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Saturday, January 6, 2007

3 Hamas militants killed in Gaza clashes with Fatah

Last update - 23:10 06/01/2007   

3 Hamas militants killed in Gaza clashes with Fatah
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
Three Hamas militants were killed and five were wounded Saturday evening in clashes with a Fatah-related family hours after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared Hamas security forces in Gaza illegal.
The militants, all members of the the Diri family, were killed in an exchange of fire between Hamas and members of the Durmush family, some of whom are affiliated with Fatah, in the Sabra neighborhood of Gaza City.
Four Hamas militants were kidnapped during the incident.
Another member of Hamas was kidnapped in a separate in the Gaza Strip. No further details were available. Earlier, two Hamas officials were kidnapped in separate incidents in the West Bank.
In Nablus, an An- Najah National University lecturer affiliated with Hamas was wounded by six militants apparently belonging to Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
The lecturer, Marwan Kadoumi, was shot in his legs when the militants entered his home. He was evacuated to the hospital in moderate condition.
Earlier Saturday, pro-Fatah gunmen attacked Hamas officials in two separate incidents in the West Bank, security officials said.
In the first incident, gunmen stopped the car of Nablus' deputy mayor, Mahdi al-Khamdali of Hamas, pulled him out and took him away in a separate car, security officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the officials said they believed the kidnappers were supporters of the rival Fatah group.
In Ramallah, meanwhile, gunmen stormed the offices of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, shot the office manager, Ihab Suliman, in the legs and took him away, Palestinian security officials said. The man, also a Hamas supporter, was released in a nearby town and hospitalized, the officials said.
Fighting between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas has surged since talks on forming a unity government collapsed and Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas accused Abbas of mounting a coup.
Late Saturday, Abbas' office said he spoke to United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, briefing her on the current situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip ahead of her upcoming visit.
Abbas says Hamas security force in Gaza is illegal
In a statement released on Saturday, Abbas declared that Hamas security forces in Gaza not integrated with PA forces would now be considered illegal.
Abbas made the announcement two days after members of the Hamas force attacked the home of a senior security commander in Gaza, killing the man and seven of his bodyguards. The man was a member of the Preventive Security force, which is loyal to Abbas' Fatah party.
"In light of continued security chaos and assassinations that got to a number of our fighters ... and in light of the failure of existing agencies and security apparatuses in imposing law and order and protecting the security of the citizens, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to reshuffle the security forces and its leadership and to consider the (Hamas) executive force, officers and members, illegal and outside the law," Abbas' office said in a statement.
With Abbas, who was elected in a separate presidential vote, claiming authority over most of the security forces, Hamas last year formed its own unit, known as the "Executive Force."
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas backed the Executive Force and accused Abbas of deepening the rift between the two camps.
"I'm completely convinced that there are those who don't want the Palestinian scene to enjoy calm and stability or to create the appropriate atmosphere for starting serious and deep dialogue aimed at reaching a national unity government," he said.
Members of the black-clad Hamas militia are visible throughout Gaza, and have periodically clashed with the existing pro-Fatah security forces.
More than two dozen people have been killed in the latest wave of factional violence, which erupted early last month. Thursday's attack on the Fatah commander's home in northern Gaza was the bloodiest single battle in the standoff to date.
Abbas has agreed in recent months to integrate the Hamas unit into existing security forces. But those efforts have failed to make progress.
In his statement Saturday, Abbas reiterated the offer but said he would not wait forever. "It will be dealt with accordingly so long as it is not immediately folded into the legal security forces," Abbas said.
Shortly after Abbas's statement was made public, Hamas vowed to double the size of the executive force to 12,000 personnel.
"A decision was taken to increase the number of the
executive force to 12,000," said Islam Shahwan, a spokesman of the unit.
"We call upon all sincere citizens to prepare themselves to join the force," Shahwan added.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called Abbas' announcement "misplaced and useless," while Khaled Abu Hilal, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, accused Abbas of giving a "green light" for attacks on Hamas security men. The militia reports to the Interior Ministry.
Abu Hilal called Abbas' decision hasty, saying it was "a green light to those who seek to shed the blood of the Executive Force members." The unit has repeatedly clashed with rival security forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement
in recent weeks.
Al-Aksa Martyrs Bridgades force strike in Hebron
Earlier on Saturday, Gunmen from the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades forced a strike in the West Bank city of Hebron, preventing stores from opening and clearing the streets of traffic.
The militants forced the strike as a protest against recent attacks by Hamas on its members in the Gaza Strip that have left a number of people dead in recent days in factional fighting between the two groups.
In the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, unknown assailants burned the house of Mohammed Ah-Sharafi, a member of the Hamas faction in the Palestinian parliament. In response, Hamas members have threatened to burn the house of Fatah cabinet member Sufian Abu zeida.
Hamas cleric gunned down in Gaza
A local religious leader who was a frequent critic of the Islamic militant group Hamas was killed in a drive-by shooting Friday as he walked out of a Gaza mosque, witnesses and medical officials said.
Fatah accused Hamas of killing the cleric, saying in a statement: "Sheik Nasar was killed after he came out of the mosque where he criticized Hamas after the crime committed by some of its gunmen yesterday."
Hamas officials said they were investigating the killing. Nasar's assailants pulled up to him in a white car and sped away after the shooting, witnesses said.
Nasar, 50, was not openly affiliated with any political party, but he was a well-known figure in the refugee camp and often preached against Hamas. Shortly before the shooting, Nasar had criticized Thursday's bloody attack on the home of Col. Mohammed Ghayeb, a top Fatah official in northern Gaza, witnesses said.
In his sermon, Nasar warned that God would punish the killers of Ghayeb and his bodyguards. He also said God would punish Palestinian rulers for not preventing the attack, said Jibril Awwar, a friend of the preacher who was lightly wounded in the shooting.
Nasar did not mention Hamas by name, but Awwar said the preacher's message was aimed at the group, which controls most of the Palestinian government.
Hamas: U.S. is funding a 'revolt' against our government
Senior Hamas official Mushir al-Masri blamed the U.S. on Friday for attempting to promote a revolt against the Hamas government, after U.S. documents showed that the Bush administration will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
"We demand that Abbas reject this U.S. policy, which is tearing the Palestinian people apart," he said.
The new policy would expand U.S. involvement in Abbas' power struggle with Hamas.
The U.S. money will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a U.S. government document obtained by Reuters said.
Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Gaza City, Haniyeh urged Palestinians not to let the violence spill over to the West Bank and to focus on fighting Israel. "Our fight is not an internal one, it's against the occupation," Haniyeh said.
Haniyeh's words were echoed by senior West Bank Fatah official Jibril Rajoub, speaking in the town of Bil'in to supporters celebrating the movement's 42nd anniversary.
"Our battle with Hamas is not a battle of assassination, kidnapping or revenge. Our battle with Hamas is a democratic moral battle," he told a crowd of about 100. "Our battle is with the occupation, not with each other."
Thousands of Palestinians carried bodies draped in yellow flags through pouring rain Friday in a funeral procession for seven Fatah men killed in the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Dozens of Fatah gunmen marched in the procession, firing in the air and calling for vengeance against the rival Hamas group, which is locked in a
power struggle with Fatah over control of the Palestinian government.
Eighth Palestinian dies from wounds sustained in Thursday's attack
A Fatah security man on Friday died of wounds sustained in a battle against Hamas militants the previous day, medical officials said, raising the death toll to eight in the bloodiest single battle in weeks of factional fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The bodyguard had been wounded in a Thursday's assault by Hamas gunman on the home of a top Fatah security official. The official and six other bodyguards were killed in Thursday's fighting.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Notes on- Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit" article

Dear Aaron and Professor Kasher,
Israeli retaliations had to be stopped not only out of consideration for Palestinian civilian casualties, but because they were endangering Israel, exacerbating the conflict and threatening our international position, while at the same time creating the appetite for more and bigger rocket attacks.  Both of you seem to have missed that point.
On the one hand:
The government has a supreme and overriding moral responsibilty to protect the welfare of its citizens and to make it possible for them to live normal lives without fear for their physical safety. Aaron was raising that point, and therefore the "stress" that is caused or not caused is irrelevant. The purpose of military action or diplomatic action would not be to relieve stress, but to protect the physical welfare of the people of Sderot, Ashkelon (and later Ashdod and Tel-Aviv?). The rockets have killed at least 8 people. They have maimed many more. Probabilities don't matter if you or your child are the one who got killed or lost two legs.
On the other hand:
The responsibility of the government extends to all of its citizens and the means needed to protect those citizens are not necessarily military. The military actions that Aaron favors were, in the judgement of the government, increasing the probability of further attacks rather than decreasing them, and by isolating Israel in the world, they were reducing our diplomatic alternatives and threatening the welfare of our citizens rather than guarding it.  The Israeli military actions were being used, with considerable success, by the Hamas in their attempt to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and lift the international boycott.
The enemy we are facing does not care about their own civilian casualties. Indeed, they strengthen their political position both domestically and abroad in proportion as Israel kills Palestinian civilians, who become "martyrs." Their terror actions are intentionally designed to elicit reactions from Israel that are strategically ineffective and generate civilian casualities among the Palestinians, "martyrs" who can be used to help fuel extremism, and who serve as examples of the "evil" nature of the Zionist enemy.
From the point of view of military ethics, there is certainly no justification for a policy that does not increase the security of our own citizens, and in fact causes a deterioration in our situation, and at the same time endangers enemy civilians. It is an "own goal" in the same way that German unlimited u-boat warfare in World War I did not curtail British shipping, but instead dragged the United States into the war.
Even if you have no other medicines around, do not take rat poison to cure a headache. We do not have a good solution to the problem. In the absence of such a solution, however frustrating, it is not helpful to advocate that we "just do something," because that "something" exacerbates the situation and increases the danger to us , rather than reducing it.  
Ami Isseroff, D.Sc.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2007 7:50 PM
Subject: Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit" article

Response by Prof. Asa Kasher to IMRA on follow up to "IDF ethicist:
Restraint policy is legit" article
6 January 2007

Dear Dr Lerner:

Thank you for your message [IMRA: repeated below].

Here is my detailed reply. You may use it on the condition that it is quoted
in full and without any alteration.

The JP article did not convey the complexity of the argument.


Rockets sent from the Gaza strip to Israel are attacks on Israel.

Some of the rockets kill or wound Israelis. The chances of being hit are

The regular fear of the rockets creates stress among many people.


The policy of restraint is not a policy of doing nothing.

It allows, even requires, that targeted attacks on people who launch rockets
take place, even if there is a danger of collateral damage;

It does not allow a military activity of concurring parts of the Gaza strip
in pursuit of launchers of rockets.


1. In addition to targeted attacks and a broad military activity, there is
the method of shelling areas from which rockets are sometimes launched.
There is probable collateral damage when this method is used.

It is well known that this method does not solve the problem of rockets.

It is perhaps of some benefit given the stress of the people and it shows
the State of Israel does not remain indifferent when attacked.

Since it does not help in solving the problem, then as far as the problem is
concerned it is of a symbolic nature solely. Its role in showing the state
does not remain indifferent is also symbolic.

Moral stance 1: You don't kill people who do not threaten you for symbolic

Moral stance 2: Even if it help solving the problem of stress, it is wrong.
You don't kill people who do not threaten you in order to solve problems of

Moral stance 3: A broad military operation is justified only as last resort.
The efforts to solve the problem without such an operation is something the
states owes, first and foremost, to its combatants, given the assumption
that in such an operation Israeli combatants might get killed. If the
restraint policy is a policy of trying to solve the problem in other ways,
assuming that if they fail the military option would be used, then it is
fully justified.

You will see from this explanation how misguided were all the talkbacks that
appear in reaction to the article.


Asa Kasher

Prof. Asa Kasher
Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor
of Professional Ethics and
Philosophy of Practice
and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Tel-Aviv University
Academic Advisor, IDF College of National Defense
Editor, PHILOSOPHIA (Springer)

From: Dr. Aaron Lerner
To: Prof. Asa Kasher
Subject: Follow up question to your recent interview in the Jerusalem Post
Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2007 13:10:15 +0200

Dear Professor Kasher,

I read with great interest your recent interview published in The Jerusalem
Post (portion repeated below).

In the interview it would appear that the low probability that a given
rocket launching would actually kill Israelis was weighed against the
probability that Palestinian human shields would be killed by Israeli
military action to try and stop the Palestinian attack, with the conclusion
being that the government could justify its policy (at the time) of not
shooting at Palestinian rocket teams.

I was wondering how you see factoring in the ramifications of the "restraint
policy" vis-a-vis deterrence and the risk that restraint could ultimately
lead to a considerably greater conflagration with the potential for
casualties of a magnitude far greater than those involved in the Kassam

By the same token, when one considers the morality of the current restraint,
how does one take into account the potential cost in lives in the next round
of conflict thanks to Palestinian exploitation of the "window of
opportunity" the Israeli government is providing to Palestinian forces to
arm themselves with both large quantities of weapons as well as more
accurate and effective rockets.

With your permission I would like to share your response with our readers.

Best regards,

Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA
Tel: 09-7604719


IDF ethicist: Restraint policy is legit

 Matthew Wagner, THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 28, 2006

The government's policy of restraint regarding Kassam rocket launchings from
Gaza is legitimate from an ethical perspective, Prof. Asa Kasher said this
week in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"The chances that a Kassam rocket will kill are relatively low compared to a
suicide bombing," said Kasher, co-author of the IDF code of ethics.

"Therefore, use of targeted killings to prevent terrorist attacks that
threaten the lives of dozens of Israelis is an obligation of the state that
has nothing to do with political policy decisions. But the decision to
exercise restraint against Kassam rocket launchings is a legitimate policy

Kasher, professor of professional ethics at Tel Aviv University and academic
adviser at the IDF College of National Defense, added, however, that each
Kassam rocket that landed on Israeli territory was an attack on the State of
Israel. He also said the government had a moral responsibility to combat the
fears of its residents in the south who were threatened by the Kassam

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egypt lets Haniyeh smuggle $20 m.

Egypt lets Haniyeh smuggle $20 m.

Egyptian officials at the Rafah crossing allowed Palestinian Authority President Ismail Haniyeh to smuggle 20 million dollars into the Gaza Strip when he returned from the haj pilgrimage on Thursday, Israel Radio reported Saturday.

The Israel Radio report cited comments made to the Egyptian newspaper El-Ha'aram by an Egyptian customs authority official at the Rafah crossing.

According to the official, Haniyeh "acted lawfully" by declaring the sum of cash in his possession on the Egyptian side of the crossing.

However, European officials charged with monitoring the terminal said to Israel Radio that the Egyptians stated that the PA president was not carrying foreign currency. more...

During their meeting in Sharm el-Sheik last week, President Hosni Mubarak reportedly told Prime Minister Olmert that Egyptian law does not obligate individuals to declare the amount of money in their possession when they leave the country.

A government minister told Israel Radio that Olmert is expected to raise the subject of the cash smuggling when the cabinet convenes its weekly meeting on Sunday.

The EU is a neutral, third party monitor at the Rafah crossing. It has a mandate to report on activity at the crossing, but it has no authority to impose conditions. The issue of cash smuggling through the Rafah crossing is of particular concern to the Israelis and to Western governments who fear the funds are going to support terrorism either directly or through the Hamas government.

Gen. Pietro Pistolese, head of the European Union's monitoring mission in Rafah, told reporters on December 21 that the Palestinian Authority's Fatah forces, which operate that border crossing, have committed themselves to resolving the problem of cash smuggling into Gaza.

'It's not an agreement, it's a commitment. This commitment was expressed yesterday morning [December 20] at the committee of Palestinians, Israelis and EU officials who met to discuss issues relating to the border crossing,' Pistolese said.

Pistolese said the EU knew of some $60 million in cash that had passed through the Rafah border crossing. While Pistolese spoke in strong language about the need to stop the flow of money, he said that what had been secured from the Palestinians was a commitment to finding a solution rather than an agreement to stop the smuggling all together.

Pistoles's comments came a week after Haniyeh crossed was barred entry for hours by Israel because he was apparently carrying some $35 million in cash in his luggage. His delayed entry sparked a series of clashes on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing that left 18 people wounded.

The casualties occurred when Hamas gunmen attacked the terminal and exchanged gunfire with Palestinian Authority security personnel linked to Fatah and with Egyptian security personnel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

{Hezbollah:] Samir Kuntar to be released 'very soon'

Samir Kuntar to be released 'very soon'

Hizbullah officials recently made surprising promises to the family members of Lebanese prisoner, Samir Kuntar, according to which he would be released from Israeli prison "very soon".

The militia's chief also declared that if Kuntar would not be released Hizbullah would not negotiate any exchange whatsoever. In the past, Hizbullah regarded releasing Kuntar as an obligatory precondition for any future prisoner exchange deal with Israel. more...

Kuntar, the longest serving confirmed Lebanese prisoner in jail in Israel, is serving multiple life terms for the killing of three members of the Haran family and that of policeman Eliyahu Shahar in a raid on Nahariya in 1979.

A Hizbullah delegation recently met Kuntar's family in the city of Abiya. The Lebanese Sheikh who came with the envoy, Sheikh Atalla Hamoud, told Kuntar's family that his release would happen very soon. "Your meeting with us is at hand," he turned to Kuntar in the meeting with his family members.

During the meeting Kuntar's brother, Bassam, who in recent years has been leading the campaign to release his brother, thanked the Lebanese prisoners captured during the recent Lebanon War and the "Shahids who defeated the enemy."

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said many times in the past that releasing Kuntar is one of his top priorities. Last April Nasrallah made a speech in which he promised to continue resistance to Israel and Jihad actions until Kuntar's release.

"You will return by the force of the resistance's guns, the resistance's blood and the resistance's actions. I want to promise you and your brothers that when we practice Jihad we rely on our right to release our prisoners by any means possible," Nasrallah said.

After the kidnapping of the two IDF soldiers, Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, in July 2006, Nasrallah held a press conference in which he repeated his commitment to release Kuntar in a prisoner exchange deal with Israel.

In August, when asked whether Israel might free Kuntar in an exchange deal, a senior Israeli government source did not rule this out, but said Israel would have to ascertain exactly 'what is being offered.' He declined to elaborate, but it is possible that this may have been a reference to the possible inclusion in a deal of information on missing Israeli airman Ron Arad.

Israel has previously shown a readiness to free Kuntar in the context of a deal involving news about Arad. Indeed, it was reported that Kuntar would be released in the second phase of a German-mediated prisoner deal with Hizbullah in 2004, in exchange for information on Arad.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Relating everything to the occupation: "Be a Jew at home"

Laor writes:
So what we are looking at, above all, is a tremendous loathing for our lives here - as if the ongoing conflict, the poverty, and the breakdown of the state were all here when our parents arrived, and not the product of their immigration, or an outcome of the Western attitude toward Jews over hundreds of years.
What was here when my parents "arrived" was a Turkish empire, and there was a lot more poverty. What is he talking about?
Jews are part of the western world and Western culture. The desire of Jews to appreciate and understand Christian culture is no stranger than the teaching of the Illiad and the Oddysey in classical literature courses. It has nothing to do with the occupation.
Be a Jew at home
By Yitzhak Laor

On Christmas eve, many Hebrew-speaking Jewish couples could be seen coming out of church in Jaffa after midnight mass. It is highly unlikely that you would find their counterparts in the West, i.e., non-Jews of the same social standing and educational level, going to any church on Christmas. Midnight mass in the churches of the West, at least in those countries that pride themselves on being secular, is only meant for the religious, specifically religious Christians. For everyone else, Christmas is a family event characterized by a mixture of semi-bourgeois and age-old semi-religious customs.
This has nothing to do with loving the music of Bach or rushing into the arms of Jesus, the son of Mary, as born-again Christians.
The Israeli eagerness to embrace Christian culture, as part of Western life, is not something sudden. It has been creeping slowly into Israeli culture, with a kind of historical cunning. It is enough to think about funeral rites in Europe, presided over by priests, while secular Jews in Israel stubbornly refuse to be buried in a Jewish service that includes the mourner's kaddish and traditional graveside prayers.
Sometimes, this Israeli craving for things Christian has a colonial aspect. Every week we watch people on TV discussing the percentage of Muslim citizens in Europe. Sometimes, it feels as if Israeli television anchors have become partners to the infamous dream of Europe as a "continent free of non-Christians."
A generation after Europe set out to destroy its non-Christians, summing up many long years of hatred, discourse in the West on the subject of its Judeo-Christian past has become one of the most consensual lies. Ehud Barak, in an interview with Benny Morris published in The New York Review of Books in June 2002, went as far as to say that Arabs "don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture."
It would be wrong to assume that this "slow Christianizing" of Jewish intellectuals is linked only to a pursuit of "Western values" in the face of the mounting hatred of Islam, here and in the West. The roots of this strange self-negation must be sought in the history of the Jewish people in the last 150 years. When the first "enlightened Jews," as they are called today, accepted the imperative to "be a human being outside and a Jew at home," the Jews took on a form of colonized existence. In European enlightenment terms, Jews (and now Muslims) were supposed to shed their Judaism when they mingled with the world. To be a "human being" was to be a "Christian," of course, or to be what the West considered a secular person.
A Christian is never asked to be "a human being outside and a Christian at home." What is sometimes called, in our nationalist kitsch, "self-hatred" is deeply implanted within us because we swallowed the European bait: To be a human being means to look like them.
Israelis who watch non-Western clothing being ridiculed in the European media and feel a certain relief have clearly forgotten those pictures in Yad Vashem of Jewish men having their sidecurls snipped off. But it is worth remembering that identifying modernity with "outward appearance" is related to that same self-hatred.
Women who wear head-coverings and wigs, and men who grow sidecurls, interfere with our desire to belong to the West.
This hatred reached an all-time high in the way people viewed Shas. Some of it was manifested in the sudden surge of solidarity between homophobes and homosexuals during the outcry over the gay pride parade.
Obviously, not all Shas-haters go to church on Christmas, and not all of those who go to church on Christmas have a soft spot for American missionaries.
It is not a homogeneous trend. These are symptoms of a profound ignorance of the "Jewish condition," or the situation we are living in, to be more exact.
The number of Jewish Israelis refusing to circumcise their sons is probably not even one percentage, no matter how "secular" they are.
So what we are looking at, above all, is a tremendous loathing for our lives here - as if the ongoing conflict, the poverty, and the breakdown of the state were all here when our parents arrived, and not the product of their immigration, or an outcome of the Western attitude toward Jews over hundreds of years.

Continued (Permanent Link)

From Far Beneath the Israeli Desert, Water Sustains a Fertile Enterprise

January 2, 2007
From Far Beneath the Israeli Desert, Water Sustains a Fertile Enterprise

KIBBUTZ MASHABBE SADE, Israel — The day's coppery last light reflects off the backs of sea bass swimming in fish ponds lined in neat rows on this desert farm.

Fish farming in the desert may at first sound like an anomaly, but in Israel over the last decade a scientific hunch has turned into a bustling business.

Scientists here say they realized they were on to something when they found that brackish water drilled from underground desert aquifers hundreds of feet deep could be used to raise warm-water fish. The geothermal water, less than one-tenth as saline as sea water, free of pollutants and a toasty 98 degrees on average, proved an ideal match.
"It was not simple to convince people that growing fish in the desert makes sense," said Samuel Appelbaum, a professor and fish biologist at the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research at the Sede Boqer campus of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
"It is important to stop with the reputation that arid land is nonfertile, useless land," said Professor Appelbaum, who pioneered the concept of desert aquaculture in Israel in the late 1980s. "We should consider arid land where subsurface water exists as land that has great opportunities, especially in food production because of the low level of competition on the land itself and because it gives opportunities to its inhabitants."
The next step in this country, where water is scarce and expensive, was to show farmers that they could later use the water in which the fish are raised to irrigate their crops in a system called double usage. The organic waste produced by the cultured fish makes the water especially useful, because it acts as fertilizer for the crops.
Fields watered by brackish water dot Israel's Negev and Arava Deserts in the south of the country, where they spread out like green blankets against a landscape of sand dunes and rocky outcrops. At Kibbutz Mashabbe Sade in the Negev, the recycled water from the fish ponds is used to irrigate acres of olive and jojoba groves. Elsewhere it is also used for irrigating date palms and alfalfa.
The chain of multiple users for the water is potentially a model that can be copied, especially in arid third world countries where farmers struggle to produce crops, and Israeli scientists have recently been peddling their ideas abroad.
Dry lands cover about 40 percent of the planet, and the people who live on them are often among the poorest in the world. Scientists are working to share the desert aquaculture technology they fine-tuned here with Tanzania, India, Australia and China, among others. (Similar methods of fish farming are also being used in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona.)
"Each farm could run itself, which is important in the developing world," said Alon Tal, a leading Israeli environmental activist who recently organized a conference on desertification, with the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Ben-Gurion University, that brought policy makers and scientists from 30 countries to Israel.
"A whole village could adopt such a system," Dr. Tal added.
At the conference, Gregoire de Kalbermatten, deputy secretary general of the antidesertification group at the United Nations, said, "We need to learn from the resilience of Israel in developing dry lands."
Israel, long heralded for its agricultural success in the desert through innovative technologies like drip irrigation, has found ways to use low-quality water and what is considered terrible soil to grow produce like sweet cherry tomatoes, peppers, asparagus and melon, marketing much of it abroad to Europe, especially during winter.
"Most development is still driven by the Zionist ethos that the desert was some mistake of God that we have to correct and make the desert bloom," said Uriel Safriel, an ecology professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The history of fish-farming in nondesert areas here, mostly in the Galilee region near the sea, dates back to the late 1920s, before Israel was established as a state. At the time, the country was extremely poor and meat was considered a luxury. But fish was a cheap food source, so fish farms were set up on several kibbutzim in the Galilee.
The early Jewish farmers were mostly Eastern European, and, Professor Safriel said, "they only knew gefilte fish, so they grew carp."
Eventually they expanded to other varieties of fish including tilapia, striped bass and mullet, as well as ornamental fish.
The past decade has seen the establishment of about 15 fish farms producing both edible and ornamental fish in the Negev and Arava Deserts.
Fish farming, meanwhile, has become more lucrative worldwide as people seek more fish in their diet for better health, and ocean fisheries increasingly are being depleted.
The practice is not without critics, who say it can harm the environment and the fish. In Israel there was a decision by the government to stop fish farming in the Red Sea near the southern city of Eilat by 2008 because it was deemed damaging to nearby coral reefs.
Some also argue that the industry is not sustainable in the long term because most of the fish that are farmed are carnivorous and must be fed a protein-rich diet of other fish, usually caught in the wild. Another criticism is that large numbers of fish are kept in relatively small areas,
leading to a higher risk of disease.
Professor Appelbaum said the controversy surrounding fish farming in ocean areas does not apply to desert aquaculture, which is in an isolated, controlled area, with much less competition for resources.
On Kibbutz Mashabbe Sade, Amit Ziv runs a fish farm, raising about 15,000 fish at a time. Up to 500,000 cubic meters of water from the fish ponds is recycled for irrigation every year.
"It's a matter of better efficiency," said Mr. Ziv, who pays about 24 cents a cubic meter for water, a government-subsidized rate. "In an area where there is lack of water, being able to use it twice over is a huge advantage." Mr. Ziv, 39, said there are benefits to raising fish in the desert: the dryness translates to fewer insects and less mold and disease. He also said the warm air makes it easier to keep the pools temperate.
He remembers the stories his parents, who, along with other founders of the kibbutz in 1948, would tell of having to travel long days to get to the fields of the communal farm. They then tilled closer to central Israel, because at the time the local arid ground was thought to be impossible to farm.
"Now," he said, pointing toward the desert-grown crops, "the fields are all here."
Mr. Ziv and his dog turned back toward the fish ponds stretched out under green plastic hothouse canopies. It was time to prepare for a shipment of hatchlings that was to arrive the next day.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Turkey, Israel hold talks on Shaba Farms

Turkey, Israel hold talks on Shaba Farms Staff,

Turkey is conducting negotiations with Israel, the US and the UN in an attempt to resolve the Shaba Farms issue, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after meeting his Lebanese counterpart, Faud Saniora, in Beirut on Wednesday.
Erdogan said that Ankara supported the transfer of the territory to UN forces, but stressed that the decision was in Israel's hands.
Turkey's prime minister visited Lebanon for talks with rival Lebanese leaders on the embattled country's deepening political crisis.
He warned that growing sectarian tensions in Lebanon will affect the entire Middle East if left unchecked and offered to mediate in the political crisis if asked by rival factions.
"I told Saniora that sectarian differences will leave repercussions on the region," Erdogan told reporters after the meeting between the two leaders.
"I also told him that all parties in Lebanon and all states in the region must act to solve this problem," Erdogan said, stressing that a solution to the Lebanese crisis should be reached through dialogue.
Erdogan's visit came as the growing political and sectarian tensions among Lebanese factions threaten to tear the country apart. It also came more than a week after Arab League Chief Amr Moussa said that his efforts have failed to reach a solution to the crisis.
Tensions between pro- and anti-Syrian groups erupted when six pro-Hizbullah Cabinet ministers resigned in November after Saniora rejected their demand for a new national unity government that would give Hizbullah and its allies a veto power on key Cabinet decisions.
Erdogan met Saniora who has been living at his office complex in central Beirut amid a tight security cordon near the thousands of Hizbullah supporters and allies camping nearby.
Erdogan, speaking in Turkish, said Turkey was not mediating in the Lebanese crisis but was ready to do so if asked to help by feuding parties.
Saniora said because of its close ties with the Arab world, Turkey can play "an important role" in promoting a solution to the Lebanese crisis.
"We stressed on stability in Lebanon and its impact on the region," he said.
Before meeting with Lebanon's president and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Hizbullah ally, Erdogan flew by a Turkish military helicopter to southern Lebanon where he inspected Turkish troops serving with the UN peacekeeping force known as UNIFIL. He reviewed an honor guard, thanked troops for their service and had lunch with military officers.
Some 260 Turkish troops, deployed near the southern port city of Tyre, are helping rebuild bridges and roads damaged in last summer's war between Hizbullah and Israel. Turkish officials said that the total number of Turkish personnel in Lebanon would ultimately reach 681, including sailors and engineers.
Erdogan also said he will meet later Wednesday with legislator Mohammed Raad, head of Hizbullah's 11-member parliamentary bloc.
While Erdogan was meeting Saniora, thousands of Armenians, raising Lebanese and Armenian flags, gathered in the streets north of Beirut shouting slogans against the Turkish premier's visit, witnesses said. All shops in the Armenian neighborhood of Bourj Hammoud north of Beirut closed for a couple of hours.
"Turkey, Israel's strategic ally, cannot keep peace in Lebanon," read a placard by the protesters. The protesters dispersed peacefully but the demonstration caused a traffic jam on Beirut's northern highway.
Ahead of Erdogan's arrival, about 100 Armenian citizens, waving Lebanese flags, also gathered outside the Beirut airport to protest his visit.
In October, thousands from Lebanon's 80,000-100,000 strong Armenian community rallied in downtown Beirut to protest Turkish participation in the UN peacekeeping force because they blame Turkey's Ottoman rulers for the mass killing of Armenians in the early 20th century.
Turkey, a US ally and NATO's only predominantly Muslim member, has close ties to both Israel and Arab states.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, January 5, 2007

Israeli general suggests to use Azerbaijan's airbases in strike against Iran

 Israeli general suggests to use Azerbaijan's airbases in strike against Iran
02 January 2007 [01:20] - Today.Az
In a stark statement published on Saturday Brigadier General Oded Tira observed, "President Bush lacks the political power to attack Iran. As an American strike in Iran is essential for our existence, we must help him pave the way by lobbying the Democratic Party (which is conducting itself foolishly) and US newspaper editors. We need to do this in order to turn the Iranian issue to a bipartisan one and unrelated to the Iraq failure."

Because of the dramatic loss of political power of the Bush-Cheney administration, General Tira urges the Israel Lobby to, "turn to Hillary Clinton and other potential presidential candidates in the Democratic Party so that they support immediate action by Bush against Iran."

In another move designed to strengthen Bush politically, General Tira urges the Israel Lobby to exert its influence on European countries so that, "Bush will not be isolated in the international arena again."

As if all of that Israel-lobbying in America and Europe were not enough, General Tira proposes an even more aggressive political tactic, "We must clandestinely cooperate with Saudi Arabia so that it also persuades the US to strike Iran. For our part, we must prepare an independent military strike by coordinating flights in Iraqi airspace with the US. We should also coordinate with Azerbaijan the use of airbases in its territory and also enlist the support of the Azeri minority in Iran. In addition, we must immediately start preparing for an Iranian response to an attack."

Based on the urgency of General Tira's extraordinary pleas, it is immediately apparent that he has been shocked by the turn of political events inside America.  By this time, he has learned from official US sources that the long-anticipated attack against Iran has been shelved because of tectonic shifts in American politics.

Apparently, General Tira did not realize that President Bush has become the most deeply unpopular president in American history and that it was his subservience to the dictates of the Israel Lobby and its demands for wars against Iraq and Iran that led him into the political prison where he now finds himself isolated and impotent.

Neither does General Tira realize that the Republican Party is no longer unified in its support of President Bush's deeply unpopular war in Iraq or his plans for expanding the war by a sustained bombing campaign against Iran.

Since General Tira did not publish any remarks about the Iraq Study Group headed by former US Secretary of State, James Baker, he may be oblivious to the political facts now in place in 2007 America.

Instead of the bipartisan commitment to broaden Bush's unpopular war as General Tira proposes, there is now a broadening bipartisan movement to reign in the US losses in Iraq.  No major American politician has voiced any enthusiasm for broadening Bush's war into Iran as General Tira beseeches the US to do.

General Tira's outburst suggests that the official channels for news and the analysis of public affairs in Israel are not working as efficiently as they should in the 21st century.

Perhaps, someone should provide the General with a subscription to Ha'aretz and the International Herald Tribune for starters.

By Michael Carmichael, Global Research


Continued (Permanent Link)

Pay attention to Tzipi

Pay attention to Tzipi
Is Foreign Minister Livni future leader we've all been waiting for?,7340,L-3347225,00.html

Yael Gvirtz
01.02.07, 00:10

Pay attention to Tzipi Livni. While it's difficult to notice the difference between the suit brands of our male politicians, Livni is emerging as the most interesting alternative. Even if it's difficult to believe that Kadima will survive, Livni conveys the sense that she is the only one in our leadership today who is starting to understand how to move Israel forward.

It is possible that the path she may be taking, from the diplomatic world to the country's premiership, may qualify her to succeed in the job more than her predecessors. She may be more qualified than those who reached the leadership through the military path and turned to diplomacy only at old age (Rabin, Sharon) and more than Barak, who viewed diplomacy as a military trick. Her path certainly makes her more qualified than Olmert's and Peretz's political paths.

Livni was the first one who understood that if victory can be achieved in the Lebanon war, it can only be done in the diplomatic arena, and argued that the military campaign was only meant to leverage the diplomatic process. As foreign minister she hears, first hand, what the entire world has been telling us, and she has been wise enough to translate it to Hebrew: The Middle East conflict has no military solution, only a diplomatic one.

The fact that Olmert erred when he attempted to limit her, after she demanded to launch talks following the first night of fighting, is clear to everyone by now. Time will tell how many more such errors he'll be making while trying to curb her in the future.

For now we can be comforted by the realization of the importance of her views being voiced in the male-dominated decision-making forums. When we know where too much testosterone got us, it's pleasant to hear that "not only in the war, but also in all kinds of discussions I hear arguments between generals and admirals and I tell them: Boys, stop."

It's true that at the moment it appears that the new alliance between Gaydamak and Netanyahu will win the next elections, yet the new civilian pact offered by Livni may signal that we may have a "fight" here after all.

Who knows, maybe we'll discover that "we've had enough," and that we woke up this morning to a new year that will lead us to a situation where the "boys stop."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mohammad Ali Ramin, Advisor to Ahmadinejad: "Hitler Was Jewish"

Special Dispatch-Iran/Antisemitism Documentation Project
January 3, 2007
No. 1408

Mohammad Ali Ramin, Advisor to Iranian President Ahmadinejad: "Hitler Was Jewish"

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

In a December 28, 2006 interview with the Iranian website Baztab, which is affiliated with Iranian Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezai, Iranian Presidential Advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin said that Hitler was Jewish, and that Hitler's policies were aimed at bringing about the establishment of a Jewish state. Ramin added that Hitler acted under the influence of his powerful Jewish associates and in cooperation with Britain, since the latter shared his desire to force the Jews out of Europe.(1)

Ramin was recently appointed secretary-general of the new "world foundation for Holocaust Studies" established at the Iranian Holocaust Denial Conference in December.(2)

The following are excerpts from the interview:(3)

Adolf Hitler... Developed an Aversion to Judaism Because His Mother Was a Jewish Whore

"The Bolshevik Soviet government in Lenin's time, and later, in Stalin's - both of whom were Jewish, though they presented themselves as Marxists and atheists... - was one of the forces that, until the Second World War, cooperated with Hitler in promoting the idea of establishing the State of Israel. A book that was published about this... - titled Adolf Hitler, Founder of Israel by Hennecke Kardel, a German born in 1922 - proves that Hitler was Jewish, and that his grandmother was a Jewish prostitute. [Hitler's] father went by his mother's Jewish name until he was 40, and later changed his surname to Hitler.

"Adolf Hitler himself developed an aversion to Judaism because his mother was a Jewish whore. He first received [negative] information about the Jews in an Austrian monastery, (the book presents details and pictures of it), and from then on, he [tried] to escape his Judaism.

"Thus... Hitler simultaneously developed both feelings of solidarity with Judaism and feelings of hatred towards it, and this emotional ambivalence shaped his behavior towards the Jews. On the one hand, his entire family, the people who shared his views, and his associates who brought him into power and stood by him to the last - including his lovers and his personal doctor - were [all] Jewish. On the other hand, he welcomed the policy of expelling the Jews from Central Europe for two other reasons: Firstly, the establishment of a Jewish government in Palestine was an aspiration of the rich and influential Jews who surrounded him. Secondly, exiling the Jews from Europe and Germany was a general and historical demand of the Western Christian nations. With the full support of the British, and in coordination with them, Hitler addressed this general demand and [thereby] managed to gain widespread popularity in Europe. Obviously, publishing writings and information of this sort is
 forbidden in Germany and in the West...

"The Zionists recently... destroyed many documents and papers pertaining to the period before the war, which contained authentic statistics and figures regarding the Jews, such as how many Jews there were, where they [lived] and how they operated. One of the places that was destroyed completely and burned [to the ground] - and which... contained the most valuable documents pertaining to this matter - was the [building of] the newspaper Pravda, which had been published in Moscow for 80 years. On February 10, 2006, the building was set ablaze, and its entire archive, with all its back issues and photographs, was burned and destroyed, and not a trace of it was left. Nobody - not a single news agency anywhere in the world - investigated this historical crime or discussed it extensively..."

My Suggestion Was to Establish an NGO, in Iran or Elsewhere, [To] Reexamine [the Holocaust]... with the Help of International Forums

"My suggestion was to establish an NGO, in Iran or elsewhere, that would reexamine this issue and investigate it with the help of international forums. But after making enquiries, we saw that nobody in the [entire] world had the courage to raise this issue and investigate it. Anyone who speaks or publishes anything about it is silenced immediately, before [the issue] can be examined. [That is why] we got the idea of organizing a non-governmental conference with the support of the Iranian government, but we [subsequently] discovered that nobody in the world would respond to it, and that it was totally ignored  in the news.

"Naturally, I do not want us to take a one-sided view of the Holocaust, and to deny it out of hand, since we do not have sufficient and complete information about it. The purpose of the conference was to question the order that the West has imposed upon us in this manner..."
(1) For more Holocaust denial by Mohammad Ali Ramin, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1186, "Iranian Presidential Advisor Mohammad Ali Ramin: 'The Resolution of the Holocaust Issue Will End in the Destruction of Israel,'" June 15, 2006,; for more on Iran's use of Holocaust denial, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 307, "The Role of Holocaust Denial in the Ideology and Strategy of The Iranian Regime," December 15, 2006,
(2) MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1397, "Iran Holocaust Denial Conference Announces Plan to Establish World Foundation for Holocaust Studies," December 15, 2006,
(3) Baztab, December 28, 2006.

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)

Israel seeks operational link with U.S. missile defense system

Last update - 10:46 03/01/2007   

Israel seeks operational link with U.S. missile defense system
By Aluf Benn and Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondents

Israel wants to increase the likelihood of the U.S. deploying emergency missile defense systems within Israeli territory.
The heads of the Homa anti-missile project in the Defense Ministry asked the U.S. Department of Defense about two months ago for information on two advanced defense systems being developed in the U.S.: The ground-based Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, and a new model of the Aegis naval defense system.
According to a Defense Ministry source, the request for information was aimed at promoting the possibility of an "operational link" between the Israeli and U.S. defense systems, as a continuation of an ongoing project.
The U.S. Army has deployed Patriot missile batteries in Israel on a number of occasions. The American-made missiles were integrated into Israel's anti-aircraft and ground-to-ground missile defense systems and were used in exercises in combination with Israel's Arrow missile system.
The Defense Ministry source said that development and manufacture of Arrow missiles will continue over the coming years.
"The Arrow is a good system," the source said, "its performance is good and we are satisfied with it. We do not intend to halt development and manufacture and intend to continue to develop the Arrow's capabilities in accordance with the security threats."
The request for information from the U.S. was intended, according to the same source, "in the event that the American systems are deployed in Israel for reinforcement.
"We want to be there, as the American systems go into service, in the event that a foreign-policy decision is taken to deploy them in Israel, as happened in the past with the Patriot missiles.
"We want to know what they are developing and have asked for performance data, but it is classified information and a special permit is needed in order to receive it."
The Homa development team, headed by Aryeh Herzog, also requested, inter alia, to link the radar warning on the Aegis ships to the Israeli defense apparatus, in time of need.
Defense Ministry officials are currently waiting for an American response to the request for information.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Summary of Editorials from the Hebrew Press - Jan 2, 2007

(Government Press Office)
2 January 2007

Haaretz - Ma'ariv - Yediot Aharonot - Globes - Hazofe - Jerusalem Post -

The Jerusalem Post comments on the passing of the year 2006: "Nationally, 2006 was not a good year. It will be remembered as the year of the second war in Lebanon, the first war much of our nation felt it had lost. Internationally, there is also a sense that the West is not winning, and may be losing, the war against Islamo-fascism that was joined in earnest after the 9/11 attacks five years ago."

Haaretz writes: "The awarding of the Tel Aviv light rail tender to the MTS group, headed by Africa Israel, ostensibly heralds a new age of transportation. In practice, the company faces many obstacles. An effective transit system is critical in Tel Aviv, to open up the traffic blockages that exact a high economic price in Israel's urban center. There is still time to consider building a subway, and to plan a multi-branch underground system whose speed and convenience will encourage more people to give up their cars within the city. The underground rail system could still change from being merely a means of transport into the agent of historic, transportational and economic change."

Two papers comment on the Megidor Committee's recommendations on electoral reform, which were released yesterday:

Yediot Ahronot fears that the recommendations will be ignored unless, "a good and important group of VIPs in the State of Israel," pushes for them vigorously and vocally. The editors assert that, "Maybe not all of the recommendations are good. Maybe not all of them could be implemented. But there is practically no doubt that adopting them would, at least partially, stop the political corruption, distance trouble-makers from the party primaries and lead to better representation for the little guy."

Hatzofeh, in its second editorial, hopes that the recommendations will be implemented quickly. However, the editors remark that, "Usually, we are used to the conclusions of committees like this gathering dust in the State Archives and it somehow seems that this will also be the fate of the Megidor Committee recommendations."

Yediot Aharonot, in its second editorial, says that after President Katsav is indicted, the media will have to do a thorough soul-searching for having, "crucified him, way before the severity of the accusations became clear; they did not give him a chance." The editors contend that the foregoing is valid even if he is convicted and imprisoned.

Hatzofeh complains that "Approximately half of the pupils who are eligible - by law - for a daily hot meal are not receiving it due to the financial distress of the local councils."

Yediot Aharonot, in its third editorial, suggests that the New Year celebrations in Sydney were so carefree because the Australians don't have enemies like ours.

Yediot Aharonot, in its fourth editorial, eulogizes Israeli soccer legend Ya'akov Khodorov, who passed away Sunday morning at age 79.

[Eitan Haber and Nitzan Keidar wrote today's editorials in Yediot Aharonot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]


Continued (Permanent Link)

US Prof: I Find No Evidence That Makes Me Agree bin Laden Was Behind 9/11

Special Dispatch-Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
January 3, 2007
No. 1406

American Professor Natana DeLong-Bas: 'I Do Not Find Any Evidence that Would Make Me Agree that Osama bin Laden Was Behind the Attack on the Twin Towers' .

On December 21, 2006, the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an interview with Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas, who taught this year in the Department of Theology at Boston College and in the Department of Near East and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University(1). In the interview, she said that Wahhabism is not extremism and that the Muslim Brotherhood and Sayyed Qutb have nothing to do with jihadism. Dr. DeLong-Bas also indicated that there may be a Western conspiracy against the Arab and Islamic world, and said that she knows of no evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks. 

In 2004, DeLong-Bas published her doctoral dissertation in book form under the title Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad. This book, published by the Oxford University Press, has been highly recommended by the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C.(2)&nb

According to the book's jacket, "Ibn al-Wahhab was not the godfather of contemporary terrorist movements. Rather, he was a voice of reform, reflecting mainstream eighteenth-century Islamic thought. His vision of Islamic society was based upon monotheism in which Muslims, Christians, and Jews were to enjoy peaceful co-existence and cooperative commercial treaty relations."

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas is a contributor to The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, The Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, and The Encyclopedia of the Islamic World.

The following are excerpts from the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat interview:(3)

"The Extremists in Saudi Arabia are a Mixture of a Number of Elements, and Their Extremism Does Not Stem From the Islamic Religion"

Q: "To begin with, why did you choose to discuss Sheikh Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab in your doctoral dissertation?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "We hear a lot of talk in the U.S. about 'Wahabbi Islam' and 'the Wahhabis,' but only in a negative way that depicts them as extremist terrorists and gunmen. [Even] before 9/11, Americans would speak about everyone who opposed the positions of the American government - whether we talk of Chechnya, Indonesia, or Palestine - as 'Wahhabis.' This was the main reason I chose to discuss Sheikh Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab, because I had a strong desire to know the meaning of the term 'Wahhabi Islam', and I could not find a single book that talked about Wahhabism and its meaning. This is why I though that it may be the right time to [write] a historical study about Sheikh [Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab] and about Wahhabism..."

Q: "Who do you think were the influences on the extremists in Saudi Arabia?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "The extremists in Saudi Arabia are a mixture of a number of elements, and their extremism does not stem from the Islamic religion, as some think. The issue is more complicated than that. The political conditions in the Islamic world, like the Palestinian issue, which has lasted 60 years, [the issue of] Iraq, and the American government's tying [the hands of] the U.N. [and preventing it] from adopting any resolution against Israel, have definitely added to the Muslim youth's state of frustration, which then pushes them to - as they understand it - help their brothers do away with the aggression against them, in the various Islamic countries... [This is happening] at a time in which all political options have been closed off. That is why I believe that religion has nothing to do with this. The activities of the [Islamist] groups stems from the escalation of the crises in the region, which causes this frustration which ultimately leads to nothing but armed

"I Saw a Lot of Tolerance" in Sheikh Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab's Books

Q: "There are Muslims - whether ordinary people, intellectuals or even clerics - who criticize some aspects of Wahhabism as being extremist, and some believe that Wahhabi preaching contributed to instilling the tendency to religious extremism. What do you say about this?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "In my reading in Sheikh Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab's books and his interpretation of the principles of faith, I saw a lot of tolerance and civilized [thinking], much more than is applied today. The important thing now is to examine [the views of] his students and see whether or not they are faithful to what he said and taught..."

