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Saturday, March 3, 2007

Peres - Government will remove dozens of Jewish settlements

It is not clear if Peres means "settlements" or outposts. There are 121 settlements, but this number may have been added by Reuters. Reuters writes incorrectly:
But Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state alongside it.
Actually Hamas would grant a truce only if Israel agrees to right of return for Palestinian refugees, which would end the Jewish state, as well as withdrawing to 1967 borders.
Ami Isseroff

Israel could remove dozens of settlements-Peres
03 Mar 2007 21:00:11 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Dan Williams
JERUSALEM, March 3 (Reuters) - Israel could remove dozens of Jewish settlements from the occupied West Bank, Vice Premier Shimon Peres said on Saturday.
"Yes, settlements will be removed -- not all the settlements, and I'm not even sure most of the settlements," Peres told Israel's Channel Two television.

The number of the 121 settlements evacuated could be in the dozens, he said. "I think that a serious effort will be made to do that which we undertook to do which is removing settlements."
Israel quit the Gaza Strip unilaterally in 2005 but shelved plans for West Bank pullouts after last year's Lebanon war. Many Israelis oppose removals for fear of bolstering Hamas, the governing Palestinian Islamist faction.
Asked if the Palestinian government could hold talks with Israel on the settlement evacuations and thus affect their scale and pace, Peres said: "If Hamas is willing to negotiate, recognize Israel and achieve peace, then definitely, yes.
"We will implement it according to actions" by the Palestinian government, said Peres, senior deputy to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert's ability to carry out a major West Bank withdrawal over the objections of pro-settler Israelis is in doubt, given his plummeting popularity since the inconclusive July-August war with Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Hamas, whose military wing helped spearhead a 6-year-old Palestinian revolt with a wave of suicide bombings, insists it will not formally recognise Israel. Hamas's 1988 founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
But Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state alongside it.
The Islamist group last month signed a power-sharing deal with the more moderate Fatah faction in the hope of winning Western approval.
A quartet of international mediators has said it awaits word on the diplomatic platform of the planned Hamas-Fatah coalition government, and for now is maintaining a Western aid embargo imposed on the Palestinians after Hamas took power.
Around 268,380 Jewish settlers and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank. Israel has said it will keep major West Bank settlement blocs under any final peace accord, a position rejected by Palestinians.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian unity government may be in place before Abbas-Olmert Meeding.

Palestinians are hurrying to put this government in place, apparently so they can present Olmert with a fait accompli.

Palestinian unity government to be announced within a week, senior Fatah
legislator says
Date: 03 / 03 / 2007  Time:  13:46

Gaza - Ma'an - The head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Azzam Al-Ahmad, has said that he expects the formation of the Palestinian national unity government to be completed by the end of this coming week, and before the meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert.

In a press conference held in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Friday night, Al-Ahmad said, "Abbas will be coming to Gaza on Sunday to continue consultations with the prime minister in order to reach a final decision regarding the government." He hinted that some of the factions have refused to participate in the unity government.

Al-Ahmad added that he did not give the list of names for the Fatah ministers to Prime Minister Haniyeh during his meeting with him as was expected, but he assured that this can be done at any time.

Al-Ahmad expressed his hope that the problem of the participation of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the incoming government will be solved.

In regard to the differences between Hamas and Fatah regarding the ministry of the interior, he said, "This will be decided in the Abbas-Haniyeh meeting", which is planned for Sunday in Gaza City. He believes that there are positive signs which suggest that the government will be formed in the coming few days.

In the same sequence, the head of the Hamas bloc in the PLC, Khalil El-Haiyeh, said that his movement will submit the names of their nominees to the prime minister on Saturday. He told journalists that Hamas' meeting with the Fatah delegation on Friday was serious and removed all obstacles and differences. He also said that they have urged Fatah to present the names of their nominees as soon as possible.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama tells Jews what they want to hear - will he deliver?

Candidates always tell voters what they want to hear. Barak Obama is no exception. His pro-Israel stance is commendable. It doesn't seem to be distinguishable from those of other major candidates. His voting record on Israel is said to be "sterling" for the Jews. As for fulfilment of campaign promises, who knows? Levi Eshkol once said, "I promised, but did I promise to keep the promise?"

Obama: US should never dictate what's best for Israel
In speech delivered before AIPAC lobbyists in Chicago, US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama reveals strongly pro-Israel platform: US must preserve 'total commitment to unique defense relationship with Israel', work to stop Iran's nuclear program even if military action is necessary
Yitzhak Benhorin Published: 03.02.07, 21:10 / Israel News
WASHINGTON - In a powerfully pro-Israel speech, Democratic presidential candidate US Senator Barack Obama clarified that Israel and the United States do not have the luxury to ignore the exhortations of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and "no option, including military action, (should be taken) off the table" in the effort to stop Iran's nuclear armament.

Regading the Middle East peace process, Obama declared that Israel should never feel "dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table" by the United States.

Senator Obama appeared Friday in Chicago before an audience of hundreds of lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

"The world must work to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy," he said.

Even though all options were on the table, Obama said the utmost efforts should be devoted to "sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions".

Obama stressed the importance of preventing Iran's nuclear armament, which could lead weapons of mass destruction into the hands of terrorists, inevitably causing other Middle East nations to join the race for nuclear weapons. "To prevent this worst-case scenario, we need the United States to lead tough-minded diplomacy," he said.

"This includes direct engagement with Iran similar to the meetings we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, laying out in clear terms our principles and interests," he said.

Obama also said pressure must be applied to Egypt to crack down on the smuggling of weapons and Iranian money into the hands of terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

"We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs. This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza," he said.

'Right to defend'

Obama stressed that "when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel's legitimate right to defend itself." To illustrate his point, the Illinois senator used the example of last summer's war in Lebanon, and reiterated the United States' commitment to press for the full implementation of United Nations Security Council Resoultion 1701.


"In moments like these, true allies do not walk away. For six years, the administration has missed opportunities to increase the United States' influence in the region and help Israel achieve the peace she wants and the security she needs. The time has come for us to seize those opportunities," Obama noted.


Obama said he was concerned by the agreement reached last month in Mecca between Fatah and Hamas to establish a coalition government in the Palestinian Authority.


"This should concern us all because it suggests that Mahmoud Abbas, who is a Palestinian leader I believe is committed to peace, felt forced to compromise with Hamas. However, if we are serious about the Quartet's conditions, we must tell the Palestinians this is not good enough," he declared.


Obama referred to past peace efforts, saying, "Rabin had the vision to reach out to longtime enemies. Ariel Sharon had the determination to lead Israel out of Gaza. These were difficult, painful decisions that went to the heart of Israel's identity as a nation."



The senator promised to act with determination to advance peace and to send diplomatic delegations with true goals to the Middle East, rather than "continuing to have trips consisting of little more than photo-ops with little movement in between."


"But in the end," he added, "we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon: How to start a revolution and blame the Zionists

This is how Syrian intelligence and Palestinian and other militias wrecked Lebanon in 1983 and 1984. They then blamed it all on the "Zionists."  Read it and weep - for Lebanon, for the Middle East, and for your own country To the outsider, the Lebanese civil war seemed like a spontaneous eruption, due to the mysterious forces or Israeli aggression. In reality, it was a skilfully orchestrated and vicious plot by unemployed thugs and by Syria. The casualties of the Lebanese civil war, including the Sabra and Shatila massacres blamed on "Zionist war crimes" were all the doings of these thugs and their Syrian patrons.

Rebellion within and against Beirut

Youssef Bazzi

I'm going to tell you how civil strife happens (or if you prefer: revolution, upheaval, uprising or rebellion), the way I experienced it as a wild adolescent during Lebanon's war. By the autumn of 1982, most Lebanese assumed that the war had come to an end. From early 1983 people had started to return to their daily routines: getting back to work, planning their futures and searching for ways to enjoy stable and secure lives. We—the young men of parties and defeated militias—lived out, unseen, days of unemployment, bit work, harassment by the state's security services and persecution by secret armed squads loyal to the regime. Many of us were forced to flee, either to the south to join the resistance against Israel or to the Bekaa Valley, controlled by Syria and its allies.

For those who remained in and around Beirut, rage, fear and hatred became their daily bread. Once lords of the city, masters of life and death in the areas they ruled, they now found themselves rudely shunted down to the lowest rug on the social ladder: unemployed, homeless outcasts stripped of their weapons. Their guns had been their profession, their trade; the source of their strength and livelihood. Makeshift peace had come and turned them into useless bums. They longed for a return to war, pined for their paradise lost.

Early in the summer of 1983 the "general leadership" of Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine arrived in Beirut's suburbs accompanied by experts from Syrian intelligence and "officers" from what remained of the Patriotic Movement's militias. Work started on reassembling party cells and organizing youth groups whose members were then recruited in preparation for the battle to topple the regime.

The first step was to dole out lavish financial compensation to the unemployed; the second was to select secure locations to be used as caches for weapons that would later be smuggled into central Beirut; the third stage was to resume secret military training, distributing silenced handguns, hand-grenades and slabs of TNT and putting a number vehicles at the disposal of these secret youth organizations for smuggling weapons, stake-outs and tailing operations, and for carrying out kidnappings and assaults.

We were boiling with our resentment of the Lebanese Army and the general contentment of ordinary people. Creeping through the dark underbelly of the city we awaited zero hour. Our instructions were clear: incite immigrants from the south, and those who had been driven out of the apartments where they had been squatting to clash with the police and security services. I remember well the role played by the Boutros Group in encouraging the Alyanis School incident, when immigrants clashed with security forces charged with clearing school premises of illegal squatters.

Stones, rubbish bins, sticks and tires… and the instant the young operatives sensed that the immigrants were losing steam in the face of the security forces' superior strength they opened fire on an army transport from within the school gates. One volley after another issued from the corner of a back street and chaos descended. This was just an isolated incident and we failed to fan the flames further.

Yet we did manage to provoke parties loyal to the regime into taking us on. This was the mistake we were waiting for. They started a campaign of kidnappings, intimidation, provocations, attempted assassinations and random grenade attacks. We responded in kind, spurred on by the central leadership in Bekaa. The goal was to create an atmosphere of instability and fear and our first task was to deny Beirut its sleep by filling its nights with uncertainty, fear and the sounds of explosions.

At this time, intelligence service activity was at its ruthless peak. The authorities chose one August morning in 1983 to make their move: a huge wave of raids and arrests. It forced us to offer our response, one we hoped would shake the army and police to its foundations and terrorize the multinational force. It was to be a dress rehearsal for the coming Intifada.

The authorities assumed that they had put an end to the uprising, and that our lack of weapons and supplies and our paltry numbers would prove too serious to overcome. Our feelings of defeat and loss were soon compensated for however, when, in early September, we were informed of a new strategy: unique steps would be taken to eject the multinational forces, weapons of a new type would be supplied in vast quantities and wages would be raised. As a sign of the seriousness of this pronouncement, the civilian leadership left Bekaa and came to join us in Beirut, even as battles broke out in Al-Jabal and Al-Dahiya were transformed into a permanent war-zone. The Karama highway was little more than a series of rubble-strewn tracks leading from Al-Jabal to the Al-Sulm neighborhood, which itself became known as Al-Karama. During the course of our daily runs between Al-Dahiya and Beirut smuggling carloads of weapons and supplies, we began to notice that Lebanese Army units were helping us cross the Shatila ring-road that divided our route. That's when the system starts to crumble: when its guardians lose their loyalty.

Like the rest of my friends and colleagues I hadn't the faintest idea what it meant to be a citizen, nor understood concepts such as a citizen's rights and duties, constitutional responsibilities or democratic systems. Our political culture was limited to "hostility towards Israel", "hatred of the government" (or more likely, "any government") and "rejecting Lebanon" (both as an identity and a state). It never occurred to us to ask ourselves whether we were carrying out the wishes of a majority, whether destroying our country was our duty and the best possible option for the Lebanese people, nor whether our victory would get us a better life. We never thought to ask. We were believers, no more, spurred on by a faith that pushed us to death, battle and murder.

And that was why, at 9:03pm on February 6 1984 we never hesitated for an instant, rising out of our hiding places and, loaded with weaponry, moving in a single body through the streets, squares and neighborhoods to take back the capital in the blink of an eye.

I'll never forget the scene. People were going about their lives: working; shopping; going to school; going for a walk. Impressions: the clamor of pedestrians and crowded shops; a light rain falling; the sounds of music trilling from car, balconies; voices from street hawkers, families and café patrons; the rich imagery of film posters. Restaurants had started welcoming in their first customers, the workshops were busy and pretty girls sat beneath canopy awnings. University students were making their way from Hamra to Bliss Street or the Faculty of Law in Al-Sanai. I will never forget the terror that gripped the passers-by, the fear that spread like wildfire as we appeared, like genies from the depth of hell brandishing rifles and RPGs. One spellbinding entrance and we had the city in our grip, at our mercy.

Eight years on from the astonishing events of the February 6 Intifada: May 6 1992. I was now a civilian, strolling the same streets between Hamra and Ras Beirut. Groups of young men—their features gave them away as intelligence-funded militia—were handing out sticks and planks from the same type of vehicles we used to use. If any of the teenagers and boys on the streets displayed any lack of enthusiasm towards their appointed task of destruction and troublemaking, the militia would pile out in a mob, sprint towards the glass-fronted stores and exchange booths and start laying waste all around them. Screaming and shouting they urged the others to join them. Rage seized the hesitant kids and their reservations were forgotten…

First comes the shouting and screaming in a hysterical fashion, followed by the gnashing of teeth, and at last, the mob welcomes you. The plague spreads. With each shout, each shattered pane or fallen sign a frenzied ecstasy clouds their faces. And, as in 1984, so too in 1992. People ran for cover, the streets emptied and the "protestors" took over the capital. Smoke rose into the sky, roads were closed, fear spread and the government fell.

Fifteen years have passed since the May 6 Intifada. Now, in January 2007, Lebanon is witnessing ongoing preparations to bring down a government and a regime. The group behind all this is, with a few small changes, the same as before: the remnants of old armed groups plus the more experienced and disciplined cadres of a new generation of militias. Without a doubt, the experiences won by years of war and peace and the previous uprisings mentioned above, have helped create a new approach to fomenting civil strife. It has necessitated a gradual approach, or as those actually involved are calling it, "tentative steps". In other words, a minutely researched and strictly controlled rehearsal must be held before the main event. This is accompanied by distortion and lies: the real reason for the mobilization is never announced. They have declared a non-violent, civil, general strike, yet the plan is for something else altogether: blocking off roads, setting fires, spreading fear and terror, forcing people to remain in their homes, shutting down transport and destabilizing the military-security complex. In other words, achieving the same goals as the February 6 1984 Intifada using the techniques of the May 6 1992 Intifada, without ever resorting to force of arms.

This is what we witnessed last Tuesday: a novel and quite astonishing strategy that speaks eloquently of the intelligence of those who planned and carried it out. What the rebels—or opposition—achieved demonstrates how effectively they have absorbed the lessons of the past. Or rather, all lessons save for one: that the tastes and preferences of the Lebanese have changed. It was a strategic error, if that's the right expression. A failure to perceive the transformation that has affected the majority of Lebanese citizens since February 2005. They no longer opt to passively surrender. The silent majority have cast off their silence.

There can be no doubt that sectarianism is deeply rooted in all strands of Lebanese society, and was integral to the Intifada's inability to achieve its goals. However, it may have a more dangerous role in laying the ground for more serious confrontations, even raising the old question marks over Lebanon's viability as a state. Yet at the same time, we must admit that compared with its historical frailty in the face of civil disturbance, the regime is proving exceptionally tough. It may be deriving some strength from the positive steps taken by a large segment of the population to confront the threat and defend the state. Perhaps by neglecting this lesson, the opposition inadvertently helped us avoid the worst. Then again, perhaps our last hope lies in developing immunity for the state and its allies by achieving a clear moral victory over its enemies.

Youssef Bazzi (20/02/2007)

(Translated from Arabic by Robin Moger)

Continued (Permanent Link)

US breaking diplomatic embargo on Syria

After vetoing Israeli peace talks with Syria, US is breaking its own diplomatic embargo, by joining in a regional conference in Iraq that includes Syria, and by sending an assistant secretary of state to Syria.

Senior US official to visit Syria   
The United States is to send a high-ranking official to Syria for the first time in two years.
Ellen Sauerbrey, the assistant secretary of state, will travel to Damascus "in coming weeks" as part of a regional tour dealing with "humanitarian issues related to Iraqi refugees," Sean McCormack, US state department spokesman, has said.

Sauerbrey will be the highest-ranking US official to visit Syria since early 2005, when Richard Armitage, then-deputy secretary of state, travelled to Damascus.

Talks 'not bilateral'
The United States withdrew its ambassador from Damascus after Syrian authorities were implicated in the February 2005  assassination in Beirut of Rafiq al-Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister.
Playing down the diplomatic significance of the trip, McCormack said Sauerbrey would be "paired" on the tour with a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
"It's not a bilateral mission," he said.
But he said Sauerbrey, who handles refugee and migration affairs at the state department, would be authorised to meet with her Syrian  counterparts to discuss the refugee issue.
She will also visit Jordan and possibly other countries in the region, he said.
Strained ties
The administration of George Bush, the US president, accuses Syria of backing anti-US fighters in Iraq and supporting efforts by the  Lebanese Islamic movement Hezbollah to topple the pro-Western government of Lebanon.
But in an apparent sudden shift in policy, Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, announced this week that she and other US officials would join their Syrian and Iranian counterparts in coming weeks at conferences  on Iraq's future.
McCormack has refused to rule out bilateral contacts with Syrian and Iranian officials on the sidelines of those meetings, leaving the door ajar for what would amount to a major switch in Bush's policy of shunning what he considers rogue regimes, such as North  Korea.

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abdullah doesn't understand why Israel doesn't surrender to Hamas

It is not clear what Abdullah expects Israel to do in the face of Hamas intransigence, or what choice was given to Israel to "live in peace with its neighbors."
Hamas has declared repeatedly that it is not willing to live in peace with Israel.
The Arab Peace Initiative is not a choice, since it insists on the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Hamas does not even accept that.

Abdullah: Israelis must choose between 'fortress mentality' or peace
By The Associated Press

AMMAN - Jordan's King Abdullah II said Friday that Israel must choose between the mentality of Israel as a fortress, or living in peace and security with its neighbors.
Interviewed on state television before his departure for the United States, the king said the United States was the country most capable of influencing Israel.
"It is time that the [U.S.] employ this influence to prove its transparency to the people of the region, and that it is not biased, Abdullah said.
The king, who has long urged America to make a greater effort on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, is likely to make the same point when he addresses the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.
"The Middle East faces two choices - either the choice of peace or the choice of chaos, violence and destruction," the king told Jordanian television, to which he rarely gives interviews.
He said that a solution to the Palestinian problem would spare the region disaster and chaos. Referring to the United States, he said: "It is our duty to push this great state, and others, to take balanced positions and support the peace process."
Abdullah said that he realized that Washington was preoccupied with Iraq, and said Jordan too wanted to see reconciliation and stability in Iraq.
But, the king added, "the principle problem in the region is the Palestinian issue and, if it is not solved, it will be impossible to solve the other problems."
On Jordanian affairs, Abdullah sought to assure Jordanians that the legislative and municipal elections due later this year would be held on time.
There have been reports that the polls would be delayed.
In Washington, the king is expected to hold talks with President George W. Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hezbullah financing terror attacks in Israel

Actually, everyone knows that Hezbollah (Iran) has been funding Islamic Jihad and Hamas. So what else is new? Hezbollah financing hospitals in the Palestinian territories would have me worried.

Captured terrorists reveal Hizbullah plans for Israel

Friday, February 23, 2007
TEL AVIV — The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah has ordered its Palestinian agents to launch mass-casualty attacks in Israel.
Israeli security sources said Hizbullah has been financing more than 20 plots to conduct suicide and other bombings inside the Jewish state. The sources said Hizbullah has relayed funds to Fatah operatives loyal to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"Hizbullah has increased funding and orders since the end of the [Israeli-Lebanese] war," a source said. "It wants the action to move from Lebanon to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem."
The sources said their information was based on the capture and interrogation of senior Fatah and Jihad operatives. They said Hizbullah-aligned cells were most active in the West Bank city of Nablus.
On Jan. 25, Israeli security forces captured a Fatah operative identified as Amr Damara in Nablus. The 26-year-old has been charged with organizing bombing attacks in Israel on orders of Hizbullah.
The sources said Damara was appointed by Hizbullah about a month ago after the death of the previous liasion with the Shi'ite militia. Mohammed Ramaha, another Fatah operative, was Hizbullah's liasion in Nablus, until he was killed in an Israeli military operation on Dec. 14, 2006.
"Recently, Damara was involved in attempts to carry out a bombing attack against Israeli civilians and lead several attempts to smuggle explosive devices and explosive belts out of Nablus," the sources said.
The sources said the Fatah network in Nablus was directed by both Hizbullah as well as commanders from the Gaza Strip. They said the network marked one of the greatest security threats in the West Bank.
"These operatives are continuously working in order to carry out bombing attacks against Israeli civilians," the source said.
On Tuesday, Israeli security forces foiled a major suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. Security forces captured a 24 year-old Islamic Jihad insurgent who led them to a cache of explosives hidden in central Israel. The insurgent also led security forces to to his operator, Mahmoud Abu Ubayed, 24, commander of Islamic Jihad in the West Bank town of Jenin. On Wednesday, border police ambushed and killed Abu Ubayed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Racists gear up to stop Israel-Euro football match

The pro-Palestinian ISM movement (they are "non-violent" but support "resistance") are running a campaign to cancel the footbal game between the Israel and British teams to be held March 24.
They urge their people to pressure the British Football Association, and UEFA to cancel the match. They also urge people to write letters intimidating Kickitout, an organization dedicated to ending racism in football (soccer for Americans).
Below is an account of match preparations from Kickitout.
It would really be a pity if the FA found some excuse to stop this match and disappoint all those fans.
Help keep politics out of football and keep fair play in football. The Arab lobby managed to blackball Israel from Asian sports federations. Now they are trying to do the same thing in Europe.
Please write to the Football Association and UEFA (or call) to ask them to stand firm and not to cancel the match. Please write to Kickitout to express your support. Contact information available on request - it can be found on the Web.
Ami Isseroff

Friday 2 Mar, 2007

The England players travelling to Israel for the crucial Euro 2008 qualifier will not visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, an English Football Association official has said.

But hundreds of English Jews are expected to descend on Israel for the game under the banners of various groups including the Zionist Federation, JNF and Maccabi GB who have all planned various activities for the Jewish fans including trips to the capital.

With less than a month to go till the March 24 match excitement is mounting in Israel. The Israelis know that a good result against England will put them in a good position to qualify for their first major tournament  since the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.

Israel has never played England in a competitive match before and this will be the first time England has played in Israel for many years.

But although the England squad visited a German concentration camp while in Germany for last summer's World Cup, Football Association director of corporate affairs Simon Johnson said the England players will not be  taking time out of their schedule to visit Yad Vashem while in Israel.

The England team will only be in Israel for a couple of days and will leave soon after the match to fly to Andorra where they will play a second qualifier in a week. Israel defeated Andorra 3-1 back in September, but England will not be treating any of the teams in its group lightly and Johnson said it was important for the players to focus on the match.

Thousands of English coming

Maccabi GB is one of a number of groups bringing English Jews to Israel for the game. A Maccabi spokesperson said they felt it was a good opportunity to encourage people to increase their connection with Israel and Maccabi  has organised both a week-long and weekend trip for their supporters.

Maccabi has created a strong connection with the English FA and will host a Friday night dinner for England fans and trip to Yad Vashem.

The Zionist Federation is also organising a trip which will include a panel discussion debating the effect sports can have on the peace process.

The FA has had strong links with the Israeli FA, boosted last year with a visit to Israel by an FA delegation which included former Liverpool and England star John Barnes to launch the Israel kick racism out of football campaign. 

