determined to acquire nuclear weapons. The proponents of negotiations with Iran rule out any use of force to eliminate the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, even if all other means of diplomacy and sanctions fail. In light of American perceived weaknesses, they need to explain why the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be a constructive partner in a process that is designed to salvage an American achievement in Iraq and prevent Tehran from obtaining nuclear bombs. At best, Iran may be persuaded to help the US withdrawal through temporary suspension of hostile activities in Iraq only in return for American acceptance of its nuclear program. Iran has called for direct negotiations with the US to resolve the confrontation over the nuclear ambition. Bush said that he would be willing to conduct such talks only if Iran suspended uranium enrichment. Iran has consistently rejected this condition, and in the absence of credible UN sanctions or American determination to use force, this approach is likely to persist.

The proponents of negotiations with Syria must explain why Damascus would collaborate with a plan that requires the preservation of an independent pro-Western Lebanon, even if the payoff is acquiring the Golan Heights from Israel. For Syria, control of Lebanon is much more important than control of the Golan Heights.

Linking Arab-Israeli peace to the building of an anti-Iranian Sunni coalition ignores the failures of the Oslo accords, the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and the Palestinian vote that elected a Hamas-led government committed to Israel's destruction. Unfortunately, Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, has failed to provide effective leadership and is weaker today then ever before. Hamas is willing to negotiate a Palestinian national unity government because this is the only way they can access critical suspended aid from the EU and the US as well as frozen funds in Israel. Under the protection of a national unity government, Hamas plans to expand its military infrastructure in Gaza and create a similar system in the West Bank, both designed for a Hezbollah-type massive attack on Israeli cities and towns.

The linking of substantial progress in Arab-Israeli relations to the salvage of Iraq also suffers from incompatibility of political clocks. On several occasions, the US developed plans for Arab-Israeli peace that were based on American political and electoral timetables and not on critical conditions in the Middle East. In 1991, Baker rushed to the Madrid Peace Conference in order to improve the election prospects for George H.W. Bush. In 2000, Clinton rushed to summit conferences designed to achieve peace between Israel, the Palestinians and Syria because he wanted to erase the negative impact of the Monica Lewinsky affair on his legacy. In 2003, Bush introduced an unrealistic timetable for the implementation of his Road Map for Israeli-Palestinian peace, because he wanted to improve his prospects in the 2004 Presidential elections and obtain European support for the war in Iraq. Progress in Arab-Israeli relations depends first and foremost on conditions in the region and not on illusionary and naïve expectations in Washington.

A better approach would focus on pressuring the Iraqi government to act more swiftly and decisively on political and security issues. So far, the Iraqi government has believed that the US will stay in Iraq almost indefinitely, and that it has ample time to build national institutions and effective military infrastructure. This is no longer the case. Iraqi leaders must realize the new political conditions in Washington. Bush should secretly tell the government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that time is running out and for the government to survive, they must take immediate action to prevent a horrible civil war or an Iranian take-over. The Iraqi government needs to declare a state of emergency, overcome all internal political disputes and accelerate the training and expansion of the Iraqi military and security forces. If these measures prove to be insufficient in allowing a sizeable US withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the Bush term, a deployment of an Arab peacekeeping force may partially compensate for the decrease in American forces. Secret negotiations over the creation of such a force should begin now.


Bush is reassessing his strategy in Iraq and the Middle East and will seriously consider recommendations of his new Secretary of Defense and the Baker-Hamilton study group. The entanglement in Iraq, Iran's extremism and intransigence, and the results of the Israeli-Hezbollah war all prove obstacles for US foreign policy towards the Middle East. The Democratic victory further limits the range of policy options. All of the proposed options have more shortcomings than advantages and each entails enormous risks. A substantial American withdrawal by the end of the Bush term is a forgone conclusion. A Vietnam-like withdrawal, however, will have disastrous consequences because it will probably boost Islamic radicalism and terrorism around the world. Bush's decisions will be determined by the balance of power that is likely to emerge between the aforementioned constraints and his personal, ideological and political beliefs. He will be under enormous pressure to accept most recommendations of the bi-partisan Baker-Hamilton study group. In the short run, such an action may be very popular. In the long run, however, it could prove disastrous for US interests in the region.  

Eytan Gilboa is Professor of Political Studies and Communication, and Senior Research Associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, at Bar-Ilan University. He is also Visiting Professor of Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California,


Continued (Permanent Link)

Is Jimmy Carter being bribed by the Arabs?

Is Jimmy Carter being bribed by the Arabs?

This is not Carter bashing. All real friends of Jimmy Carter must ask this question, so let's have no knee jerk reactions here. Please note - I did not write that Jimmy Carter is being bribed by the Arabs. I never wrote that Jimmy Carter is being bribed by the Arabs. Show me where I wrote that Jimmy Carter is being bribed by the Arabs.
Here is is the evidence in a Frontpage magazine report :
Especially lucrative have been Carter's ties to Saudi Arabia. Before
his death in 2005, King Fahd was a longtime contributor to the Carter
Center and on more than one occasion contributed million-dollar
donations. In 1993 alone, the king presented Carter with a gift of
$7.6 million. And the king was not the only Saudi royal to commit
funds to Carter's cause. As of 2005, the king's high-living nephew,
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, has donated at least $5 million to the
Carter Center.

Meanwhile the Saudi Fund for Development, the kingdom's leading loan
organization, turns up repeatedly on the center's list of supporters.
Carter has also found moneyed allies in the Bin Laden family, and in
2000 he secured a promise from ten of Osama bin Laden's brothers for
a $1 million contribution to his center. To be sure, there is no
evidence that the Bin Ladens maintain any contact with their
terrorist relation. But applying Carter's own standard, his extensive
contacts with the Saudi elite must make his views on the Middle East
I am not Carter bashing. I do not question the right of Jimmy Carter to exist. I did not check the truth of the allegations in Frontpage magazine, and similar allegations made elsewhere previously. It is quite possible that the Carter Center is financed from Mr. Carter's peanut fortune, or from the funds that his brother Billy got from the Libyan government, rather than from Gulf countries.
I just wanted to provoke controversy and discussion you understand, because it is nearly impossible to have any debate about Jimmy Carter or to criticize him in any way without raising a storm of protest and knee-jerk reactions from the all-powerful Carter supporters.
Ami Isseroff

Jimmy Carter and the Arab Lobby


Jacob Laksin | December 18, 2006

Nothing demonstrates more clearly the defects of Jimmy Carter's
latest brief against Israel, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, than the
ex-president's reluctance to defend the book on its merits. Rather
than take up that unenviable task, Carter has sought to shift the
focus away from the criticism -- especially as it concerns the book's
serial distortions and outright falsehoods -- and onto the critics.

In particular, Carter claims that critics are compromised by their
support for Israel, their ties to pro-Israel lobbying organizations,
and -- a more pernicious charge -- their Jewish background. In
interviews about his book, Carter has seldom missed an opportunity to
invoke what he calls the 'powerful influence of AIPAC' with the
subtext that it is the lobbying group, and not his slanderous charges
about Israel, that is mainly responsible for mobilizing popular
outrage over Palestine. In a related line of defense, Carter has
singled out 'representatives of Jewish organizations' in the media as
the prime culprits behind his poor reviews and 'university campuses
with high Jewish enrollment' as the main obstacle to forthright
debate about his book on American universities. (Ironically, when
challenged last week by Alan Dershowitz to a debate about his book at
Brandeis University, which has a large Jewish student body, Carter
rejected the invitation.)

Bluster aside, Carter's chief complaint seems to be that anyone who
identifies with Israel, whether in the form of individual support or
in a more organized capacity, is incapable of grappling honestly with
the issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict. But Carter is poorly placed
to make this claim. If such connections alone are sufficient to
discredit his critics, then by his own logic Carter is undeserving of
a hearing. After all, the Carter Center, the combination research and
activist project he founded at Emory University in 1982, has for
years prospered from the largesse of assorted Arab financiers.

Especially lucrative have been Carter's ties to Saudi Arabia. Before
his death in 2005, King Fahd was a longtime contributor to the Carter
Center and on more than one occasion contributed million-dollar
donations. In 1993 alone, the king presented Carter with a gift of
$7.6 million. And the king was not the only Saudi royal to commit
funds to Carter's cause. As of 2005, the king's high-living nephew,
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, has donated at least $5 million to the
Carter Center.

Meanwhile the Saudi Fund for Development, the kingdom's leading loan
organization, turns up repeatedly on the center's list of supporters.
Carter has also found moneyed allies in the Bin Laden family, and in
2000 he secured a promise from ten of Osama bin Laden's brothers for
a $1 million contribution to his center. To be sure, there is no
evidence that the Bin Ladens maintain any contact with their
terrorist relation. But applying Carter's own standard, his extensive
contacts with the Saudi elite must make his views on the Middle East

High praise for Carter's work -- and not inconsiderable financial
support -- also comes from the United Arab Emirates. In 2001,
Carter even traveled to the country to accept the Zayed International
Prize for the Environment, named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan
al-Nahyan, the late UAE potentate and former president-for-life.
Having claimed his $500,000 purse, Carter enthused that the 'award
has special significance for me because it is named for my personal
friend, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan.' Carter also hailed the
UAE as an 'almost completely open and free society' -- a surreal
depiction of a rigidly authoritarian country where the government
handpicks a select group of citizens to vote and strictly controls
the editorial content of the newspapers and where Islamic Shari'a
courts judge 'sodomy' punishable by death. (To appreciate the depth
of Carter's cynicism, one need only compare his gushing encomia to
the emirates with his likening of Israel, the most modern and
democratic country in the entire Middle East, with the racist
'apartheid' of South Africa.)

On top of these official honors, Carter was offered a forum at the
Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow Up, the
country's official 'think-tank.' For his part, Carter declared his
intention to forge a 'partnership' with the center; in a 2002 letter,
Carter praised its efforts to 'promote peace, health, and human
rights around the world.' Inconveniently for Carter, the cen?er has
since become famous for a different reason: It has repeatedly played
host to anti-Semitic speakers who have denied the Holocaust,
supported terrorism, and alleged an international conspiracy of Jews
and Zionists to dominate the world. (Harvard University, in contrast
to Carter's enthusiasm for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan,
rejected a $2.5 million from the?ruler in 2004 due to his tie? to the
Zayed Center.)

Nor does this exhaust the list of Carter's backers in the Arab world.
Still other supporters include Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who sits atop
Oman's absolute monarchy. An occasional host to Carter, the sultan
has also made generous contributions to his center. Prior to inviting
Carter for a 'personal visit?' in 1998, the sultan pledged $1 million
to the Carter Center, promising additional support in the future.
Similarly, Morocco's Prince Moulay Hicham Ben Abdallah, the second in
line to the kingdom's throne, has in the past partnered with Carter
on the center's initiatives.

On its face, there is nothing objectionable about these contacts.
What has raised critics' eyebrows is Carter's immense chutzpah: In
securing the financial support of assorted Arab leaders, Carter has
gradually come to parrot their anti-Israel political agenda -- even
as he styles himself as a dispassionate mediator in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This was nowhere more evident than in Carter's credulous support for
the late Yasir Arafat. Although Carter had championed Araft as a
committed peacemaker since his presidency, in the face of ample
evidence to the contrary, his apologies for the terrorist chieftain
became particularly shameless in the 1990s. When Arafat and his PLO
backed Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, thereby loosi?g the
support and -- more ?mportant for the corrupt Arafat -- the funding
of neighboring Sunni Arab powers, Carter emba?ked on a Middle East
publicity tour to revive Arafat's diminishing fortunes. As recorded
by Carter biographer Douglas Brinkley, 'together [Carter and Arafat]
strategized on how to recover the PLO's standing in the United
States.' In desperation, Carter turned up in Saudi Arabia on what
Brinkley called 'essentially a fund-raising mission for the PLO,'
pleading with King Fahd to restore Arafat to the Saudi dole.