Q: "There are those who accuse the Muslim Brotherhood's writings and agenda in Egypt of being the principle source from which the extremists in Saudi Arabia have taken [their views], and of being the cause for the start of religious extremism. Do you agree with this opinion?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas:  "Hassan Al-Bana was not a jihadist or an extremist. The only thing he sought was how to be a true Muslim in everything one does and says. Al-Bana in no way called for any revolutions, nor did he order the assassination of Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser [sic](4) - something of which he has been accused in the past.

"Often the West ties together Sayyed Qutb's books and the ideology of jihad, and this is not true. Sayyed Qutb employed philosophical investigation [to distinguish] between evil and good in the world, and his book Fi Zilal Al-Koran ['In the Shade of the Koran'] was one of the first books that [went beyond] what was said in previous interpretations of the Koran, and tried to interpret the Koran in a way that is understood and relevant to our times..."

Q: "Do you agree with those who [claim] that Sheikh 'Abd Al-Wahhab tied together religion and politics?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "Not at all. Sheikh Muhammad Ibn 'Abd Al-Wahhab had no political motives. His efforts were limited exclusively to religious da'wa."  

Q: "How do you interpret the rise to power of Islamic groups in a number of Islamic countries like Egypt, Palestine and Somalia, and do you believe that the rise in their popularity stems from the recent political circumstances?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "The first reason [for the rise in their popularity] is their effectiveness, and the second is the citizens' grievances against the existing governments and their demonstrations against those governments, [which stem from the fact that] those governments ignored the people's concerns. [In addition, even though] the U.S. made an effort to implement democracy in the Middle East - efforts that did not rise to the level of what Hamas has achieved, for example - we need to give them more time. Also, I believe that the Islamic groups have clearly demonstrated their agendas in their  political and reformist activities in the fields of medical care and education..."

Q: "Do you think then that the political Islamic groups have more credibility than others?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "Yes. That is the case, and this is because they are well familiar with the concerns of the people and their needs..."

Q: "Did your writings convince the opponents of Sheikh Muhammad bin 'Abd Al-Wahhab and the relevant [political] circles in the U.S.?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "Some were convinced. Others still persist in their point of view, but it was the response of academics in the university which captivated me the most. Those who have had the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia and stay and work there, and who have [understanding] of the Middle East, showed great interest in what I said. On the other hand, there are academics who have a particular political agenda. Some of them tried to criticize the substance of the research and to say that it was not academic. At the end of the day, my book provided a new opening for debate about an important issue, and I hope that my book will help to answer the questions I raised."

Q: "In your opinion, why do you think that Al-Azhar at first refused to [allow] the publication and distribution of your book in Egypt, even though it later allowed it?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "I think that the title of the book, Wahhabi Islam, made them think that perhaps it was hostile to Islam and defamed religious figures. Afterwards, Al-Azhar justified its refusal on the grounds that the book touched on sensitive issues."

"I Do Not Want to Believe in the Existence of This Sort of [a Conspiracy Against the Arab and Muslim World], Even Though... the Intervention in All the Affairs of the Arab Region Raises a Number of Concerns"

Q: "This is your second visit to Saudi Arabia. Are you on vacation, or do you plan to write another book on Saudi Arabia?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "I came to Saudi Arabia for both reasons. I am here with my husband and my two sons because I want them to get to know Saudi Arabia so they can see for themselves that everything that is said about Saudi Arabia in the U.S. is inaccurate. On the professional side, I am currently writing a book that deals with the clash of civilizations and discusses 'the jihad for the spirit of Islam in the contemporary Saudi state'..."

Q: "What about Osama bin Laden - do you think that he was behind 9/11?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "I think that the Western media and the world have given Osama bin Laden more weight [than he has in reality] and exaggerated in depicting the danger he poses. Likewise, I do not find any evidence that would make me agree that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. All we heard from him was praise and acclaim for those who carried out the operation."

Q: "Do you believe in the danger posed by the expansion of the Al-Qaeda organization into other areas?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "I believe that this may be possible in the event of war breaking out in Iran, in which case we will see [Al-Qaeda's] presence there."

Q: "Many intellectuals in the Arab and Islamic world are preoccupied with discussing the question of a Western conspiracy [targeting] the Arab and Islamic societies. Do you believe in this 'conspiratorial' point of view of everything that goes on in the region?"

Dr. Natana DeLong-Bas: "There is enough evidence to indicate the possibility of the existence of such a conspiracy, according to those who endorse this theory. As for me, I do not want to believe in the existence of this sort of thing, even though what is happening nowadays -  the intervention in all the affairs of the Arab region - raises a number of concerns."     

(2) In an address to the Seattle World Affairs Council on March 24, 2006, former Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Turki stated "I would advise anybody who has an interest in that to read a book by a lady called [Natana] DeLong-Bas, and you will have her name passed onto you. She's an American lady. She did her research mostly in America, Saudi Arabia, and other places, and she has a very definitive book on Sheikh Mohammed and Abd Al-Wahhab and his teachings.", March 24, 2006, .
(3) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 21, 2006.
(4) Hassan Al-Bana was murdered in February 12, 1949, and could not have been involved in ordering the assassination attempt against Nasser. Dr. DeLong-Bas apparently meant to refer to another Muslim Brotherhood leader, Sayyed Qutb, who was executed in Egypt in 1966 for involvement in an attempt on Nasser's life.    

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)

Peace without Golan

Peace without Golan
Like Turks, Israel must show determination in dealings with Syria
Uri Heitner Published: 01.01.07, 16:11,7340,L-3347015,00.html

Peace declarations coated by threats of war on the part of Bashar Assad, Ahmadinejad's and Nasrallah's close partner, are met by the Israel public with a healthy response, as it appears in the polls: Peace? Sure. But not at the price of withdrawing from the Golan. At the same time, we see in the media a campaign of appeasement based on the old cliché that "the price of peace with Syria is known – the Golan." I suggest that we examine this axiom.

Almost two years ago, a historic event happened in the Mideast that for some reason did not publicly resonate in Israel. The Syrian regime recognized for the first time the Alexandretta (Hatay) region as sovereign Turkish territory after dozens of years where Syria strongly demanded Turkish withdrawal from this area. At the same time, Syria maintains its persistent stand that demands an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan. How can we explain the duality in Syria's attitude to those two regions?

In both cases we're talking about two regions that in different periods belonged to Syria, yet today they are controlled by its neighbors and Syria viewsed them as its territory and demanded sovereignty in both of them. If there's a difference between the two, Syria's demand for the Golan is in fact weaker than Alexandretta. In Alexandretta, as opposed to the Golan, there's a large Arab-Syrian population. The Golan, as opposed to Alexandretta, constituted a base for Syrian aggression against its neighbor – belligerence that caused Syria to lose the Golan.

The difference between the Golan and Alexandretta is not found in the Syrian position. In both cases, the Syrian position was identical – an uncompromising demand to "return" the area to Syrian sovereignty. In both cases, Syria educated its citizens and children to view it as occupied territory. In both cases, all Syrian maps showed the Golan and Alexandretta as Syrian regions.

The significant difference is between Turkey's attitude to its land, sovereignty and borders and Israel's attitude to its land, sovereignty and borders. For dozens of years, Turkey was unwilling to discuss any kind of compromise in Alexandretta. It never expressed a willingness to cede Alexandretta in exchange for peace. It never negotiated a withdrawal from Alexandretta. Its attitude was clear and simple – Alexandretta is ours. Period.

For dozens of years, Turkey showed determination in safeguarding its national objectives and strategic interests. It turns out that the stubbornness and patience paid off. When the Syrian interest necessitated peaceful, neighborly relations with Turkey, Syria recognized reality and in contradiction to its pledges for dozens of years renounced its claim for Alexandretta.

It would be appropriate for Israel to adopt the Turkish model and respect its sovereignty in the Golan just like Turkey respected its sovereignty in Alexandretta. Just like the Turks, Israel too must show determination and patience. We should not discuss the Golan, negotiate over the Golan, or agree to create any kind of link between the Golan and peace with Syria. Just like Turkey, Israel must say that the Golan is ours. Period.

Just as was the case with Turkey, determination will pay off for Israel too. And if a day comes where the Syrian interest is to sign a peace deal with Israel, Syria will have to recognize reality and accept Israeli sovereignty in the Golan. Turkey waited patiently for 66 years. We may have to wait less.

The price is known? It's all in our head. We must change our way of thinking and make it clear: We're ready for peace with Syria, despite our reservations over Assad's regime, but the Syrians must know the price of peace: They must renounce their demand to get the Golan from us.

The writer, who is member of Kibbutz Ortal, serves as director of the Golan Community Center

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Sderot Press contact info] Iran-Backed Palestinian Terror Group Has Fired 68 Rockets Into Israel Since Cease-Fire Began

[Members of the press looking for media spokespersons in Sderot - note addresses given at the bottom.  ]

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Calev Ben-David: 011-972-2-6236427,
Leah Soibel:  011-972-2-6236427,

Iran-Backed Palestinian Terror Group Has Fired 68 Rockets Into Israel Since Cease-Fire Began

More Than 1,300 Rockets Have Hit Israeli Civilian Areas Since Israel Left Gaza

Contacts Available for Comment

Continual Qassam rocket attacks against Israel by Palestinian terror groups in Gaza are threatening to undermine a month-long cease-fire during which Israel has refrained from undertaking military actions to stop the unprovoked strikes.

The cease-fire agreement went into effect on Nov. 26. [1] Since then, Gaza-based terrorists have fired more than 68 Qassams, 53 of which fell inside Israel. [2]

"It is a real tragedy that Israel has once again been forced to defend itself from rocket attacks," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project. "This is especially true since Israel gave up all of Gaza more than a year ago in the hopes of a better future for both sides. Israel has complained time and again about these attacks and is working with the international community, but the attacks continue. All Israel wants is for its citizens to be able to live in peace."

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), one of several Iran-backed terrorist groups operating inside Gaza, has claimed responsibility for much of the Qassam fire that has breached the cease-fire in the last month. One of the Qassams landed in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on Dec. 26, seriously wounding two teenage boys.

In response to that incident, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released a statement on Dec. 27 that read: "A directive has been given to take pin-point action against the rocket-launching squads. In parallel, Israel will continue to preserve the cease-fire and will act vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in order for them to take immediate action to stop the shooting of Qassams." [3]

Abu Ahmed, a PIJ spokesman, confirmed that the group was deliberately launching Qassams in an attempt to jeopardize the fragile cease-fire by provoking a response by the Israel Defense Forces.[4]  

The United States, the European Union, and the Australian and Canadian governments officially designate PIJ as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

Iran provides an estimated $2 million in state-sponsored funding to PIJ annually. [5]  The Al-Quds Brigades, the violent military wing of PIJ has claimed responsibility for dozens of Qassam rockets launched into Israel in recent months. In addition to rocket attacks, PIJ planned and carried out the April 17, 2006  suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that left 12 civilians dead and more than 60 wounded near the city's old downtown bus station.

In March 2006, Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a Grad-type Katyusha rocket - the so-called Quds 4 - into Israel for the first time. [6]  The Quds 4 rocket has a range of up to 14 km (8.5 mi.). Since then, a total of four Grad-type rockets have been fired into Israeli territory.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia - a terrorist organization heavily financed by Iran - is now providing direct funding to a variety of Palestinian factional groups to launch Qassam rockets into Israel.

Hezbollah initiated a war against Israel  this past summer after Hezbollah terrorists crossed the Lebanese-Israeli internationally recognized border while firing rockets and mortar shells into Israeli towns and ambushed Israeli jeeps patrolling the northern border. Hezbollah kidnapped two soldiers and killed three others in the attack, touching off a 34-day war during which tens of thousands of Israelis were forced to flee northern Israel or live underground. Hezbollah has provided no information about the fate of the abducted soldiers. [7]


Militants affiliated with Hezbollah and other factional Palestinian terrorist groups receive training, financial support and weapons from Syria and Iran and even receive thousands of dollars in reward money for each attack, according to an Israeli Security Agency source. [8]

"Sometimes they are paid before the attack and sometimes they submit a bill to Lebanon afterward and the money gets transferred a short while later," according to the source. [9]

Security officials also said Hezbollah is directly involved in smuggling thousands of dollars into Gaza to pay for the attacks. Militants are paid based on the number of Israelis they kill or injure by Qassams they fire into Israel. [10]

Financial support for these terrorist attacks against Israel is chiefly awarded by Iran.

Regarding PIJ's Qassam attacks against Israeli civilians, Abu Ahmed said, "Our firing is not coincidental. The rocket-firing cells are aiming at targets and strategic facilities on which, or next to which, the rockets land." [11]

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is also working to create a rocket with a longer range to use against Israel. "We are in the advanced stages of working on a rocket with a range of 22 km (13.5 mi.)," Abu Ahmed said.[12]

As a result, the IDF is considering expanding the current security zone around the Gaza Strip. In order to protect Israeli citizens in the communities surrounding Gaza, Israel's Home Front Command wants to widen the zone an additional 3 km (1.9 mi.), which would total 20 km (12.4 mi.). Almost 50,000 Israelis live within a 7 km (4.3 mi.) perimeter of Gaza, but the newly expanded zone, once completed, will help protect the 162,000 civilians who would be in range of the extended Qassam fire. [13]

Hamas' Izzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades as well as the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, an offshoot of Fatah, also have been responsible for firing Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel throughout the month-long cease-fire.

An estimated 1,300 Qassam rockets have been launched by Palestinian militants from Gaza since Israel evacuated all of its citizens, including soldiers and even its dead, from the Gaza Strip in August 2005. Israel took that dramatic step for the purpose of helping to launch an independent Palestinian state. Instead, almost immediately afterwards, Palestinian terrorist groups began using Gaza to stockpile weapons, fire rockets into Israel and even set up terrorist training camps. [14]  The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority (P.A.) has done nothing to stop the attacks, which include intentionally targeting innocent Israeli civilians. 


Under the control of the Hamas government, Palestinians are now capable of launching Qassam rockets into the coastal town of Ashkelon, which lies 13 km (8 mi.) from northern Gaza. Qassams usually can travel 3 -10 km (1.8 - 6 mi.), but Hamas' green light for continued terror against Israel has resulted in the creation of a new double-engine Qassam rocket by the military wing of Hamas and the build-up of Grad-style Katyusha rockets that can reach targets within 18-30 km (11-19 mi.). [15]

Throughout the recent wave of Qassam rocket attacks, Israel has demonstrated its commitment to the Nov. 26 cease-fire agreement and has refrained from reacting militarily.

On Dec. 23, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert hosted his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas at his home in west Jerusalem. During the meeting, the two leaders agreed to cooperate on a number of issues, primarily taking concrete steps to resume the peace process. [16]

Following the discussion at Olmert's residence, Olmert announced that he would unfreeze $100 million dollars in Palestinian tax revenues and find a way to deliver the aid so that it would directly reach the Palestinian people rather than falling into the hands of the Hamas-led government. [17]

Said Miri Eisin, an Israeli government spokeswoman, "The money itself will not be transferred to the Hamas-led government and right now we are looking for the right way to be able to transfer the money ... for different humanitarian issues." [18]

Also, the Israeli prime minister pledged to ease travel and security restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza. [19]

In response to the number of Qassams that have been launched during the cease-fire, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations (U.N.) has been directed to file a motion with the president of the U.N. Security Council regarding Palestinian violations of the agreement. [20]

Those violations include eight Qassams launched on Dec. 26 from Gaza into Israel and a mortar that landed near an IDF base. One of the Qassams landed in Ashkelon, near a strategic installation. [21] During Dec. 18-26, militants in Gaza fired 31 Qassams; of those, 17 landed in Israel.

A total of 10 civilians have died as a result of Qassam and mortar fire launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel, beyond the 1967 border. Before Israel carried out its disengagement from Gaza, an additional seven people were killed by rockets and mortars in Jewish communities in Gaza, including a foreign worker and two Palestinians. [22]

Background Information on Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)

  • Associated with: Hamas, Palestinian Resistance Committees
  • Headquarters: Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon
  • Doctrine: Destruction of Israel, replacing it with a Palestinian Islamic State
  • Background: Sunni Islamic Fundamentalists, Palestinian separatists
  • Approach: Bombings, including suicide and mortar attacks

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, also referred to as Islamic Jihad (IJ), was founded in 1980 by Fathi Shiqaqi subsequent to his departure from the Muslim Brotherhood. The specificity of this group's title - Palestinian - is due to its geographic location and its members' national affiliation.

Islamic Jihad is the principal establishment of which PIJ and a number of other trans-national IJ terror cells worldwide are supplemented. All IJ factions draw their tenets from political and militant Islam. Since its inception, PIJ has been a radical Islamic movement.

Currently, PIJ is led by Ramadan Abdullah Shallah. PIJ is committed to the violent destruction of Israel, which it views as one battle in a larger worldwide holy war, pitting Islam against all non-believers. PIJ violently opposes the peace process and has conducted numerous suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. The most recent PIJ suicide bombing killed 11 Israelis in the heart of Tel Aviv on April 17, 2006. More than 200 civilians have been murdered in PIJ attacks, with more than 1,000 civilians wounded. [23]

PIJ's activities have been hampered in recent years by Israeli security services and an international crackdown on its funding sources. However, its refusal to abide by cease-fires and continued rejection of Israel's right to exist make PIJ a continued threat to a lasting peace in the region.

Comprehensive list of all PIJ terrorist attacks

Contacts Available for Comment in Sderot and Western Negev Region

Municipality and Council Representatives

Yossi Cohen, Sderot Spokesman
Cell: 972-57-738-3770

Shalom Halevi, Assistant to Sderot Spokesman
Tel.: 972-8-662-0206; cell: 972-57-899-4586

Alon Schuster, Head of Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council
Cell: 972-54-675-5111

Eliahu Segel, General Manager of Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council
Tel.: 972-8-689-7223; cell: 972-54-675-5112

Michal Shaban, Assistant to Head of Sha'ar HaNegev Regional Council
Cell: 972-54-675-5115

Community Leaders and Organizations

Gvanim, Community organization dedicated to several different projects in Sderot
Cell: 972-54-668-9902 (ask for Hen)

Aron Poulet, Head of social work services in Sderot
Tel.: 972-8-662-0273

Tami Sagie, Head Psychologist
Tel.: 972-8-662-4000

Miriam Sasi, Head of Sderot's Education Department
Tel.: 972-8-662-4000

'Sela' - A community project for Russian-speaking residents of Sderot
Natasha, Cell: 972-50-795-5051

Raneta Shulomov, Russian speaking-resident and head of a social project in Sderot
Cell: 972-54-668-9014

Dalia Yosef, Heads a project that deals with community protection services
Cell: 972-54-471-3268

School Principals and Teachers

Eli Edri, Principal of school in Sderot
Cell: 972-52-607-0751

Sari Kalimi, Resident of Sderot, mother of three, special education teacher and therapist
Tel.: 972-8-661-2821; cell: 972-52-476-972

Adina Mastbaum, Resident of Sderot, mother of three, and special education teacher
Tel.: 972-08-932-2221; cell: 972-50-753-3363

Amit Orbach, Principal of school in Sderot
Cell: 972-54-443-6633

Atara Orenbuch, Mother of six and teacher in Sderot
Tel.: 927-8-661-2869; cell: 972-54-443-5588

Matin Ovadia, Principal of a school in Sderot
Cell: 972-52-607-0712

Shusha Sido, Head of a Sderot kindergarten
Cell: 972-50-683-1310

Mutti and Rivka Spanglet, Parents of three and teachers at a local school in Sderot
Tel.: 972-8-684-9964; cell: 972-50-865-2991

Russian-Speaking Residents of Sderot

Sderot City Council, Elena Biryukova
Tel.: 972-8-662-0208; cell: 972-54-694-4149

Alexander Rieman, Historian and journalist
Cell: 972-50-562-5571; email:

Ashkelon Municipality

Anat Weinstein-Berkowitz, Spokeswoman of the Ashkelon Municipality
Tel.:972-8-679-2385; cell: 972-50-899-8385

Gregory Mezin, Assistant to Ashkelon Spokeswoman (Russian-speaker)
Cell: 972-50-899-8698



[1]  "Israel, Palestinian Authority declare cease-fire in Gaza Strip," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, Nov. 26,2006,
[2]  Interview with spokesman from Israel Defense Forces office, Dec. 28, 2006
[3]  "Security Consultation," Prime Minister's Office, Dec. 27, 2006,
[4]  Benn, Aluf, Harel, Amos, Grinberg, Mijal, and Stern, Yoav, "Islamic Jihad: We are firing rockets in bid to sabotage Gaza truce," Haaretz , Dec. 27, 2006,
[5]  "Group Profile: Palestinian Islamic Jihad," MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Database, Nov. 7, 2006,
[6]  "Katyusha rocket 'fired from Gaza,'" BBC News , March 28, 2006,
[7]  Butcher, Tim, "Captured troops may be dead, admit Israelis," , Aug. 12, 2006,
[8]  Keinon, Herb, and Katz, Yaakov, "Exclusive: Hizbullah paying terrorists for Kassam attacks," The Jerusalem Post , Dec. 28, 2006,
[9] Ibid.
[10] Keinon, Herb, and Katz, Yaakov, "Exclusive: Hizbullah paying terrorists for Kassam attacks," The Jerusalem Post , Dec. 28, 2006,
[11]  Waked, Ali, "Islamic Jihad: We are firing more accurate rockets," Ynet News , Dec. 28, 2006,,7340,L-3345496,00.html
[12]  Waked, Ali, "Islamic Jihad: We are firing more accurate rockets," Ynet News , Dec. 28, 2006,,7340,L-3345496,00.html
[13]  Fishman, Alex, "Danger zone around Gaza to triple," Ynet News , Dec. 28, 2006,,7340,L-3345689,00.html
[14]  Al-Mughrabi, Nidal, "Israel seizes former Jewish settlements: Olmert vows to step up offensive after rockets hit Israeli city," Reuters via the National Post (Canada), July 6, 2006
[15]  "Katyusha rocket 'fired from Gaza,'" BBC News , March 28, 2006,
[16]  "PM Olmert meets with PA President Abbas," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 24, 2006,
[17] Heller, Corinne, and Entous, Adam, "Olmert and Abbas hold first formal talks," Reuters , Dec. 23, 2006,
[18]  Heller, Corinne, and Entous, Adam, "Olmert and Abbas hold first formal talks," Reuters , Dec. 23, 2006,
[19]  "PM orders implementation of steps to ease restrictions on Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 26, 2006,

[20]  "Israel to protest Kassam fire before Security Council," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dec. 25, 2006,

[21]  Benn, Aluf, Harel, Amos, Grinberg, Mijal, and Stern, Yoav, "Islamic Jihad: We are firing rockets in bid to sabotage Gaza truce," Haaretz , Dec. 27, 2006,
[22]  "Behind the headlines: The threat to Israeli civilians from the Gaza Strip," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov. 21, 2006,
[23]  "Group Profile: Palestinian Islamic Jihad," MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Database, Nov. 7, 2006, 

The Israel Project is an international non-profit organization devoted to educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security, freedom and peace. It provides journalists, leaders and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel. The Israel Project is not related to any government or government agency.

Board of Advisors: Senator Evan Bayh (IN), Senator Saxby Chambliss (GA), Senator Norm Coleman (MN), Senator Ben Nelson (NE), Senator Arlen Specter (PA), Senator Ron Wyden (OR), Congressman Rob Andrews (NJ), Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (NV), Congressman Tom Davis (VA), Congressman Eliot Engel (NY), Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ), Congressman Jon Porter (NV), Congressman Jim Saxton (NJ), Congressman Brad Sherman (CA), Congressman Joe Wilson (SC), Actor and Director Ron Silver

Continued (Permanent Link)

We need to be part of the EU and NATO

We need to be part of the EU and NATO
Avigdor Lieberman,

In my very first political science lecture in the Hebrew University in the early 1980s, I was taught that international politics were governed by State interests. In all my years in Israeli politics and as a third-time minister, I have yet to see this theory implemented in Israel.
I believe it was Henry Kissinger who once said that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic. The sad reality of today is that the State of Israel has never defined, and rarely acted in accordance with its national interests. The few examples I can think of include Israel going to war over the Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal and restriction of Israeli marine traffic in 1956, the 1981 attack against the Iraqi nuclear facility and the 1995 peace agreement with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
I have recently suggested that it is in Israel's national interest to join the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The world today is a less hospitable place to our democracy. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed a world divided over economic doctrines and political thought. I myself was born in Moldova, a country taken over by the Soviet Union in 1944, and spent my childhood under the rule of a harsh totalitarian regime (until my family made aliya in 1978, when I was 20 years old).
Today's world is dividing over values. On the one side is the free, democratic world, and on the other side is the radical, fundamentalist world. We might have disagreements with Europe and the international community over foreign policy, but we share the same values system that is the target of the radical, fundamentalist war against the West.
The great danger in this global conflict is that we are facing non-rational players. Take Bin Laden for example - there is nothing you can offer him to stop his war against the free world - no amount of money, no piece of territory, no agreement - his goal is to convert the entire world to Islam, or send all infidels to heaven. There is no sense in rationalizing with this kind of enemy.
Not a single Islamic leader - political or spiritual - has condemned the death sentence against Salman Rushdie, and even today he has to live in hiding between London and Paris. Not a single Islamic leader has ever condemned the Taliban's destruction of the Buddha sculptures in Afghanistan. The Muslim world's reaction to cartoons about the prophet Muhammad and to Pope Benedict XVI's speech are irrational.
My goal for Israel is to complete this global re-positioning within the coming five years. This move will send a strong message not only to our enemies, but also to our friends and allies.
One last note: readers are aware of the letter I sent to incumbent UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who said that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was at the core of solving all the problems in the Middle East.
Someone pointed out to me a very poignant comment posted on a talkback to the article about this letter, by Bob in the US: "Last week I appeared in court because I was doing 20 miles over the speed limit. I flat out told the presiding judge "I'm not paying the fine until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved." His exact words were "What the Hell does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have to do with anything?" I ask the same question.
Thanks, Bob.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Haniyeh will not visit Jordan, meet with Abbas as planned

Last update - 12:07 03/01/2007   
Haniyeh will not visit Jordan, meet with Abbas as planned
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas plans to cut short a tour of Arab nations, forgoing his planned visit to Jordan where he was to meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, aides said Wednesday.
Haniyeh plans to return to the Gaza Strip on Thursday.
Jordan has offered to host the meeting between Haniyeh and Abbas in an effort to defuse deadly tensions between their rival factions. Both Haniyeh and Abbas have agreed in principle to such a meeting, but no date was announced.
The aides said Haniyeh decided to break off his trip after making an Islamic pilgrimage, or haj, to Saudi Arabia, to attend to unspecified "work." They said he would resume the tour, but did not specify when.
In addition to traveling to Jordan, Haniyeh was also to have visited Kuwait and Qatar.
Haniyeh broke off a previous trip to Jordan in mid-December following a deadly bout of Hamas-Fatah violence. His convoy came under fire at the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt as he returned.
A shaky cease-fire reached in late December has curbed the fighting.
There was no immediate indication of a link between the change in Haniyeh's travel plans and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's scheduled trip to Egypt on Thursday to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Egypt has played a major role in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, and has been trying to negotiate the release of an Israeli Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit captured by militants linked to Hamas in June. Palestinian sources maintained last week that Olmert and Mubarak were planning to announce a finalized prisoner exchange deal on Thursday, but the reports have not been confirmed, and even denied.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Halutz admits to failures in Lebanon war, rejects calls to resign

Last update - 01:52 03/01/2007   

Halutz admits to failures in Lebanon war, rejects calls to resign
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Israel failed to achieve all its objectives in its summer war against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz admitted Tuesday, but he rejected calls to resign as a result.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in summary of the IDF's probe into the war, Halutz said "when I chose to take responsibility I chose to take responsibility. There are some people who interpret responsibility as escape. I decided to stand up to the inquiry," he said.
Halutz, who is under pressure to stop down because of the shortcomings of the war, said he decided to stay on and "correct what can be corrected."
"I see that a few of you would very much yearn to see me quit. I didn't plan to announce that to you today, and if you ask the question again, my answer will not change." He said resignation now would be "running away," adding, "I have not heard my superiors calling on me to resign. If they do, I will respond."
Summing up internal army inquiries into the war, which ended inconclusively in a cease-fire after 34 days of fighting, Halutz said IDF forces caused considerable damage to Hezbollah and killed "hundreds of terrorists."
But he added, "We were not successful in reducing the short-range rocket fire on Israel's north until the cease-fire." Hezbollah fired about 4,000 rockets at Israel during the fighting. Israel pounded Lebanon with airstrikes at Hezbollah targets and infrastructure, and ground forces swept through south Lebanon. "We attacked the Katyushas [rockets], but unsuccessfully," he said.
"There were cases in which officers did not carry out their assignments, and cases in which officers objected on moral grounds to their orders," Halutz said, an apparent reference to resistance against attacking south Lebanese towns and villages.
He said these instances of refusal "ran counter to the army's basic values." He said a senior officer was suspended as a result.
Halutz said it would be a mistake to declare a military goal of freeing the two IDF soldiers captured in a cross-border Hezbollah raid, which set off the fighting - though that was one of the goals stated at the outset of the conflict.
He noted conclusions of an inquiry by a former chief of staff that included vague definitions of goals and faulty work in command centers.
Halutz indicated that reserve soldiers would be called up for longer annual service to undergo better training, and said a plan to shorten the length of regular service, now set at three years, would be delayed.
A committee appointed by the government is in the midst of its investigation of the war and its outcome. The internal army inquiries did not call for resignations, but the government committee has the power to do so. Halutz said if that committee called for his resignation, "of course" he would comply.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz has made the same pledge.
The conflict ended August 14 with a United Nations Security Council resolution that posted a reinforced peacekeeping force in south Lebanon with a mandate to keep the area clear of armed forces.
The fighting left more than 1,000 people dead on both sides, according to the United Nations and Israeli and Lebanese officials. Lebanon's Higher Relief Council, a government group, says the majority of those were Lebanese civilians. UNICEF also says most of those killed were civilians, and that about a third of them were children.
Israel claimed 600 Hezbollah fighters were killed during the war but that figure was not substantiated, with the group only acknowledging 70 of its fighters killed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas: We agree to Israeli Shalit proposal

Hamas: We agree to Israeli Shalit proposal
By Avi Issacharoff

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said yesterday the organization has accepted a prisoner exchange offer conveyed by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during his visit to Saudi Arabia last weekend. Barhoum confirmed to Haaretz that Suleiman had met in Saudi Arabia with Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
Suleiman presented the officials with Israel's offer to release about 450 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit. Under the terms of the deal, Hamas would give Israel a video proving that Shalit is still alive. In exchange, Israel would release women and minors being held in its jails. Palestinian sources said agreement had been reached on the number of prisoners to be included in this group. They did not disclose the number but emphasized it does not include all Palestinian women and minors being held in Israel.
About two months after Shalit's return, Israel would release a second group of prisoners. Israel has promised to be "generous" with the numbers being released.
If the deal is completed, Hamas will be able to claim that Israel agreed to free more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, while Israel will claim that it released only 500 to 600, and that the remainder were released in negotiations with PA Chair Mahmoud Abbas.
The agreement is not yet a done deal, however. Palestinian source reported that Hamas gave Egypt a list of about 450 prisoners it wishes to see freed. Senior Hamas officials now claim they are waiting for Israel's response. Palestinian sources expect the negotiations to be held up over the inclusion on this list of senior Hamas military figures who were responsible for a large number of suicide attacks, and key Palestinian figures such as Marwan Barghouti.
On Sunday the Egyptian security delegation currently in Gaza met with Abbas to update him on the agreement between Israel and Hamas over the number of prisoners to be freed. The Egyptians told him, however, there is still disagreement over which individuals are to be released.
Arab summit mooted
Meanwhile, the Cairo daily Al Ahram reported yesterday that a mini-Arab summit is to be convened in the Egyptian capital shortly to discuss the creation of a Palestinian unity government. Representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and perhaps even Syria are expected to attend, in addition to Abbas and Haniyeh. A scheduled visit by Haniyeh to Jordan has apparently been canceled.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Russia anti-aircraft weapons sales to Syria, Iran on schedule

Russia anti-aircraft weapons sales to Syria, Iran on schedule
Tue Jan 2, 5:18 AM ET

MOSCOW (AFP) - Controversial Russian contracts to sell anti-aircraft weapons to Syria and Iran are being fulfilled on schedule Russian officials said.

At least half of the 29 Tor-M1 missile systems bought by Iran for 1.4 billion dollars (1.06 billion euros) had been delivered, state-run ITAR-TASS quoted an unnamed source at the defence ministry as saying Tuesday.

"We are actively carrying out deliveries of the system to Iran. At least 50 percent of the contract has been delivered," the official was quoted as saying.

The air defence systems are being stationed around Iran's civilian nuclear sites, according to ITAR-TASS.

The United States, which is leading international pressure against Iran's nuclear programme, strongly resisted the contract and imposed sanctions against Russian jetmaker Sukhoi and arms exporter Rosoboronexport.

Meanwhile, Interfax news agency quoted Valery Kashin, head of weapons maker Engineering Design Bureau, as saying that Russia met all its commitments in 2006 under the contract to supply Syria with the Strelets anti-aircraft system. He gave no details.

Israel spoke out against the 2005 deal, claiming that Syria would pass on the system, which fires Igla ground-to-air rockets, to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

Details about the quantity and cost of the Strelets contract have not been made public.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab media: Mubarak surprised Olmert regarding nukes

Arab media: Mubarak surprised Olmert regarding nukes

Important media outlets in Arab world address Egyptian president's remarks during his meeting with prime minister, in which he hinted his country would develop nuclear weapons. Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram reports that this indeed is Mubarak's plan. Sources in Israel: Remark directed at Iran
Roee Nahmias Published:  01.05.07, 18:32

Several prominent Arab media outlets agree Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's nuclear remark was unusual and a first of its kind. Some of the most important media outlets in the Arab world on Friday broadly addressed the Egyptian president's "nuclear remark" during his joint press conference with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the end of their meeting Thursday in Sharm al-Sheikh.
"Dispute between Munarak and Olmert regarding nuclear weapons and funds for Hamas," called out the main headline of one of the most prominent newspapers in the Arab world, the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat.
Rare Remark

The newspaper quoted Mubarak's remarks on the issue only after he answered the question of an Egyptian journalist.
"Egypt's stance regarding mass destruction weapons was already declared at the beginning of the 1990s in Baghdad at the presence of late President Saddam Hussein.
"We said that the region should be demilitarized of mass destruction weapons and that we don't want nuclear weapons in the region, or else we would be forced to also bring in nuclear weapons so that we are not attacked at any time," the president said.
The important Lebanese newspaper al-Nahar also stated in one of its main headlines that the Egyptian president "surprised Olmert regarding his plan to possess nuclear weapons.
"President Mubarak declared yesterday for the first time at the end of his talks with the Israeli prime minister in Sharm al-Sheikh that Egypt 'would not stand aside' if the nuclear arms race in the region escalates and that it would be 'forced' to try and equip itself with similar weapons in order to defend itself," the newspaper reported.
 One might think that Mubarak's remark was a slip of the tongue or that his intention was misinterpreted. But even the state Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram chose to highlight the issue and signal that this was indeed the president's plan.
 The newspaper quoted the interview Mubarak gave to Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, but contrary to the headlines in Israel , the Egyptians chose to highlight the president's remarks in one of the newspapers headlines: "The mass destruction weapons are a danger to the entire region; we will not stand aside if Iran possesses such weapons."
The newspaper also presented President Mubarak's full "nuclear remark" in its report on the press conference Thursday.
Israel: Remark directed at Iran
Sources in Israel viewed Mubarak's remark as extremely important and as the first of its kind. According to the sources, this is the first time the president himself makes such remarks and a senior Egyptian official says so out loud.
The sources added that this was the first response to Olmert's remarks in Germany on Israel's nuclear weapons.

"This testifies to Egypt's future plans. Now no source will be able to come and say that Egypt has no nuclear plans," one of the sources clarified. "But the remarks are not only directed at Israel, but express the ongoing anger in Egypt over the Iranian statement that their nuclear plan is indeed for peaceful purposes, but that if they are attacked it would be used for military purposes."
According to the source, the Egyptians find it convenient to make such remarks opposite the Israelis, as they are accepted with understanding by the public opinion – as an answer to Israel's nukes. But in spite of all this, the remark is against Iran.

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Egypt says U.S. obstructing Israel-Syria peace

Egypt says U.S. obstructing Israel-Syria peace
Fri Jan 5, 2007 4:47 AM ET
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused the United States in an interview published on Friday of obstructing peace between Israel and Syria.
"I believe America is preventing (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert from achieving peace with Syria," Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth during Olmert's visit to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Thursday.
Mubarak did not elaborate on his reasons for believing the United States was an obstacle to peace.
During the war between Israel and the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah last year, media reports said the United States opposed Israeli overtures toward contact with the Syrians.
The Bush administration says Syria allows weapons and fighters to cross its border into Iraq to support the insurgency there and has led Western efforts to isolate Syria over its alleged role in the 2005 assassination of Lebanese ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri. Syria has denied both allegations.
Washington imposed sanctions on Syria in 2004, mainly for backing Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamist group Hamas, now the ruling Palestinian party.
Mubarak urged Olmert to test Syria's peaceful intentions to find out whether Assad is serious.
"Bring the truth to light, if it's just a (tactical) manoeuvre or true intentions. Check out which peace he (Assad) wants to achieve. Why say no to a peace offering?" he said.
He added: "Now, when the president of Syria calls for peace, don't imagine he will come to Jerusalem. That won't happen. No Arab leader will come to Jerusalem until peace is achieved."
Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, went to Jerusalem to make peace in 1977 but Mubarak has gone there only once in 25 years, for the funeral of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Mubarak said in the interview that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is in conflict with a cabinet led by Hamas, needed financial help to strengthen him.
"We have to strengthen him so he can make decisions. He has a government, but he has problems with his government. We must assist him financially, unfreeze money and make conditions easier so people can live," he said.

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Cleric gunned down in Gaza after plea for calm

Cleric gunned down in Gaza after plea for calm
Fri Jan 5, 2007 4:29 PM ET

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Unidentified gunmen shot dead a Muslim cleric after he delivered a sermon in the Gaza Strip on Friday calling for an end to fierce factional fighting between Hamas and Fatah, hospital officials and local residents said.

The cleric's shooting in central Gaza came hours after Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said he and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah had agreed to keep rival gunmen off Gaza's streets after clashes in which eight were killed....

Tension was high across the coastal strip as thousands of Palestinians loyal to Fatah took part in funeral marches for a commander killed in a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades fired by Hamas gunmen on Thursday.

Brushing aside Haniyeh's plea for calm, Fatah issued a statement in Gaza: "Blood for blood and aggression for aggression ... and all the sons of the movement should retaliate to each aggression openly."

The cleric, who was in a car when the gunmen opened fire, was not affiliated to any faction. No group claimed responsibility for the shooting, which occurred after prayers at a mosque in the Maghazi refugee camp.

At one of the funeral marches, members of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades threatened to assassinate Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar and Interior Minister Saeed Seyam of Hamas.

"Zahar and Seyam, you have to leave Gaza. We will tear your bodies to pieces," an al-Aqsa member shouted at the crowd.

Overnight, Hamas-controlled militants and police forces stormed the house of senior Fatah leader Sufian Abu Zaida in northern Gaza Strip, smashing furniture.

Factional fighting has surged in Gaza and the occupied West Bank since Abbas challenged the ruling Hamas faction by calling for early parliamentary and presidential elections after talks on forming a unity government failed.


Haniyeh said after late-night emergency talks with Abbas, their first meeting in two months, that they had agreed to "withdraw all gunmen from the streets and deploy police forces to keep law and order".

Abbas made no public comment, but a diplomat who attended the talks confirmed an agreement had been reached. Similar pacts in the past have quickly been shattered by violence.

Haniyeh met Abbas again on Friday and told Reuters: "We have stressed the need for calm to continue."

In a move that could fuel tension, Washington will provide $86 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Abbas, expanding U.S. involvement in Fatah's power struggle with Hamas.

In internal fighting on Thursday, Fatah gunmen killed a policeman loyal to Hamas.

Hamas gunmen, blaming the shooting on bodyguards of Colonel Mohammed Ghareeb of the Preventive Security Service, besieged his home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, killing Ghareeb and six of his men and wounding his wife.

Some Fatah gunmen expressed anger at Abbas for not sending forces to save Ghareeb, who had pleaded for help on television.

The fighting spread overnight to the occupied West Bank, where gunmen critically wounded a Hamas activist near the city of Nablus, Hamas officials said.

Haniyeh told reporters: "The battle is not an internal battle, it is a battle against the occupation."

Earlier on Friday, Israeli forces raided the village of Attil near the West Bank town of Tulkarm. The army said two members of Islamic Jihad were seized.

On Thursday, Israeli forces mounted a rare raid into the West Bank city of Ramallah in which hospital officials said four Palestinians were killed and at least 25 wounded.

(Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovitch in Jerusalem; Mohammed Assadi in Ramallah and Atef Sa'ad in Nablus)

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Alan Dershowitz: World obsessed with Israel

Alan Dershowitz: World obsessed with Israel
Harvard professor says six million additional people have died since WWII because of obsessive focus on Israel. Weekly Diaspora press roundup
Yaakov Lappin Published:  01.05.07, 19:06

The international community's obsessive focus on the State of Israel caused it to miss out on genocides all around the world, Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz told a rally in a Toronto synagogue last week, according to a report in the Canadian Jewish News .
"Six million additional people have died since the end of the Second World War because of this obsessive focus on Israel," Dershowitz was quoted as saying, citing global inaction over the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and the slaughter currently taking place in Darfur.
 He added that Iran 's denial of the Holocaust was aimed at de-legitimizing Israel, demonizing Jews and, legitimatizing attacks on Israel and attacks on Jews.
The rally was organized by Canadian Jewish community organizations, and included Holocaust survivors, a Catholic priest, and the Canadian minister of intergovernmental affairs, who received an ovation after blasting anti-Israel bias among Canadian members of parliament.
US Jewish activism focuses on American social justice
Meanwhile, New York's The Jewish Week reported on a "new breed of savvy, grass-roots Jewish activism taking hold," working towards achieving social justice within the United States.
According to the article, major US Jewish organizations are "pulling back" from American issues to "focus increasingly on Israel and anti-Semitism." Taking their place are "innovative, community-oriented progressive groups… for whom social-justice issues resonate strongly."
One organizer described the new trend as "the future of Jewish activism" in the United States .
Examples cited in the report include Chicago Jewish group which created a day labor center for Hispanic workers.
Jewish teens attacked in Australia
The Australian Jewish News said Melbourne police were investigating whether a physical assault on two ultra-Orthodox teenagers, one of whom was on crutches at the time of the attack, was motivated by anti-Semitism.
The teenagers were reported to be waiting for a tram in Melbourne, "when a car pulled up and one of its passengers allegedly shouted, 'you killed our cousins in Lebanon .'"

One of the teenagers, who was suffering from a broken leg, then had one of his crutches taken from him and used against him as an assault weapon, while the other youth received minor facial injuries, the report added.
The AJN noted that this was not the first anti-Semitic assault of its kind in Australia. "Last October, another Orthodox man, Mencahem Vorchheimer, was assaulted by a group of footballers as we walked to synagogue on Simhat Torah," the report said, adding that police have not yet charged any suspects over the attack.

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The First Word: American liberalism and the Euston Manifesto

The First Word: American liberalism and the Euston Manifesto

On March 29, 2006, a group of British intellectuals posted "The Euston Manifesto" at Evoking the traditions of the anti-fascist and anti-totalitarian democratic Left, they defended liberal democracy and Enlightenment values while denouncing anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, terrorism and the radical Islam that inspired it. They called for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Euston Manifesto struck a nerve. More than 2,700 people, mostly in Britain but also in the United States, Europe and around the world, signed the manifesto on-line.

In August, a group of liberals and centrists in the US decided to write and circulate "American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto" in an effort to continue the effort begun in London. I wrote a draft which was debated and discussed by my co-authors Russell Berman, Thomas Cushman, Richard Just, Robert Lieber, Andrei Markovits and Fred Siegel. On September 12, we posted our statement on the Euston Manifesto Web site. The full statement and a list of more than 200 prominent signers are also available at the Web site of "New American Liberalism" at

Signers of our statement included Ronald Asmus, Daniel Bell, David Bell, Omer Bartov, Eliot Cohen, Gerald Feldman, Saul Friedlander, Daniel Goldhagen, Walter Laqueur, Will Marshall, Benny Morris, Martin Peretz, Gary Smith, Leon Wieseltier, Gerhard Weinberg and James Young.

The authors of both the British and American statements hope to influence the political and intellectual debates about how liberal democracies can best confront and defeat the threats posed to us by radical Islam and the terrorism it inspires.

The American statement evokes the legacies in foreign policy of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. We wrote that "the key moral and political challenge in foreign affairs in our time stems from radical Islamism and the jihadist terrorism it has unleashed. We favor a liberalism that is as passionate about the struggle against Islamic extremism as it has been about its political, social, economic and cultural agenda at home. We reject the now ossified and unproductive political polarization of American politics rooted as it is in the conflicts of the 1960s, not the first decade of this century. We are frustrated in the choice between conservative governance that thwarts much-needed reforms at home, on the one hand, and a liberalism which has great difficulty accepting the projection of American power abroad, on the other. The long era of Republican ascendancy may very well be coming to an end. If and when it does, we seek a renewed and reinvigorated American liberalism, one that is up to the task of fighting and winning the struggle of free and democratic societies against Islamic extremism and the terror it produces."

IN LIGHT of the success of the Democratic Party in this fall's elections, this last sentence has even greater relevance.

We called anti-Americanism "a low and debased prejudice, not the mark of political sophistication or wisdom," and rejected "all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism." We invoked the leaders of the American civil rights movement "who won great political victories because they understood that hatred and terror would produce only more of the same."

Especially in view of "the retrograde attitudes about women and homosexuals emerging from the Islamic fundamentalists," we reaffirmed the need for equality for women and gays. While making clear our disagreement with much of the Bush administration's domestic policies and its conduct of foreign policy, we argued that some facts about international politics were not a matter of Left and Right. Knowledge about how to develop and deploy chemical, biological and most importantly nuclear weapons has been spreading around the globe more rapidly than liberal democracy and respect for human rights.

Indeed, the experience of fascism and Nazism showed us that it was possible for Germany, Italy and Japan to develop modern technology yet at the same time reject liberal democracy and embrace policies of racism, chauvinism, aggression and mass murder. We pointed to this paradoxical embrace of technological and scientific modernity that coincided with rejection of liberal democracy and human rights among radical Islamists, including those in the government of Iran.

The authors viewed "the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran with alarm. Such a state with these weapons would be a grave danger for the Middle East, Europe and the United States. It would increase the danger that such weapons might wind up in the hands of radical Islamist terrorist groups immune to the calculations of nuclear deterrence.

"In contrast to the communists during the Cold War, who wanted to change, not depart from this world, the cult of death and martyrdom of the terrorists inspired by Islamic fundamentalism raises deeply troubling questions about the prospects for peace and security in the future. We take very seriously and find utterly repugnant the threats of Iran's political leaders to 'wipe out' the State of Israel. We will not remain silent in the face of these genocidal threats to implement what would amount to a second Holocaust.

"We note as well that the vast majority of victims of the jihadist fanaticism have been other Muslims. Yet the passions of too many liberals here and abroad, even in the aftermath of terrorist attacks all over the world, remain more focused on the misdeeds and errors of our own government in Iraq than on the terrorist outrages by Islamic extremists. Anger at the Bush administration, however justified, should not trump opposition to all aspects of jihadism."

SINCE THE publication of our statements, we think and hope more liberals and centrists are reflecting on the disasters that would ensue if political support in the US for the long war against the radical Islamists of various persuasion were to erode. Now that the Democrats are in a more powerful position to influence American foreign policy, we hope they will read and ponder the arguments made by anti-totalitarian liberals in Britain and the US in the spring and fall of 2006. The co-authors and signers will be making efforts to continue the momentum begun by our first initiatives.