Tickets available

There are fears, however, that not as many England fans as expected will be in Israel to see the game. FA spokesman Andrin Cooper told JC Sport last week that there are still 1,000 tickets left for England fans.

"We have sold 3,500 of our 4,500 allocation and there are still two weeks for England members to purchase their tickets," Cooper said. "There is no country in the world with the level of support we have and the dedication and commitment of our fans is there for all to see."

Mark Perryman, head of the London branch of England supporters, told the JC he feels that England fans are looking forward to the trip.

"Tel Aviv is the destination England fans are most excited about. The place is in the news almost every day and is somewhere most of our supporters have never visited as they do not consider it a holiday destination, despite  its huge historical significance," Perryman said.

By Jeremy Last, European Jewish News

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, March 2, 2007

Which word will PLO honor?

On February 16, Forward newspaper published an Op-Ed by Afif Safieh, head of the PLO delegation to the United States. It is entitled "We Palestinians will honor our word." It can only be characterized as a shameless document. The PLO has a perfect record. They have broken every single agreement that they have made with Israel, in detail, paragraph by paragraph.
In the Oslo Declaration of Principles, they undertook to refrain from violence, and Yasser Arafat assured Israel and the United States that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist. Of these undertakings, nothing at all remains. Hundreds of reassurances about stopping violence were followed regularly by terror attacks, beginning in 1994. Joint patrols with Israel came to an end after Palestinians killed their Israeli counterparts. Even while assuring the world that he opposed violence, Arafat was signing salary chits for terrorists and the Palestinian treasury was funding the manufacture of suicide bomber vests. In violation of the Oslo DOP and the Wye River accords, a steady torrent of incitement issued from Palestinian Authority media - articles asserting that Jews are the root of all evil, little girls promising to blow themselves up to liberate Jerusalem, texts that teach the "duty" of Jihad.
The elections that brought the Hamas to power, held with the consent and on the insistence of the PLO were illegal. Under the Oslo interim agreement, parties that are committed to violence were not allowed to participate in the elections, yet Hamas was allowed to participate.  
With the signing of the Mecca agreement, in which Hamas will be allowed to enter the PLO and Fatah will join the Hamas dominated PNA government, nothing is left of the PLO undertaking to recognize Israel. Hamas officials remarked that the agreement means that Fatah is finished. The PLO will henceforth be Hamas. The word they will honor is the word in the Hamas Charter - "Jihad." After signing the agreement, Hamas reiterated that they will never recognize Israel and never make peace with Israel. Moderate Palestinians condemned this agreement as Fatah capitulation to Hamas. Nobody who wants peace in the Middle East or a better future for Palestinians can accept this document, or can accept the PLO after they signed this document.
It is past time to say "Enough" to PLO prevarications. We must have faith that there are Palestinians who want peace, and who will one day live in peace with Israel. But negotiations and peace cannot be based on fictitious history, and blatant lies of the type that Safieh perpetrated in his article cannot be accepted in silence out of politeness.
The op-ed of Afif Safieh is of the same nature as the Friedensreden of Adolf Hitler, the speeches that promised peace, which were always made after a particularly onerous Nazi aggression.  
It is understandable that Safieh had the effrontery to concoct this nonsensical document. What possessed the Forward to publish his mendacious propaganda?
Ami Isseroff

We Palestinians Will Honor Our Word
Afif Safieh | Fri. Feb 16, 2007

I know of no way to measure suffering, no mechanism to quantify pain. All I know is that we Palestinians are not children of a lesser God.

Had I been a Jew or a Gypsy, I would consider the Holocaust to be the most atrocious event in history. Had I been a Native American, it would be the arrival of the European settlers and the subsequent near-total extermination of the indigenous population. Had I been an African American, it would be slavery in previous centuries and apartheid in the last. Had I been an Armenian, it would be the Turkish massacre.

I happen to be a Palestinian, and for Palestinians the most atrocious event in history is what we call the Nakba, the catastrophe. Humanity should consider all the above as morally unacceptable, all as politically inadmissible. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not comparing the Nakba to the Holocaust. Each catastrophe stands on its own, and I do not like to indulge in comparative martyrology or a hierarchy of tragedies. I only mention our respective traumas in order to illustrate that we each bring to the table our own particular history.

The fact that the accords reached last week in Mecca between Hamas and Fatah were met with a variety of reactions, ranging from warm to cautious to skeptical, makes it imperative to revisit and learn the lessons of the diplomatic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Time and again the three "no's" of the Khartoum summit in 1967 — no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel — are invoked as proof conclusive of Arab intransigence toward Israel. Such a claim, however, conveniently forgets that Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt and Jordan accepted United Nations Security Council resolution 242 just months after the Khartoum meeting.

Also forgotten is that Syria, after the October War in 1973 — the purpose of which, it should be remembered, was to reactivate a dormant diplomatic process and to capture the attention of American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger — accepted U.N. resolution 338, which incorporated resolution 242. Ignored, too, is that the entire Arab world endorsed a peace plan put forth by the then-Saudi crown prince Fahd at a 1982 summit in Fez, Morocco, as well as unanimously backed the initiative put forth by then-Saudi crown prince Abdallah in Beirut in 2002.

For the Palestinian national movement, the October War in 1973 was a demarcation line in strategic thinking. It is then that we concluded that there was no military solution to the conflict. Until then we had advocated a unitary, democratic, bicultural, multiethnic and pluri-confessional state in Mandatory Palestine.

After 1973, a pragmatic coalition within the Palestine Liberation Organization emerged. Composed of Yasser Arafat's Fatah, Nayef Hawatmeh's Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and As Sa'iqa, the Palestinian branch of the Syrian Ba'ath Party, the coalition demanded not absolute justice but rather possible justice within the framework of a two-state solution. The fact that As Sa'iqa belonged to that school of thought, it is worth noting, is proof that Damascus can be a constructive player in the region if properly engaged and its concerns addressed. Syria is not necessarily the eternal spoiler that needs to use the Lebanese theater or the Palestinian scene in order to remind everyone of its presence.

Led by this pragmatic coalition, the PLO was ready for a historical compromise as far back as 1974. It was not the rejectionist player, as many have labeled it, but rather the rejected party until the Oslo peace talks in 1993. Throughout its presence in Lebanon, the PLO aimed to remain a military factor so as to be accepted as a diplomatic actor.

I have told my many Israeli interlocutors that I believe that the Israeli posture in peace negotiations was to expect a diplomatic outcome that would reflect Israeli power and intransigence, American alignment toward Israeli preferences, declining Russian influence, European abdication, Arab impotence and what they hoped to be Palestinian resignation.

It is this attitude that has resulted in having a durable peace process instead of a lasting and permanent peace. Peace and security will stem not from territorial aggrandizement but from regional acceptance — and make no mistake about it, we Palestinians are the key to regional acceptance of Israel. For years now, the Arab world from Morocco to Muscat has been ready to recognize the existence of Israel if it withdraws back from its expanded 1967 borders. The perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is due not to the Arab rejection of Israeli existence, but to the Israeli rejection of Arab acceptance.

The absence of a credible diplomatic avenue has allowed for the emergence and the strengthening of radical movements. The electoral defeat of Fatah in January 2006 was caused by a plurality of factors, not least of them the fact that Fatah became identified with negotiations and a peace process that was non-existent for the last six years and totally unconvincing during the years preceding. To the Palestinians, the last 15 years of "peacemaking" were years during which we witnessed the expansion of the occupation — with the number of settlers doubling — not a withdrawal from the occupation.

Now, however, there is a chance to move beyond this history. As a result of the agreement reached last week in Mecca, the Palestinian government will be more representative than at any period before. The new foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, both enjoys the confidence of Hamas and is a political friend of Mahmoud Abbas — who as PLO chairman is charged with negotiating on behalf of the Palestinian people and as P.A. president has prerogative over the conduct of foreign affairs.

Both Fatah and Hamas are in favor of a cease-fire, for which they can now ensure disciplined Palestinian adherence — especially if it is reciprocated by the Israeli side and extended to the West Bank, where alas we have recently witnessed an escalation in assassinations and arrests. And in Mecca, Hamas and Fatah agreed that the Palestinian government will honor all agreements signed by the PLO, will abide by all the resolutions of previous Arab summits and will base its activity on international law.

The term "honor," rest assured, has as much a ring of nobility to it in Arabic — if not more — as it does in any other language.

A territory that was occupied in 1967 in less than six days can also be evacuated in six days — so that Israelis can rest on the seventh, and we can all finally engage in the fascinating journey of nation-building and economic recovery.

Afif Safieh is head of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States.

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UN: Ancient Jewish Document Proof of Crimes against Humanity

UN: Ancient Jewish Document Proof of Crimes against Humanity

Human Rights champion John Dugard notes crimes against humanity and war crimes documented in the book of Esther. "Those people have been making trouble for over 2,300 years," he stated, "and they even celebrate their brutal rights violations. Hasn't this gone on long enough?"

[UN March 3] - UN Special Rapporteur on the Jewish question, John Dugard, has urged action against Israel for crimes against civilians and crimes against humanity reported in the Book of Esther.

"According to our information," states DuGuard, "Jews were guilty of extrajudicial killings, and of crimes against humanity. The Book of Esther states:

" 9:5 Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.

9:6 And in Shushan the palace the Jews slew and destroyed five hundred men.

9:7 And Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha, 9:8 And Poratha, and Adalia, and Aridatha, 9:9 And Parmashta, and Arisai, and Aridai, and Vajezatha, 9:10 The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews, slew they..."

9:15 For the Jews that were in Shushan gathered themselves together on the fourteenth day also of the month Adar, and slew three hundred men at Shushan...

9:16 ... the other Jews that were in the king's provinces ... slew of their foes seventy and five thousand...

"These are acts of violence against unarmed civilians," notes Dugard. "This cannot be tolerated."

Dugard is asking for a special session of the General Assembly to condemn these acts.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch declared,"Our study found no evidence of any armed men among the victims of Jewish agression. These is no excuse for these Jewish war crimes."

Professor John Mearsheimer, an expert on the Israel lobby commented, "This is what happens when the Israel lobby takes over a country. Those people break all the laws. They use anything it takes to win influence: money, sex, you name it. Haman was a victim of the Israel lobby, no doubt about it."

Former President Jimmy Carter noted, "The moment anyone tries to say anything bad against the Jews, the money people squash him like a bug. Poor Haman never had a chance."

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Smoke bomb thrown into Jewish kindergarten in Berlin
Smoke bomb thrown into Jewish kindergarten in Berlin
By Oliver Bradley Updated: 26/Feb/2007 17:43
BERLIN (EJP)--- A tragedy was avoided on Sunday after a smoke bomb, thrown through a window of a Jewish kindergarten in Berlin, failed to ignite.

However, the school, located in a northwest neighbourhood of the German capital, was not spared by the spray painting of swastikas, other Nazi symbols and anti-Semitic phrases, such as "Auschwitz," "Juden Raus"
(Jews, get out) and "Sieg Heil", on its outer walls, as well as on toys that had been lying around in the school's playground.

A police spokesman said the attack did not cause serious damage or endanger children or staff at the school.
Berlin's Interior Minister Ehrhart Körting condemned the attack as a "cowardly act" and called it "a particularly brutal that had taken anti-Semitic acts to a new dimension".

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Scott Shay: Saving US Jewry - Education and births

This man has hit on some good ideas. Unfortunately, telling people to have more babies is not going to have much effect unless the social and economic rewards are arranged to make it attractive to do so. Jewish education is probably the number one concern for Zionism as well as for the Jewish people. Israel should have an active part in this. All this costs money. Educating more kids costs more money and having kids instead of a career costs money. We would hope that Scott Shay, a money person, has some ideas on how to fund it.

Shmuel Rosner, Chief U.S. Correspondent
February 26, 2007

Rosner's Guest: Scott Shay

Scott Shay is a banker. He is the Chairman of the Board of Signature Bank of New York and is active in private equity investments through Shay Ventures LLC. Shay was previously a partner and a co-founder of Hyperion Partners, and served for eight years as a member of the board of Bank Hapoalim.

But Shay is also heavily involved in Jewish causes: He serves as a board member of the UJA - Jewish Federation of New York, the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education and the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is immediate past chair of the Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal of UJA-Jewish Federation. He is also a member of the Birthright Israel Steering Committee and is chair of The Fund for Jewish Education.

With Shay, we will discuss his recently published book: Getting our Groove Back: How To Energize American Jewry in which he "examines the current state and future prospects of American Jewry and finds a Jewish community that is dangerously adrift and on an overall downward trajectory, due to a community-wide lack of shared purpose, focus, and mutual concern."

Readers can send questions to

Dear Scott
Your "to do list" will probably anger some members of the community. You ask parents to "encourage man to marry earlier," to "start families earlier, and to" discuss with daughters the risk of pregnancy after 35." You also ask rabbis to "promote early marriage and larger families". Can such advice be practical with the younger Jewish generation? Aren't you going to alienate them by making them feel that your policy invades their privacy?

Best, Rosner

Dear Shmuel,
You are quite right that some of the planks in the book are controversial. Interestingly, after have spoken to a fair number of audiences this position surprisingly is less so. I think almost everyone intuitively understands that there are just too many Jewish young adults remaining single for too long. About 15 percent of Jewish women do not marry until they are at the end of their child bearing years. The median age that Jewish men marry has passed 35. If you net out the children of intermarried couples who are specifically not being raised as Jewish, you get a net fertility rate of 1.2. At that rate a typical population halves in about 45-50 years. Because we American Jews are so much older on average than Americans as a whole, our population will fall by 50 percent in less time.

I think that people basically understand these facts even if they do not know the precise figures or the pace. The fundamental problem is that Judaism is not important enough for many to change their behaviors. If it is important to Jewish parents to see their children marry Jews then they need to make sure that they have Jewish experiences such as camp, youth movements and Israel trips. If it is important for Jewish parents to see their children marry Jews then they need to be models for why being Jewish is important to the world and personally meaningful. We need to explain why it is important for us to be fruitful and multiply. In modernity, bearing children is the ultimate unselfish expression of our peoplehood. None of this happens by accident, yet many in the American Jewish community expect it to be so.

In my plank on child bearing, I do not call on American Jews to suddenly begin having 6-10 children families. Rather I ask couples to think about having one more child. Those who have 2 children should think about having 3 and those who want to have 3 might think about bringing a 4th child into the world. These kitchen table decisions are more crucial to the future of American Jewry than all of weighty decisions brought down by the rarified councils of the organized Jewish community.

Probably the most satisfying part of having written the book is from hearing from some readers that they have seriously considered having another child even though they had previously thought they were done. If that happens than all of the time writing the book was well worth it.

All the best, Scott

Dear Scott,

I'll start with a more general question in order to let the readers know what we're talking about. The subtitle to your book is "how to energize American Jewry" and your answer is 300 pages long, but for this dialog we need the shorter version. So let me ask just these two quick questions:

1. Why energize American Jewry?
2. Your three-most-important-steps for revitalizing Jewish America.



Dear Shmuel,

I passionately believe that American Jewry has been and is a force for tremendous good for world Jewry, for America, for Israel and the world. When American Jewry galvanizes itself there are few limits to what it can accomplish. The success of the Save Soviet Jewry movement which directly contributed to the demise of the communist monopoly on power in the former Soviet Union is but one example. This was followed by a massive financial effort by American Jewry to pay for a large chunk of the cost if the exodus and resettlement.

The same impulse leads American Jews to be at the forefront of social justice causes, medical research, cultural contributions and political involvement. The current Congress has 40 Jewish members.

By the same token, when American Jews were divided and, partially justifiably confused and subject to anti-Semitism themselves, they did not adequately galvanize themselves to publicize and protest the unfolding Holocaust in Europe. That is not to say American ''Jewry could have stopped the Holocaust but it is possible to imagine that they could have lobbied for the bombing of the concentration camps and the like.

I also passionately believe that American Jewry still possesses the strength to revitalize its purpose, passion and numbers. But in 25 years the shape of American Jewry could be quite different and its ability to be a force for good in the world could be quite diminished. So we need to act now.

In terms of what 3 items I would place first, I would initially plead we need all ten outlined in the book. I think a good place to start is with the first three planks. They are reinventing Hebrew schools, changing the financing of day schools so that 50 per cent of American Jewish children can attend day schools and unifying Birthright Israel, summer trips to Israel and Masa in a way that insures that every American teen and young adult visits Israel on a quality experience trip.

These three steps along with the others would revolutionize the shape of American Jewry.

All the best, Scott

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Right of Return or Peace?

Israeli statecraft and advocacy has not focused sharply enough on the fraud inherent in peace proposals that include "Right" of Return for Palestinian refugees.

Israelis and Palestinians should ponder 'land for refugees'
By Shlomo Avineri
Commentary by
Friday, March 02, 2007

It is now pretty clear that despite almost universally repeated incantations, the "road map" is not going anywhere. In a way, it never was a road map, but a wish list; nor did it specify how to get from A to B. Above all, it put both Palestinians and Israelis in the unenviable position of having to take meaningful steps, some of them irreversible, without knowing whether at the end of the road a final-status solution would actually be achieved. 
It is this conundrum that has recently given rise to the idea of trying to address the final-status issues first - in other words, starting with the most difficult issues. Given the current weakness of the Israeli government and the internal turmoil among the Palestinians (where there is not yet a state but there appear to be two governments), this may seem counter-intuitive: When you can't solve problems like dismantling illegal outposts or stopping terrorism, how can you expect to approach such fundamental issues as borders, refugees and Jerusalem? 
But maybe there is some logic in this attempt to reverse the order. Here are some reasons why.
It is perfectly legitimate for Palestinians to ask what Israel means when it says it accepts the two-state solution. There is not only the question of the size of the future Palestinian state, but also its shape. It is important for the Palestinians to know whether Israel is ready to give up 90 percent or only 60 percent of the Occupied Territories; yet it may be even more important to know whether this state would control a contiguous territory (despite the inevitable separation between Gaza and the West Bank) or would be a patchwork of cantons cut off from one another, basically unable to provide the infrastructure for a coherent and viable polity. 
Yet there may be a more significant consideration weighing heavily on the minds of most Israelis and curtailing the freedom of maneuver of any Israeli government: the Palestinian claim to the right of return to Israel of 1948 refugees. This is not merely a humanitarian issue; it goes to the root of the conflict. It is also the main factor that, following the failure of the Camp David summit in 2000, soured many centrist and left-wing Israelis' hopes for an achievable resolution to the conflict.
For almost 60 years, the Palestinian narrative has held that the 1948 refugees have a right to return to what were their or their forefathers' homes in Israel proper. That is what appears in all Palestinian school textbooks; that is what all Palestinian organizations, without exception, include in their founding documents; that is what hundreds of thousands of refugees and their descendants hear constantly from their leaders, teachers and preachers.
Regardless of the Palestinians' subjective feelings regarding the justice of this claim, for Israelis it means that the Palestinian agenda is not just about putting an end to the post-1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Rather, it aims at reversing the consequences of 1948, when Israel accepted partition while the Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries rejected it. Arabs went to war not only against Israel but also against the United Nations' solution, which was the basis of the international legitimacy for the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.

No Israeli leader can be expected to make significant concessions on the West Bank and plan the evacuation of tens of thousands of Israeli settlers when he cannot reassure his public that if Israel gives up the territories occupied in 1967, Palestinians will see this as a final and unambiguous end of the conflict. The damage Yasser Arafat did to the Palestinian cause at Camp David was so terrible that, since then, most Israelis have seen the refugee issue as not a humanitarian problem (that obviously has to be addressed generously by Israel), but as a Trojan horse for the Palestinians to undermine the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.
There is no doubt that if a Palestinian leader would clearly and unequivocally give up the right of return to Israel - not, of course, to a future independent Palestinian state - the Israeli public would put enormous pressure on its government to take the dramatic leap toward defining the final borders of Israel. 
But this is utopian. One can understand the political difficulty for the Palestinian leadership to make such a statement, thereby reversing 60 years of keeping the hope of return burning in the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands of refugees and their descendants. Yet Palestinian leaders can take the first steps: by toning down the rhetoric in schools, textbooks, and public meetings; by stating, gently and carefully, that whatever the justice of the claim of return to Israel it is unrealistic and cannot be fulfilled. The Palestinians need a diplomatic horizon, but the refugees need a human horizon. And Israelis need reassurance that the two-state solution is not the first step toward dismantling their country.
The issue is not to quibble about the number of possible returnees. The point is to try to clarify the ultimate parameters of a final-status agreement: on Israel's side, a willingness to return basically to the 1967 borders; on the Palestinian side, a clear indication that the claim of return has been reversed.
Difficult? Yes. But precisely because it is so difficult, this may be the opening to a compromise that will be hard on both sides, yet necessary for any serious attempt at reconciliation. Here clear language and intellectual honesty are a must. Therefore, it may not be totally nonsensical to start with the most difficult issues first.

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Fatah and Islamism - Not as far apart as you think!

More important than the roots of Islamic Jihad in Fatah, noted below, are the roots of Fatah leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood/Ikhwan groups of Gaza. Yasser Arafat was a leader of such groups in 1948. Fatah took a secular ideological line because it drew its support from Nasser. The Egyptian intelligence coopted Arafat to head the Palestinian students union in Cairo and launched him on his career about 1957.

Published March 2007

Vol. 6, No. 21    1 March 2007

Brothers in Arms: Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad

Pinhas Inbari

  • Fatah was the main supporter in the Arab world of the Khomeini revolution in Iran when it erupted.
  • A view of Fatah as secular is far from reality. Fatah has strong Muslim features. Its websites reveal frequent Muslim phrases and tenets, for example, on the holy duty to liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the religious terminology of "jihad." Its military wing is the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," whose military announcements are heavily laced with Koranic verses identical to those used by Hizbullah.
  • Both Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah were established with deep Fatah involvement. Originally, Islamic Jihad was actually a purely Fatah offshoot, part and parcel of the military apparatus of Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad, who, as his name may convey, was the major promoter of Islamic features in Fatah.
  • During the first Lebanon war, Abu Jihad followers helped Iran establish Hizbullah on the ruins of the Fatah infrastructure that Israel had destroyed in the war.
  • The joint plan of Fatah and Hizbullah was to surround Israel with terror rocket power from all sides. This master plan still exists, but now the main role has been given to Hamas.

The Myth of "Secular" Fatah

The current political efforts on the Palestinian track are based on the assumption that "moderate" Fatah should be empowered versus "radical Hamas." The internal infighting in the Palestinian arena has also been described as "secular versus religious." Yet while Hamas is religious in nature by definition, a Fatah defined as secular is far from reality. A brief review of its websites reveals frequent Muslim phrases and tenets in its discourse, for example, on the holy duty to liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque, and the religious terminology of "jihad" that has an equal footing with the secular term "resistance." Hamas also uses "resistance" and "jihad" as synonyms, and the term "resistance" is even part of Hamas' official name - "the Islamic Resistance Movement."

While one cannot claim that Fatah is a religious movement, it has strong Muslim features. Its military wing is the "Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade," whose military announcements are heavily laced with Koranic verses identical to those used by Hizbullah, according to which "the weakest on the face of the earth" will become strong and inherit "and become the imams - the rulers." This is the verse that Fatah leader Yasser Arafat chose to cite when he first entered Gaza in 1994 after the Oslo agreements.

Islamic Jihad's Roots in Fatah

The similarity in religious discourse between Fatah's Aqsa Martyrs and Hizbullah is not accidental. The most recent terror operation in Eilat was endorsed jointly by Islamic Jihad and the "Army of the Believers," an Aqsa Martyrs affiliate. In fact, both Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah were established with deep Fatah involvement. Originally, Islamic Jihad was actually a purely Fatah offshoot and was a shadow of Fatah for years.