Now that Arafat's Fatah has been replaced with Hamas, Carter has
again proven himself a reliable ally of Palestinian extremism.
Scarcely had the terrorist group ascended to power last January than
Carter launched a media blitz urging the United States to circumvent
its own laws against financing terrorism in order to fund Hamas. As
the New York Times put with exquisite finesse, Carter called on
Western nations to "redirect their relief aid to United Nations
organizations and nongovernmental organizations to skirt legal
restrictions' -- that is, to launder money to a terrorist group. When
American policymakers declined to heed his advice, and Israel proved
unwilling to bankroll the enemy seeking its destruction, Carter
promptly denounced the both countries for their 'common commitment to
eviscerate the government of elected Hamas.'

With its relentless disparagement of Israel and its reckless abuse of
the historical record, Carter's latest book may fairly be seen as the
logical culmination of his many years of anti-Israel incitement.
There was of course no shortage of clues about Carter's sympathies in
his earlier books. In his 2004 memoir Sharing Good Times, for
instance, Carter recalled the trips he has taken over the years to
Arab dictatorships in Syria and Saudi Arabia and noted with evident
satisfaction that he was 'always greeted with smiles and friendship.'

Readers may be forgiven for finding nothing shocking in this
admission? Carter may still harbor illusions of grandeur, seeing
himself as an instrument of peace in the Middle East. But an
altogether different element explains his enduring popularity in Arab
capitals: Not for all the millions they have sunk into the Carter
Center over the years could Arab elites have hoped to purchase such a
prominent and willing propaganda tool.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli official: We have time to block Iran nuclear program

Last update - 07:35 19/12/2006   

Israeli official: We have time to block Iran nuclear program
By Aluf Benn and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents

A senior political source in Jerusalem said Monday that there is plenty of time for diplomatic efforts to effectively block Iran's nuclear program, basing his comments on an assessment by Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
Dagan told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran will be in a postion to build a nuclear bomb by 2009, at the earliest, and rejected talk of "a point of no return," saying that "such a concept does not exist."
"The diplomatic effort to block Iran's nuclear program is far from being over. The threat is close enough to draw attention and yet far enough to allow time for action," the source said.
Discussing efforts to thwart Iran's ambition to achieve nuclear capability, a senior source in Israel expressed confidence that all five permanent members of the Security Council will support sanctions against Iran.
The United Nations Security Council will approve a resolution condemning Iran's bid for nuclear arms, the source said, and will create a mechanism to impose sanctions on Tehran.
Israel also expects that the United States and the European Union will go beyond the UN and impose a broader web of economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran, the political source noted.
Many countries have already imposed de facto sanctions on Iran, avoiding high-level diplomatic visits to Tehran or receiving Iranian dignitaries, the senior source said.
In his semi-annual review at the Knesset Monday, Mossad chief Meir Dagan said that barring any technical problems, Iran should be in a position to develop a nuclear weapon by 2009.
Dagan said that since June Iran has been intensifying efforts to enrich uranium and is trying to have some 3,000 centrifuges working toward that end by 2007. According to intelligence estimates, Iran will cross the technological point of no return when these centrifuges work non-stop for three months.
The Mossad chief said that the centrifuges will be in operation for more than a year by 2008 and will produce about 25 kilograms of enriched uranium. This translates into one or two more years before Iran can make a nuclear weapon.
The Mossad chief also told the committee members that Syrian President Bashar Assad does not intend to continue his policy of passivity in the face of Israeli challenges. The Mossad chief also said he does not give much credence to recent Syrian calls for peace talks.
Dagan said that following the war, there is a change in the strategic thinking in Damascus; it is less wary of Israel.
Syria is willing to take risks vis-a-vis Israel and is even willing to confront Israel. To that end, the Syrians have established a series of orders that will go into effect as soon as Israel initiates a military operation. Part of the Syrian preparations involve the use of rockets and ballistic missiles.
According to the Mossad, Syria's president is more confident and feels secure in his close relation with Iran and Hezbollah.
Assad "is distancing himself from the Western world and is moving closer to the International Court at the Hague," Dagan said, referring to international efforts to try the murderers of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. The perpetrators are believed to be Syrian officers.
The Mossad chief said that Syria has intensified its efforts to topple the government of Fuad Siniora in Lebanon, and is offering its full backing to Hamas in terrorist activities against Israel.
Dagan also accused Syria of offering safe passage to international jihadists on their way to Iraq. The Syrian armed forces have adopted many of the lessons of the war in Lebanon, and have improved the quality of their anti-tank missiles, which proved effective in the hands of Hezbollah fighters targeting Israeli armor. The Mossad also said Syria has stepped up its ballistic missile production and expanded its bunkers against air attacks.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Netanyahu pushing bid to try Iran for war crimes in Hague

Last update - 10:18 19/12/2006   

Netanyahu pushing bid to try Iran for war crimes in Hague
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent

Likud Chairman Benyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday will present an initiative to try the Iranian regime in the International war crimes tribunal in the Hague to dozens of members of the diplomatic community.
Former Netanyahu counsel and Israeli Ambassador to the UN Dore Gold and Knesset member Dani Naveh will also take part in the initiative having traveled to the United States last week in order to kickstart the proposal.
The initiative represents Netanyahu's first advocacy mission before the international community.
According to Netanyahu, who has termed the Iranian nuclear program a "genocidal threat" to Israel, the government of Israel is not giving a firm enough diplomatic response to the Iranian threat.
Both the prime minister's bureau and the foreign minister's bureau refused on Monday to comment on the initiative.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Transcript: PM Blair press conference with PA president

Press conference with Palestinian President
18 December 2006

Mr Abbas: In the name of God the Mighty and the Merciful, it is my pleasure to welcome Mr Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, our friend Mr Tony
Blair, here in Ramallah which he visits for the second time this year, and
for the third time during his term as Prime Minister. And these visits
reflect personal interest and concern, as well as the interest of the
government of the United Kingdom for the need to achieve a comprehensive
peace in the Middle East region. I seized the opportunity to thank Mr Prime
Minister and the government of the United Kingdom for their efforts,
continuous efforts, and support for a comprehensive and just solution for
the Palestinian question.

We conducted today very important negotiations that address the critical and
dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories and the region as a
whole, and we also discussed ways and means of overcoming this crisis and we
asked from the Prime Minister the need to work on anything, the economic
siege and the closure of crossing points, the need to release Palestinian
prisoners, including Ministers and Parliamentarians and Palestinian leaders,
as well as ending the settlement expansion, the construction of the wall and
Israel's practices and ... in Jerusalem. We also reiterated to him that we
exerted continuous efforts over these past few months in order to establish
a national unity government which unfortunately hit an impasse and reached a
dead end. As we also stated in our speech two days ago, we are calling for
early Presidential and legislative elections for the Palestinian people to
have their say based on a programme that realises the Palestinian best
interest, national interest, and corresponds and is consistent with Arab and
international requirements and leads of course to the ending of the siege
and ending the current crisis, and achieving reciprocal and simultaneous
calm between the two sides, the Israeli and the Palestinian, in both the
West Bank and Gaza strip which will allow the prospect for a comprehensive
political settlement, but by keeping priority though for the formation of a
government of experts, of technocrats, national experts who would realise
such a cause. In view of the serious decline of the Palestinian question on
the international arena and the severe and dangerous internal crisis that we
are living in, I hereby reiterate that political pluralism does not mean
multiplicity of authorities and having several authorities, and the race for
factional armament and aspects of ... and breaking down of law and order and
I am confident that everybody will assume their responsibility to ... the
security and safety for Palestinian citizens and establishing the principle
of one authority, one weapon and one law.

In this context our negotiations with the Prime Minister focused on the need
to intensify the Arab and international efforts in order to achieve a
comprehensive and fair peace agreement based on the two state solution and
ending the occupation that started in 1967 according to international and UN
resolutions and also the Arab peace initiatives.

On another level we are also exerting efforts, continuous efforts, at the
Arab and international level in order to go back to the negotiating table in
order to find a drastic solution to the question of the Middle East and
invest in the realisation by the international community that military force
and the continuation of occupying the Arab and Palestinian lands is
counter-productive and will not yield any results, and that stability and
security in the region could be only achieved when the rights, the
legitimate rights of the Palestinian people are granted and the
implementation of international UN resolutions and the establishment of an
independent and sovereign Palestinian state with its capital Jerusalem, and
finding a solution for the Palestinian refugees question, and the visit of
Prime Minister Blair and his recent statements, and his positions, at all
times come within this context.

Here we also reiterate in front of you that we are ready to meet Mr Olmert
in order to start serious negotiations, direct negotiations that will end
the conflict and put an end to the cycle of violence in the region.

Mr Prime Minister, I would like to thank you again and thank the government
of the United Kingdom for your effective role in assisting the Palestinian
people and alleviating their suffering, and we are confident that you will
exert all efforts, and you have actually exerted efforts, intensified
efforts with all the relevant parties to assist the Arab and international
efforts for the realisation of peace in the Middle East. Again I welcome you
here in Ramallah, I welcome Mr Tony Blair in Ramallah and I thank him for
his visit.

Prime Minister:

Mr President, thank you very much for your kind welcome to me here today and
thank you also for your leadership at this time which is immensely important
for the Palestinian people and for the international community.

We have had a very detailed discussion today and some of those discussions
obviously involve issues that I want to take further with other parties, as
indeed you do as well. But let me try and set in context what we are trying
to do. It is important for us, but I think for the whole of the
international community, to work with people who want a genuine two state
solution - a state of Israel and a state of Palestine living side by side in
peace. We want to work with people of moderation and tolerance who
understand that in today's world people from different faiths and background
should work together, and we want to work with people who shoulder their
responsibilities, who understand the issues that are at stake and are
prepared to make sure that we do everything possible to ease the plight of
people who are suffering and to make progress. And I have no doubt Mr
President that you satisfy all of those criteria. You want the two state
solution, you are a leader of moderation and tolerance and you are showing
and demonstrating how you are prepared to shoulder your responsibilities in
achieving that. And your speech a couple of days ago was I think a landmark
speech, a very important speech, and I believe that the next few weeks I
would say, not merely the next few months but the next few weeks, are going
to be a critical time and it is a critical time for all of us who want to
see progress and we want to see progress because people are indeed
suffering, your people, the Palestinian people are suffering, the security
of the region is affected and you demonstrated by the speech that you gave
that you do not want anything to stand in the way of helping the Palestinian
people to make progress.

Now when I was here I think six months ago you went almost immediately from
the press conference that we had then to try to bring about the national
unity government that you desire to see in accordance with the principles
that have been laid down by yourself and by the international community, the
United Nations and others, to make sure that the basis of that unity
government was secure. What has happened unfortunately in those six months
is that despite your best efforts you have been unable to reach agreement on
that national unity government. Now as you rightly say, if people want to
participate in such a government the way of doing so is clear and open to
them, but nobody should have a veto on progress, nobody should be able to
say to you, or to the Palestinian people, or to the international community
that we are going to stop progress being made towards that two state vision
which is the only solution that will work in order to bring peace between
the people of Israel, the people of Palestine and the wider region.

So I believe what is important following your speech is that the
international community mobilises its efforts to support you in your office
as President, to support the Palestinian people and make sure that we stand
ready now to do everything we can to give you the strength and purpose to be
able to deliver what you wish for your people. And I hope therefore that we
will be in a position over these coming weeks to put together an initiative
that allows us both to give that support, in particular support for
reconstruction and development and to alleviate the suffering and the plight
of the Palestinian people, but also crucially that gives us a political
framework within which we can move forward on that two state solution.