The writer is professor of European history at the University of Maryland and the author of The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda During World War II and the Holocaust.

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It's not about Israel

It's not about Israel

A number of voices in the international community have recently identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the root cause of many of the Middle East's problems. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been among the most prominent of these voices.

In his article "A battle for global values," (Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007), Tony Blair reiterates what he has expressed in previous public statements: "How can we bring peace to the Middle East unless we resolve the question of Israel and Palestine?" Achieving peace, he continues, "would not only silence reactionary Islam's most effective rallying call but fatally undermine its basic ideology."

Kofi Annan, addressing the UN Security Council on December 12, said, "The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just one regional conflict amongst many. No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge even for people far away."

TRUE, GENUINE peace between Israel and the Palestinians would remove one of the long-standing conflicts in the Middle East. Moreover, to state the painfully obvious, peace would serve the best interests of those involved.

But to suggest, as Prime Minister Blair in particular does, that such a settlement is a necessary precondition for peace in the Middle East and would take the wind out of radical Islam's sails is unsupported by the facts.

Let's assume for a moment that Israel did not exist. Would that have changed the basic story line of the bulk of recent events in the Middle East?

Would Iraq and Iran have chosen not to pursue an eight-year war that cost more than a million fatalities? Would Iraq have decided not to invade Kuwait in 1990? Would it have rethought its use of chemical weapons against both its own Kurdish population and Iran?

Would Syria have refrained from slaughtering over 10,000 of its own citizens in Hama in 1982? Would it have relinquished its hold on Lebanon, as demanded by multiple Security Council resolutions?

Would Saudi Arabia have stopped exporting its Wahhabi model of Islam, with its narrow, doctrinaire view of the world and rejection of non-Muslims as so-called infidels, across the globe? Would al-Qaida not have attacked the US in 2001, when, it should be remembered, the Israeli-Palestinian issue was never even mentioned among Osama bin Laden's main "grievances"?

Would the danger posed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan magically disappear absent the Israel factor? Would Iran today abandon its hegemonic ambitions in the region? Would the Shi'ite-Sunni split, with its profound political and strategic ramifications, evaporate into thin air? Would the Sudanese government stop its collusion with the Arab Janjaweed militias to end the massive murder and displacement in Darfur?

Would the desperate poverty and widespread illiteracy that dampen hope and create a fertile recruiting ground for radical Islamic movements suddenly be alleviated? Would Saudi women instantaneously have the right to drive, would non-Muslims finally enjoy equal rights in all those Arab countries where Islam is the official religion, and would the Baha'i no longer experience persecution at the hands of the Iranian government?

In reality, the destabilizing factors in the Middle East run far deeper than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Strikingly, while most Western political leaders mince their words, the courageous Arab authors of the annual Arab Human Development Report have not. They have spoken of three overarching explanatory factors for the region's unsatisfactory condition: the knowledge deficit, the gender deficit and the freedom deficit.

While there is no certainty of a successful outcome unless these three areas are addressed in a sustained manner, the Middle East, which ought to be one of the world's most dynamic regions, is likely to continue suffering from instability, violence and fundamentalism, irrespective of what happens on the Israeli-Palestinian front.

CONSIDER SOME of the important findings in the Arab Human Development Report and related studies:

• The total number of books translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years is fewer than those translated in Spain in one year.

• Greece, with a population of fewer than 11 million, translates five times as many books from abroad into Greek annually as the 22 Arab countries combined, with a total population of more than 300 million, translate into Arabic.

• According to a 2002 Council on Foreign Relations report, "In the 1950s, per-capita income in Egypt was similar to South Korea, whereas Egypt's per-capita income today is less than 20 percent of South Korea's. Saudi Arabia had a higher gross domestic product than Taiwan in the 1950s; today it is about 50 percent of Taiwan's."

As Dr. A.B. Zahlan, a Palestinian physicist has noted, "a regressive political culture is at the root of the Arab world's failure to fund scientific research or to sustain a vibrant, innovative community of scientists." He further asserted that "Egypt, in 1950, had more engineers than all of China." That is hardly the case today.

According to the 2005 UN Human Development Report, only two Egyptians per million people were granted patents (and for Syria the figure was zero), compared to 30 in Greece and 35 in Israel.

In the 2005 UN report the adult literacy rate for women aged 15 and older was 43.6 percent in Egypt and 74 percent in Syria, while for the world's top 20 countries it was nearly 100 percent.

And finally, according to the current Freedom House rankings, the only country in the Middle East that is listed as "free" is Israel. Every Arab country is at best "partly free" or, worse, "not free."

The sad truth is that it is precisely political oppression, intellectual suffocation and gender discrimination that explain, more than other factors, the chronic difficulties of the Middle East. To be sure, there exist no overnight or over-the-counter remedies for these maladies that would allow the region to unleash its vast potential, but they are at the heart of the problem. It would be illusory to think otherwise.

The writer is executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

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Bush launches new two-state drive

Bush launches new two-state drive
The Bush administration is launching a new effort to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We're strongly committed to a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace, two democracies supporting each other's rights to exist," President Bush said Thursday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I´m optimistic that we can achieve that objective."

Germany has just begun a six-month term leading the European Union, and Merkel and Bush said they would soon reconvene the "Quartet," the grouping of the European Union, United States, Russia and United Nations that guides the peace process.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to travel to the Mideast as early as next week to work on shoring up Palestinian institutions, according to her spokesman, Sean McCormack.

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Column One: The bitter fruits of corruption

Column One: The bitter fruits of corruption


Jan. 5, 2007

With the Israeli media scope-locked on bigger stories, the fact that Thursday Prime Minister Ehud Olmert paid an obsequious and shameful visit to a country which propagates Holocaust denial and sponsors the Palestinian jihad went largely unnoticed. No, Olmert did not visit Iran. He visited Egypt.

Iran's Holocaust denial conference last month was roundly condemned in Israel and in the West - as well it should have been. Not only is Holocaust denial intellectually and morally unacceptable. When undertaken by people whose stated desire is the physical annihilation of the Jewish state, Holocaust denial is also dangerous.

Yet while everyone took note of the Iranian conference, aside from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, no one considered it disturbing when last week a sister conference organized by Egyptians who share Iran's aspiration to wipe Israel off the map was held.

Under the banner, "The Holocaust Lie," on December 27th the Egyptian Arab Socialist Party held its Holocaust denial conference in Cairo. The conference was broadcast live on Iran's Arabic language network Al-Alam. Its keynote speaker was party leader Waheed al Uksory. Uksory gained international prominence for being one of the few politicians whom the regime permitted to run against Egypt's dictator Hosni Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections.

That psychotic and genocidal hatred of the Jewish people rules the Egyptian street no less than it dominates the leadership ranks in Teheran has made no impression on Olmert and his associates. Far from responding to the Wiesenthal Center's call to protest the conference during his meeting Thursday with Mubarak at Sharm e-Sheikh, Olmert and his colleagues devoted their time ahead of the summit to searching for new superlatives to heap onto Mubarak for his "responsible" leadership of the so-called "moderate" Arab states.

Israelis received a taste of that "Egyptian moderation" on Wednesday night. On the eve of Olmert's visit with Mubarak, Channel 2 broadcast a Hamas recruitment video displaying the terror training camps it has built on the ruins of the Israeli communities of Gush Katif.

One of the stars of the film was an Egyptian jihadist who arrived at the camp for weapons training. He was filmed standing in front of the Egyptian flag - no doubt in a bid to demonstrate his country's great contribution to making "liberated" Gaza the jihadist wonderland it is today.

Prior to Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, Israelis were led to believe that the role Egypt would play in the area after the retreat would be quite different. Under Mubarak's iron fisted leadership, Egypt was then prime minister Ariel Sharon's ace in the hole - the leg on which his entire strategy of surrender rested.

Sharon and his advisers promised the Israeli people that we could trust Egypt to prevent Gaza from becoming a forward base for global jihad. To help Egypt fulfill its responsibilities, Sharon even agreed to breach the central principle and strategic guidepost of our peace treaty with Egypt - the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula. With Sharon's blessing, Egyptian military forces were deployed along the border with Gaza for the first time since 1967.

Unfortunately, Holocaust denying Egypt has not lived up to Sharon's promises. Not only have its military forces done nothing to prevent the mass transfer of weapons to Gaza. Egyptian authorities have enabled the inundation of Gaza with advanced weapons systems by allowing weapons shipments from Iran, Lebanon and other countries to be transferred from Egyptian ports to Gaza through the breached border which Egyptian authorities have done nothing to seal off.

And as the Channel 2 film showed, the Egyptian military also allows foreign terrorists to enter Gaza at will.

OLMERT'S VISIT to Sharm e-Sheikh yesterday is but one consequence of his government's overall foreign policy. Among its other guiding delusions, that policy is founded on the fiction of an Egyptian-Israeli alliance and friendship. It is this imaginary alliance that informs Olmert's belief that Israel has no need, and indeed no right to fight the burgeoning threat to its national security emanating from "liberated" Gaza - a threat that has grown to strategic proportions largely as a result of Egyptian actions.

But then the public and the media both had bigger fish to fry this week than Olmert's imaginary friendship with Mubarak. This week in two separate developments, the illusions of competence and integrity in the IDF General Staff and in the civil service came crashing down.

First, following a two-day closed conference of the IDF's senior commanders, Tuesday night IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz held a disturbing press conference where he presented his assessment of the central lessons from the summer's war. Earlier that day, the nation awoke to the news that overnight the police conducted mass arrests of the country's top tax officials, leading businessmen, and Olmert's bureau chief Shula Zaken. The arrests were the result of their investigation of a suspected conspiracy whereby acting under Zaken's alleged guidance, the businessmen and tax officials conspired to defraud the Tax Authority.

Standing before the cameras, Halutz enumerated a long list of strategic, operational, tactical and moral failures that took place during the course of the IDF's operation against Hizbullah last summer. While Halutz didn't admit it, a common thread runs through the General Staff's failure to clearly define its war aims to the forces in the field; the Navy's decision to send the INS Hanit into battle against an enemy armed with missiles without turning on its missile defense systems; the decision not to mobilize reserves or launch the ground campaign until it was too late to make a difference; the decision to ignore precise intelligence regarding Hizbullah's intentions and locations; and the failure to destroy Hizbullah's short-range missile arsenal. The thread that links all these failures is Halutz himself.

Any doubt that Halutz is unfit to command the IDF dissipated Tuesday when he stated that one of his central lessons from the war is "that we need to redefine the concept of defeating the enemy." That is to say, since he is incapable of winning a war, he prefers to define defeat as victory and remain at his post.

No doubt to his great relief, Halutz's frightening display of arrogant incompetence was in the end relegated to the inside pages of the newspapers. It was hard to devote column space to the professional collapse of the IDF's General Staff when the heads of Israel's Tax Authority and Olmert's bureau chief were being shuttled from police interrogation rooms to the court house for arraignment.

The media and police spokespeople have emphasized that Shula Zaken's suspected involvement in massive corruption does not mean that Olmert had a role in the conspiracy. But whether Olmert played a role in the scheme to defraud the public trust or not, Zaken's suspected role in the plot indicates that a culture of criminal corruption apparently flourished inside of Olmert's office.

ON THEIR surface, neither Halutz's press conference nor the tax fraud scandal are connected to the Olmert government's hallucinatory policies towards Egypt. But in fact they are inextricably linked. The fact that Israel faces unprecedented threats to its security and very existence while it is being led by the most incompetent, corrupt leadership it has ever known is not coincidental.

To understand why this is the case it is necessary to recall how the current leaders came to be in their current positions in the first place.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon and his sons found themselves on the brink of political, economic and personal destruction. Criminal investigations of their alleged corruption were coming to a head and it was widely predicted that Sharon and his sons Omri and Gilad would all be indicted on felony charges. A way had to be found to step away from the abyss. After advising with Sharon's personal attorney and chief of staff Dov Weisglass, Sharon and his sons chose to protect themselves by adopting the Left's irrational strategy of destroying Israeli communities and giving their land to terrorists. That is how the policy of retreating from Gaza and northern Samaria and carrying out the mass expulsion of Israeli citizens from the areas was born.

Sharon's moral and criminal corruption, like the strategic insanity and danger inherent in the decision to transfer control of Gaza to Hamas and Fatah, were self-evident. And yet, as Sharon predicted, the media, law enforcement and judicial authorities which are dominated by the Left chose to ignore the truth. Overnight the media transformed Sharon from the corrupt politician to the visionary leader. As Amnon Abramovich, Channel 2's chief commentator explained, the media understood that corrupt or not, their job was to protect Sharon to make sure he threw the Jews out of Gush Katif. And as Supreme Court Justice Mishel Cheshin admitted in an interview upon his retirement, the Supreme Court justices would never have dreamed of acting against Sharon lest they endanger the withdrawal.

Senior officials, cabinet ministers and the IDF General Staff first heard of the withdrawal plan from the media. Those who dared to question the retreat policy were distanced from positions of influence. Then national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland couldn't get an audience with Sharon.

Then Sharon fired the IDF's chief of general staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon. And so it was that Halutz, a good friend of Omri's and a good pilot by all accounts, was promoted to replace Ya'alon - who although far more qualified than he to command the military, was far less obedient.

In the political arena, Sharon's advisers moved quickly to destroy his political opponents. Then finance minister Binyamin Netanyahu was demonized. Government ministers from Shas and the National Union were fired. In their place Sharon promoted obedient, opportunistic and inexperienced yes-men. So it was that Olmert and Tzipi Livni rose to the top positions in his cabinet.

In summary, Sharon's corruption caused him to adopt irrational strategic policies. Principled opposition to these policies voiced by senior public servants and politicians led to their removal from positions of influence. These competent public servants were then replaced by incompetents whose only qualification for their jobs was their total obedience to Sharon. Sharon's defenders claim that he knew that the people he surrounded himself with after deciding to retreat from Gaza were incompetent to lead the country. But, they argue, Sharon did not foresee his stroke which placed these people in charge of the country. If he hadn't been incapacitated, they argue, everything would have turned out differently. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps not.

Whatever the case may be, the one obvious conclusion that can be drawn from the events of the past week and year without Sharon is that in order to forge competent, honest policies, Israel needs competent and honest leaders. And so to extricate itself from the morass of ineptitude and criminality that has become our public sector, Israel must find the way to rid ourselves of the current political and military leadership that embody both.

The good news is that we have an alternative leadership. It is made up of those principled public servants who were removed from positions of power for their refusal to deny the truth.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The public, too, was in a coma

The public, too, was in a coma
By Aluf Benn Haaretz 5 January 2007

In his last year as prime minister, during which he spearheaded the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the "big bang" on the political map, Ariel Sharon showed increasing signs of physical deterioration. He had difficulty walking, tired quickly and told his close associates that his vitality was no longer as it used to be. His aides tried to make things easier for him, to spare him physical effort and to keep his schedule light so that he would be able to rest.

At events to which Sharon was invited the distances were carefully measured so that he would have to walk as little as possible. On his last trip abroad, to the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2005, his people counted the steps between the conference rooms where he met with world leaders and made sure that he would not have to climb stairs. When he dined at the residence of the British ambassador, Simon McDonald, Sharon had to walk 64 meters, as measured by the bodyguards, and arrived panting and out of breath.

On Sundays, before cabinet meetings, the prime minister and other ministers pass in front of a battery of photographers. During his first years as prime minister, Sharon would ascend the staircase from his bureau to the meeting room and cross the corridor with confident steps and a determined expression. During his last year, he was brought up to the meetings in a small elevator, and the short walk in front of the cameras became an increasing challenge.

"The decline wasn't obvious in the big decisions," says a senior official who participated in many discussions with Sharon. "His wit, his humor, his conviction and his determination remained until the last meeting that he conducted, which dealt with the village of Maghar, on the day he collapsed. And he was a good politician - he knew where to use harmless deception and how to fudge things, when a meeting was important and whether he could relate anecdotes for an hour and a half. But toward the end, he went into less detail and stuck much closer to the points and the summaries that had been written for him. In the beginning I never saw him fall asleep at meetings, and at the end I did. And the difficulty in walking increased, and this was obvious."

Former Knesset Foreign Relations and Defense Committee chairman Likud MK Yuval Steinitz was the only one who spoke publicly about Sharon's decline. In an interview with Haaretz's Ari Shavit last April, Steinitz related that during Sharon's last nine months as prime minister, "there was a marked change. It didn't reach a situation of disability, but Sharon needed his aides and his papers and texts that were prepared for him in advance. It hadn't been that way before. There was an obvious decline in his functioning." Prior to that, said Steinitz, Sharon's appearances in his committee "had been virtuoso."

Unquestioned leadership

The information concerning Sharon's physical difficulties was concealed from the media and the public. Only after he sank into a coma, exactly one year ago, did the details begin to trickle out in conversations with people who worked with him closely and participated in meetings that he ran. This was not an attempt to identify in retrospect early signs of his collapse. It emerges that his aides were aware of his problems and discussed this among themselves even while he was serving as prime minister. They do not deny the details - the tiredness, the difficulty in walking and breathing, the increasing need for prepared notes and summaries of meetings. But according to them, his intellectual prowess was not affected, nor was his ability to make decisions and lead. No one questioned his leadership and his total control of the country up until his last minute as prime minister. There is also no knowledge of warning signs that could have predicted the stroke he suffered on December 18, 2005, two weeks before he finally collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage, when his term as prime minister ended suddenly.


Sharon's case has shown that the health of national leaders is not just a personal matter, but rather the concern of the entire public. There is no doubt that his departure was a political and historical turning point. However, insofar as is known, he did not suffer from a "leaders' disease" that was concealed from the citizens of Israel. He did not undergo any medical treatment in secret nor did he suffer from cancer and heart ailments like Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir and Menachem Begin.


His personal physicians, Dr. Shlomo Segev and Prof. Bolek Goldman, risked their professional prestige when they declared that "Sharon is healthy" in an interview to the mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth just a few days before he collapsed. According to them, their periodic checkups did not show anything unusual, apart from excess weight. They were not asked about the physical difficulties that were causing concern in Sharon's immediate environment, and they did not speak about them. They also minimized his limp and the lameness in one leg. The blood-vessel disorder in Sharon's brain was discovered only after he was hospitalized.


Nor was Sharon himself worried about his health. On the contrary: According to all evidence, he believed that he would live to a ripe old age like his grandmother and his aunt, about whom he would speak a lot. He had no doubt that he would be elected for another four-year term and afterward retire to his ranch "to ride the horses." A close aide says that Sharon considered serving for another two years and then finding someone he could trust as his replacement. Perhaps Tzipi Livni (now foreign minister), whom he brought quite close toward the end of his term and whom he helped advance up the ladder of ministerial roles.


"We thought that we had to make things easier for him, because we wanted to protect him," relates the aide. "We all have a father or a grandfather his age. We wanted him to deal only with the major issues, and not to go to superfluous and stupid events and to be at home more. So he could rest. But not because of health problems. He had more colds and lost his voice, but he didn't have health problems. And he didn't want people to make things easier for him."


During the period that preceded the disengagement, Sharon canceled most outings from his bureau and infrequently participated in events. The explanation that was given to the media had to do with security: The bodyguards feared that people from the right who opposed the evacuation of the settlements would try to harm the prime minister. His aides say that this was indeed the reason he shut himself up in the bureau - and not the state of his health or his physical fatigue. At that time Sharon also asked to cut back his schedule.


Problematic circumstances


One aide insists to this day that Sharon's collapse was a tragedy of problematic coincidences. The first stroke affected him in his office, before he set out for home, to Sycamore Ranch. Had he suffered it at night, in his home, the blood clot would have dissolved and no one would have noticed anything. There would have been no invasive examinations, the doctors would not have discovered the hole in his heart and would not have scheduled a catheterization and injected him with blood thinners, which caused the second, serious stroke. Had it not been for this chain of events, perhaps Sharon could have lead the country to this day.


This aide relates that during the last year, he suffered from sharp pains in one of his legs, in which he had been wounded in the battle for Latrun in 1948. His limp worsened and he panted a lot. When he came to work he would sit down in the chair in his bureau; he did not wander among the rooms like his successor, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. But, "particularly on the trip to the UN, Sharon walked more than on other trips, and they always measured his steps for him."


The aide says that in meetings and discussions as well, Sharon would fall asleep a lot less than other ministers, and his tiredness stemmed from problems in falling asleep at night. "There's no doubt that he was five years older than he was on the day he was elected, but not for a moment did I think that we were hiding the truth about the state of his health or, alternatively, that a thing like that would happen," he sums up.


According to the same source, the period when Sharon worried him was after his victory in the 2003 elections. "He was in a kind of downer, not clinical depression. He was moody, as though he had won the elections and now there wasn't anything new, and he was bored with the job. We said that he was really in a depression, and at that stage he started sleeping more and more at the ranch and we stopped the afternoon nap in Jerusalem."


During his first term, Sharon would rest in the afternoon at his official residence in the Rehavia neighborhood and sleep there several times a week. In his second term, his agenda went on without a break until the evening and then he would leave for Sycamore Ranch. Sharon emerged from the crisis and found a new direction only at the end of 2003, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.


In retrospect, it is clear that the medical statistics were working against Sharon. He was the most elderly prime minister in the history of Israel, even more so than "the Old Man" - David Ben-Gurion. His excess weight was also obvious. Were his belief in his own longevity and his close circle's insistence on protecting him and expecting him to be able to serve for several more years mere wishes or reasonable expectations in the circumstances? It is a fact, say his aides, that he is continuing to live even in the hospital, a year after a serious stroke and complex brain surgery.


The people close to Sharon knew that the state of his health was a charged political issue that was liable to work to his detriment him in contending with younger politicians, such as Benjamin Netanyahu. In the 2001 election race, Ehud Barak's campaign headquarters made a failed attempt to bring up "Arik's illnesses" for media discussion, but the story did not catch on in the absence of any real evidence. In the 2003 campaign there was talk of corruption and investigations, but not of illnesses. However, as the 2006 elections drew near the issue of the prime minister's health reared its head again.


The last interview


In April, 2005, before Passover, I went with my colleague Yossi Verter for a holiday interview with the prime minister. We did not know then that this would be the last interview with him. These meetings with Sharon were every journalist's nightmare: He prepared himself well for the questions and stuck to the points he had prepared in advance. How can we get him away from those pages, we asked ourselves, and we decided to bring up the health issue. There are elections soon, and he is no longer young. Maybe we'll succeed in catching him unprepared on a sensitive point.


But Sharon knew these questions and immediately pulled out his prepared answer: "I invite you to see my medical report. This could have a bad effect on other people's health." We accepted the challenge and asked to see the file. Sharon had not expected this: "In fact for me this would be quite convenient," he said. "I don't know how this is done." We insisted, and Sharon moved in his chair and turned to his spokesman Assaf Shariv. "Ah, how do we do this? Are there rules?" "We'll definitely check," replied Shariv. In an attempt to avoid embarrassment, Sharon declared: "I'd like to but it's just not the usual thing to do here. Maybe you can ask ..."


With this the matter ended. The rules were not found and the medical file was revealed, at least partially, only after Sharon's first stroke, when the people around him tried to show that he was healthy, fit to serve and be reelected.


A few months later I wrote an article about Sharon's health as an important issue in the approaching elections. I had no information about illnesses or difficulties, only an assessment that a man of his age is no longer at his best. At his bureau they said to me: "It's good that you're writing about this now, way before the campaign. This way they won't bother us later on." At the last press conference that Sharon held, about two weeks before the first stroke, he related jokingly to his advanced age and said: "In four months I'll be 78. This is the best age to move forward." (The name of the new party he had founded, Kadima, means "forward.") He stood there then and answered questions fluently for an hour and a half, and among the reporters there was amazed whispering that he was completely lucid. But the very fact of the discussion of Sharon's lucidity shows that his advanced age was indeed a cause for concern. No one, after all, raises this question regarding Olmert, Netanyahu or Barak.


It is difficult to know whether Sharon's physical hardships had a detrimental effect on the quality of his functioning as leader of the country or on the quality of the decisions he made, or whether he was more dependent on his sons, his close associates and the people of his bureau than he had been in the past. There is no doubt that up until the last minute the state of his health was of supreme importance to the country's future and that his sudden collapse sent all systems into a tailspin.


The lesson has not been learned: A year after Sharon's departure, there are still no compulsory rules for the reporting and supervision of the health of Israel's leaders, nor for a compulsory age for retirement from the position of prime minister, as there is for civil servants and judges.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian official: If threatened, we will use nuclear weapons

Iranian official: If threatened, we will use nuclear weapons
After countless declarations of peaceful intentions of nuclear plan, Iran's
chief nuclear envoy confirms fears by saying if county is threatened,
situation will change

YNET Associated Press Published: 01.05.07, 15:04,7340,L-3348748,00.html

Iran's chief nuclear envoy Ali Larijani said on Friday that Iran is committed to the peaceful use of nuclear technology but warned the situation could change if his country is threatened.

"We oppose obtaining nuclear weapons and we will peacefully use nuclear technology under the framework of the Nonproliferation Treaty, but if we are threatened, the situation may change," He told a news conference after two days of talks in Beijing.

Iran's nuclear chief said his country has produced and stored 250 tons of the gas used as the feedstock for uranium enrichment, state-run television reported Friday.

Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who is also the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Iran has kept the uranium hexaflouride gas, or UF-6, in underground tunnels at a nuclear facility in Isfahan to protect it from any possible attack.

"Today, we have produced more than 250 tons of UF-6. Should you visit Isfahan, you will see we have constructed tunnels that are almost unique in the world," State-run television quoted Aghazadeh as saying.

'Iran will stand up to coercion'

While China has strong trade ties with oil-rich Iran, it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which voted unanimously to bar all countries from selling materials and technology to Iran that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs.

It also froze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday said international sanctions won't stop Iran from enriching uranium, vowing not to give into "Coercion," State-run television reported.

"Iran will stand up to coercion. ... All Iranians stand united to defend their nuclear rights," State-run TV quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

Iran has refused to comply with international demands that it suspend uranium enrichment. It also has condemned as "Invalid" And "Illegal" a UN Security Council resolution passed last month that imposes sanctions against the Islamic Republic for refusing to halt enrichment.

"Enemies have assumed that they can prevent the progress of the Iranian nation through psychological war and issuing resolutions, but they will be defeated," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying on state-run TV.

Reuters contributed to this report

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians: IDF raids W. Bank village in search for Jihad man

Last update - 15:22 05/01/2007   

Palestinians: IDF raids W. Bank village in search for Jihad man
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies

Israel Defense Forces troops raided a village near the West Bank town of Tul Karm on Friday in a search for a wanted Palestinian militant, Palestinian witnesses said.
The raid came one day after four Palestinians were killed and at least 20 wounded when Israeli forces pushed into the center of the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Witnesses near Tul Karm said IDF soldiers searched houses in the village of Attil, looking for Abdel-Mo'ti Hassan, an Islamic Jihad militant.
The troops entered the village in nearly 20 armored vehicles but left without capturing Hassan, 26, witnesses said.
The IDF said it was checking the report.
Meanwhile, Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets at the western Negev on Friday, causing no injuries.
One of the rockets damaged the yard of a house in Sderot, and the second hit a kibbutz.
Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the rocket fire, Israel Radio reported.
In the West Bank, security forces arrested two wanted Palestinians before dawn Friday.
Palestinian gunmen in Nablus opened fire on Israeli troops and threw several explosives at them. There were no injuries.
Abbas condemns Ramallah raid
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas harshly condemned the Ramallah raid Thursday, saying it "proved that the Israeli calls for peace and security are fake."
Abbas demanded that Israel pay the Palestinian Authority $5 million in compensation for the damage to shops and cars in Ramallah.
The raid came less than two weeks after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met
Abbas and promised a package of measures to ease restrictions between the two sides.
Four Palestinians were killed and 20 wounded on Thursday when
IDF undercover troops entered the West Bank town of Ramallah on an arrest raid, setting off protests and gunbattles in the center of town.
During a joint press conference with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh, Olmert apologized for the deaths of civilians, but defended Israel's incursion as an operation aimed at stopping terrorists responsible for the death of Israeli citizens.
The soldiers, who were dressed in civilian garb in an effort to blend in with the locals, entered an office building near Manara Square with the specific objective of locating and detaining Rabia Hamad, a militant belonging to the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade.
Hamad, who the soldiers said was armed with a pistol, identified the men as IDF soldiers and tried to escape.
The IDF exchanged fire with Hamad, injuring him, yet he managed to elude IDF forces.
Military sources reported that Hamad was a senior Fatah official and a central figure in the planning of terrorist bombings. Because of his standing and occupation, his arrest was a top priority.
The undercover soldiers arrested four Palestinian militants in the raid.
The exchange of fire brought dozens of young men out of the buildings, and they began throwing stones and firebombs at the soldiers; a larger IDF force and Border Police moved in to support the commandos.
In the incident, which lasted nearly two hours, heavy exchanges of gunfire
between the Israeli forces and Palestinian gunmen ensued. The commandos and the rest of the IDF force was finally extracted with the help of a bulldozer and armor plated jeeps, as well as helicopter gunships that fired against open areas to cover the retreating force.
A soldier from a select IDF unit sustained light shrapnel wounds in the eye during the raid. He was evacuated to the hospital.
In a written statement on Thursday, Abbas appealed to the international community to rein in Israel.
"The continued aggression will only lead to the destruction of all efforts aimed at realizing peace," Abbas said.
The incursion, with IDF armoured vehicles and bulldozers slamming aside parked cars near Ramallah's main Manara Square, was the biggest such operation in the city since May, when four Palestinians were killed in a raid.
An IDF spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said forces were engaged in "routine arrest activity" when they came under Palestinian fire.
The IDF left the area after more than an hour of confrontations and exchanges of fire.

Continued (Permanent Link)

French president calls for Middle East peace conference

Last update - 14:46 05/01/2007   

French president calls for Middle East peace conference
By Reuters

French President Jacques Chirac on Friday renewed a call for an international conference to help restore Middle East stability, saying that, "At the gates of Europe, the Middle East has become the
epicentre of international tensions."
Chirac, in what is likely to be one of his last major foreign policy addresses before April presidential elections, repeated his criticism of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. He told diplomats in Paris that the situation risked spilling over into wider conflict.
"As France feared and warned, the war in Iraq set off upheavals whose effects have not yet been fully played out," he said, adding that conflict in the wider region could produce a confrontation "on an unimaginable scale."
"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict crystallises all these resentments," he said.
He said the international community had to act to restore the peace process and backed proposals to revive the so-called "Quartet" of Middle East mediators: the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.
"Let us propose within the Quartet an international conference of a new type which, without presuming to dictate the terms of a settlement to the parties, would bring the guarantees to which they aspire," he said, according to the text of his speech.
"I firmly believe there can be a real impetus for negotiation."
Chirac also backed German Chancellor Angela Merkel's drive for progress on reforms to make decision-making easier in a European Union that now counts 27 members.
"Everyone today can see the urgent need for reform," he said, adding that any solution would have to take into account the concerns over the bloc's powers raised by the rejection by French and Dutch voters of the proposed constitution in 2005.
Germany, which assumed the rotating presidency of the bloc at the start of the year, has made reviving the reform a top priority.
Welcoming the EU's new members, Romania and Bulgaria, Chirac said the 50th anniversary of the signing of the founding Treaty of Rome, due to be celebrated in Berlin later this year, was a major opportunity to reach a new consensus.
France is expected to continue the work begun by Germany when it takes over the EU presidency in 2008, although by then Chirac is expected to have left the scene he has helped shape over more than a decade in power.

Continued (Permanent Link)

MKs slam Ramallah raid, which cast pall over PM-Mubarak meet

Last update - 11:29 05/01/2007   

MKs slam Ramallah raid, which cast pall over PM-Mubarak meet
By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

Knesset members on Friday debated the wisdom of the timing of an Israel Defense Forces raid in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday that cast a pall over a meeting in Egypt between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the same day.
Four Palestinians were killed and 20 wounded on Thursday when IDF undercover troops entered the West Bank town of Ramallah on an arrest raid, setting off protests and gunbattles in the center of town.
When the leaders' summit in Sharm el-Sheikh ended, Mubarak told reporters at his joint press conference with Olmert: "I expressed to the prime minister our indignation at what happened today in Ramallah and said that Israel and all the people in the region will achieve peace only by refraining from all practices which obstruct its course."
Olmert apologized for the deaths of civilians, but defended Israel's incursion as an operation aimed at stopping terrorists responsible for the death of Israeli citizens. He pointed out Israel's restraint in responding to the Qassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at the Negev.
"Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance. If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention," he said in reference to the West Bank raid.
The meeting apparently did not advance the two main topics on the agenda, the prisoner exchange deal involving kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit and Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, and furthering negotiations with the Palestinians.
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Friday that the IDF should have delayed the raid until after the meeting because Israel's relations with Egypt are of utmost importance.
"Such an operation I think did not need to have been done on the same day that there is a visit of the Israeli prime minister to a country in which we have utmost strategic interest," Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister from the Labor Party told Israel Radio on Friday.
"The relations between us and Egypt are such that they are more important to us than anything else, and according to my best assessment, at least according to the information I have in my hand, it was possible not to carry out this operation now but to postpone it to another time," he said.
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz-Yachad) also criticized the timing of the raid.
However, MK Yisrael Hasson (Yisrael Beiteinu), a former deputy head of the Shin Bet security service, argued that there was no reason for the raid to have upset Mubarak or prevent progress from being made in the talks.
"Nothing should have kept Mubarak, in this regard, from advancing the issue of preventing [weapons] smuggling [from Egypt into Gaza]," he told Israel Radio. "Nothing on this matter should have bothered Mubarak as such from moving forward in some achievement."
"It shouldn't have bothered him because he knows how to swallow these things," said Hasson. "This is an operation that I think the IDF does a few times a week ... without Mubarak stopping his activities."
Mubarak: Talk to PA
Mubarak urged Olmert to conduct peace talks with the Palestinian Authority if it could not negotiate with Hamas.
Olmert said Hamas could not be a partner to negotiations, to which Mubarak responded: "Then try with the Palestinian Authority. It is the one delegated for this. In Egypt, too, there were elements who did not agree to the peace agreement [with Israel], but peace happened, with the majority of votes, almost by consensus, because peace is life."
Mubarak also said that Israel must not allow the Qassams to stop the peace process.
"These Qassam rockets. They'll fire them every other day. Shall we stop the peace process because one or two individuals fire rockets? We must proceed with the peace process," Mubarak said.
Mubarak said it was Olmert who suggested holding a four-way summit of Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian leaders, to advance a prisoner exchange agreement.
Regarding the recent Syrian overtures to Israel, the Egyptian president said that neither party believed the other, and for this reason they must sit down together and begin talking in order to establish mutual trust.
The press conference became tense when Olmert mentioned that during their meeting he expressed concerns about the ongoing smuggling of weapons and money from Egypt into Gaza via the Philadelphi Route. Olmert said he knew the issue concerned Mubarak as well and that Egypt is making efforts to stop the smuggling.
Mubarak said in response that Egyptian law allowed the passage of money into Gaza as long as it was declared, but that Egypt would not hesitate to intercept weapons shipments.
When an Egyptian journalist asked Olmert to comment on remarks that appeared to imply that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, Olmert repeated the stock Israeli statement, "Israel will not be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region." Mubarak called for making the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone.
Hamas spokespeople deny organization ready to swap video of Shalit for prisoners' release
Hamas spokesman Fauzi Barhoum and Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas militants, on Thursday denied reports that their group was ready to give Israel a videotape of captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, if it agrees to release Palestinian women prisoners and other detainees.
Haaretz reported earlier this week that Hamas would hand over a video proving that Shalit is alive, the first such indication since his capture by Hamas-linked gunmen on June 25, in return for the release of Palestinian women and minors held in Israeli jails.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau in Damascus, said Thursday that Shalit is alive.
He also confirmed earlier reports that Hamas was willing to trade the videotape for the freedom of "Palestinian women and a considerable number of detainees," but did not name a figure.
The later statement by Barhoum and Abu Ubaida contradicted Abu Marzouk statement.
Abu Marzuk said the demand was "modest in light of the high price Palestinian people have paid and the collective punishment they have faced by Israel following the capture of the soldier."

Continued (Permanent Link)

What's wrong with Israelis

What's wrong with Israelis
By Bradley Burston

Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. -George Bernard Shaw
What if it's true? What if Israelis deserve no better than Ehud Olmert, Amir Peretz, Avigdor Lieberman, Moshe Katsav, Dan Halutz?
If we are stuck with them, and they have nothing to offer us in the way of governance or personal example, perhaps they can offer us something else. At the very least, maybe they have something to teach us. About ourselves. What's wrong with us.
Take the question of leadership. We know what we want in a leader, the kind of person we'd be fools not to follow. We want someone wiser than we are on issues of life and death, someone better able to see around corners and beyond horizons. We want someone of sounder judgment, superior imagination, someone whose ability exceeds his ambition, someone who cares about the country more than he cares about his chair. Someone who cares about us.
Now look who we've got.
At this point, the top echelon of government, and much of the top leadership of the military, is a collection of one-man fan clubs. Leaders whose followers long ago knew better than to continue to follow them.
Here's where it gets even more depressing.
What if the reason that we tend to get the leaders we most deserve is that we tend to vote for the leaders we most resemble?
The cabinet, the Knesset, the president, the chief rabbinate - they are their constituents in caricature. Us, in a fun house mirror.
If this is the case, it should be a fairly simple matter to divine what's wrong with Israelis. The male ones, at any rate.
First, we apply the Universal Law of Israeli Male Dynamics, which states, referring to behavior in the Gan, or Israeli pre-school:
They never left the Gan.
They can do whatever they want. They can say whatever comes to mind. There are no painful consequences, no significant punishments. They can decide that the sandbox is theirs, and woe to the kid who was there first.
They believe, and they may be right, that they will not be thrown out of the Gan, no matter what they do.
Anything goes.
Witness what is sometimes called the Rabin Principle, that we can battle terrorism as if there were no peace process, and pursue the peace process as if there were no fight against terror.
It doesn't work. In fact, any kid in Gan could probably figure out that it cannot work. But we are so clever, we tell ourselves, that we can make it work.
We won't let the fact that it never works deter us.
Witness Thursday night. As Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is launching one of the most potentially useful and significant summits, on his way to meeting key mediator Hosni Mubarak, the Israel Defense Forces was raiding Ramallah in an operation - carried live on Al Jazeera - that cost four Palestinian deaths. As well as any chance that the summit could help free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
"Things developed in a way that could not have been predicted in advance," Olmert said, in an expression of magic thinking fully worthy of a response to an angry pre-school teacher. "If innocent people were hurt, this was not our intention."
Even in the absence of dramatic events, variations of the Gan axiom abound. A random selection, from the pre-school that meets every Sunday in the Cabinet Room:
THE SNEAK [Namecard: Ehud O.]
Teacher Evaluation: Good habits of personal hygiene. Plays well with others, until teacher's back is turned. His demeanor is correct, with an undertone of sleaze. Despite what teacher would hope, the sleaze on the exterior belies greater sleaze on the inside.
He will stealthily take whatever he can. He will put it where it cannot be easily found. When it is found, he will have an explanation at the ready. There is more where that came from, but no one can figure out where it is.
THE BULLY [Namecard: Avigdor L.]
Teacher Evaluation: Just as Ehud O. fools people into wondering whether he could possibly be as sleazy as he appears, Avigdor L. is often so verbally abusive that one might mistake it for nothing but idle, if intimidating, bluster. But underestimate him at your peril. He might just be the kind of bully that if you call his bluff, goes ahead and does just what he threatened - and woe the block that he decides to knock off.
THE LOUDMOUTH [Namecard: Amir P.]
Teacher Evaluation: Alternately enchanting and obnoxious, Amir P. talks a good game - often at the top of his lungs. But his undeniable people skills, along with his propensity for high-volume self-promotion, can land him in situations for which he is unprepared and unsuited.
And so it goes. Around the cabinet table sit all the traits to which we have fallen chronic victim:
The Minister of Arrogance and Insecurity.
The Minister of Ambition that Exceeds Ability.
The Deputy Minister for Reckless Glibness.
The Special Advisor for Inattention to Details.
The Minister of Disdain for Accountability.
The Minister of Profligate Tolerance for Corruption.
Finally, no overview of what's wrong with Israelis would be complete without a word on being provincial to the point of pathology.
It is one of the wonders of selective innocence. Left wing, right wing, professor or dropout, provincialism knows no barriers. It is everywhere in this tiny ghetto of a Jewish state.
Once, relatively few Israelis traveled abroad, foreign influences like television were limited, and down-on-the-farm narrowness was eminently understandable. No more. There's something about the provincialism of Israelis that has become a cultural staple, second nature. Effortless.
There's something oddly charming about it, when it's not causing someone pain.
You see it in its sub-cultural forms, in the hermetic self-satisfaction and immunity to criticism as exemplified in such groups as settlers, the ultra-Orthodox, the ultra-left.
You see it on a national level, in the conviction that a world that condemns Israel at every opportunity, and at times unjustly, actually frees it to act any way it damn pleases.
You might say there's something even childlike about it. A certain lack of perspective, that may, in fact, explain everything else.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bringing Ahmadinejad to justice

Bringing Ahmadinejad to justice
By Irwin Cotler

The outrage over Iran's hosting of a Holocaust denial conference has tended to overshadow what should be a greater outrage: Iran's state-sanctioned incitement to commit genocide. Simply put, the denial of genocide became a media event, but incitement to genocide in violation of the prohibition against the "direct and public incitement to commit genocide" in the Genocide Convention, the "never again" convention, is greeted with a yawn.
In a similar vein, the international community celebrated the adoption by the United Nations of the "responsibility to protect" doctrine so as to authorize intervention to protect populations from genocidal acts, but it ignores the "responsibility to prevent" obligation mandated by the Genocide Convention. Yet, this is regarded as jus cogens, a peremptory norm of international law - binding on us all.
This juridical anomaly is not only of academic interest. For we are witnessing - and have been witnessing for some time - the emergence of state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, whose epicenter is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran. Here, you have the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes - genocide - embedded in the most virulent of hatreds - anti-Semitism - and underpinned by a publicly avowed intent to acquire nuclear weapons for that purpose, as former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani put it.
Nor should the words of former president Rafsanjani - characterized as the "moderate" victor in the recent Iranian elections - be dismissed as overheated rhetoric only. For the Argentinean judiciary recently determined that it was this same Rafsanjani who planned, organized and ordered the mass terrorist bombing of the Argentinean Jewish community center (AMIA) in 1994, resulting in the death of 85 people and 300 wounded.
In a fortuitous yet chilling reminder, the Argentinean prosecutors' decision calling for arrest warrants to be issued against the Iranian leadership was released on the same day that President Ahmadinejad called yet again for the disappearance of Israel, and on the anniversary of his first public and direct call for the destruction of Israel (on October 25, 2005) when, as he put it, "Israel must be wiped off the map, as the imam says."
The imam, in this instance, is former Ayatollah Ali Khameini, the supreme leader of Iran, who had declared in 2000 that "there is only one solution to the Middle East problem, namely the annihilation and destruction of the Jewish state," while otherwise using epidemiological metaphors in calling for Israel, "the cancerous tumor of a state," to be "removed from the region."
Indeed, Ahmadinejad and the Iranian leadership's denial of the Nazi genocide against the Jews of Europe - together with the demonization of the Jews as "evil incarnate" and the delegitimization of Israel as the defiler of Islam - appear to be prologue to and justification for a new genocide. Lest this admit of any doubt, Ahmadinejad has presided over the parading of a Shihab-3 missile draped in the emblem that Israel be "wiped off the map," while exhorting assembled thousands in their chants declaring "Death to Israel," as in the Tehran conference on "A World Without Israel."
Moreover, calls for the destruction of Israel by the most senior figures in the Iranian leadership are frighteningly reminiscent of calls for the Rwandan extermination of Tutsis by the Hutu leadership. The crucial difference - which makes the Iranian genocidal threat even more dangerous - is that the Hutus were equipped with the simplest of weapons, such as machetes, while Iran, in defiance of the world community, continues its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The failure to prevent past genocides caused UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lament as follows on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in 2004: "We must never forget our collective failure to protect at least 800,000 defenseless men, women and children who perished in Rwanda 10 years ago. Such crimes cannot be reversed. Such failures cannot be repaired. The dead cannot be brought back to life. So, what can we do?"
The answer is for the international community to pay heed to the early warnings of genocide - and incitement has been demonstrated to be a predictor of the genocide to come - and to act now, as mandated under the Genocide Convention, to prevent this clear and present danger, not only to Israel and the Jewish people, but to international peace and security.
Indeed, what is often ignored in Ahmadinejad's incitement to genocide are his warnings to any Muslim who supports Israel that they will burn in the Umma of Islam, and that the West should beware of propping up this disappearing state, while this genocidal incitement emerges as an apocalyptic precursor to the elimination of Israel and the messianic coming of the 12th Imam Mahdi.
The "responsibility to prevent" obligation in international law requires that the following actions be undertaken with all deliberate speed:
1. Israel should support the execution of arrest warrants issued by the Argentinean judiciary for the named Iranian authorities - including former Iranian president Rafsanjani - and Hezbollah operatives.
2. State parties to the Genocide Convention, whose responsibility is to enforce the convention, should refer the horrific genocidal incitement by President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the appropriate UN agencies for account. It is astonishing that this genocidal incitement has yet to be addressed by any body or agency of the United Nations.
3. State parties should initiate in the International Court of Justice an inter-state complaint against Iran, also a state party to the Genocide Convention, for its criminal violation of the Genocide Treaty.
4. The situation of the international criminality of President Ahmadinejad, and other Iranian leaders, should be referred by the UN Security Council to the special prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.
5. State parties to the Genocide Convention, which have enabling domestic legislation, should prepare criminal indictments for President Ahmadinejad, former president Rafsanjani, and other Iranian leaders on the basis of the "universal jurisdiction" principle embodied in the Genocide Convention.
6. NGOs should prepare an indictment of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders for the violation of the prohibition in both the Genocide Convention and the International Criminal Court Treaty, against the "public and direct incitement to genocide."
7. The new secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who seeks to "lead by example," should refer the genocidal incitement of President Ahmadinejad and other Iranian leaders to the UN Security Council, as a matter threatening international peace and security, pursuant to Article 99 of the UN Charter.
It is time that these juridical options be initiated, which might also embolden progressive forces within Iran, while holding the responsible individuals accountable. Indeed, recent history has taught us that sustained international juridical remedies can bring about the indictment of seemingly immune dictators, such as Slobodan Milosevic and Augusto Pinochet. This is an opportunity for countries to exercise juridical leadership in regard to one of the most important threats confronting the international community.
Prof. Cotler is a member of Canadian Parliament, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, and is professor of law (on leave) at McGill University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

U.S. to provide Abbas' forces with $86 million

Last update - 15:09 05/01/2007   

U.S. to provide Abbas' forces with $86 million
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies

The Bush administration will provide $86.4 million to strengthen security forces loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, expanding U.S. involvement in Abbas' power struggle with Hamas, U.S. documents showed on Friday.
Fighting between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas has surged since talks on forming a unity government collapsed and Abbas called for early parliamentary and presidential elections. Hamas accused Abbas of mounting a coup.
The U.S. money will be used to "assist the Palestinian Authority presidency in fulfilling PA commitments under the road map to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and establish law and order in the West Bank and Gaza," a U.S. government document obtained by Reuters said.