Islamic Jihad was born as a result of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, when Fatah was its main supporter in the Arab world. Khomeini saw Fatah as a prime tool to spread his Islamic revolution in the Sunni world. But the Fatah-Shiite honeymoon broke down over Khomeini's demand of Fatah to "convert" to Islam and become what Hamas and Islamic Jihad are today, as well as due to Sunni pressure on Arafat, especially by Saddam Hussein, not to cross those red lines. However, the original founding of Islamic Jihad was as part and parcel of the military apparatus of Arafat's deputy, Abu Jihad.

Abu Jihad, as his name may convey, was the major promoter of Islamic features in Fatah, as opposed to Abu Iyyad, Arafat's second deputy, who was closer to the Soviet Union and then to the U.S. The initial appearance of Islamic Jihad was the attack on Beit Hadassah in Hebron in May 1990, killing six Israelis and wounding sixteen. When the members of the cell were captured, they revealed that they were sent by Abu Jihad, who told them that the ultimate goal of establishing Islamic Jihad was to Islamize Fatah.

The recognized founder of Islamic Jihad was Fat'hi Shqaqi, a Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood member in Egypt who believed that the Egyptian parent organization was neglecting the Palestinian cause. Once in Israeli prison, Shqaqi told Reuven Paz, an Israeli expert on Muslim radical movements, that he conceived Islamic Jihad as the promoter of an Arab revolution that would revive the Muslim caliphate. In due course, Shqaqi adopted the Shiite religion.

Even after Islamic Jihad left the Fatah womb, the special relationship between the Abu Jihad wing in Fatah and the Khomeini revolution was never broken. During the first Lebanon war, Abu Jihad followers helped Iran establish Hizbullah on the ruins of the Fatah infrastructure that Israel had destroyed in the war. Anti-Iranian elements inside Fatah objected to the tight connections between Fatah's military wing and Iran, and in internal clashes Abu Iyyad's followers were defeated by Abu Jihad's followers led by Abu Ali Shaheen, who later became one of Arafat's main supporters in Gaza. After the PLO left Lebanon, the remnants of the pro-Iranian elements left behind in the Palestinian refugee camps became either linked with Hizbullah or later became the core for the al-Qaeda group "Ansar al-Sunna."

Islamic Jihad-Fatah Cooperation in the 2000 Intifada

More significant was the tight cooperation between Islamic Jihad and Fatah during the second intifada beginning in 2000. While previously there had been significant resistance inside Fatah to links with Iran, this disappeared after the Oslo agreements. The major element opposing Iranian influence on Fatah was Arafat's Praetorian Guard - Force 17. But when he established his security forces in the Palestinian territories, Arafat left Force 17 commander Abu Tayyib (Mahmud Natur) outside and preferred the pro-Iranian Mahmud Damra, who was engaged in linking the upcoming uprising with Hizbullah and Iran. When the Aqsa Martyrs were established, their commander, the mysterious Abu Mujahid, was later named as Munir Maqdah, the military commander of Fatah forces in Lebanon and the closest Fatah figure to Iran and Hizbullah at the time.

Hence, while during the years prior to Oslo a balance was kept within the military echelons of Fatah between pro- and anti-Iranian elements, after Oslo, during the rebuilding of Fatah military forces, Arafat connected both Force 17 and the Aqsa Martyrs. The remnants of the old Force 17 were placed in the negligible "General Command," while the new Force 17 was reshaped in a way to be linked with Iran and Hizbullah. Islamic Jihad, as was apparent during the uprising, was the closest to the Aqsa Martyrs in terms of both operational cooperation and sources of funding, meaning Iran. This was apparent not only on the daily tactical level but, as the case of the Karine A weapons ship revealed, on the strategic level. The joint plan of Fatah and Hizbullah was to surround Israel with terror rocket power from all sides. This master plan still exists, but now after the demise of Arafat, the main role has been given to Hamas.

When the initial cooperation between Fatah and Iran began, Hamas did not yet exist and the Muslim Brotherhood was no less anti-Shiite than it is today. But as Hamas became stronger and Fatah weakened, the center of gravity shifted to Hamas. Yet, as far as Fatah and Islamic Jihad are concerned, their bonds are stronger. As a matter of fact, they are brothers.

*     *     *

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Palestinian affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently reports for several foreign media outlets. He is the author of a number of books on the Palestinians including The Palestinians: Between Terrorism and Statehood.

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Zionist Colonialist Racist Warmonger IDF Soldier Settler - Rock Singer

If you think you know what a Zionist is, you might have to think again. Aiiala grew up in Kiriat Arba. Her family were among those evil settlers you hear about in the news. She served in the IDF, and now she is on her way to being a rock star...  

A fire burning inside
By Ben Shalev
zionist racist IDF soldier

The most emotionally charged station on Aiiala Ingdsht's path to the release, today, of her first album, was the bus ride from Ashdod, the city where she was raised, to Tel Aviv, where she auditioned for an Israel Defense Forces musical troupe. First, she had to conceal the journey from her father, a religious man who sent his daughters to ultra-Orthodox schools. He never imagined that Aiiala would enlist in the army, nor would he have permitted her to wear what he considered immodest clothing.
"I decided I didn't want to audition in a skirt. I wanted to look like the secular girls who were auditioning," she says. "But we had no pants at home, so I borrowed a pair from a cousin, and wore my skirt on top. On the bus, I took the skirt off and wore the pants." To complete the revolutionary look, she also donned a pair of her cousin's platform shoes.
"On the one hand, I felt the power of having a voice, of belonging," she recalls. "But at the same time, I felt very uncomfortable. I looked at myself and said, 'Yo. What a sin. Why are you wearing pants? You're supposed to guard your modesty.'"
But mixed feelings failed to detract from her vocal capability: She was accepted into the navy's musical troupe - the first Ethiopian to serve in an IDF troupe. Persuading her father to permit her to enlist was less difficult than she had imagined, "mainly because of my mom," she explains.
Ten years have passed since then, during which Ingdsht has played supporting roles in musical performances and other forms of entertainment. She's performed in a children's play, appeared in the Israel Festival, where she sang duets with Eli Luzon and Yehudit Ravitz, and she has sung with the hip-hop band Hadag Nahash. She also sang back-up on hip-hop artist Muki's tour. Only now, at 28, is she taking center stage.
"It's not that I didn't want to [sing lead] before this. There has been a fire burning inside me for a few years, to get myself out there and let people hear me. But I knew I would have to meet the right partner for this to happen, and that took a long time." She attempted collaborations with a number of producers, but without success.
"It's like being in a couple," she says. "You meet someone, and after a few months, you're tired of him. Then, unless you're a dependent, obsessive person, you remain alone for a while and that's difficult. I remember thinking, 'Enough, already, Aiiala. When will it happen? There's no perfection in the world. So, maybe, be with him.' But I can't lie to myself. Should I stand on stage and sing something I don't really feel?"
'Something happened there'
A year and a half ago, she sang back-up for Muki on Music Channel 24's hip-hop program, "Dibur Tzafuf." After the program, the host, producer Roi Edri, approached her. "He told me, with his typical enthusiasm, 'Wow! You are pure soul!' He gave me his phone number. It took me two months to call. I was scared - I don't know why. But when I finally went to his small room in his parents' home, I immediately knew that my search was over.
"Something happened there, in his messy room. There was inspiration. Some of the songs began from nothing. Roi played a cool rhythm on his beat machine. I started singing. He started playing a groove on his guitar, and suddenly, boom, there was a song."
How does she explain the instant connection? "We have the same musical taste. But, mainly, we have similar personalities. We are both sensitive and emotional. For us, everything works on the emotional level. Everything comes from the gut. It's a very rare trait among men."
One of the loveliest things about Ingdsht's album is that it preserves the fresh spontaneity of half-improvised songs; one can hear the click between the singer and her producer. The album also has the lightness, simplicity and joy that are vital elements to an album that focuses on soul and R&B (despite the fact that Edri is reluctant to use any of these labels, preferring to describe the album as "eclectic"). "I know how to sing this way, with all the riffs, and it's very cool," she says. "I will also make music with more love of self, but not this time."
The album owes its superb groove to musicians, including the jazz-hip hop band Hatapuhim. "I first heard them not long before we recorded, and I thought they were totally cool," says Edri. "I told Aiiala, we went to their show in Haifa, and she was turned on, too." Members of Hatapuhim received a rough draft of one of the songs, and they loved it. "It's really cool to meet someone whose personality comes out so clearly in her music," says Yona Halevi, the band's drummer. "Aiiala is so radiant, so positive, so charming, and all of that comes out when she sings."
Ingdsht's family immigrated to Israel when she was 2. They lived in an absorption center in Ashkelon for several months, before moving to Kiryat Arba, where she says she had "the most fun childhood in the world. We came from the desert and suddenly there was all that snow." Ingdsht says that, unlike most of the Ethiopian immigrant families around them, her family quickly adapted. "My mother is a strong, curious person. She worked in the kitchen of a yeshiva, and I remember being proud that very quickly, we had Israeli food at home."
Big city life
When Aiiala was 9, the family moved to Ashdod. "After Kiryat Arba, Ashdod looked like a big city. The children behaved differently. It's a somewhat closed place. People are always looking and checking you out. How you dress, how you speak. I know that people in Tel Aviv also look at you and check you out, but, in Tel Aviv, there's a certain freedom."
Her parents rarely listened to music at home, and when they did, it was Hasidic music. "All kinds of children's groups, 'Efrohim,' and the like," she says. "You couldn't even talk about non-Jewish music. Religious people don't go for that sort of thing. They shun it as if it were something dirty." And Ethiopian music? "Barely. It's not considered spiritual."
At age 14, she heard tapes of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston at her cousins' home. "They blew me away. I never imagined that you could sing like that," she says. She soon started singing herself, imitating the singers she adored: Mainly Houston, whom she still considers an "incredible singer."
"I started humming to myself and realized that it did something for me. >From that moment, I couldn't stop. While washing dishes, I sang. While cleaning the house, I sang. My father found it very difficult to accept that I connected to that world. My mother was also not wild about it, at the beginning. But one day, a neighbor woman told her, 'Tikva, you have a talented daughter.' That's how I came to join the municipal troupe."
With the troupe director's encouragement, Aiiala auditioned for the IDF. "At first, the IDF troupe was an absolute dream, an extremely different world, a completely different way of talking. I came there saying, 'With God's help,' and other lines that religious people often finish sentences with, and suddenly I'm with people who go out to bars and drink alcohol. But, like my mother, I quickly understood what was going on. Another thing that gave me strength was the feeling that, as the first Ethiopian in the troupe, I represented something - I had a responsibility. I am sure that I opened doors for other Ethiopian youth."
During her military service and in the years that followed, Ingdsht's love of African-American music grew deeper. "I began listening to Erykah Badu, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, all that great music, the real thing, with soul. It makes me feel good." She is less fond of the R&B hits that appear on MTV. "It's cheap," she says. "Except for Beyonce, who is a fantastic singer."
Ethiopian music has a presence in her album, but only in small doses, mainly in the introductions to some of the songs. Only in the song "Jetnai" do Ethiopian sounds play a central role. "It's a song I wrote about my uncle, a wise, learned, sweet man to whom life was not very kind. He became an alcoholic, and people around him treated him cruelly, like the court jester: Along the lines of, 'Let's give him something to drink, and then we'll have something to laugh about.' As a child, I took it very hard - it made me cry. And I wrote a song, which came from my gut, based on the little that I know about [Ethiopian] folk songs. The song is different than any other song on the album. There are no verses, no refrain - it's all a lot less pop. At first, it sort of shocked the professionals."
When asked if she intends to integrate additional Ethiopian elements into her music in the future, Ingdsht says, "Lately, I've felt connected to it. I don't repress it anymore or put it aside. I guess it will be expressed in the future. For now, I'm only thinking about the new album, which is pleasant and fun and varied, and how it represents who I am. It's only a beginning, and I still have a lot to say. But things have to be done calmly, with patience. There's time for everything."

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Saudia Arabia and Israel

Those who reflexively attack Saudi Arabia as an enemy of Israel should take into account that they do not have all the information...

Israel's liaison to its neighbors: Saudi Prince Bandar
By Aluf Benn

The key figure in Middle Eastern diplomacy is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian National Security Adviser. Bandar is the man behind the Mecca agreement between Fatah and Hamas for the establishment of a Palestinian unity government. He was also active in calming the rival parties in Lebanon, and has tried to mediate between Iran and the U.S. administration. Two weeks ago he brought President George W. Bush up to date on his efforts, and last week he participated in a meeting of intelligence chiefs from Arab states with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which took place in Amman the day after the tripartite meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem.
There are many indications that the prince, who served 22 years as Saudi ambassador to Washington, is behind the quiet slide his country is making toward Israel since the end of the second Lebanon war. In September, Bandar met with Olmert in Jordan. The secret meeting was made public in Israel later.
Since their meeting, Olmert has on a number of occasions commended the Saudi peace initiative of 2002, to which Bandar contributed actively.
Israel opposed the Mecca agreement, but Olmert decided to soften the criticism and describe it as an "internal Palestinian agreement." The Prime Minister justified the decision, in part by expressing concern that strong criticism would be construed as an insult to Saudi Arabia and might lead it to alter its position on Iran.
Not first encounter
Bandar's meeting with Olmert was not the first encounter of the Saudi prince with the Israeli establishment. According to statesmen, senior military officers and former intelligence officers, Bandar has had contact with Israel at least since 1990. Bandar was careful to keep his distance from Israeli ambassadors to Washington, and opted for links to Israel that did not operate along the diplomatic channels. The Saudi prince, who is celebrating his 58th birthday, had dedicated his career to furthering stability in the Middle East, which is in the interest of the Saudi kingdom.
His talks with Israelis focused on two subjects: blocking strategic threats from Iraq during the 1990s and from Iran today, and furthering the peace process between Israel, Syria and the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia is particularly sensitive to the Palestinian issue. The weekly cabinet meetings in Saudi Arabia, which take place every Monday and are led by King Abdullah, always begin with a long report on the "Palestine situation," and only then does the meeting move on to other governmental affairs.
In a biography of Bandar, "The Prince", which was published four months ago in the U.S., there is no mention of his meetings with Israelis. But the prince does explain how his interest in Israel began many years ago. It started when he was undergoing pilot training in Britain in 1969 and met another pilot who presented himself as an Israeli. Bandar says he immediately felt hatred for the man who up to that point he had liked. But that feeling made him think, he says, that if there was a chance to get to know each other better, it would be possible to break the stereotypes. Indeed, Bandar made great efforts to meet many other Israelis.
Bandar began his diplomatic career with a huge fight against the pro-Israel lobby in the United States, AIPAC, which tried to torpedo the sale of AWACS early-warning aircraft to the Saudi air force. The Saudis won that round and since then Bandar considers himself a one-man lobby against the mighty AIPAC. Bandar reached the apex of his influence during the administration of the current president's father, George H.W. Bush.
The book also hints at the way Bandar's links with Israelis were forged. In the spring of 1990, Saddam Hussein threatened to "burn half of Israel." King Fahd was worried of a possible regional conflagration, and dispatched the prince to Baghdad. Saddam told him he would not attack Israel, and Bandar rushed to pass on the message to Bush and secure an Israeli promise that it would not undertake a preemptive strike. In retrospect Bandar said that Saddam had probably used him to secure his flank against an Israeli attack and embark on the occupation of Iraq in August 1990.
At about the same time it was reported that Saudi Arabia had procured Chinese-made surface-to-surface missiles. According to the book, Bandar was successful in assuring Israel through his American contacts that the missiles were not directed against it, and in return he received promises that Israel would not attack Tabuk airport southeast of Eilat.
Following the Gulf War in 1991, in which Saudi Arabia participated on the side of the U.S., the Americans initiated the peace process that began with the summit in Madrid. The Saudis participated but kept a low-key presence, preserving their links to Israel without making the ties official, like some of their Gulf neighbors.
At the time of the Oslo Accords, Bandar had a direct link to the Israeli embassy in Washington and held informal talks with ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch. During the peace talks under Ehud Barak, the role of the prince became very significant and he became involved in a number of moments of crisis. When the talks with Syria at the Shepherdstown Summit reached an impasse, Barak sent minister Amnon Shahak, who was a member of the Israeli delegation, for a meeting with Bandar. It did not help. Bandar later recalled that U.S. President Bill Clinton asked him to carry out a secret visit to Syrian President Hafez Assad to convince the Syrian leader that he should attend a "final opportunity" summit in Geneva. Assad agreed to attend, but the summit failed and the negotiations between Israel and Syria have been stuck since.
In late 2000 the efforts focused on the Palestinian track. Following the failure of the Camp David summit and the outbreak of the intifada, Bandar tried to pressure Yasser Arafat to accept the Clinton Initiative. In retrospect the prince considers Arafat's failure to accept the offer as criminal.
Following the 9/11 attack, the American agenda changed and the Palestinian leader, whom Bandar was trying to bring to Washington, was marked as being in the "evil" camp in the war against terror declared by the current President Bush.
At a University of Oklahoma conference on the Middle East in 2002, Bandar described the government of Israel as "fanatical" and accused Benjamin Netanyahu of being an "extremist and a failed political lightweight." Bandar also blamed Netanyahu for the incitement that led to the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, whom he called a "wise and brave man." The prince also called on Israelis to adopt the Saudi peace initiative instead of "violence, destruction and collective punishment of 3 million Palestinians."
Late in 2005, Saudi Arabia announced that Bandar was completing his tenure as ambassador to Washington and that he was returning to head the National Security Council. His father, Prince Sultan, became crown prince following the death of King Fahd and the crowning of Abdullah in his place.
During the first few months of his return to the Saudi capital Riyadh, Bandar disappeared from the media spotlight, and there was a great deal of speculation regarding his waning influence. But he seems to have reappeared, both in efforts to mediate between Iran and the U.S. and in meetings with the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.
Israel has great interest in these talks. Americans and Israelis who have met Bandar describe him as one who exaggerates, and suggest that his stories be handled with care. But his American biographer, William Simpson, suggests that Bandar's efforts be given a chance. Describing his subject as a "prince of hope," Simpson says that the entire Middle East needs Bandar's diplomatic and mediation skills.

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Getting Serious about Syria

Zeev Schiff explains some of the reasons why the national defense estimate was made public and how it was made public. Schiff concentrates on talks with Syria, but the real issue was whether or not there will be a war next summer. A question nobody is asking: If the US, which objected to talks with Syria, is now going to meet with them, should Israel reconsider its refusal?

Some serious thoughts on Syria
By Ze'ev Schiff

The annual intelligence report presented to the government this week resembled an open debate of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, which usually ends with a deluge of leaks. The intelligence community realized this ahead of time, took precautions, and lowered the level of secrecy. Sanitizing, they call it.
First there was a restricted meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The next round of meetings deviated from the norm. Instead of a meeting of the defense cabinet, with its small team of ministers, Olmert opted to present the report to the government plenary. Apparently he wanted to "share" responsibility on a subject as sensitive as Syria with all his ministers, although this does not free him from supreme responsibility as prime minister.
The way in which the intelligence officials were pushed into addressing political issues (shall we talk to Syria or not) also differed from normal procedure. This is not the role of the intelligence. Their job is to gather information and to evaluate it.
Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin warned that Syria is growing stronger. The message being projected to Bashar Assad is that Israel is not prepared to discuss peace, he said. Assad could reach the conclusion that force is the only solution. After last year's war in Lebanon, there was much talk in Syria about how Hezbollah proved that a military confrontation with Israel could achieve something. If this is the case, then Israel needs to consider the possibility of war with Syria at some future date.
At first, Yadlin was not sure that Assad's intentions were serious. Now, they say, he accepts the contention of the MI research division that Assad's proposals are genuine. This is not to say that Assad has changed his mind about the price Israel will have to pay (the Golan Heights). On the other hand, the Mossad's research division believes Assad's moves are all part of a tactical ploy to reduce international pressure on Syria.
The former head of MI, Uri Saguy, says Israel and Syria are asking the same questions: Does the other side really want an agreement? Is it capable of reaching one? Saguy believes these questions need to be thoroughly investigated. Defense Minister Amir Peretz, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer feel the same way.
But Major General (res.) Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council, insists that Israel must not give up the Golan. Doing so will not solve Israel's other strategic problems and may even aggravate them. The Syrians will not keep their word, and if a war breaks out, without the Golan Israel will be in a worse position than it would be with the Golan. The prime minister has been opposed to unconditional talks with Damascus from the outset, although some say there are signs that he is starting to crack.
In principle, no country should declare itself unwilling to explore the possibility of peace. The question is how this exploration should be carried out. Secret contacts are of the utmost importance. Our major precondition is that Syria end its involvement in terror against Israel. At the same time, it is unreasonable to believe that Syria will sever its ties with Iran.
Coordination with Washington is also an issue, and in this area, things are changing. Previous Israeli contacts with the Arabs were usually secret and were not coordinated with the Americans. This was the case with Egypt, at Oslo with the Palestinians, and with Jordan. Israel's interest lies in preventing war and reaching an agreement with another Arab state in a manner that will also impact on Lebanon.
We need to think like the Turks: Despite everything, it is preferable to have Bashar Assad sitting in Damascus - rather than the Muslim Brotherhood.

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Western intelligence worried by Al-Qaeda affiliates in Lebanon

Last update - 07:18 02/03/2007   

Western intelligence sources worried by jihadist upsurge in Lebanon
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

Western intelligence agencies are worried by a growing concentration of terror operatives associated with the global jihad movement in Lebanon.
Recent intelligence indicates that hundreds of Sunni Muslim terrorists from various Arab countries are currently residing around Tyre, mainly in a Palestinian refugee camp near the city. Some of the terrorists are apparently from Sudan and Yemen.
Both Western and Israeli intelligence agencies fear that the jihadists' growing presence in southern Lebanon will lead to more attacks against Israel and a renewed escalation along the northern border. The United Nations forces deployed along the border following last summer's war with Hezbollah are also considered potential targets.
Global jihad is the term used by intelligence agencies for a wide variety of terror groups that derive inspiration from Al-Qaida and occasionally maintain contact with Osama bin Laden's organization.
In December 2005, members of the Lebanese Al-Ansar group, which is affiliated with global jihad, fired Katyusha rockets at the Galilee panhandle, though no one was hurt. The organization had been in contact with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then head of Al-Qaida in Iraq, who was killed by American forces last June.
There is considerable tension between the global jihad groups in Lebanon and Hezbollah - not only because Hezbollah is Shi'ite rather than Sunni, but also because they have been involved in turf wars.
Until its war with Israel last summer, Hezbollah was considered the sole power in southern Lebanon. It demanded that all other organizations obtain permission from it before carrying out any attacks on Israel. Shortly before his death, Zarqawi lambasted Hezbollah for this and accused its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, of "collaborating with Israel," because at that time - prior to its July kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers - Hezbollah was vetoing attacks by other groups.
In his intelligence briefing to the cabinet earlier this week, Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin spoke of growing activity by the global jihad movement along Israel's borders. In addition to Lebanon, the main worries are attacks against Israelis in Sinai or attacks in Jordan. In late 2005, then MI head Aharon Ze'evi said both Israeli and American intelligence had learned that senior Al-Qaida officials had instructed operatives to focus on "the Near East," meaning Israel and its neighbors.

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Thursday, March 1, 2007

Israelis get of manslaughter for transporting suicide bomber

A less than desirable example of Jewish-Arab cooperation.