Now I hope and believe that that can be done, but I would like to make one
thing very, very clear from not just my own country's position, but I think
this should be the position of the international community today. You have
given leadership in this situation, you have said you are determined to find
a way forward. If the international community really means what it says
about supporting people who share the vision of a two state solution, who
are moderate, who are prepared to shoulder their responsibilities then now
is the time for the international community to respond to the vision that
you have set out. And I intend to do everything I can over the next period
of time, but in particular because I believe this is so critical and urgent,
over the coming weeks to make sure we can deliver that support both in terms
of helping people who are suffering, but also in terms of the political
framework that can deliver a just and lasting peace. Now that is my
commitment to you and to the Palestinian people today.

And once again Mr President thank you very much for welcoming me here today.
I said when I was here before that I would come back, I have come back again
and I will not rest for a single moment until we have delivered what we both
want to see.


My question is to Mr Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair. Do you have with you any
plan to push the peace process according to your previous commitments and
promises, and do you have any British ideas about a true calm in return for
Israeli withdrawal, as Hamad Yousef the Deputy Prime Minister is saying?

Prime Minister:

Yes we have been obviously discussing the details of the plan to move us
forward, but you should just remember one thing, that we were very
supportive of the President's attempts to form the national unity
government, but the truth of the matter is that we have been unable to do so
because the principles on which such a government could be formed, and those
principles are not just the principles of the President of the Palestinian
Authority but also the international agreed principles, those aren't
accepted by Hamas. And the difficulty therefore is that we can't be in a
situation where the Palestinian people are held back, where progress is held
back by that refusal, and I can assure you that everybody is on that line,
the same line, and any reporting to the contrary is quite mistaken.


Mr President first of all, can you give us your idea of what message you
would like the Prime Minister to take on to the Israelis later on this
afternoon, particularly on the issue of Palestinian prisoners; and secondly,
can you give us your assessment of your situation at the moment, in your
view to be frank how weak are you? And Mr Prime Minister, you have made this
tour of the Middle East in the last few days, you have extolled the virtues
of democracy, particularly in Iraq, how do you respond to the accusation
that here you are picking and choosing your democracies, you like the
democrats you like, you are rejecting those you don't like; and secondly,
can you be more specific about how much money you have put on the table
today and how you respond to the criticism that this is effectively an
attempt to if you like and to be frank, to bribe the Palestinian people into
supporting the President?

Mr Abbas:

The current situation is a very difficult one from a security perspective
and we are always attempting and seeking to avoid these kinds of tensions
and which also happened last night and this morning, because it is in the
best interest of the Palestinian people to have calm, and regardless of the
results of this conflict and tensions it is going to be a big loss for the
Palestinian people. We do not look at who wins or who loses, we look at it
as any bullet that is being shot in any area to target any person is a loss,
we are in a lose-lose situation and this will not be in our best interest
currently or in the future. What we discussed with the Prime Minister, we
discussed about his visit to Mr Olmert, we talked about the British
position. We are confident of the Prime Minister's position in terms of the
peace process. What he also mentioned today, and what he mentioned in the
past, and he is committed to everything he has stated, and this is the image
that he will take with him and the message that he will take with him to the
Israeli Prime Minister. We demanded many things related to the prisoners,
related to the Palestinian money that is being restricted, and also the
alleviation of suffering of Palestinian people, the road blocks that are
imposed, the restrictions, these are things that we want Israel to alleviate
and lift and this is what we discussed with the Prime Minister so that he
can take this message and these demands to Mr Olmert. And I reiterated in my
statement today that I am ready to meet with Mr Olmert at any time because
we need each other, we have a joint cause, we have to deal with each other,
we have to communicate in order to address our problems jointly.

Prime Minister:

First of all we respect any democratic mandate, but the President also has a
democratic mandate, he is the elected President of the Palestinian people.
And it is not that people are refusing to allow Hamas to participate in the
way forward, that way is open to them, they know what has to be done, but
what we are saying is that they cannot have a veto on the process or the
progress that all of us want to see. Because if the real issue is indeed the
suffering of the Palestinian people, the desire for people to achieve
statehood, we have a way forward. And one of the things I want to say to
people in this region is understand the international community is in one
place on this, we all of us want to see the two state solution, we want a
viable independent Palestinian state where Palestinian people can govern
their own affairs, where they can achieve prosperity, where they can achieve
justice. We can't do that however unless it is done with people who accept
the very basis of that two state solution, namely that we have two states.
And therefore the issue is not about excluding anybody, the issue is whether
people exclude themselves.

And as for the financial support, the reason why it is important that we
give support to the Palestinian Authority and to the President in the work
that he is trying to do is precisely because we recognise that over the past
period of time the incomes of Palestinian people have fallen, there have
been much lower levels of economic development, people are suffering as a
result of that. So if the international community means what it says, this
is the moment, when the President has set a way forward, to come behind him
and support him. Now that is really what we are saying. And in the end, the
democratic decisions are obviously for the Palestinian people themselves,
they will make that decision themselves. But what we are saying is our job
has got to be to support the people of moderation who want to find that two
state solution and are prepared to show the leadership to get it.


Mr President, in your speech you kept the door open for establishing a
national unity government. If the calm is established on the street would
there be a dialogue with the Hamas movement about this government? And for
the Prime Minister, Mr Blair, a senior Hamas official has said that they
have contacts between the party and your government. Could you confirm

Mr Abbas:

I stated in my speech, it was very clear, we negotiated about a national
unity government that is able to end the economic siege that will fulfil the
Palestinian, Arab and international requirements, and this is something I
have mentioned everywhere and it is also stated in the national consensus
document that was endorsed by all parties, including Hamas. The new
government should be able to have the support of the Palestinian people, the
Arabs and the region and the international community. These are the
principles that we wanted to form a national unity government accordingly,
the main principle and basic objective of this government is to end the
siege. We were unsuccessful until this moment and therefore I said the other
option was to go back to the people because the basic law stipulates that
the people are the source of all powers, then we have to go back to the
people. But let me assume that we are able today, or tomorrow, or after
tomorrow we are able to establish a national unity government on this basis
I think then we will go for it and we will establish it and at the highest
peak possible.

Prime Minister:

Let me make one thing clear to you, the British government is certainly not
negotiating with Hamas or with any part of Hamas, and what is more I think
the events of the past few days have demonstrated how impossible it would be
to conceive of a situation in which people were able to reach out in
circumstances where Hamas is making it so clear that they cannot agree to
the principles that have been set out. So I think the President has
absolutely correctly described the situation. It is always open for people
to participate provided they participate on the same basis as everybody
else, but if they are not prepared to do so there is no way forward with
them. Because you cannot, as I have constantly said to people, you cannot
have a negotiated solution to this issue, which is what we all want to see,
it is the reason I am back here again, we all want to see it, but you can't
have such a solution unless people accept the basic principles, and those
are the principles laid down not just by the President of the Palestinian
Authority but by the international community, they are United Nations
principles. It is all people are asking for. And really the significance of
what has happened over the past few days is that people are saying look you
know the train should leave the station, it is time to start making progress
on this journey and if people want to get on board, that is their choice,
but they are not going to prevent the rest of us moving forward precisely in
order to help the suffering of people who are suffering, and suffering a
very great deal at the moment, and they are the people who should come


The Prime Minister's Special Envoy, Lord Levy, is sitting on the second row
of this press conference, this is the same question for both of you.
President Abbas, what has Lord Levy done for you? And Prime Minister what
has Lord Levy done for you?
Prime Minister:

I think perhaps I may be able to answer this first. He has performed an
excellent job as my Envoy in very difficult circumstances where we
desperately want to make progress. And the whole reason I am here is because
of the importance I attach to this process and anything and anyone who can
help that is someone who is immensely helpful to me.

Mr Abbas:

We know Lord Levy for a long time and we have met on several occasions, and
he visits us frequently and he always has constructive ideas for us in order
to push the peace process forward, in order to clarify the road ahead
between us and between his government and his Prime Minister who holds him
in high respect and esteem and he is also supportive of Mr Tony Blair. And
therefore we appreciate the efforts of Lord Levy in this context as a
special envoy of Prime Minister Tony Blair and as a friend to us.


President Abbas, are you still going to go ahead with the elections despite
the violence and the fighting in Gaza, and if elections take place are you
going to run for President again?

Mr Abbas:
When we decided yesterday through the organisation, official institutions,
which is the central executive committee of the PLO which is also
responsible for the PMA, as well as internally when we discussed with my
brothers in the central executive committee of Fatah movement the decision
was very clear and we are going to early elections, legislative and
presidential. There is nothing from our point of view that prohibits that,
we are democratic people, we believe in democracy. And if this is our case,
why then can't we go back to the people to have their say? The will of the
people, the people elected me on 9 January 2005 and elected Hamas on 25
January 2006, we want to experience and test the decisions of the people, do
they still have confidence in those people who they elected? It is their say
now, we are in a problem, we find ourselves in an impasse and this impasse
has lasted for more than 9 months and the people cannot wait any longer, the
people are suffering, the people are suffering from the economic situation,
the social, the financial, the security situation. As the person who is
responsible, what is my duty? My duty is to look for solutions to alleviate
the plight of the people and I am determined, as I stated in my speech, and
please go to my speech, and I am determined to conduct the elections.


A question first of Mr Blair. Israeli newspapers this morning quote Israeli
sources saying that they attach no special significance to your visit, and
also that you only go on these kind of trips when you are weak at home. They
are right, aren't they? And the second question for President Abbas. You are
already being labelled by Hamas as the candidate for Israel and the United
States. Is high profile support from Mr Blair actually going to lose you
support among the Palestinians?

Prime Minister:

First of all I think that my interest in the Palestinian issue is hardly
new. I think over the past few years I have made it clear why I think it is
so important and I don't think this is actually something to do with how
domestic politics interacts with international politics, I think it is all
to do with whether we can find the right plan that fits the bits together,
that is the really crucial thing. What we need to do now is to concentrate
on the fact that the President, after many many months of trying, has said
well there are obstructions in the way to making progress, I am nonetheless
going to find a way round those obstructions and ensure that progress is
made. And really I think it is as simple as that. And I think you probably
also you know misjudge where people are in this region. The most important
thing is that people want the progress to be made, and they realise there
isn't going to be progress unless the whole of the international community
comes behind such progress, and that includes Britain and European
countries, it includes America, it includes the Arab countries as well. And
as I shall say in the last part of my visit out to this region, I think
there are very clear strategic choices opening up in this region today for
everybody and it is important we make the right choices.

Mr Abbas:

When I went to the Presidential elections on 9 January 2005 there were
several other candidates for Presidency, there were 6 other candidates,
there were 4,000 international and Arab observers. I haven't heard from one
single observer that he saw an Israeli or American voting and casting their
ballots in the ballot boxes, I don't think that 62.5% of the Palestinian
people represent the Israeli will or the American will the vote of the
Palestinian people represents the will of the Palestinian people and the
decision of the Palestinian people, I was elected by the will of the
Palestinian people and I am here by the will of the Palestinian people.
Other than that, the accusations that I will go back alone.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel - With friends like Novak, does the "Tel Aviv" government need enemies ??

To judge from Robert Novak's Washington Post column, The Israel Quandary, a new US peace initiative in the Middle East is just around the corner, it is, according to Novak, a prospect abhorrent to the Israel government, and it is being advocated by friends of Israel and by supposedly pro-Israel Republicans, including George Bush.
Those American supporters of Israel who thought that there was ever or would be or could be an alliance between Republicanism and Zionism that went beyond temporary convenience, might have to think again.
Writes Novak:
Meeting privately with the Baker-Hamilton commission before its report on Iraq was released, George W. Bush did not seem pleased. So when a Republican member said he believed it was imperative to get moving on the stalled Israel-Palestine peace process, a negative response from the president was expected. Instead, he replied: "I do, too."
The intense criticism of the Baker-Hamilton group from neoconservatives stems from that linkage, clearly set out in the report. Commission members feel the urgency of progress on the Israeli front more deeply than is reflected in the formal language. They are not Israel-bashers. One commission member with a long record of support for Israel feels the country's very existence is at stake. He reported to me warnings from experts friendly to Israel that staying on the present track will threaten the Jewish state within 40 years.
The day after the Baker-Hamilton report was issued, Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel delivered a more robust version of the commission's position in a speech to the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. What makes Hagel unique is his fearlessness in enunciating views other American politicians of both parties keep to themselves.