Haniyeh, Abbas agree to defuse tensions

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Friday he and Abbas had agreed at emergency talks to keep gunmen from their rival Hamas and Fatah factions off Gaza's streets after six people were killed and 18 were wounded.
"We have expressed our regret and sorrow for these incidents that do not reflect our struggle," Haniyeh told reporters at Abbas's office at the end of their first meeting in two months.
Haniyeh said he and Abbas agreed to "withdraw all gunmen from the streets and deploy police forces to keep law and order."
Abbas made no public comment after the session, but a diplomat who attended the talks and declined to be identified confirmed an agreement had been reached.
Similar pacts in the past have been shattered swiftly by violence and Gazans said they feared another eruption of bloodshed later in the day when Thursday's dead are buried.
Gunbattles broke out between forces loyal to Abbas and the Hamas government in northern Gaza on Thursday, killing six people and wounding 18 other people, witnesses said.
In the northern Gaza Strip, a senior Palestinian security officer allied with Fatah was killed when Hamas militants laid siege to his house, engaging in a protracted gun battle with his guards, and then attacked it with grenades and a dozen rockets, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.
The officer, Colonel Mohammed Ghayeb, was on the phone to Palestine TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. Ghayeb's wife was seriously wounded in the attack, in which Hamas fired assault rifles and rockets at the building.
"They are killers," he said of the Hamas gunmen. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move."
The battle outside the house raged for much of the day and killed four of Ghayeb's guards and a Hamas gunman. About three dozen people, including eight children, were also wounded.
Ghayeb was the chief of the Preventive Security Service in northern Gaza, and his killing was expected to trigger revenge attacks by the men under his command.
During the standoff outside Ghayeb's home in Beit Lahiya, dozens of women rushed into the streets in protest, chanting "Spare the bullets, shame, shame."
One resident, Amina Abu Saher, told the local Al Quds radio station that it was difficult for her to see Palestinians fighting each other and said she and the other women were determined to stop the internal fighting.
Haniyeh called for calm in the wake of the renewed internal violence. Five people were killed on Wednesday in fighting.
"These clashes must stop, this bloodshed must end. Let all of you love one another, let's resolve differences through dialogue and not with weapons," Haniyeh told reporters after returning from making the Haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. "Weapons must only be directed against the Israeli occupation," he added.
The two sides declared the truce in an attempt to end violence that surged after Abbas challenged Hamas by calling for early parliamentary and presidential elections after unity government talks failed.
Also Thursday, unknown gunmen fired on mourners at a funeral for three security officers loyal to Abbas who were among those killed the day before.
Fatah sources and medical officials said two mourners were wounded during the funeral march in central Gaza when gunmen shot at the procession.
A senior Hamas member was also kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Gaza City, the Islamists said.
Abbas met with leaders of political factions in Gaza on Thursday night. The smaller Islamic Jihad group, which has stayed out of the fighting, was to propose another round of unity talks, this time between Abbas and Hamas' supreme leader, Khaled Meshal, rather than between lower-level envoys.
As the fighting worsened, Haniyeh of Hamas cut short a tour of Arab nations and returned to Gaza on Thursday. His next stop was to have been Jordan, which has offered to host a meeting between Haniyeh and Abbas, in an attempt to defuse the tensions.

Continued (Permanent Link)

New book tells Anne Frank's tale

New book tells Anne Frank's tale
A new book about Anne Frank, the iconic Jewish teenager who was killed by the Nazis, claims to be the most comprehensive story of her life so far.

The book, The Life of Anne Frank, has been released to mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of the girl's famous diaries.

It tells the story of her life before she went into hiding in Amsterdam.

The publishers say they want to keep her story alive in a new generation with lessons that are relevant today.

"Will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, because writing allows me to record everything, all my thoughts, ideals and fantasies."

That is what Anne Frank asked in her diary. She was never to know that her wish would be fulfilled, as her journal was discovered and published after her death, and became one of the most famous and poignant tales of persecution under the Nazis.

Family photos

The Life of Anne Frank, published by Macmillan books, aims to fill in many of the lesser known details about her, such as her life before she went into hiding, her arrest and how she was betrayed, the BBC's Geraldine Coughlan reports.

It is written by people working for the Anne Frank House, the museum dedicated to her in Amsterdam, and is filled with family photos and other contemporary details.

Anne Frank and her family hid in a cramped secret annexe in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands for two years between 1942, when she was 13, and 1944.

She kept a diary of her life and efforts to stay hidden.

But her family was betrayed and she died, aged 15, in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shortly before the end of the war.

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Haniyeh, Abbas meet amid bloodshed

Haniyeh, Abbas meet amid bloodshed

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday night to discuss a solution to the current inter-faction violence after a day of clashes between Hamas and Fatah loyalists left eight Palestinians dead.

According to Army Radio, Haniyeh, of Hamas, said the two had agreed at the meeting to work toward ending the infighting in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

"We are going to end all armed displays in the streets," Haniyeh told reporters. he said. Abbas had no comment.

The eight Palestinians killed in Thursday's armed confrontations brought the death toll to 13 over the past 48 hours. At least 16 Palestinians were wounded in Thursday's fighting.

Haniyeh, who returned to the Gaza Strip after a week-long visit to Saudi Arabia, appealed to the warring factions to halt the fighting and to direct their weapons toward Israel. Fatah officials, on the other hand, accused Hamas of operating "death squads" in the Gaza Strip.

The body of Gen. Muhammed Gharib, chief of the Fatah-dominated Preventive Security Service in northern Gaza, riddled with bullets and mutilated by stab wounds, was found in his home in northern Gaza Thursday after a daylong battle with Hamas gunmen. Gharib's two daughters were also killed during the fighting, according to reports.

Gharib was on the phone to Palestine TV just moments before his death and appealed for help as his house came under attack. "They are killers," he said of the Hamas gunmen. "They are targeting the house, children are dying, they are bleeding. For God's sake, send an ambulance, we want an ambulance, somebody move."

The battle outside the house raged for much of the day and killed four of Gharib's guards and a Hamas gunman. The Hamas member was identified as Ayman Subuh, 26. A passerby killed in the crossfire was named as 18-year-old Ihab al-Mabhouh. About three dozen people, including eight children, were also wounded.

During the standoff outside Gharib's home in Beit Lahiya, dozens of women rushed into the streets in protest, chanting "Spare the bullets, shame, shame."

Hospital officials said ambulances sent to the scene were unable to reach their destination because of the heavy clashes between Fatah and Hamas supporters. Eyewitnesses reported that Hamas gunmen fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the home of senior Fatah official Sufian Abu Zaida. No one was hurt.

On Wednesday, Gharib escaped an assassination attempt when Hamas gunmen fired at his convoy. Two of his bodyguards were kidnapped during that attack. The killing of the senior officer on Thursday was likely to spark reprisal raids.

Earlier Thursday, six Palestinians were wounded by gunfire during the funeral procession of three Fatah-affiliated security officers who were killed in Wednesday's clashes with Hamas in Khan Yunis. Fatah activists accused Hamas gunmen of firing at the mourners. However, a spokesman for Hamas claimed that the six were wounded when their friends fired into the air during the funeral.

Speaking to reporters outside his home in Shati refugee camp, Haniyeh urged all Palestinian groups to halt the fighting and to use their weapons against Israel. He also expressed regret for the death of Palestinians in the ongoing fighting.

"We must rise to the hopes of our people," he said. "Let's top this bloodshed and rivalry. Let's tackle our problems through dialogue, not weapons. These weapons should be directed only against the Israeli enemy."

Haniyeh lashed out at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, accusing him of failing to fulfill his promises to Abbas to release Palestinian prisoners and remove IDF checkpoints in the West Bank.

"We don't have much confidence in Israeli promises," he said. "Olmert has already reneged on a number of understandings he reached with President Abbas during their recent summit. He neither released prisoners nor eased restrictions imposed on our people."

As the fighting escalated in the Gaza Strip, Fatah spokesman launched an unprecedented attack on Hamas, holding the movement responsible for the latest flare-up.

"It's time to put an end to the death gangs that Hamas is operating in the Gaza Strip," said Fatah legislator Jamal Tirawi. "Hamas must stop lying and killing. Their version of the latest events reminds us of the Israeli army's lies. They are stupid to think that the people believe them."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert meets Mubarak in Egypt

Olmert meets Mubarak in Egypt

In a frosty and uncomfortable atmosphere, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met on Thursday evening at the Northern Peak Resort in Sharm e-Sheikh. Mubarak made no statement on progress over the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, expressed confidence in his country's efforts to stem the smuggling of arms into Gaza and failed to criticize the firing of Kassams on southern Israel, saying this was the work of "only one or two people."

The atmosphere and the statements made by the two leaders at their press conference gave the impression that very little, if anything at all, had been achieved in their talks.

Notably, during the press conference that followed their meeting, neither leader went out of his way to compliment his colleague. Olmert did thank his host for the talks, but there was no echo of the praise he had lavished on Mubarak's statesmanship at their last meeting in June.

An IDF operation in Ramallah earlier in the day, in which four Palestinians were killed, evidently cast a pall over the meeting. Mubarak chose to open his statement at the press conference with a denunciation of the raid, "which hinders our efforts to achieve peace."

He went on to term the talks "frank and constructive" but did not report any progress in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations for an exchange involving the release of Shalit and Palestinian prisoners.

He concluded his statement, which had been prepared in a written text, with another criticism of the Ramallah operation.

Olmert thanked Mubarak for "Egypt's special effort" in trying to bring about the release of Shalit, but he also offered no news of progress. Olmert said he had expressed his concern over the continued smuggling of arms through the Philadelphi Corridor and added that he knew "these issues concern the president" and was "sure that Egypt is making a special effort to stop" the smuggling.

In answer to a question, Mubarak said that the money transfers to Hamas were being blocked because they are against Egyptian law and "we are not going to have any other law here." He added that "we are not allowing any arms to go through" but also noted that the border could not be hermetically sealed.

Olmert expressed regret "if innocent people have been hurt in Ramallah. But we must remember that Israel must take steps to stop terrorists, and the operation today was to stop terrorists who had killed innocent Israelis."

Several times during the conference, the leaders cut each other off or butted in on what the other was saying. Mubarak also impatiently cut off an Israeli journalist trying to ask an additional question.

Sources in the Prime Minister's Office had said before the meeting that Israel had responded positively to an Egyptian idea to convene a regional summit of Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. But Mubarak, when asked about the initiative, said only that the "prime minister proposed some time ago that after a deal to free the Palestinian prisoners and Gilad Shalit has been reached, we should organize such a summit."

Olmert repeatedly said during the press conference that Israel continues to adhere to the cease-fire reached with the Palestinian Authority and blamed Hamas and other terrorist organizations for repeatedly violating it.

Olmert was asked by an Egyptian reporter about his interview with German television in which he had included Israel in the "nuclear club." "How," the reporter inquired, "did that tally with his declarations of peace?"

Olmert answered that "What I said in Germany is that Israel will not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons in the region. As everybody knows, the country that is threatening to introduce nuclear weapons and use them is Iran. And many countries have reason to be worried by these intentions, including Israel and Egypt."

For his part, Mubarak called for an agreement on a nuclear-free Middle East.

The entire visit, from the moment the prime minister's chartered plane landed on Egyptian soil, up to take-off back to Israel, lasted barely four hours and took place with little fanfare. Even the official dinner after the press conference was kept markedly brief.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Arabs vs Israel

Arabs vs Israel

By Farrukh Saleem

Also at Zionist propaganda?: Arabs vs Israel

Imam Ali Ibn Abi Taleb: "If God were to humiliate a human being He would deny him knowledge"

The League of Arab States has 22 members. Of the 22, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman are 'traditional monarchies'. Of the 22, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria and Somalia are 'Authoritarian Regimes' (Source: Of the 22, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Morocco and Somalia are among the 'world's most repressive regimes' (Source: A special report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights). Of the 330 million Muslim men, women and children living under Arab rulers a mere 486,530 live in a democracy (0.15 per cent of the total).

A mere two hundred and fifty miles from the 'League of Dictators' HQ in Cairo is the only 'parliamentary democracy' in the region; universal suffrage, multi-party, multi-candidate, competitive elections. Israel's 6,352,117 residents are 76 per cent Jewish and 23 per cent non-Jewish (mostly Arab).

Israel spends $110 on scientific research per year per person while the same figure for the Arab world is $2. Knowledge makes Israel grow by 5.2 per cent a year while "rates of productivity (the average production of one worker) in Arab countries were negative to a large and increasing extent in oil-producing countries during the 1980s and 90s (World Bank; Arab Development Report)."

Facts cannot be denied: The state of Israel now has six universities ranked as among the best on the face of the planet. Hebrew University Jerusalem is in the top-100. Technion Israel Institute of Technology, Tel Aviv University and Weizmann Institute of Science are in the top-200. Bar Ilan University and Ben Gurion University are in the top-300. The Arab League does not have a single university in the top-400 ( One in two Arab women can neither read nor write (remember, "If God were to humiliate a human being He would deny him/her knowledge").

Israel's universities are producing knowledge. Israeli society is applying that knowledge plus diffusing knowledge produced by others. On the other hand, within the Arab League, repressive regimes have erected religious, social and cultural barriers to the production as well as diffusion of knowledge.

Look at how knowledge is abandoning the Arab world: Between 1998 and 2000 more than 15,000 Arab physicians migrated. According to the World Bank, "roughly 25 per cent of 300,000 first degree graduates from Arab universities emigrated. Roughly 23 per cent of Arab engineers, 50 per cent of Arab doctors and 15 per cent of Arab BSc holders had emigrated."

Israel, on the other hand, has more engineers and scientists per capita than any other country (for every 10,000 Israelis there are 145 engineers or scientists). Israel ranks among the top-7 countries worldwide for patents per capita.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Israel's pharmaceutical giant, is the world's largest producer of antibiotics (Teva developed Copaxone, a unique immunomodulator therapy for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, the only non-interferon agent available).

Facts are hard to deny: Most members of the Arab League grant Muslim women fewer rights -- with regards to marriage, divorce, dress code, civil rights, legal status and education. Israel does not. Spain translates more books in a year than has the Arab world in the past thousand years (since the reign of Caliph Mamoun; Abbasid, caliph 813-833).

Six million Israelis buy 12 million books every year making them one of the highest consumers of books in the world. Israel has the highest number of university degrees per capita in the world; the Arab world has the lowest. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other country (109 per 10,000 Israelis); the Arab world -- next to nothing.

Results are for everyone to see: The average per capita income in Israel is $25,000 while the average income within the League of Arab States is $5,000.

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance columnist. Email:

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Rattling the Cage: A bigot called Bibi

My own Zionist plot to lower the Arab birth rate - provide free university education to everyone.  

Rattling the Cage: A bigot called Bibi

By rights, Binyamin Netanyahu, who every poll says is by far the most popular politician in Israel, should be ranked with Jean Le Pen, Jorge Haider and the rest of the Western world's racist demagogues.

But he won't be, because anti-Arab racism in Israel is either supported or strategically ignored by the mainstream of the Jewish world, and pretty much taken for granted by the gentile world.

What Netanyahu said Tuesday night was not new for him; he was reported to have made the same appeal to the same sort of audience - haredi political leaders - a couple of years ago as finance minister.

Then, as now, he was apologizing for the way his child welfare cuts had hurt large haredi families, while at the same time asking the haredim to look at the bright sides of that policy.

"Two positive things happened," he told a conference of haredi government officials in Nir Etzion this week. "Members of the haredi public seriously joined the workforce. And on the national level, the unexpected result was the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate." (Quoted in Ynet, Yediot Aharonot's Web site. The speech was also reported in Haaretz.)

The once-and-possibly-future prime minister of Israel says publicly that he's sorry his welfare cuts made life harder for Jewish families who are "blessed," as he put it, with many children, but isn't it "positive" that these cuts resulted in fewer Arab children being born? Then Netanyahu went on to suggest a national remedy for the victims of his economic policies - but for Jewish victims only, not Arab victims.

"I don't think that the Jewish Agency should refrain from helping part of the Jewish public in the state," he said, "and it is possible that additional non-governmental bodies could have done so."

IMAGINE IF any gentile government official in the world cited the lowering of the Jewish birthrate in his country as an accomplishment, then recommended that his country's founding institution raise money to help poor gentile families, but not poor Jewish families. How would the Jewish world, starting with Israel, characterize such an individual? What sort of pressure would the Jewish world apply to get him or her fired, blackballed and, if possible, indicted?

Yet everyone knows the speech in Nir Etzion will not hurt Netanyahu at all - even though, again, this is not the first time he's said this, and even though the statements are perfectly in line with his standing as Israel's number one fear-monger on the Israeli Arab "demographic threat." (On second thought, Netanyahu is probably only number two - Avigdor Lieberman, his former right-hand man and alter ego, is number one. When it comes to the subject of Israeli Arabs, it's hard to tell where Netanyahu ends and Lieberman begins.)

The worst that will happen to Netanyahu from this is that maybe another liberal commentator or two will denounce him, and there will be a press release from some civil rights organization. Maybe not even that. If, on the other hand, we're really, really lucky, the attorney-general might have a word to say. (FYI, even if there was a chance of it happening, I wouldn't want to see Netanyahu indicted. If every Israeli who made racist remarks in public had to stand trial, the courts would collapse under the load.)

The only political parties that might censure Netanyahu are the left-wing parties, and nobody cares about them; in fact, a bad word from Meretz can only help the Likud leader in the polls.

The Anti-Defamation League won't say anything, and neither will the other Diaspora Jewish organizations. Bibi is just too big, too popular, too important, too much a symbol of Israel for the Diaspora Jewish establishment to say a word against him, let alone accuse him of being a shameless bigot.

Two positive things happened: Members of the haredi public seriously joined the workforce. And on the national level, the unexpected result was the demographic effect on the non-Jewish public, where there was a dramatic drop in the birth rate.

That's the Israeli people's overwhelming choice for prime minister talking. I hope The New York Times, CNN and every other major news medium in the world picks up this story and doesn't let it go until Israel and Diaspora Jewry are shamed into dumping this guy once and for all.

On second thought, exposure as an anti-Arab racist by the international media could cause Netanyahu some problems overseas, but at home, it would only increase his appeal.

Continued (Permanent Link)

PM Olmert's Bureau: PM hasn't decided to dismiss or transfer DM Peretz

Statement from PM Olmert's Bureau
(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

The Prime Minister's Bureau, this evening (Thursday), 4.1.07, wishes to
clarify that contrary to television reports, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has
not decided to dismiss Defense Minister Amir Peretz or to transfer him to
another post. As far as the Prime Minister's Bureau is concerned, the issue
is not on the agenda.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wanted Fatah Terrorist Arrested in Bethlehem

January 4th 2007
Attributed to "security sources" (Distributed by the IDF Spokesperson's

Wanted Fatah terrorist arrested in Bethlehem

This afternoon security forces operating in Bethlehem arrested Muhammad Muntasser Taufik Abu Zaid, a 19 year-old wanted Fatah terrorist. Abu Zaid was shot and injured while attempting to escape arrest. He was taken to an Israeli hospital to receive medical treatment.

Abu Zaid was involved in numerous shooting attacks against IDF forces in the past year, and recruited terrorists for shooting attacks and bombing attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF forces. Abu Zaid is known as an explosives expert involved in bomb construction and weapons dealing.

In his efforts to carry out attacks, Abu Zaid received directives and funds from members of the Popular Resistance Committees terror organization in the Gaza Strip. Even in the past few days, Abu Zaid was planning various attacks.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Poll of Kadima voters: 8.7% Want Olmert as candidate, 42.0% Government will last at most a year, 39.4% Would vote Kadima now

Poll of Kadima voters: 8.7% Want Olmert as candidate, 42.0% Government will
last at most a year, 39.4%  Would vote Kadima now
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 4 January 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 345 adult Israelis (including
Arab Israelis) who said that they voted for Kadima in the last elections
carried out by Geocartographia for Israel Radio's "Its all Talk" on 3
January 2007

Do you think that the Olmert administration will run full term or less?
At most a year 42.0% Two years 10.2% Full term -Nov.'010 36.2% Other 11.6%

If Ehud Olmert resigns who should take his place?
Livni 37.7%  Peres 15.9% Mofaz 7.2% Sheetreet 5.8% Dichter 11.6% None of the
above 15.9% Don't know 5.8%

If elections for the Knesset are advanced, who do you think should be
Kadima's candidate for prime minister?
Olmert 8.7% Livni 49.3% Mofaz 14.5% Sheetreet 5.8% None of the above 11.6%
Don't know 10.1%

If only two possibilities:

Olmert 24.6% Livni 60.9% Neither 8.7% Don't know 5.8%

Olmert 31.9% Mofaz 31.9% Neither 26.1% Don't know 10.1%

Mofaz 23.2% Livni 59.4% Neither 10.2% Don't know 7.2%

If elections were held today what party would you vote for?
Kadima 39.4% Likud 4.5% Labor 1.5% Yisrael Beiteinu 6.1%
Won't vote/white slip 6.1% Haven't decided 42.4%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Hi-Tech: Zionist Dogs fight Terrorist

"The dog bark-reader is just one of a batch of innovative security systems to emerge from Israel, which business magazine Forbes said in December had emerged as "the go-to country for anti-terrorism technologies."

"Israeli animal rights societies said they knew little about the system but it was preferable for dogs to live indoors and unleashed"

If a terrorist blows up a dog, it is not news and it is not cruelty to animals and it is not reported in Reuters of course, but if a dog bites a terrorist it is news and cruelty to animals.

A Zionist plot. Zionists are cruel to animals. Indeed, God created dogs to live indoors and unleashed. They always lived indoors. Walking dogs is cruel to animals.

It is preferable for terrorists to live indoors and leashed, but they don't stick to that, creating certain necessities.

From yap to growl, device dogs intruders

By Corinne Heller Wed Jan 3, 8:16 AM ET
BEERSHEBA, Israel (Reuters) - An Israeli firm has designed a security system to ensure jailbreakers or intruders find a guard dog's bark can indeed be worse than its bite.

Harnessing technology that interprets barking -- to see if an animal is responding to a threat instead of just routinely woofing -- the company aims to replace or supplement expensive electronic surveillance systems.

"There is currently very little utilization of the watchdog's early warning capabilities," says privately owned manufacturer Bio-Sense Technologies, based in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva, on its Web site.

The company -- which says dogs have better night vision than humans and a vastly superior sense of smell and hearing -- used computers to analyze 350 barks and found dogs of all breeds and sizes barked the same alarm when they sensed a threat.

If the dogs sense an intruder or attempted security breach, dozens of sensors around the facility pick up their "alarm bark" and alert the human operators in the control room.

Dubbed "Doguard," the Dog Bio Security system is in place in high-security Eshel Prison as well as Israeli military bases, water installations, farms, ranches, garages and in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Eshel Prison installed the system last year to supplement its existing network of electric fences and human guards, prison officer Bazov Moris told Reuters.

Now Rex, a brown American Staffordshire Terrier, Emmy, a white Caanan, and 27 other dogs guarding the prison are tracked by sensors to alert guards to any attempted breakout at the jail, which houses about 3,000 prisoners including Israelis and Palestinians.

There have been no escape attempts since the system was installed, but Moris is convinced it works. He said prisoners at other facilities had been able to escape "because dogs barked but no alert was sent to the guards."

During a demonstration an alarm wailed as Rex and Emmy raced, growling and snarling, alongside one of the facility's metal fences, which a man in a brown uniform was trying to scale from the other side.

Officers in a small basement office nearby watched on a surveillance video and spoke into their walkie-talkies as a wall of computer screens flashed in red: "Dog alarm in Sector 12."

Seconds later, several prison guards, wielding clubs, raced to the scene and tackled the man to the ground.


The dog bark-reader is just one of a batch of innovative security systems to emerge from Israel, which business magazine Forbes said in December had emerged as "the go-to country for anti-terrorism technologies."

By monitoring not just the dogs' barks, but also their physiological responses -- like heart rates -- it joins a trend for computer systems building on animal knowledge that humans also share.

Another Israeli example, from Suspect Detection Systems, offers border checkpoints a computer quiz that alerts guards if travelers show a marked physiological response to particularly tough questions.

However, Doguard is not foolproof. When first set up at Eshel Prison and at a water installation and farm in central Israel, the dogs triggered several false alarms, officials said.

"The dogs need two to three weeks to adapt -- they must get to know their territory," said Daniel Low, chief executive officer of Meniv Rishon, the municipal water system of the Israeli town of Rishon Lezion.

Low said he had installed the system in several places to replace guards.

Galia Alon, an official at Modi'in Ezrahi, a large Israeli security company that supplies private guards and equipment, cautioned against relying on dogs as a first line of defense.

"Dogs are excellent at spotting intruders -- they are well trained and have a more sharpened sense of smell than humans," she said. "But people can identify people by looking at them and talking to them, and they are more inclined to catch them."

Yossi Brami, manager of a dairy at Kibbutz Gezer, a communal farm, had the system installed two months ago. He said he was told dogs work better in pairs because one signals to the other if an intruder appears, so two were placed to guard his calves.

The dogs used in the alarm system were rescued from shelters, Bio-Sense chief executive officer Eyal Zehavi said, adding some clients asked for them to be trained professionally first.

Eshel Prison's dogs live in individual kennels. Several times a day, they are let out to patrol buildings, where they are unleashed in a fenced-in compound.

At Kibbutz Gezer, dogs Chief and Lola are kept on a long chain and are released to run around the farm several times a day. The dogs guarding Meniv Rishon are also chained.

Israeli animal rights societies said they knew little about the system but it was preferable for dogs to live indoors and unleashed.

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Report: Olmert plans to remove Peretz

Methinks an even larger percentage of Israelis would appreciate Olmert more if he removed himself.
Jan. 4, 2007 20:11 | Updated Jan. 4, 2007 21:11
Report: Olmert plans to remove Peretz

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to remove his defense minister, Amir Peretz, two TV stations reported Thursday.
Citing sources in Olmert's office, Israel TV and Channel 2 said Peretz would be asked to resign and take another cabinet position, and if he refused, he would be fired.

Channel 2 speculated that Peretz would not be offered the finance portfolio, currently occupied by Avraham Hirschson from Olmert's Kadima Party.
Labor MK Eitan Cabel said his party would not accept the removal of members from the government or to different portfolios.
A Dahaf poll conducted for the Knesset Channel on Wednesday found that 45 percent of Israelis would appreciate Olmert more if he would remove Peretz from his post. Only four percent said they would not appreciate such a move.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said Peretz's dismissal would not affect their judgment of the prime minister.
Twenty percent said they would like Olmert to dismiss IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, as opposed to six percent of participants who said firing the army chief would decrease their appreciation for the PM.

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Gaza-Egypt smuggling tunnel collapses

Gaza-Egypt smuggling tunnel collapses

A smuggling tunnel under the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt collapsed Thursday morning, Palestinian security officials said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or details on who might have been inside at the time of the collapse, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Palestinian smugglers use hundreds of tunnels dug under the border to bring weapons and contraband goods into Gaza from Egypt.

Israel says antitank missiles, tons of explosives and thousands of rifles have reached militants in Gaza through the tunnels.

Palestinian operatives claim to have smuggled in long-range Katyusha rockets, as well as the materials needed to upgrade their homemade rockets to reach deeper into Israel.

Israel's demands that Egypt do more to stop the weapons smuggling are to figure on the agenda of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt later Thursday.

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Public view of Sharon changes a year after his stroke

Public view of Sharon changes a year after his stroke

Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post

The mind reels at all this country has gone through since Ariel Sharon suffered a significant stroke a year ago on Thursday, and his powers were passed to Ehud Olmert.

Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections, and Kadima won at the ballot box in Israel, although with considerably less support than would have been the case had Sharon led the Kadima ticket.

Amona was evacuated violently, in complete contrast to the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip in August 2005.

Olmert unveiled his realignment plan; President Moshe Katsav and Justice Minister Haim Ramon became embroiled in separate sex scandals; Kassam rockets continued to fall on the western Negev; Gilad Shalit was kidnapped; Elad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped; the IDF went to war in Lebanon; the IDF did not decisively win the war in Lebanon; UNIFIL marched into Lebanon; Kassam rockets continued to fall on the western Negev; the IDF could not stop the Kassam rockets on the western Negev; Iran posed an existential threat.

Even by the machine-gun pace of the news cycle one is accustomed to in Israel, 2006 seemed an extraordinary year of events, tumult and change.

One of the major changes the year wrought was that it is now difficult for the average citizen to look at the various institutions that form the building blocks of this society with much confidence.

Nearly every institution has been tainted: the presidency, by the Katsav scandal; the Prime Minister's Office, by various allegations of scandals there; the Knesset, by its day-to-day behavior; the IDF, by its shoddy performance during the summer's war; the Justice Ministry, by Haim Ramon's kiss and its aftermath; the Rabbinate, by the low public standing of Israel's two chief rabbis; the police, by the Benny Sela escape; and now the tax authorities.

Another thing that has changed dramatically over the last year has been Sharon's legacy.

When he was felled by his stroke last year, Sharon was riding a wave of unprecedented popularity. He pulled the Gaza disengagement off without a hitch, he broke the Likud-Labor hegemony over politics in the country, he enjoyed the confidence of a large part of the population who looked at him and felt that here was a man who selflessly placed the interests of the country above his own.

As was the case when Sharon was a general, people were willing to follow him when he was prime minister, not necessarily because they were sure of where he was leading, but because he was the one who was doing the leading.

Israelis love the daring, the audacious; the more daring and audacious, the more they love it. Disengagement was daring and audacious, so people loved it. Something this audacious must be brilliant, no?

Well, if the proof were in the pudding, then many would now answer that question with a "no." And this is something that has changed dramatically in the year since Sharon had his stroke: people are looking differently at his legacy, and at the state of affairs he left behind.

Olmert's election campaign in the spring was based on two main pillars: Sharon's "legacy" and realignment. In the meantime, realignment has been tossed out the window, overtaken by the chaos from Gaza and the war in Lebanon. More and more people having come to the realization that unilateralism simply doesn't work, and that you can't just leave an area and hope for the best, because if the mafia goons move in where you moved out, then - more often then not - there goes the neighborhood.

And if realignment looks different now than it did back in February and March, so does Sharon's overall legacy.

First of all, disengagement did not do what Sharon promised. Sharon wasn't warm and cuddly, and never promised that leaving Gaza would lead to a new Middle East. But he did argue that it would bolster Israel's security. He argued that if rockets fell, Israel would have the international legitimacy to take the military action to silence them forever.

But this didn't happen, and now one would be hardpressed to find many people who actually believe that with anarchy in Gaza, arms flowing under the border from Egypt, and the western Negev at the mercy of the Kassam rockets, Israel's security is better now than it was prior to disengagement.

And then there is Lebanon. Sharon knew for five years about Hizbullah's arms buildup in Lebanon, that it was stockpiling weapons, but he did nothing. Reasons for this have been proffered - that he was preoccupied with fighting Palestinian terrorism, that he was so traumatized by the first Lebanese go-around that a psychological block kept him from taking any real action to stop the buildup.

Whatever the case, the bottom line was that he didn't take action, and Israel was woefully unprepared to deal with what it found when it went to war against Hizbullah in July.

It has now been a year since Sharon had his stroke. And in that intervening year, there has also been a significant re-evaluation among many as to where his policies have left them. Those in doubt that this reevaluation is taking place should consider that according to all the recent polls, if elections were held today, Sharon's political rival and nemesis Binyamin Netanyahu would be the country's prime minister.

Polls may not predict the future, but they do indicate sentiment, and the public sentiment today regarding Sharon's policies is significantly different than what it was an action-packed and trauma-filled year ago.

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A Retrospective Study of the Muhammad Cartoons Crisis and its Implications

Inquiry & Analysis-Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
January 5, 2007
No. 313

A Retrospective Study of the Unfolding of the Muhammad Cartoons Crisis and its Implications

To view this Special Dispatch in HTML, visit: .

By Aluma Dankowitz and MEMRI research staff*

On September 30, 2005, Denmark's biggest daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, published a series of 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. One, which was perceived as highly  offensive, showed the Prophet with a bomb on top of his turban. Several months later, mass demonstrations were held in the streets of the Muslim world to protest against the perceived insult to the Prophet; some of the demonstrations turned violent and dozens were killed. Arab countries recalled their ambassadors; Danish and Norwegian diplomatic representations in Damascus, Beirut, and Tehran were attacked and set on fire; churches were attacked; Scandinavian representatives in the Middle East received death threats and demands that they leave their posts; fatwas permitting the murder of the cartoonists were issued by several Muslim clerics; Muslim fundamentalist organizations threatened terror attacks in Denmark; and an unprecedented boycott of Danish products was implemented by Muslim countries.(1)

"The Muslims worldwide - some billion and a half... are facing a new kind of Crusader war, whose weapon is the pen, not the rifle," wrote Muhammad Foda in the evening supplement of the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya.(2) The popular nature of the protest against the cartoons is all the more evident because well-known Egyptian singer Sha'aban Abd Al-Rahim wrote a song about the affair.(3)

Bin Laden also mentioned the affair. In a tape released April 23, 2006, he demanded that the Western governments hand the cartoonists who had defamed the Prophet over to the Muslims, so that they could be tried according to shari'a law. He stressed that anyone who mocked the Prophet or Islam should be killed.(4) On May 15, 2006, Al-Qaeda activist Sheikh Abu Yahya Al-Libi, who in July 2005 had escaped from a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan, said that the Muslims should talk less and do more: They should fight Denmark and Norway, and not be content with demonstrations and other forms of protest.(5)

However, the protests were not only on the popular level. The cartoon crisis began with activity by Danish Muslim leaders, and with calculated moves by Arab governments and Islamist figures. This is evident in the fact that the wave of mass demonstrations began months after the publication of the cartoons, and following Islamist and government activity - that is, not in immediate response to the publication of the cartoons.

The intense protest against the cartoons gave rise to worldwide debate regarding freedom of expression and the different perspectives on this freedom in Western and Muslim cultures. The main argument made by Denmark and by countries that defended it was that the publication of the cartoons violated no law and overstepped no boundaries of freedom of expression or freedom of the press as practiced in the West. To counter this argument, Muslim shapers of public opinion - many of whom have themselves in the past invoked the "freedom of expression" argument when accused of making antisemitic statements - were forced to redefine the boundaries of this freedom, stating that it did not apply to materials offensive to others. But even as it presented this argument, Arab media continued to make harsh and offensive statements against non-Muslims.(6)     

This paper presents the unfolding of the crisis, the role of the Arab governments in it, and the role of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Jazeera TV in escalating it. It also presents the prevailing Arab and Muslim perspective on the boundaries of freedom of expression as reflected in response to the cartoon crisis.


*Aluma Dankowitz is Director of MEMRI's Reform Project.

(1) For example, in a communiqué by the Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigades who claim to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the organization threatened Denmark with "a blood-soaked war and blessed invasions [by the Muslims]." Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, February 2, 2006. On the burning of the embassies and the damage to churches, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 1025, "Protesters Burn European Embassies, Consulates, Churches in Damascus and Beirut," Al-Jazeera TV (Qatar), New TV (Lebanon), February 5, 2006, .  
(2) As cited in Al-Masaa (Egypt), February 3, 2006.
(3) See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1073, "Egyptian Performer Sha'ban Abd Al-Rahim Sings against Denmark and the Avian Flu, and Talks about His Life and Convictions," Dream2 TV (Egypt), March 1, 2006, .
(4), April 27, 2006.
See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1153, "Arab Reformists Under Threat by Islamists: Bin Laden Urges Killing of 'Freethinkers,'" May 3, 2006,  
(5) Yahya Al-Libi's statements were posted on several Islamist forums. See, for example,, May 12, 2005.
(6) This combination of demands to respect Islam, on the one hand, and offensive comments, on the other hand, can be seen in the following remarks by an Iraqi preacher: "Bring Your wrath down upon the heads of the people of Denmark, oh Allah. Bring Your full force down upon their heads, oh Allah. Make Your ground swallow them up, oh Allah. Send Your earthquakes upon them, oh Allah. Send Your hurricanes upon them, oh Allah. Erupt Your volcanoes upon them, oh Allah. [...] You do not know how to respect the monotheistic religions, or the prophets and messengers. Oh Arab and Muslim rulers, a trade boycott is not enough. Closing down embassies is not enough. You should instruct your peoples to boycott all the infidels." Salah Al-Din TV, Iraq, February 10, 2006, .     

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)
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Phone: (202) 955-9070
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Continued (Permanent Link)

Five killed in fighting between Palestinian rivals

Five killed in fighting between Palestinian rivals
Thu Jan 4, 2007 10:11 AM ET

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) - Clashes erupted between forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government in Gaza on Wednesday, killing five people in the worst fighting since the rivals agreed a fragile truce two weeks ago.

At least nine people were wounded in separate incidents across the Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.

Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas declared the ceasefire in the wake of violence that escalated after Abbas called for early elections to break a political deadlock with the Islamists.

Hamas condemned Abbas's move as a coup to oust it less than a year after it surprised Fatah to win a parliamentary ballot.

The fresh violence is likely to revive fears among Palestinians that Gaza could slip into civil war.

Neither has the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians also seek statehood, been spared. Unidentified gunmen abducted a Hamas government aide in Ramallah, security sources said. In Jenin, gunmen fired at the home of Palestinian minister for prisoner affairs, Wasfi Kabha, the sources said. He was unhurt.

Among the Gaza dead were three security officials loyal to Abbas who were killed in the southern town of Khan Younis, hospital officials said.

Abbas's Preventive Security force said the three died when a Hamas police unit ambushed two of its vehicles. Hamas said the security force fired first.


In the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, one woman was killed after getting caught in the crossfire of a fierce clash between rival forces. Nine others were wounded, mostly combatants, hospital officials said.

That clash came after unknown gunmen killed a Fatah member who was on a rooftop in the town of Beit Lahiya and a car carrying Hamas security officers was ambushed. Two policemen were wounded in the ambush, the Hamas police force said.

Gunmen also abducted four Fatah members from the streets, witnesses said. Fatah blamed Hamas, which declined to comment.

While Abbas has called for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, he has left the door open to talks with Hamas on forging a unity government that Palestinians hope will lead to the lifting of Western sanctions imposed on the Hamas administration.

On top of the internal chaos, general law and order has deteriorated in Gaza in recent months.

Palestinian colleagues of a Peruvian photographer abducted by gunmen this week demanded his release on Wednesday, saying the 50-year-old's life was in danger because he needed medicine for heart disease.

Sakher Abu El-Awn, Gaza office manager of the French news agency Agence France-Presse, said Jaime Razuri, who was seized outside the AFP Gaza City office on Monday, was taking several types of medication, including some for the heart problems.

"We believe his life is at serious risk and we urge his captors to release him immediately," said Abu El-Awn.

In Lima, Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde told reporters: "We know he has been kidnapped by a dissident group within Hamas." Belaunde did not elaborate.

Belaunde's deputy, Gonzalo Gutierrez, was traveling to Gaza to try and negotiate Razuri's release.

Razuri's kidnapping is the latest in a spate of abductions of foreign journalists and aid workers in Gaza in the past year. All have been freed unharmed.

No one has claimed responsibility for Razuri's abduction.

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Israelis blast past others in bid to own moon

Israelis blast past others in bid to own moon

Israelis own 10 percent of the privately owned area on the moon, according to Tom Wegner, a spokesman for Crazyshop, a company that sells plots of moon land to private individuals in Israel.

About 10,000 Israelis have purchased moon property since it became available in 2000. Of the 10 million acres sold worldwide, 1 million are owned by residents of Israel, Wegner said Wednesday.

"Some Israelis believe that buying land on the moon is an original gift and a great investment that their grandchildren might benefit from," he told The Jerusalem Post.

Israeli moon property sales rose dramatically last month following NASA's announcement on December 5 that it would establish an "international base camp" on one of the moon's poles, landing astronauts in 2020 - and setting up a permanent colony four years later.

Although the sales also increased in the United States, nowhere in the world were they as high as in Israel. While about 9,000 Israelis purchased plots from 2000 until December's announcement, a full 1,000 did so over the last month, Wegman said. "This trend will continue to increase in Israel; it is a snowball effect," he said.

Israelis make their purchases through a Web site run by Crazyshop, which also offers other "out of this world" products such as the opportunity to name a star after a loved one. The company, which claims to be the exclusive place to buy moon property, is a franchise owned by American Dennis Hop, who "owns the moon," according to Wegman.

For some the attraction may be the appeal of a promising investment. At only NIS 250 for 500 square meters of moon, "it is such a small investment that everyone can afford it," Wegner said.

The eventual payoff could be much greater due to a loophole in international law, said Ron Movshovitz, a legal adviser for the Israel Space Society.

The United Nations' Outer Space Treaty banned states from purchasing land in space, but allowed individual citizens to purchase land, said Movshovitz.

As a result, it is possible that in the near future NASA will have to buy land from the private property owners, enabling them to demand large sums for their plots.

However, said Wegman, not all the buyers are concerned with finances. Owning land in outer space appeals to those out for adventure, and many buyers look forward to the time they can visit their properties, he reported.

US-based Space Adventure plans to send tourists to the moon seven to 10 years from now. But at $100 million a trip, space travel will be beyond the budget of many moon land owners.

Instead, they may have to settle for a picture of their property. Crazyshop provides a kit containing an image of the plots marked on a moon map and a certificate of ownership.

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Back to the Eisenhower Doctrine

Back to the Eisenhower Doctrine
By Yair Hirschfeld
Several days after the publication of the Baker-Hamilton Report, David Welch, the head of the Middle East desk in the United States Department of State, argued before a selected audience that U.S. policy had been, and would continue to be, to isolate American enemies in the Middle East: Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaida. The policy was to isolate each of them separately and all of them together. On a more positive note, Israel should be encouraged to support Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Apparently, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has fully adopted this strategic approach.
Looking back at history may be useful to learn some lessons. The basic doctrine of the Austro-Hungarian empire that broke apart at the end of World War I was "many enemies, much honor." The present U.S. administration appears to be attempting to copy the experience of the Austro-Hungarian empire. One may question whether this will turn out to be a successful approach.
Future historians who study the political behavior of the Bush administration, in light of the achievements thus far, will tend to conclude that the effect of U.S. policies during the period 2000-2008 was to contribute to the creation of an Iranian radical Islamic hegemony in the Middle East. The United States helped to destroy Iran's enemy to the East, the Taliban; it opened the way to Shi'ite majority rule in Iraq, to the West; it contributed to the revival of Russian power politics in the North; and it opened the way for Iranian interference among the Shi'ite population of the Arabian peninsula to the south. The Bush administration's energy policies contributed to the rise of oil prices, which helped Iran to finance its regional aspirations. And now, through a policy of "isolating" the enemy, the United States is assisting Iran to build a wide and effective regional coalition together with Iraq, Syria, a Shi'ite-dominated Lebanon, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaida. Instead of isolating Iran, the Bush administration is actually "successfully" isolating its own regional allies, and is proactively undermining the stability of Jordan, Egypt and eventually also of the moderate forces in the Palestinian Authority.
Looking back at history may also be useful to learn some positive lessons. When the American and British policy of supporting the Baghdad Pact broke down, during and after the 1956 Sinai Campaign, then president Dwight D. Eisenhower changed course, and in January 1957, he issued the Eisenhower Doctrine: Engage all potential allies in a common struggle against two well-defined enemies, the Soviet Union and Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt. The Eisenhower Doctrine was intended to develop, and in fact succeeded in developing, a multitude of bilateral, trilateral and multilateral relationships among the United States and each of its allies in the Middle East, North Africa, southeast Europe and the Indian subcontinent. For Israel, this policy opened the door to relations with many of those regional powers (particularly Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia).
Today, the common fear of Iranian regional hegemony makes an updated Eisenhower Doctrine (the Bush-Blair Doctrine?) both necessary and possible: Engage with Lebanon to create a more stable balance of forces there; engage with the Syrians to draw them away from the Iranian orbit, using a step-by-step approach; engage with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan to assist in driving a wedge between Syria and Iran; and help Abbas to test whether he can form a Palestinian national unity government, and if not, support him in isolating Hamas.
Israel is no disinterested observer; it is an important player. Isolating one's enemy is only possible by engaging with his potential allies. Olmert's policy of creating an opening to the moderate Palestinian leadership is good, but it cannot stand alone. It needs three other elements: an opening move toward Syria; a political program to get Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Jordan fully engaged, and a proactive effort to help the United States to change course.
The author is a senior lecturer in Middle Eastern history at the University of Haifa.

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Israel receptive to Egypt's call for four-way summit

Last update - 10:10 04/01/2007   

Israel receptive to Egypt's call for four-way summit
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff, Gideon Alon and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Sharm al-Sheikh resort in Sinai on Thursday, and Egypt has already floated the possibility of holding a subsequent regional summit with the participation of the leaders of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister's Office said that it views this idea favorably.
"We have no fundamental problem with a summit, and if they raise the idea during the Olmert-Mubarak meeting, we will discuss it and consider it," a source in the Prime Minister's office told Haaretz on Wednesday night.

The Olmert-Mubarak metting is taking place at a time when ties between the two countries have grown warmer following the prime minister's meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on December 16 in Jerusalem. Egypt sees itself an important partner in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and it considers the idea of a summit meeting a good opportunity for furthering the diplomatic process.
Mubarak hosted a summit at Sharm al-Sheikh two years ago that was attended by Abbas and then prime minister Ariel Sharon.
A spokesman for Mubarak, Suleiman Awad, said Wednesday that a summit would to help break the impasse in the diplomatic process between Israel and the PA. Egyptian sources also told the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Watan that a four-party summit would offer new ideas for reviving negotiations on a permanent Israeli-Palestinian settlement and achieving a formula that would ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit the region soon for talks with all parties on resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Thursday's meeting will be the second between Olmert and Mubarak since the prime minister was elected last year. Olmert intends to use it to raise three main issues: increased Egyptian supervision of the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip; the establishment of a "regional support network" for Abbas and the diplomatic process; and the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange that Egypt has been mediating, in which abducted Israel Defense Soldier Gilad Shalit would be released.
The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Wednesday that Mubarak plans to raise the issue of Israel's planned transfer of $100 million to the PA, something that Olmert promised Abbas during their meeting. Mubarak will also ask Olmert to expand the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, currently confined to the Gaza Strip, to the West Bank as well. In addition, he
will discuss the Shalit deal.
Palestinian sources have said in recent days that there has been significant progress in the Shalit negotiations, and that Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement on how many Palestinian prisoners will be released. However, the parties have not yet reached agreement on the identity of the prisoners to be released, and this is delaying a conclusion of the deal.
An Israeli government source said that no announcement is expected today regarding completion of the prisoner exchange deal. For the past several days, Israeli sources have insisted that, contrary to reports in the Arab press and statements by Hamas spokesmen, "there is no breakthrough and no progress" in formulating a deal.
"I do not believe that something significant in the matter of Gilad's release will emerge from this [Olmert-Mubarak] meeting ... because it is known that there has been no significant progress in the talks," Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, told Haaretz Wednesday.
Another Israeli government source said Wednesday that Israel will not ask for a reevaluation of an agreement reached with Egypt in late 2005, under which 750 Egyptian border guards were deployed along the Sinai-Gaza border. However, Olmert intends to ask the Egyptian president to order tighter security measures along this border, in order to prevent the smuggling of arms and explosives from Sinai into Gaza.
"We do not want Sinai to turn into a black triangle in the middle of the peace triangle," an Israeli source said. "Clearly, the movement of terrorist elements between Sinai and the Gaza Strip will also become an Egyptian problem."
Last update - 10:10 04/01/2007   

Israel receptive to Egypt's call for four-way summit
By Aluf Benn, Avi Issacharoff, Gideon Alon and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Sharm al-Sheikh resort in Sinai on Thursday, and Egypt has already floated the possibility of holding a subsequent regional summit with the participation of the leaders of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
The Prime Minister's Office said that it views this idea favorably.
"We have no fundamental problem with a summit, and if they raise the idea during the Olmert-Mubarak meeting, we will discuss it and consider it," a source in the Prime Minister's office told Haaretz on Wednesday night.