Israelis convicted of manslaughter for transporting suicide bomber
By Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondent

Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday convicted three Israeli citizens of manslaughter for transporting the suicide bomber who struck outside Netanya's HaSharon Mall in July 2005, killing five people and wounding over 90.
Shani Saif Azzam of Taibeh, Abd Abu Mukh of Baka al-Garbiyeh and Kfir Levi of Ramat Gan were also convicted of causing injury to those wounded in the attack.
Azzam and Levi were found to have assisted the terrorist cross the Green Line to Taibeh, from which point Abu Mukh transported him to Netanya.
In the past, defendants in similar cases have been convicted of lesser violations such as accessory to murder or causing death by negligence.
The prosecution said in the indictment that each of the three defendants suspected at a certain point that the passenger intended to carry out a bombing, but failed to act to prevent it.
The defendants claimed in response that they had no way of knowing that the passenger was a terrorist.
Azzam and Levi said they believed the bomber and the man who sent him, who also rode in the vehicle, were entering Israel to commit theft. Abu Mukh said he transported the men to Netanya as a favor to a friend.
Judges accepted the prosecution's argument that the men must have suspected the motives of their passengers, due to the fact that while the three had smuggled Palestinians illegally into Israel in the past, this was the first time they transferred only two people in a vehicle capable of carrying 10 people.
In addition, the terrorist and his handler paid a fee five times that usually paid by those seeking illegal entry to Israel.
Azzam said in testimony that at one point he even expressed interest in the bomber's bag.
He opened one of the packages, he said, a large bag containing clothing. He then tried to open the second but encountering resistance from the man who sent the bomber, who claimed it contained instruments for breaking into buildings.
Judges viewed this exchange as proof that Azzam suspected the man to be a terrorist, but did nothing to stop him.
Levi and Azzam had also been warned against transporting terrorists in the past - Levi by his brother and Azzam by the Shin Bet.
The judges, lead by Oded Modrik, said in their statement that the convicted "turned a blind eye to the circumstances that led to the fatal attack," including the large bag carried by the bomber and the fact that he did not speak while being driven to the site.
The State Prosecutor's Office expressed satisfaction with the ruling.

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Engage this - Ahmadinejad: Zionists 'incarnation of Satan'

Dateline Hell - The ruler of Iran has exposed our true nature:

Zionists are the "true incarnation of Satan", Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in his latest verbal assault on Tehran's arch foe Israel, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

There is definitely room for engagement with this nice man, isn't there? Just ask him to please not interfere in Iraq, and he will be the soul of courtesy. 

Ami Isseroff

Zionists 'incarnation of Satan'
01/03/2007 11:54  - (SA),9294,2-10-1462_2077006,00.html

Tehran - Zionists are the "true incarnation of Satan", Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in his latest verbal assault on Tehran's arch foe Israel, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.

"Zionists are the true incarnation of Satan," Ahmadinejad told a meeting of Sudanese Islamic scholars late on Wednesday on the first day of his state visit to Sudan.

"The Zionist regime was created by the British, brought up by the Americans and commits crimes in the region with their support," he charged.

Ahmadinejad has earned notoriety for his repeated verbal attacks on the Jewish state, which he has said should be "wiped from the map" and is doomed to disappear.

He also provoked outrage by describing the Holocaust as a "myth" and holding a conference of "revisionist" historians in Tehran late last year that cast doubt on the Nazi mass slaughter of Jews in World War II.

"The Zionist regime is the symbol of hedonism and the incarnation of the soul of the oppressive powers," added Ahmadinejad, whose comments were greeted by shouts of "God is Great!" by the scholars, IRNA said.

Ahmadinejad's anti-American comments fall on receptive ears in Sudan, which like Tehran is a leading foe of the United States and accused by Washington of sponsoring terror. Both deny the charges.

'Zionist crimes'

"The people of the world have woken up and detest the oppressive powers," Ahmadinejad added.

"Numerous Western powers who claim to defend democracy and human rights close their eyes to the Zionist crimes," he added.

Iran has no diplomatic relations with Israel, whose existence it does not recognise. It supports Palestinian Islamist groups and has helped the Hamas-led Palestinian government with millions of dollars of financial aid.

The Islamic republic's long-stated proposal for the Middle East conflict has been to promote a return of all Palestinian refugees to their former homes and then organising a referendum over the "future of Palestine".

The Iranian government has also vehemently denied charges of anti-Semitism, pointing to the existence of a 20 000-strong Jewish community in Iran, the largest in the Middle East outside Israel.

Ahmadinejad's rhetoric has not been repeated by all high-ranking Iranian officials.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a foreign affairs adviser to the supreme leader, described the Holocaust in a newspaper interview last month as a "reality" that should not be used to justify repression of the Palestinians.

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Who paid for Palestinian violence?

Here is a revelation that is food for thought, from an article in the Beirut Daily Star:
Under such circumstances, a resumption of foreign aid not sufficient to arrest a further deterioration in conditions...Under conflict conditions that have prevailed since September 2000, and despite the doubling of foreign aid to an average of $1 billion annually between 2001 and 2005...
You read it right:
"...doubling of foreign aid to an average of $1 billion annually between 2001 and 2005 "
Think about it please. When the Palestinian Authority refused the Clinton bridging proposals, openly broke its word to abjure violence, funded suicide bombers and sent them to Israel, stepped up incitement and built tunnels to smuggle in arms, the reaction of the donor countries was to double their aid to to the Palestinian Authority. Not content with the intrinsic reward of 72 virgins that awaits every Shahid, the wise men of Washington and Brussels saw fit to subsidize the "Intifada." Of course, none of the funds can be proven to have been used for suicide bombings. They were used, to be sure, to pay the salaries of Palestinian police who fired on Israeli soldiers and of officials like Yasser Arafat, Marwan Barghouti and Mohamed Dahlan who organized and paid for terror, and to pay their travel and office expenses, as they went about drumming up support for the Intifada. They were used to put pita and olives and ful on the tables of Palestinians, so that other resources could be used for the holy task of jihad against Israel.
When Germany declared war against the west in 1914, and again in 1939, Britain instituted a crippling sea blockade, and the allies froze German assets. That is the normal way in war. But the Palestinians have conducted a war deluxe, funded by European and American taxpayers.
While it might have been thought, in the first year of the Intifada, that this generosity would prop up the position of moderates in Palestinian society, it should have been clear very soon that this was not the case. Nonetheless, the West continued to subsidize suicide bombings and terror and incitement until the Hamas was elected, and the PNA officially declared itself in favor of terror and genocide. Then the funding stopped for a bit, and it is now transmuted into another mechanism, that unofficially provided the same funding, for peaceful purposes, so that Palestinians can continue their suicide bombing on a full stomach. We would not want malnourished suicide bombers, would we?
Egypt was the gift of the Nile. The Palestinian violence that began in 2000 was the gift of foreign donors. Yes, every time a suicide bomber exploded in an Israeli super market, every time a rocket killed a kid in Sderot, American and European taxpayers had a part. The suicide bombers, the rockets, the incitement on television, all this was made possible through their generosity.  Who paid for Palestinian violence? Who  is paying for it now? You did, dear American and European friends.
Ami Isseroff

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What's wrong with the Arab Peace Plan?

Israel has (at long last) reacted to the widely touted Arab peace plan. The plan is not a basis for negotiations, but a dictat with unacceptable conditions, since it presupposes the imposition of Israeli borders according to its own interpretation of "international legitimacy," and it imposes  "right of return" of the Palestinian refugees as a precondition. Right of Return would flood Israel with Arabs and would mean the end of the Jewish national home. It is therefore not "International Legitimacy" but rather opposed to international law, which guarantees the right of self determination.

Last update - 10:31 01/03/2007   

Livni: Israel can't accept Arab peace plan in current form
By Aluf Benn and Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a Palestinian newspaper in an interview published Thursday that Israel could not accept a 2002 Arab League peace initiative in its current formulation.
Livni said that the issue of borders must be resolved through negotiations, not be determined in advance, and pointed out that the proposal for Palestinian refugees contained within the peace plan was unacceptable to Israel.
In her first interview to the Palestinian media, Livni also told Al-Ayyam that Israel's stance on the new Palestinian unity government would be determined by on its diplomatic plan. She also said the Israeli stance would depend on the extent to which the new government meets the three demands of the Quartet.
The foursome of international peace brokers - the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union - has demanded that the PA government recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by previously signed peace agreements in order to lift the sanctions imposed in the wake of the 2006 Hamas election victory.
"We are demanding that the government meet these three conditions," Livni stressed.
The Arab initiative, drafted at a March 2002 meeting of the Arab League in Beirut, calls for the full normalization of ties between Israel and the Arab world in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from all lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Olmert, Abbas to meet to 'further the dialogue'
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will meet in two weeks, their third meeting since the resumption of top-level diplomatic contacts.
They will concentrate on ways of "furthering the dialogue" in view of the difficulties in forging a Palestinian unity government, a senior political source in Jerusalem said on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, aides for the two leaders met for a frank discussion to prepare for the Olmert-Abbas meeting.
In Cairo on Tuesday, Abbas said he would meet Olmert in "a week or two."
Olmert reiterated on Wednesday during his meeting with the visiting European Union commissioner for foreign affairs, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the preconditions for proceeding further with diplomatic talks with the Palestinians.
"My talks with the Palestinian president will deal with issues relating to containing terrorism and the quality of life of the Palestinians," he said.
Olmert is unwilling to discuss the issue of a final settlement or the implementation of the second stage of the road map.
As an example of the improvements in the quality of life of the Palestinians, Olmert told the visiting EU official of his decision last week to extend the daily operating hours for the Karni crossing for goods in and out of the Gaza Strip.
"This way the crossing can handle more than 800 trucks per day," he said.
Ferrero-Waldner said Wednesday that there is no discord within the Quartet on its demands of the Palestinian unity government, despite recent signs of divisions.
The new power-sharing deal between the rival Fatah and Hamas movements, reached in Saudi Arabia earlier this month, only pledges to respect past peace deals, falling short of the international conditions.
Abbas says the deal is the best he can get from Hamas.
While the U.S. and EU have reacted with skepticism, Russia has been more positive about the power-sharing deal.
Ferrero-Waldner, who met with Palestinian officials on Wednesday, said the new government needs to respond to the Quartet principles.
However, in talks with Palestinian and Israeli officials, Ferrero-Waldner has made clear the EU is not likely to pull the plug on an emergency aid program that provides relief for some 900,000 Palestinians.
"We have never abandoned the Palestinian people," said Ferrero-Waldner. She made clear the EU would not do so in the foreseeable future.
Ferrero described continued assistance to the Palestinians as a way to keep the situation somewhat under control. She said the EU was keen to engage the Palestinians by launching good governance and other programs.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is due to visit the region in late March to try to expand the "political horizon" and help shape a future Palestinian state. It is not expected that she will hold a tripartite meeting with Olmert and Abbas.

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Moderate Arab: Arab decline and chaos is the fault of Israel and America

From the "moderate" Rami Khouri in Beirut, we have this remarkable insight: The Arab world order of states is coming apart. Iraq is only the most spectacular example of a failed state. The Lebanese crisis, the failure of Somalia, the "disappearance" of Kuwait, the unending chaos in Somalia, the problems of Yemen, the genocide in Sudan, all signal the end of the Arab order of states that was cobbled together in the 1920s by the West:
Lebanon and Palestine have struggled with their statehood for half a century; Somalia has quietly dropped out of this game; Kuwait vanished in 1990 and quickly reappeared; Yemen split, reunited, split, fought a war, and reunited; Sudan spins like a centrifuge, with national and tribal forces pushing away from a centralized state; Morocco and the Western Sahara dance gingerly around their logical association; and internal tensions plague other Arab countries to varying degrees.
 And what is the cause of all these problems? Khouri has the answer:
...the driving force behind the loose coalition of anti-American and anti-Israeli forces in the region is, precisely, American and Israeli policies in the region. 
Here is an article with that authentic and unique Middle East flavor. You can taste and smell the coriander and the coffee with hel, and you can smell the camel and donkey dung too. You can almost swat the flies. As you read it, you can imagine that you are sitting in the Suq in Beirut or Damascus, in a cafe, with pictures of Nasser, Nasrallah and Osama Bin Laden on the walls. Outside, one can hear the chant of the crowds, "Death to America, Death to America!"
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was the fault of the Israelis no doubt. The bandits in Yemen are fighting the Zionist occupation. The assassination of Rafiq Hariri in Lebanon was a great patriotic protest against American influence. Likewise when a Janjaweed guerilla rapes yet another woman in Darfur, it is an act of resistance against the Zionists. He is doing it for Palestine, you see. As Khouri tells us, the Middle East is:
...a region trying to define itself and liberate itself from the modern legacy of the American, British and Israeli armies.
How is the region trying to define itself and what is the region? Is Somalia in the Middle East? Is the Sudan? Are the Janjaweed guerillas the model that Mr Khouri wants to follow? Does he define himself according to Hassan Nasrallah and Osama bin Laden?
And what is this terrible legacy? Verily, before the coming of Israel and the evil Americans and British, the peoples of the Middle East lived in peace and harmony, enjoying the benefits of malaria, trachoma, schistosomiasis, child marriages, 90% illiteracy and 30% neonatal mortality, under the benign rule of the Ottoman Turks and the progressive Iranian monarchy. Evils such as women's liberation were unheard of. Homosexuals were hanged. Adulterers were stoned.  Until they were disrupted by the gunboat diplomacy of that enemy of freedom, Thomas Jefferson, the barbary pirates did a brisk trade in African slaves.  In Saudi Arabia, slavery was legal until 1961. But a great tragedy befell the Arabs. To paraphrase a certain famous movie:
 "There was a land of Cavaliers and Desert called the Old Middle East. Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind."
This paradise on earth was disrupted under pressure from the evil west and the Zionist conspiracy. When the Arabs have driven out the evil infidels, they will restore the status quo ante no doubt. And that seems to be the plan. Khouri notes:
A learned British friend reminded me this week of the mixed legacy of countries manufactured by Europe at the Paris peace conference after World War I: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Iraq.
The last movement to bemoan the results of the Versailles treaty was the German National Socialist Workers Party. Saddam insisted that Kuwait was an illegitimate state created by the West, and Syria insists that Lebanon, Jordan and Israel are such artificial creations. Like them, Adolf Hitler was obsessed with the idea that "Tchechia," an artificial creation born of German defeat, must be wiped out. Hitler also blamed the whole mess on the Jews.
It does not occur to Khouri, that the forces of chaos and reaction are simply using xenophobia to manufacture an issue out of the United States and Israel, and that if even the United States and Israel and Britain are really beaten, the forces that threaten his own liberty will unleash a reign of terror that will make Darfur look like amateur night and end his own liberty forever.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

No more 'degrading' checks for Arabs (at Ben Gurion Airport)

No more 'degrading' checks for Arabs
sheera claire frenkel and yaakov katz,

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) will set up a pilot security system at Ben-Gurion Airport within 15 months that will eliminate the need for separate checks of Arab passengers, agency head Yuval Diskin said on Wednesday.
Diskin announced the pilot pilot at a meeting with MK Nadia Hilu (Labor), who represents the party's Arab sector. Hilu had met with Ben-Gurion Airport and security officials in the past, following a personal experience she called "degrading."
"I was pleased to hear of the new plan, but I will not be satisfied until these degrading security checks are complete gone," she said. "We cannot call ourselves a democratic state and have a situation where an Arab comes to the airport and immediately they think, 'Oh, he is a terrorist' instead of, 'He is a citizen.'"
Hilu said she was travelling with her family on vacation less than a year ago, when they were pulled out of line and subjected to a series of humiliating checks.
"After they pulled us out of line, they made us stand in the middle of everyone else and asked us personal questions. People around stared as if we were terrorists and my young daughters were frightened and confused by the questions. It was traumatizing for my whole family," she said.
"I understand the need for security at airports. However I insist that if you put Arabs through these tests, put Jews through the same ones. When I suggested this to Diskin, he told me it was impossible. He said that no one would travel anymore. This says something about the humiliation of these tests," she continued.
Diskin said that while the Shin Bet's top concern was the security of passengers, they were working to do more to avoid unnecessarily humiliating checks. Diskin added that the agency had set aside a great deal of money to develop and purchase the system, without mentioning a precise figure.
Hilu and Diskin agreed to remain in touch on the issue.
Last month, Diskin told reporters that "aviation terror" was one of the greatest threats to the Western world. "This is one of the Shin Bet's top priorities," he said. "We cannot underestimate this growing threat."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Will there be a war this summer?

Israeli Military Intelligence insists there will not be a war this summer. On the other hand, they have been wrong five times out of eight at Ron Ben Yishai points out. He claims that Israel needs a national security estimate, to be prepared by the National Security Agency. That would supposedly take into account all possible variables. Will that might be better than nothing, the fact is that nobody really has a crystal ball, and it would be foolhardy to trust any estimate too much.
It can be enough to be wrong one time out of a hundred, and not be prepared...

Ron Ben-Yishai 

The unpredictability of war

IDF says likelihood of war low, but past experience shows need for caution
Published:  02.27.07, 11:33 / Israel Opinion,7340,L-3370320,00.html

The intelligence assessment presented to the government Sunday conveyed a message that features an inherent contradiction: Top intelligence officials warned that Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are rapidly accumulating advanced weapons, improving their modus operandi, undertaking extensive preparations for a wide-scale confrontation, and continuing to resort to and encourage terrorism.

However, the same officials said, despite the worrisome information, all signs show that the leaders of Iran, Syria and Hizbullah have no intention to initiate full-scale hostilities against Israel in the near future. Therefore, the officials concluded, the likelihood of war in the coming year is low.

This assessment is problematic, to say the least, and should be approached with much skepticism. Most wars in the modern era, both abroad and in our region, broke out at an unexpected junction and surprised the parties involved.

Only a relatively low number of wars in the past century and this one were the product of initiative and advance planning by one of the involved parties. For example, World War II, initiated by Nazi Germany, the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s initiated by Saddam Hussein, and the second Gulf War, initiated by the United States.

Almost all other wars across the globe, ranging from World War I to the India-Pakistan war in the 1970s, broke out by surprise as a result of a combination of regional instability and events that nobody had control over and could not be predicted, or because of hasty moves and decisions by the leaders of one of the warring sides.

5 surprises

Out of the many wars the State of Israel was involved in, only two were the product of initiative and planning by Arab leaders ??? the War of Independence and the Yom Kippur War. Two other wars broke out as a result of complete Israeli initiative ??? the Sinai Campaign in 1956 and the first Lebanon War in 1982. All other wars surprised Israel after breaking out as a result of an unexpected combination of circumstances and events that escalated to the point of war.

The Six Day War, the War of Attrition, the first Gulf War (where Israel sustained Iraqi missile hits without being involved in the war itself) and the second Lebanon War belong in that category. Overall, out of the eight wars Israel was involved in, five were not predicted by Israeli intelligence. Moreover, a short while before each one of those wars, the national intelligence assessment produced by the IDF General Staff's Intelligence Branch ruled that "the likelihood of war this year is low."

We could expect those whose estimates regarding the likelihood of war were proven false five times would conduct themselves more cautiously. This is even truer today, with the risk of unexpectedly escalating into a war greater than ever.

Comprehensive assessment needed

Perhaps we can accept the assumption that Bashar Assad and also Nasrallah are uninterested in a war with Israel at this time, but there are clear signs that the Syrian leadership includes many who back the idea of heating up the situation on the border with Israel, by introducing Hizbullah-style "resistance" activities. This would be done in order to lift the heavy international pressure faced by Damascus over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri and Syria's involvement in Lebanon.

 Israel should ask itself how it would respond if hot-tempered Syrian officials win out, the situation on the border heats up, and Golan Heights communities find themselves facing disturbances and possibly Katyusha rocket fire. And should Israel respond, can't the situation escalate into war where Hizbullah also fires rockets from positions north of the Litani River? Is such scenario in the coming summer only the product of the wild imagination of professional war mongers?

And what would happen if the Administration in Washington decided to curb, through a limited military strike, the assistance offered by Iran to rebels and terrorists in Iraq or Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear arms? Then too it is likely that the Iranian response won't pass over Israel. And besides, even a wide-scale IDF military operation in the Gaza Strip may drag radical Islamic elements to boost their assistance to the Palestinians in a manner that requires Israel to operate on other fronts as well.

The intelligence branch is tasked with assessing the capabilities and intentions of Israel's enemies, and therefore an "intelligence assessment" like the one that was presented to the government is not a substitute for a comprehensive assessment of the overall situation that takes into account all the elements active in the theater, including the moves to be undertaken by the Americans, Iranians, and various rebels in Iraq, and including the decisions and moves to be undertaken by Israel. All of the above could escalate into war on short notice, or without any notice.

Will Winograd help?

In the face of this reality, it would be proper for the General Staff Intelligence Branch, which is responsible for preparing the national intelligence assessment, to act more cautiously before it publicly makes the all-clear announcement regarding the possibility of war in the coming 12 months. This is true for other intelligence assessment bodies as well ??? the Mossad, Shin Bet, and Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Research Division ??? which are all partners to the same assessment.

It does not matter at all which reservations and footnotes were added by the IDF intelligence chief and Mossad director to their assessments. The fact that for the first time in the history of the State of Israel these organizations were invited to independently present their intelligence assessment to the entire government grants extra validity to their "low likelihood" assessment in the eyes of the public, which means they will bear full responsibility for the results in the events the assessment is proven? false.

Moreover, intelligence chiefs, as well as the prime minister and public, must recognize the limitations inherent in an intelligence assessment the offers a snapshot of the enemy's capabilities and intentions.

The lessons of the last war require an integrative body in the State of Israel that would place the intelligence assessment into the context of the overall Israeli and regional puzzle and provide a new product: "National siuation assessment." On the basis of this assessment, the government would finally be able to make high-quality and proper decisions in the areas of security and distribution of national resources.

The body that is supposed to prepare such assessment is the National Security Agency, but the problem is that at this time it does not possess the abilities and status that would enable it to perform this task. Perhaps the Winograd Commission's conclusions will get us out of this mess too.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas: Prepare for Holocaust, Fatah is finished

What is significant about this article is not the opinions of the authors, but the quotes of Hamas officials, which speak for themselves:
In the words of its Gaza spokesman, Ismail Radwan, "The organization has changed nothing in its stances toward the conqueror and Zionist enemy," Radwan told Haaretz.
At most, according to Radwan, Hamas will accept the 1967 borders as a temporary solution, and that only on condition that "the Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and all prisoners will be released." Then Hamas would consider the possibility of a hudna [cease-fire]. Radwan is not part of Hamas' extremist wing.
"Israel has not yet understood that after the Mecca agreement, the disappearence of Fatah is a matter of time," a senior Hamas member said behind closed doors this week.
Another senior figure, considered a leader of the pragmatic stream, went even further. "Of all people," he said, "from you Jews, who have known so many disasters, it should have been expected to be careful not to drown in a sea of Muslims. You might have another Holocaust."

After Mecca / Hamas is still Hamas
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel

The more time that passes since the signing of the Mecca agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the clearer it becomes that the real winner in the current round of internal Palestinian conflict is Hamas.
From the declarations of senior Hamas leaders and its spokesmen and from informal conversations with central activists, it it clear the organization does not intend to make significant changes in its hard-line ideological stance. In the words of its Gaza spokesman, Ismail Radwan, "The organization has changed nothing in its stances toward the conqueror and Zionist enemy," Radwan told Haaretz.
At most, according to Radwan, Hamas will accept the 1967 borders as a temporary solution, and that only on condition that "the Palestinian refugees will return to their homes and all prisoners will be released." Then Hamas would consider the possibility of a hudna [cease-fire]. Radwan is not part of Hamas' extremist wing. He is considered a representative of the mainstream, led from Damascus by the head of the Hamas political bureau, Khaled Meshal. Yesterday in Moscow, Meshal was cool to the praise he heard from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the PA unity government, and immediately reiterated that Hamas would not recognize Israel.
When Hamas activists summarize the events in Gaza over the past months, their conclusion is clear: Fatah lost the battle.
"Israel has not yet understood that after the Mecca agreement, the disappearence of Fatah is a matter of time," a senior Hamas member said behind closed doors this week.
Another senior figure, considered a leader of the pragmatic stream, went even further. "Of all people," he said, "from you Jews, who have known so many disasters, it should have been expected to be careful not to drown in a sea of Muslims. You might have another Holocaust."
The Shin Bet security service and Military Intelligence agree that Fatah suffered the more painful blows in the latest round of violence in the Gaza Strip. Other than the Preventive Security forces, Fatah did not take too active a part in the fighting and kept channels of communication with Hamas open even in the midst of the battles.
Hamas has not been disarmed, despite declarations by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas even plans on increasing its forces from 6,000 to 12,000.
Defense Minister Amir Peretz, on a visit to the Gaza border yesterday, heard from intelligence officers about a "smuggling highway" from Egypt to Rafah and of Hamas plans to send hundreds of activists for training in terror camps in Lebanon and Iran. Iran has pledged millions of dollars in aid, which, if it arrives, will empty the international economic siege of the PA of any significance.
Although sentiment in the Gaza Strip is that the unity government will be formed in a matter of days, disputes remain, such as the naming of the interior minister, who will control the size of Hamas' operational forces.
Fatah is learning its lessons from the fighting and focusing on training and improving its equipment. While the two sides are negotiating their disputes, they are also busy preparing for the possibility of renewed fighting.