"In the Middle East, the core of instability and conflict is the underlying Arab-Israeli problem," said Hagel. "Until the United States helps lead a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process, there will be no prospect for broader Middle East peace and stability." He went further by warning of a "Judeo-Christian/Muslim split" that "would inflame the world."
Chuck Hagel, like Mr. Novak, apparently never heard of the Hamas, who refuse to make peace with Israel. OK, let's say we want to make peace. With whom can we make peace? Chuck Hagel, like Mr. Novak, didn't hear about Ehud Olmert's speech last month, in which he called for a new round of peace negotiations. Mr. Novak wrote:
Nothing in the report raised hackles in Tel Aviv more than these words: "The United States will not be able to achieve its goals in the Middle East unless the United States deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict.
If Novak doesn't even know that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, what sort of commentary can he make? Seriously, if he doesn't understand that writing about the "Tel Aviv government" went out of style with the USSR collapsed, except in places like Syria, then Mr. Novak should not masquerade as a friend of Israel.
But Novak didn't read the ISG report either it seems. He tells us:
The Baker-Hamilton report and Hagel's speech each reiterated the truth that there is no chance whatsoever for essential Israeli-Palestinian peace without American brokerage.
The Baker-Hamilton report did not say that, though it might be true. What is certain is that there is no chance whatsoever that the US can play a useful role in facilitating Arab-Israeli peace if the US fails in Iraq and loses its status as a power in the Middle East.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert optimistic on Abbas meeting

Olmert optimistic on Abbas meeting
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said on Monday that he hopes to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, soon and plans to set up an Israeli-Palestinian committee to negotiate the details of a prisoner swap.

Olmert spoke at a news conference with Tony Blair, the UK prime minister, who is visiting Israel as part of a Middle East tour.

The issue of prisoners has been a key sticking point in efforts to arrange a meeting between Olmert and Abbas.

The Palestinian leader wants Israel to release hundreds of prisoners. Olmert has said there can be no progress until Palestinian fighters release an Israeli soldier captured last June.

No Barghouti deal

Olmert said a new committee will be formed "in the coming days" to try to reach a deal on a prisoner release and said his aides meet with Abbas' representatives "often" to discuss a "wide range of subjects".
He said he hoped a summit would take place "very soon" but offered no concrete sign of movement on the long-awaited meeting.

Earlier on Monday, Abbas also said he was eagerly awaiting a meeting with the Israeli prime minister.

Olmert was asked whether Israel would be prepared to release Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader serving five life sentences in an Israeli prison, in order to help strengthen the embattled Abbas.

He said Barghouti's release "was not on the agenda" at present and also ruled out holding any discussions with Syria.

Palestinian funds

Olmert also said Israel would be prepared to release some of the hundreds of millions of dollars it holds in seized Palestinian tax money for humanitarian purposes.

However, he ruled out a wider transfer of funds, fearing the money would make its way to Palestinian fighters.

Israel halted the monthly transfers after the Hamas was elected to power last January.

Israel considers Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, a terrorist group.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorials from the Hebrew Press 18-Dec-2006

(Government Press Office)

Haaretz -
Yediot Aharonot -
Globes -
Hazofeh -
Jerusalem Post -

Haaretz comments: "Once again, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert turned down the offers yesterday of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his foreign minister, Walid Mualem, to renew the peace talks between the two countries. The relative softening heard in the Syrian stance, with its willingness to embark on negotiations without preconditions, did not affect Olmert's position. Nor did the timing of the call from Damascus, which was directed at the Western media, just when Iran was holding a conference on denial of the Holocaust. Assad was signaling that he does not share the call of his ally, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the destruction of Israel... Sticking with a policy of refusal will not benefit Israel in any way. Israel will not receive greater international support with respect to the Iranian threat to destroy it, and will not be able to rely on the world's support if war breaks out with Syria. Such a war will be viewed as a war of choice over the annexation of the Golan Heights, a war that could have been avoided. It is therefore important to exhaust the diplomatic efforts with Syria instead of waiting for an outbreak of war."

The Jerusalem Post writes: "Our prime minister, it need hardly be stressed, should and would respond with alacrity were Syria's president to publicly signal a dramatic shift in mindset and declare a readiness to meet with him, in Jerusalem or Damascus. But what if what Syria really wants is to talk to Israel, at a lower and nonbinding level, while continuing to host Hamas and other terrorists dedicated to our destruction, and to funnel weapons to Hizbullah, which has the same goal? What if Syria has no intention of ending its attacks, let alone making a full peace, but is simply seeking to stave off UN sanctions in the wake of its assassination campaign against anti-Syrian Lebanese leaders, including Rafik Hariri and Pierre Gemayel? ...Our answer should be what it has been to the Palestinians: We do not negotiate under fire. If you want peace, stop making war... We should, indeed, be very careful not to miss an opportunity to negotiate peace. But if Assad is not willing to stop instigating terrorism against us even for a moment, what reason do we have to believe that he really is offering peace? What is the "opportunity" that we are missing? There is no point in coming to a 'peace' table when the other side arrives with his sword drawn.

We should, indeed, be very careful not to miss an opportunity to negotiate peace. But if Assad is not willing to stop instigating terrorism against us even for a moment, what reason do we have to believe that he really is offering peace? What is the "opportunity" that we are missing? There is no point in coming to a "peace" table when the other side arrives with his sword drawn.

Yediot Aharonot wonders what the government has to lose by agreeing to talks and testing Syrian intentions and suggests that while Prime Minister Olmert "presents himself as Ben-Gurion, he is following in the footsteps of Shamir, who preferred to maintain the status quo at any price." The editors venture that, in rebuffing Damascus's overtures, Olmert is currying favor with US President George Bush instead of promoting Israel's interests.

Hatzofeh also accuses Prime Minister Olmert of unduly deferring to US President Bush and suggests that this "weakens the State of Israel's position, erodes its security status, and turns into a party that is dragged along in the international arena."

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, calls for greater professionalism in the IDF and says that, "The chief of General Staff must go home and the IDF needs urgent reforms in all its ranks."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran and the Obstructing Third

Iran and the Obstructing Third
Ghassan Charbel     Al-Hayat     - 13/12/06//

The Lebanese opposition adheres to its demand of obtaining the obstructing third of the cabinet, which it calls the "securing third'. Grabbing one third of the cabinet is tantamount to hold the power to prevent the government from convening, if it wanted. It would also entail the impossibility of taking any decision on any important matter without its consent. Under the Constitution, the government is considered illegitimate if one third of its members resign, which means that the one-third opposition is capable of thwarting the government once it finds it is in its interest.
Let us put Lebanon aside. What impedes solving some of the current regional crises is that Iran holds the obstructing third, namely, the demand that the US recognize its right to obtain this third. Some simple questions are sufficient to clarify this issue: can security and stability be achieved in Iraq without the approval of Iran? Can a government be installed in Mesopotamia without giving Tehran the obstructing third, if it is satisfied with such a quota? Can a US withdrawal from Iraq be arranged under reasonable or semi-reasonable conditions without the help of Iran, which has already offered assistance if Washington decides to withdraw? No Arab will ever rejoice either at seeing Iran holding such a large number of trump cards in the Iraqi scene or at Iraq becoming an arena like Lebanon.
Let us put Iraq aside. Can we see a Palestinian national unity government being formed without the approval of Iran? Can we settle a deal to release the Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, without addressing the Iranian obstructing third? Is it possible to arrange a sustained ceasefire against Iran's calculations, which can be characterized by ostensible flexibility or excessive intransigence, depending on the ongoing bickering and negotiation in the region? Embattled Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should wait for the return of the envoy from Damascus and Tehran whenever he requests anything from his prime minister.
Whoever looks forward to possessing the obstructing third in the region should have a very important trump card in the conflict with Israel. A few days ago, Imam Khomeini made 'Jerusalem Day' an Iranian tradition. The relationship with Hezbollah allowed Iran to have a permanent presence on the borders of occupied Palestine. Launching Iranian-made missiles on northern Israel last summer came within the context of asserting the ability to use the power of this one third to threaten the security of Israel. Through the Iraqi file, southern Lebanon, the alliance with Syria and the camps of Gaza, Iran reminds the US of its ability to act as an obstacle, having proved its ability to cooperate in Afghanistan.
Through the attitudes, statements and practices, as well as uranium enrichment, Iran is trying to stage itself as the only power in the region by employing what it believes is its ability to hold the obstructing third in the security of oil, the region and Israel.
This means that it presents itself as a rival, or a partner, to the US presence in the region. Some believe that Iran goes beyond this dream by betting on filling a relatively larger part of the vacuum left by the Soviet Union in the region after its collapse and disintegration.
Iran's attempt to seize the obstructing third in the countries, files and the entire region is not a simple issue, as it affects other countries' security, interests and sensitivities, and disrupt the balance of the structure of the region.
It would not be to the Arabs' advantage to show enmity toward Iran, or to pay the price of either a confrontation or agreement between Tehran and Washington. The battle of the Iranian obstructing third is still in its early stages. Following up on its developments helps one understand the open hotbeds of tension in the region.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mossad chief: Iran will have nuclear bomb by 2009-2010

Last update - 20:33 18/12/2006   
 Mossad chief: Iran will have nuclear bomb by 2009-2010 
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and the Associated Press 

The head of the Mossad espionage agency, Meir Dagan, on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons by 2009 or 2010.

He said that Iran in June began serious efforts to enrich uranium, and aspires in 2007 to acquire another 3,000 centrifuges, which will be located in bunkers.

Dagan also told MKs that there was no need to take seriously any Syrian overtures regarding peace talks.
"Every time [Syrian President Bashar] Assad comes under international pressure, he comes up with some speech about his readiness to hold peace negotiations with us."

Dagan said Syria is not prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel despite declarations by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem.

"I don't truly see Syria offering to renew negotiations with Israel," he said. "They have their public comments, but have made no attempt to ask the United Sates and Europe to try to advance the political process."

Iran envoy: Return of Golan to Syria is our goal too

The Iranian ambassador to Damscus Hassan Akhtari said in an interview published on Monday that "returning the Golan Heights [to Syrian hands] is also an Iranian objective."

Speaking to the London-based Al Hayat Arab language newspaper, Akhtari said "the issue of Syrian participation in a peaceful retrieval of the Golan Heights has been on the agenda since the days of the late Syrian President Hafez Assad. Returning the Golan is not an exclusive Syrian objective, it is also an Iranian goal," he said.

Akhtari's comments are uncommon in their explicitness, as Tehran is usually careful in making statements about Israel-Syria negotiations. Those urging Israel to renew its dialogue with Syria contend that talks with Damascus may weaken its strategic pact with Tehran.

In this context Akhtari's interview can be seen as an attempt to restrain Syria from making overtures to Israel.

The Iranian envoy said that relations between Damascus and Tehran were "excellent and strategic," although he stressed the two nations had not entered an official a pact.

"I cannot say we are at a disagreement. We can say that our views on the international, regional and bilateral levels correspond, even if not with a 100 percent match," Akhtari said.

He added that Iran is not concerned about Syria's intention to improve its ties with Europe, because Tehran is confident that its relations with Syria would not suffer as a result.

According to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to reject the Syrian calls to resume with talks is based on Israeli intelligence reports claiming that Syria would not severe its ties with Iran and Hezbollah, even if Israel gives back the Golan Heights.