The Olmert-Mubarak metting is taking place at a time when ties between the two countries have grown warmer following the prime minister's meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on December 16 in Jerusalem. Egypt sees itself an important partner in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and it considers the idea of a summit meeting a good opportunity for furthering the diplomatic process.
Mubarak hosted a summit at Sharm al-Sheikh two years ago that was attended by Abbas and then prime minister Ariel Sharon.
A spokesman for Mubarak, Suleiman Awad, said Wednesday that a summit would to help break the impasse in the diplomatic process between Israel and the PA. Egyptian sources also told the Saudi Arabian daily Al-Watan that a four-party summit would offer new ideas for reviving negotiations on a permanent Israeli-Palestinian settlement and achieving a formula that would ensure the establishment of a Palestinian state.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit the region soon for talks with all parties on resuming Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Thursday's meeting will be the second between Olmert and Mubarak since the prime minister was elected last year. Olmert intends to use it to raise three main issues: increased Egyptian supervision of the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip; the establishment of a "regional support network" for Abbas and the diplomatic process; and the Israeli-Palestinian prisoner exchange that Egypt has been mediating, in which abducted Israel Defense Soldier Gilad Shalit would be released.
The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported Wednesday that Mubarak plans to raise the issue of Israel's planned transfer of $100 million to the PA, something that Olmert promised Abbas during their meeting. Mubarak will also ask Olmert to expand the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire, currently confined to the Gaza Strip, to the West Bank as well. In addition, he
will discuss the Shalit deal.
Palestinian sources have said in recent days that there has been significant progress in the Shalit negotiations, and that Israel and Hamas have reached an agreement on how many Palestinian prisoners will be released. However, the parties have not yet reached agreement on the identity of the prisoners to be released, and this is delaying a conclusion of the deal.
An Israeli government source said that no announcement is expected today regarding completion of the prisoner exchange deal. For the past several days, Israeli sources have insisted that, contrary to reports in the Arab press and statements by Hamas spokesmen, "there is no breakthrough and no progress" in formulating a deal.
"I do not believe that something significant in the matter of Gilad's release will emerge from this [Olmert-Mubarak] meeting ... because it is known that there has been no significant progress in the talks," Noam Shalit, Gilad's father, told Haaretz Wednesday.
Another Israeli government source said Wednesday that Israel will not ask for a reevaluation of an agreement reached with Egypt in late 2005, under which 750 Egyptian border guards were deployed along the Sinai-Gaza border. However, Olmert intends to ask the Egyptian president to order tighter security measures along this border, in order to prevent the smuggling of arms and explosives from Sinai into Gaza.
"We do not want Sinai to turn into a black triangle in the middle of the peace triangle," an Israeli source said. "Clearly, the movement of terrorist elements between Sinai and the Gaza Strip will also become an Egyptian problem."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The year of the rocket

The year of the rocket
By Aluf Benn

The year 2006 deserves to be called "the year of the rocket." It was a year in which the firing of rockets into Israeli territory, from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, dictated Israeli foreign and security policy more than any other factor. The Katyushas fired by Hezbollah and the Qassams fired by the Palestinians had a greater influence than the change of leadership in Jerusalem and the strengthening of Iran.
Sderot and its environs absorbed about 1,000 Qassam rockets from Gaza over the past year, and during the Lebanon war, about 4,000 rockets were fired at northern Israel. The losses, the injuries and the damage were smaller than those caused in previous wars or by suicide attacks. But the rockets dragged Israel into prolonging fighting in Lebanon and convinced Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and most of the public that it is dangerous to withdraw from additional territory in the West Bank or the Golan Heights.
Olmert buried the convergence plan for a clear reason: Israel can live with rockets on Sderot, and for a limited period even with rockets on the north, but it will have difficulty tolerating Qassams on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Haifa port and oil refinery could be closed for a month, because there are alternative facilities in Ashdod. But there is no substitute for Ben-Gurion International Airport. Nor for the centers of government, commerce and culture in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and Jerusalem. Therefore, it is difficult to speak about a significant withdrawal in the West Bank, which would include evacuating the Israel Defense Forces from dominant locations, before a solution is found to the Qassam.
Israel's political and security establishments were slow to understand the strategic significance of the rockets. They mocked them as "flying objects," as junky weapons used by armed gangs. With the sophisticated weapons in Israel's arsenal, it is hard to get excited about a steel pipe filled with a mixture of sugar and fertilizer as a propellant, and a few kilograms of explosives in the warhead. What is all that compared to an F-16 fighter plane, an Apache helicopter or the IDF's smart bombs? But the power of the Qassam does not lie in its technology, but in the combination of massive firing and a lack of effective countermeasures. The shelling and assassinations in the Gaza Strip did not stop the firing, nor did the cease-fire.
The first Qassam hit Israel on February 22, 2002. Five years have passed since then, during which time it would have been possible to improve the defenses of the Jewish communities near Gaza and to develop a system for intercepting rockets. According to experts, within about two years, it would be possible to develop an initial defense system of anti-Qassam rockets or lasers. The system would not provide Israel with hermetic protection, but it would reduce the strikes. But senior army officers and the Defense Ministry considered that a waste.
The army's insensitivity seems strange in hindsight. First, the threat was familiar: Israel had been attacked in the past with Katyushas in the Galilee and the Beit She'an Valley. Second, the IDF warned of the thousands of Hezbollah rockets, but developed a response only to long-range rockets and neglected the smaller Katyushas. Third, the army understood that "searing the enemy's consciousness" is what wins wars, rather than the number of dead or the number of shells fired. These insights were not translated into a search for a response to the Qassam.
In the last discussion led by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, a few hours before he collapsed, he banged on the table and demanded that the defense establishment present new ideas to combat the Qassams. "This cannot continue," he shouted. Defense Minister Amir Peretz warned, rightly, that the primitive missile would turn into a strategic threat, and that he was waiting for recommendations for a defensive system. Olmert held a discussion as well.
Olmert and Peretz must assign high priority to the rocket threat and seek a combined military and diplomatic response to it - both in order to save Sderot and Ashkelon, and in order to restore the government's diplomatic freedom of action. Without such a response, the prime minister will find it difficult to keep his promise to create a new "demographic border" for Israel and to bring the settlers down from the hills.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Propitious time for change

Propitious time for change
By Haaretz Editorial

The presidential commission examining the method of government in Israel, headed by Prof. Menachem Magidor, has carried out comprehensive and impressive work. Its most important reccommendation is without a doubt about what not to do: not to move over to a presidential system, but on the contrary, to strengthen the parliamentary one.
Over the last few years, the public debate in Israel has tended to reject the existing system, preferring revolutions instead. But the majority of the 73 experts who participated in the Magidor commission maintain that a presidential system is not suitable for the Israel of today and that the parliamentary system, with all its faults, was and remains the preferred option. The commission's message is clear: Those who want to copy the presidential type of government from the United States must first copy America's rigid constitution and political culture.
The Magidor commission issues recommendations that aim to make the parliamentary system more efficient to strengthen voter confidence in the government. Its suggestions include changing the electoral system to make half of it based on regional representation, raising the electoral threshold to 2.5 percent, requiring a two-year budget instead of an annual one, and passing a law that would prevent a fraudulent party census.
President Moshe Katsav is the first president to appoint a public commission, and he did so in connection with a very important subject. For this, his initiative should be welcomed, and the pall hovering over the president due to the criminal allegations against him should not affect the attitude toward the report. The Magidor report must not be buried in a drawer like so many other commission findings.
The suggested electoral reforms would harm small parties, but there is no choice because only in this way will the country be able to have a stable and more representative political and parliamentary structure. Historic movements and factions, no matter how unique, will have to find some way to unite. This necessary process will apparently require additional time to become accepted in the political world, and will involve bitter disputes. However, the recommendations dealing with the Knesset and the government can and must be implemented without delay.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who put the issue on the national agenda, must now lead the Knesset in adopting the commission's recommendations. For instance, laws that limit the number of ministers to 18 and require confirmation hearings for ministers should be passed as soon as possible. The recommendation that a no-confidence motion should require submission of a proposed alternative government should also be considered. This would change a no-confidence motion from a weekly nuisance to an unusual and significant parliamentary proceeding.
The Knesset would do well to pay a lot of attention to the recommendations dealing with improving its functioning by decreasing the number of committees and the number of MKs in each committee. The MKs should also seriously consider the suggestion to increase the number of workdays from three a week to four. Even if it seems to them that they work fairly hard, the public appears to think otherwise. These recommendations could improve the image of the Knesset and the public confidence in it.
This is a propitious time and a time of goodwill in the political system, and it is understood that the method of government must be changed. The Knesset now faces an important test: Will it take advantage of the opportunity to improve the system of government, or will it miss the opportunity?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report on Norwegian Funding of NGOs

January 4, 2007:

NGO MONITOR Report on Norwegian Funding of NGOs

Government Funding Analysis: Norway

Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Norwegian Representative Office to the PA and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Summary: Norway is a significant donor of humanitarian and development funds to the Palestinian Authority. However, some of this money is provided to NGOs that are engaged in intense political advocacy campaigns directed against Israel.  Such funding contravenes the stated goals of Norway's development agencies. This report details examples of politicized NGOs funded by Norway, and is similar to NGO Monitor analysis on funding from the EU, the UK, Sweden, and others.


Background: Norwegian Aid to the Palestinians

Funding to NGOs



Research note: This report examines Norwegian funding of NGOs active within the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict. A complete list of these NGOs and specific funding information is not readily available from the Norwegian government.  Despite these obstacles, we have tried to provide as complete a report as possible. The information provided below, however, may not be comprehensive, and we hope that the Norwegian government will provide full disclosure in response.

Background: Norwegian Aid to the Palestinians

Norwegian development aid is distributed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) and by local Norwegian Embassies. NORAD is a "directorate" under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), making it "politically and technically responsible for Norwegian development cooperation."

In 2005, Norway gave the Palestinian Authority (PA) NOK 476million (Norwegian Kronor) ($74million) in bilateral development aid, making the PA the third largest recipient of Norwegian aid after Sudan and Pakistan [1]  Norway is also a major contributor to UNWRA.  On October 6, 2006, the Norwegian Government announced that it would be increasing its contributions to UNRWA from NOK100 million ($15million) to NOK150 million ($23.5million) as well as increasing its humanitarian aid by $23.5millionThe statement said specifically that additional aid was for "humanitarian efforts and peace and reconciliation measures in the region." 

NORAD states that "the purpose of Norwegian development cooperation is to contribute towards lasting improvements in economic, social and political conditions for the populations of developing countries" and "to contribute towards promoting peace, democracy and human rights." NORAD also states that "the assistance provided to the Palestinian authorities has a clear political dimension since development cooperation is linked to efforts to promote peace in the region, the primary goal being the establishment of a Palestinian state." Such aid is also meant to develop a democratic society and [to help] lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations."  Moreover, an MFA paper of June 15, 2006 discussing the role of NGOs in international development stated that "an active civil society is an asset in itself and can form the basis for promoting democracy, human rights and good governance."

In addition to NORAD, Norwegian Development funds to the PA are channeled via the Norwegian Representative Office to the PA in Ramallah (NRO).  This direct development cooperation "was initiated to support the continuation of the peace process through social and economic development and to strengthen Palestinian institutions as a pre-requisite for establishing a democratic Palestinian state."

Since Hamas has come to power, the USA and many European governments have frozen diplomatic relations and direct support of the PA. In contrast, Norway's stance on funding to the PA has been ambiguous and unlike the EU, Norway does not officially recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization.  On January 4, 2006, Norway stated that "the government has decided that [it] will no longer align itself with any other list [of terrorist organizations] than that published by the UN" since "as neutral facilitator...Norway's role could become difficult if one of the parties involved [in a peace process] was included on the EU list, and the opportunities for contact were thus restricted."  The UN does not include Hamas on its list of terrorist organizations.[2]  However Norway has said on a number of occasions that continued development assistance to the PA is dependent on the PA fulfilling the demands of the "International Quartet" to "renounce violence, recognize the state of Israel and accept previously concluded agreements."

Funding to NGOs

Of the NOK476million Norway gave the PA in bilateral development aid in 2005, NOK89million ($13.9million) was channeled through Norwegian NGOs, NOK12million ($1.8million) through "local NGOs", over NOK3.5million ($540,000) through "regional NGOs" and NOK8million ($1.25million) through International NGOs.

Figures for the specific allocation of funds to NGOs in general or individual organizations are not readily available from the MFA, the NRO or NORAD. In response to an enquiry from NGO Monitor, the NRO did provide some information about its NGO funding program.  However, specific details, such as the amount of donations to individual NGOs and in which years, were not provided.

As explained below, while some of Norway's aid to NGOs is channeled to development and humanitarian assistance, significant funding goes to NGOs engaged in political campaigning and advocacy against Israel, and in support of extreme Palestinian demands.  This NGO activity often contradicts or works against the goals of the Norwegian Government to "promot[e] democracy, human rights and good governance" and to help "lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations."  

Funding for Norwegian NGOs

Norwegian Peoples Aid
One of the biggest and most highly regarded of Norway's humanitarian and development NGOs is Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA). NPA is "the humanitarian organization of the Norwegian trade union movement" and maintains that it is "guided by the values of national and international solidarity, human dignity, freedom and equality."  NPA states that 90% of its funds come from public sources, 45% of which comes directly from the MFA or NORAD.[3]  Other donors include the governments of Denmark, Sweden and the EU.  Due to the high percentage of public funding, NPA is essentially a quasi-governmental organization (Quango) and not strictly independent of the Norwegian government.  NPA states that its work in the Palestinian Authority is financed mostly by NORAD.[4]

While NPA implements many humanitarian projects, other activities are highly political and one-sided, as shown by its publications and campaigns on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.  It lobbies against Israeli policies in Norwegian and international forums and largely erases Palestinian terrorism as a factor in the conflict.

  • NPA was a co-signatory and drafter of a joint statement to the Special Sitting of the UN Commission on Human Rights, 15 March - 23 April 2004 convened after the killing of two senior Hamas leaders, Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi. Together with Al-Haq, Al-Mezan, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and other highly political pro-Palestinian NGOs, NPA condemned Israel's policy of targeted killings. The NGO statement called Israeli policy "a gross violation of both international human rights and humanitarian law" and claimed Israeli counter-terrorist operations "contribute to the continuation and intensification of a seemingly endless cycle of violence." The statement did not mention the involvement of Sheikh Yassin and Rantisi in terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

  • NPA publishes a blog on its website written by a Palestinian civilian living in Rafah, providing a highly emotive and one-sided account of events in the area.  In an August 2006 press release about the ongoing conflict in Gaza, NPA graphically describes Palestinian injuries and condemns Israel for its "war…[and] aggression against humanity," its "vicious attacks," and "hundreds upon hundreds of people murdered and injured each day." There is no mention in the release of the cross-border attack that resulted in the death of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, nor of the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza against Israeli civilians.

  • On September 28, 2004, Nils A. Røhne, then head of NPA's International Department, gave a speech in the Norwegian Parliament. Rohne described Israel as "a brutal occupant" and Palestinian violence as "a fight against oppression and for human worth for all people and peoples." Rohne quoted former Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch (who has accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and hosted a Hamas official at a private dinner) claiming that "Israel's politics creates terror. The extremism which Israel is cultivating as if in a greenhouse in the Palestinian areas will spread to the rest of the Arab world." Rohne ended with a list of demands which the Norwegian government should make from Israel, but made no demand that Palestinians end their campaign of violence against Israeli civilians.

NPA Support of Other NGOs
NPA provides funding and support to other NGOs, many of whom employ politicized rhetoric to attack Israel and are active in the divestment and boycott movement against Israel.    For example, the "Stop the Wall Campaign" in Norway lists NPA as one of its most important affiliates in the country. NPA helped promote the campaign's Autumn 2004 conference entitled "The Apartheid Wall and the future for a Palestinian state."

  • NPA provides funds to the Maan Development Center. While Maan generally engages in genuine development work and has implemented many successful projects in Gaza and the West Bank, this work is tarnished by its involvement in campaigns against Israel. For instance, NPA gave $206,875 to fund advocacy, paralegal and media training for one of Maan's political projects entitled "Right to My Land through Building Capacities of Land Defense Committees."  Although this project had some developmental aspects such as seed distribution, the money is also used to assist the Popular Committees against the Wall & Settlements and the Land Defense Committees to "inform the Palestinian and international public" about their efforts against the "apartheid wall" as well as to coordinate visits with staff of international organizations so that they may "publish stories and/or pictures of their experiences." Maan has also signed a petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel.

  • NPA also funds the Palestinian Association for Cultural Exchange (PACE). PACE states that its mission is to promote Palestinian culture through education, cultural heritage preservation, research, and exchange programs. PACE conducts a number of projects such as its "Cultural Heritage Shop", opened in 2001 to promote Palestinian handicrafts. PACE has also conducted surveys of Palestinian refugees and has published a tour guide of the West Bank and Gaza in English, Arabic and Italian.

    PACE's partners include PARC (mentioned below), it is associated with Haifa University and is also a member of the Palestinian Environment NGOs Network, PENGON, which includes a number of highly politicized NGOs. PACE's activities do not involve political advocacy and it appears to adhere closely to its remit of promoting Palestinian culture. It is however a signatory to a petition calling for the academic boycott of Israel.

As these examples demonstrate, NPA's activities and statements, and support for radical agendas do not promote Norwegian government goals of "help[ing] to lay the foundation for resuming peace negotiations" and promoting "peace and reconciliation" in the region.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) received over $238,000 from the Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2005, more than fifteen percent of its budget. IDMC was established in 1998 by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), monitors conflict-induced internal displacement, and advocates on behalf of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In September 2006, IDMC issued a report entitled "Displaced by the Wall: Pilot Study on Forced Displacement Caused by the Construction of the West Bank Wall and its Associated Regimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories."  This report was supported by and published in conjunction with the NRC and BADIL, a radical Palestinian NGO which promotes claims to a "Right of Return" and provides active support to divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel.  This claim is among the most divisive and intractable aspects of the conflict (For a detailed analysis on this issue click here.).

Much of the report is taken up by emotive accounts of Palestinian children and their objection to the Separation Barrier.  It labels the construction of the barrier "a crime against humanity" and a "war crime" but fails to weigh the context of widespread Palestinian terrorism that led to the construction of the barrier. While the report calls on the UN to implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice; calls on Israel to "dismantle the Wall"; and calls on the PA to advocate for the rights of Palestinian IDPs; it does not call for a halt to the violence against Israeli civilians.

IDMC regularly ignores Israel's right to security in its human rights analyses. In its twenty-six page overview of IDPs in the PA for 2006 it claims that Israel's closure policy in the West Bank is one of the main causes of economic crisis in the PA.  IDMC also erases Palestinian terrorism and the high level of Palestinian corruption as contributory factors to Palestinian poverty.  The overview criticizes the suspension of international aid to the Hamas-led PA, but does not call on the PA to renounce terrorism, recognize Israel, or end other obstacles to peace.  It also erroneously describes the Separation Barrier as a "670 kilometer-long Wall" even though only about 3% of the barrier is a "wall".  The overview's sources included Adalah, Al Haq, Amnesty International, BADIL, B'Tselem, FIDH, Human Rights Watch, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and UNRWA – organizations which have been shown to lack credibility, as documented by NGO Monitor.

Norwegian Funding for International NGOs

Medecins Sans Frontieres
The MFA and NORAD both provide substantial funding to Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF). The MFA donated €6,096,000 to MSF in 2004 (US$7,825,650).  €1,012,000 of MFA's funds went specifically to MSF's programs in the PA, comprising 83% of MSF's total budget for this region.  In 2004, NORAD also gave €913,000.  MSF is active in the Palestinian territories and works with children affected by traumatic stress.  However, MSF sometimes departs from its humanitarian aid mandate.  For example, in May 2006, MSF criticized the suspension of aid to the Hamas-led PA. MSF's statement did not call for an end to Palestinian violence nor for the dismantling of terrorist organizations.  MSF issued a press release on May 12, 2005, stating that "the direct violence (incursions, shootings, bombings) and indirect violence (occupation, closure, control) have affected the mental health status of the Palestinian population." The release failed to mention, however, intra-Palestinian violence as a possible cause and misrepresents the Separation Barrier as a "high concrete security wall."

Norwegian Funding for Israeli and Palestinian NGOs

Society Voice Foundation
The NRO finances the Society Voice Foundation (SVC), an organization which does commendable work in promoting reform and a "culture of non-violence and equality" within Palestinian society.  SVC held a conference entitled "Societal Peace and Combat Violence in the Palestinian Society [sic]" on February 28, 2006. The final statement of the conference stressed the "importance of conflict resolution inside the authority institutions and showing solidarity without fanaticism." SVC also runs a "Women's Empowerment" program which focuses on increasing the "Political, Economical and Social Rights participation" of Palestinian women. NRO's support of SVC contributes to development and peace building in Palestinian society in accordance with NRO's objectives. 

Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees
The Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) receive funds from a number of Norwegian sources.  According to PARC, these include NPA and the Royal Norwegian Society for Development.  PARC operates a range of agricultural, economic and social projects in the West Bank and Gaza, primarily devoted to rural development.  However, the organization also involves itself in political campaigns and frequently issues press statements attacking Israel's security measures.  PARC has accused Israel of deliberately acting to prevent the implementation of the two-state solution among other "crimes." PARC has also signed petitions calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel and the campaign for boycotting Israeli academia.

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza (PCHR) also receives funding from the NRO ($49,330 in 2004).  PCHR routinely accuses Israel of committing war crimes, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment and is active in boycott and divestment campaigns against Israel (See detailed NGO Monitor report). Despite its documentation of intra-Palestinian human rights abuses, PCHR is a key proponent of the Durban Strategy

Gaza Community Mental Health Programme
The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) states that in 2005 it received over $124,000 from the "Norwegian Government." GCMHP's mission statement exhibits clear political bias. It says that "Gaza has witnessed extreme forms of violence and suffering, due to Israeli occupation and military operations" which has led, according to GCMHP to "mental health problems in the Gaza reach unprecedented levels [sic]." By ascribing the social problems in Gaza only to the Israeli "occupation," and ignoring intra-Palestinian violence and corruption, GCMHP illustrates its politicization. This is further highlighted by the political nature of its press releases. On May 11, 2006, GCMHP described Israel's security measures for Gaza as a "medieval siege." GCMHP also involves itself in political campaigning. On November 12, 2005, GCMHP hosted a delegation of European Parliamentarians and described to them the "psychological violence" waged by Israel in Gaza and claimed that "the disengagement was a mirage to be consumed by the Western Media." GCMHP has also signed petitions for economic and academic boycotts of Israel. Once again, Norwegian development funds provided to the GCMHP are being misused for demonization of Israel, which advances neither peace, democracy nor human rights.

Hebron Rehabilitation Committee
The NRO also supports the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee. This organization states that its mission is to "preserve Hebron as an historical Arab Palestinian town, in order to safeguard its cultural and architectural heritage against the threat of a takeover by extremist Israeli settlers." This NGO is not a human rights organization nor a humanitarian aid organization but rather a clearly political group whose goal it is to influence the status of the city of Hebron. HRC boasts that "prohibited buildings were restored secretly and behind closed doors and states that one of its primary goals is "reviving and strengthening the Palestinian presence in the Old City through a repopulation policy compatible with cultural heritage protection and community needs." HRC ignores the historical Jewish connection to the city of Hebron, including the second holiest site in Judaism.  HRC also does not mention the Arab riots of the 1920s and the massacre of many of Hebron's Jewish residents.  MFA and NORAD state that the main goal of Norwegian development assistance is to contribute towards reducing poverty and peace building.  It is hard to see how support to HRC furthers these goals.

In 2004, the NRO provided MIFTAH with over $68,000. MIFTAH claims to be a "non-partisan Jerusalem-based institution dedicated to fostering democracy and good governance within Palestinian society." Despite its claim to be "non-governmental and non-partisan," Hanan Ashrawi is the head of MIFTAH's Executive Committee and Mustafa Barghouti is on its board. Both are members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.  Eyad Al-Sarraj, the President and Director General of GCMHP and Raji Sourani, the current Director of PCHR are also members of the board.

MIFTAH states that its objectives are to provide "a forum for innovative public discourse" and that one of its main goals is "increasing global awareness and knowledge of Palestinian realities by providing policy analysis, strategic briefings and position papers." One such paper is an article published April 20, 2006 which described a suicide bomber who killed eleven people on April 17, 2006 as "innocent." The article stated that the bombing "took nine innocent Israeli lives and one innocent Palestinian life", described Israeli policy as "state terrorism" and called U.S. insistence on the PA to prevent terrorist attacks an "unachievable demand." MIFTAH often uses inflammatory terminology in describing Israel's security measures and says that Israeli policy "fulfils all elements of the crime of apartheid." MIFTAH denounced the U.S. Congressional bill HR 4681 (Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006) blocking aid to the Hamas-run PA. MIFTAH described the bill as "unjustified" and "collective punishment." Miftah's lobbying activities and promotion of a rejectionist narrative contradicts the NRO's claim to "contribute to the process of promoting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

B'Tselem lists the MFA as one of its donors. B'Tselem is a self-declared partisan organization and states that it seeks to change Israeli policy.While B'Tselem is viewed as an important element in maintaining open debate on human rights practices in Israel despite the environment of terrorism and violent conflict, the use of B'Tselem's partisan reporting by other NGOs, the media, and the UN is highly problematic.  These organizations and news sources often omit context and background information, and present B'Tselem's reports as apolitical and unbiased human rights reporting.

As a result, B'Tselem has become a convenient tool to paint an inaccurate and sensationalized picture of popular dissent within Israel against the government, and to distort Israel's human rights record as part of the campaign of demonization and delegitimation associated with the Durban Strategy.  By providing funding to B'tselem, Norway participates in this process.


Via the MFA, NORAD and the NRO, Norway does provide funds for important development work among Palestinians. However, as shown above, money has also been provided to many politicized Palestinian and international lobbying groups. NORAD openly admits that its Palestinian aid has "a clear political dimension," but the rejectionist narrative and radical political campaigns promoted by some of these NGOs, go beyond analyzing the political solutions to the conflict, and contradict the objectives which the government sets out for Norwegian development aid. These include the "the establishment of a Palestinian state" as the "primary goal," and "lay[ing] the foundation for resuming peace negotiations," neither of which are furthered by the NGO activities described in this report. The goal of "promoting democracy, human rights and good governance" is also hindered by the financing of NGO campaigns that focus on external attacks against Israel, and ignore Palestinian human rights abuses, corruption, and factional violence.



1. Source: Annual Report on Norwegian Bilateral Development Cooperation for 2005.  Between 1994 and 2004, Norway donated NOK3.2 billion ($524m) in aid to the Palestinian Authority (excluding the annual support of NOK100m ($15m) to UNRWA).

2. The UN only lists Al Qaeda and the Taliban as terrorist organizations, pursuant to Security Council Resolution 1267. There is no comprehensive list of UN-designated international terrorist organizations.

3. For the year 2004, NPA's operating income was NOK719 million ($117 million). Of this, $31m, (26%) came from the MFA and $19.9m (17%), from Norad. . For the year 2005, NPA's operating income was NOK 731 million ($119 million). Of this, $42 million (35%) came from the MFA and $17.3 million (14%) from Norad.

4. NPA received $17,000,000 from USAID although it states that the majority of this is used for its work in Darfur, Sudan. NPA also received other significant financial donations from the US Department of State, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Dutch Ministry for Foreign Affairs and The Swedish International Development Corporation Agency (SIDA).

NGO Monitor
Beit Milken 13 Tel Hai St.
Jerusalem, 92107 Israel

Continued (Permanent Link)

Editorial - True heroics

Editorial — True heroics
The year 2007 doesn't look too promising for Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. For those who have never heard of Choudhury, he is a Bangladeshi journalist arrested in 2003 on his way to a conference in Israel on the media's role in education for peace. More specifically, Choudhury, who published his work in the Bangladesh Weekly Blitz, which he edits, has written about promoting dialogue between Jews and Christians. For that crime, he has been beaten and interrogated. Two months later, with no evidence, he was charged with sedition and put in solitary confinement for 16 months in a Dhaka prison.
$">Choudhury was released on bail in April 2005, mostly because of pressure from the U.S. State Department and protest by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Journalistes sans frontieres. According to Mount Royal MP Irwin Cotler who acts on behalf of many political prisoners around the world, as of October 2006, Choudhury was attacked by a large crowd at his newspaper offices, he was called "an agent of the Jews" and was badly beaten.  When he reported the attack to police, instead of being protected, he was arrested.
$">Choudhury is about to stand trial on charges of sedition, treason and blasphemy, all of which according to Bangladeshi law, are punishable by death.
$">Choudhury is not alone in his plight. Every day journalists around the world risk their lives to uncover and report human rights abuses and political corruption. Journalist Anna Politkovskaya, a U.S.-born Russian journalist, was known for her outspoken opposition to the Chechen conflict and the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The 48-year-old mother of two was shot dead Oct. 7, 2006 in an elevator located in the Moscow apartment building where she lived. Reports indicate it was a contract killing carried out by a professional.
$">Hayar Ullah Khan, a freelance tribal reporter and photographer covering the military action in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, was abducted in October 2005, four days after releasing pictures from an attack on North Waziristan. His reports contradicted official accounts claiming that a senior Al-Qaeda commander, Abu Hamza Rabia, died after munitions exploded inside a house.  Khan's family say he was taken prisoner by the government. His bullet-ridden body was found last June. He leaves behind his wife, Mehrunnisa Khan, and four children.
$">Abeer Al-Askary is an Egyptian journalist who has published several investigative reports on state security officers within the Ministry of Interior who have supervised torture against activists and prisoners. Al-Askary was one of the victims of a May 25, 2005 assault that targeted activists and journalists covering demonstrations against the referendum on constitutional amendments in Egypt. Female journalists were not only physically assaulted, but also sexually harassed.
$">Shi Tao is serving a 10-year prison sentence for "leaking state secrets abroad." Shi, a freelance journalist in Internet publications and an editor for Dangdai Shang Bao, a Chinese business newspaper, drew ire from Chinese authorities because he published essays on political reform on news websites outside China.
$">Sitting in the comfort of a free and democratic society, it's hard for some people to understand why individuals such as Choudhury, Kahn, Politkovskaya and dozens of others continue to risk their lives to probe, investigate, and publish articles aimed at exposing threatening regimes. Cynics would say some of these journalist are just glorified ambulance chasers, hoping to capture 15 minutes of fame by way of a prize for reporting. Others say they are foolhardy slobs with a death wish.
$">They are neither. They work alone, with no support, forging ahead to bring the truth into the open. The International Press Freedom Awards that recognizes courage in journalism is an important event that brings the plight of these journalist to light.  But it's not enough. They deserve encouragement and support because in dangerous situations, they champion everything we hold dear, and often take for granted.

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Journalist, Columnist, Author & Peace Activist
PENUSA FTW Award 2005, AJC Moral Courage Award 2006
Editor & Publisher, Weekly Blitz
Chief Editor, Weekly Jamjamat

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Cultural Boycott: Punishing the Wrong Side

"...Trabelsi points out that almost all films made here, even many that bash the Occupation, get financial support from the Ministry of Education. Almost all travel by filmmakers to the festivals screening their works is subsidized, moreover, by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs."
"I can't help wondering how we can boycott ourselves, or how we can call on others to boycott Israeli cultural institutions, when we ourselves teach in the universities and are funded by Israeli foundations in producing our films?"
"The height of absurdity was attained when one of the petitioners found himself under his own boycott. This was Arna Mer Khamis's son Juliano, who wrote and directed Arna's Children. In Hungary, the Palestinian community boycotted the film because Juliano is Israeli."
" Today the PA is on the brink of civil war. And amid the descent into the abyss, what do we hear? The call of the intellectuals for a cultural boycott?!"
The Cultural Boycott: Punishing the Wrong Side
Asma Agbarieh Challenge # 101,  January - February 2007

AT THE HEIGHT of the second Lebanon War, on August 4, 2006, 123 Palestinian filmmakers and artists, joined by 349 others, called on their colleagues "around the world to cancel all exhibitions and other cultural events that are scheduled to occur in Israel." Their petition continued: "We call upon the international community to join us in the boycott of Israeli film festivals, Israeli public venues, and Israeli institutions supported by the government, and to end all cooperation with these cultural and artistic institutions that to date have refused to take a stand against the Occupation, the root cause for this colonial conflict." ( )

The petitioners drew the notion of a cultural boycott from the experience with South Africa. As there, so here-they wrote-all people of conscience are obliged to oppose Israeli war crimes and atrocities. According to the petition, ".silence, apathy and lack of action from Israelis, are regarded as complicit in the ongoing war crimes; as for those Israeli artists, academics and intellectuals who continue to serve in the Israeli army they are directly implicated in these crimes."

Recently, their call has won support from influential figures such as film director Ken Loach, art critic John Berger, and novelist Arundhati Roy.

Boycotting oneself

The 123 signers rightly demand that Israel be brought to justice for its crimes. Oddly, however, the boycott's implementation has had an effect quite contrary to its expressed intent: outspoken supporters of the Palestinian struggle have found themselves under its ban. Apart from their political position, these victims of the boycott have another thing in common: an  Israeli passport.

Among the banned, for example, is Avi Mograbi, who directed How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Arik Sharon. We also find Osnat Trabelsi, producer of Arna's Children, a documentary about the late anti-occupation activist Arna Mer Khamis, who founded an alternative educational system for Palestinians in Jenin. In deference to a request from a group of Arab artists, a French film festival barred Simone Biton from taking part in a film workshop; Biton, who has long lived in France, had produced Mur (Wall) in protest against the separation barrier. Even Arab artists living in Israel have not been spared. A Paris film festival banned Badal , a film on a marriage deal between Arab families, directed by Ibtisam Ma'arana, a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship. The height of absurdity was attained when one of the petitioners found himself under his own boycott. This was Arna Mer Khamis's son Juliano, who wrote and directed Arna's Children. In
Hungary, the Palestinian community boycotted the film because Juliano is Israeli.

In protest against such abuses, Elia Suleiman of Nazareth suspended his signature from the boycott petition. (Suleiman directed Divine Intervention, a Chronicle of Love and Pain, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 2002.) He explained his action in the Lebanese newspaper al-Safir, and his account provides a clue as to why the implementation of the boycott ended up digressing so far from the language of the petition: "My suspension comes in protest of the practices of certain artist petitioners who recently participated in cultural activities around the world. Such practices involved the boycott of filmmaker (individuals) known to these petitioners as (individual) artists who strongly support Palestinian and Lebanese resistance, align themselves with these struggles in political and cultural domains and whose artistic work testifies to nothing but that..Yet these filmmakers have been boycotted, ordered away, deserted as people of the
plague because they happen to carry the Israeli identity." Such behavior, wrote Suleiman, is tainted by a chauvinism that stems "from the dark side of nationalism."

In other words, certain signers of the petition went to festivals outside Israel and worked to get particular Israelis blacklisted, although these
Israelis support the Palestinian struggle. Suleiman continued: ".in the name of whom and for what sacred collective cause did the respected petitioner artists and filmmakers line their fellow Israeli artists and filmmakers on the wall for a cultural execution?!... [O]ne cannot but wonder who will be next on the witch hunting list?!"

Suleiman did not withdraw from the boycott. (On December 15 he supported it, along with Berger, Roy and 92 others, in a letter to the Guardian.) Rather he demanded clear red lines. His call challenged a number of Israeli artists, among them Juliano Mer Khamis, to initiate a new petition. This too called for a cultural boycott-but only against persons who support the Occupation.

The distinction appears logical enough, but its implementation is not without danger. Osnat Trabelsi (Arna's Children) told me in an interview on November 9: "Who will be responsible for sorting us out? How will they decide who's kosher and who isn't?"

The danger is that self-appointed judges will circulate blacklists among festival organizers. We are liable to witness a reverse McCarthyism. Given the widespread and justified anger against Israel's policies, the mere brand "Israeli" may suffice to ban someone. Festival organizers do not ordinarily check people's political positions before screening their films.

The source of a work's funding, one might suppose, could serve as a criterion for deciding whom to boycott. But Trabelsi points out that almost all films made here, even many that bash the Occupation, get financial support from the Ministry of Education. Almost all travel by filmmakers to the festivals screening their works is subsidized, moreover, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The new petition by Israeli artists has added confusion to perplexity. Anat Even is known for her films against the Occupation. (She made Asurot [Detained], about three Palestinian widows and their eleven children living in Hebron while Israeli soldiers occupy their roof.) On November 8, Even told me, "I don't dismiss the possibility of supporting the boycott, because the despair is great. There's a feeling that nothing helps, not the demonstrations in Bil'in and not our films. Maybe a big shock like a boycott can change something. On the other hand, I can't help wondering how we can boycott ourselves, or how we can call on others to boycott Israeli cultural institutions, when we ourselves teach in the universities and are funded by Israeli foundations in producing our films?"

Even added, "I believe in a cultural boycott when accompanied by an economic one. A cultural boycott alone is not effective. .Most Israeli films shown abroad are anti-Occupation. The absurd result of participating in the boycott will be that my friends and I will stop making the films through which we express our positions. That's exactly what the Israeli right wing wants."

Further doubts were expressed by Tawfik Abu Wael, director of Atash (Thirst), which concerns an Arab family that flees from its village for
reasons of family honor, eking out a living by making charcoal. (It won the FIPRESCI prize at Cannes in 2004, as well as prizes in Paris and Jerusalem.) Abu Wael decided not to sign the petition. On November 9, in an interview with me, he said that the boycott is "unwise and impulsive. I don't understand the significance of artists boycotting one another on the basis of nationality.

We artists have the privilege of seeing things otherwise, of making things that reflect reality and of trying to influence people to change it.
Therefore, we need to present an example of communication and mutual understanding, not to mew ourselves up in a nationalism that will only strengthen, in the end, the nationalistic currents in Israel."

Abu Wael also accuses some of the petitioners, Arabs in Israel, of hypocrisy: "They call for a boycott of Israel, but they themselves depend on state budgeting to make their films."

A call to revenge, not an agenda for action

The boycott tactic, which worked well against South Africa, is not automatically transferable. In attempting to copy it, one had better be sure one is not misreading the political map.

In the South African case, there was a strong international consensus demanding change. The global balance of forces opposed its apartheid regime. But the global balance of forces today is squarely on Israel's side.

In the South African case, there was a popular leadership with the authority to manage the boycott. The black majority was led by the ANC, a revolutionary political movement whose representatives were spread throughout Europe and America.

The national Palestinian movement, which likewise started as a revolutionary one, underwent a transformation in the nineties, within the framework of the Oslo Agreement, and emerged as a new entity, the Palestinian Authority (PA).  This at once became riddled with corruption, losing the trust of the people. Today the PA is on the brink of civil war. And amid the descent into the abyss, what do we hear? The call of the intellectuals for a cultural boycott?!

This call is not part of an organized plan. It does not issue from a leadership that has authority in every street and alleyway. It issues from
isolated circles that in this way express their despair and rage-but fail to offer a program.

In the absence of a program, the boycott is merely a call to revenge, not an agenda for action. What do the boycotters want to push forward? The pro-American plan of PA President Abu Mazen? The fundamentalist program of Hamas? The same despair, we should remember, led many liberal Arab intellectuals to support Hassan Nasrallah in the recent war, just because he pounded Israel with rockets, or to support Osama Ben Laden because he taught America a lesson. When you ask them what reactionary Islamic fundamentalism, Shiite or Sunni, has contributed to the Arab cause, you get the answer: The important thing is, we showed 'em!

Given these factors, it is no wonder that the boycott's effect is marginal. To see just how marginal, consider this: In early December more than 200 festival organizers, script writers, directors and choreographers from a dozen countries, mostly western, visited Israel to choose materials and invite Israeli productions to their lands. Among the most courted works were those of the late Hanoch Levin, Israel's most prolific and critical playwright, who opposed the Occupation tooth and nail. Israeli choreography was also much sought after: it graces all the stages of the western world. Except for a tiny subsidy from the Ministry of Education, by the way, most of the visitors paid their own fares (Haaretz, Galeria, December 11).

An elitist boycott cut off from the people

The idea of boycotting Israel has been around since British academic circles raised it in 2002, when Israel re-occupied the West Bank during an operation it styled "Defensive Shield." Despite all the energies invested since then, the campaign has failed to gain steam.

The argument about it remains confined to elitist circles and those of so-called civil society. From working with Palestinian laborers on a daily basis for the last five years, I venture to say that the overwhelming majority hasn't heard of it. No one asked them their opinion of such a boycott, and no one requested their support or participation.

Given their natural instinct for survival, most Palestinian workers understand that the balance of forces is not in their favor. It is preferable, in their view, to deal with the burning issues of surviving from day to day. The worker from Jenin or Nablus is in a constant race against unemployment and poverty. If desperate enough, he sneaks into Israel to work without a permit, risking arrest and even death. The only boycotts he's heard about are the two that Israel enforces against him, first by not letting him work legally in its territory and second by orchestrating a worldwide economic blockade.

A growing number of the educated Palestinian bourgeoisie have migrated to Europe and America. They could not bear the injustice of the Occupation, the siege, the killing, the daily destruction. They were able to buy a ticket out. But the main part of the people, sinking beneath the burden, can only remain on the good and devastated earth.

Instead of wasting time on a struggle whose chief victims turn out to be Israelis who oppose the Occupation, we shall do better to focus our energies on questions we need to decide: What sort of society do we want to live in? Who are our allies? What kind of economic and political horizon do we want to open? What shall we do on a day-to-day basis to create, step by step, the society we want?

What we need is a program that will connect artists, filmmakers and other creators of culture with the people. The worries are great. Politics, unfortunately, is the least of these, because the horizon for a just solution is lacking. What concerns people today is their poverty. Unless we start with a social agenda, organizing workers into a union that can protect their rights and enable them to support their families, we shall have no prospect for building a political consciousness.

In the final lines of his letter to Elia Suleiman, Juliano Mer Khamis summarized the matter best: "Believe me, Elia, when I tell you that the realfreedom fighters, the people who are constantly struggling against the Israeli occupation, do not participate in this boycott. They gladly accept the support of any Jew, Muslim, Christian or Israeli who joins them in their  struggle for liberation."

Continued (Permanent Link)

77% of Israelis dissatisfied with Olmert's performance

77% of Israelis dissatisfied with Olmert's performance Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST  Jan. 3, 2007

According to a poll taken by the Dahaf Institute for the Knesset Channel, 77 percent of Israelis are dissatisfied with Olmert's performance as prime minister.
Forty seven percent of the 420 respondents asked to grade Olmert on his performance gave the prime minister a grade of "very poor," 30% gave him a grade of "fairly bad," and 20% graded him as "good." Only one percent thought Olmert was doing a "very good" job.
Only one percent of those asked responded that they think Olmert's performance has been "very good."
In addition, 69% of the survey participants said that the prime minister's leadership skills are not good, and 60% have a low opinion of Olmert's integrity.
To the question, "How would you rate Olmert's resilience under pressure?" 62% of the respondents said he does not deal with pressure well, while 37% believe Olmert deals well under pressure.
Asked what would change their opinion of the prime minister, 45% said their appreciation of the prime minister would improve if he would remove Defense Minister Amir Peretz from his post. Only four percent said they would not appreciate such a move.
Fifty-one percent of the respondents said Peretz's dismissal would not affect their judgment of the prime minister.
Twenty percent said they would like Olmert to dismiss IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, as opposed to six percent of participants who said firing the army chief would decrease their appreciation for the PM.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Five killed in Gaza infighting

Five killed in Gaza infighting

GAZA (Reuters) - Clashes erupted between forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas government in Gaza on Wednesday, killing five people in the worst bout of fighting since the rivals agreed a fragile truce two weeks ago.

At least nine people were wounded in separate incidents across the Gaza Strip, hospital officials said.

Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas declared the ceasefire in the wake of violence that escalated after Abbas called for early elections to break a political deadlock with the Islamists.

Hamas condemned Abbas's move as a coup to oust it less than a year after it surprised Fatah to win a parliamentary ballot.

The fresh violence is likely to revive fears among Palestinians that Gaza could slip into civil war.

Among the dead were three security officials loyal to Abbas who were killed in the southern town of Khan Younis, hospital officials said.

Abbas's Preventive Security force said the three died when a Hamas police unit ambushed two of its vehicles. Hamas said the security force fired first.


In the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza, one woman was killed after getting caught in the crossfire of a fierce clash between rival forces. Nine others were wounded, mostly combatants, hospital officials said.

That clash came after unknown gunmen killed a Fatah member who was on a rooftop in the town of Beit Lahiya and a car carrying Hamas security officers was ambushed. Two policemen were wounded in the ambush, the Hamas police force said.

Gunmen also abducted four Fatah members from the streets, witnesses said. Fatah blamed Hamas, which declined to comment.

While Abbas has called for fresh parliamentary and presidential elections, he has left the door open to talks with Hamas on forging a unity government that Palestinians hope will lead to the lifting of Western sanctions imposed on the Hamas administration.

On top of the internal chaos, general law and order has deteriorated in Gaza in recent months.

Palestinian colleagues of a Peruvian photographer abducted by gunmen this week demanded his release on Wednesday, saying the 50-year-old's life was in danger because he needed medicine for heart disease.

Sakher Abu El-Awn, Gaza office manager of the French news agency Agence France-Presse, said Jaime Razuri, who was seized outside the AFP Gaza City office on Monday, was taking several types of medication, including some for the heart problems.

"We believe his life is at serious risk and we urge his captors to release him immediately," Abu El-Awn told Reuters.

Razuri's kidnapping is the latest in a spate of abductions of foreign journalists and aid workers in Gaza in the past year. All have been freed unharmed.

No one has claimed responsibility for Razuri's abduction.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Study: Northerners suffer high stress rates over Lebanon war

Study: Northerners suffer high stress rates over Lebanon war
By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 00:52 03/01/2007

A new study shows that one-third of the residents of communities that were bombarded in the second Lebanon war are suffering from moderate to severe post-traumatic stress.

"These are worrying statistics connected with the fact that the population in the north discovered they had no one to depend on: the government was not there, the local authorities were disintegrating and the army did not work according to the plans that were discussed," according to Professor Muli Lahad, a director of the study and head of the Mashabim Center for the treatment of trauma at Tel Hai Academic College.

The study also headed by Dr. Miri Shaham and Dr. Yehuda Shaham, was carried out by Dr. Mina Zemach's Dahaf Institute, together with the Israel Trauma Coalition. It found that of the Jewish residents of the north, 26 percent were suffering from post-traumatic symptoms  12 percent moderate to serious, 8 percent serious, and 6 percent very serious. Among the Arabs, 41 percent were suffering post-traumatic symptoms, 16 percent moderate to serious, 10 percent serious, and 15 percent very serious.

The researchers said they believed the severity of the reaction among Arab respondents was because the local authorities had not functioned properly during the war. Their misfunction was compounded by the high number of casualties, an inability and unwillingness to leave their homes, the element of surprise, lack of experience, and exposure to media from Arab countries.

Of those suffering the most severe symptoms, which were 19 percent of the whole sample, 14 percent were Jews and 25 percent were Arabs. Women reported such symptoms 2.2 times more frequently than men.

With regard to evacuation, 33 percent of the Jews reported staying in the bombarded areas compared to 85 percent of the Arabs.

The survey revealed that 58 percent of new immigrants prefered to stay with their families in the bombarded areas as opposed to 38 percent of veteran Israelis. Contrary to common wisdom, those questioned did not believe evacuation should have been the priority of the local authorities, but rather the preparation of shelters. Those questioned said the second priority should have been care for the elderly and disabled, and the third, health services.

Among Arab residents, 50 percent would remain in a bombarded area, as long as their entire family was with them, as opposed to 29 percent of Jewish residents. Only 8 percent of the Jews, and 4 percent of the Arabs, would prefer to have only their children evacuated. Both during the war in Lebanon and the rocket attacks on Sderot, children are frequently evacuated without their families.