Continued (Permanent Link)

EU Commissioner: Israel can't make up its mind about the Union

One suspects that there is more than meets the eye here. Of course, full membership in the EU might be impossible if the EU insists that Israel give up the Law of return for example. However we would dearly like to know what is really stopping further cooperation.

EU official: Israel is indecisive toward the Union
By Amiram Barkat

Israel's indecisiveness toward the European Union is clouding the future of bilateral relations, the EU commissioner for external relations said in Jerusalem yesterday.
"EU-Israel relations cannot yet fulfill their potential because the path ahead is not clear," Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a speech at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "We strongly sense that Israel has not yet made up its mind how to work with us - not surprising given the EU's complexity and its multifaceted identity."
Ferrero-Waldner spent a day in Israel, finishing her visit here yesterday and is continuing today to Ramallah and Jordan. She will meet with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Cooperation on energy and transportation
The commissioner said the EU is interested in deepening its economic ties with Israel, developing stronger cooperation on energy and transportation issues and increasing the exchanges between business people, academics, local authorities, artists and young people.
Ferrero-Waldner staked out an ambiguous position on recognizing a Palestinian unity government, saying the EU hoped the future Palestinian government will respond to the principles of peace put forward by President Abbas and by the Quartet. "We will judge this government by its actions," she said.
Later in the day, the commissioner told Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that the Mecca agreement on the unity government has helped prevent further violence in the territories.
Livni said Israel doesn't want to see wars either, but that continued pressure must be exerted on the extremists to advance the diplomatic process

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Abbas promises "International legitimacy" - whatever that means.

The unity deal does not mention "peace agreements" in contradiction to this article. The charge to the new government states that it should "respect past agreements." The word "peace" is not mentioned. There are in fact no peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. There are only agreements that provide a framework for peace negotiations.  The formation of a government based on "international legitimacy" - a phrase that can mean anything - might lead to European acceptance, though it would be a clear violation of quartet conditions. Of course there is always the possibility that they will accept all the conditions and then violate them...  

Last update - 23:22 28/02/2007   

Abbas hopes to work with Hamas to gain support for new gov't
By The Associated Press

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he hoped to work with his rival Hamas on finding a way to present a more internationally acceptable Palestinian unity government.
The power-sharing deal, reached in Saudi Arabia in February between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah party, falls short of international demands that the Palestinian government renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.
The unity deal only says the government will respect past peace agreements, and Hamas has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel.
"We have to form the government and it will be formed before due time," Abbas said in this Jordanian capital. "Until then we have to work on many issues that will help us to present the government to the world in a better way." He did not elaborate.
Abbas, who arrived in Amman Wednesday, briefed Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit on his European and Arab tour to lobby the West to support the unity deal.
"Palestinians will be committed to the international legitimacy and will ask the other to do the same," Abbas told reporters, referring to Israel.
Later, Abbas met in his Amman residence with the EU's External Affairs Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who arrived from Ramallah for a two-day visit to the kingdom.
After the talks, Ferrero-Waldner told reporters that the EU has never abandoned the Palestinian people.
The European commissioner said that the agreement between Hamas and Fatah was an important step forward, because "this has helped to bring calm to a very difficult situation that might have really gone to a civil war, which I think is in the interest of nobody."
Ferrero-Waldner also urged the upcoming national unity government to respond to the demands of the Quartet of Mideast peacebrokers - EU, Russia, U.N. and U.S. - which has called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist.
Ferrero-Waldner is expected to meet with Jordanian foreign minister Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib and other senior officials on Thursday. Abbas is expected to return to the Palestinian territories on Thursday.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Olmert was not crooked enough to advance in the Likud

Ehud Olmert did personal favors to 115 of the Likud party faithful when he was Labor, Trade and Industy minister. This was not enough to advance his position in the Likud part, since others were crookeder:
The statement also maintains that Olmert was unsuccessful in advancing his placement on the Likud party list because he refused many requests from party members, and that the conduct of the Likud party is "contaminating Israeli politics."

Report: Olmert granted personal benefits to Likud activists in 115 cases

By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent

An internal document written by an aide of the prime minister in 2005 and revealed Wednesday night by Channel 10 states that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his associates advanced the interests of Likud Central Committee activists in 115 separate incidents.

The document details various incidents in which Olmert's office was involved while he served as Labor, Trade and Industry Minister. The incidents included blocking the dismissal of employees in the Postal Authority, granting permission to employ foreign workers and promoting employees in public positions.

Other incidents detailed in the document include assisting in the advancement of land compromises within the Israel Lands Authority as well as other activities which advanced the interest of Likud members employed by Bezeq; the Employment Service; the Trade Ministry; investment centers, the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority, and others.

The Prime Minister's Office confirmed Wednesday that at least some of the details in the document are accurate, but claims that any treatment given to Likud activists was proper and legitimate.

Some excerpts from the document read as follows: "Pini Sabah - a central committee member from Ashkelon - we arranged for his associates 21 foreign workers [for construction]" and "Freddy Mellick - a central committee member and chairman of the Nesher branch - a nurse to aid his mother."

In an interview with Channel 10, both Sabah and Mellick confirmed they had received these benefits, but denied the involvement of Olmert and his office in the matter.

Raviv Drucker, the Channel 10 journalist who revealed the report, said the document was intended to strengthen Olmert's ranking on the Likud list (No. 33) during his support for the 2005 disengagement from Gaza.

"The prime minister was introduced to the wording of the document for the first time [Wednesday] on Channel 10," the PMO said in response to the allegations. "The document was apparently written by a former political adviser, out of intent to elevate the minister and show his political achievements on behalf of the [Likud] Central Committee. There are clauses that appear to be correct; the righteous and fair handling of requests - mostly from party members - including appointments which were done legally and with proper disclosure, alongside clauses that are incorrect."

The statement also maintains that Olmert was unsuccessful in advancing his placement on the Likud party list because he refused many requests from party members, and that the conduct of the Likud party is "contaminating Israeli politics."

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Esterina Tartman withdraws candidacy

Following here racist remarks about Arabs, Estherina Tartman had become a national liability. That didn't deter the Olmert government from considering her for a postion in the cabinet. One wonders about the dialog in cabinet meetings featuring Tartman and Arab MK Ghaleb Majadleh, but Olmert and his crew were not dismayed.

However, after it was discovered that she had lied about her university education and collected disability payments, alleging that she can only work four hours a day, a mounting wave of public disgust and ridicule (she was dubbed "Tartarina") brought about the decline of tarty Tartarina Tartman.

Unfortunately, it is not a crime to lie about your education apparently or to make racist remarks about Arabs, so she will keep her Knesset seat.

Last update - 22:05 28/02/2007

Tartman withdraws candidacy for Tourism Ministry amid scandal

By Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondent

MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) on Wednesday withdrew her candidacy for the post of tourism minister, following recent revelations of her disabled status and false claims about degree qualifications.

MK Yitzhak Aharonovich, and not Esterina Tartman, would run as Yisrael Beiteinu's candidate for the post, party chairman Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday.

"I tried pleading with Esterina, from my point of view she is a candidate," said Lieberman, after announcing Tartman's decision in a press conference. "She decided to take a break in order to calm her family, her home, and her children. We have respected her will. I see no fault or problem in her decision to continue in her position. We accepted Attorney Dudu Rotem's proposal to presentAharonovich's candidacy."

Tartman blamed the media for bringing her down and adding her to the growing list of Israeli politicians mired in scandal. Party leader Avigdor Lieberman said he stood by her but respected her decision to withdraw. "I will not be broken by the media," she told a news conference, with Lieberman at her side.

Tartman told a press conference Wednesday night, "In the past few days, I have found myself in the center of a journey of incitement, ugly slander, half-truths and distortion of facts, and all in order to harm me and my good name. However, I did not break, even though m yspirit was within touch of death."

"Not once and not twice was I there," she said, referring to the unraveling of allegations against her over the last few days.

Only hours earlier, Lieberman had said that Tartman was Yisrael Beiteinu's sole candidate for the post of tourism minister.

The Yisrael Beiteinu leader slammed the media for "inflating" the issue of Tartman's false claims, saying that the media has become a "dictatorship." As far as he is concerned, the minister and party chairman said, the matter is "behind us."

The comments come after revelations that Tartman, the Tourism-Minister designate, does not hold a bachelor's degree from Bar-Ilan University or a master's degree from a Jerusalem institute, despite claims on her curriculum vitae.

"Nobody can cast doubt on our credibility," Lieberman said. "Yisrael Beiteinu is not the Shin Bet or the Civil Service Commission. I don't subject candidates to polygraph or security test."

"Sometimes mistakes happen, [but] there is loss of proportion here and intoxication on the part of the media," he said.

Tartman told the News First Class website earlier Wednesday that she didnot intend to relinquish the position of tourism minister. She also said she holds a bachelor's degree from Touro College and that she is studying for a master's degree.

Tartman told the website that she can understand what led former minister Avraham Ofer to commit suicide in 1977 amid suspicions of corruption.

"A person says unnecessary things sometimes in the heat of things," Lieberman said. "We are not rushing her anywhere. I didn't hasten my return from Russia and we aren't hiding."

Meanwhile, Tartman made preparations Tuesday for assuming the position of tourism minister, meeting with outgoing Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog. An assistant was scheduled to meet with the deputy director general of the Tourism Ministry, but the meeting was canceled.

Lieberman said he spoke with Tartman on Tuesday and Wednesday, and that "I have seen things that are completely unreasonable from the journalists' side. Keep things in proportion, guys, the soldiers are still in the field, and the Iranian nuclear bomb is still our foremost problem."

Members of the Yisrael Beiteinu Knesset faction on Tuesday expressed their "surprise and concern" at the revelations, but have refrained from issuing an official statement.

Tartman did not appear in the Knesset on Wednesday, and she was unavailable for comment throughout most of the day.

The Prime Minister's Office called the appointment "problematic" but said it would not intervene in the faction's internal matters.

"There is no known precedent in which the prime minister told another party who will be its minister," a statement from the office said.

Nonetheless, officials close to Olmert say they expected Lieberman to forestall further embarrassment and to ask Tartman to pass on the position.

In response to a request for a comment from Haaretz, a spokeswoman for Tartman said that the MK has decided not to respond to any questions on the matter at this time.

A probe by Yedioth Aharonoth into university records dating back to 1977 showed that Tartman was never a registered student nor has she ever completed studies there that would have awarded her a B.A.

It appears that Tartman had taken courses at the Center for In-Service Training, a private firm specializing in such programs. The courses are not academic and are not part of a B.A. program.

Yisrael Beitenu's Web site stated that Tartman holds "a graduate degree in economics and marketing from Hebrew University."

The Knesset Web site stated that Tartman holds an MBA with a specialization in management and marketing from the university in Jerusalem. An inquiry at the university showed that Tartman has never studied at that institution.

Once Yedioth Aharonoth reporters began their probe, however, the statement on the party's Web site was altered to say that Tartman had undertaken "graduate studies in business administration in Jerusalem." By Tuesday night, the mention of "Jerusalem" had also been removed.

Party officials said that one of the activists had made an honest mistake and wrote that Tartman is a graduate of Hebrew University, even though she had never made such claims.

But it is not only the Yisrael Beitenu activists who erred about Tartman's academic credentials. In an interview on the Knesset channel, after she was designated tourism minister, Tartman explained the reasons for which she was qualified for the job.

"Every minister needs to be knowledgeable in budgetary issues. I come with a management background... and a clear background in economics: I have a B.A. in accounting and finance, and an MBA."

Her academic credentials were also mentioned in the trial in which she sued for compensation for damages she suffered during a traffic accident a decade ago. The ruling, which appears to be based on her deposition, states that Tartman studied at Touro College in Jerusalem and received an academic degree with distinction, but does not specify whether this was a bachelor's or graduate degree.

Until recently Touro College was an extension of the New York-based institution and trained students mostly in Judaic studies.

Now the institution is a registered college in Jerusalem under the name of Lander Institute. However it is not authorized to confer MBAs.

An inquiry with the Council for Higher Learning showed that even when it was operating as Touro College the institution did not offer graduate degrees in business administration.

The Lander Institute refused to respond to Haaretz inquiries into the matter.

In an interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit, aired on the Knesset channel, Tartman claimed that her ability to concentrate and her memory were harmed by the injuries suffered in the accident.

On Tuesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided not to take any steps against Tartman, despite harsh statements she previously made against Israeli Arabs and the ministerial appointment of Ghaleb Majadele.

The committee decided that despite the severity of Tartman's statements, there was no room for dealing with the matter any further on grounds that what she said constituted a personal worldview and did not undermine the Knesset, or its members.

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Lost in Translation Followup: Palestinians reply

Earlier, we posted a PMW expose that described differences between Arabic news stories of the Palestinian Maan news service, and their supposed translation into English.

Some examples:

Ma'an English: "…in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat."
Ma'an Arabic in first reference: "… in Eilat located in the south of occupied Palestine."
Ma'an Arabic in second reference: "…carried out a brave deed and for the first time in occupied Eilat.”

In the English the mother is referred to simply by her name and age: "Ruwaida Siksik, 42."

In Arabic Ma'an adds: " Ruwaida Siksik, 42, whose family originated from the occupied city of Jaffa."

In English: The mother prayed that it may send a message to the fighting brothers in Hamas and Fatah, to stop and direct their weapons against the Israeli occupation.

In Arabic: the mother prayed that Allah will receive her son as a Shahid…

What did the mother really say? Who knows? The indirect quotes change, and the facts change too. Maan replies below that news must be written differently for Arabic speaking and English speaking audiences. Inventing quotes is part of professional journalism according to them, and they are proud of it, because, as they insist:
Our objective has been set from the very beginning: to be a credible, professional and high quality news agency.
Praise be to Allah. Perhaps a new school of linguistics should be opened in order to train people in this needed skill, according to a new lexicon.

In English:
"Palestinians want peace with Israel"
In Arabic:
"Death to the Zionist entity."

In English:
"Peace treaty"
In Arabic:
"Worthless document signed with Jewish sons of apes and dogs."

In English:
"We are pleased to cooperate with our honored European patrons."
In Arabic:
"May Allah rot the bones of the foreign infidel sons of pigs, but may he give us their money first."

Maan notes:

Ma'an's editor-in-chief, Nasser Al-Lahham... ascribed the reason for the
difference between the Arabic and the English versions as being merely
professional rather than political

Our national identity is well-known and publicly declared because we are
proud of that identity and we never conceal it.

And the Europeans of course fund this "professional" lying. One wonders what the European donors have to say about all this, since according to Maan, they can certainly read the original Arabic.

Ami Isseroff

Israeli media watchdog accuses Ma'an of 'sterilizing' their 'hate terminology' in an attempt to please the donors
Date: 28 / 02 / 2007 Time: 16:16
Bethlehem - Ma'an - An Israeli website has published an article in English accusing Ma'an News Agency of using "hate terminology" in their Arabic-language news and then 'sterilizing' the same news as part of the translation process into English.

The website, which is devoted to monitoring Palestinian media (Palestinian Media Watch) claimed that Ma'an uses "hate ideology espoused by the terror organizations" in its Arabic news, while avoiding this incitement when translated into English. PMW claims, "The same stories go through a sterilization process to hide from the English readers - and possibly from the two Western countries, the Netherlands and Denmark, who give them funding - the terrorist ideology Ma'an is helping to propagate."

Two Israeli writers, Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, gave examples to prove their claim, namely with regards to Ma'an's coverage of the bombing operations and in the naming of places which are located within the internationally-recognized borders of Israel, but are also considered to be in pre-1948 historic Palestine.

Ma'an's editor-in-chief, Nasser Al-Lahham responded to the Israeli accusations as saying that several Israeli journalists object to Ma'an, especially the English version which has begun to spread across the world. He ascribed the reason for the difference between the Arabic and the English versions as being merely professional rather than political. There is a difference between editing English and Arabic news, he said, and there is no connection to any wish to conceal any secrets from the Danish and Dutch donors. He also added that the assumption that the donors monitor the English version and neglect the Arabic site is "stupid", since the Danish and Dutch embassies possess the ability to read Arabic-language media.

Lahham added, "Our national identity is well-known and publicly declared because we are proud of that identity and we never conceal it. Our professionalism is acknowledged and distinguished. Ma'an News Agency employs more than 100 journalists, including Muslims, Christians and Jews. Our objective has been set from the very beginning: to be a credible, professional and high quality news agency."

Lahham added that he does not give political directions to the department heads, including the English desk, regarding what they should and should not publish.

When Ma'an was established at the beginning of 2005, Ma'an News Agency hosted media experts from all over the world, including Israel, in order to discuss the terminology. Among the guests were the Israeli journalists, Miron Ropot and Zvika Yehezkely, along with dozens of media professors from Britain, Iran, Europe and the United States. All agreed that each language has its own terminology and special meanings, and that Ma'an will not stop using terms such as "martyr", "resistance" and equivalent terms, in Arabic.

Philippa N., chief English editor, said: "We have never tried to hide the fact that we cater to a different audience and therefore need to employ a different language. The most important thing for us is to deliver the facts and to portray the full extent of the harsh reality of life for Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, without causing incitement. The coverage is more important than the language. In regards to our choice of terminology, we aim to stick as close as possible to UN-accepted terms, while maintaining our Palestinian perspective."

An English news editor, Rashid Shahin, believes that what the Israeli website carried out was just an attempt at "opinion terrorism." He added, "The Israeli website has criticized almost every Arab media outlet. They seem to want to force Ma'an and others to reflect the Israeli point of view. They are indirectly asking the Palestinians and their media to view what is going on in the Palestinian territories through Israeli eyes and to choose terminology that matches the Israeli mood and mind and reflects their own vision about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict."

In regards to the captions of the images used by Ma'an News Agency, Ma'an's chief photographer, Magnus Johansson, said: "MaanImages is following international standards when it comes to the captions for the pictures. Since we supply images to more than 40 agencies around the world, we can't have incitement in the caption. This would immediately force a response from our clients. The caption is there to describe what is in the picture (who, what, why, where and when) without any personal comments or values. For MaanImages the quality of the pictures is the most important thing and it must reflect what was happening on the spot. It is then up to the viewer to make their own judgments on the event."

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Five Qassams fired from Gaza; no wounded

Note - It is forbidden to identify exact targets hit by the rockets.

5 Kassams fired from Gaza; no wounded staff and ap, THE JERUSALEM POST Feb. 28, 2007

Two Kassam rockets landed in an open field north of Sderot Wednesday morning, raising the total number of rockets fired Wednesday to five. Tworockets also landed south of Ashkelon.

No injuries or damage were reported in the attacks.

Earlier Wednesday, however, unspecified damage was caused at the site of the first missile's impact, which was near one of the Jewish communities that border the northern Gaza Strip, according to an Army Radio report.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attacks. Earlier in the day undercover Border Policemen killed three Islamic Jihad operatives in the West Bank town of Jenin.

Following the operation a spokesman for Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Abu Ahmad, warned Israel, "This new crime will not pass without tough punishment.

"Their blood will be the fuel of our holy battle. And our reaction is coming soon."

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Palestinian incitement lost in the translation

Maan is funded by Europeans who apparently do not understand Arabic. So they have one story for their audience and a different story for the foreign khawajas.

Hate terminology in Arabic sanitized in English translations by Palestinian news service
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook, Feb 27, 2007

The Ma’an News Service publishes numerous daily announcements in Arabic, which it subsequently translates and releases in English. In recent stories, PMW has noted that the Ma'an releases in Arabic include the hate ideology espoused by the terror organizations that deny Israel's right to exist, express reverence for suicide terrorists and justify terrorist murder as "resistance." But when translated into English, the same stories go through a sterilization process to hide from the English readers – and possibly from the two Western countries, the Netherlands and Denmark, who give them funding – the terrorist ideology Ma'an is helping to propagate.

The following are two examples:

1 – On Jan. 29, 2007, a suicide terrorist killed three Israelis in the city of Eilat. The Ma'an Arabic report included the language of the terror organizations, while the English was cleansed with changes and omissions, including changes to the language of direct quotes. The differences are striking:

Denial of Israel's right to exist
In English Ma'an accurately reports that the event happened "in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat." But in the original Arabic, Eilat is changed from an Israeli city to a Palestinian city occupied by Israel – reflecting the terrorist assertion that all of Israel is “occupied Palestine.

Ma'an English: "…in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat."
Ma'an Arabic in first reference: "… in Eilat located in the south of occupied Palestine."
Ma'an Arabic in second reference: "…carried out a brave deed and for the first time in occupied Eilat.”

In the English the mother is referred to simply by her name and age: "Ruwaida Siksik, 42."
In Arabic Ma'an adds: " Ruwaida Siksik, 42, whose family originated from the occupied city of Jaffa."

The routine definition in a news story of Jaffa, a part of southern Tel Aviv, as "occupied" and Eilat as "occupied Palestine" is a way to linguistically express denial of Israel's right to exist, and is the terminology used by the terror organizations.

Glorifying suicide terror as Shahada – revered Martyrdom
The act of the suicide bombing is likewise reported differently in the English and the Arabic. The English refers to a "bombing," while the Arabic gives it an idyllic Islamic categorization of an "Amaliyyah Ishtish'hadyyah" - a Shahada-seeking action. This is not merely a positive categorization, but is defining the suicide bombing as an honored Islamic action. The perpetrator is given the status of a Ishtish'hadi- Shahada-seeker, who becomes after his death a Shahid – a revered holy Martyr.

In Arabic:
"She heard the news on Monday morning that he died as a Shahid
In English:
"Family of Eilat bomber"
In Arabic:
"mother of the Shahada-seeker"

Another interesting difference is that in the Arabic, the brother of the bomber admits to knowing that his brother was leaving on a terror operation. This is omitted from the English version.

2- The second article demonstrating the terror support by Ma'an is its release yesterday about the murder of Erez Levanon, a 42-year-old Israeli musician and father of three children, who was attacked and stabbed to death by two Palestinians while praying in a field.

The Ma'an English:
"Palestinian sources told Ma'an that armed Palestinian men ambushed an Israeli …"

The Ma'an Arabic:
"Palestinian sources told Ma'an that Palestinian resistance men ambushed an Israeli …"

This is not just semantics. In choosing to categorize murder as "resistance," Ma'an is choosing the language used by terror organizations to justify murder.

The following is the chart of the changes in the translation of the suicide bombing story, followed by the visuals of yesterday's story.
Ma’an in English

Family of Eilat bomber speak to Ma'an..