Ambassador Akhtari also blamed the Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora of receiving support from Israel.

"The Lebanese must come up themselves with a formula that would please all sides [to end their factional crisis]? external involvement goes against the Lebanese interest, including the government's interest. Siniora's government would not grow stronger as a result of Israeli support," he said.

Siniora calls on Assad to meet
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that his government was eager to improve strained relations with Syria but warned Damascus against meddling in Lebanon's domestic politics, according to an interview published Monday.

Siniora, speaking to the daily Vremya Novostei, said that he told Russian officials during his trip to Moscow last week that Russia could help normalize the situation in Lebanon by using its contacts with Iran and Syria.

Siniora said that he had proposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad to hold talks, but insisted that the agenda for the meeting must be set in advance.

"Lebanon will not be directed by anyone against Syria, but it will never again be governed by Syria," he was quoted as saying.

Assad was expected to arrive in Moscow Monday for a two-day visit.

Siniora told Vremya Novostei that Lebanon would be grateful to Russia if it helps mediate relations between Syria and Lebanon.

"Russia could help Lebanon stop serving as an arena for somebody else's battles and become a normal, successful country," Siniora was quoted by Vremya Novostei as saying.

The Syrian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group and its allies have been holding protests and an open-ended sit-in against Siniora's U.S. backed government in an attempt to force it to resign. The group is demanding a national unity government in which it would have wider representation with effective veto powers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas insists will hold elections, truce threatened

Abbas insists will hold elections, truce threatened
Mon Dec 18, 2006 10:01 AM ET

By Wafa Amr and Katherine Baldwin

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Monday he would press on with early elections as a truce between his security forces and the Hamas government threatened to unravel in the Gaza Strip.

Interior Ministry police briefly exchanged fire with Abbas's presidential guard near the Foreign Ministry.

Tension also rose in northern Gaza when gunbattles erupted after two gunmen, one from Hamas and the other from Abbas's Fatah, were abducted. The two sides blamed each other.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking after meeting Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, said the international community should try to put together in the coming weeks a package of assistance to help the moderate leader.

Internal fighting, already at its worst level in years, escalated after Abbas called on Saturday for fresh elections, a move intended to break a political deadlock with the Hamas Islamists and get Western sanctions on their government lifted.

A truce deal was struck late on Sunday but already looks like it could collapse.

"As I told you in my speech, I am determined to go back to the people," Abbas said in a joint news conference with Blair.

"We have been in a crisis for nine months. People cannot wait for long. People are suffering from the economic social and security situation."

Abbas insisted his Fatah movement was still open to the formation of a unity government of technocrats, saying in prepared remarks that this was the "best way forward".

The West has sought to bolster Abbas, who favors a two-state solution to end conflict with Israel.

The Hamas Islamists seek the Jewish state's destruction and have struggled to govern since taking office in March under the weight of Western sanctions that were imposed because of their refusal to recognize Israel and renounce violence.


Blair said the package of assistance, to go through Abbas's office, would include reconstruction and development aid. He did not give details.

"If the international community really means what it says about supporting people who share the vision of a two-state solution ... then now is the time for the international community to respond," Blair said.

"I believe this is so critical and urgent over the coming weeks."

Blair, on a drive to revive Middle East peace negotiations, will hold talks later with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum accused Blair of "inflaming the political situation" by overtly supporting Abbas.

Hamas, which surprised the once dominant Fatah to win elections in January, has said it would boycott new polls.

"Such a move would cast doubt on the entire legality of the Palestinian governmental system," the movement's supreme leader Khaled Meshaal, who lives in exile in Damascus, told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview.

"If civil war were really to erupt, it would not be our fault. Hamas will do all it can to avoid it."

Officials from Hamas and Fatah were expected to meet on Monday night to try to cement the Gaza ceasefire.

Abbas and senior Hamas leaders all called for calm. But their appeals appeared to be falling on deaf ears.

In other violence, Palestinian medics and security sources said a school student had been wounded in a brief gunfight between members of Hamas and Fatah, while unknown gunmen earlier abducted a Fatah loyalist in Gaza City.

Hamas and Fatah tried for months to form a unity government to end their power struggle, but the talks foundered, partly over Hamas's insistence on not recognizing Israel.

However, Abbas's election call could rebound on Fatah as the faction has done little to improve its standing and unite after being trounced by Hamas in January, analysts and officials said.

Despite a drop in Hamas's popularity in recent polls amid an economic crisis and worsening law and order, Fatah risked losing the presidency and parliament to Hamas -- assuming the movement took part -- without serious reforms, the sources said.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Mohammed Assadi in Jerusalem and Stephen Brown in Rome)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mossad: Syria arming Hizbullah rapidly

Mossad: Syria arming Hizbullah rapidly
Ilan Marciano YNET Published: 12.18.06, 13:05,7340,L-3341518,00.html

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense
Committee that Syria is arming Hizbullah at a rapid pace and is working to
overthrow the Lebanese government and destabilize the American presence in the

As to the Iranian nuclear crisis, Dagan said Tehran is having technical
difficulties in developing its nuclear program, adding that the international
community is not applying pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rewriting history - The British In Palestine

Rewriting History - The British in Palestine
Few people understand the important role of the Zionist movement in helping Britain to conquer Palestine in 1917. As Eliyahu mi Tziyon  points out, conventional documentary histories entirely omit the role of the Jewish Legion in the battle for Palestine. They also tend to leave out the role of the Nili, the underground group established by biologist and natural historian  Aaron Aaronsohn. Nili had been feeding information to the British during the war, until most of its members were caught and rounded up by the Turks. Aaronsohn's sister Sarah was arrested by the Turks and committed suicide rather than disclose the names of others in the group under torture. Aaron Aaronsohn escaped to Cairo. Knowing the Negev well, he was able to provide the British information about water sources in the Negev, that allowed Allenby to break out of the heavy Turkish defenses that had brought him to a standstill in Gaza, and make his way to Beersheba, acheiving complete surprise. This "miracle" victory is variously ignored or attributed to the mythical Indiana Jones.
You won't see this on the history channel of course. For more about that, see here 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

NEC Poll: 68% Palestinians support Abu Mazen's call for elections 60% believe Hamas should participate in elections (16% of Hamas supporters favor participating)

Palestinian perceptions on issues related to Abu
Mazen's Presidential speech and the call for early
Presidential and Legislative elections

While 60% of Palestinians believe that Hamas should participate in the early
Presidential and Legislative elections only 16% of Hamas supporters share
this view.

17 December 2006

I. Introduction

On 16-17 December, 2006, Near East Consulting (NEC) conducted a phone survey
of  over 1176 randomly selected Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza
Strip, and  Jerusalem of which 643 were successfully completed.

The survey was started within hours of Abu Mazen's Presidential speech in
which he  called for early Presidential and Legislative elections. The NEC
team decided to  conduct a short survey immediately in order to gauge
Palestinian reactions to this  speech, but also to set a base for future
reference. NEC intends to monitor public  opinion regularly and
systematically during the period running up to the called for early
Presidential and Legislative elections.  It is worth noting that the margin
of error is +/- 3.8% with a 95% confidence level.

II. Main findings

Opinions about President Abu Mazen's speech:

Overall, 22% did not hear or see Abu Mazen's speech and were, as such,
unable to  comment. For the remainder, 40% said that Abu Mazen's speech was
good, 18%  considered to be average, while 19% thought that the presidential
speech was bad.

The Presidential speech was clearly more watched or listed to in the Gaza
Strip than in  the West Bank as only 9% in the Gaza Strip did not hear or
see the speech, while 29%  in the West Bank did not hear or see it. In
addition, a far larger percentage of Gazans  (57%) than Westbankers (31%)
described the speech as good.

A majority of 68% welcomes and supports the call by Abu Mazen for
Presidential and  Legislative elections, while 32% opposes it. The results
reveal that support for the call  for early Presidential and Legislative
elections is stronger in the West Bank (71%) than  in the Gaza Strip (62%).
However, support for this call for early Presidential and  Legislative
elections is very balanced according to factional trust. More specifically,
69% of Fateh supporters, 67% of Hamas supporters, and 69% of those who do
not trust any  faction support the call for early Presidential and
Legislative elections.

A majority of 60% of Palestinians believe that Hamas should participate in
the early  Presidential and Legislative elections. This view is shared in
varying degrees by  Palestinians in the West Bank (57%) and people in the
Gaza Strip (67%). In addition,  according to factional trust, 91% of Fateh
supporters and 57% of those who do not trust  any faction believe that Hamas
should take part in the early Presidential and Legislative  elections, while
a mere 16% of Hamas supporters share this view.

The majority of Palestinians seem optimistic that Abu Mazen's call for early
elections will  help to solve the internal crisis. As overviewed below, 63%
believe that the call for early  elections will bring a solution to the
internal crisis, while 37% feel that it might contribute  to an
intensification of the crisis.

The perception that the call for early elections might lead to a solution of
the internal  crisis is more pronounced in the Gaza Strip (69%) than in the
West Bank (60%), and is  also more the view among Fateh supporters (76%) and
those who do trust any faction  (64%) than among Hamas supporters (37%).

Even Palestinians themselves are not clear anymore of which institution
represents  them. The results show that a slight majority of Palestinians
believe that the PA  represents them (54%). This view is much more
widespread among Hamas supporters  (88%) and those who do not trust any
faction (64%) than among Fateh supporters  (26%). According to region, a
higher percentage of Gazans (51%) than Westbankers  (44%) think that the PLO
represents the Palestinian people.

Only in a recent NEC survey that was conducted in the period between 7 to 10
December 2006, the results showed that President Abbas had lost significant
popular  support (49%) in favour of his Prime Minister Ismael Hanieh (51%).
Now, in the  aftermath of President Abbas's speech, trust in the President
has again sharply  increased.  60% most trust Abu Mazen, while 40% most
trust Ismael Hanieh.

As can be expected, especially Fateh supporters most trust Abu Mazen (96%),
while  Hamas supporters are more inclined to most trust Ismael Hanieh (96%).
According to  region, 57% of Westbankers most trust Abu Mazen and 43% of
them most trust Ismael  Hanieh. As for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, 65%
most trust Abu Mazen, while 35%  most trust Ismael Hanieh.  As for factional
trust, in NEC's most recent survey (7-10 December 2006), 32% of
Palestinians most trusted Fateh, 27% most trusted Hamas, while 35% did not
trust any  faction.

 Since Abu Mazen's speech, however, it seems that quite a portion of
Palestinians who  did not trust any faction, decided to put their trust back
into Fateh. Today, 44% most trust Fateh, 26% most trust Hamas, while a
sharply decreased 24% of Palestinians do not trust any faction. For the
first time since August 2006, the  Palestinians who do not trust any faction
are no longer the largest segment of society.

Perhaps against common perception, a higher percentage of Palestinians in
the Gaza  Strip most trust Fateh (47%) than Hamas (25%). Whereas in NEC
recent survey of 7-10  December 2006 factional support in the West Bank was
quite evenly divided with 27%  most trusting Fateh, 25% most trusting Hamas,
and 40% not trusting any faction, today  45% of Westbankers support Fateh,
25% support Hamas, and 23% do not trust any  faction.

NEC's Bulletins and the surveys associated with it are independent and
are not supported or funded by any local or international organization.
They are funded entirely from the private resources of the company.

Please contact:
Jamil Rabah
Near East Consulting
HSBC Building, 3rd floor
Tel: 02-2961436
Fax: 02-2963114

Continued (Permanent Link)

Women in terrorism: a Palestinian feminist revolution or gender oppression?

December 9, 2006

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S)

Women in terrorism: a Palestinian feminist revolution or gender oppression? 1
Dr. Anat Berko 2 and Prof. Edna Erez 3

 Theoretical approach and background information

The place of women in terrorism and the extensive media coverage received by attacks involving women 4 have been on the agenda of discussions of global terrorism. Throughout history, women have participated in national struggles for independence, in wars and more recently, in terrorist attacks .