The poll revealed that 94 percent of the Jews and 81 percent of the Arabs personally experienced Katyusha attacks a number of times. Of the Jews polled, 74 percent were personally acquainted with injured people, compared to 20 percent of the Arabs surveyed. The researchers said previous studies showed that direct exposure to a disaster increases one's chances of developing serious physical and psychological problems and called the Mashabim Center findings "a warning signal."

One intersting finding was how differently Jews and Arabs responded to the question: "Who should help you in a war in the future?" The Arabs saw the assistance of voluntary associations as more important than the Jews did. The difference  98 percent of the Arabs versus 48 percent of the Jew reveals a lack of faith in the authorities, the researchers said.

According to Lahad, the Mashabim Center now has 286 patients in Kiryat Shmonah and the Galilee alone, 12 times the number before the war.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

PA TV Tribute to the ideal men - Saddam and Arafat

Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - Jan. 2, 2007

PA TV Tribute to the ideal men -Saddam and Arafat

"Only...because we love the men"

by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch
As part of an official Palestinian Authority (PA) TV program reporting on the uniform PA condemnations of the hanging of Saddam Hussein, PA TV focused on the following giant street poster with the faces of Saddam Hussein and
Yasser Arafat:

The giant text at the bottom of the poster reads: "Only ... because we love the men."
The small text on top of the poster is a quote from the Quran describing ideal men, those who fight without fear for Allah until death and others who are still waiting for death in battle:

"Of the believers are men who are true to their covenant with Allah. Some of them have paid their vow by death (in battle), and some of them still are waiting."


Saddam Hussein and Yasser Arafat were close allies, and Iraq under Saddam was a great benefactor of the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority was firmly behind Iraq in the war with the US, and the PA-controlled media have supported the insurgence against US soldiers. The PA hatred of the US has been expressed in regular media attacks, including calls to kill Americans.
This hatred is likewise expressed graphically through political cartoons in the tightly-controlled PA press.

The PA media which is expressing identification with Saddam and hatred of the US is not Hamas media, but remains under the control of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Please feel free to forward this bulletin, crediting Palestinian Media Watch
p:+972 2 625 4140 e:
f: +972 2 624 2803 w:

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF general: Many top officers doubt Halutz still able to lead

Last update - 09:45 02/01/2007   
IDF general: Many top officers doubt Halutz still able to lead
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer told Haaretz on Monday that many of the army's senior officers believe the confidence crisis among the top brass is still strong, and that the coming months will test Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz's ability to lead the army in reforms.
"A large segment of conference participants doubt the ability of the current leadership to lead," a major general on the General Staff told Haaretz, during the first day of a two-day conference for senior IDF commanding officers.
The conference, located at the Hatzor air force base in southern Israel, was held to discuss the findings of the in-house investigations into the army's wartime performance.

At the end of the conference Tuesday, Halutz will present the main points of the IDF's plans for 2007, based on lessons learned in the war.
In the first day of the conference Monday, which lasted 12 hours, nearly 600 of the top IDF officers met to discuss the lessons of the war. Unlike previous meetings, those making the presentations were active commanders, not the reservist officers who led the investigation teams.
The only exception was the presentation by former chief of staff Dan Shomron, who led the probe into the General Staff's performance during the war.
"The essence of the probe is to learn, because we would like to improve our operational effectiveness and the IDF's preparedness for the missions and challenges that await us," Halutz said.
The following were mentioned among the lessons of the war: over-reliance on the Israel Air Force as a counter to Hezbollah; late call-up of reservist divisions; inability to solve the threat posed by short-range rockets; poor training and equipping of ground forces, particularly of reservist units; and failures in how decision making was made at the General Staff level.
Sources at the conference told Haaretz that in taking lessons from the war, Halutz is focusing on ways to prepare the IDF for future confrontations. They also stressed that the gathering was not presented as a setting for disagreements, and therefore many of those in attendance chose not to challenge the investigators' findings and the relatively minor measures taken against individual officers.
Halutz censures 2 colonels over wartime Hezbollah attack on ship
Halutz on Monday decided to censure two senior navy colonels for their conduct during the recent war in Lebanon, after an Iranian-made missile struck a navy boat and cost the lives of four soldiers.
Three additional officers from the ship's crew were also censured.
The attack on the INS Hanit occured the night of July 14, when the ship was cruising off the coast of Beirut. A C-802 surface-to-sea missile struck the ship while it was nearly defenseless - because its missile defense systems had not been activated.
The missile struck a crane on the back of the ship. Had it hit a more sensitive part of the vessel, it could have sunk the ship and its crew of more than 80 officers and sailors.
The IDF-appointed inquiry committee, led by senior naval officer Brigadier General (res.) Nir Maor, concluded that the navy failed in not preparing for the case of Hezbollah using Iranian-made missiles against Israeli ships.
The naval command regarded such a scenario as "imaginary and exaggerated," even though it had been twice warned about this possibility. Three years ago, a Military Intelligence officer raised the possibility of such a scenario, and on the morning of July 14, a naval intelligence officer repeated the warning.
In addition, the investigation revealed serious misconduct in the handling of the ship during combat operations.
Based on the IDF probe's findings, Halutz placed overall responsibility for the incident on the naval command, headed by Major General Dudu Ben-Basat. However, he opted not to take any disciplinary steps against the commander of the navy.
Nonetheless, Halutz reprimanded two officers: the head of naval intelligence and the commander of the missile boats. The ship's captain was also reprimanded, and was informed his next posting would be in a staff position. The officers in charge of the engine room and the electronic warfare systems on the ship were also reprimanded.
Two other officers penalized for unauthorized comments to media
Two other naval officers were penalized in the wake of the attack, Halutz announced on Monday, for making unauthorized comments to the media regarding the incident.
The General Staff defense information department has evidence that a colonel in the Navy spoke to the media, but had not been able to prove that the officer disclosed classified information.
The officer stood trial before Major General Moshe Kaplinsky and was convicted. Kaplinsky, who was convinced that no classified information had been revealed, suggested sending the officer off with a warning. Halutz is expected to issue his own ruling on the matter.
In addition, a lieutenent colonel from the Navy was suspended for 30 days. Over the course of his suspension, his lawyer and the military prosecution will hold a hearing to determine what steps will be taken against the officer.
This is the first time an officer has been suspended over conduct during the war in Lebanon.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Netanyahu:: Iran can still be stopped

Iran can still be stopped
Binyamin Netanyahu,

It is possible to prevent the political and security landslide. Iran can
still be stopped.

The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is rapidly leading Israel to a political and security downfall while Iran is racing towards achieving a >nuclear weapons capability.

While Iran's leaders are busy denying the Holocaust, they also continue to
announce their intentions of wiping the State of Israel off the map. Israel
is like a bus speeding towards an abyss. The bus driver is tired and

Let's examine recent developments, which all have one common denominator:
weak leadership.

Hizbullah and Hamas are rapidly arming themselves thanks to the Israeli
government's decision to refrain from taking action against them. Since the
cease-fire was declared, dozens of Kassam rockets have been fired at the
western Negev. The government continues not to react.

Recently, the US secretary of defense said he was unable to rule out a
possibility that Iran would launch a nuclear attack against Israel. He also
noted that the US would take against Iran only as a last resort. These words
raise doubts as to American intentions to bring Teheran's nuclear race to a
halt. These words are not to be taken lightly.

The Baker-Hamilton Report recommends that the US engage in talks with Iran
and Syria in an attempt to reach a solution to the Iraqi problem. Although
the report does not reflect the Bush Administration's policy towards Iran,
it encourages a fundamental change of direction in American policy: from
isolation to negotiation.

The Baker-Hamilton Report also argues that a solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a condition to stabilizing the rest of the
Middle East's core problems. Here we find an attempt to create affinity: If
Israel was to carry out concessions and territorial withdrawals, the Iranian
and Iraqi problems would be solved. In reality, the situation is the
complete opposite: If the problem of Iran, which Ismail Haniyeh defines as
"the strategic backbone of Hamas", were solved, it would be easier to treat
the conflict with the Palestinians.

What can be learned from these bleak developments? What is the connection
between them?

Weakness invites pressure.

The weakness of the Olmert government only expedites the decline of Israel's
stature, both in the Middle East and around the world.

If the Israeli government accepts the ongoing firing of Kassams at its
cities, why shouldn't the world?

If Olmert's government reacts limply to Iran's statements about its
intentions to destroy Israel, why should we expect the world to act against

Baker and Hamilton described the current mood in their report: "The majority
of the political establishment in Israel has grown tired of a continuous
state of a nation at war."

What can we say about such words when even Olmert himself said similar
things during an address he gave last year in the US: "We are tired of
fighting. We are tired of being heroes. Tired of winning. Tired of beating
our enemies."

When even Israel's leadership sends out a message of fatigue and weakness,
why should we be surprised that the world agrees?

The main principle which we should follow is this: The key to promising the
existence of Israel is developing strength. When one lives in a harsh
environment, one must be strong. Israel must invest in building its strength
as quickly as possible. I shall develop this point later on.

In the meantime, we must focus on one urgent task: to curb the security and
political downfall and bring Iran to a halt.

This mission is possible, but it demands action on parallel shores:

The diplomatic and PR effort: We must immediately launch an intense,
international, public relations front focusing first and foremost on the US.
The goal being to encourage President Bush to take up his specific promises
not to allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We must make it clear
to the government, the Congress and the American public that a nuclear Iran
is a threat to the US and the entire world, not only Israel. We must make it
clear that it is in the utmost interest of the free world to prevent
fundamental Islamic regimes from building an atom bomb.

The independent defense effort: Simultaneously, and with no connection to
our efforts overseas, Israel must make every necessary step that would
enable it to independently protect its citizens. The government must
subjugate all national efforts to this higher cause. It must instruct the
IDF, security branches, intelligence agencies and the bodies charged with
protecting the home front to take immediate action to remove the existential
threat Israel faces.

I recommend that each and every morning, the prime minister personally
ensures that these actions are carried out accordingly. He should not let go
for even a split second. No one else should take over his authority or
assume the responsibility.

During his last visit to Washington, Mr. Olmert announced that this will be
his policy, and good he did. However, words require action. In reality, the
government is directionless and has no leadership. While Iran is steadily
progressing with its nuclear plan, the Israeli government is busy creating
media 'agendas' (i.e. changing the system of government) or dangerous plans,
as the one Mr. Olmert presented in Sdeh Boker in which he laid out his
agenda for territorial concessions.

The time has come for the Israeli government to put our existence in its
utmost priority. If it does so, I guarantee that both my party members and
myself will give our full support in preparation against the Iranian threat,
as we did in the Lebanon war.
If the government does not come to its senses immediately, Mr. Olmert must
make way for another leadership that would guarantee both our existence and
our future.
The blog was translated from MK Binyamin Netanyahu's website.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Recalling Teddy Kollek

Recalling Teddy Kollek

by Joseph M. Hochstein, MidEastWeb

Here are a few personal recollections of Teddy Kollek, the Vienna-born ex-kibbutznik who served as Jerusalem's mayor from 1965 until Ehud Olmert defeated him in 1993. Kollek died today (January 2, 2007) at 95.

In the 1970s, Kollek spoke at a breakfast meeting of journalists visiting from the United States. The organizers asked me to chair the program and introduce Kollek.

He arrived late, alone.

As I rose to make the introduction, he cut me off.

"So, what are your questions?" were his first words to the group. He took it from there. Everyone, Kollek included, knew he needed no introduction.

Some years later, Kollek gave a guided tour of his city to visitors attending an international conference on local government in Israel. I was there as a member of the conference staff. As before, Kollek came alone, without the typical entourage of aides who accompany mayors of important cities.

He walked briskly along a hillside, and not everyone in the group was keeping up. I saw a chance to speak privately with him and ask for an appointment to interview him for a book I was researching. He could shed light on Haganah activities in New York in 1947-48, before Israel's war of independence. He had headed the no-longer-secret Haganah mission.

"I'll give you five minutes," he said and kept striding toward a point overlooking his city.

I protested. He took a moment to explain. Speaking slower and with less impatience, almost like an exasperated parent, he explained that he wasn't going to devote more than five minutes to talking about the past. What mattered now was the present and the future, he said, and he was prepared to make time to discuss that.

Another time, when he was pushing 80 years of age, I ran into Kollek at the arrivals terminal at New York's JFK international airport. He was alone, and no security guards were in evidence. He was standing at a baggage carousel, waiting for his luggage. He stood there with no sign of impatience, and with no VIP treatment. He said hello, and when his luggage arrived he wrestled it off the carousel by himself and walked off alone. He was still the mayor of Jerusalem then, but he wasn't flaunting it.

--- Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv
January 2, 2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Israel-Palestinian conflict is key'

'Israel-Palestinian conflict is key'

Ban Ki-Moon, the new secretary-general of the United Nations, said on Monday that the Israeli-Palestinian issue was at the core of solving all the problems in the Middle East.

In an interview with the South Korean Hankyoreh newspaper, he followed the lead of his predecessor, Kofi Annan, and other international leaders such as British Prime Minister Tony Blair by focusing on "Palestine."

"If the issues with the conflicts between Israel and Palestine go well, [resolutions of] other issues in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and Syria, are likely to follow suit. I will meet with the concerned parties as soon as possible," Ban said in an interview posted on the paper's English Web site Monday.

This position is widely at variance with Jerusalem's position, which is that the roots of the problem in the region are terrorism, Islamic radicalism and extremism, and hatred of the West.

Despite Ban's comments, Israel warmly welcomed the new secretary-general, who officially took office on Sunday.

Roni Leshno Ya'ar, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for the UN and international organizations, said Israel has been familiar with Ban from the time he was South Korea's foreign minister from 2004-06, and was favorably impressed by his fairness and willingness to study the issues. He said Israel welcomed Ban's putting the situations in Darfur and Lebanon at the top of his agenda. Ban said in the Hankyoreh interview that his first overseas visit would be either to Lebanon or Darfur.

Israel has had contacts with Ban since he was elected secretary-general in October, as well as beforehand. He was the first South Korean foreign minister to visit Israel. Ban came here in 2005, but he is not known to have developed expertise on the Middle East.

The Jerusalem Post, meanwhile, has learned that the UN Secretariat in New York is discussing possible widespread changes in personnel, which may affect UN operations in Israel and the West Bank. The UN Secretariat is also considering streamlining its bureaucracy in the region.

On Sunday, Ban announced his first two appointments: veteran Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar, who has been a special adviser to Annan, as his chief of staff; and award-winning Haitian journalist Michele Montas, the head of the French unit of UN Radio, as his spokesperson.

Ban said in a statement that he will be making more appointments in the coming days. The most important will be his choice for deputy secretary-general - widely expected to be a woman from a developing country.

Ban is the first Asian to lead the UN in 35 years. Burma's U Thant served from 1961-71. It will also mark a milestone for South Korea, which only joined the United Nations in 1991 and still has UN troops on the tense border with North Korea.

A 62-year-old career diplomat who grew up during a war that left his country divided, Ban has promised to make peace with North Korea a top priority. He said he will travel there when necessary and cautioned that the reclusive communist nation must be talked to - and not just punished with sanctions for conducting a nuclear test.

Ban is temporarily residing at a hotel. He will not move into his official residence - an 85-year-old neo-Georgian town house on New York's fashionable Sutton Place overlooking the East River - until renovations (the first since 1950) are completed. The General Assembly recently approved $4.9 million to modernize the residence's heating, air conditioning, plumbing, kitchen and security, which is expected to take about nine months.

AP contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Legendary mayor of Jerusalem Kollek dies at 95

Legendary mayor of Jerusalem Kollek dies at 95

Legendary mayor of Jerusalem Teddy Kollek passed away at the age of 95, it was announced on Tuesday morning.

Kollek served as mayor of Jerusalem for almost three decades - from 1965 until 1993, when he lost to current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Kollek spent most of his career trying to balance the needs of the city's diverse interest groups. He also led a major building effort, adding new neighborhoods, parks and highways.

He preached fairness and coexistence to the city's Arabs but left no doubt that he wanted Jerusalem to remain undivided, under Israel's sovereignty, despite Palestinians' demand for the Arab part of the city as the capital of their would-be state.

"Jerusalem's people of differing faiths, cultures and aspirations must find peaceful ways to live together other than by drawing a line in the sand," Kollek once wrote of his philosophy.

He was born in 1911 in Nagyvaszony, near Budapest, grew up in Vienna. He was an ardent Zionist, taking after his namesake Theodor Herzl.

Kollek moved to Palestine with his family in 1937, shortly before the Nazis took power in Austria. He was a founding member of Kibbutz Ein Gev and served in the Hagana.

Kollek became a close ally of David Ben-Gurion and served in his government from 1952-1965.

He then became the mayor of Jerusalem, succeeding Mordechai Ish Shalom.

In 1967, the newly elected mayor established the Jerusalem Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has supported the capital's needs by connecting to members of the Diaspora Jewish community as well as to others of various faiths who view Jerusalem as central to the world. It has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from donors, mostly abroad, for an array of parks, arts, culture and social service projects.

The details of his funeral were to be announced later in the day. He is survived by his wife Tamar, son Amos and daughter Osnat.

With AP

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ari Fleischer writes to President Carter

Without necessarily agreeing with every word of Ari Fleischer regarding cold war politics, we have to note the facts. This letter is a reminder of the egregiously one-sided nature of Carter's view of Israel. The distortion of facts is consistent over time and it can only be intentional. Israel did not attack Lebanon first in the summer of 2006. It is not Zionist propaganda. The war began because of an unprovoked act of Hezbollah aggression. Even Robert Fisk agrees about that.  
Who would have believed, in 1943, that an ex-American president would be making false accusations against a Jewish state, and a German interviewer would correct him?
Letter by Ari Fleischer criticizing Carter

August 21, 2006

The Honorable Jimmy Carter
The Carter Center
453 Freedom Parkway
Atlanta, Georgia 30307

Dear Mr. President:
I just read the transcript of your interview with the German magazine, Der Spiegel, in which you accuse Israel of launching an unjustified attack on Lebanon . Even after the interviewer reminded you that Israel was the first to get attacked, you charged Israel with lacking any legal or moral justification for their massive bombing of the entire nation of Lebanon.

As someone who served in the White House as a spokesman for a President, I am reluctant to criticize another President, but in this instance my conscience compels me to do so.Mr. President, your words are music to Hezbollah's ears and your message is a blow to long-term peace.

Just as you underestimated the threat of the Soviet Union in the 1970s, you  underestimate the threat of radical Islam today. Your condemnation ofIsrael, the victim, only encourages Hezbollah, the attacker, to bide its time and attack again. Ahmed Barakat, a member of Hezbollah's central council, last week told the Qatari newspaper as-Watan that Today Arab and Muslim society is reasonably certain that the defeat of Israel is possible and that the countdown to the disappearance of the Zionist entity in the region has begun. The triumph of the resistance is the beginning of the death of the Israeli enemy.

I was raised a Democrat but I changed parties in 1982 because I believed your policies and the nuclear freeze movement invited increased Soviet militarism and adventurism.

President Reagan's military build-up and credible threat of the use of force helped bring about the demise of Communism and brought freedom and a better life to hundreds of millions in Central and Eastern Europe. It also secured a lasting peace.

I'm sorry to see you articulate about Hezbollah and its aggression in the same weak worldview that encouraged Soviet aggression. As Ronald Reagan showed us, peace through strength is the only formulation understood by those bent on destruction.

I understand your longing for peace and your fond hope that Hezbollah can be reasoned with. However, when you call Israel 's defense an attack, when you call what is justified unjustified, and when you call morality immoral, I conclude that the prodefense, strong foreign policy lessons of the 70s and 80s remain unacceptable to you.

Also, when you criticize Israel for targeting so-called civilian areas in Beirut and other areas where Hezbollah hides its operations, the result would be, if Israel listened to you, the creation of safe havens from which more violence and rocket attacks would be planned and launched.

Sadly, Hezbollah today is planning its next war. For the sake of peace, Israel deserves your praise, not your condemnation.

L. Ari Fleischer

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, January 1, 2007


Intelligence Memorandum, Washington - June 1973

Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, Volume E-6, Documents on Africa, 1973-1976
Released by the Office of the Historian



In the early evening hours of 1 March 1973, eight Black September
Organization (BSO) terrorists seized the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum
as a diplomatic reception honoring the departing United States Deputy Chief
of Mission (DCM) was ending. After slightly wounding the United States
Ambassador and the Belgian Charge d'Affaires, the terrorists took these
officials plus the United States DCM, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador and the
Jordanian Charge d'Affaires hostage. In return for the freedom of the
hostages, the captors demanded the release of various individuals, mostly
Palestinian guerrillas, imprisoned in Jordan, Israel and the United States.

The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge
and personal approval of Yasir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO), and the head of Fatah. Fatah representatives based in
Khartoum participated in the attack, using a Fatah vehicle to transport the
terrorists to the Saudi Arabian Embassy.

Initially, the main objective of the attack appeared to be to secure the
release of Fatah/BSO leader Muhammed Awadh (Abu Da'ud) from Jordanian
captivity. Information acquired subsequently reveals that the Fatah/BSO
leaders did not expect Awadh to be freed, and indicates that one of the
primary goals of the operation was to strike at the United States because of
its efforts to achieve a Middle East peace settlement which many Arabs
believe would be inimical to Palestinian interests.

Negotiations with the BSO terrorist team were conducted primarily by the
Sudanese Ministers of Interior and of Health. No effort was spared, within
the capabilities of the Sudanese Government, to secure the freedom of the
hostages. The terrorists extended their deadlines three times, but when they
became convinced that their demands would not be met and after they
reportedly had received orders from Fatah headquarters in Beirut, they
killed the two United States officials and the Belgian Charge. Thirty-four
hours later, upon receipt of orders from Yasir Arafat in Beirut to
surrender, the terrorists released their other hostages unharmed and
surrendered to Sudanese authorities.

The Khartoum operation again demonstrated the ability of the BSO to strike
where least expected. The open participation of Fatah representatives in
Khartoum in the attack provides further evidence of the Fatah/BSO
relationship. The emergence of the United States as a primary fedayeen
target indicates a serious threat of further incidents similar to that which
occurred in Khartoum.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Victims of Holocaust Denial - Jews, Muslims, and Human Dignity

Victims of Holocaust Denial - Jews, Muslims, and Human Dignity


The Islamic Republic of Iran under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently hosted a conference of historical revisionists dubbed as "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision."

It was neither global nor visionary. That it coincided with the commemoration of the international Human Rights Day betrayed the sarcastic intent of its organizers.

The conference was yet another attempt by Ahmadinejad to portray himself as a strong challenger to the State of Israel, calling for its destruction. He has characterized the Holocaust as a "myth." He is quoted as saying that, "Israel must be wiped off the map...Anyone who signs a treaty which recognizes the entity of Israel means he has signed the surrender of the Muslim world."(October 2005) Again, in December 2005, he said, "They have fabricated a legend under the name 'Massacre of the Jews,' and they hold it higher than God himself, religion itself and the prophets themselves."

Earlier, Iran's largest daily, Hamshahri, sponsored a widely publicized cartoon contest making a mockery of the Holocaust. This was a rebuttal allegedly to the right-wing Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad while reminiscent of the anti-Semitism once prevalent in Europe.

What went largely unnoticed was the courtly reaction to the cartoons by a paraplegic painter, Hossein Nouri, who painted, amidst flag-burnings and noisy protests, a portrait of the Virgin Mary in front of the Danish Embassy in Tehran; marking the respect Islam accords to the mother of Prophet Jesus. Continued Here

Continued (Permanent Link)

2006: Israel defense sales hit record

2006: Israel defense sales hit record

Breaking an all-time record, the Defense Ministry announced Monday that Israeli foreign defense sales reached just over $4.4 billion in 2006, placing Israeli industries among the top five defense exporters in the world, just behind the United States and England.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Ben-Hanan, head of SIBAT - the Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Department - told The Jerusalem Post that more than 75 percent of Israeli defense industry sales were to foreign militaries, while the rest was to the IDF.

"This is a great achievement," Ben-Hanan said. "The world has put its faith in our industries through the deals it has signed with Israeli companies." While Israel's dependence on defense exports was lucrative, Ben-Hanan warned that there was also a danger involved for the Israeli economy. "If there is a political crisis or a tsunami somewhere in the world, it would certainly influence Israeli defense sales," he said.

India was Israel's biggest customer, Ben-Hanan said, with purchases reaching $1.5 billion.

Another $1 billion in defense goods was sold to the US. In 1990, Ben-Hanan said, Israeli exports to the US stood at $470 million, and in 1999 stood at $300 million. The largest sale was by the Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to India for the Barak Naval anti-missile defense system, valued at some $450 million.

Defense Ministry Dir.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi praised the SIBAT's achievements, claiming that the Israeli defense industries were an integral part of the success of the Israeli economy.

Before this past year, Israel's high was $4 billion in defense exports in 2002. Ben-Hanan said that the achievement was made possible due to the intense marketing done by the companies, as well as the logistical support provided by SIBAT.

Another milestone was in 2000 when the big Israeli defense companies - IAI, Elbit Systems and the Rafael Armament Development Authority - took over US-based companies.

Ben-Hanan said that he was not concerned that US entry into the Indian market would take away from Israeli defense sales.

"America sells fighter jets, tanks and helicopters, and we do not compete with them," he said, predicting that American entry into the market could even add to Israeli sales. "We can, for example, sell the necessary accompanying systems that they will need alongside the larger US platforms."

Ben-Hanan said he hoped that the European market - which made up $800 million in contracts - would increase in the coming years. "We need to create partnerships with European countries, which the Israeli defense industries could use to market their products."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The pope and the Holocaust deniers

The pope and the Holocaust deniers

Saddam Hussein's execution reminded us that some crimes are so heinous no society can tolerate them, and that when you murder more than one million people, even traditional opponents of the death penalty might just applaud when you hang.

It is a lesson the Catholic Church would do well to contemplate. Last week, the church broke ranks with nearly every moral voice and came out publicly against Saddam's execution. But if that were not enough, Pope Benedict XVI granted a private audience to a delegation of Iranian officials, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki, whose ministry sponsored the recent Holocaust denial conference in Teheran.

The pope is the foremost spiritual leader on earth. It shocks every moral sensibility that he would choose to legitimize a wretch like this. More troubling yet, the pope conveyed warm greetings to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad through the delegation.

Warm greetings? Ahmadinejad is calling virtually every week for Israel's annihilation. Does the pope have anything to share with this man aside from his contempt? One would hope that a pope who witnessed the Holocaust and the destruction of the Jewish people would practice extra caution before hanging out with those who wish to renew Hitler's efforts.

LET'S NOT finesse this. Ahmadinejad is an international abomination who can lay strong claim to being the single most hate-filled man alive. Surely the pope can find more worthy recipients of his time and graciousness?

Pope John Paul II was a man of great courage who helped to challenge and defeat communism. Yet even he made the repeated mistake of legitimizing terrorists, repeatedly meeting with Yasser Arafat. But if one might excuse those meetings on the grounds that other world leaders did the same, the pope's actions at the time of Arafat's death were jarring and incomprehensible. He praised Arafat as "a leader of great charisma who loved his people and sought to lead them toward national independence. May God welcome in His mercy the soul of the illustrious deceased and give peace to the Holy Land."

Did anyone seriously believe that God was going to welcome this baby-killer into heaven rather than placing him in hell? Why would virtuous and righteous men like John Paul and Benedict make such outrageous mistakes?

The Catholic Church seems to spend a great deal of time upholding its standards of sexual morality, like condemning gay unions and contraception, and comparably little time condemning the tyrants and dictators who slaughter the children whose lives the church declares to be holy. So why the omission?

It bespeaks an unfortunate and continuing pattern on behalf of our Christian brethren to refuse to hate evil. Many of my Christian brothers and sisters mistakenly believe that God forbids hatred. They quote Jesus' teaching to turn the other cheek and his admonishment to love your enemies as proof that we dare never hate.

AS A radio host, I am called by many evangelical Christians who say that in God's eyes we are all sinners, and thus from a heavenly perspective Osama bin Laden and the average housewife from Kansas are equal. Bin Laden must indeed face justice for his crimes, but we dare not hate him seeing that Jesus still loves him.

But this is a travesty of Jesus' teachings. It would make this great Hebrew personality into someone who had contempt for his victims as he extended love to their murderers. Jesus advocated turning the other cheek to petty slights and affronts to honor, not to mass graves and torture chambers.

Likewise, while Jesus taught that we ought to love our own enemies, this did not apply to God's enemies. Our enemies are people who take our parking spot or who are our rivals for a promotion at work. God's enemies are those who slaughter his children.

Let not any Christian think that Jesus' sympathy was for anyone other than the oppressed and the poor. True, the Bible commands us to "love our neighbor as ourselves," but the man who kills children is not our neighbor. Having cast off the image of God, he has lost his divine spark and is condemned to eternal oblivion, from which not even a belief in salvation will rescue him.

He who murders God's children has been lost to God forever and has abandoned all entitlement to love, earning eternal derision in its stead.

AMID MY deep and abiding respect for the Christian faith, I state unequivocally that to love the terrorist who flies a civilian plane into a civilian building, or a white supremacist who drags a black man three miles while tied to the back of a car is not just inane, it is deeply sinful. To send warm greetings to an Iranian president who has just hosted a former head of the KKK is an affront to blacks throughout the world just as much as it is to Jews.

To love evil is itself evil, and constitutes a passive form of complicity.

We are all known by the company we keep. If Ahmadinejad of Iran called for the extermination of all the world's Catholics, the pope might think twice before meeting his representatives. He ought to accord the same respect to his Jewish brethren.

The writer is host of The Learning Channel's television program "Shalom in the Home," whose second season begins on January 21. He is currently writing a book on the necessity of hating evil. (

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel rejects demand to release 1,000 prisoners for Shalit

Last update - 17:44 01/01/2007   
Israel rejects demand to release 1,000 prisoners for Shalit
By Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, Aluf Benn and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday morning convened an advising meeting with his special envoy for the captive soldiers, Ofer Dekel, and other officials. Meeting participants said Israel has no intention of freeing 1,000 to 1,400 prisoners as reported in the Arab media.
The discussion also included statements that due to inflated demands by the Palestinians, no progress has been reached in negotiations to free kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
Nonetheless, the statements may be a final Israeli effort to present a firm stance ahead of signing a deal, as negotiators have done in previous incidents.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday blamed Israel for noncompliance and foot-dragging in the negotiations, Israel Radio reported.
According to Israel Radio, Haniyeh told the Ramatan news agency that Israel is playing games and is not interested in putting an end to the prisoners' suffering.
In the Ramatan interview, Haniyeh also said that the meeting between Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas bore no fruit.
Senior Hamas officials on Sunday said a breakthrough has occurred in negotiations over the deal.
This was the first time since Shalit's abduction that Hamas leaders have publicly announced a breakthrough in the talks.
But Israeli political and military sources both said that they were unaware of any such progress. "We are not aware of any breakthrough or major progress in the deal to free Gilad Shalit," said one government source.
The Israeli sources also denied media reports that Shalit's family had received a video of the kidnapped soldier, as did the family itself.
Ahmed Yousef, Haniyeh's political advisor, told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an yesterday that he expects the first Palestinian prisoners to be released early this year, and that Thursday's planned meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would significantly advance the emerging deal.
Other Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Hamas has agreed in principle to an Israeli proposal for an exchange that was transmitted via Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, met there with Haniyeh and apparently also met with Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas' Damascus-based political bureau.
The sources said that under the Israeli proposal, Hamas would give Israel a video showing that Shalit is alive, and in exchange, Israel would release an as-yet undecided number of women and minor prisoners.
Next, Shalit would be transferred to Egypt, and then to Israel; at the same time, Israel would release some 450 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas would give Egypt a list of the prisoners it wants released, and Israel would be asked to approve this list.
Finally, about two months later, Israel would release additional prisoners. Israel would be authorized to decide both how many and which prisoners to free at this stage, but has promised to be "generous," the sources said.
A spokesman for Hamas' military wing, Abu Obeida, confirmed to Haaretz that there had been a breakthrough in the talks. However, he said, there is as yet no timetable, and "we can't say whether we're talking about days or weeks."
A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), which carried out the kidnapping jointly with Hamas, also confirmed the reported breakthrough. The spokesman, Abu Mujhad, declined to give details, but said that Israel had moved significantly closer to the Palestinians' demands.
Ismail Radwan, Hamas' spokesman in Gaza, similarly said that "there has been very positive progress" in the negotiations.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Sunday told the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat that "the deal is ready." But Aboul Gheit, who noted that Olmert and Mubarak would discuss the deal at their meeting this week, said that the other parties are still awaiting a final decision from Hamas.
Israeli sources, in contrast, said that they were unaware of any breakthrough. Nevertheless, defense sources said, public declarations of an impending deal by both Hamas and the PRC indicate that both organizations have apparently softened their positions.
It seems that the main outstanding issue is which prisoners will be on the list of 450 to be freed along with Shalit. Negotiations on this issue could yet delay the deal.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gunmen abduct 8 Hamas men, 3 Fatah men in Gaza

Last update - 19:46 01/01/2007
Gunmen abduct 8 Hamas men, 3 Fatah men in Gaza
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies

Internal tensions between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah flared Monday in the northern Gaza Strip as unknown assailants abducted eight Hamas members and three from Fatah, security sources said.
The groups declared a truce in December to end weeks of deadly violence, which intensified after Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, head of Fatah, called for new elections. The militant group Hamas won a parliamentary ballot in January.
In a separate incident, Palestinian militants kidnapped a Peruvian photographer working for the French press agency in the Gaza Strip on Monday, Agence France-Presse and Palestinian security sources said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the abduction of Jaime Razuri.
Militants in Gaza have often abducted foreigners in the past, usually to try to put pressure on the Palestinian government to give them jobs.
Security officials said the kidnapping happened outside the AFP office in Gaza City, an area where many foreign news agencies have offices. They said the victim was standing at an intersection when about five masked men approached him, pushed him in a car and sped away.
The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association, representing foreign journalists in Israel and the Palestinian areas, condemned the kidnapping of Razuri. "We utterly condemn the continued harassment of journalists in this way. We must be allowed to work freely and without fear of kidnapping in Gaza," the FPA said in a statement.
In two separate incidents in October, gunmen in Gaza seized and held a Spanish aid worker and a photographer working for the Associated Press news agency for several hours. In August, Gaza militants kept two journalists from the U.S. Fox News channel captive for two weeks.
Meanwhile, two media watchdogs said Monday that journalists suffered one of their deadliest years ever in 2006.
Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) said at least 81 reporters and 32 media staff were killed in 2006 as a result of their jobs, saying the death toll was the highest since 1994 when scores of reporters died in the Rwandan genocide.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Farewell, Mr. Annan

Farewell, Mr. Annan
By Shlomo Shamir

NEW YORK - Kofi Annan had the best of intentions, but not enough to turn him into a true hero who made a difference in the end. This summary of the term of the United Nations secretary general, who officially finishes his term today, appears in the book by The New York Times journalist James Traub about Annan. In "The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power," Traub describes Annan as a chivalrous figure who was gifted with charisma and the art of expression, but was unable to confront the subterfuge and intrigues of a world that prefers its own selfish interests.
As opposed to several previous secretaries general, "Annan will be remembered in the UN, for good or for bad," said a veteran Western ambassador at the UN yesterday. "He was the SG during one of the stormiest periods in the history of the organization, which was characterized by regional wars and armed conflicts, and exposed the UN and the SG to challenges and goals never dreamed of by Annan's predecessors."
However, even his fans admit that Annan did not excel in dramatic achievements. The ambassador of a Middle Eastern country said that, "the admiration for him is mainly for his aristocratic and restrained presence in the midst of difficult events and horrors that took place in recent years in various places in the world, and some of which still continue."
And the fact is that the list of the ongoing crises and bloody conflicts that Annan is leaving behind to be dealt with by his successor, South Korean Ban Ki-moon, is long and frightening: Darfur, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Israel and the Palestinians. In all of them Annan failed consistently and humiliatingly in his attempts to turn himself into a dependable and influential factor. The horrible memories of Rwanda, Srebrenica and Kosovo are deeply etched in the annals of his era.
His greatest diplomatic failure was his inability to promote his plan to unify Cyprus, an initiative in which he invested a great deal of time and energy. The inability of his organization to stop the massacre of civilians in Darfur will also be credited in no small measure to Annan: "The secretary general represents 192 clients, each of which has conflicting interests," said a veteran diplomat known for his close ties with Annan, in an effort to defend him. "One of his great mistakes was that he tried to please everyone," said a Western ambassador. "He did not demonstrate firmness with Iran, and his meeting in Tehran with [President] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a mistake."
Nor did Annan succeed in carrying out the reforms he formulated to streamline the mechanisms of the international organization and improve its functioning. The failure has been explained due to the opposition of many member nations, which feared that the reforms would erode their status and reduce their areas of activity within the context of the organization. But Annan will be remembered as someone who wanted to refresh the organization, yet failed.
At his last press conference with UN correspondents last week, he pleaded with them: "Please, don't remember the oil-for-food affair as the affair that characterized my term." But the exposure of corruption in the UN program that followed the first Gulf War, a program whose purpose was to enable the export of oil from Iraq in exchange for food and drugs - and included the revelation that Annan's son had channeled money into his own pocket - in effect marked the end of Annan's diplomatic career.
Annan's defenders in the UN Secretariat claim that during his term he succeeded in making concern for the fate of people all over the world a No. 1 priority. "Annan propelled hardships such as poverty, AIDS, the abuse of women and ignorance to the forefront of the international arena, and that demanded great efforts on his part," said a veteran member of the secretariat.
Israel's UN delegation believes that the hostility toward the outgoing SG, which is shared by many people in Israel, is not justified. "At several junctions Annan revealed tough stances toward Israel and stained his Middle East record," said one senior member of the delegation. "He made critical and outspoken declarations that later turned out to be mistakes, such as blaming Israel for the deliberate killing of the four UNIFIL soldiers, and statements condemning Israel that he voiced during the second Lebanon war. But in general Annan was fair toward Israel, and worked to increase its involvement in the international organization."
The delegation has reservations about Annan's view of the conflict with the Palestinians as a source of tension in the world, but praised him for the fact that in his last speech in the UN Security Council, he condemned the anti-Israel resolutions passed in the UN General Assembly, which in his words "did not lead to any improvement in the situation of the Palestinians."
The Jewish people reserve a warm place in their hearts for Annan. He was the first secretary general who initiated an international discussion in the UN about anti-Semitism, and later declared the day of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp as International Holocaust Day.

Continued (Permanent Link)

'Post' contributor target of terror plot

 The Jerusalem Post
Dec. 31, 2006

'Post' contributor target of terror plot
by Greer Fay Cashman

Isi Leibler, a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed pages of The Jerusalem Post discovered on Sunday night that he had been one of the targets of a Palestinian assassination plot in 1975.

According to intelligence documents released on Sunday, terrorists planned to kill pro-Israel politician Bob Hawke (who was to become prime minister in 1983), then Israeli ambassador Michael Elizur, Leibler and journalist Sam Lipski.

Leibler learned of the plot from his son Jonathan, a Ra'anana-based lawyer who came across it by chance when surfing the Internet.

"I knew that there were pressures against me, but I did not know that I was a target for assassination," Isi Leibler told the Post.

Leibler said found it rather surrealistic to be looking back in the context of Australia 30 years ago, while living now in Jerusalem and facing an even more menacing, existential threat, he said.

Liebler, who settled here eight years ago, said he would write to the Australian authorities, to ask for an explanation as to why he was not told at the time. He also intends to learn as much about the foiled assassination as he can.

Lipski, who while working in Washington as the correspondent for the national daily The Australian, also wrote for the Post and maintained an association with the paper long after he stopped being a regular contributor.

Like Leibler, Lipski was unaware he had been a target, although he did suspect that someone might have been out to get him.

Lipski, who is now CEO of the Pratt Foundation, told the Melbourne daily The Age that he was surprised that ASIO - the Australian Security Intelligence Organization - had not told him at the time. But he said the Jewish community had been given general warnings about the possibility of high-profile figures being sent parcel bombs.

"I did look over my shoulder for a while," he said. "I hope they at least sent a police car down the street from time to time."

The information came to light with the release of 1976 Australian cabinet documents, which had been classified for 30 years.

The details were in a secret ASIO report that had been presented to the cabinet of prime minister Malcolm Fraser. The report described the terrorist threat to Australia at a time when Palestinian groups were hijacking aircraft and carrying out attacks aimed at Jewish institutions in Europe and the Middle East.

ASIO identified a key figure in the plan as Munif Mohammed (Ahmed) Abu Rish, who came to Australia in 1974 claiming to be a journalist and indicated he would return in 1975 to plan the ambassador's assassination. The terrorists were reportedly given fake passports by Palestinians living in Australia.

Abu Rish was apparently diverted on to other tasks by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and did not return. He was reportedly killed mistakenly in 1993 by the IDF in Gaza.

ASIO became concerned about potential Palestinian terrorist activity in Australia long before 1976. As far back as 1972, 15 letter bombs addressed to Israeli diplomats and members of the Jewish community were intercepted in Australian post offices.

Based on its intelligence sources, ASIO believed that the letter bombs had been sent by the Black September terrorist wing of Fatah, some of whose members entered Australia at various times in the early 1970s.

The main clue to date that anything had been seriously amiss can be found in Hawke's biography. Although there is no specific mention of the assassination plot, there is a reference to the distress he suffered in 1973 when he was telephoned by a man claiming to be from Black September who threatened the lives of his children.

The report in The Age refers to Hawke's address to the Zionist Federation in Sydney in January 1974, when he broke down while urging an end to the government's policy of neutrality in the Middle East conflict. "I know that if we allow the bell to be tolled for Israel, it will have tolled for me, for us all," he said.

While Lipski pursued a high-profile career in both the electronic and print media, working for the Jewish as well as the general press, Leibler became the president of Victorian Jewish Board of Deputies and later president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

In both capacities, Leibler had close contacts with influential politicians, especially Hawke, both when Hawke headed the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and later when he became prime minister. Although Hawke was already well-disposed toward Israel, it is possible that Leibler, Lipski and other members of the Jewish community had something to do with enhancing his ardently pro-Israel attitude.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Escaping the Qassams

 Escaping the Qassams

Residents in communities near Gaza react to military estimations of possible escalation of rocket attacks

by Matan Zuri
Published:     01.01.07, 10:20,7340,L-3346902,00.html

Pessimistic estimations by the IDF that a military confrontation may take place in Gaza during the summer of 2007 are causing residents in Sderot and surrounding communities to prepare for such a scenario and its implications in their communities.
The Shaar Hanegev and Ashkelon Beach Regional Councils formulated a program for mass evacuation in the event of an unusually massive rocket barrages.  These communities, in close proximity to Gaza, have been suffering continuous Qassam barrages for months.
Regional council leaders have appealed repeatedly to the government regarding the fact that most structures in the area are not fortified, but their requests to rectify this have gone largely unanswered.

"The process of providing one security room per house is not advancing, and the government is doing nothing," complained Alon Shuster, head of the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council and initiator of the evacuation plan.
"Senior officers in the Southern Command tell us openly that an escalation of rocket attacks is expected soon. We have no choice but to protect our lives by ourselves, without waiting for government instructions."

Both regional councils have formulated plans in the event that the area falls under an increased barrage of Qassams from Gaza. In the Shaar Hanegev region, whose kibbutzim sustain rocket hits on a regular basis, the planning process is in full force.

The program

In the first stage, the regional school next to Sderot will be shut down. Elementary school students will study in makeshift classrooms in the Brur Hayil Kibbutz, which is out of Qassam range.

Teenagers will stay in their homes or in fortified structures and study via internet: Teachers will go over lessons on live broadcast, sent out to all students connected to the internet.

The cost of the program has reached hundreds of thousands of shekels. "Preparations (of the classrooms) are almost complete…We hope that the Education Ministry will contribute along the way," Shuster said.

The Shaar Hanegev region has about a dozen kibbutzim, containing over six thousand residents. The minute that immediate evacuation is decided upon, residents will receive a message by phone call or text message.

In each kibbutz, a special team has been established, who will help the residents and keep in touch with a central operations room, which will be set up in the education center.

The regional council intends to have a practice exercise in January, to test their preparation for an emergency situation using the new program.

If the situation escalates even further, most residents will evacuate to kibbutzim in the strip of land near Eilat, until the barrages recede. A small team will remain in each kibbutz near Gaza, to continue necessary daily maintenance: Milking cows, gathering eggs, plowing, etc.

Preparations in the Ashkelon Beach Regional Council are less extensive, since only five of their communities are within Qassam range: Four kibbutzim and one town.

In the event of intensified attacks, over a thousand residents will be evacuated to the agriculture school in Kfar Silver and the youth camp near Beit Hadar, where classrooms will be converted into temporary housing.

The regional council's security officer Gideon Sharabi said that if the rocket attacks require further evacuation, additional residents will be transferred to towns on the periphery of the region, near Hadera.

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Gaddafi: Allow Jews, Christians entry to Mecca

 Gaddafi: Allow Jews, Christians entry to Mecca

Libyan leader says Eid al-Adha holiday opportunity to bring three main monotheistic religions closer together

by Roee Nahmias
Published:     12.31.06, 15:13,7340,L-3346663,00.html

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi called to "allow Jews and Christians to visit Mecca and circle the Kaaba (cubical building surrounded by the Sacred Mosque)."
These days Muslims all around the world are marking Eid al-Adha, the most important Islamic holiday. Some three million people have made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
Gaddafi believes the holiday offers a great opportunity to bring the three main monotheistic religions closer together. "Everyone has the right to stand atop Mount Arafat and circle the Kaaba," he told the media.

"The Kaaba is not meant for Arabs alone, but for people of all continents; the mistake was that they granted this privilege only to Mohammad's descendents, but the Quran does not support this."

The Libyan leader warned of the dangers of exploiting religion, warning that it could foster terror and destruction.

Half a year ago Gaddafi made similar remarks saying that the Kaaba is the house of God and all the people of the world should encircle it when Prophet Mohammad returns.

"We are the followers of Prophet Mohammad but our position today is wrong because we are preventing them from worshiping God and encircling the Kaaba," he said.

Gaddafi criticized Saddam Hussein's execution saying it was worthless and irrelevant.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sen. Boxer Recalls Award to Muslim Activist & Kicking a CAIR Extremist Off the HHuman Relations Commission

Sen. Boxer Recalls Award to Muslim Activist

Sen. Barbara Boxer recalled an award she recently gave to an Islamic activist because of his ties to a major American Muslim organization—that critics say has ties to terrorist activities.

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Dec 29, 2006

Dec. 29, 2006 - In a highly unusual move, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has rescinded an award to an Islamic activist in her home state because of the man's connections to a major American Muslim organization that recently has been courted by leading political figures and even the FBI.

Boxer's office confirmed to NEWSWEEK that she has withdrawn a "certificate of accomplishment" to Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra after learning that he serves as an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). After directing her staff to look into CAIR, Boxer "expressed concern" about some past statements and actions by the group, as well as assertions by some law enforcement officials that it "gives aid to international terrorist groups," according to Natalie Ravitz, the senator's press spokeswoman.

CAIR, which has 32 offices around the country and bills itself as the leading Muslim-American civil- rights group, has never been charged with any crimes, nor have any of its top leaders. But a handful of individuals who have had ties to CAIR in the past have been convicted or deported for financial dealings with Hamas—another reason cited by Boxer for her action. The senator directed her staff to withdraw the certificate—which she routinely gives to community leaders in California—and asked that a statement she had previously made endorsing CAIR be stricken from the group's Web site, Ravitz said in an e-mail.

Ironically, just last month, Boxer had sent CAIR a letter in connection with its 10th anniversary fundraising dinner endorsing the group as a "constant support system for the American Muslim community" and praising it for its work on civil liberties. "As an advocate for justice and greater understanding, CAIR embodies what we should all strive to achieve," Boxer wrote in the Nov. 18 letter.