Ma’an in Arabic
[PMW translation to English]

Mother of the Shahada-seeker [Martrydom Seeker - Islamic term of honor for suicide bomber] and his wife speak …

She heard the news on Monday morning that he had blown himself up

She heard the news on Monday morning that he died as a shahid [Islamic term for revered Martyr]

in an unprecedented operation in the southern Israeli resort of Eilat

in an unprecedented operation in
Eilat located in the south of occupied Palestine

Did his mother, Ruwaida Siksik, 42,

Did his mother, Ruwaida Siksik, 42, whose family originated from the occupied city of Jaffa,

know about her fourth son's intention to operate in Israel?know about her fourth son's intention to carry out a Shahada – Seeking operation in Israel?
She said: "I knew he wished for
Shahada …”
She said: "I knew he wished for Shahada -Seeking and for Shahada…"
On Monday 29th January, the son's identity was reported as being the bomber of Eilat. On Monday, was reported the death as a Shahid of (her) son, and
The mother prayed that it may send a message to the fighting brothers in Hamas and Fatah, to stop and direct their weapons against the Israeli occupation. the mother prayed that Allah will receive her son as a Shahid
She added that she is ready to sacrifice all of her nine sons and daughters for Palestine and Al-Aqsa mosque…She added that she is ready to sacrifice all of her nine sons and daughters for Palestine and Al-Aqsa mosque, and that she will not be stingy with them…

Muhammad's brother, Na'im, 26, said:

"What my brother has done is dignifying for all of us…”

Muhammad's brother, Na'im, 26, said: "I knew he was leaving and I wished him that he would achieve Shahada as he wants. When I heard the news about his Shahada-seeking, I prayed for him, that Allah will receive him. What my brother has done is dignifying for all of us…”

Nadia Siksik, wife of the
deceased bomber
, expressed pride over her husband's operation.
She said: “… after what he has done for Palestine,
I am proud…"
Nadia Siksik, wife of the
Shahada-seeker expressed pride over her husband's operation.
She said: “… after I was informed of his death as a Shahid today,
I am proud…"

The bomber's little sister, Dalia, 13, burst into tears while she expressed
her pride over her brother,

"who refused to be a victim of the clash of brothers."

His youngest sister, Dalia, 13, burst into tears while she said:
I am proud of my brother Muhammad,
"for he died a death of honor and
refused to be a victim of the bullets of brothers.
He chose Shahada among his enemies and carried out a brave deed and for the first time in occupied Eilat.


Ma'an Arabic "Palestinian resistance men"
Ma'an English: "armed Palestinian men"

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Bangladesh Journalist faces death for anti-Islamist activities

Salahuddin Shoaib Choudury is on trial for setition - a charge that faces the death penalty. The procedure began when he tried to visit Israel in connection with a peace dialogue meeting and has dragged on for years.

We have been following this story with anxiety for several years. The strategy of the Bangladesh authorities seems to be to hold a trial by attrition and to drag the procedings out for as long as possible. Mr. Choudhury for his part, has not shown all the discretion that might be appropriate in these circumstances, and has been unduly optimistic about his case.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2007

CONTACT: Richard L. Benkin, Ph.D.; +1-847-722-7917;;

Persecuted Journalist faces Set Back in Sedition Trial

Actions by Bangladeshi Court Belies Government Assurances

Dhaka, Bangladesh—Crusading Muslim journalist, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, suffered a major setback in the government case against him for alleged “sedition, treason, and blasphemy.” The current government of Bangladesh had recently given explicit assurances to several US and other officials that the admittedly false charges would be dropped and done so “within the framework of Bangladeshi laws.”

We have learned that the procedure would have three successive court dates at which government witnesses failed to show, forcing the charges to be dropped. That happened on January 22 and was supposed to happen again on February 28.

Instead, two government witnesses did show and the radical-affiliated judge signed an order forcing the trial to continue and accusing Choudhury of being a “threat to the security of Bangladesh.”

Choudhury has faced continued persecution since 2003 for writing articles exposing the rise of Islamist radicals, calling for relations with Israel, and advocating religious equality. He has been beaten, tortured and imprisoned for his efforts, and mobs have been allowed to attack him and bomb his newspaper with impunity. Today’s charge specifically mentions his journalistic activities.

Recently, resolutions condemning Choudhury’s persecution have been passed in the European and Australian Parliaments. A similar resolution in the US Congress recently passed the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs without opposition and with open support by the US State Department.

Choudhury had been encouraged by recent government promises and the outpouring of international support; but today’s events call into question the veracity of those promises.

For further information, a translated text of the order, or interviews with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, contact Richard Benkin at the telephone or email above.

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Good news: IDF soldiers learning to shoot

The article states:

"All the training has paid off," the officer said after a lieutenant told Peretz that as a result, the soldiers "had bridged gaps" and now knew how to "better use their submachine guns and sniper rifles."

Good. Now if the defense minister will also take the lens caps off the binoculars, maybe we can have some real progress.

These are supposed to be the best soldiers in the world. What happened?

Israel to UN: Stop Hizbullah arms flow

Israel is considering taking action to stop the smuggling of weapons from Syria to Hizbullah, although plans for the time being entail a continuation of diplomatic efforts to change UNIFIL's mandate so that the UN force will deploy along the Syrian-Lebanese border, Israeli sources said on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, OC Northern Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot met with UNIFIL commander Maj.-Gen. Claudio Graziano of Italy at Northern Command headquarters in Safed. Sources said the two discussed the Syrian arms smuggling and ways to better enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which forbids the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah in southern Lebanon.Defense Minister Amir Peretz hinted on Tuesday at a possible Israeli use of force along the Syrian-Lebanese border. During a tour of the Gaza border with Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Peretz said that for now, Israel would continue to demand that the international community stop the weapons traffic.

"We demand from all the international parties involved to put an end to the smuggling," he told reporters during a briefing at the IDF's Yiftah base just north of Gaza, home to the Givati Brigade's Shaked Battalion. "In theend, however, we will take responsibility and will do everything to defend the State of Israel. We will not allow the situation in southern Lebanon to return to the way it was on the eve of the war."

The IDF and the Foreign Ministry have been conducting a worldwide public relations campaign, showing intelligence collected inside Lebanon to representatives of countries that could assist in changing UNIFIL's mandate. On Monday, senior IDF officers presented intelligence to visiting UN envoy Michael Williams, and officers have also recently presented the information to the United States and Russia, and to European countries that are members of UNIFIL.

Also on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that while Security Council Resolution 1701 was only being "partially implemented," it was the best option at the time.

Livni told the panel Israel was working with "international partners" to find ways to tighten the border between Lebanon and Syria. "Hizbullah is getting stronger beyond the Litani [River]. At this point, we could not act there freely if we needed to," she said.

During Tuesday's briefing, Peretz also hinted at a possible military operation in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas is continuing to build up its strength. He said Israel was interested in "giving the cease-fire a chance" and planned to continue diplomatic efforts to stop the Kassam rocket attacks.

"Due to the continued military buildup [in Gaza], however, we are obligated to prepare ourselves," he said. "When we will need to conduct the necessary operations to curb the growing threat, we will do so without any fear or hesitation."

At the Yiftah base, Peretz and Ashkenazi heard soldiers' views on a potential operation inside the Gaza Strip. A company commander told the minister that due to a major increase in training - a key result of the lessons of the Lebanon war - the soldiers were now better prepared for the next war.

"All the training has paid off," the officer said after a lieutenant told Peretz that as a result, the soldiers "had bridged gaps" and now knew how to "better use their submachine guns and sniper rifles."

Officers who were present at the meeting spoke of a "positive dynamic" between Ashkenazi and Peretz and of a feeling of a "new spirit" within the IDF.

The meeting hit an emotional point after an officer from the battalion of abducted Cpl. Gilad Schalit asked Ashkenazi to allow his unit to remain in the Southern Command and to participate in the fighting in Gaza until Schalit is freed.

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Inside Iranian power struggle

Is this wishful thinking or fact? In other accounts, it is Khameinei who is the "good cop," restraining Ahmadinejad

What Iranian 'pragmatists' want
Feb. 27, 2007

After Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent defiant announcement about installing 3,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges in Natanz, signs of an emerging leadership crisis in Iran have appeared. They expose the power group of Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard supporters (usually backed by the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei) and the more "pragmatic," though no less extreme in their final goals, clerical leadership.

In a speech on January 8 Khamenei warned against any withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear program by any person or Iranian official in the present or in the future. Recently there have been rumors that Khamenei is seriously ill, and may die soon. His speech seems to be the proclamation of a dying man's will.

Simultaneously, former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, the recently elected chairman of the Experts Assembly, which has the authority to select the supreme leader, had an intensive two-day meeting with the top-level ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom. The most important issue discussed was the selection of a new supreme leader. Rafsanjani asserted in his speech in Qom that the Experts Assembly should choose the leader soon, in order to keep the regime safe and avoid a future power struggle after his death.

ACCORDING to article 111 of the Iranian constitution, the Experts Assembly may change the supreme leader should he become incapacitated. Until this happens, the president, Ahmadinejad, the head of the Supreme Court, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, and an ayatollah from the Constitution Guardian Council, probably Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, would collectively carry out the duties of the supreme leader. This would lead to control of the neo-hard-liners over the Iranian leadership.

The ongoing discussions among the Iranian leaders indicate that Khamenei's speech has caused concern, and objections from most of the mullahs. Their main objection could be the eligibility of a dying leader to make significant decisions on issues that may put the Islamic regime in danger. Since most of the members of the Assembly of Experts, all of whom are clergy, are pragmatists, and their own security and that of the Islamic regime is their main concern, it is likely that they will not let the fate of the regime be determined by a sick and dying man.

THE ACUTE leadership controversy was revealed on a live TV interview with Rafsanjani on February 10. The program was dedicated to recollections of Iranian leaders from the period of the Iranian revolution, which is now celebrating its 28th anniversary.

Rafsanjani, who is an obvious contender for the position of the supreme ruler but does not yet have the support of the Assembly of Experts, seized the opportunity to divert the interview to promote himself and attack his opponents.

He expanded on his religious background and scholarship since this is a point of weakness being used against him by his opponents. He then told about the controversy in the first period of the Islamic republic, when high-level Iranian mullahs and he especially opposed the appointment of the first Iranian president, Abol-hassan Banisadr, who was not a cleric, in opposition to the desires of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini proclaimed that the mullahs should be engaged in spiritual leadership only, and not be involved in political power positions. After one year Khomeini admitted that Rafsanjani's circle was right. Serving then as the spokesman of the parliament, Rafsanjani led the parliament to impeach Banisadr on the grounds of incompetence. Khomeini endorsed the decision, and Banisadr was replaced.

Rafsanjani alluded to the present situation in which Ahmadinejad, who is not a mullah, is supported by the supreme leader Khamenei, but does not have the support of the mullahs of Qom.

This interview was the strongest attack by Rafsanjani against Ahmadinejad since the beginning of his presidency. This probably indicates that Rafsanjani was successful in gaining support against Ahmadinejad among high ranking mullahs. Ahmadinejad's followers responded to Rafsanjani's interview by claiming that Ahmadinejad is not Banisadr, and Rafsanjani's power isn't what it was 26 years ago.

A FEW days after the interview, on February 15, Hossain Marashi, Rafsanjani's confidant and brother-in-law, suggested starting an investigation of the Iranian parliament because of the damage Ahmadinejad has caused to Iran's foreign relations, exposing Ahmadinejad's political incompetence and breach of trust.
The Iranian parliament can impeach the president by a two-thirds vote.

The dispute heated up with a new speech by Khamenei on February 18. He reiterated that the nuclear program must be continued and declared that anybody inside the regime who thinks that the nuclear activity should be stopped because of international threats must be "blockheaded" and does not understand the situation.
The next day, an opposition reformist group in Iran - Mojahedin Enghelab Eslami - published a statement calling for the cessation of uranium enrichment before the deadline of the UN Security Council and protesting that Iranian newspapers are not permitted to debate the risk involved in nuclear activity and the danger of war.

This is the first time a legal party within the regime had officially expressed an objection to the nuclear program. This is a significant event, even though the opposition is powerless in the Iranian regime.

One only need add to this picture the unpredictability and bravado of Ahmadinejad and his extreme Revolutionary Guard followers in order to appreciate the inflammatory nature of the situation.

THE CONCLUSION derived from this string of events is that, due to an emerging leadership vacuum, the Islamic regime of Iran is marching toward a historic crossroads, with substantial risks and instability.

One may also conclude that the recent military power moves directed by the American president, as minimal as they are, are starting to have an affect. The West must act now, with full force and vigor, and for the sake of world peace, so as not to miss the narrow window of opportunity and further destabilize this critically dangerous regime.

'John Samson' is the pseudonym of an Iranian scientist now in exile, previously connected with top Iranian political and scientific figures.

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Constitution proposes to destroy Jewish state from within

Is this how Arab states intend to recognize Israel?

Last update - 09:21 28/02/2007

Israeli Arab group proposes new 'multi-cultural' constitution

By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

A proposed constitution written by the Israeli Arab advocacy center, Adalah, states that Arab Knesset members will be able to bring about the disqualification of bills that impinge on the rights of Arabs, and classifies the State of Israel as a "bilingual and multicultural" country rather than a Jewish state.

The proposal, entitled "The Democratic Constitution," also calls for majority and minority groups to split control of the government in such a way that will strengthen the Arab minority on issues relating to the character of the state.

Adalah's version of the constitution essentially abolishes the Jewish elements of Israel, but allows the Jewish majority to maintain its character through educational and cultural institutions. The proposal invalidates the Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to people with at least one Jewish grandparent, and states that citizenship will be granted to those who come to Israel for humanitarian reasons, regardless of their religion.

The document states that the "internal refugees" Arab residents and their descendants expelled in 1948 and whose number is estimated at about a quarter of today's Israeli Arab citizens will return to the area where they used to live and receive compensation. The introduction to the proposed constitution demands that Israel recognize its responsibility for the "historical injustices that it caused the Palestinian nation in its entirety," withdraw from the territories and recognize the Palestinian people's right to self-determination. The proposal sets the state's borders along the 1967 cease-fire lines.

The proposed constitution grants citizenship to all descendants of Israeli citizens, whether they were born here or abroad, as well as to all spouses of Israeli citizens thereby undermining Israeli efforts to limit marriages between Israeli Arabs and Palestinians living in the territories.

Instead of dealing with the issue of who is a Jew, says Adalah, the proposal deals with the issue of who is a citizen.

Adalah's constitution is the first one proposed by an Arab institution, though there have been many proposed by various Jewish ones. Adalah chairman Prof. Marwan Dwairy said the other proposals are not based on democratic values.

"They relate to Arab citizens like foreigners in this homeland, in which history, memory and collective rights are the legacy of Jews alone," he wrote.

Adalah hopes that its proposal will spur public discourse on the legal and cultural standing of Israeli Arabs.

"If this 'Democratic Constitution' succeeds in highlighting the large gaps that exist between it and the other proposals, and generates dialogue and topical public discussion on the nature of the freedoms and rights in the this country, we will see it as an important step," wrote Dwairy.

According to the proposed constitution, all assets of the Waqf (the Muslim religious trust) that were expropriated after 1948 and all assets seized by the state from Arabs will be returned to their original owners, who will also receive compensation for the period of expropriation. The state must also immediately recognize all unrecognized Arab villages, the proposal states.

The document does not state what the symbols of the country should be, but says that they will be determined either by a Knesset committee, half of whose members will be Arab, or by agreement of 75 percent of Arab MKs.

All official publications, court rulings and media reports will be in both Hebrew and Arabic, according to Adalah. The proposal states that every cultural group, whether religious or ethnic, will be able to run their own institutions, and that national minorities can choose their own representative body, at the state's expense.

The proposed constitution grants the judicial system the authority to overturn any laws that contradict the constitution.

Adalah says that many of its sections are based on international declarations of human rights, and has consulted with legal experts from around the world, including some who were involved in South Africa's changeover from an apartheid state to a democratic one.

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Point of view: IDF border police kill three Islamic Jihad "militants"

Undercover Border Police kill three Jihad terrorists in JeninBy YAAKOV KATZ, JPOST.COM STAFF AND AP
NABLUS, West Bank

Other possible headlines (depending on point of view):

"IOF martyrs three Palestinian freedom fighters"

"Three Palestinian citizens killed by occupation army"

"Apartheid Israel regime oppresses Palestinian freedom fighters"

Undercover Border Police operating in Jenin killed three armed Islamic Jihad terrorists Wednesday morning, including the group's local leader, Ashraf Sa'adi.

The other two were known Islamic Jihad operatives Muhammad Abu Nasa and Daoud Jabli.

One soldier was lightly wounded in the operation, in which the troops exchanged gun fire with Sa'adi and his men.

According to Palestinian witnesses at the scene, the three were sitting in a car when a black car drove up alongside and fired shots. The men in the black car were not wearing any uniforms, they said. Two of the men were killed on the spot and the third, Sa'adi, exited the car and tried to run but was shot down and killed, the witnesses added.

The army disputed the witnesses' account, saying troops had tried to arrest Sa'adi in a hospital parking lot, but he opened fire at them. Troops returned fire, killing the three terrorists, the IDF said.

Following the operation a spokesman for Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Abu Ahmad, warned Israel, "This new crime will not pass without tough punishment.

"Their blood will be the fuel of our holy battle. And our reaction is coming soon."

Islamic Jihad tried last week to carry out a suicide bombing in Israel but the bomber, who was from the Jenin area, was caught.

Also Wednesday morning, dozens of jeeps backed by bulldozers raided the West Bank city of Nablus on Wednesday and the army said its operation to track down gunmen in the flashpoint city would continue.

The troops had withdrawn on Tuesday but were back at dawn Wednesday, witnesses said.

Bulldozers sealed off all entrances to the old city with rubble and jeeps patrolled the streets of much of the city to reinstate a curfew, they said. About 50,000 people were confined to their homes.

Five suspects were arrested in house to house searches for militants, the army said.

The army has said the operation is necessary in the city known for its militant activity since most of the suicide bombers trying to enter Israel from the West Bank come from Nablus.

Thus far, one Palestinian has been killed in the operation, which began Sunday.

In related news, IDF units operating in other areas of the West Bank overnight Tuesday arrested a total of 25 Palestinians wanted for involvement in terror, the army said.

No troops were wounded in the operations.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Liars, More Liars, Damned Liars and Estherina Tarman

After she boasted about her professional qualifications for post of tourism minister, it turns out that Estherina Tartman lied about her academic career and has little academic training, and aslo collects disability insurance because the claims she can't work. Indeed, she is the perfect marketing person, who has no respect for truth.

Tartman holds no university degree, despite claims in her CV

By Tamara Traubmann and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service

Tourism Minister-designate Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) does not hold any university degree, despite claims in her curriculum vitae to the contrary.

Following reports earlier Tuesday in Yedioth Aharonoth that Tartman never received a masters degree, various media sources reported that the minister-designate had also never received a bachelors degree.

In her CV and on the Web sites of the Knesset and Yisrael Beiteinu, Tartman claims to have received a bachelors degree from Bar Ilan University and a masters degree in finance and marketing from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Bar Ilan University spokesman Samuel Elgrabli confirmed that Tartman is not, and has never been, registered as a student. According to a university investigation, Tartman completed continuing education courses at an institution affiliated with Bar Ilan.

With regard to her claims to a masters degree, Tartman apparently completed a few courses at Touro College, an institution that does not grant degrees.

In an interview with Haaretz correspondent Ari Shavit earlier Tuesday, Tartman confirmed that her long and short-term memory and her powers of concentration are compromised.

Tartman also said that she would propose revoking the citizenship of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews who refused to sign a declaration of loyalty to the state, and would require those who did, to perform a form of national service.

Tartman has been under growing scrutiny since her party chose her on Sunday to replace Labor cabinet minister Yitzhak Herzog as tourism minister.

One focus of the media glare has been a claim of disability stemming from a 1997 traffic accident. Following the accident, she claimed that she could no longer work more than four hours a day, a suit entitles her to an award of NIS 2.5 million by two insurance companies, plus a monthly stipend of a few thousand shekels from the National Insurance Institute. The NII found that she was 52-percent disabled.

But documents in the case have revealed that shortly after the accident, she was maintaining a busy schedule, including long hours of political activity.

In an interview with Shavit broadcast on the Channel 10, Tartman was asked if the disability claim was accurate, and, if so, how the disability might affect her work as a cabinet minister.

"The problem still exists, but I have acquired skills to deal with it, and to minimize it," she said.

"My level of concentration and my level of memory were harmed," she said. "I have a disability, there are areas of my memory of the past that were affected, I have a problem with long-term and short-term memory."

However, she added, in a reference to her freshman term in the Knesset, "Over the past year has anyone detected this? No. Not because I am not disabled, but because I learned to deal with it."

In the Tuesday interview, Tartman was also asked about her stance with regard to Israeli Arabs. Earlier Tuesday, the Knesset Ethics Committee decided against taking any action against Tartman for a January statement in which she called the appointment of Muslim Arab MK Raleb Majadele to the post of minister as "a lethal blow to Zionism," and said "we must destroy the affliction within us, with God's help, the Holy One blessed be He will help us."

Tartman said Tuesday that "Any citizen who is not loyal to the idea of a Jewish state ? his citizenship should be rescinded."

She said she opposed the idea of expelling citizens ? whether Arabs or ultra-Orthodox Jews - who refuse to sign a loyalty declaration, rather "to turn their status into one of a resident, without the right to vote or to run for office."

According to Tartman, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews who do not perform IDF service would be required to do a form of national service.

Allegations of misrepresenting her studies
Meanwhile, concerns were raised within Yisrael Beiteinu over allegations published Tuesday in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, which indicated that Tartman had lied about her educational background.

In an interview this week to the Knesset television channel, Tartman stated that she held a master's degree in business administration.

Yedioth noted that on the official Yisrael Beiteinu Web site, Tartman's biography listed her as having a "Master's degree in economics and marketing from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem."

In response to queries from the media, which found that her graduate education was limited to several courses in a college that does not grant advanced degrees, the site entry was changed to read "Business administration Master's degree studies."

The Knesset's official Web site still lists her as having a Master's degree.

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Fighting the rule of law in Israel

The law Estherina Tartman advocates will basically take away the right of the Supreme Court to declare laws unsconstitutional. The prospect of Estherina Tartman in control of constitutional law should make anyone think twice. In the USA, conservatives tried to undermine the supreme court in the same way and for the same reasons- rulings they didn't like about separation of church and state, abortion and integration. Some may be happy about this law, but what happens in 20 years when a knesset majority rules against the right?

Ironically, it was Menachem Begin who championed the rule of the independent judiciary, as this article points out.

Last update - 17:21 27/02/2007

Top jurist tells Justice Minister: Retract plan to stem court power

By Yossi Verter, Yuval Yoaz and Gideon Alon, Haaretz Correspondents

Professor Uriel Procaccia, one of Israel's senior jurists, on Tuesday called on Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann to backtrack on his initiative to limit the High Court of Justice's constitutional authority.

Procaccia, who heads the masters of law program at Herzliya's Interdisciplinary Center, wrote in a statement released Tuesday that, "Human rights advocates in Israel must join forces against Friedmann's initiative to curtail the High Court of Justice's constitutional authority."

Procaccia added that, "The American Congress does not feel undermined by the courts' authority to proclaim a law passed in Congress unconstitutional. This is the law in many enlightened countries throughout the world."

"MK Esterina Tartman has told the nation she thinks otherwise," Procaccia wrote. "This is her right, but human rights advocates disagree with Tartman, and I call on the new justice minister not to distance himself from their ranks. Human rights in Israel are at stake, and without them our democracy is liable be emptied of some of its most important substance."

Procaccia ended the letter with a call on Friedmann to "carefully consider your steps before raising a hand to the valuable fruits of our legal system."

Peretz: Labor won't let Friedmann limit Supreme Court's authority to overturn laws
Labor Chairman Amir Peretz on Monday told Friedmann that his party would oppose efforts to curtail the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court. The two met in the Knesset.

According to sources, Friedmann's declared intention to curb the role of the Supreme Court in constitutional matters contravenes the government's official guidelines.

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz has already expressed his opposition to Friedmann's initiative, and Peretz said he would back him.