Since September 2000, when the insurrection the Palestinians call the "Al-Aqsa intifada " broke out, women have played an increasingly active role in various aspects of Palestinian terrorism. The reasons usually given for the inclusion of women in terrorist activities are that they can pass
unsuspected and undetected, and they attract a great deal of media attention. The use of women and children in carrying out terrorist attacks is effective and the media impact is great, as could be seen when a female suicide bomber did not detonate her device during the mass attacks in Jordan in November 2005. Using women also demonstrates the depth and importance of the conflict, and the strength of the terrorist organizations. There is also the prevalent opinion that the presence of women in the battle arena or in military operations spurs men on to greater action and expression of their manhood (Yizraeli, 1999; Bloom, 2005).

Recently the claim has been made that the increase of the number of women in terrorist activities demonstrates the advancement of women in a given society. It is similar to previous theories which tried to explain the increase in the number of women criminals as being an index of women's liberation and a narrowing of the gap between men and women, including changes in the traditional division of labor between the sexes (Adler, 1975; Simon, 1975). Today as well, the claim is made that the growing participation of women in terrorism in general, and in suicide bombing attacks in particular, is a sign of women's liberation and the attempt to attain a status equal to that of men (Bloom, 2005).

Attention was recently drawn to the rights and status of Arab women in
Palestinian society by the strengthening of nationalism and the call to
women to take part in the struggle for liberation from the occupation.
Palestinian women were invited to participate actively in the public arena
in a variety of roles which were defined as nationalist, "as mothers,
educators, workers and even fighters." ( Kandiyoti, 1996), and to join "the
army of roses which will destroy the Israeli tanks," in the words of Yasser
Arafat (Victor, 2003). At the same time, the nationalist movements,
including the Palestinian national movement, have a tendency to determine
and preserve the boundaries for the behavior and social activities of women
in accordance with cultural and religious codes which bind women firmly to
traditional roles. Such movements exert pressure on women to express gender
interests within boundaries fixed by the conservative national and religious

Thus on the one hand, the Palestinian national struggle encourages women to
express their objections to the occupation and political oppression (even
Hamas, which won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January
2006, announced that it reserved 20% of its seats for women), but on the
other, Palestinian society continues to stress the importance of the place
of women in the family and the need to preserve the traditional social
construct of femininity. The result is that women have been called upon to
fight the forces of occupation, but at the same time are required to accept
and obey patriarchal hegemony, a situation of conflicts (Rubenberg, 2001).

The aim of this study was to examine claims of "the Palestinian feminist
revolution" as expressed by the inclusion of women in terrorism. It is our
contention, as this study shows, that the said inclusion is another type of
oppression and a cynical exploitation of women who become victims and tools
of male Palestinian society. The results of our research raise many
questions related to the validity of the claim that the involvement of women
in terrorism is an index of their liberation, and our findings reinforce the
claim that including women in terrorism is another aspect of the systematic
gender oppression suffered by Palestinian women.

Women, gender and terrorism in Palestinian society

Palestinian community and culture, as in other Arab societies, are based on
the principles of collectivity, tribalism and social homogeneity.
Palestinian society is not individualistic, and the good of the individual,
his welfare and security are assured by the group to which he belongs.
Social order in Palestinian society, as in other collective societies, is
hierarchical and fixed. The individual is required to obey the orders of
whoever is above him on the social ladder, and his place is determined by
the age and gender group to which he belongs. Most collective groups are
patriarchal, that is, men are higher in the social hierarchy than women and
children, who are at the bottom of the ladder. Young women must obey not
only older women and men, but younger men as well (Sharabi, 1975; MEMRI,
2005). Disobeying male authority is a blatant violation of the behavior code
and demands punishment (Keidar, 2006).

The family is considered the central unit of economic, social and religious
life, and is the individual's source of support in every area. Unity and
mutual support are very important in Arab culture. Relatives receive from
the family the help and services a modern country provides and is expected
to provide for its citizens, such as mutual aid in raising children,
protection, financial aid, employment, etc. Relatives are expected to be
committed to protecting the family, its unity and good name. That demands
that the good of the family be put before the good of the individual, his
needs, aspirations, welfare and future (Barakat, 1985).

Collective orientation stresses individual sacrifice for the general good.
For a woman, it means putting the good of the family before her own,
expressing unreserved loyalty and making sacrifices for the family of her
father, for her husband (and his family as well) and her children. The
obligation to preserve family honor is enormous in Arab society, especially
in matters related to the woman's sexual behavior. If a woman's behavior is
immodest she disgraces all her blood relations. Restrictions placed on women
also include isolation from the public eye and the narrowing of her life and
activity to home and family.

The moral limits of Arab society stress the traditional models of
motherhood, femininity and functioning in married life. A woman's identity
and worth are measured by her obedience, seclusion, modesty and
childbearing, preferably sons (Rubenberg, 2001; Hassan, 1999). When a woman
or girl is discovered to have behaved in an unseemly fashion, the family is
considered to have failed in educating and supervising her, casting a doubt
on the ability of the males of the family to exercise control and demanding
they take action to rehabilitate their injured male power.

The socio-cultural background helps explain how women are recruited for
terrorist activities, their action and the ensuing results. Joining the
cycle of terrorism demands that women leave their homes and the supervision
of their fathers (or elder brothers) and associate with men. Leaving the
house for a "military action" (which is how terrorist activities were
described by those taking part in the study) involves a web of lies and
excuses enabling the woman to avoid arousing suspicion. Thus, from the time
a woman is recruited through her training and ending with the terrorist
attack itself, she hides behind lies and excuses which cut off any return
home as far as her parents are concerned, particularly her father, even to
ask for help. Such a situation makes her especially vulnerable and exposes
her to exploitation by terrorist operatives.

This study will show that a Palestinian woman participating in terrorist
activity is not a liberated woman. She is one upon whom social, religious
and cultural systems of gender oppression are active and whose inferior
position in the social hierarchy is preserved in a no-win situation.


For the purposes of this study 13 security prisoners aged 16-26 were
interviewed at least twice each over a period of two years. All but one were
single. Ten of them were residents of the Palestinian Authority-administered
territories and three were Israeli Arabs. All participated willingly. The
interviews were conducted in Arabic, Hebrew or English or a combination of
the three, depending on which language the interviewees felt comfortable
with and the degree of their language ability. They were asked about their
lives, childhood, dreams and hopes for the future. As we spoke they opened
their hearts and the interviews turned into simple discussions between
women, especially after it became clear that the questions were neither
threatening nor related to matters of security. In addition, various
officials were interviewed, both male and female, chiefly individuals
belonging to the Palestinian religious, welfare and educational systems.

The data were processed by qualitative analysis (Glaser, 1992). According to
his system, the texts of all the interviews were read and common and unique
topics were identified. Identifying common themes enables the researcher to
categorize concepts and then rank them according to the frequency of their
appearance. That enables the researcher to produce interim findings, in
which case every instance which contradicts the finding leads to a newer and
more applicable wording of the finding. When new concept categories can no
longer be found and the findings do not demand changes, the assumption is
that the data have been fully exhausted.

The findings

The role of women in terrorism

In the world of terrorism, as in the society of which it is a part, women
usually play a subordinate role. However, while some of them do become
suicide bombers or knife-wielding attackers, most of them merely serve the
male terrorists in supporting roles. They provide information (including
information taken from the Internet), choose well-populated targets to
effect the greatest number of victims, conduct observations, accompany males
to the site of an attack to detract suspicion, smuggle and hide weapons,
provide hiding places for other women, provide temptation, attach explosive
belts to the bodies of female suicide bombers, etc.

Usually the women are not career terrorists with long histories of terrorist
activities and organization membership, and they are not mobile within the
organization. As opposed to men, for a woman involved in Palestinian
terrorism, membership in an organization is not significant. She usually
does not have a history of broad organizational activity, but rather her
affiliation begins close to the attack itself, either shortly before or
shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the terrorist organizations are interested
in recruiting women to be able to increase the number of casualties they can
claim. The concept prevalent in Palestinian society is that the more
casualties a terrorist organization causes to Israel , the more glorious its
reputation and stronger its influence.

The paths leading women to terrorism

The motives for Palestinian women to turn to terrorism, as revealed by the
findings of this study, are divided between the desire to revenge the death
of a relative or beloved or fiancי and the attempt to solve a personal
problem. In the background are religion, culture, society and the national
issue. Examples of personal, family or social problems are pre- or
extra-marital romantic relationships, forced marriages, financial
exploitation (for example, excessive use of a cellular phone borrowed from a
woman by a terrorist-operative), the desire to remove suspicion from the
woman or a member of her family of collaborating with the enemy, and revenge
against a father who refused to pay a dowry, thus preventing his 25 year-old
"old maid" daughter from getting married. In addition, the women interviewed
expressed the desire for the excitement that comes from forbidden secret
meetings with boys, either for training or to accompany them on attacks, and
the chance to wear daring clothing on the way to the attack.

There are women who were drawn into terrorism through Internet chat groups
with men from the Arab world. Their communications began innocently as
male-female exchanges, and the men used romantic manipulation to recruit the
women to terrorist activities. Thus, for example, after online
communications lasting from 12 to 20 hours a day with terrorist-operatives,
women were recruited for suicide bombing attacks or to help wanted
terrorists. Among the women interviewed, only one actively took the
initiative (although supported by men), and planned and carried out a

According to the data, most of the women involved in terrorism are employed
in subordinate functions of camouflage and support. The findings also show
that in terrorist attacks carried out by women or with the help of women,
there is almost always another woman in the picture who provides a perfect
moral-social cover of visible respectability for the action. The actual
planner and string-puller is usually a man who sometimes finds a
subcontractor to enlist, recruit and support an attack when women are
involved in its operational aspects. For example, a female university
student was asked to provide a hiding place in the dorms for a woman who was
supposed to carry out a suicide bombing attack; another woman was asked to
sit in the car that took a potential female terrorist to training sessions.
Sometimes women escort suicide bombers to the site of the attack, and
sometimes they bring children with them, so that the suicide bomber will not
be seen alone with a strange man in a car, or to allay suspicions.

Profit and loss for women involved in terrorism

Among the women who take part in terrorist activities are those who are
interested in solving personal or family problems or in enjoying the
financial and social rewards which are the consequence of recognition as
fighting against the Israeli occupation. There are those who regard the path
of terrorism as a way of erasing their past or a direct route to realizing
their expectations, including, among other things, the promise of reaching

Paradise , they believe, will enable them to divest themselves of the
restrictions and limitations placed on women in this world, including sexual
relations. That belief is also an incentive for engaging in terrorist
activities, because they perceive paradise as something real. One of the
prisoners, who was responsible for the murder of a young Jewish boy, said in
that context that in paradise she would meet mythological male figures from
the Islamic past. Some of the prisoners hinted shyly that "in paradise even
women have sexual relations," and could marry heroes from the past, would
never be tired, would eat good food and would even be one of the 72
beautiful black-eyed virgins who were the companions of the shaheeds
(martyrs for the sake of Allah). They also believed that an ugly woman who
reached paradise after having carried out a terrorist attack, would become
beautiful. They added that they would see Allah, Muhammad and his companions
and the shaheeds. In addition, especially if they were shaheeds, in reward
for their actions they would save 70 of their family members from the
tortures of the grave before their souls rose to heaven.

It is the nature of terrorist activity to demand association with men, since
the terrorist organization operatives, managers, modes of thinking and
operative proceedings are all male or male-oriented. Women who become
involved in terrorist activity, whether they "volunteer" or are recruited,
pass the point of no return because their actions have violated the cultural
and moral codes of the norms of family (i.e., paternal) supervision and
daughterly behavior. For example, one girl looked for excitement and left
the house for training with the shabab (boys) although she had no intention
of carrying out a terrorist attack, or others wore tight clothing and belly
shirts on their way to an attack; all stained the family honor. Such a
situation paints them into a corner and makes it necessary for them to
invest a tremendous amount of energy in keeping the secret from everyone,
including their families (Berko and Erez, 2005).