Boxer tells NEWSWEEK she never saw the letter to CAIR signed in her name or was even aware of the award to Elkarra before it was sent out. "I feel terrible about this," she says. "We just made a mistake. I was not in the loop. That was an automatic signature [on the letter]." But Boxer stands by her decision to withdraw the award and to distance herself from CAIR, saying she was influenced by previous critical statements about CAIR made by her Democratic colleagues Sens. Richard Durbin of Illinois and Charles Schumer of New York. "To praise an organization because they haven't been indicted is like somebody saying, 'I'm not a crook,'" Boxer says. "I'm going to take a lot of hits for this. But I'm just doing what I think is right."

The move outraged CAIR officials who charged that the liberal Democratic senator was responding to the writings of Joe Kaufman, a blogger who has expressed sympathy for slain Jewish extremist Meir Kahane in the past , and whose columns regularly appear on the Web site of conservative activist David Horowitz. CAIR has formally asked for a meeting with Boxer and demanded that she withdraw the action—which one top CAIR official said smacks of "Islamophobia."

"This is an attempt to marginalize the largest and most mainstream Muslim organization in the country," says Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR's office in southern California. "This is absolutely unacceptable."

Nihad Awad, CAIR's top Washington official, vigorously denied the charges that CAIR has any links to terror groups and said the allegations are based on a "deliberate smear campaign" by individuals who cannot brook any criticism of the Israeli government. "We feel that the same crowd who is pushing these smears against CAIR is the same crowd as the neocons that pushed us into the Iraq war," he says. "They are trying to smear the Muslim community and they are trying to silence its voice. This takes us back to the McCarthy era."

The incident illustrates the political tensions that have repeatedly arisen in recent years when members of Congress and other political leaders deal with a number of leading Muslim-American groups—some of which have been accused of sometimes murky links to terrorist groups. The CAIR case is especially striking, however, because of its timing.

Just last month, CAIR threw fundraising dinners in the Washington and southern California areas that attracted several leading political and law enforcement figures—along with generating a slew of testimonial statements like that submitted by Boxer's office. At a banquet in Arlington, Va., the featured speakers included Joseph Persichini, the assistant director of the FBI in charge of the Washington, D.C., field office, as well as members of Congress and Keith Ellison, the just-elected Democratic representative from Minnesota who next week will become the first Muslim in Congress. The speakers at the dinner in southern California included J. Stephen Tidwell, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office.

Ayloush and other CAIR officials have asked how Boxer's concerns about possible terror links can possibly be true when two senior FBI officials are openly attending its fundraisers and seeking the group's help in reaching out to the Muslim-American community. Awad, the group's executive director in Washington, said that CAIR also has conducted "sensitivity training" courses for FBI and Homeland Security agents as well as local police officers around the country. "We train law enforcement officers on how to deal with the Muslim community," he says.

But terror researcher Steve Emerson—a frequent critic of CAIR—says there has been a fierce internal debate within the law- enforcement community over the FBI's outreach to CAIR, and adds that some agents he has heard from are furious about the presence of bureau officials at the group's dinners. "There's a major clash between field agents and headquarters over this," Emerson says.

One senior law-enforcement official, who asked not to be identified talking about a sensitive matter, agrees that there is a "split in FBI culture" over the bureau's relationships with CAIR and says that some agents "hold their nose" when it comes to dealing with the group. But he said other top law-enforcement officials believe it is essential for the FBI to establish better relations with the Muslim community—if for no other reason than to encourage cooperation and the flow of information on terrorism investigations. "In some cities, CAIR is the only [Muslim] group or the dominant group," the official says.

When asked about the attendance of the two top FBI officials at the recent CAIR dinners, John Miller, the bureau's chief spokesman, responds: "They were invited. It was an opportunity to engage in positive community outreach to the Arab-American and American-Muslim community." Miller acknowledges that FBI officials "don't agree with CAIR on every issue. We have serious disagreements with them on a number of issues. But the important thing is we try to maintain open dialogue with all these groups."

The dispute over Boxer's award began earlier this month when Kaufman, who runs a one-man group in Florida called "Americans Against Hate," posted an article about the Boxer-CAIR connection on the Web site of Front Page Magazine, a publication sponsored by David Horowitz. Kaufman noted that Boxer's office had put out a press release mentioning it was giving a certificate of achievement to Elkarra, 27, who serves as executive director of CAIR's Sacramento office. The certificate was being given "in recognition of his efforts to protect civil liberties and to build bridges among diverse communities in California."

Kaufman said in an interview that one of his goals is "to shut CAIR down." In his article in Front Page, he charges that the group is "connected to Islamic extremism" and notes that two men previously associated with the group have been convicted of terror-related charges and two others have been deported. He also contends that Elkarra himself was a "radical" who had accused Israel of being an "apartheid" and "racist state" and that he had "defended" a northern California man who had trained for jihad in a Pakistani terrorist camp.

Boxer was unaware of the certificate to Elkarra that had been given in her name by staff members in her California office and only learned of it "when she came across a story on Horowitz's blog," according to the e-mail from Ravitz, the senator's spokeswoman. After review by her staff, Boxer was particularly concerned by claims that CAIR had refused to condemn Hamas and Hizbullah and recognize those groups as terrorist organizations," Ravitz said.

In response, CAIR e-mailed to NEWSWEEK a number of past statements in which it condemned suicide bombings and terror attacks. On Oct. 4, 2003, for example, CAIR issued a statement condemning a suicide bombing at a restaurant in Haifa, Israel, that killed 19 people, including three children. "CAIR condemns this vicious attack in the strongest possible terms," the statement read. "The bombing is particularly loathsome, coming as it did on the eve of the Jewish community's holiest day." The Israeli Foreign Ministry accused the group Islamic Jihad of being behind the attack.

But CAIR Executive Director Awad refuses to say whether he would also condemn Hamas—which has taken credit for similar attacks in Israel—as a group or even whether he considers it a terrorist organization like the US. State Department does. "We condemn these groups when they committed acts of terrorism," he says. "But I'm not going to play the game of the pro-Israel lobby just so they can put words in our mouth. Our position is very clear.

"The entire issue is going back to Israel," Awad adds. "If you love Israel, you're OK. If you question Israel, you're not. If that is the litmus test, no American Muslim and no freedom-loving person is going to pass that test."

Awad also dismisses claims that CAIR members or officials have been convicted of terror-related charges, saying all the cases cited by Kaufman involve individuals who had only loose ties to the group in the past. One of the cases cited by Kaufman was Ghassan Elashi, a marketing executive in a Texas computer company and a founding director of CAIR's Texas chapter, who was convicted last year of financial dealings with Mousa Abu Marzook, a self-admitted leader of Hamas who now lives in Damascus. Another case involved Rabi Haddad, a former CAIR fund-raiser in Michigan, who was deported after being accused by Justice Department officials of providing funds to Hamas. "They were former members," says Awad. "This is guilt by association."

Caught in the middle was Elkarra, who recently received a fax from Boxer's office informing him that the certificate he had gotten just a few weeks earlier was being rescinded. He says the news was especially disappointing because he recently spoke at a local synagogue as part of a CAIR-funded project to build relations with the Jewish community. He also rejects the idea that he is an extremist, noting that—contrary to Kaufman's allegations—he never defended a Lodi, Calif., man accused by the FBI of training for jihad in Pakistan. He simply raised questions about the handling of the case by the Justice Department similar to those raised by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as a number of news organizations. "It is disappointing that [Sen. Boxer] has succumbed to these extremists," Elkarra says.

Kaufman, for his part, couldn't be more pleased. "We are proud of Sen. Boxer," he says. "By taking back this award, the senator has shown that she is conscious of the extreme problems that Basim Elkarra and his group, CAIR, pose to the public."

Horowitz, whose Web site first got Boxer's attention, says, "I'm pleased that Boxer listened to us. The fact that Democrats are finally waking up is good."


Kicking a CAIR Extremist Off the Human Relations Commission
By Steven Emerson | November 6, 2006

On October 18, the Phoenix City Council removed an individual named Marwan Ahmad from his position on the
Phoenix Human Relations Commission (PHRC).  The mission of the PHRC, comprised of "volunteer citizens appointed by the Mayor and City Council," is to "advocate and promote respect and understanding among all groups, to discourage all manner and manifestation of discriminatory practices and to monitor any such abuses and to aid in correcting such practices."   Mr. Ahmad, through his words and deeds, has demonstrated time and again that he is incapable of living up to such lofty goals, and as such, the City Council made the correct move in taking him off the PHRC. 

Ahmad, a Phoenix-based publisher, produces two radical newspapers, the English language "Muslim Voice" and the Arabic language "Arab Voice."  The editorial position of  both papers is unapologetically pro-Hamas, including a February 2006 editorial in the "Arab Voice" hailing Hamas' election victory in the West Bank and Gaza. A March 2006 article by Mr. Ahmad in the "Muslim Voice" invokes an Islamic parable to attack the position of the U.S. government and the international community on withholding support for the Hamas government until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel;  Mr Ahmad further complains about the Treasury Department's closing of the Hamas-linked charity, the Holy Land Foundation, whose leadership is set to go on trial next year for funneling millions of dollars to Hamas.  
Ahmad does not reserve his venom for U.S. foreign policy.  He also uses his newspapers to attack members of the Muslim community who disagree with his extremist positions.  In a 2005 edition of the "Muslim Voice," Ahmad ran an editorial cartoon depicting a moderate member of the Arizona Muslim community as a ravenous dog.  

That moderate is Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, an Arizona-based physician and activist.  And why did Ahmad's paper attack Dr. Jasser?  Because Jasser takes the time to monitor and translate Ahmad's publications and alert the local community about his fierce level of extremism.  Jasser's courageous work, shining the light on bigotry and hatred, should be applauded, and can be seen at his website, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. 

But Ahmad's bigotry is not limited to his newspapers.  His company also publishes a phone book of sorts called the "Multicultural Yellow Pages," which, according to a report in the Arizona Republic, includes a map of the Middle East with the word "Palestine" where Israel is located and omits all area Jewish cultural institutions, including all "area codes, airlines and restaurants associated with Israel."

Its page listing foreign embassies and consulates in the Arizona and the U.S., for example, does not mention any Israeli mission, nor does its page on world currencies mention the Israeli shekel.  The page on international area codes lists "Palestine" instead of Israel, and states that such cities as Haifa, Netanya, Ashkelon, Afula, and Akko – all well within the 1967 borders – are part of Palestine.  

With all of Ahmad's pro-Hamas, anti-Israel, anti-U.S. positions, as well as his attack on moderate Muslims, it should come as no surprise, then, that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has come to Ahmad's defense.  CAIR, which often describes itself as a "prominent national Islamic civil rights and advocacy group," has a well-documented history of extremist, anti-American and anti-Israel positions and was founded by members of a now-defunct group, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), an organization that was a losing defendant in a 2004 case stemming from the murder of an American citizen by Hamas gunmen, resulting in a $156 million civil judgment against IAP and several co-defendants. In the case, the judge noted that there is "evidence that IAP provided material support to Hamas."

Additionally, several CAIR officials have been convicted of terrorism related offenses, including Ghassan Elashi, the founder of CAIR-Texas, who, on October 13, was sentenced to 6 years and 8 months in prison for, amongst other charges, laundering money for Hamas.  Elashi is also slated to go on trial next year for his role in the leadership of the Holy Land Foundation. 

Ahmad told the Arizona Republic that "the (Phoenix) City Council is `under the influence of the pro-Israel groups, and they're putting Israeli interests before the city's interests.'"  This is a view that CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad probably shares, as Awad himself stated at an October 28, 2000 anti-Israel rally in Washington D.C., "Brothers and sisters, we are at least 8 million people, but there are 265 million people in this country who have been deceived, who have been misinformed, who have been intimidated by a small group of people who have been hijacking the political process." 

Upon Ahmad's dismissal from the PHRC, the Arizona chapter of CAIR scheduled a press conference to proclaim that Ahmad's First Amendment rights have been violated.  The Arizona chapter of CAIR, along with several other pressure groups, issued a statement announcing a press conference to state their "demands," including that the Mayor and City Council of Phoenix revoke Ahmad's "termination and to reinstate Mr. Marwan Ahmad's membership on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission."  CAIR also "insist(s) that the Mayor and the City Council issue a formal apology to Marwan Ahmad and to the entire Phoenix Muslim Community for demonstrating unprecedented governmental interference on citizens' free speech rights, and for setting a bad example of governmental violation of citizens' due process rights guaranteed by our Constitution."

Of course, the City of Phoenix has neither taken away Mr. Ahmad's free speech rights nor has it violated the First Amendment n any way.  Ahmad is free to continue publishing anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric and attacking less extreme voices in the Islamic community.   But clearly he has no place on a civic board designed to "advocate and promote respect and understanding among all groups."

What really should be insisted upon is an investigation into how Mr. Ahmad got a position on the Phoenix Human Relations Commission in the first place. But recognizing their mistake, the Phoenix City Council deserve great credit for taking the action they did and for standing up to the Islamic militant lobby in their city.
Hat tip:  

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Israel is the Only Middle East Ally for Americans

Angus Reid Global Monitor : Polls & Research
Israel is the Only Middle East Ally for Americans
December 30, 2006

(Angus Reid Global Monitor) - Many adults in the U.S. believe Israel is a partner, according to a poll by Opinion Research Corporation released by CNN. 42 per cent of respondents describe Israel as an ally of the United

Conversely, 40 per cent of respondents believe Saudi Arabia is friendly to the United States. In addition, 77 per cent of respondents think Iran is either unfriendly or an enemy of their country, and 57 per cent feel the same way about Syria.

In July and August, Israel waged war against Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants. On Aug. 18, U.S. president George W. Bush discussed the ceasefire in the Middle East, saying, "The issue is broader than just Hezbollah. The issue is also Syria and Iran, two nations that supported Hezbollah in its attempts to create enough havoc. I guess people feel like they could take political advantage of the situation, we just can't let them do it."

In April 2005, Bush met with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah in Texas. The two leaders issued a joint statement, where their two nations re-committed to "fostering values of understanding, tolerance, dialogue, co-existence, and the rapprochement between cultures (and) fighting any form of thinking that promotes hatred, incites violence, and condones terrorist crimes which can by no means be accepted by any religion or law."

On Dec. 6, the Iraq Study Group- a bipartisan panel of experts- presented its findings on how to deal with the situation in Iraq. The ten members called for a quicker process to train Iraqi forces, engaging with Iran and Syria in a dialogue aimed at stabilizing Iraq, and pulling back U.S. combat troops by early 2008.

Polling Data

For each of the following countries, please say whether you consider it an ally of the United States, friendly but not an ally, unfriendly, or an enemy of the United States.

Ally 42% Friendly 39% Unfriendly 8% Enemy 5%

Saudi Arabia
Ally 18% Friendly 40% Unfriendly 18% Enemy 18%

Ally 4% Friendly 14% Unfriendly 29% Enemy 48%

Ally 8% Friendly 23% Unfriendly 29% Enemy 28%

Source: Opinion Research Corporation / CNN
Methodology: Telephone interviews with 1,019 American adults, conducted from
Dec. 15 to Dec. 17, 2006. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Israel and the Middle East III: The Obsession

Israelis Berl and Smadar are on an airplane that crashes in the Pacific ocean. They paddle their lifeboat to the usual island. There are many pressing problems of survival, as well as natural urges that suggest themselves in that situation.

"What are we going to do?" asks Smadar.

"We need to give up the occupied West Bank immediately," says Berl.

"Never. We must annex Judea and Samaria immediately!" says Smadar.

Since 1967, every question concerned with Israel and with the Middle East has been answered in terms of the territories conquered in the 6-day war. Everyone who talks about Israeli national planning and strategy discusses the occupation. Everyone in Israel who discusses the problem of Islamist terror also ties it to the territorial question as well. Those who want to keep the territories are also those who insist that all Muslims are Islamists and they are all out to destroy Israel, while those who want to "end the occupation" at any cost often behave as if the Hamas and al-Qaeda are liberal democrats. End the occupation and they will all love Israel. The convenience of these stances are obvious. They are not related to any facts about the Qur'an or Islamic beliefs or Islamist ambitions. They only serve to support different theses about the territories.



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Hamas boosts Temple Mount activities

Hamas boosts Temple Mount activities

The Jerusalem Police are becoming wary of the increasing activity by Hamas members on the Temple Mount, and despite attempts to clamp down on the recruiting and expressions of support for the organization, police officers are not convinced that the activities are "even close" to being on the decline, Israel Radio reported on Monday.

On Monday morning, police were set to request a remand extension for four east Jerusalem residents who are suspected of leading a Hamas faction on the Temple Mount.

The four were due to be brought before the Jeruslaem District Court.

Over the weekend, five youngsters, holders of Israeli identity cards, were arrested on suspicion of hanging a Hamas flag and pictures of Hamas's Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh, at the site.

Police officials told Army Radio that Hamas was attempting to exploit the large numbers attending prayer services on the Temple Mount for the Id Al-Adha holiday, and thus making special efforts to expand its activities during this period.

On Saturday, Israel banned four other people from the Temple Mount for a period of 15 days after they also hung pictures of Haniyeh and flags of the movement at the site.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Summary of Editorials from the Hebrew Press - Jan 1, 2007

(Government Press Office)
28 December 2006

Haaretz - Ma'ariv - Yediot Aharonot - Globes - Hazofe - Jerusalem Post -

Haaretz writes: "Some 300 Sudanese refugees who succeeded in escaping the genocide in Darfur infiltrated into Israel last year. It would have been natural to assume that the Jewish state - which still recalls the Jewish refugees knocking on the West's doors during the Holocaust - would absorb these refugees. Unfortunately, it seems that a deep process of dulling the senses has overtaken Israeli society: The country is using a range of bizarre methods to deport the refugees or keep them in jail. Israel should open its gates, and also its heart, to the refugees. If there are grounds for security fears, the authorities should conduct all necessary checks, but should not see this as grounds for a sweeping rejection of all the refugees."

The Jerusalem Post comments on the execution of Saddam Hussein in Iraq: "We do not know if there might have been better ways to organize Saddam's trial or to manage his execution. On its face, the trial seemed to provide ample opportunity for the accused to defend himself. From a moral point of view, it is hard to imagine a fair trial reaching any other verdict. We can now hope that Saddam's followers will give up any dreams they might have had of being restored to power, and that this will aid efforts to improve security in Iraq."

Yediot Aharonot mentions the movie, "Man of the Year" in which a comedian decides to run for President and wins. The editors says that this movie makes clear beyond all doubt that should Israelis fail to choose a serious candidate with values, they will awaken to a nightmare similar to the one portrayed in the movie.

Yediot Aharonot in its second editorial, says that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is rising from among the brand-name political crowd as an interesting alternative. "Livni gives rise to the feeling that today she is the only one in the political echelons who is beginning to understand how to march Israel forward [kadima]."

Hatzofeh discusses the hanging of former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein and notes the various reactions around the world.

[Yael Gvirtz and Moshe Eishon wrote today's editorials in Yediot Aharonot and Hatzofeh, respectively.]


Continued (Permanent Link)

Carter and Makdisi: cut from the same cloth

Return to the Article

December 30, 2006

Carter and Makdisi: cut from the same cloth

Rachel Neuwirth
Saree Makdisi , a Comparative English Literature professor at UCLA, wrote an article in support of former President Jimmy Carter's accusation of Israel as an apartheid state.  There is an eerie consistency in Makdisi's ideas and writing style.  His anchor point is always the indisputable validity of all Palestinian grievances.  To buttress this profession of faith, he shapes his own set of facts in the belief that his argumentation would gain him a few converts.  From selective facts to out of context facts, from distorted facts all the way through invented facts, Makdisi never shies away from the most egregious concoctions. He now finds an ally in former President Jimmy Carter, a master of fact fabrication.  It is not clear whether the discredited master needs all the help he can get to stem the downfall of his respectability, or whether the academic, in a desperate quest for credibility, resorts to " testimonial", a device well known to all propagandists.

The last refuge of the scoundrel is now the alliance with celebrities, no matter how far down these celebrities have fallen in disrepute.  A cursory look at the "facts" which, in Makdisi's view, support Carter's characterization of Israel as an apartheid society reveal the vacuity of the whole argumentation.

"Separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis"?  Certainly justified when Israeli motorists became regular targets of Arab gunmen.  "Army checkpoints"?  After dozens of potential suicide bombers were stopped at these checkpoints, it would be criminal to dismantle them.  "Closure and curfews"?  When the shielding of murderers among the Palestinian civilian population proved to be their standard modus operandi, closure and curfews turned out to be an efficient way to check the bloodshed.  "Closed military areas"?  Aren't those areas normally closed to civilians, especially in times of unrest?  "Different sets of rules for Jews and non-Jews in the West Bank"?  To put it mildly, Jews are not suicide-bombers!

Makdisi then oversteps Carter's criticism of Israel by denying that non-Jews "are given the same treatment under the law."  There are two sides to this issue.  First, Israeli law grants the same civil and religious rights to all its citizens.  Israeli Arabs are represented at some of the highest levels in parliament, in the judiciary and in various diplomatic positions.  Makdisi, of course, never alludes to that, nor does he mention the present state of affairs in the Arab world, which is light years behind the Israeli democracy.  Second, there are also many prominent Israeli Arabs, and a growing number of their followers, whose sole objective is to destabilize or destroy the State of Israel.  Among those are  a) the Islamists: Ibrahim Sarsur, who believes that "the Judaization of the state threatens [the Muslims]", and Sheikh Raed Salah who ignites the Muslim masses by urging them to "save Jerusalem from the hands of the Jews"; and  b) politicians such as MK Azmi Bishara who openly consorts with Israel's enemies and lavishes praise on them.  Demanding that these disloyal citizens benefit from equal treatment is preposterous not only in Israel but in any self-respecting democracy around the world.  Mr. Makdisi should understand that citizenship is not a right, but a privilege accorded to those who are prepared to assume their responsibilities.  These elementary nuances are obviously foreign to Makdisi's line of thought.

He further shows his callous ignorance when he proclaims that Israel should revert from being "the state of Jewish people" and turn into "the state of its actual citizens."  Since its inception, Israel has been the nation-state of the Jewish people.  This is and always will be the essence of Zionism, notwithstanding the extension of Israeli citizenship to 20% of its population which is essentially Arab, provided they respect the Jewish character of the state.  In that regard, comparing Israel to the United States is ludicrous, since the U.S. never had the vocation of a nation-state.  Rather than condemning what he calls "the indefensible", Makdisi should refrain from obscuring the perfectly understandable.  The indignation expressed by Makdisi should be directed to the real "apartheid" prevailing in Palestinian society where not a single Jewish community is tolerated and where its non-Muslim Arabs are being persecuted to the point of near extinction.  Again, this projection onto others of the actual failings within seems to be a staple of Makdisi's discourse.

Carter and Makdisi deserve each other.  These two Siamese minds will not recoil at any distortion to push their dubious agenda.  In light of the justified uproar that Carter generated in the wake of his latest publication, one wonders about Makdisi's staunch support.  When the Titanic was sinking, everyone was eager to jump ship.  No smart person would cling to what was bound to become a wreck, regardless of the impressive "Titanic" emblazoned on the stern.  There are many lifeboats, with the name "Truth" more modestly written on their bow, that would save Mr. Makdisi's reputation, should he decide to abandon the imposing darkness of the hull to which he desperately clings.  Many years ago, President Carter was as respectable as the Titanic was unsinkable.  But since his fateful encounter with Yasser Arafat and his stubbornly blind course on the Palestinian issue, a moral gash has affected his stature.  This has been obvious for some time, in spite of his steady cohort of admiring followers.  But his latest book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, signed his demise.  He will be the last one on board, perhaps with Makdisi at his side, trying to convince himself of those unsinkable ideas that can no longer float.

There is one inadvertent truth in the last sentence of Makdisi's article.  He writes "And the main lesson of Carter's book is that we have finally reached that limit."  The limit, according to the author, is the "cover up" of all the purported abuses that Israel inflicts on the Palestinians.  I wish he could see the real limit in Carter's book:  the peddling of falsehoods that insult the intelligence of a public which is far more acquainted with the truth than both Carter and Makdisi think.

Salomon Benzimra contributed to this article

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IDF SPOKESPERSON : Easing of restrictions in Judea and Samaria

January 1st 2007

Easing of restrictions in Judea and Samaria

Following directives of the Minister of Defense as part of the political
echelon's policy to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population, the
IDF's Central Command has prepared for the implementation of easements, as

1        Maximal easing of the checking of goods and the services provided
to the Palestinian population.

2        Easements on the movement of Palestinians between the villages and
the cities.
3        Easements of the security checks of the Palestinian population in
the different crossings.
4        Building of interchanges that will allow flowing movement of
Palestinian vehicles.

The IDF will make every effort to maintain the daily life of the Palestinian
population while using all means at its disposal to act against terrorists
in order to protect the citizens of Israel.

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Mary, ´Palestinian refugee´

Mary, ´Palestinian refugee´
By JOSEPH FARAH 12/30/06 1:00 a.m. Eastern) 

 When it comes to the politicization of the Christmas story, I thought I had seen it all.  
But the London Independent´s shameless mischaracterization of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as "a Palestinian refugee" takes the proverbial cake. 

The story by Johann Hari published Dec. 23 begins: "In two days, a third of humanity will gather to celebrate the birth pains of a Palestinian refugee in Bethlehem – but two millennia later, another mother in another glorified stable in this rubble-strewn, locked down town is trying not to howl."  
It goes on to describe a 5-year-old tale of an Arab woman who claims she was stopped from entering Israel to deliver her twins and forced to go 20 minutes in another direction to an Arab hospital.  

It´s amazing. It´s bizarre. It´s breathtaking at what passes for Western journalism in the Middle East today.  
First of all, was Mary "a Palestinian refugee"? No, Mary was a Jew, living in the occupied territory of Israel. She wasn´t trying to get to a Roman hospital to have her child. She was traveling with her husband from her home in Nazareth to Bethlehem, where the Roman authorities decreed those from the House of David would pay their taxes.  
By the way, neither the area of Bethlehem nor Nazareth had ever been considered Palestine or, more appropriately, Philistia, up through the time of Mary, Joseph and Jesus. In fact, it was not for another 100 years that the Romans would think about renaming Israel as Palestine in an effort to make the world forget about the Jews who had been slaughtered and dispersed.  

There were no Philistines or Palestinians around. They hadn´t been heard from for over 500 years. 
It´s beyond silliness.  
Who are these anti-Israel activists the Western press dispatches to cover the Middle East? Where do they come from? Where are they trained? Where are they educated? How is it possible that such drivel is actually published?  
What is it exactly that the so-called Palestinians want? Do they want their own homeland or not? It seems to me they´ve got it. But now they want to be able to travel into Israel for medical care? What´s wrong with their own hospitals? Why is it that they don´t decide to buy more medicine and fewer guns?  

Don´t get me wrong. I don´t blame "the modern-day Mary" in this fable for wanting first-class medical care in Israel. And had Bethlehem remained under Israeli governance, that´s exactly what the people of Bethlehem would have received. But the so-called Palestinians demanded their own country. Unfortunately for them, that means Palestinian hospitals, too.  

The Palestinian authorities are also demanding that no Jews be permitted to live in their territories. Yet, there is shock that Arab Palestinians should not be able to cross into Israel at all hours of the day and night without facing checkpoints and security.  
Is this a tragedy?  
Yes, it is. I would much prefer to see these poor Arabs live freely, as they did under Israeli governance. But, for heaven´s sake, they rejected that option with extreme violence and terrorism.  
Is that context not important for people unfamiliar with the region to understand? Is it not important for reporters covering the region to understand?  
Let´s call this what it is: Deliberate deception. It is the worst form of propaganda. In another time, we labeled it agit-prop. What is the purpose? Is it to stir up more hate and violence? Is the purpose of such lies to immunize those serving them up from terrorist attacks?  Paragraph-17 Contains
One can only speculate. But one thing is certain: This is not journalism.  Paragraph-18 Contains
On a side note, as one of those Christians referred to in the reporter´s lead paragraph, I wasn´t aware that one-third of humanity celebrated Mary´s birth pains on Christmas. Silly me. I was under the impression we celebrated the birth of the Savior. (© 2006, Inc 12/30/06)

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Forty years of ambiguity

Forty years of ambiguity
By Akiva Eldar

The year 2007 will mark 40 years since the occupation of the West Bank, or 40 years since the liberation of Judea and Samaria. Next year, we will celebrate Jerusalem Day, the unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem, or 40 years since the reunification of the capital.
Even regarding its name and title there is no agreement, neither among ourselves, nor with our neighbors or the international community. What is important is that we already have a director for the birthday celebrations of the most ambiguous creature to have entered this world in recent generations.
It is possible to find a number of advantages in Israel's policy of nuclear ambiguity. Henry Kissinger made a career on "constructive ambiguity" as a method for furthering diplomatic efforts. It is hard to think of a more destructive phenomenon than the ambiguous approach of the Israeli establishment to issues related to the occupied/liberated/administered territories.
Shortly after the Six-Day War, then-labor minister Yigal Allon was asked in the Knesset to respond about the possibility of replacing the armistice lines (the Green Line) from official maps with cease-fire lines. "While these lines do not constitute agreed and recognized political borders," Along explained, "from the point of view of international law, and from a practical political stance, the cease-fire lines are the sole demarcation lines that exist between Israel and its neighbors." In other words, Israeli control over the territories is not agreed and recognized, but that is what we have, and that is what we will win with.
The legal-formalistic ambiguity has been supplied since November 1967 by the difference in the English version of the UN Security Council resolution, which called for the Israeli withdrawal from "territories occupied in the recent conflict," and the French version, which calls for a withdrawal from "the territories." What to do with the Palestinian population that insists on sticking to its land and threatens to spoil the demographic balance? Israeli ambiguity found a creative solution to this. The application of Israeli law and administration in select areas - Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
In slogans, Jerusalem is a unified city. In practice, the separation fence cuts off thousands of Palestinians residing inside the municipal borders of Jerusalem. The discriminatory policy of ministries and the municipality illustrates the ambiguity between the ethos of the city's unification and its Judaization. Israelis are perfectly fine with this ambiguity. Who cares whether this is inconvenient for the Palestinians? Similarly with regard to the Gaza Strip: Israel has disengaged from inside the territory, but continues to control it from beyond. In a situation in which the recognized government in the Gaza Strip is not sovereign, there is ambiguity whether Israel is completely relieved from responsibility for the fate of the residents in this miserable region.
In the West Bank, the parts that official annexation has skipped over, the military commander is sovereign, and, according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israeli citizens should not be settled there. The ambiguous term "administered lands" was invented, "state lands" is pulled out of Ottoman law, and we declare that "everything is up for negotiation." Everything, except the "settlement blocs," of course, whose borders (how could it be otherwise) are ambiguous and are unacceptable to the other side. To enable expansion of the settlements, contrary to international promises, we invent the excuse of having to meet the needs of "natural growth" whose scale is ambiguous.
And, in order to protect ourselves from the Palestinians, for whom the occupation is not at all ambiguous, we invent an ambiguous policy of assassinations, blockades and shootings. This ambiguity is eating away at every good part of the army, politics and all branches of the establishment. Some of the basic court rulings relating to the occupation/liberation of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria, suggest that ambiguity affliction has also reached the Supreme Court.
Following such a long and fervent addiction to the drug of ambiguity, it is no surprise that the leadership and public are confused by challenges like the Arab League resolution of March 2002, which is based on a very clear principle: land for peace. It is much more convenient for them to have a road map without lines and celebrations of "unification" with empty slogans.

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Our obligation to refugees, as refugees

Our obligation to refugees, as refugees
By Haaretz Editorial

Some 300 Sudanese refugees who succeeded in escaping the genocide in Darfur infiltrated into Israel last year. It would have been natural to assume that the Jewish state - which still recalls the Jewish refugees knocking on the West's doors during the Holocaust - would absorb these refugees, just as the late Menachem Begin, whose first decision as prime minister was to absorb Vietnamese refugees, did.
Unfortunately, it seems that a deep process of dulling the senses has overtaken Israeli society: The country is using a range of bizarre methods to deport the refugees or keep them in jail. The authorities justify the imprisonments and deportations on security grounds: fear that members of Al-Qaida, which is active in Sudan, have infiltrated in the guise of refugees with the goal of perpetrating terror attacks here.
This fear seems to be contradicted by the facts: The refugees first fled to Egypt, and only after suffering deprivation and harassment there did they flee here. They arrived with nothing but the clothes on their backs, and immediately turned themselves over to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, with their hands in the air. Therefore, it seems that the true reason for refusing to absorb them is demographic: the fear that their successful absorption would bring masses of refugees to Israel, from Darfur and other killing fields worldwide.
At this point, it is worth returning to the lessons of the Holocaust. Ever since its establishment, the Jewish state has been torn between the national lesson of the Holocaust - a strong national homeland that jealously guards both its security and a solid Jewish majority - and the universal lesson, which mandates strict protection of human rights. The tension between these two lessons requires a delicate balance, not blatant disregard for one of them.
Israel should open its gates, and also its heart, to the refugees. If there are grounds for security fears, the authorities should conduct all necessary checks, but should not see this as grounds for a sweeping rejection of all the refugees - just as it did not halt all tourism from Britain after a few British tourists turned out to be terrorists.
The demographic fear is also legitimate, but the conclusion to be drawn from it is not the rejection of all refugees, but the establishment of quotas. Israel should even initiate the establishment of such a quota and seek refugees worldwide to fill it, rather than waiting for refugees to come knocking at its doors.
The fact that Professor Yehuda Bauer, one of the world's leading Holocaust researchers, heads the Committee for the Darfur Refugees, is no accident, just as it is no accident that American Jews are among their country's leading activists against the genocide in Sudan. As a society informed by consciousness of the Holocaust, and especially now, when Israel is demanding that the world remember the Holocaust to help it defend itself against the Iranian threat, the state must demonstrate a different attitude toward refugees.

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Exclusive: UNIFIL raises level of alert

Exclusive: UNIFIL raises level of alert

Fearing attacks by Global Jihad and Hizbullah, the UNIFIL has raised the level of alert around its bases in southern Lebanon, a high-ranking officer in the multinational force told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

According to the officer, threat-warnings recently relayed by the IDF regarding potential threats were "taken seriously" and were being handled with extreme caution. The officer refused to say what changes had been made to security procedures in UNIFIL bases, except that "necessary measures" were taken.

"This threat is serious," the high-ranking officer said, "and we are taking the necessary precautions."

Two weeks ago, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's Research Division, told the cabinet that there were increasing signs that Global Jihad elements were establishing a presence in Lebanon and planning attacks against UNIFIL.

The high-ranking UNIFIL officer said the Global Jihad terror cells posed a direct threat to the multinational force in southern Lebanon, particularly to its French, Italian and Spanish soldiers.

UNIFIL issued a year-end press release over the weekend saying it now had more than 11,000 peacekeepers in its area of operations, Lebanon south of the Litani River.

The latest addition to UNIFIL came with the recent arrival of troops from Qatar, marking the first time that the country has contributed to a UN peacekeeping mission.

UNIFIL currently has 11,083 personnel from 26 countries, including 9,167 ground troops and 1,777 naval personnel.

UNIFIL said its troops destroyed 1,019 explosive devices over the past week, including rockets, grenades, cluster bombs and antitank and antipersonnel mines.

Since the cease-fire went into effect on August 14, UNIFIL sappers have destroyed 16,819 explosive devices, remnants of the monthlong war between Israel and Hizbullah.

On Friday, two Belgian UNIFIL soldiers were lightly wounded when they stepped on a cluster bomb during a mine-clearing operation in southern Lebanon.

According to a high-ranking source in the IDF Northern Command, UNIFIL has been doing an exemplary job in preventing Hizbullah from reestablishing outposts along the border or bearing arms in public in southern Lebanon. Its Spanish, French and Italian soldiers, he said, were particularly effective in locating and destroying Hizbullah weapon caches.

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Defense Ministry may halt Jordan Valley settlement

Defense Ministry may halt Jordan Valley settlement

Amid protests from the United States and the European Union, the Defense Ministry is reconsidering its approval of a new Jordan Valley community located over the Green Line, The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday.

The government and the Defense Ministry initially downplayed last week's decision to allow the construction of 30 homes for Gaza evacuees in Maskiot.

A government source told the Post then that the decision was merely "adjusting" the status of a plot of state land where settlement has been authorized since 1981.

The small community, which is located off an isolated road in the Jordan Valley, has been populated on and off since 1982. Currently, it is home to a few permanent residents and a small pre-army academy that houses 50 Orthodox men in fewer than a dozen small white buildings.

The new homes would be constructed adjacent to the existing structures and would more than triple the number of structures on the site.

But after the EU and the US said the initiative violated Israel's international commitments with respect to the West Bank, Defense Minister Amir Peretz decided to reconsider the decision, according to sources in the Defense Ministry.

Discussions within the government are also taking place considering whether to go ahead with the project.

Jordan Valley Regional Council head Dubi Tal dismissed as insignificant the government's new hesitation to move forward with a project that has passed through six phases of approval over the last 14 months.

"It's nothing serious," he told the Post on Sunday.

Gaza evacuee Yossi Hazut, who is leading the Shirat Hayam group that wants to live there, said he too believed the government's case of cold feet was temporary.

Tal said then-prime minister Ariel Sharon and then-defense minister Shaul Mofaz first approved the move a few months after the Gaza disengagement in 2005.

Sitting in his living room looking out at the rain sweeping across the brown hills of the Jordan Valley, he recalled when he turned to Sharon.

"I thought, 'Here is an opportunity. If he [Sharon] says yes, it would have political implications for the Jordan Valley.' And that is how it was.

"I asked him for permission to bring evacuees. He said, 'We will authorize it.'"

Tal said he saw Sharon's decision as tacit approval for the continuation of Jewish settlement in the Jordan Valley.

Sharon, according to Tal, placed a number of conditions on his approval. The families could only be moved to a lightly-populated, authorized settlement, Tal said.

Sharon also asked that the move be kept quiet to avoid attention.

"We spoke very specifically about Maskiot," Tal said.

Since then, he said, there has been a long bureaucratic process, with the final phase completed last week. The plan, he said, is legal and cannot be stopped.

But the US and the EU say it is illegal.

State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said on Wednesday: "The establishment of a new settlement or the expansion of an existing settlement would violate Israel's obligations under the road map."

Gallegos said the US called on Israel "to meet its road map obligations and avoid taking steps that could be viewed as pre-determining the outcome of final-status negotiations."

The EU issued a similar statement last week, adding that "such unilateral actions are also illegal under international law and threaten to render the two-state solution physically impossible to implement."

The EU statement also said "this development would also mean the relocation of some of the Gaza settlers in the West Bank, something that the EU said was not acceptable when it gave its support to the Gaza disengagement."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Palestinians Again Worship Saddam in Death--Widlanski

Palestinians Embrace Hanged Saddam, Condemn Execution
Palestinians Again Worship Saddam in Death

By Michael Widlanski

   In a bizarre and rare display of unity, Palestinians of all political
stripes today (Sunday  Dec. 31, 2006) saluted Saddam Hussein, the late Iraqi
dictator, while strongly condemning those who carried out his execution

   "Saddam Hussein has entered history as a symbol of state nationalism
[wattaniyya] and Pan-Arab nationalism [qawmiyya].who helped the Palestinian
revolution," asserted a communiquי issued by the Fatah movement of PLO
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The Fatah statement  was read on official
Palestinian radio and TV.

   "The execution of the former Iraqi president was widely condemned,"
observed Voice of Palestine radio, the official mouthpiece of the
Palestinian Authority headed by Dr. Abbas.

     "This is a blow against all that is Arab and all that is Muslim,"
declared VOP radio anchorwoman Samah Massar.

   VOP radio spent several minutes this morning detailing the condemnations
of Saddam's hanging Saturday morning, quoting at length from statements by
the Islamic terror group Hamas, from the smaller Islamic Jihad, from the
Marxist-oriented Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, among

   "This is a political assassination," declared a statement from Hamas, the
Islamic party that controls the majority in the Palestinian legislature.

   "This is state terrorism," averred the statement from the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, a group that pioneered airplane hijackings
in the 1960's.

   The longest condemnation cited by VOP radio and official PBC television
came from the Fatah movement of  Abbas himself, a man who is perceived by
many Western observers as a "moderate" and whose government has just been
given 2,000-4,000 automatic rifles by Israel, Egypt and the United States.

  "The Palestinian Liberation Movement-Fatah-condemns the execution of
Former President Saddam Hussein," declared VOP radio in its opening
headlines Sunday morning.

   "It is against international law and international principles," declared
the Fatah movement's communiquי.

   "This is a betrayal of all that is Arab and Islamic," declared the
Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the strike force and suicide squad leaders of
Fatah, in a separate statement read on Voice of Palestine radio.

    Fatah and its late leader Yasser Arafat also applauded Saddam's invasion
of Kuwait in 1990 and his subsequent missile attacks on Israel, and there
were numerous signs that Arafat tried to copy some of Saddam's techniques.

   For the last five years, the Palestinian Authority/Fatah movement under
Arafat and his successor Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas and Jihad have
developed their own rocket threats, launching hundreds of  Qassam rockets at
targets in Israel.

   For his part, Saddam saw in the Palestinians and their combat a way to
demonstrate his Pan-Arab leadership credentials, and he regularly financed
the families of Palestinian human bombers who blew themselves up in Israeli
stores, hotels and bus stations. The Palestinians never forgot this.

   Later this evening, even the regularly scheduled Fatah celebrations of
its own anniversary were overtaken by crowd salutes to the dead Iraqi

   "By blood and by spirit, we will redeem you O Palestine," chanted
Palestinian crowds holding aloft pictures of Saddam, as they paraded  in the
rain-swept main square in Gaza Sunday evening.

    The  pictures were shown live on Abbas's state television outlet, PBC
[Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, in a spot where PLO Chairman Abbas was
set to address the crowd marking Fatah Day, the anniversary of the first
Fatah terror attack on Israel on January 1, 1965: the strike at Israel's
National Water Carrier.

   The reasons for Palestinian affection for Saddam-from Hamas to Fatah-also
seem based on strong areas of agreement: a combination of Qawmiyyah [Pan
Arab nationalism] and Pan-Islamic sentiment.

   These two principles were  basic to Saddam's mass appeal to "the Arab
street" as well as to  the popularity of one of Saddam's greatest fans,
Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader who preceded Mahmoud Abbas as head of
Fatah, the PLO and the Palestinian Authority.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication
whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former
reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The
Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also
served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in
1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public
Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria expert: Assad overtures serious

Syria expert: Assad overtures serious

British journalist Patrick Seale, who wrote the biography of former Syrian President Hafiz al Assad, father of current President Bashar Assad, said Sunday morning that the latest Syrian peace overtures toward Israel were serious.

Seale, who is close to the Syrian regime, told Israel Radio in an interview that Assad wants a diplomatic pact because he fears the anarchy in the Middle East, which he believes has been caused by the failure of US policy.

Earlier this month, Damascus came out with an offer to renew peace negotiations with Israel after Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem told The Washington Post that his country was willing to hold talks without preconditions. Israeli security officials have differed on whether or not the Syrian offer was sincere.

Seale said that the Syrians' readiness to renew negotiations without preconditions meant an interest in starting talks from where they left off during former prime minister Ehud Barak's government.

He also cautioned that Israel should not think peace with Damascus would distance Syria from Iran, since the two countries have had good relations since the early days of the Islamic uprising.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Muslims 16.5% of [Israeli] population

Report: Muslims 16.5% of population

The Muslim population in Israel, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, was 1.2
million at the end of 2006 - 16.5 percent of the total population of Israel - according
to data released Sunday by the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The CBS traditionally releases data on the size of the Muslim population in Israel around
the three-day festival Id al-Adha that began on Saturday according to most Sunnis or
Sunday according to Shi'ites and some Sunni sects.

Id al-Adha (or Id al-Qurban) the festival of the sacrifice, commemorates the Muslim
version of the binding of Isaac. In the Muslim version it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was
to be sacrificed by his father Abraham. Ishmael was saved at the last minute after God
replaced him with a ram.

The CBS uses the opportunity of a holiday celebrating a father's willingness to sacrifice his son to release Muslim fertility rates and population growth.

At 4.03 children per woman in 2005, fertility rates among Israeli-Muslims are among the highest in comparison to neighboring Arab countries. They surpass Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait and Tunisia.

Since the 1950's Muslim Israeli fertility rates have gradually fallen from a level of approximately nine children per woman. After about a decade of stability at five, fertility rates over the past six years have again fallen significantly from 4.74 in 2000 to their present levels.

In contrast, the Jewish fertility rate in 2005 was 2.69.

Two demography experts from the Hebrew University spoke with the Jerusalem Post on condition of anonymity, explaining their unwillingness to be quoted was connected to the fact that the subject of Muslim fertility rates in Israel was a highly charged issue politically.

They said that varies theories have been used to explain the relatively high Muslim-Israeli fertility rates but said that no definitive explanation of the phenomenon has been advanced.

The preferred explanation is the micro-economic theory which states that Muslim-Israeli women have limited economic opportunities in the workplace or do not utilize the opportunities they have (only 14.6 percent of Muslim women are employed compared to 50 percent of Jewish Israelis). As a result, Muslim-Israeli women, who are on average more educated than their peers in neighboring Arab countries, do not see child bearing as a big career sacrifice.

In contrast, the minority status theory posits that Muslim-Israelis see large families as a means of combating threats to their lower social status.

However, one demographer said he was unable to prove the minority status theory especially since it did not seem to hold true regarding Christian- and Druze-Israelis, whose fertility rates were comparable to Jewish Israelis.

Sharp cuts in child allowances since 2002 may have had an impact on fertility rates as well, conjectured one of the demographers.

CBS figures also pointed to a very young Muslim population. Some 43% were 14 years old or younger and about a quarter of all children aged 14 years or younger were Muslim in 2005.

Average monthly income per household for Muslims was NIS 7,055, compared to a national average of NIS 11,680 while consumption per household was surprisingly higher than income, at NIS 9,892 compared to the national average of NIS 10,816.

Muslims might be able to spend more than they earn due to social benefits that supplement
their income.

Some 59 percent of Muslim men were employed compared to 60.7 percent of Jewish men.