Senior Labor officials said on Monday that Peretz may initiate a serious crisis in the coalition over Friedmann's initiative, because this may serve him in rallying support during the party's primaries in May by embarrassing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Peretz may take advantage of this situation to pull Labor out of the coalition and surrender the Defense Ministry, a portfolio that has burdened him in the internal party struggle for primacy against challengers Ehud Barak and Ami Ayalon.

Friedmann has sponsored two bills calling for restrictions on the Supreme Court and limiting the tenure of court presidents to seven years. Labor considers both steps to be contrary to the party's traditional views and to contravene the government's basic political guidelines.

In Labor they point to a "golden opportunity" for Peretz to restore his position in the party and raise the issue in a way that will rally the party around him.

According to article 40 in the government guidelines, signed by all coalition partners, "the government will preserve the esteemed position and breadth of functions and authorities of the Supreme Court and will oppose any change that may undermine it or the way judges are appointed in the judiciary."

This article was included in the basic guidelines following a Labor request during the coalition negotiations in April 2006.

Mazuz, who usually includes his comments on the agenda of the cabinet meetings, which are then distributed to all ministers prior to the meeting, added last week an unusual comment. Sunday's cabinet meeting commemorated the 15th anniversary of the death of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and Mazuz opted to include passages from "the well-known speech of Begin from 1951."

Mazuz wrote that he felt the need to highlight from that speech elements regarding the appropriate role of the court in the State of Israel, which the attorney general said "had not lost in importance or relevance 55 years later."

"We should not be satisfied with the mere independence of the court but we must consider the supremacy of the court as our cause," Begin wrote. "The supremacy of the court will be expressed by the fact that independent judges will be given the authority to rule whether the laws are within the bounds of the Basic Law or contradict the rights of the citizens."

Warning against the dangers posed by a ruling majority that has no checks, Begin wrote that "only through the supremacy of the court, in other words, the determining of civil liberties as a basic law or a supreme law, and the granting to the body of justices the right to cancel the validity of a law that is in opposition the basic law and civil liberties" can freedom be safeguarded.

The Justice Ministry ha s refused to comment on Mazuz's statements.

"I like the quote," Minister of Social Affairs Isaac Herzog (Labor) said on Monday. "I am never opposed to the historic perspective of our past leaders, and it is particularly symbolic that these are statements made by Menachem Begin, who was identified as the leader of the right, and these quotations are of high moral value."

Other Labor ministers expressed their vociferous opposition to Friedmann's initiative during a meeting of the Knesset Constitution committee on Sunday.

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EU opposes recognizing Hamas gov't now

Israel can breath easy for the moment, but there would be no good news for peace here either way...

Last update - 16:49 27/02/2007

EU: No swift end to embargo on new PA gov't

By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

The European Union on Tuesday played down prospects of a swift resumption of direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, as Russia's foreign minister announced Moscow is backing a move to lift an international aid blockade and garner international support of the new Palestinian Authority power-sharing arrangement.

At the start of a visit to Israel and the West Bank, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the joint Fatah-Hamas government should "respond" to the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

Ferrero-Waldner added that the EU was having initial thoughts about cooperating with the new PA government, but added that the blockade would be lifted only after a long-term assessment of the new government's policies and actions. "We will judge this government by its actions," she added.

Millions of dollars in crucial foreign aid were cut off after Hamas, which the European Union, United States and others consider a terrorist group, gained control of the cabinet and the legislature in January 2006 elections.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators - which includes Russia, the EU, the United Nations and the U.S. - has demanded that any new Palestinian government recognize Israel's right to exist, which Hamas has failed to do.

The EU official's statement dimmed Palestinian hopes for a quick resumption of direct assistance despite making preparatory steps for channeling funds to the cash-strapped Palestinian government.

The European Commission has already created a plan to renew financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if and when a unity government is formed that receives international recognition.

According to the plan, the details of which Israel has been informed, the EU will channel its aid to a temporary mechanism to be used among other things to build up governmental and institutional capabilities for the future Palestinian state, to build a judicial system and to assist the PA's regular police force.

Lavrov: Russia to push for lifting sanctions
Only hours earlier Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said ahead of a meeting with the head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal that Moscow would act to lift international sanctions on the Palestinians.

"Russia favors the agreement between Hamas and the Fatah group to share power because it shows wisdom, reason and responsibility before the Palestinian people," he said.

"We are pushing for all members of the international community to support this process and make it irreversible, including efforts to lift the blockade," Lavrov added.

Meshal's Moscow visit reflected the Kremlin's position that negotiations - rather than sanctions - are the best way to deal with Hamas. Russia, which has been clamoring for a greater role in the Middle East, has been more positive about the unity government plan than Washington and the European Union.

"The Russian leadership supported forming such government from the very start," Lavrov said. "We have consistently backed specific steps which helped make this process successful, and we shall continue acting like that."

"The Mecca meeting was also important because it opened the way toward the resumption of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel," he added.

Meshal thanked Russia for taking "brave steps to host us."

"We highly value Russia's stance ... in support of the national accord between the Palestinians and lifting of the blockade," he said at the start of his talks with Lavrov.

Like Russia, France has also signaled it might support lifting the aid embargo placed on the PA. French President Jacques Chirac on Sunday said he would ask the EU, at a summit in March, to support plans for a unity government.

Political sources in Jerusalem have said the establishment of the new unity government may raise disputes within Europe, with the United Kingdom and Germany favoring standing by the U.S. position, and Italy, Spain and France likely to call for the thawing of relations with the PA and the renewal of aid.

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Liberal anti-Semitism: Rosenfeld replies

As it was the New York Times that equated liberalism with anti-Semitism, it is they who will need to undo the damage. Alvin Rosenfeld replies to critics. Rosenfeld himself got the ball rolling by lumping various critics of Israel together with racist extremists. Let he who is without guilt...

Rhetorical violence and the Jews.
Critical Distance
by Alvin H. Rosenfeld

Post date: 02.27.07
In December, 2006, I published an essay with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) titled "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism." It slumbered for a while and then suddenly provoked the interests and passions of more people than I could ever have imagined. More about these reactions soon. For now, the facts:

With assaults against Jews and Jewish institutions annually numbering in the hundreds, anti-Semitism has once again become a serious threat, made all the worse by the rhetorical violence that helps to fuel it. Much of this rhetoric is directed aggressively against the Jewish state and those deemed "guilty" of supporting it. Often hardly distinguishable from verbal anti-Semitism at its ugliest, it issues not only from jihadist preachers and neo-Nazi hate-mongers, but increasingly from otherwise respectable intellectuals, scholars, artists, and journalists. Some of these people are themselves Jews. In the spirit of George Orwell's seminal insight--"[I]f thought corrupts language, language also corrupts thought"-- I set out to examine their words and the degree to which they might be consonant with today's anti-Semitism, especially in its more virulent anti-Zionist forms.

I am not the first writer to take a hard look at Jewish authors whose statements go well beyond what most reasonable people would see as legitimate criticism of Israel and who call into question the very essence of the Jewish state and its right to continued existence. Writing in the pages of TNR about Tony Judt--who professes that "Israel today is bad for the Jews"--Literary Editor Leon Wieseltier pointed out that, to confuse the object of anti-Jewish hostility with its cause, as Judt does, is not to understand anti-Semitism but to reproduce it. Others have also analyzed the contributions of Jewish thinkers to today's anti-Zionist discourse. (See, for example, Edward Alexander and Paul Bogdanor's collection, The Jewish Divide Over Israel, Emanuele Ottolenghi's Autodafé, and the current issue of Shmuel Trigano's French journal Controverses.) So my essay was by no means a pioneer effort.

The New York Times evidently thought otherwise: On January 31, 2007, it ran a prominent story about my work with the headline "Essay Linking Liberal Jews to Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor." Prior to the Times' article, there really hadn't been much of a furor. In an age of instant Internet communication, though, a major story in America's leading newspaper about an alleged attack on "liberal Jews" raced around the globe and, in no time at all, unleashed a huge and bitter debate.

In part, the debate was triggered by the Times' erroneous reference to "liberal Jews" (a term I never used) and to the AJC as a "conservative advocacy group" (it is not). Owing to these mischaracterizations, some readers were prepared to see my essay as just the latest salvo in the already overheated culture wars between right-wing and left-wing opinion in this country. Before reading what I actually wrote, for instance, Gershom Gorenberg, commenting in The American Prospect, groaned: "Here we go again, I thought: Another right-wing American Jew ... is trashing liberal Jews for voicing criticisms milder than what an Israeli ex-paratroop officer might express over lunch with old army friends." On closer look, though, he found something quite different: a critical review of the words of "those Jews who reject the very existence of a Jewish state and who express their opposition in shrieks that rise to equating Israel with the Nazis."

These "shrieks" were my subject; and I had no trouble locating them in the work of certain Jewish authors, many of whom identify as "progressives" and are prominently represented in Tony Kushner and Alisa Solomon's Wrestling with Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Adopting their own self-chosen moniker, I took "progressive," not "liberal," as my term of choice.

No commonly agreed-upon taxonomy of terms--"liberal," "leftist," "radical"--exists to define "progressive" today with any precision, but the word generally is taken to designate a political position to the left of "liberal," the latter term becoming a casualty of the culture wars and no longer enjoying the currency it once had. The slide from "liberal" to "progressive," however, involves more than just a semantic switch. As the political scientist Andrei Markovits explains in Uncouth Nation, "an uncompromising anti-Zionism, which occasionally borders on the anti-Semitic," has become requisite for membership in good standing in the progressive left. Together with anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism "has become a kind of litmus test for progressive thinking and identity. ... Just as any self-respecting progressive and leftist in Europe or America, regardless of which political shade, simply had to be on the side of the Spanish Republic in the 1930s, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism have become the requisite proof of possessing a progressive conviction today."

There are people within the progressive left who strongly oppose these tendencies--the British-based authors of the Euston Manifesto and writers featured in Dissent and Democratiya come immediately to mind. They make clear their concern with growing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, noting (I quote from the Euston Manifesto website) their stand against "organizations of the left that are willing to entertain openly anti-Semitic speakers and to form alliances with anti-Semitic groups."

Among others on the left, though, an often strident anti-Zionism is part of the ideological package that gives them their political identity. Their inclination to liken Israel to Nazi Germany and white-ruled South Africa--and their frequent excoriations of the Jewish state as guilty of "racism," "apartheid," "ethnic cleansing," "war crimes," and "genocide" draw from a common lexicon of hyperbolically corrosive speech and have helped to fashion an intellectual and political climate that encourages the demonization of Israel and its supporters. Jacqueline Rose's reduction of Zionism to a form of collective lunacy and her attempt to link Theodor Herzl with Adolph Hitler; Joel Kovel's call for "true Jews" to "annihilate their particularism," "annihilate or transcend Zionism," and "annihilate the Jewish state"; Norman Finkelstein's claim that Israeli Jews are a "parasitic class" and that their "apologists" are comparable to the Gestapo; and Michael Neumann's equation of "Jewish complicity" in Israel's policies with German complicity in the Holocaust illustrate the extremity of such views. Citing innumerable examples of such tendentious thinking, I closed my essay by noting that, "at a time when the delegitimization and, ultimately, the eradication of Israel is a goal being voiced with mounting fervor by the enemies of the Jewish state, it is more than disheartening to see Jews themselves adding to the vilification."

Many readers agreed with these conclusions. But some were clearly discombobulated. "I am almost in a state of shock," Alan Wolfe, a political scientist at Boston College and TNR contributing editor, told The New York Times. Confronting me on NPR's "On Point," Wolfe dropped the "almost"; he also accused me of employing "Stalinist tactics" to stifle free speech and suppress open debate. Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun, told the International Herald Tribune's Roger Cohen, "The atmosphere is hysterical, verging on McCarthyism. You can't raise questions about Israel without being told you're an anti-Semite or a self-hating and disloyal Jew." The Boston Globe ran a story by Stanley Kutler under the absurd heading, "All Critics of Israel Aren't Anti-Semites," which carried the fantastic charge that my "real targets" are "Democrats and opponents of George W. Bush's dubious adventure into Iraq." And the Forward lost its editorial wits altogether with a piece called "Infamy," claiming that my intent was to "turn Jews against liberalism and silence critics" and, for these alleged sins, placing me in their secular version of cherem.

Since I never once referred to "liberalism," called no one a "Jewish anti-Semite" or "self-hating Jew," said nothing about Democrats or the Iraq war, and made no attempt to "silence" anyone, this Kakfaesque bill of indictment makes me wonder what is at play here--illiteracy, dishonesty, or worse? As Bret Stephens recently put it, "How does joining a debate become an effort to suppress it?"

Vigorous discussion of Israeli policies and actions is not in question here. Such discussion proceeds across all of the media in this country and within Israel itself. It's disingenuous, therefore, to say that "you can't raise questions about Israel." Such questions are raised continually by a broad range of commentators. Read Yossi Klein Halevi, Michael B. Oren, Dennis Ross, Hillel Halkin, and Michael Walzer, to name only a few of the best informed commentators, and you will find such discussion taking place in thoughtful and clarifying ways.

The ubiquitous rubric "criticism of Israel," however, has also come to designate another kind of discourse--one that has almost become a politico-rhetorical genre unto itself, with its own identifiable vocabulary, narrative conventions, and predictable outcomes. At its ideational core is what the British scholar Bernard Harrison calls a "dialectical scam." It goes something like this: (1) Spot an Israeli action that can serve as the ground of "criticism of Israel" (e.g., Israel's military incursion into the area near Jenin in April 2002 in response to Palestinian terrorist massacres); (2) Then "dissent" in the strongest possible terms, for instance by likening the "razing of Jenin" to the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, while anticipating that "powerful" and "repressive" Jewish institutions will try to "silence" the critics by calling them anti-Semites; (3) When taken to task by more sober-minded critics who find that, contrary to your charge, there was no such thing as "the razing of Jenin" and that the IDF has nothing in common with the SS, cry "foul" and claim their censure perfectly illustrates the point that there really is a Jewish organizational conspiracy to silence "criticism of Israel" by branding the authors of such criticism "anti-Semites."

For some, this dialectical scam works nicely and validates their sense of themselves as intellectual martyrs suffering for a higher ideological cause. Once one is on to it, however, the scam readily dissolves into what it actually is: political bias, compounded by a touch of hysteria, masquerading as victimization. Thus, when a tiny political group calling itself "Jewish Voice for Peace" sets out to track "a growing epidemic of intimidation and harassment from fellow Jews seeking to stifle open debate over America's policy toward Israel," it can hardly be expected to be taken seriously.

What is at stake in the present debate, though, is serious and calls for thoughtful minds to move beyond the regnant clichés and recognize that Jews and the Jewish state are once again embattled. The most violent enemies--Iran and Syria, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda--are undisguised. On another level, but causing its own damaging effects, is the hostility embedded in language. One libel after the other, today's anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rhetoric erodes Israel's moral standing and marginalizes those who are devoted to the Jewish state and speak out on its behalf. In Europe, slanted media coverage has already reduced Israel and its supporters to something close to pariah status while creating a sense of unease within the local Jewish communities that has not been felt for decades. Some Jews fear that it is now open hunting season on them and their children and are giving thought to leaving. Many have, in fact, already left.

This is not the situation of American Jews at the moment, but, with words like "apartheid" and "dual loyalty" in the air and intimations of powerful "Jewish lobbies" controlling the national press and exerting undue influence over foreign policy, a quiver of nervousness is now detectable among Jews in this country, too. Language matters, and its contamination by thoughtless or malicious people can be invidious. That was the thrust of my reflections on anti-Zionist ideas and anti-Semitic utterances in my AJC essay. Some of the responses to it prove my point.

Alvin H. Rosenfeld is professor of English and Jewish studies and director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University. He is the editor of The Writer Uprooted: Contemporary Jewish Exile Literature (Indiana University Press, forthcoming).

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Muslim Lobby Muzzles Documentary about Terror

This is another illustration of why criticism of Islam is impossible in the United States. Any attempt to criticize Islam in any way is subject to censorship by the Muslim/Arab lobby. Nobody stopped Mel Gibson from showing his film, but the least criticism of Islam is censored.

February 26, 2007
Film’s View of Islam Stirs Anger on Campuses

When Obsession: "Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” a documentary that shows Muslims urging attacks on the United States and Europe, was screened recently at the University of California, Los Angeles, it drew an audience of more than 300 — and also dozens of protesters.At Pace University in New York, administrators pressured the Jewish student organization Hillel to cancel a showing in November, arguing it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students. A Jewish group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also canceled the film last semester.

The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East, not just because of its clips from Arab television rarely shown in the West, including scenes of suicide bombers being recruited and inducted, but also because of its pro-Israel distribution network.

When a Middle East discussion group organized a showing at New York University recently, it found that the distributors of Obsession” were requiring those in attendance to register at, and that digital pictures of the events be sent to Hasbara Fellowships, a group set up to counter anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses.

If people have to give their names over to Hasbara Fellowships at the door, that doesn’t have the effect of stimulating open dialogue,” said Jordan J. Dunn, president of the Middle East Dialogue Group of New York University, which mixes Jews and Muslims. “Rather, it intimidates people and stifles dissent.”

The documentary’s proponents say it provides an unvarnished look at Islamic militancy. “It’s an urgent issue that is widely avoided by academia,” argued Michael Abdurakhmanov, the Hillel president at Pace.

Its critics call it incendiary. Norah Sarsour, a Palestinian-American student at U.C.L.A., said it was disheartening to see “a film like this that takes the people who have hijacked the religion and focuses on them.”

Certainly it is a new element in the bitter campus battles over the Middle East that have encompassed everything from the content and teaching of Middle East studies to disputes over art exhibitions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to debates over free speech.

“The situation in the Middle East has been a major issue on campus for decades, but the heat has noticeably turned up lately,” said Greg Lukianoff, the president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

At San Francisco State University, for example, College Republicans stomped on copies of the Hamas and Hezbollah flags last October at an “antiterrorism” rally. At the University of California, Irvine, the Muslim Student Union drew criticism last year for a “Holocaust in the Holy Land” program about Israel.

Brandeis University officials pulled an exhibition of Palestinian children’s drawings, including some of bloodied Palestinian children, designed to bring the Palestinian viewpoint to the campus, half of whose students are Jewish.

Three years ago a video produced by a pro-Israeli group featuring Jewish students’ complaints of intimidation by Middle East studies professors at Columbia set off a campus-wide debate over freedom of speech and academic freedom, prompting an investigation that found some fault by one professor but “no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic.”

Into this milieu stepped the producer of “Obsession,” Raphael Shore, a 45-year-old Canadian who lives in Israel, with the documentary. It features scenes like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers, interspersed with those of Nazi rallies.

The film was directed by Wayne Kopping of South Africa, who had worked with Mr. Shore previously on a documentary about the failure of the Oslo peace efforts in the Middle East. Mr. Shore said in a recent interview that they had not set out to make a film for college students but to spur action against Islamic terrorism. “We want to spread this message to all people that will stand up and make a difference in combating this threat,” he said.

When no traditional film distributors picked it up, he said, colleges were an obvious outlet — it was screened on 30 campuses last semester — along with DVD sales on the Internet (, and showings at synagogues and other locales, including conservative ones like the Heritage Foundation in Washington. There were also repeated broadcasts of abbreviated versions or excerpts on Fox News in November and again this month, and on other media outlets like CNN Headline News.

“College students have the power with their energy, resources, time and interest to make a difference, often more than other individuals,” Mr. Shore said.

He hired a campus coordinator, Karyn Leffel, who works out of the New York City office of the Hasbara Fellowships program, which aims to train students “to be effective pro-Israel activists on their campuses.” “ ‘Obsession’ is so important because it shows what’s happening in Israel is not happening in a vacuum,” said Elliot Mathias, director of the Hasbara Fellowships program, “and that it affects all American students on campuses, not just Jewish students.”

Mr. Shore said that despite the collaboration with Hasbara, the goal was to draw a wide audience.

“The evangelical Christians and the Jews tend to be the softest market, the most receptive to the message of the film, so we have done lots with those groups,” he said. “But we are trying very hard to expand beyond those groups, because we specifically don’t want it to be seen as a film that has that connection.”

Mr. Shore describes his film as nonpartisan and balanced, and many viewers agree with him. Traci Ciepiela, who teaches criminal justice at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and has a screening scheduled this week, says she learned from the film and did not think that it was unfair or inflammatory.

But others see it as biased. Arnold Leder, a political scientist at Texas State University, San Marcos, decided not to use it for his course “The Politics of Extremism” because of what he called “serious flaws,” including that it did not address Islam in general, the history of Islam and the schisms within the faith.

“If it were used in a class,” he said, “it would have to be treated as a polemic and placed in that context.”

Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of U.C.L.A. Hillel, called the documentary propaganda and said it was “a way to transfer the Middle East conflict to the campus, to promote hostility.”
While the film carries cautions at the beginning and end that it is only about Islamist extremists -- and that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror -- Muslim students who have protested say they believe the documentary will still fuel prejudice.

“The movie was so well crafted and emotion manipulating that I felt myself thinking poorly of some aspects of Islam,” said Adam Osman, president of Stony Brook’s Muslim Students’ Association, who asked that it not be shown.

While screenings were canceled under pressure at Pace and Stony Brook, Ms. Leffel said that most campus screening, like a recent one at Providence College in Rhode Island, had taken place without incident. Students at New York University decided they wanted to present it, despite misgivings by some Muslim students.

At the screening there late last month, the viewers — many of them Muslims — ganged up on Robert Friedman, a discussion leader who had been sent by the “Obsession” filmmakers. (The event was sponsored by the Middle East Dialogue Group at N.Y.U., the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life, Arab Students United and the Pakistani Students Association.)

Mr. Friedman told the audience, “You have to understand a problem before you can solve it.”
But most of the viewers, including both a rabbi and a Muslim chaplain on a discussion panel put together by the students, said the film did not foster understanding.

“The question about radical Islam and how do we fight it is unproductive,” said Yehuda Sarna, the New York University rabbi on the panel. “The question is how to break down the stereotypes facing the two religions.”

Steven I. Weiss, editor and publisher of, an Internet site that covers Jewish news on campuses, said he was surprised by the Jewish skepticism to the film at N.Y.U. “Were a Jewish leader from virtually any significant organization to walk in on that discussion,” he said, “they’d be very surprised and displeased. This is the opposite of the change they’ve been looking for in campus rhetoric.”

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Ahmadinejad to foil Zionist tomato plot

Ahmadinejad blames enemies for tomato prices
Reuters Published: 02.26.07, 16:54 / Israel News

Iran’s president said on Sunday the country’s enemies had hatched a range of plots to push the Islamic Republic to give up its disputed nuclear programme, including driving up the price of tomatoes and other food.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said such tactics would not work, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Rising prices, particularly the cost of tomatoes which form an important ingredient in Iranian food, have prompted growing public criticism of Ahmadinejad’s government. The president has often dismissed complaints as media exaggeration.

"In order to harm us, they (enemies) make plots, for instance they come and push tomato prices up in the market. They think we will give up our ideals with their plots," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in which he said Iran would not reverse its atomic plans.

The West accuses Iran of seeking atomic bombs and demands Teheran halt sensitive atomic work, a step Teheran has rejected.

The United Nations has slapped restrictions on aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme and Washington has imposed sanctions on two Iranian banks and three firms. Ahmadinejad’s opponents blame price hikes on government spending policies not sanctions.

'Enemies think they can stop this bulldozer'The latest official figures show inflation running at about 16 percent but economists say official figures underplay what Iranians pay for basic food in shops because they are based on a broader basket of goods that includes some subsidised items.

"Of course, God willing, the problem of meat, chicken and tomatoes will be solved. One should
be aware that our revolution is like a bulldozer ... the enemies think by throwing a few small stones and sand they can stop this bulldozer," Ahmadinejad said.

It is not the first time the president has sought to deflect criticism for the rising price of tomatoes.