In addition, a woman who was forced by a terrorist organization to carry out
a terrorist attack, even though she only meant to participate in training to
satisfy her social needs, could not ask her family for help lest her father
discover what she had done. Therefore, leaving to carry out the attack was
the only way for her to get out of a dead-end situation. Her parents were
unaware that their daughter had been recruited to provide support for a
terrorist attack or to carry one out because, as previously mentioned, the
very fact of her recruitment was an affront to paternal status, in that the
father's daughter was taken from him without his knowledge or permission,
and he was no longer able to control her.

The data indicate that the price paid by women involved in terrorism is far
greater than the profit they expect to gain. In the first place, despite the
rhetoric honoring women who take part in terrorism and the pronouncements of
the importance of enlisting women in the armed struggle, in reality it is
all smoke. At the personal, family level, a woman who has turned to
terrorism is unacceptable since she failed to fulfill a woman's traditional
roles, i.e., keeping house, raising children and taking care of her
husband's needs. The question of what led the woman to choose the path of
terrorism remains forever open, as one of those interviewed, an Islamic
cleric, said, "Such a woman was not properly brought up.Even if people say
she is heroic, I wouldn't let my son or brother marry such a woman."

In the second place, Palestinian women involved in terrorism reach a stage
at which the loss is built into the act itself. According to the norms of
Palestinian Arab society, if a girl leaves the family home without
permission, regardless of her age, there is no way back. Even sleeping one
night away from home without her parents' knowledge is a stain on her
reputation, and the honor of all the members of the family is a function of
the daughter's honor. A female security prisoner likened that honor to a
terracotta vase, which, "if broken will never be the same, even if all the
pieces are glued back together" (Berko, 2004). Women who are caught and sent
to jail also suffer the fear of missed motherhood, since even behind bars
their biological clocks continue ticking.

In the third place, women who turn to terrorism become especially vulnerable
because of the trap they find themselves in from the moment they contact
terrorist-operatives, making it easy for the terrorist organizations to
exploit them. In certain instances, potential female suicide bombers
reported having been sexually exploited before being dispatched, ".because
in any case they're going to blow themselves up, so what difference does it
make?..." or having had all their money taken by the dispatchers ".because
in paradise there is no need for money."

In addition, the easy access young people have to the Internet allows women
to be recruited for terrorist activity through chat groups with Arab men all
over the world. Such technology is beyond the ken of the older-generation
father, and it enables women to enter a private world over which the father
can place no limitations and in which he cannot supervise his daughter's
relations with men, as is customary in Arab society.

The interviews showed that despite the ferocity of their verbal objections
to the occupation and their militant activities, the dreams of female
terrorists could be summed up as the desire to marry, start a home and have
children. Most of them dreamed of having a traditional role-sharing
relationship with a husband. One even said, "I want a man with muscles who
will be strong and rule me, and not let me rule him."

The interviews also showed that security prisoners are trapped within a
mindset that neutralizes and rationalizes their actions (Sykes and Matza,
1957). The women feel a need to prove themselves, to achieve some kind of
recognition, and use feminism and nationalism to justify the actions ex post
facto. The process is also nourished by the group energy generated by the
other security prisoners.


Women in Palestinian society are doubly oppressed, suffering from both
political and gender oppression. Both play a role in their involvement in
terrorism. In effect, two types of women participate in terrorist attacks:
those whose motives are political, for example those who oppose the
occupation or want to revenge the deaths of relatives, and are forced to
channel their activity through the gender construct of Palestinian Arab
society. On the other hand, there are those who try to rebel against the
repressive gender construct, and use the political conflict as a legitimate,
respectable cover for the rebellion, although the division is not absolute
and there are women whose motives are mixed.

The study revealed that the gender oppression from which Palestinian women
suffer, which includes forced marriage, multiple wives, restrictions on
movement and contacts with members of the opposite sex, and their being
considered child-bearing machines, has turned women into rebels, and that
rebellion is exploited by the terrorist-operatives who recruit them. The
fondest wish of such women is to make themselves more valuable and feel that
they belong and contribute to the national effort, and it cannot, in
reality, be achieved. The result is that such women, according to the
standards of the society in which they live, cannot be both terrorists and
"good women."

As opposed to the claim that women who are involved in terrorism are
progressive and liberated, the data of this study showed that they are
extremely conservative, firmly fixed in place by the norms of a patriarchal
society and that their roles as terrorists are secondary and marginal. It
would seem that in terrorism as in the Palestinian society which generated
it, there is a strict division of roles between the sexes, and that women
continue to obey the terrorist men who pull the strings. When the
Palestinian woman turns to terrorism the game is lost before it has begun,
because the sensation of freedom (especially in contacts with members of the
opposite sex) they have by participating in terrorism is temporary, and the
relations between the sexes in Palestinian society, of the ruler and ruled,
are transposed into the world of terrorism, according to the Arab model of
society from which they came.

English References
Adler, Freda (1975) Sisters in Crime , McGraw Hill , New York .
Barakat, Halim (1985). "The Arab Family and the Challenge of Social
transformation," pp. 27- 48 in E. W. Fernea, ed., Women and the Family in
the Middle East: New Voices of Change, Austin , TX , University of Texas
Press .
Berko, Anat and Erez, Edna (2005) "'Ordinary People' and 'Death Work':
Palestinian Suicide Bombers as Victimizers and Victims," Violence and
Victims , 20(6).
Bloom, Mia M. (2005) Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror, New York ,
Columbia University Press.
Glaser , Barney G. (1992). Basics of Grounded Theory Analysis , Mill Valley
, CA , Sociology Press.
Kandiyoti, Deniz (ed) (1996) Gendering the Middle East: Emerging
Perspectives , London , Tauris.
Kedar, Mordechai (forthcoming) "Gap of Values: Gender and Family Issues as
Source of Tension Between Islam and the West," Current Trends in Islamist
Ideology , Hudson Institute, Washington DC .
Rubenberg, Cheryl A (2001) Palestinian Women: Patriarchy and Resistance in
the West Bank , Boulder, CO, Lynne Rienner. Simon, Rita (1975) Women in
Crime. Lexington , MA , DH Heath.
Sykes, G., and Matza, D. (1957) Techniques of neutralization: A theory of
Delinquency, American Sociological Review, 22 , 664-670.
Victor, Barbara (2003) Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women
Suicide Bombers , Emmaus , PA , Rodale.

Hebrew References
Berko, Anat (2004) The Path to Paradise : The world of suicide bombers and
their dispatchers , Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronot Press. Forthcoming by Praeger.
Hassan, M (1999) Hapolitica shel Hakavod: Hapatriarchia, hamedina ve-retsah
nashim b'shem kvod hamishpaha (The Politics of Honor: Patriarchy, country
and the murder of women in the name of family honor), pp. 267-305, Tel Aviv:
Kibbutz Meuchad Publishing House.
Yizraeli, D., et al. (1999) Min Migdar Politica (Sex, Gender, Politics), Tel
Aviv, Kibbutz Meuchad Publishing House.

Arabic References
Sharabi, Hishan (1975) Mukadimat li-dirasat al-mujtam'a al-Arabi (
Introduction to Studies of Arab society ), Beirut , Dar Altali'a Liltiba'a
wa al-Nashr.

1 This article first appeared in Hebrew in Tsohar l'vatei hasoar (A Window
on Prisons), Collected Articles No. 10, November 2006, pp. 5-11. An expanded
version of the study's findings will appear in Studies in Conflict and
Terrorism , 2007.
2 Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya
, Israel . Dr. Berko is the author of The Path to Paradise - The inner world
of suicide bombers and their dispatchers , soon to be published by Praeger.
3 Kent State University , Ohio .
4 In Israel , Jordan , Iraq , Chechnya , Turkey and Sri Lanka .

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorials from the Hebrew Press 17-Dec-2006

(Government Press Office)

Haaretz -
Yediot Aharonot -
Globes -
Hazofeh -
Jerusalem Post -

Haaretz comments: "The ruling by the High Court of Justice on the legality of targeted killings does not give blanket approval to these killings, nor does it make it easier for the Israel Defense Forces to carry them out. To a great extent, it even makes them more difficult, since the decision sets out, for the first time, strict rules that make targeted killings an extreme exception that must be used with proportionality. Those who deal with security should read at least the last three pages of the ruling, which was written by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch. They contain clear statements about what is allowed and what is prohibited, a kind of practical summary of the main arguments that Justice Aharon Barak discussed at length. Although the High Court did not grant the petitioners' demand for a blanket outlawing of targeted killings, the directives it gave assure future judicial oversight of all cases in which a targeted killing exceeds the limits of these rules. If it should turn out, albeit retrospectively, that a targeted killing was illegal, it might lead to a trial and the paying of compensation to the innocent civilians who were hurt by it."

The Jerusalem Post writes: "Last week, a distinguished group of public figures called for the international community, including both states and international organizations, to seek the indictment of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the charge of incitement to genocide. This call should be immediately and widely heeded, regardless of other steps being taken to confront the growing threat from Iran. That such an indictment is warranted should, at this point, be obvious. The group, organized by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and including former ambassadors Meir Rosenne and Dore Gold, Elie Wiesel, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler, Alan Dershowitz and others, unveiled a report fully documenting the Iranian leader's calls to "wipe Israel off the map." No world leader or human rights organization can be unfamiliar with these calls, which have been proudly trumpeted around the globe... The requirements of the Genocide Convention are so clear, the incitement is so unabashed, and the threat is so real that we do not see why it should be assumed that all nations and organizations, including those who champion the causes of peace and human rights, will be indifferent to our cause. Those who fear failure should know that it cannot be avoided by not trying; the failure to defend ourselves diplomatically against such criminal threats is itself a statement of weakness and intimidation... The choice is a simple one: between 'never again' and 'again and again.' "

Yediot Aharonot believes that, "Israel currently has an urgent interest in closely and seriously considering the political goings-on among the Syrian leadership," despite Syria's efforts to destabilize Lebanon.

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, analyzes the European Union's expansion policies.

Hatzofeh lauds Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's bravery in openly and directly blaming Hamas for the Palestinians' plight.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Arab, 17, charged in terror plot

Note that according to Israel Radio, the boy lives alone and not with his mother. He targeted the Plaza hotel because it has a lot of Jewish visitors.
Incidents like these are not going to make it easier to equal rights for Israeli Arabs.

Israeli Arab, 17, charged in terror plot Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 17, 2006

Police, in cooperation with the Shin Bet, arrested a 17-year-old Israeli Arab on suspicion of planning to carry out a suicide attack on Nazareth Illit's "Plaza" hotel, it was released for publication on Sunday.

The youth, arrested two weeks ago, was indicted Sunday in the Nazareth District Court on charges of attempting to carry out a terror attack, having contacts with a foreign agent and conspiring to commit a crime.

An investigation of the affair revealed that the accused, a former resident of the Palestinian territories currently living with his mother in Nazareth, was supposed to receive a bomb belt from Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades
operatives; however, the Amakim sub-district CIU and security forces arrested him two days before the
transaction was to take place.

During his interrogation, the youth said he had originally lived with his father in the northern Samaria village of Daan, but he claimed that whenever he would visit the territories, Islamic Jihad and Hamas operatives would
deride him for cooperating with Israel.

Endeavoring to prove the opposite, the boy agreed to carry out a suicide attack on the Nazareth hotel.