Muslim unemployment was 11.9 percent compared to 9 percent among Jews.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian leader has mandate, obligation to respond to Qassam rocket attacks

Palestinian leader has mandate, obligation to respond to Qassam rocket attacks
Published:  12.31.06, 11:07
While I understand Palestinians who argue with me that the Israelis have killed more Palestinians than Palestinians have killed Israelis, I also feel it is more important that the Palestinians clean up their own house before pointing any fingers of accusation.
What that means is that Palestinians have a moral responsibility to first acknowledge the injustices committed by their own before pointing to injustices committed by Israelis.
Then and only then can the cry for justice resonate with a powerful moral depth. If Palestinians can stand up for the principle of justice and speak out against the killing of Israelis, then their cries for justice when Israelis kill Palestinians will carry the moral weight of righteousness.
But when Palestinians only complain that the Israelis have committed crimes, and close their eyes when Palestinians commit similar or worse crimes, it is hypocrisy and their cries for justice ring hollow.
 The failure of Palestinians to stand up and denounce injustice across the board is exactly why many in the Western world shrug their shoulders at the recent report by the Israeli civil rights organization B'Tselem that 660 Palestinians were killed, including 141 childre, in 2006, three times more than the past year. In comparison during 2006, only 23 Israelis were killed, down from 50 the previous year.
These are stunning statistics that address the true imbalance in power between Israel's excessive use of force in the Territories and the often more dramatic acts of violence by Palestinians.
Although Israelis also shrug off this tragic and lopsided toll, the fact remains these numbers beg the question, "Who is more engaged in violence, Palestinians or Israelis?"
But that question can never be answered because of the Palestinians' failure to address their own actions and misdeeds.
This week, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to pursue peace and resumption of negotiations, Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip fired Qassam missiles into Israel to provoke conflict and block peace.
This time, the Qassam rockets were fired by Islamic Jihad, a religious terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel, secular Muslim institutions and all Christians. Islamic Jihad shares the same corrupt vision of Hamas, which managed to slip into government control by exploiting the "societal disarray by suffering" of the Palestinian public.
Crack down on extremists
It's the story of the Palestinian tragedy. The Palestinian leadership engages in peaceful negotiations to lift Palestinians out of their misery and suffering, only to be embarrassed and undermined by freelance terrorists, many allied with the so-called "Hamas Government."
If the Palestinian National Authority has any legal authority, and if it is in fact a "government," then its first responsibility should be to crack down on these extremists firing Qassam rockets into Israel.
No one in Palestinian society has a right to engage in violence against Israel, except the government. That's not to say that Abbas should authorize a war against Israel. It is to say that there is a legal principle of authority here that must be enforced and respected.
Those individuals firing Qassam rockets at Israel are criminals because they are violating Palestinian laws against violent behavior. It is not resistance to fire Qassam rockets into Israel when at least one major force in the Palestinian government is engaging Israel in peaceful negotiations.
Qassams not justified
Individuals have no legal right to engage in any form of violence when they have a government.
The history of Hamas and other Palestinian extremists is clear. Whenever Israeli and Palestinian governments have taken steps towards a negotiated peace, Hamas and the extremists have used violence to derail peace.
The Qassam rocket is no different than the suicide bomber. Neither is justified.
That means that Abbas is obligated to crack down on those extremists. To arrest them. To disarm them. To even jail and prosecute them, because while those terrorists hide behind the noble claim of "resistance," their real motivation is the intentional destruction of the peace process.
If Palestinians want justice in the New Year, they must change. It may be unfair that they are being killed at a rate 11 times faster than Israelis, but life is unfair. Yet unfairness can be overcome.
Stand up to renegades
Palestinians must fight for principle, not plight. Palestinians must change how they respond to the crisis around them. The majority of Palestinians are not engaged in the violence. The violence is orchestrated by small bands of extremists, mostly associated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad but some associated with the mainstream political groups.
Yet these extremists remain as renegades operating outside of Palestinian law. They should be arrested, jailed and prosecuted.
Palestinians must stand up to these renegades who are destroying the hope for a Palestinian independence as surely as the illegal Israeli settlements of Ariel, Har Homa, Gilo and hundreds of others threaten the future state's sovereignty.
 And before Palestinians should demand the release of the thousands of political prisoners held in Israel concentration jails, they should first demand the release of the Israeli soldier being held by Palestinian terrorists.
That is the stand of the principled, moral and the just.

Some Israelis will debate the legality of these settlements, but it is a debate better saved for the future. Instead, Israelis should now be addressing the B'Tselem report in their own context, asking themselves if Israeli policy in the occupied territories has been as just.
Ray Hanania was named 2006/2006 Best Ethnic American Columnist by the New American Media. He can be reached at

Continued (Permanent Link)

[Alexander and Yiftah Zaid] The end of a legend

The end of a legend
By Aryeh Dayan

In the small cemetery near Hashomrim junction next to Kiryat Tivon, where the leaders of the Hashomer organization are buried, the last son of a legendary figure of early 20th century Zionism was laid to rest last week. The man who was buried, Yiftah Zaid, was an inseparable part of the legend. In the agricultural communities of the Jezreel Valley, there was a feeling that a family and national legend, which began in a small village in Siberia in the late 19th century, had reached its conclusion. Among the hundreds of participants in the funeral were some who were present 68 years ago at another funeral in the same cemetery. Then, on a burning hot summer day in July 1938, Alexander Zaid, the father of Yiftah and the man whose murder created the legend, was laid to rest.
This week, Amnon Barkai, who has lived in nearby Kfar Yehoshua since 1930, said: "I have a clear recollection of the night of Alexander Zaid's murder and of the funeral. How during the night they suddenly rang the bells of Kfar Yehoshua in order to announce that he had been murdered." The next day, Barkai, who was 12 years old at the time, could have seen all the leaders of the Yishuv (the pre-state Jewish community in Palestine): David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Ben Zvi, Berl Katznelson and others. They came to pay their final respects to the man who had become one of the symbols of their struggle for control of the Land of Israel. The legend that has since been created around the figure of Alexander Zaid, "the watchman on the horse," included all the elements to which the Zionist Labor Movement wanted to educate Jewish youth.
Alexander Zaid was born in 1886 in Siberia, to a mother who belonged to the Russian Subotnik sect. At age 15, he immigrated to Palestine on his own. He worked in a vineyard in Rishon Letzion, as a construction worker in Ben Shemen and as a stonemason in Jerusalem. Zaid was one of the founders of the Bar Giora stonemasons' association and was active in its military arm, Hashomer (The Watchman), the Yishuv's first armed organization. With other friends from Hashomer, Alexander and his wife Tzippora founded Kibbutz Kfar Giladi in the Galilee. The leaders of Hashomer turned the kibbutz into the center of their group's underground activity. The weapons that they hid there were not aimed only against the British and the Arabs; the group refused to accept the authority of the Yishuv institutions that were then coming into being.
In 1926, this led to a crisis in Hashomer, following the establishment of the Haganah (the main pre-state underground) and Ben-Gurion's demand that Hashomer become subordinate to the new organization and transfer its weapons to it. Most members of Kfar Giladi opposed these demands, but Alexander and Tzippora Zaid thought that they should be accepted, and were therefore forced to leave the kibbutz with their four young children.
Ben-Gurion and the other Yishuv leaders did not abandon the family; they made sure that the Jewish National Fund employed Zaid as a watchman on its lands in the Jezreel Valley. Eventually, the JNF gave Alexander the Sheikh Abreik hill, near present-day Kiryat Tivon. The Zaid family settled there, and Alexander started a farm and also discovered the remains of the ancient site of Beit Shearim.
During the 1930s, Zaid became a favorite of Tel Aviv's bohemian community, including poet Alexander Penn, who immortalized him in a famous song. Zaid preached the creation of "a new Jewish fighter" - a combination of the Russian Cossack and the Bedouin, with strong roots in the land. He became friendly with several of his Arab neighbors, but quarreled with others, and was eventually murdered not far from his home during the Arab uprising of the 1930s.
Security versus agriculture
Each of Zaid's four children dealt in his own way with their father's complex legacy. The eldest son, Giora Zaid, who died about two years ago at age 90, continued his father's clandestine career: Before the establishment of the state, he joined the Haganah, and after 1948, he was a senior official in the military administration that governed Arabs living in Israel. Inter alia, he played a central role in persuading Bedouin and Druze from the Galilee to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces. Afterward, he worked for the prime minister's adviser on Arab affairs, where he helped to plan the land expropriations that led to the 1976 Land Day demonstrations. For most of his adult life, he worked to curb the freedom of Israeli Arabs, but like his father, he considered himself their friend. He spoke fluent Arabic, called himself "Abu Zaid" and enjoyed visiting Bedouin and Druze friends.
Like his twin brothers, Yiftah and Yohanan, Giora Zaid lived until his death at Sheik Abreik, which is today called Beit Zaid.
Yohanan, who died a few years ago, also served in the defense establishment: During World War II, he enlisted in the Jewish Brigade; he then served in the Haganah, helping to organize illegal immigration; and with the establishment of the state, he became a commander in the IDF tank corps.
Their sister, Kochevet, is the only family member who left Sheikh Abreik and distanced herself from the family legacy. Today, she is almost 90 and lives in Haifa.
Yiftah, who was born in 1920 in Kfar Giladi, lived in Sheikh Abreik from the time his parents moved there until his death. His daughter, Tali Zaid-Raveh, said last week: "My grandfather's legacy included two main components: security and agriculture. My father's two brothers worked in security, and my father worked in agriculture. He studied at Mikveh Israel, raised a large herd of sheep here and was an expert in grafting and pruning." She described her father as "a quiet, modest man" who was "crazy about trees."
"In Tivon he was familiar with every tree. If you told him the name of a family in Tivon, he would immediately tell you which trees they had in their yard."
Yiftah studied at the Mikveh Israel agricultural boarding school, where he spent the first two years of the Arab uprising that broke out in 1936. During those years, his father and his brother Giora were involved in several violent incidents with their Palestinian neighbors, incidents that planted the seeds of the conflict that led to his father's murder. Yiftah received the news of his father's murder at school. A year later, when he completed his studies, he returned to the hill in the Jezreel Valley and participated in an unsuccessful attempt to establish a kibbutz there.
As opposed to Giora, who spoke a great deal about his father's murder and explained how much the incident had shaped his attitude toward the Arabs, Yiftah consistently refrained from mentioning the subject. As far as is known, he had no part in the decision of the Palmach (another pre-state underground) to send a unit in 1942 to kill Kassem Tabash, who was apparently responsible for the murder, though Giora encouraged this decision. For Yiftah, said Tali Zaid-Raveh, "the murder of his father was a wound that never healed, and therefore, he hardly talked about it and didn't show his pain. He simply buried the matter deep inside him."
Boxing champ
Yiftah's principal claim to fame was neither his father nor his knowledge of agriculture: In the 1940s, when the British turned boxing into a popular sport, Yiftah became a famous local boxer. With the founding of the state, he was even crowned the Israeli middleweight boxing champion.
He developed his boxing career in the early 1940s, on the Hapoel Haifa team. "Boxing was very popular in the country at the time, almost like soccer," said Avraham Gafni, a friend of Yiftah's who boxed with him for Hapoel Haifa. "In Haifa itself, there were eight Jewish boxing clubs, two Arab clubs and one Greek club, in addition to teams on the British army bases. On all the British warships that anchored in Haifa, there were boxing teams that wanted to compete against the local teams."
Gafni said that he cannot recall "any match that Yiftah lost," and he won most of his victories "in a knockout, long before the third round." Unlike today, Gafni emphasized that at the time, "we all worked for a living and none of us made a living from sports. Yiftah, for example, would come for training sessions in Haifa after working on the farm all day."
Gafni recalled one boxing match in Haifa between two Arab teams, from Haifa and Jaffa. He and Zaid were sitting in the audience, and "suddenly it turned out that the boxer from Jaffa who was supposed to participate in the heavyweight contest had not arrived. The announcer asked if there was anyone in the audience who was willing to replace him. Yiftah, who was very familiar to the Arab audience, got up, took a pair of gloves and went up to box without any preparations, without changing his shoes and with the shorts he always wore. He won in the first round and became the hero of the Arab audience."
Gafni and members of the Zaid family stressed that Yiftah considered the educational aspect of boxing more important than the competitive aspect. "Cups and championships really didn't interest him," said his son-in-law, Elad Betzer. "He always said that boxing was important to him because people should know how to defend themselves and how to stand on their feet properly."
In the early 1950s, Yiftah left boxing, and from then until he fell ill with Parkinson's disease almost 40 years later, he devoted all his energy to his farm.
With Yiftah's death, the last of Alexander Zaid's sons is gone. Now the family estate will pass into the hands of those grandchildren and great-grandchildren who have chosen to live near the famous monument to his memory. Several of them, like Tali Zaid-Raveh, who organizes tours of sites connected to her family's history, try to preserve the legends. Her cousin, Alexander Zaid, raises goats there and sells cheeses at the dairy that bears his grandfather's name. But other grandchildren and great-grandchildren prefer to distance themselves from the legend and sink into anonymity.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians publicly mourn Saddam, set up condolence tents

Last update - 15:58 31/12/2006   
Palestinians publicly mourn Saddam, set up condolence tents
By News Agencies and Haaretz Service
Hundreds of Palestinians flocked to the streets of the West Bank on Sunday to mourn the death of Saddam Hussein, setting up condolence tents and bemoaning the fate of their steadfast ally.
In Jenin in the northern West Bank, about 700 people held a mock funeral and chanted "death to Bush," "death to al-Maliki" and "death to al-Sadr," referring to U.S. President George W. Bush, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and Muqtada al-Sadr, the powerful, radical Shiite Iraqi cleric.
"He was a great man. He was the protector of the Palestinian people," said Mahmoud al-Adal, of the Palestinian wing of Saddam's Baath party.
Similar pro-Saddam rallies took place in Bethlehem and elsewhere in the West Bank.
Hussein was buried in the dead of night early on Sunday in his native village Awja, near Tikrit in northern Iraq, local officials and family sources said.
Mohammed al-Qaisi, governor of the local Salahaddin region, told Reuters he attended the funeral, which began at 3:05 a.m. (0005 GMT) and lasted about 25 minutes. Also present was Ali al-Nida, head of Saddam's Albu Nasir tribe.
A source close to Saddam's family also confirmed his remains were interred at Awja, where his sons Uday and Qusay, killed by U.S. troops in 2003, lie in a family plot in the cemetery. The family had said Saturday it wanted him buried in the western city of Ramadi, another stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.
A source close to leading local Sunni Muslim clerics who
took part in the proceedings said U.S. and Iraqi troops kept a close guard over the event and insisted on a burial in the grounds of a mosque erected by Saddam in the 1980s.
Arab television stations broadcast new video images of
Saddam's hanging, apparently shot on a low-quality camera by guards or other officials at the execution, taken from a different angle from footage shown on Iraqi state television.
New, grainy images appeared on the Internet showing the former Iraqi president being hanged in Baghdad less than 24 hours earlier, showing his body dropping through the trap, something the officially released video had not shown.
One video on the Internet shows Saddam drop through the trap while still intoning the Muslim profession of faith. He was abruptly cut off in the second verse: "I bear witness that Mohammad..." He was also shown hanging, with his eyes open.
The new video also bore out witness comments on Saturday that the 69-year-old former strongman, who looked calm and composed as he stood on the gallows, had shouted angry political slogans while masked guards were bringing him into the execution chamber once used by his own feared intelligence services.
Grainy video also later showed his body in a white shroud, the neck twisted and blood on one cheek.
Tribal elders in Tikrit, on the Tigris river 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, took delivery of the body on Saturday, an Iraqi government source confirmed. A lawyer who had represented Saddam said it was sent there aboard a U.S. military aircraft.
Buried near sons
Awja is a small settlement of unusually grand homes, signs of the prosperity it enjoyed during the rule of its most famous son, born there in poverty in 1937. It seems Saddam will lie close to but not beside his sons, whom he groomed as successors.
During three decades of harsh rule, clan members from around Tikrit in particular, and minority Sunni Muslim Arabs in general, played a dominating role at the expense of ethnic Kurds and of the Shi'ite majority that has taken control of government since the U.S. invasion that overthrew Saddam.
While government officials had indicated he might lie in a secret, unmarked grave for fear the site could become a shrine and focal point for Baathist rebels, it appears they have taken the view that Uday and Qusay were buried there three years ago and the cemetery can be kept under surveillance.
Three decades after Saddam established his personal rule by force, his death closes a chapter in Iraq's history marked by war with Iran and a 1990 invasion of Kuwait that turned him from ally to enemy of the United States and impoverished his oil-rich nation.
But, as U.S. President George W. Bush said in a statement, sectarian violence pushing Iraq towards civil war has not ended.
Car bombs set off by suspected Sunni insurgents killed more than 70 people in Baghdad and near the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf on Saturday.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, his fragile authority among fellow Shi'ites significantly enhanced after he forced through Saddam's execution over hesitation among Sunni and Kurdish members of his government, reached out to Sunni rebels.
"Saddam's execution puts an end to all the pathetic gambles on a return to dictatorship," he said in a statement as state television showed film of him signing the death warrant in red ink. "I urge ... followers of the ousted regime to reconsider their stance as the door is still open to anyone who has no innocent blood on his hands to help in rebuilding ... Iraq."
Bush said that "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself."
The U.S. death toll in Iraq is just two short of the emotive 3,000 mark and December is already the deadliest month for the Americans for more than two years. Bush has promised to unveil a new strategy in the new year.
The United Nations, the Vatican and Washington's European allies all condemned Saddam's execution on moral grounds.

Continued (Permanent Link)

An eyewitness view of the new world war

An eyewitness view of the new world war
By Paul Sheehan
Sydney Morning Herald
December 30 2006

Anyone who doubts that the Cold War has quickly given way to a hot war - World
War III - would have their doubts sorely tested should they pay a visit to the
Israel-Lebanon border. Last week I visited border mark 105, the nondescript
gully where the 2006 Lebanese war began. Only scorch marks on the ground remain
from the death and violence that took place there.

The build-up took months to plan and execute. On or about July 5, a group of
between 20 and 30 Hezbollah fighters infiltrated the Israeli border near the
village of Aita Al-Shaab, barely 800 metres from the border fences. They set up
camp on a thickly wooded slope above the Israeli patrol road. They pitched a
small tent. They set up firing positions for two rocket-propelled grenade
launchers. And then they waited.

It was not the first time Hezbollah had attempted to infiltrate a team into
Israel this year. At least four other attempts had been thwarted. This was the
first to succeed, because this section of the border was both densely wooded and
in a blind spot between the Israel Defence Forces observation posts, where teams
of soldiers, mostly young women on national service, monitor cameras day and

The site was also within range of rocket and mortar positions Hezbollah had set
up around Aita Al-Shaab, part of a porcupine of minefields, gun emplacements,
tunnels and bunkers it had secretly built along the border since Israel withdrew
its forces from southern Lebanon in 2000. Most of this military build-up was
funded by Iran.

On the morning of July 12, 2006, the infiltrators received the "go" signal. They
touched the security fence at several points, triggering several Israeli
patrols. Two Israeli Humvees were sent to border point 105.

At 9.05am, as the first Humvee slowed to negotiate a turn in the road just below
the firing positions, it was hit by two rocket-propelled grenades.

The Humvee was destroyed. All three soldiers on board died. The second Humvee
was hit, but was disabled rather than destroyed. The driver was killed but two
other Israeli soldiers, believed to have been wounded based on bloodstains left
at the scene, were dragged from the Humvee and carried towards the border.

The firing of the grenades was the signal for a co-ordinated response by
Hezbollah along the border. Waves of rocket and mortar fire were sent across
into Israel to confuse their defence and buy time for the infiltrators. When the
Israelis realised where its patrol had been attacked, the Hezbollah team had
already left the scene. A heavy tank was dispatched to border post 105. It
crossed the border to occupy the high point and begin laying fire into the
valley where the Hezbollah team was fleeing towards the nearby village. What the
Israelis did not know, one of many unpleasant surprises to come, was that this
response had been anticipated by Hezbollah.

"There was a huge mine," an Israeli major told me, pointing to the spot. "The
tank only got 200 metres. Everybody was killed." Four tank crew died, along with
four soldiers in the Humvees. The Hezbollah infiltrators escaped without
casualties. The Israel Defence Forces were humiliated.

"They mined everything along the border," the Israeli major, who cannot be
named, told me. "The extent of the tunnels, bunkers, mines was much greater than
we had expected. One Hezbollah bunker was built within 15 metres of a UN
observation post. What were they observing?"

The ambush and abduction, so long in the making, had been executed to

It was an act of war, yet no border disputes existed between Israel and Lebanon.
(The disputed Shebaa Farms are claimed by Syria, a claim recognised by Lebanon,
Israel and the United Nations.) The relationship between the governments of
Jerusalem and Beirut were cordial. The Lebanese Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora,
was a moderate, pro-Western reformer. The Lebanese economy had been
rehabilitated, Beirut rebuilt, and tourism had begun to flourish again. This was
not an of act of war between states but an act of jihad. It was driven by the
Islamic theocracy in Iran, through its proxies in the Shiite Muslim
state-within-a-state in southern Lebanon. Iran has been at war against the West
for some time. It is at war with the United States in Iraq via its proxies in
the Shiite militias. It is at war against Israel via Hezbollah in Lebanon, and
via Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank.

"Iran is pushing Hamas to a more hardline position," says Walid Sadi, Jordan's
former ambassador to Turkey and formerly chief editor of The Jordan Times. "The
Palestinian internal disputes are increasingly resembling those between
Hezbollah and the [moderate] camp in Lebanon. In both cases, the footprints of
Iran are wide and clear and fit perfectly with Iran's designs for the region."

Those designs include nuclear weapons. This, in turn, has led the Sunni Muslim
states in the region, led by Saudi Arabia, to consider a nuclear response. On
December 10 the Gulf Cooperation Council, representing the six oil-rich Gulf
states, met in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and issued a statement that began: "The
leaders commissioned a study to set up a common program in the area of nuclear
energy for peaceful purposes."

Like Iran's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Long before the attack on border post 105, the military commander of Hamas,
Khaled Mashaal, speaking at a mosque in Damascus, where he is based and
protected, an address broadcast on Al-Jazeera television, warning not just
Israel but the West of militant Islam's intent. It went far beyond the
Palestinian cause: "We say this to the West, which does not act reasonably, and
does not learn lessons: by Allah, you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation
[Islam] will sit on the throne of the world. This is not a figment of the
imagination, but a fact. Tomorrow we will lead the world. Today, you are
fighting the army of Allah. You are fighting against people for whom death for
the sake of Allah, and for the sake of honour and glory, is preferable to life."

This is the language of "shahada". A "shahid" is to worship God and the Prophet
Muhammad through a violent death in the cause of Islam. "A suicide bombing is
not an act of desperation but a religious act," says Itamar Marcus, director of
Palestinian Media Watch, during a briefing in Jerusalem. "When suicide bombers
make videos they will sometimes talk about their 'weddings', referring to their
suicide. Violence is put on a pedestal, even in preschool education. The videos
talk about the sweetness of shahada."

During the past week the latest call to jihad and holy death has led to carnage
and full-scale war between Islamic Somalia and Christian Ethiopia.

More than 1000 Islamist fighters, most of them teenagers, have died since they
attacked Baidoa, the seat of the Somali provisional government, and Islamist
leaders declared that Somalia was open to any Muslim around the world who wanted
to wage a holy war against Ethiopia. The Ethiopians responded with invasion.
Yesterday, its army had taken control of the capital, Mogadishu.

Next week the war will flare somewhere else. The primary targets of al-Qaeda,
now a virtual state within the Muslim diaspora, are the key moderate Muslim
regimes in the Middle East, which are constantly being tested for weakness.

In the Jordanian capital, Amman, last weekend, I had to go through three
security checks just to get back into my hotel, measures put in place since
three Western hotels were bombed in a co-ordinated terrorism attack last year
that killed 60 civilians.

In Sudan, genocide and mass rape have been used by Muslims to obliterate
Christian and animist blacks in the south of the country around Darfur. Iraq and
Afghanistan are engulfed in religious civil war and foreign occupation.

Hundreds of innocent civilians have been butchered as far afield as London,
Madrid, Bali and Mumbai.

This is a hot war, fought on three continents. Its evolution has largely been
funded by Saudi Arabia.

"The Saudis have spent $US70 billion ($93 billion) over the past 20 years
funding Wahhabism," Yael Shahar told me last week. Shahar is on the faculty at
the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Tel Aviv, the
world's leading academic institute for counter-terrorism. Given that Wahhabism
is the most rigid, and most aggressive form of Islam, it means that the West's
appetite for oil and motor cars has fuelled not just global warming, but global

Jihad and shahada have been the common denominators of the otherwise unrelated
bloodshed in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and the violent arc of a dozen
Islamic states from Pakistan to Morocco. It is the common denominator of
bloodshed in Britain, France, Spain, Holland and the United States, all the
scenes of terrorist attacks, and Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and Italy,
where growing Muslim threats and violence are part of what is now a global
confrontation between Western values and medievalism.

World War III. Every indicator we have says that we should get used to the

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syrian Journalist: Brace for guerilla warfare in Golan

Journalist: Brace for guerilla warfare in Golan

Syrian journalist tells Ynet Israel's poor performance against Hizbullah
last summer buoyed Assad who is seeking to mobilize Syrian people for a
possible confrontation with Israel to free Golan Heights, says Israel is not
interested in peace

Ali Waked YNET Published: 12.31.06, 14:03,7340,L-3346631,00.html

Israel 's poor performance against Hizbullah last summer boosted support for President Bashar Assad 's popularity among the Syrian people who are ready for confrontation with Israel, a senior Syrian journalist told Ynet.

"There is no doubt that the Lebanon war and the Israeli defeat are a source of encouragement, and also a source for recruiting the Syrian people who see itself as a pioneer and example to other Arab people. It is looking at how the Lebanese defeated and expelled the Israelis from their land while its land remains occupied. "The Syrian people understood the possibility that a war will break out, even at the price Damascus and Syrian cities being bombarded," a senior Syrian journalist told Ynet.

His words reflect the Syrian regime's mood as Israel continues to shun Syrian peace overtures.

Assad has been signaling willingness to talk peace with the Jewish state, but on the other hand, the journalist says, "The principle is that so long we haven't freed our land in a peaceful path, we are entitled to do so militarily. The Syrian people in the occupied Golan Heights have the right to return to their homeland."

He said that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's ruling out of talks with Syria is a sign that, "Israelis are not serious about talks with Syria . one time they demand that Syria sever its ties with Israel, another time to sever ties with Hizbullah - and another time with Hamas. All this show that the Israelis look for excuses in order not to deal with the real issue - fully withdrawing from the Golan Heights."

Supposing no progress is made toward the opening of negotiations - is a military scenario a possibility from the Syrian standpoint?

Certainly. Perhaps this scenario will not be realized through direct combat between the Syrian and Israeli armies, but guerilla warfare in the Golan is definitely being considered. In my opinion, without a diplomatic breakthrough soon this option becomes more and more significant.

What about the scenario raised in Israel according to which Syria would agree to lease out the Golan Heights to Israel in exchange for recognition of Syria's sovereignty over the region?

This is another excuse, another ploy the extent to which the Israelis are playing games and are not serious. There are seven wonders in the world, and the possibility of leasing out the Golan Heights is apparently one of them.

The Syrian stance is clear: We went to Madrid based on the territories for peace principle and Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This must guide the negotiations; nothing else. Territories for peace - or more accurately, all of the territories for peace; this will prevent people from instilling any word games into international decisions. Leasing? The only chance this could ever happen is if a new Syrian regime comes to power on the back of an American tank. And this of course will not happen.

Why isn't Syria ready for compromise on this issue? Why is Syria always expecting too much?

The Syrians have always said that peace is our strategic choice but the current status quo cannot continue. The Syrian people are sick of the whole thing not being serious, although it is committed to peace. As far as we are concerned things are not complicated, and the content of negotiations is not clear. The Israelis need to decide if they are ready or not - and let them stop looking for and making up excuses.

Were Olmert's comments, and those of other Israeli leaders, covered in the Syrian press?

Of course. For at least two years, the Israeli media and comments by Israeli leaders are being translated and not just for government institutions but for the media and for Syrian papers. Everything is translated. Politics in Israel received great interest here, interest that only grew. There were also official responses, mainly by the Communications Minister, who said that if Israel is serious, talks based on negotiations in Madrid are very possible.

Israel's dependence on America is not that tremendous. Israel should set its policy and future according to an American position of a kind or another or to that of an American president. That's Israeli unwillingness and an excuse to avoid talks that could lead to stability in the region - because stability is against Israel's basic interests. Because when there is stability in the region, Israel loses its position as a central card of the west and America."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Help, he wants peace!

Help, he wants peace!
By Zvi Bar'el

In one of the news broadcasts that he presented last week on Channel 1 television, Haim Yavin defined the Syrian feelers as an "escalation in the peace attack," no less. No one could better describe the panic that Syrian President Bashar Assad is arousing in Israel. Attacks are something we understand, and escalation is also a user-friendly concept for Israelis. Therefore, it appears that peace has no meaning unless it comes in the form of an attack.

The alarmed and the perplexed are split into two groups. The first consists of those who are convinced that everything Assad does is aimed at advancing his own narrow interests: ridding Syria of the stigma of being a country that supports terror, luring investors to the country and freeing himself from pressure over the Lebanese issue. In other words, becoming a country like any other country. This group of believers forgets that these are precisely Israel's demands of Assad. But it wants eternal guarantees that after the Syrian president gets the Golan Heights back and no longer heads a country that supports terror, he will not turn on his heels and laugh out loud at the stupid Israelis. This is a reasonable demand, but it cannot be fulfilled before negotiations are actually held. Certainly such a demand cannot be a precondition.

The demand that Syria sever relations with Iran is also a deal-breaker. Israel did not demand this of Turkey, or of the leaders of the Islamic republics that broke away from the Soviet Union, when it signed peace treaties with them. It will also not demand this of Saudi Arabia, if and when a peace agreement is signed with that country. And how is it possible to explain Syria's willingness to sign a peace agreement with Israel when its relations with Iran are so close? According to the alarmists, this is of course another lie, or at least part of a nefarious plot. Therefore, it is not superfluous to ask why Iran has not reacted to Syria's feelers toward Israel, just as it is possible to wonder why Iran is not demanding that Turkey cease doing business with Israel. The answer lies in a mosaic of interests that goes far beyond the simplistic definition of the "axis of evil" or the division of the world into Shi'ites and Sunnis.

The precondition that Syria close the bases of Palestinian organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad is especially interesting. If the headquarters of these organizations are fated to live outside the territories, would it not be better for them to operate from a country that has a peace agreement with Israel, instead of being expelled to a hostile country from which they can operate as they please?

The second group of alarmists offers the learned argument that Assad cannot mean real peace, because such a peace would topple him, his regime and his minority sect, which controls the country. Alternatively, spokesmen for this group take refuge in the assessment that even if there is peace with Syria, it will undoubtedly be a very cold peace. They are forgetting that the younger Assad has already proposed peace, while the elder Assad already held discussions with Israel and obtained concessions and even talked about normalization. Is Bashar Assad risking more now than ever before? One can confidently assume that an improvement in Syria's economic situation in the wake of an agreement with Israel, as well as the return of the Golan Heights, would do wonders for Assad's standing.

There is nothing wrong with Assad currently wanting to advance "only" Syrian interests. This is precisely the motivation for which Israel should be looking. If peace with Israel serves his interests, it would be wise to set up a table somewhere and sit negotiators around it - people who would pull out what was concluded with Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak and tell Assad: This is where we are continuing from, and here is our list of new demands.

Assad's intentions are not a matter for trust or faith, nor for prior examination. Rather, they are a matter for negotiations whose sole aim is to reach peace with Syria. Only in this way will it also be possible to shake off the profound self-righteousness that holds that "we" owe it to our fighters and our homeland at least to try. It is not trying that is needed here, but rather action and achievement. Similarly, the main consideration cannot be how we will look to the world if we refuse to negotiate with Assad, but rather how life in Israel will look if we respond in the affirmative.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians: Hamas, Israel agree on Shalit deal

   Last update - 14:51 31/12/2006

      Palestinians: Hamas, Israel agree on Shalit deal

      By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

      Palestinian sources said Sunday that Israel and Hamas have agreed on the
details of a deal that will see the release of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces
soldier Gilad Salit, who was snatched from his base in June.

      According to the sources, the deal proposed by Israel says that Hamas will transfer to Israel a videotape showing Gilad Shalit alive, and in return Israel will released a small number of prisoners in its jails.

      Afterwards, in the second stage, Shalit will be handed over to the Egyptians, and then will be transferred to Israel. At the same time, 450 Palestinian prisoners will be released by Israel.


      Hamas will present Egypt with a list of all the prisoners whose released
it will seek and ask for Israel's authorization. Two months later, Israel will
free another group of prisoners, the size of which and those included will be
decided in Jerusalem.

      Israel has promised to be "generous" on this issue.

      A senior Hamas official told Haaretz that members of the group in the
territories were informed that there would be good news coming soon, although
they had not been given any details.

      Earlier Sunday, the spokesman of the military wing of Hamas said that
there has been a "substantial breakthrough" in contacts toward Shalit's
release, and that a prisoner exchange deal could be clinched soon.

      "If the matters continue to progress in the channel in which they are
currently progressing, I foresee a rapid deal, and in the very short term,"
Abu Abeida said in an interview to Israel Radio.

      Shalit was captured on June 25, as part of a joint Palestinian raid,
during which Hamas and other armed groups used a tunnel to cross under the
Gaza border fence and attack an IDF position inside Israeli territory.

      The radio reported Sunday that Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu
al-Gheit told the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that a deal is effectively
ready, and only awaits Palestinian Authority approval.

      Abu Abeida denied a report that Hamas had backed down from its demands
that Israel release a total of 1,400 prisoners in exchange for the soldier,
and would demand only 500.

      "Our demands are as before," he said, adding that the report, from a
Saudi newspaper, quoting PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Foreign Minister
Mahmoud Zahar, were inaccurate.

      "We are demanding the release of 1,000 prisoners, in addition to 400
women and minors," adding that the 500 figure apparently referred only to the
number of prisoners to be freed in a first phase of the deal, the Hamas
spokesman said.

      Videotape reportedly proves Shalit alive
      The Israel media said earlier in the day that a newspaper in the United
Arab Emirates has reported that the government of Israel had received a
videotape proving that Shalit is alive and well.

      "This is in contrast to intelligence information relayed from Israel to
the United States, Egypt and Turkey, according to which Shalit is no longer
alive," Army Radio reported.

      The tape is one minute in length, Army Radio said, quoting Al-Harig
newspaper in a report based on unnamed Israeli and Palestinian sources.

      The tape was also given to the Shalit family, it said.

      On Friday, Noam Shalit, the soldier's father, published an open letter
in the Palestinian daily Al Quds, appealing to his son's captors.

      The letter opens: "We in the family, your mother, your father, Hadas and
Yoel, hope you feel well and are managing despite the tough conditions, the
winter and the difficult situation you have been in for over six months. My
Gilad, we miss you very, very much and want to see you
      with us and hug you tight, and so does the whole family and all your
friends from school. We hope it will be very soon."

      Al Quds is published in East Jerusalem and widely distributed in the
West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The letter to Gilad Shalit appeared at the top
of page 2 with an item on page 1 directing readers to it.

      Al Quds wrote that the letter had been published by the parents of the
kidnapped soldier in the hope that his captors would let him read it.

      Noam Shalit added "the fact that we don't know how you are, how you
feel, how you are making it through the winter, and how the Palestinian
organizations holding you are treating you, is very hard for us. They declare
that you are a prisoner of war, but unfortunately, they are
      preventing you from receiving the rights to which you are entitled as a
prisoner of war according to international law, and also according to the
exalted Islamic law."

      Noam Shalit also quoted verses from the Koran on the proper treatment of

      Shalit also noted in the letter that all rights should be given to his
son "as we in Israel give full rights to any prisoner or detainee regardless
of the reason for his detention."

      Shalit expressed hope in the letter that during Id al-Adha "a change
would take place in the position of the Palestinian organizations holding
you," and they would respond to "the proposals of the Israeli government and
the respected Egyptian intermediaries, and the proposals of Egyptian minister
Omar Suleiman to release many Palestinian prisoners and allow them to spend
the blessed holiday of the sacrifice at their homes and with their families.
We know that many Palestinians mothers and fathers are waiting impatiently and
looking forward to that moment, and some have been waiting for it for years."

      At the end of the letter Shalit wrote: "Don't break before you are
released, which is very close, and we are doing all we can so that your
release and the release of the Palestinian prisoners will be very close."

      Shalit also addresses his son's captors, asking them to be "honorable
enough to show you this letter without delay." Shalit told Haaretz yesterday
that he had not yet received responses from Israeli or Palestinian officials.
"We are waiting and hoping for the best after declarations by Palestinian
officials, among them Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. I hope these are not just

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Olmert-Abbas Summit: Tactical Steps, Strategic Concerns

 Dear Subscriber,

Enclosed please find
INSS Insight  No. 4

The Olmert-Abbas Summit:

Tactical Steps, Strategic Concerns


The Olmert-Abbas Summit:

Tactical Steps, Strategic Concerns

Mark A. Heller


Last week's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, their first since an informal encounter in June, does not mark the renewal of any serious Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Nevertheless, its importance goes beyond the mere fact that it took place. Potentially, at least, it may signal a joint desire to break the impasse that has characterized Israeli-Palestinian relations since the collapse of peace negotiations more than six years ago.

For Abbas, the decision to expose himself to a widely-publicized embrace by Olmert at a time of heightened intra-Palestinian tensions and while the Palestinian Authority is still under economic siege inevitably provoked criticism by Hamas. But it is consistent with other uncharacteristically forceful actions in recent weeks, particularly his call for early presidential and parliamentary elections. These actions seem designed to exploit Hamas' declining popularity, which stems mostly from its inability to govern effectively, and to force it, at least in the first instance, to make more concessions in negotiations over the formation of a national unity government. In the broader sense, however, they reflect a desire to push the Palestinian public to make a clear choice between two conflicting world-views: his own preference (shared by much of Fateh and most governments in Sunni Arab countries) for a pragmatic approach to Israel and the world beyond, and Hamas' alignment with the "resistance" camp championed by Islamist Iran and supported by Syria and Hizbullah. The contrast between these two approaches was neatly symbolized by the activities of Abbas and Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya several days before the Abbas-Olmert meeting: Abbas hosted a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair who, along with US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, endorsed his call for early elections; Haniya returned to Gaza from a morale-boosting trip to Iran and Sudan. In the last elections for the Legislative Council, held in January 2006, the choice between these worldviews was obscured by Hamas' conscious decision to focus on domestic "Development and Reform" – the banner under which it actually campaigned – and Abbas' meeting with Olmert suggests a conviction on his part that Palestinian interests now require an end to this ambiguity.

For Olmert, the meeting also seems to indicate a determination to move past the indecision that has characterized his own approach to the Palestinians. Unlike Abbas, Olmert faces no immediate domestic challenge; his parliamentary majority is secure and there is no viable contender to replace him. But since his abandonment of the idea of "convergence" following widespread disillusionment with the results of last year's unilateral disengagement, Olmert has failed to propose an alternative approach. The meeting with Abbas certifies the renunciation of unilateralism and signifies a decision to reactivate the search for a coordinated effort, if not to reach a peace agreement, then at least to stabilize Israeli-Palestinian relations and improve conditions on the ground inside the Palestinian Authority. To build up Abbas as Israel's partner in this enterprise, Olmert made several gestures, including the release of $100 million in Palestinian taxes collected by Israel but held in escrow since Hamas' assumption of office and an order to reduce the number of roadblocks and checkpoints impeding free movement within the West Bank.

Like Abbas, Olmert's immediate focus is the state of bilateral relations but he, too, is not oblivious to the broader strategic context. The summer war with Hizbullah, coupled with heightened attention to Iranian rhetoric and policy (especially Iran's nuclear ambitions), aggravated concerns in Israel and elsewhere in the region about the threat posed by the Iranian-led axis. The Palestinian issue figures prominently in this equation, not just because Hamas domination of Palestinian politics would make the Palestinians firmly part of that axis (notwithstanding the fact that their Sunni identity makes them rather "unnatural" partners), but also because high-profile, high-intensity conflict between Israel and the Palestinians complicates any effort to organize more effective cooperation against Iranian-Syrian-Hizbullah objectives throughout the region. That explains why Olmert's rather modest steps to buttress Abbas are being reinforced by American and British measures (e.g., financial, technical and logistical support for security services presumably answerable to him) and by Egyptian, Jordanian and Saudi exhortations – overt or behind the scenes – to do even more.

Notwithstanding these common interests, however, it is not obvious that whatever momentum may have been generated by the meeting can be accelerated or even sustained. After all, Olmert's flexibility on other issues is constrained. Despite his agreement to set up a committee to review the issue of prisoners and his government's approval, in principle, to carry out a limited prisoner release, he cannot move very far in this direction before the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, is freed, and Shalit is being held by Hamas, not by elements loyal to Abbas. Moreover, Olmert's policy of restraint in the face of ongoing Qassam rocket attacks, which is also assumed to work in Abbas' favor, is already under very heavy criticism by the public and the security establishment, and it may very crumble after the next Israeli casualties. And even the release of more funds to Abbas before Hamas gives up power or agrees to new elections might backfire, not only because it would make him more vulnerable to accusations of being in the pocket of the Israelis or the Americans, but also, ironically, because it could relieve some the economic hardship that has undermined Hamas' popularity.

Consequently, this embryonic process may well produce no transformation at all. Abbas' call for new elections will be extremely difficult if not impossible to implement without the agreement of Hamas. Without that consent, Abbas may revert to indecisiveness, resulting in prolonged stalemate, or slide into a national unity government that facilitates short-term stability but perpetuates the ambiguity surrounding the question of basic Palestinian orientation. Alternatively, Hamas might endorse the holding of elections, contest them, and actually win – a result that would clarify the situation but in ways that would augur badly for the future of both Israeli-Palestinian relations and the contest of world-views in the region as a whole.

For all these reasons, the logic underlying the Olmert-Abbas meeting implies very considerable risks for all concerned. What apparently justifies it for them is the conviction that the risks of inaction are even greater.


INSS Insight is published

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Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia

Continued (Permanent Link)

Kassams scuttle PA prisoner release

Kassams scuttle PA prisoner release

The continued firing of Kassam rockets on the western Negev was the major reason Israel decided against releasing a symbolic number of Palestinian prisoners before the Muslim festival of Id al-Adha that began on Saturday, senior sources in the Prime Minister's Office said after nightfall.

The sources said other considerations militating against the release were concern that freeing a couple of dozen prisoners, none of them the "heavyweight" security prisoners, would not have done anything to bolster PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on the Palestinian street, and the realization that contrary to what is generally believed, Israel has not "automatically" released prisoners before the holiday in the past.

Abbas, according to Israeli sources, brought up the idea of a symbolic release in last Saturday night's meeting with Olmert, saying that it was traditional for Israel to free prisoners before the holiday.

Olmert, according to the officials, was noncommittal, saying he would bring up the possibility with the cabinet and consider the issue.

Olmert did not express an opinion at last Sunday's cabinet meeting, instead asking Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz for their opinions. All of them favored a release.

A meeting with security officials was scheduled on Thursday to discuss the issue, but never took place, and a line that was written into the text of a speech Olmert gave on Thursday, saying the cabinet had accepted the prime minister's recommendation to release a symbolic number of prisoners, was not delivered.

Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that as early as Tuesday, when the Kassam rockets continued to fall despite the Gaza cease-fire, the feeling in Olmert's bureau was that such a prisoner release would send the wrong signal.

The officials denied that the failure to release prisoners had anything to do with new developments in attempts to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

The officials also said that after looking into the matter it had became clear the last time such a release occurred before Id al-Adha was in 1991.

Abbas, who traveled to the Gaza Strip on Saturday for the first time since the outbreak of deadly Hamas-Fatah factional violence earlier this month, accused Olmert of breaking a promise to release prisoners ahead of the holiday. "Unfortunately, this didn't happen, and we hope that he will fulfill his promise after the holiday," Abbas told reporters.

Israeli officials said Olmert never made any commitment, telling Abbas only that he would look into the matter.

Abbas aide Saeb Erekat said the refusal to release prisoners was probably due to Olmert's reluctance to buck Israeli public opinion by releasing any of the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners until Shalit was released.

"It's unfortunate," Erekat said, adding that the decision would hurt Abbas's domestic standing.

One of the Hamas-linked groups holding Shalit said on Thursday that progress had been made toward a prisoner exchange, and media quoted PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as saying Shalit would be released soon.

But neither said when a swap might take place, and previous claims of progress have not panned out.

Shalit's father, Noam, who has been critical of the government's efforts to free his son, said he supported a pre-holiday prisoner release.

"I thought it might generate some positive momentum toward a final deal to free Gilad and other prisoners," he told Israel Radio.

Shalit's parents also published an open letter to their son Friday in Arabic in the PA's Jerusalem daily, Al-Quds.

"We will do everything so that your release and that of the Palestinian prisoners will take place soon," the letter said. "We hope the men of the Palestinian organization are generous enough to show you this letter from your parents, just as we hope that Israeli authorities treat the Palestinian prisoners well and allow them to receive and send letters to their parents."

AP contributed to this report.•

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas official announces breakthrough on Shalit

Hamas official announces breakthrough on Shalit

Abu Obaidah, spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, Izaddin a-Kassam, announced Sunday that a breakthrough had been reached in negotiations to free kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, Israel Radio reported.

According to Obaidah, if contacts continued along current lines, the prisoner exchange transaction will take place quickly and very soon.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, meanwhile, told the London daily Al-Hayat that negotiations for Shalit's release had gone smoothly, and that Egypt was just waiting for Palestinian approval.

Obaidah neither confirmed nor denied an earlier report in the United Arab Emirates paper Al-Khaleej that Shalit's family and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had recently received a videotape showing the soldier, abducted by Hamas-affiliated guerrillas on June 25, was alive and in good health.

  • Senior Israeli government officials denied on Sunday that the prime minister had received any such tape, as did Shalit's father, Noam.

    According to Army Radio, the Al-Khaleej report contradicted intelligence that had been passed on to the United States, Egypt, and Turkey that Shalit was dead.

    In addition, the article stated, Israel and Hamas have concluded a prisoner exchange deal, with Israel agreeing to release Palestinian security prisoners from all the various factions. Olmert, the report said, has instructed Israeli officials to implement the agreement.

    Olmert was expected to inform Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of the deal, the report continued. Shalit's kidnappers, meanwhile, would move Shalit to Egypt, where he would be examined by Israeli doctors. No media would be allowed to cover his release.

  • Continued (Permanent Link)

    ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia will offer Hamas Arab 'road map' to peace

    ANALYSIS: Saudi Arabia will offer Hamas Arab 'road map' to peace
    By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz Correspondent  Last update - 08:21 29/12/2006

    A minor dispute over semantics took place earlier this week between Jordanian and Palestinian analysts, regarding the tripartite summit among Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Abbas and King Abdullah that is expected to take place in Jordan next week: Will Abbas and Haniyeh arrive in Amman separately, or will Haniyeh "accompany" Abbas? That word, "accompany," caused a ruckus.

    It is an important question, which touches on the issue of pride: If Haniyeh is accompanying Abbas, that means that Abbas is the "big man" of the visit. If he arrives separately, then he is not accompanying Abbas; he is taking part as an independent leader. For the time being, the answer is that they will arrive separately. Haniyeh will first visit Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, while Abbas will cross into Jordan from the West Bank.

    A date for the meeting has still not been set, but when it does take place, it may usher in two changes: Jordan, for the first time after a very long time, will lift its double boycott of Hamas and hold talks with the organization's senior representative in the territories. In addition, it is
    aspiring to assume a significant role in the diplomatic process.

    The first embargo on Hamas was imposed in 1999, when Jordan expelled the organization's officials and closed its offices. The second was imposed this year, because of weapons and explosives smuggling that Jordan attributed to Hamas. Hence, the novelty of the expected meeting, which will also distinguish among representatives of Hamas: Khaled Meshal, the Damascus-based head of the group's political bureau, is not invited, but Prime Minister Haniyeh is. In this way, King Abdullah is sending a signal about which people Jordan is willing to do business with. And the normalization of relations between Jordan and Hamas in the territories may offer Haniyeh needed leverage against Meshal when they hold talks about diplomatic offers on which they may have to decide in the future.

    The Jordanian initiative is not a product of impulse. It is the fruit of coordination with Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, who are concerned that
    calling new elections, as Abbas has demanded, might yield unwelcome, even dangerous, results. Also contributing to this initiative is the pressure that these Arab states are under to aid the Palestinians, as well as recognition of the fact that the embargo on Hamas will not bring about the collapse of the government it heads in the Palestinian Authority.

    The Arab states are aspiring to establish a Palestinian unity government that will be able to function on two levels: to commit to a stable
    cease-fire, and also to operate PA institutions. Saudi Arabia is likely to present Haniyeh with a softer version of the Arab League's Beirut resolution of 2002, which might pave the way for Hamas to accept this declaration. Jordanian sources say that this proposal will include elements such as an Israeli withdrawal to "temporary lines" and a Palestinian cease-fire for five years, during which, or at the end of which, the two sides will carry out negotiations. In parallel, economic cooperation between Israel and Palestine would resume.

    These points are expected to be at the crux of discussions between Ehud Olmert and Hosni Mubarak during their meeting next Thursday.

    Regarding the role Syria is playing in these development, Jordanian sources told Haaretz that it is playing a "useful role," and if a unity government is set up "and a reasonable formula is accepted for furthering the diplomatic process, Syria will back it."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

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