In a speech in January presenting the new budget to parliament, he also dismissed comments that tomatoes had risen to 30,000 rials ($3.25) per kg from 12,000 rials, suggesting shoppers should be more discerning about where they bought.

"Come and buy them from the fresh fruit and vegetable market next door to us. Why are you buying them from expensive places?" the president, who won over many voters in the 2005 presidential race with his down-to-earth style, told lawmakers.

Some shopkeepers cite the early onset of cold weather for the particularly sharp rise in the price of tomatoes, a reason Ahmadinejad has also cited in the past.

Ahmadinejad swept to power promising to share out Iran’s oil wealth more fairly, but he has been blamed for fuelling inflation by what critics call his profligate spending policies of the country’s windfall earnings from high crude prices.

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What are the odds in Jesus theory?

Last update - 20:12 26/02/2007
It states:

"On a scale of one through 10 - 10 being completely possible - it's probably a
one, maybe a one and a half."

Decide for yourself, what is more likely - is Jesus buried in this place or another like it? Or on the other hand, was he born to a virgin and resurrected three days after his death? What are the odds?

Scholars and clergymen in Jerusalem slam new Jesus documentary

By The Associated Press

Archaeologists and clergymen in Israel have derided claims made in a new documentary produced by the Oscar-winning director James Cameron that contradict major Christian tenets.

The Lost Tomb of Christ, which the Discovery Channel will run on March 4 in the United States, argues that 10 ancient ossuaries - small caskets used to store bones - discovered in a suburb of Jerusalem in 1980 may have contained the bones of Jesus and his family, according to a press release issued by the Discovery Channel.

One of the caskets even bears the title, Judah, son of Jesus, hinting that Jesus may have had a son. And the very fact that Jesus had an ossuary would contradict the Christian belief that he was resurrected and ascended to heaven.

Most Christians believe Jesus' body spent three days at the site of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City. The burial site identified in Cameron's documentary is in a southern Jerusalem neighborhood nowhere near the church. The documentary is directed by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici.

Although the documentary makers claim to have found the tomb of Jesus, the British Broadcasting Corporation beat them to the punch by 11 years.

In 1996, when the BBC aired a short documentary on the same subject, archaeologists challenged the claims. Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.

"They just want to get money for it," Kloner said.

Osnat Goaz, a spokeswoman for the government agency responsible for archaeology, declined to comment before the documentary was aired. She said the Antiquities Authority agreed to send two ossuaries to New York, but they did not contain human remains. "We agreed to send the ossuaries, but it doesn't mean that we agree with [the filmmakers]," she said.

The claims have also raised the ire of Christian leaders. "The historical, religious and archaeological evidence show that the place where Christ was buried is the Church of the Resurrection," said Attallah Hana, a Greek Orthodox clergyman in Jerusalem. "The documentary," he said, "contradicts the religious principles and the historic and spiritual principles that we hold tightly to."

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis holds little weight.

"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this, Pfann said. "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."

"How possible is it?" Pfann said. "On a scale of one through 10 - 10 being completely possible - it's probably a one, maybe a one and a half."

Pfann is even unsure that the name Jesus on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it is more likely the name Hanun. Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher.

Kloner also said the filmmakers' assertions are false.

"It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave," Kloner said. "The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time."

Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker's claim that the James Ossuary - the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel - might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box.

"I don't think the James Ossuary came from the same cave," said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. "If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus."

None of the experts interviewed by The Associated Press had seen the whole documentary. Repeated attempts to contact Cameron and Jacobovici were unsuccessful.

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Palestinian murderers of settler confess

Last update - 19:51 26/02/2007
A murder a day, keeps peace away. Settlements did not bring security for the victim, and terror will not bring freedom for the murderers.

Two Palestinians arrested for murder of Israeli in West Bank

By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

Israel Defense Forces troops have arrested two Palestinian youths for the murder of an Israeli whose body was found north of the West Bank city of Hebron late Sunday, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.

Mudar Abu-Dia and Mousaa Ahalil, both 18, were arrested overnight in a village near the site of the murder. During their questioning, both confessed to having stabbed to death Erez Levanon, 42.

They said they had planned the murder in advance and visited the site a few times in order to follow the movement of settlers in the area.

The motive of the murder was nationalist, but the suspects said they acted out of their own interests and not on behalf of any terrorist organization. The suspects were arrested by soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces' Shimshon Battalion.

Police had said earlier Monday that the man was killed by Palestinian terrorists, but did not give an explanation, "The murder was carried out on the basis of a terrorist attack," Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. "He was stabbed several times."

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security forces found the body of the man, a resident of a West Bank settlement, late Sunday night near Beit Omar, north of the West Bank city of Hebron.

He had been missing since late Sunday afternoon and was found near a local spring by Palestinian residents of the area.

Rosenfeld did not say how police knew that militants were behind the attack.

At about 10 P.M., Palestinians reported to police that the man's body had been seen between the settlement of Bat Ayin West in Gush Etzion and the Palestinian village of Beit Omar.

The man apparently sustained stab wounds all over his body, and his vehicle was later found overturned nearby.

A large number of police and Israel Defense Forces troops conducted searches in nearby villages in an attempt to locate the assailants.

An Israeli was last killed by Palestinian militants in the West Bank in August when gunmen shot a soldier at a military checkpoint. Israeli security forces found the body of an Israeli civilian in a Palestinian village in the West Bank earlier this month. Police said he had died in an accident.

IDF raid in Nablus
The largest Israeli raid in the West Bank for months entered its second day Monday, with tens of thousands of Palestinians confined
to their Nablus homes as soldiers searched for militants and arms.

In the operation, which involved four IDF battalions and a large contingent of Border Police, the forces raided the city's old market and uncovered an explosives laboratory, the second in 24 hours.

A full curfew was imposed on tens of thousands of residents of the market area.

The defense establishment decided on the move following an increase in the number of alerts which suggested that various Nablus terror networks were planning attacks. The Shin Bet security service is concerned about an improved ability by the Palestinians to produce explosives and an increased motivation to carry out attacks.

The most-wanted list includes six high-level activists of the Fatah's Tanzim movement as well as a few dozen militants from Tanzim and the Islamic Jihad. The IDF took over the city's radio and TV stations for a few minutes and called on the six wanted men to surrender. They also distributed leaflets to residents asking them to tell the IDF where the wanted men were by calling a special phone number.

Three of the men have been arrested so far, and a number of residents have been detained for questioning. Two soldiers were lightly wounded by shrapnel when an explosive charge was thrown at them.

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Temple Mount: A bit of disappearing history

Friendship on Temple Mount
A lesson in how history can be made to dissolve.,7340,L-3368454,00.html
The wonderful story of Jewish-Muslim cooperation under Turkish rule

Yehuda Litani Published: 02.22.07, 18:39 / Israel Opinion

A delegation of Turkish experts is expected to visit the excavation works at the Mugrabi Bridge near the Temple Mount within the next few days. This is in accordance with an agreement reached between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his counterpart Ehud Olmert during the latter's visit to Turkey last week.

And already Arab Knesset member Talab a-Sana is begging to know what on earth do the Turks have to do with the Temple Mount, and wouldn't it be easier for the Israeli government to coordinate the works with the local Waqf than with far off Turkey? It's as if a-Sana wanted to say: A close neighbor is better than a distant brother. But that same distant brother once ruled the nation, and throughout the 400 years of its rule here, Jerusalem's Ottoman governor was responsible for the third most sacred site to Islam after Mecca and Medina – the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

In the years 1992-3 the late King Hussein of Jordan financed the renovations of the golden dome, which was carried out by a construction company from Northern Ireland. On a visit to the site during those renovations I discovered a story that wasn’t known until then, regarding the Jewish-Ottoman-Palestinian connection to the mosques on Temple Mount.

Story of the iron panel

The Dome of the Rock was surrounded with scaffolding, and before ascending one of them afriend of mine drew my attention to an iron panel that lay on the floor and was inscribed in French. The foreman of the Irish construction company said the panel had been found between the two halves of the crescents at on top of the mosque, and was temporarily dismantled so that the dome could be coated in gold.

The words in French revealed that the Mosque had been renovated in 1899 during Turkish rule, and that the works had been assisted by the Jewish community in Jerusalem led by a public figure called Avraham (Albert) Entebbe, who among his numerous other activities was also the principal of the city's "Kol Israel Haverim" school.

Entebbe, who was the undersigned on the French inscription, was known for his courageous ties with the heads of the Ottoman rule, and the inscription noted that for the purpose of renovating the mosques on the Temple Mount five acclaimed Jewish artists had been invited to Jerusalem. The Jewish stone carvers, wood carvers and iron mongers from various cities in the Mediterranean basin, shared their skills with their Muslim brothers during months of work.

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Another day, another explosives factory

Last update - 20:43 26/02/2007

Another day, another explosives factory. It is called "Zionist oppression."

IDF troops uncover third explosives factory in Nablus raid
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

Israel Defense Forces troops on Monday uncovered an explosives laboratory in the West Bank city of Nablus, on the second day of an arrest operation in the city. The laboratory, which contained two gas balloons, pipe bombs, explosives, computers and electrical equipment, was the third uncovered by the IDF since Saturday.

Earlier Monday, Palestinian Anan al-Tibi, 50, was killed and his son was injured day during the raid in Nablus. Al-Tibi was killed by a bullet to the neck while walking down a street with his son in the old city, breaking the army's curfew. His son was wounded in his leg from the gunfire. The two were apparently unarmed.

IDF troops sealed off the center of Nablus' old city with cement blocks and trash containers Monday, and moved from apartment to apartment in search of seven Palestinian fugitives whose names the army broadcast over local TV and radio stations.

The raid is the largest IDF raid in the West Bank in months, with about 80 jeeps, armored vehicles and bulldozers moving around Nablus. Troops enforced a curfew that confined tens of thousands of Palestinians to their homes.

IDF troops also arrested the manager of the city's local television station, 43-year-old Naif Bariq.

Nablus's schools and the university remained closed on Monday, and reports from Nablus indicate that one of the schools has been transformed into a makeshift holding facility, where the IDF rounds up Palestinians and conducts preliminary investigations.

The defense establishment decided to conduct the operation following growing reports of intentions by local terrorist rings to carry out bombings. The Shin Bet was worried about relative improvements in the effectiveness of explosive devices and about the magnitude of recent plans for attacks.

Four IDF battalions, assisted by the border police, raided the city's casbah and began searching for suspects and weapons. The IDF's wanted list includes six key Fatah militants and several dozens collaborators from Fatah and Islamic Jihad.

Residents said soldiers moved from house to house, searching every room.

Mohammed Attireh, 47, who lives in the area, said all the residents of his building were ordered to stay in his apartment while troops searched the other apartments. Then the group of more than 20 people was taken to another house, while soldiers searched his apartment.

Attireh said troops took over two houses on his street as temporary positions, and that almost every house in the neighborhood was searched.

Seven members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of the Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, were the apparent target of the raid.

In a new tactic, troops broke into transmissions of local TV and radio stations Sunday and broadcast the names of the men, all residents of the old city. Soldiers warned civilians against hiding the fugitives.

Abir Kilani, director of the local TV station Gama, said her broadcasts were interrupted several times by the army. Kilani noted that this method is much more effective and cheaper than the military's previous tactic of dropping leaflets with messages to residents.

Dozens of Al-Aqsa gunmen operate in Nablus, organized in small groups without a central authority. Residents have complained that some of the gunmen are terrorizing the city by settling personal scores in shooting attacks, acting as self-appointed vice squads or engaging in black mail.

Two Al-Aqsa gunmen, brothers Ahmed and Alaa Sanakra, said all fugitives had gone into hiding, but were communicating with each other. Alaa Sanakra said the IDF raid helped unite the splintered groups, but left the gunmen worried.

The Nablus operation began before dawn Sunday with bulldozers closing main roads with piles of rubble. Soldiers ordered residents to remain indoors and said the clampdown would remain in effect for several days.

Soldiers uncovered two explosives labs in what the IDF said would be an open-ended sweep. Palestinian officials charged that the offensive threatened efforts to restart peace negotiations.

The army said the road closures and curfew were necessary to avoid civilian casualties.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Egypt waffles on Palestinian unity deal

Read what it says, not what they want you to believe.

Egypt rejected on Sunday imposing any conditions on the new Palestinian unity government

That much is clear. But the Egyptians also said:

"Lifting the economic and political embargo will not happen by appeals ... It depends on the ability of the Palestinian side to put the interests of the Palestinians above those of the factions and to speak with a united voice," he said.

In other words, if we understood correctly, Egypt is not going to do anything to support the Palestinians' bid to lift the sanctions.

Egypt rejects conditions on Palestinian government
By Alaa Shahine Reuters 25 Feb 2007 14:44:36 GMT

CAIRO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Egypt rejected on Sunday imposing any conditions on the new Palestinian unity government and said it was up to the Palestinians to convince key international mediators to end the U.S.-led financial sanctions.

Jordan's King Abdullah has said there was common Arab ground that the unity government must adhere to the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators: recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.

The king's remarks in an interview broadcast on Saturday cast doubts on the willingness of major Arab donors to sidestep a U.S.-led embargo of the Hamas-led government.

But Egyptian presidential spokesman Suuleiman Awad said: "There is always consultation between Egypt and Jordan but the Egyptian position is that ... we cannot set preconditions." He was speaking after talks in Cairo between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah.

"The policies that the new government will adopt is an internal Palestinian affair and Egypt has not and will not interfere to impose stances," he told a news conference.

Western diplomats have said the agreement this month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah group has widened the divisions in the Quartet -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- on how to deal with the new government.

The United States insists on maintaining the boycott, while some European countries and Russia favour a softer line.

Awad said the onus was on the Palestinians to take their case to the world with a "united voice" to lift the sanctions, which have pushed the Palestinian Authority to the brink of financial collapse.

"Lifting the economic and political embargo will not happen by appeals ... It depends on the ability of the Palestinian side to put the interests of the Palestinians above those of the factions and to speak with a united voice," he said.

The letter from Abbas reappointing Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister called on the government to respect old agreements signed with Israel by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which recognises the Jewish state.

Hamas officials have said they do not object to the PLO negotiating with Israel but that any deal would have to be approved by the Palestinian parliament, where the Islamist group maintains a majority.

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Peretz: Secret contacts held to free IDF soldiers

Last update - 14:31 25/02/2007
Peretz: Secret contacts held to free IDF soldiers
By Haaretz Service

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Sunday that Israel was holding secret contacts toward winning the release of kidnapped IDF soldiers.
IDF Corporal Gilad Shalit has been held by Hamas and other groups since his capture in late June. In July, Hezbollah forces along the Israel-Lebanon border seized IDF Master Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and First Sergeant Eldad Regev.
Israeli security sources confirmed over the weeked that some progress had been made toward a prisoner swap for the release of Corporal Gilad Shalit. But the defense establishment said a deal with Hamas, which is holding Shalit in cooperation with other organizations, had not yet been clinched and the soldier's release was not imminent.
Addressing a memorial ceremony for fallen soldiers whose burial place is unknown, Peretz said that Israel will step up its contacts with the Palestinians, and that the government must act to support moderate Arab governments.
Peretz said the effort to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldiers was a "sacred duty." He said that the contacts were being carried out in "determined and hidden ways."
The defense minister also responded to a recent statement by Jordan's King Abdullah, who urged a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and a prompt solution to the conflict between the sides.
Peretz called the king's statement an "important appeal."
"Our war is not against the Palestinian people, but against terrorism," Peretz said.
Possible swap for Shalit takes shape
The Israeli negotiator for prisoners and missing soldiers, Ofer Dekel, was in Cairo more than a week ago and made progress in talks with senior Egyptian officials. Between 400 and 500 prisoners are to be exchanged for Shalit, according to a report on Channel 2 Friday.
Agreement also appears close on the structure of the swap, with groups of prisoners to be freed in exchange for Palestinian and Egyptian assurances of Shalit's release before his return to Israel, near the end of the process.
The identity of the prisoners to be released is still a matter of contention. Hamas wants a large number of senior figures freed, among them those serving sentences for the murder of Israelis.
Israeli sources close to the process said Egyptian pressure is having an effect on senior Hamas officials and that Hamas has shown "signs of pragmatism" in recent weeks with regard to Shalit's release.
Hamas apparently understands that progress toward the release will lead to a more favorable attitude on the part of the international community toward a Palestinian unity government, which will ease economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.
Israel believes pressure from the Egyptians and the Saudis is behind the direct appeal by Khaled Meshal, head of Hamas' political wing, to Shalit's father Noam Shalit. Speaking at a press conference in Cairo over the weekend, Meshal said: "As a father, I understand the pain. But the soldier's father must understand two truths: there are 11,000 prisoners in Israeli jails and two, the ball is in Israel's court and they are the only ones delaying the deal."
An Israeli government source said Israel was "sorry about the cynical use Khaled Meshal was trying to make of the Shalit family by appealing to them directly."
Noam Shalit responded Saturday to Meshal's call by saying: "I do not know how to relate to the statements, especially the one about the ball being in Israel's court. I am therefore approaching Israeli officials in the hope of understanding what is behind Meshal's statements," Shalit told Haaretz.
Meshal said he had reached a number of agreements with the Egyptians in Cairo toward freeing Shalit. A member of Hamas' political bureau, Iazat Risheq, said yesterday that Egypt had promised to work toward persuading the international community to lift economic sanctions from the new Palestinian government.

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Peretz views the world through capped binoculars

Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz, who has been accused of incompetence in the past, was caught viewing a training exercise through capped binoculars. In Ha'aretz, Gideon Levy comments that the storm of criticism this raised is due to prejudice against non-Ashkenazy Jews. Actually it is probably prejudice against defense ministers who lose wars and can't use binoculars.

Everybody should have a chance to be defense minister, regardless of ethnic origin, intelligence quotient, esperience or aptitude, right? This can create a trend: Language teachers who cannot spell, Mathematics professors who cannot solve equations, finance ministers who cannot add and subtract...

Israeli Defense Minister Inspects War Moves Through Capped Binoculars

Friday, February 23, 2007

Israel's beleaguered minister of defense was blinded by criticism over photos taken of him watching military maneuvers through binoculars with the lens caps still on.

Various newspapers published photos of the in-the-dark Amir Peretz peering through the dysfunctional binoculars during an inspection of Israeli troops in the Syria-bordering Golan Heights, the BBC reported.

Israeli Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi pointed out the war moves and explained them to Peretz, who looked through the capped device three times and nodded, according to the BBC, even though all he saw was black.

"The outlook is dark for Peretz," joked top-selling daily Yediot Aharonot.

Photographs splashed across Israel's two major newspapers on Thursday, showed Peretz, lips set in concentration, face tilted to the light and eyes glued to binoculars ... with their black lens caps still firmly on.

Alongside him, his right-hand man, Ashkenazi, kitted out in battle dress, expertly adjusts his own binoculars to watch troops going through their paces on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
Peretz, a former trade union chief whose own military experience is limited to national service, has been vilified in Israel for his perceived mishandling of last year's war in Lebanon.

A vast majority of Israelis want him to resign from the defense ministry on the grounds of chronic incompetence and military inexperience.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Israel Intelligence (Aman): Palestinians greatest threat

If this is true, it seems rather strange to ignore Iran and Hezbollah and focus on the Palestinian threat, which is still relatively minor compared to the long range rockets of Hezbollah, the nuclear IRBM potential of Iran and of course, our friends the Syrians.

Israeli intelligence to present annual report to government
Sunday: Palestinians greatest threat to Israel's security
Date: 24 / 02 /
2007 Time: 14:31

Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Israeli military intelligence has said that they do not anticipate a military conflict with Syria in the coming year; the intelligence expects a possible escalation on the southern front with the

The Israeli newspaper of Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the Israeli intelligence bodies, Shin Bet and Mossad will present the Israeli government on Sunday with their annual report, which focuses on the threats to Israel's security.

According to the report, a large-scale military confrontation with Syria is not probable at this stage, however, military officials and intelligence described the year 2007 as a "crucial and substantial year" with regards to
developments in the Middle East.

The paper added that Israel continues to monitor political developments in Lebanon. It also said that Israeli forces should pay more attention to the Gaza Strip, where, despite the ceasefire, Palestinian movements continue to grow in strength and amass weapons.

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France will "cooperate" with Palestinian unity government

The article says less than the headline. France did not pledge to break the quartet embargo and free up funds for the Hamas-led government. They seemed however, to be indicating that they would try to do so.

France pledges to back PA unity government,7340,L-3369126,00.html
Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy promises to work with Hamas-Fatah cabinet, but makes no commitment to free up aid for Palestinian Authority; ‘I encouraged Abbas to persevere in his efforts to quickly form national unity government,’ he says

Associated Press Published: 02.24.07, 22:32 / Israel News

France pledged Saturday to cooperate with a coalition Palestinian government that would include the militant Hamas, in a key boost for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But Abbas’ European tour failed to make headway on resuming aid for his struggling people. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy’s promise to work with a government including Hamas and the moderate Fatah party was the bright spot in Abbas’ four-country swing through Europe this week. PA Leader

Other European leaders were more cautious, preferring to wait until the government is formed before making any commitments. “I encouraged Mr. Abbas to persevere in his efforts to quickly form a national unity government,” Douste-Blazy told reporters Saturday evening as Abbas wrapped up his trip.

If the government is formed according to the power-sharing deal worked out in Mecca last month, Douste-Blazy said, “France will be ready to cooperate with it. And our country will plead on its behalf within the European Union and with other partners in the international community.”

Abbas welcomed the pledge - yet it may mean little. It was unclear how far France could go in supporting the Palestinians without the backing of the rest of the EU or other members of the Quartet working for Mideast peace: the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
Douste-Blazy made no commitments on freeing up aid that is key to the Palestinians’ future. Half of the Palestinian Authority’s budget came from foreign assistance until much of it was frozen following Hamas election victory a year ago. The EU, US and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Throughout Abbas’ trip, Europe’s governments remained firm: Any new coalition government must recognize Israel before aid can flow again.

Abbas made a last push Saturday in talks in Paris. The Palestinian leader traveled to London, Berlin and Brussels before coming to France.

“We hope that the embargo will be lifted,” Abbas said after meeting French President Jacques Chirac. “If not, all we can undertake would be useless ... And the Palestinian people would continue to suffer and the sanctions would continue to cause damage.”

European leaders cautiously welcomed the power-sharing deal between Hamas and Fatah, an effort to halt clashes between the two that have left more than 130 dead since May. The calm that accompanied the deal appeared threatened, however, by shootings late Friday and early Saturday that killed four and wounded 37.

The power-sharing deal has stymied Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, since Israel has ruled out talks on a final peace deal with Abbas if he goes ahead with plans for a coalition with Hamas.

'Very important crossroads'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country holds the EU’s rotating presidency, insisted after meeting Abbas that a new unity government must recognize Israel if direct international aid is to be resumed.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana told Abbas in Brussels that the union will not make a decision on aid until a new Palestinian government has taken office. The EU has said the funds will only be paid if the new government is committed to peace with Israel.
A senior Hamas official, parliament speaker Ahmed Baher, said in Gaza on Saturday that the government would be formed by the first week of March.
The power-sharing deal reached in Mecca earlier this month skirts the key demands of the Quartet that any new government must give up violence, recognize Israel and accept existing agreements reached with Israel.
Abbas insisted he still had hope in the Middle East peace process despite an inconclusive and awkward meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week.

“We cannot say that there is something hopeless. It is indispensable that we reach agreement with the Israelis,” he told reporters Saturday in Paris.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II cautioned in a TV interview released Saturday that time to clinch an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal was running out. ”This is a critical time for people to make up their minds,” Abdullah told Jordan’s Channel 2 TV.
“We find ourselves at this very important crossroads ... That I do feel really is the last opportunity for peace for all of us.”
Abbas also said he would push for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit before the new government is formed. Shalit’s capture by Palestinian militants last June sparked weeks of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis. Chirac and Douste-Blazy urged his release again Saturday.

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