Police and the IDF have foiled dozens of terror attacks in the last several months.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM Olmert rejects Syrian overtures for peace talks

Last update - 02:08 17/12/2006
PM Olmert rejects Syrian overtures for peace talks
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Saturday rejected recent by Syrian President Bashar Assad to engage in peace negotiations.
A diplomatic source in Jerusalem said intelligence officials, including those who support talks with Syria, agree that Syria will not sever ties with Iran, Hezbollah and Palestinian terror organizations even if Israel returns the Golan Heights. Olmert believes the threat of war will only
increase if Israel's demands are not met.
"What we will give the Syrians is obvious, but what will we receive in return?," the diplomatic source asked. "If [Hamas political head] Khaled Meshal remains in Damascus, Israelis won't go there."
Israeli military officials, however, believe the Syrian proposals should be examined carefully and not dismissed out of hand. Defense Minister Amir Peretz has for some time been calling for a review of possible talks with Syria, but he is demanding that Assad first prove he is serious about abandoning terror.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres said on Saturday in response to the statements from Damascus that Israel has preconditions for negotiations with Syria: the closure of the terror headquarters in Damascus, an end to Meshal's activities there and the suspension of arms deliveries to Hezbollah.
Assad calls on Olmert to heed calls for peace
In an interview published Friday in the Italian daily La Repubblica, Syrian President Bashar Assad called on Olmert to heed his calls for peace. "Talk to Syria, and like many Israelis are saying, 'even if you think it's a bluff you have nothing to lose.'"
Assad said he is not acquainted with author David Grossman, who called on Olmert to respond to the peace offers coming from Damascus, but that he is right. The Syrian president said he and others in his country follow the Israeli media, particularly where peace with Syria is concerned.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, meanwhile, told The Washington Post that Syria has no preconditions to negotiations with Israel, not even regarding the Golan Heights. In an interview in Damascus, Moallem told columnist David Ignatius, "A constructive dialogue has to start without preconditions."
Moallem did not bring up Syria's longstanding position that the peace talks must begin from where they left off, but Assad had this to say: "Anyone who wants to start from zero doesn't want to achieve peace, because that means he doesn't agree to things that have already been agreed." Assad also said that Olmert's government is too weak to advance the peace process, because "Peace is much harder than war."
Asked about Israeli intelligence reports about Syrian ground-to-ground missiles clustered on the border with Israel, Assad told the Italian newspaper that Israel and Syria are still at war and that Syria must be ready for an Israeli attack at any moment. He also said that Israel has declared that it is preparing for a war next summer.
"War is always possible in our region. It is natural to prepare (for it)," Assad said. He said that one of the ways to do this is by learning the lessons of previous wars, particularly in the region. He also said, however, that "Amassing missiles is an inexact description" of Syria's actions.
The interviews were the first by the Syrian officials since the publication of the Baker-Hamilton report of the Iraq Study Group findings. Both Assad and Moallem emphasized that Syria is willing to cooperate with the U.S. on regional issues, including Iraq. The interviews focused on Syria's relations with Israel and with the
Netanyahu: Syria must first end alliance with 'axis of evil'
Likud chair MK Benjamin Netanyahu said negotiations with Syria can
begin when that country ends its alliance with the "axis of evil," stops the flow of arms from its territory to Hezbollah and shuts down terror headquarters within its borders. In addition, Israel must coordinate its actions vis-a-vis Syria with the U.S., Netanyahu said.
Aides to Netanyahu emphasized Saturday that Syria needs a peace agreement with Israel no less, and possibly more, than Israel needs a peace agreement with Syria. They stressed that Netanyahu has not changed his position that Israel must remain in the Golan Heights no matter what.

Continued (Permanent Link)

40 institutes boycott Iran think tank over Holocaust conference

Last update - 04:35 17/12/2006   
40 institutes boycott Iran think tank over Holocaust conference
By The Associated Press

PARIS - Nearly 40 European and North American research institutes will suspend contacts with a leading Iranian think tank that helped organize last week's conference in Tehran of Holocaust deniers, a Paris-based researcher said Saturday.
The institutes, from Warsaw to Washington and beyond, have agreed to suspend ongoing programs with the Iranian Institute for Political and International Studies, or IPIS, according to a statement issued by Francois Heisbourg, who organized the boycott.
They have also refused participation in IPIS meetings or invite IPIS staff to their own forums and to decline travel to Iran sponsored by the Iranian institute.
The December 11-12 conference in Tehran drew Holocaust deniers from around the world to debate whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a keynote speaker, said that Israel will one day be "wiped out" and "humanity will achieve freedom."
The conference drew denunciations from around the world.
Researchers, led by Heisbourg, decided to issue their own form of protest by boycotting the Iranian institute that organized the conference.
"It's the equivalent for us of breaking off diplomatic relations between embassies," Heisbourg said in a telephone interview.
Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and president of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, said the IPIS is a touchstone in Iran for foreign researchers.
The statement describes the IPIS as a "mainstream Iranian interface" with foreign think tanks.
"Through its complicity with the deniers of the absolute evil that was the Holocaust, IPIS has now forfeited its status as an acceptable partner," according to the statement.
IPIS had the leading role in organizing the Tehran conference, calling for papers, sending invitations, arranging logistics, Heisbourg said.
"They convened the meeting and ran the meeting," he said.
The decision to suspend contacts with the IPIS was a moral, not a political, decision, Heisbourg said, "to make it very, very clear that every time a red line is crossed there actually is a price to be paid. The price here is quite real."
The decision to boycott IPIS will not be reconsidered without "an explicit repudiation of Holocaust denial and a return to academic standards," the statement said.
Dozens of European and American experts signed on to the statement, as well as several in Canada and Australia.
Heisbourg said that among the signatories are John J. Hamre, head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington; Volker Perthes, director of Berlin's Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik; Tomas Ries, director of the Swedish Institute for International Affairs; Ognyan Minchev, director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies in Sofia, Bulgaria; Gordon Smith of the Center for International Studies in Victoria, Canada; Eugeniusz Smolnar, director for the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw, Poland; Ross Babbage, director of Australia's Strategy International.
An array of French signers includes Thierry de Montbrial, director of the French Institute of International Relations.

Continued (Permanent Link)


(Article by Dr. Guy Bechor, Yediot Ahronot, 17.12.06, p. A3)
[Translation provided by the GPO]

Abu Mazen's speech yesterday was met with genuine worry in the Palestinian
streets, despite the Fatah movement's rejoicing.

Everyone knows that the worst is yet to come.

It is uncertain whether Abu Mazen meant to dismiss Haniyeh's Government,
dissolve the Hamas Parliament and go to elections.  His speech has a
tactical aspect of applying pressure on Hamas in order to advance a national
unity government but it seems that he has already missed the train.

Following a weekend of violence and counter-violence, the chances of such a government are negligible.  In my opinion, there was no chance for it to
begin with.

The tension between the two sides is tremendous, with each faction yearning
to fight and arming itself with whatever comes to hand.  That is what will
happen when events in the field oblige Abu Mazen to implement his call for
elections, the result of which will be a general conflagration.  This is a
grave development for Palestinian society.

Hamas will in no way allow Fatah and Abu Mazen to cancel the great
accomplishment it reaped by legally gaining control over the parliament and
the government.  In its view, this is not only a Palestinian development,
but rather a pan-Arab precedent of political Islam gaining control of an
Arab state.

If Hamas has no option, it will defend its accomplishment with armed force,
which it has.  That is what happens when an undemocratic movement comes to
power democratically - and from that point on it is no longer interested in
hearing about democracy which might bring about its fall.

I do not ever recall such a serious exchange of accusations between Hamas
and Fatah, coming after a series of terrifying murders, which genuinely
shocked Palestinian society - murders and counter-murders, gunshots,
accusations, vehement cursing and specific threats.  It seems that Abu Mazen
inadvertently brought the Palestinians closer yesterday to a general

Therefore, to the Palestinians' chagrin, this is the choice that they are
left with today: Between bad and worse.

Only a few years ago they had the world in their pocket.  Israel was a
generous neighbor.  Europe was smiling and America was supportive.  With
great talent, the Palestinians wasted all of the credit that the world had
given them.

The Palestinians could have founded a flourishing, prosperous country next
to one of the strongest economies in the world -
Israel's. But they choose to become a new Somalia, with militia wars, a
tottering economy, revenge attacks and a totally wretched national future.

[The author is a Middle East and legal expert at Interdisciplinary Center in

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

PSR poll # 22. 61% of Palestinians supports the holding of early presidential and parliamentary elections

17 December 2006


Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. (22)

A significant decrease in public satisfaction with the performance of the
presIdent and the hamas government leads the majority to support the holding
of early presidential and parliamentary elections and increases the gap
between the popularity of fateh and Hamas in favor of the former

14-16 December 2006

These are the results of the latest poll conducted by the Palestinian Center
for Policy and Survey Research in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during
December 14-16, 2006. Total size of the sample is 1270 adults interviewed
face to face in 127 randomly selected locations. Margin of error is 3%. This
press release highlights the main findings regarding domestic issues. PSR
will soon release findings related the peace process and the ceasefire.

For further details, contact PSR director, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, or Walid
Ladadweh at tel 02-296 4933 or email

As he was leaving the Rafah Crossing, fire was opened on the car carrying
Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh took place in the evening of the first day of
data collection. During the final hours of data collection, President Mahmud
Abbas made a speech in which he declared his intentions to call for the
holding of early presidential and parliamentary elections. We believe that
these two events had little or no impact on data collection or poll

Findings show significant increase in the level of dissatisfaction with the
performance of the Hamas government and the president. The poll also shows
great concern about internal security and a negative evaluation of the role
played by the "Executive Force." These developments have affected public
attitude with a majority supporting the holding of early presidential and
parliamentary elections. They have also led to a limited decrease in the
popularity of Hamas.

Main Findings:

 * 48% agree that the government should resign but a similar percentage
(47%) disagrees with that. But a majority of 61% supports the holding of
early presidential and parliamentary elections and 37% oppose that. A
majority of 56% agrees with Abbas and Fateh that the PA president has the
right to call for early presidential and parliamentary elections and 38%
agree with Hams that the PA president does not have the right to do so.

 * If early parliamentary elections are held today, Hamas would receive 36%
of the vote and Fateh would receive 42%. 12% would go to other lists and 10% remain undecided. The gap between Fateh and Hamas has therefore widened from
3 percentage points three months ago to 6 percentage points in this poll.

 * If early presidential elections are held today and only two, Mahmud Abbas
for Fateh and Ismail Haniyeh for Hamas, were to compete, Abbas would receive
46% of the vote and Haniyeh would receive 45%. 9% remain undecided.

 * But if the presidential race was between Marwan Barghouti, representing
Fateh, and Khalid Mish'al, representing Hamas, Marwan Barghouti would
receive 57% of the vote and Khalid Mish'al would receive 36%. 7% remain

 * The decrease in Hamas' popularity is associated with a decrease in public
satisfaction with its performance from 42% three months ago to 33% in this
poll. Moreover, only 30% of the respondents evaluate the performance of the
"Executive Force," commanded by the interior minister, as positive and
contributing to the enforcement of law and order while 51% evaluate its
performance as negative and contributing to lawlessness and anarchy.

 * Similarly, findings show a significant decrease in the level of public
satisfaction with the performance of president Mahmud Abbas from 55% three
months ago to 40% in this poll.

 * More than 90% of the public describe current Palestinian conditions as
bad or very bad and only 2% describe it as good. Moreover, 87% say they and
their families lack safety and security and 87% believe corruption exists in
the PA and more significantly 69% say corruption will increase or remain the
same in the future.

 * Given the electoral experience of January 2006, a majority of the
Palestinian public is still in favor of democracy: 53% say it is appropriate
for the Palestinians and 43% say it is inappropriate.


This PSR survey was conducted with the support of the Konrad Adenauer
Foundation in Ramallah.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israël in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog

Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Isfake lobby

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Elsewhere On the Web
Stop the Israel Boycott


Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory