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

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Palestinians protest kidnapping of British Journalist as new government takes office

The Palestinian Maanews service reported that as PLC was voting for the news Palestinian government, Palestinian journalists, lawmakers and Non-Government Organisations accused prime minister, Ismail
Haniyeh and his former government of not doing enough to facilitating the release of kidnapped BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston, who was abducted in Gaza four days ago.
The journalists and their supporters stages a sit-down strike in front  of the Rashad Shawwa centre in Gaza City, where the PLC session was being held. The protestors called for the release of Johnston and condemned his
abduction, as well as the abductions of all other journalists. They also called on the public condemnation of the abductors.

Designated minister of information, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, addressed the
journalists, calling for an end to the wave of disorder and lawlessness. He
confirmed that the new unity government will seriously address the issue of
lawlessness and end the state of disorder.

Likewise, alestinian guards of the evacuated Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip on Saturday held a sit-in strike demanding reemployment. The guards called on the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and presidency to pay their salaries, which have not been paid since November 2006.

The guards claimed the decision to sack them was "tyrannical and unjust", especially after they had guarded the evacuated settlements against robbery and vandalism. The criticised the government's decision to expel them from their  jobs at the beginning of February 2007, after they were attacked and beaten
by the Hamas-affiliated Executive Force.

The 1,300 guards added that they have not received their salaries since November 2006, despite the fact that the Palestinian presidency and the treasury had endorsed a decision to pay their salaries.
The evacuated settlements are used as launching grounds for rockets aimed at Israel and as terminations of arms-smuggling tunnels.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

A Palestinian state: Does it deserve world recognition?

Bradley Burston examines the right of Palestine to exist. He makes the point that the Palestinans seem intent on destroying Israel, and that no state should have the right to exist at the expense of destroying another state.
There is a certain stubborn irony in the circumstance that a central stumbling block to international recognition of the legitimacy of the Palestinian government's right to exist, has been that government's refusal to recognize the legitimacy of Israel's right to exist.
Stated differently, the movement to found a Palestinian state has not been well-served by the strategy of suggesting that the very establishment of its neighbor Israel was a historical abomination.
Nor was the cause moved far forward this week, when Hamas, stung by Al-Qaida criticism of its coalition deal with Fatah, declared it was still committed to Israel's destruction.
Defending itself to Osama Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, who said "They have ditched the movement of martyrdom operations ? for a government that plays with words in palace halls," Hamas was quick to issue a statement of reassurance:
"We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine."
But Burston forgot to ask the prior question: Does a Palestinian  Authority that is committed to the destruction of Israel have the right to exist? The PA came into being under the Oslo Interim Agreement ostensibly as a negotiating partner that would settle a peace agreement with Israel. Now the Hamas, who are running the PA government, insist that they will never recognize Israel. What conclusion must be drawn?
The platform of the Palestinian Unity Government  insists that the occupation began 60 years ago, and that it will not stop "resistance" until the occupation is ended and the refugees of 1948 are allowed to "return" to Israel.
Ami Isseroff
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas government promises resistance in all forms

In case anyone had any doubts at all, the new Hamas government promises resistance in all forms, or in other words, a continuation of terror:
Last update - 17:15 17/03/2007   
By Haaretz Service and Agencies
The new Hamas-Fatah coalition won overwhelming parliament approval Saturday, clearing a final formal hurdle before taking on the challenge of persuading a skeptical world to end a crippling year-long boycott of the Palestinian government.
...But Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, speaking after Abbas, said that the new government emphasized the Palestinian right to resistance "in all forms."
Abbas also called on the Arab League, which is set to convene at the end of the month, to resist making any changes to the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, and called on the League to re-adopt the plan. Israel has called for some changes to the initiative, but said that it could serve as a good starting point for negotiations.
The new government manifesto, finalized late Friday and containing some softer language than the draft published earlier in the week, still falls short of the international community's three demands, including explicit recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence.
Haniyeh said that the government "stresses that resistance in all forms is a legitimate local right of the Palestinian people, granted and secured under all international conventions and agreements."
"Our people have the right to defend themselves from continuous Israeli aggression," he added.
He said, however, that the new government would work to expand its cease-fire with Israel.
He reiterated the commitment to the right of return for Palestinian refugees and called for the implementation of United Nations resolution 194, which deals with the refugee issue.
This is the government that members of the European Union are going to recognize, and those are the policies that the European Union will fund. Every rocket that lands in Israel, every suicide bomber that explodes, will be paid for by the EU, and perhaps by the Americans.
Ami Isseroff  

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abbas extends hand - or finger - to Israel?

In his speech inaugurating the Palestinian unity government, PA President Mahmoud Abbas claims to have extended the hand of peace to Israel. He also told the Palestinian parliament that the Palestinians reject violence. Nonetheless, the Qassam rocket continue to fall, soldier Gilad Shalit is still in captivity and Abbas heads a government that is committed to never making peace with Israel under any circumstances. The "peace" deal that Mr. Abbas offers Israel must include, he says, "return" of the Palestinian Arab refugees to Israel, a condition that would mean the end of the Jewish state.
So the question is, whether Abbas has extended a hand of peace, or only given us the finger.
What Abbas calls the "national unity wedding" takes on a different complexion when one considers that he has abandoned every one of his principles to allow Fatah to join the new government. In this wedding, he is the bride, and we know what happens to brides after the wedding.

Last update - 13:13 17/03/2007   

Abbas urges end to siege, extends hand to Israel
By Haaretz Service and Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas urged the world Saturday to lift an international boycott at the advent of the unity government between his Fatah faction and the Islamist Hamas, and said that the Palestinians were "extending" a hand to Israel.
"This national unity wedding has received an Arab and international welcome, which we hope will be transformed into practical steps to end the siege," Abbas said in an advance text of his speech to lawmakers meeting to approve the cabinet.
The PA chairman said the Palestinians are "extending our hand wide open, calling for peace of equality" with Israel. But, he warned, the settlements, the separation fence and the siege "will not lead us to convergence, it will lay more obstacles on the road to peace."
Abbas was speaking as the new government was to set to clear a final formal hurdle Saturday, with approval from the Palestinian parliament.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, speaking after Abbas, said that the new government emphasized the Palestinian right to resistance "in all forms."
The PA chairman called on the Arab League, which is set to convene at the end of the month, to resist making any changes to the 2002 Saudi peace initative, and called on the League to re-adopt the plan. Israel has called for some changes to the initiative, but said that it could serve as a good starting point for negotiations.
Abbas told parliament that the Palestinian people reject violence in all its forms and "call for mutual commitment by Israel to stop all violence."
The new manifesto, finalized late Friday and containing some softer language than the draft published earlier in the week, still falls short of the international community's three demands, including explicit recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence.
Haniyeh said that the government "stresses that resistance in all forms is a legitimate local right of the Palestinian people, granted and secured under all international conventions and agreements."
"Our people have the right to defend themselves from continuous
Israeli agression," he added.
He said, however, that the new government would work to expand its cease-fire with Israel.
He reiterated the commitment to the right of return for Palestinian refugees and called for the implementation of United Nations resolution 194, which deals with the refugee issue.
The prime minister also said that the new government would "work toward a speedy solution" of a prisoner swap for Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza since June.
The government will work first and foremost to establish an independent Palestinian state with full sovereignty on all Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, Haniyeh said in his speech.
Moments after Abbas brushed aside international misgivings over Fatah joining forces with Hamas, saying it is the only way to avert a civil war, Haniyeh also addressed these misgivings in his speech, acknowledging that the new government's path will be a difficult one.
"The challenges are many, and so are the difficulties," he said. "Those who wait for mistakes are many. ... All are waiting to see what the national unity government will offer, will it be up to the challenge," he added.
Haniyeh was to present the platform at the start of the parliament session, held simultaneously in Gaza City and in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Palestinian lawmakers cannot meet in one place because of Israeli travel bans. The two gatherings were hooked up by video conference.
According to the program, the coalition's main goal will be to set up a Palestinian state in lands Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, said incoming Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti, an independent.
The government respects previous international agreements reached by the PLO and calls for peace talks to be conducted by Abbas. Any future deal could be submitted to a national referendum, suggesting that the Islamic militant Hamas will not be given veto power.
The government platform calls for expanding the Gaza cease-fire with Israel, yet also affirms resistance in all its forms, especially non-violent resistance to occupation.
The reference to resistance was part of the draft, in an apparent nod to Hamas, while the phrase non-violent was introduced later.
Barghouti said he expects the program to open doors for the new government.
"This program provides an opportunity for peace and reconciliation. It should provide a powerful base for ending the embargo on the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Later Saturday, Abbas is to swear in the coalition, formed after months of stop-and-go negotiations interrupted by periods of deadly Hamas-Fatah fighting that claimed more than 140 lives. Brushing aside international misgivings about Fatah joining forces with Hamas, Abbas has said it's the only way to avert a civil war in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel announced earlier this week, reacting to the draft program published on web sites, that it would not deal with the new government. On Friday, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh said Israel would explain to the countries of the world that they can't work with a government like that.
Among the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the U.S., European Union, United Nations and Russia - the most positive reaction to the new coalition has come from Moscow.
"It is inarguably an important event in terms of consolidation of the Palestinian ranks," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement, noting that the Palestinian power-sharing deal took into account the Quartet conditions.
The U.S. was more cool. White House spokesman Tony Snow, saying he did not want to express disappointment, indicated Thursday that there would be no change in the U.S. administration's refusal to deal with the Palestinian government unless its platform changed.
"Our position has been consistent, which is, you need a Palestinian government that is going to, in fact, abide by the Quartet conditions," Snow said.
Nonetheless, a U.S. offcial said Saturday that while it would not deal directly with Hamas, it would be willing to talk to the incoming finance minister, Salam Fayyad, an internationally respected economist.
Barghouti also said Saturday that the Palestinians have received positive signs from Europe that the boycott might be eased.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Poll shows Israelis don't want elections, but don't want Olmert either

As usual, poll results are a bit contradictory. Most Israelis are dissatisfied with Ehud Olmert as PM. If new elections are held, they would put the Likud party in power, empowering the Israeli right. However, most Israelis do not want to hold new elections, but rather to replace Ehud Olmert as Prime Minister. The probable alternatives to Olmert within the Kadima party are Tzippy Livni and Shimon Peres, both of whom would be more dovish than Olmert!

Poll:  Likud 30 Kadima 15 Labor 16, 60% replace PM 14% advance elections
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 16 March 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of adult Israelis (apparently including Arab Israelis) carried out by Maagar Mohot Survey Institute (headed by Professor Yitzchak Katz) on 15 March and published in Makor
Rishon on 16 March 2007.

Knesset election vote expressed in mandates[current in brackets]. The actual
mandates in the current Knesset are in [brackets]

Question asked once without Gaidamak party and once with.

30 28  [12] Likud
16 16  [19] Labor
--  13  [--] Arkadi Gaidamak party (does not exist)
15 11  [29] Kadima
10 10  [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
12 10  [12] Shas
10 10  [10] Arab parties
11 07  [11] Yisrael Beiteinu
06 06  [06] Yahadut Hatorah
05 05  [05] Meretz
05 04  [07] Retirees

Should elections be advanced or the prime minister replaced or the situation
remain unchanged?
Elections 14% Change PM 60% Remain unchanged 26%
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel: To exist or not to exist, that is the question

Every poll shows a different result regarding European and world attitudes toward Israel. However, when German Bishops have the temerity to compare Israeli behavior to Nazi behavior, it cannot be ignored. On the other hand, the support of the German government for Israel and the generally positive attitude of German Media is laudable. Leonie Schultens offers this excuse for German negativity toward Israel:
In Germany, 57 percent of the population believe there is no circumstance justifying the use of military force. As the pollsters themselves explain, German attitudes are greatly influenced by the motto of "Never again." This view has become so deeply ingrained as to translate into a revulsion for any kind of military confrontation. The "negative influence" Germans see Israel as being inextricably linked to the use of force and the situation in the region.
And yet, the Germans do not see China negatively, though China has used massive force in Tibet, nor do they see Russia negatively, though Russia has used massive force in Chechnya, and they do not see the Sudan negatively, despite the genocide in Darfur. The supposedly laudable pacifism of the Germans seems to apply only to the actions of Jews.

Seeing the Other more clearly
By Leonie Schultens

In recent days, Haaretz has again focused on Israel's image in Germany. In his review of last weekend's 8th Europe-Israel Dialogue in Berlin, sponsored by the Axel Springer Foundation ("Germans again mull Israel's right to exist," March 12, 2007) [  ], Assaf Uni warns that Israel's right to exist is increasingly being questioned among the German population. The author bases this statement on discussions at the conference and recent surveys conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the BBC World Service.
Uni begins his article as follows: "The state of Israel is facing two strategic threats: an Iranian nuclear bomb and the denial of its right to exist." He goes on to discuss the evidence for the second threat, with specific reference to German public opinion.
Before explaining the poll results and their implications they have for the subject of Germans' opinions on Israel, I would like to suggest an alternative headline for Uni's piece: "Like most Israelis and American Jews, a majority of Germans (62 percent according to the Bertelsmann survey) agree that Iran's nuclear program poses a threat to Israel's existence."
Uni refers to a BBC poll, of residents of 27 countries, in which most respondents ranked Iran and Israel as the countries with the most negative influence on the world. In Germany, 77 percent of respondents viewed Israel as having a "negative influence," although Uni, in his article, referred to 77% of Germans having mainly negative "views" of Israel.
There is a fine line between negative "influence" and negative "views," as it appears in Uni's piece. Moreover, perusal of the more detailed Bertelsmann survey sheds light on why 77 percent of Germans consider Israel to have a negative influence in the world.
In Germany, 57 percent of the population believe there is no circumstance justifying the use of military force. As the pollsters themselves explain, German attitudes are greatly influenced by the motto of "Never again." This view has become so deeply ingrained as to translate into a revulsion for any kind of military confrontation. The "negative influence" Germans see Israel as being inextricably linked to the use of force and the situation in the region.
This view is underlined by German media reports about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In reporting the speech by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that opened the Berlin conference, Uni emphasizes her support for Israel's right to exist: "I regret that I am forced to reiterate this repeatedly," she said.
The Israeli reader may be interested in knowing that the German media dealt with completely different aspects of the chancellor's speech. Headlines focused on Merkel's statement, "We cannot lose hope for a solution to the conflict," and on Germany's special responsibility for mediating an end to it. It thus seems that Germans want to help Israel in ending the conflict, which is at the root of Israel's perceived "negative influence."
The images portrayed in the German press and here are thus completely at odds with one another, leading one to wonder whether there is not a tendency to resort to readily available stereotypes when covering this highly sensitive and emotionally charged relationship.
It's not my intention to single out the Israeli media for pouncing on even the smallest neo-Nazi gathering and turning it into a matter of life or death for the State of Israel. This also refers to German journalists who all too often prefer the image of the Israeli soldier at the checkpoint to that of the Israeli student or homemaker.
The Bertelsmann poll found that 43 percent of Israelis suspect that Germans are anti-Semitic even today, compared to only 19 percent of Germans who consider their own people to harbor anti-Jewish sentiments. This raises the question of whether both peoples actually apply their own views, however concrete or baseless, to their beliefs, thoughts and, yes, also to their coverage of the other.
Due to deeply seated and well-founded existential fears, Israelis always suspect more Jew-hatred than there actually is. Whereas Germans, rightfully ashamed of their horrific past, prefer to downplay any racist or anti-Semitic elements in their society.
Interestingly, the Bertelsmann survey found that 78 percent of Germans view Israel as a state like any other. Far from denying Israel's right to exist, this is evidence of a normalization of relations and perceptions, in which Israel is accorded the same rights and obligations as all other members of the international community. It also found, however, that 56 percent of Israelis believe Germany cannot treat Israel like any other country.
In light of the past and the psychological and social currents it has imprinted onto each people's collective consciousness, it may be impossible for either country's media coverage of the other to ever approach the latter's own self-image. Nevertheless, an attempt at explaining the nuances may help prevent a biased picture from emerging, a bias expressed in the headline "Germans again mull Israel's right to exist."
The writer is a German journalist living and working in Tel Aviv.

Germans worried over growing denial of Israel's right to exist
By Assaf Uni

BERLIN - The state of Israel is facing two strategic threats: an Iranian nuclear bomb and the denial of its right to exist. During a week in which German bishops compared Israel's actions in the territories with the deeds of the Nazis and an international survey determined that Germans have the lowest opinion of Israel in Europe, it is difficult to say which option is more frightening.
That, at least, is the picture that emerged from the annual European-Israel Dialogue held in Berlin this weekend, whose participants included Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading academics and several Israeli diplomats and officials.
The growing delegitimization of Israel in recent years was raised in every session of the conference, organized by the Axel Springer Foundation. This year in particular, Merkel said at the opening session, in light of the threats emanating from Iran, it is important to emphasize that Germany supports Israel and that protecting Israel's right to exist will continue to stand at the center of Germany's foreign policy. "I regret that I am forced to reiterate this repeatedly," the chancellor added.
As a recent example of a statement undermining Israel's right to exist, speakers at the conference referred to the remarks made by German bishops during a visit to the Palestinian Authority, following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem.
"In the morning, we see the photos of the inhuman Warsaw Ghetto, and this evening we travel to the ghetto in Ramallah; that makes you angry," Bishop Gregor Maria Hanke of Eichstatt told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
In a conversation with Haaretz, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer called Hanke's remarks "scandalous," adding, "personally, I was angry that no denunciations were voiced from within Germany."
The President of Tel Aviv University, Itamar Rabinovich, said at the conference that since according to the German Bishops, Israel's right to exist derives from the Holocaust, "the fact that the State of Israel is now behaving 'like the Nazi regime' undermines its right to exist."
However, it appears that the parallel drawn by the bishops, which was repudiated in a letter sent by the leader of Germany's Catholic Church to the board of Yad Vashem, represents the view held by a significant portion of Germans. According to a poll carried out in January by the Bertelsmann Foundation, 30 percent of German residents agree that Israel is doing to the Palestinians "what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Third Reich." A recent poll carried out for the BBC World Service ranked Israel (together with Iran) as the country with the most negative influence on the world. The vast Germany ranked highest among all European countries polled for its negative views of Israel, with 77 percent of respondents reporting "mainly negative" views of Israel.
Some conference attendees said these figures join articles in leading newspapers describing Israel as an "apartheid" state, economic boycotts against the country by churches and labor unions and the academic boycott by European universities in the trend toward questioning Israel's moral right to exist.
"I am amazed anew each time at the fact that the question of Israel's right to exist is still a matter for discussion," the Jewish-German author and journalist Henryk Broder told Haaretz. "What more needs to happen for Israel to be accepted as a state, 60 years after its founding?"
The former head of the Mossad, Ephraim Halevy, believes the legitimacy issue is rooted in Israeli academia. "The source of the problem lies in Israel," Halevy told Haaretz. "The central figures in the debate are in Israeli academia and the issue must be solved within Israel by means of academic confrontation with the 'deniers.'"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Human Rights in the Middle East: Egyptian Blogger Arrest Responsesk

Attention would-be progressives and Muzzle Watchers - here is a real muzzle to watch..

Special Dispatch-Egypt/Reform Project
March 16, 2007
No. 1504
Arrest of Reformist Blogger Sparks Criticism in Egyptian Press .
Arrest of Reformist Blogger Sparks Criticism in Egyptian Press

On February 22, 2007, Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Suleiman, known by his web-pseudonym Karim Amer, was sentenced by an Egyptian court to four years in prison for "disparaging religions" and "insulting President Mubarak." [1] In response, several columnists in the Egyptian press wrote critical articles, in which they denounced the curtailing of freedom of expression in Egypt and called to pass laws protecting the bloggers' rights.

The following are excerpts from three of the articles:

Egypt Does Not Respect Freedom of Expression

Columnist Salama Ahmad Salama wrote in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram: "In Egypt and in the Arab world [as a whole], we have significant difficulty in understanding and implementing one of the basic human rights, namely freedom of opinion and expression… Freedom of expression is the right to express an opinion or idea that is opposed to the opinions accepted by a certain sector of society, or to the opinion dominant in society [at large], no matter how [deeply] entrenched. This freedom is often curtailed, or [completely] suppressed, in countries taking their [first] steps in democracy, and in conservative societies in general.

"Countries with a tradition of openness protect freedom of expression in all its forms - freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of belief and freedom to demonstrate peacefully. [In other words], this freedom is not only manifest in political discourse, but is also applied to artistic expression, religious [beliefs] and all forms of entertainment… especially in light of the media revolution and the expansion of the Internet, which have presented society with new challenges. It seems that we are unable to internalize this international [concept of] freedom of expression...

"If it was possible to pass laws stating that one cannot be imprisoned for [statements] published in the press… there is no choice but to apply the same principle to bloggers, to [statements] posted on the Internet, and also to what is broadcast on satellite TV channels. We must agree on established principles of freedom of expression, so that the government and religious institutions will not [be able to] control [people's] thinking and views." [2]

Blogs Have Become Tools for Influencing the Regime and Public Opinion

Another Al-Ahram columnist, 'Adel 'Abd Al-Sadeq, discussed the increasing impact of blogs on the political discourse, and the need to establish an institution to protect the bloggers' rights: "Thanks to their immensely wide distribution, blogs have become more than just a platform for [posting] news and analyses - the [bloggers] also follow the news, interpret them and respond to them… It is no longer possible for a restricted group of individuals to dictate public opinion, shape it and recruit it [for their purposes] - the blogs have [shattered] the monopoly on information that was [once] held by a few traditional players. Blogs constitute a new means for pressuring the government [regarding] its public policy and the transparency of its decisions… They have become a platform of political participation, and are used by people on the Internet to protest and to demonstrate against the government's policy…

"Blogs, just like the traditional press, must be subject [to the principles of] freedom of opinion and expression, since they [reflect] the extent of reform and democracy [in the country]… The arrest of bloggers, and their persecution by the security [apparatuses] reflect uncertainty on the part of the government regarding the concept of freedom.

"How can [the government decree that people] may not be imprisoned for publishing [an opinion] in the press, but at the same time persecute bloggers for publishing their opinions? Freedom is not a principle that can be applied [discriminately]. It cannot be upheld in one case and disregarded in another, [under the pretext of] protecting [national] security, and at the expense of [civil] liberties.

"Blogs constitute an alternative media platform, and are no different from the written press. Consequently, there should be an organization, a legal association or a syndicate to defend the bloggers' interests and publication rights." [3]

Opinions Cannot Be Locked Up Behind Bars

Journalist Diana Muqallid wrote in the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "[Karim Amer's arrest] was a climax in the bloggers' struggle against the government institutions and against other long-established institutions in the Arab region which persecute, arrest, torture and even execute [people]… In recent months, bloggers have suffered increasing persecution, arrests, and even imprisonment, as in the case of [Karim] Amer. [This came after] extremist and conservative circles expressed harsh criticism against the Internet and against its users in the Arab world. Their criticism rests on the simplistic assumption that the Internet is used only for entertainment and chatting, and as a platform for [displaying] licentious [materials]. Later, we began hearing the slogan that, in addition to all these faults, the Internet also constitutes a new weapon in the hands of extremist groups - which is, of course, true.

"Today, as the sector of Arab bloggers expands, they are expressing an ever-widening range of opinions, and are being emboldened. Due to their growing influence, there is increasing awareness of their role, as well as growing wariness and suspicion towards them. Bloggers have been instrumental in raising questions, issues, and topics that have never been presented as openly and publicly as they are now [presented] in the virtual domain. Until recently, groups with Islamist leanings controlled the number of [Arab] users and sites on the Internet. This reality has not yet changed dramatically, but we can definitely speak of new circles and of new activists, with more liberal leanings, who hold real debates on [various] issues [such as] freedoms, extremism, minority rights and women's rights…

"It is true that Karim Amer, and other [individuals] in Arab countries, are [still] behind bars or in danger of being arrested. However, the [freedom of] expression afforded by the immense virtual domain of the Internet cannot be [constrained and] placed in a dungeon. Karim's blog is still there for anyone who wants to visit it, and there is growing solidarity with him and with other bloggers - as reflected by the scope of the online campaigns that support them, and by the number of people who take part in these campaigns. In this era of the global village, opinions cannot be locked up behind bars of steel." [4]

[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1382, " Egyptian Blogger Abdelkareem Suleiman Arrested for Criticizing Al-Azhar Sheikhs: 'You Will End up in the Dustbin of History,'" December 7, 2006,

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 4, 2007.

[3] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 5, 2007.

[4] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 4, 2007.

Continued (Permanent Link)

BBC is biased - so what else is new/

March 15, 2007

The Biased Broadcasting Corporation


LAST summer, the Archbishop of Algeria remarked to this newspaper that when satellite dishes first appeared in Algeria, they were typically positioned to receive French broadcasts. Now the majority receive programming from the Persian Gulf.

"If you watch Western television, you live in one universe," said the archbishop, "and if you watch Middle Eastern television, you live in another altogether." The Middle Eastern broadcasts, he added, tended to depict the West in a negative light.

Washington is well aware of this problem and has tried to address it. In 2004, the United States established its own Arabic-language satellite television station, Al Hurra. But Al Hurra has not been a success, and stations like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiyya, based in the Gulf states, continue to dominate the region.

Those stations will soon face a formidable rival. The BBC World Service plans to start an Arabic television service this fall, and the BBC knows what it is doing. It has been broadcasting in Arabic on the radio for more than 60 years and has a huge audience.

This new television station might sound like good news for America. Many of us pick up BBC broadcasts in English, and we respect their quality. But the World Service in English is one thing, and the World Service in Arabic is another entirely. If the BBC's Arabic TV programs resemble its radio programs, then they will be just as anti-Western as anything that comes out of the Gulf, if not more so. They will serve to increase, rather than to diminish, tensions, hostilities and misunderstandings among nations.

For example, a 50-minute BBC Arabic Service discussion program about torture discussed only one specific allegation, which came from the head of an organization representing some 90 Saudis imprisoned at Guantánamo. This speaker stated that the prisoners were subject to disgusting and horrible forms of torture and suggested that three inmates reported by the United States to have committed suicide were actually killed. Another participant insisted that the two countries guilty of torturing political prisoners on the largest scale were Israel and the United States.

At the same time, the authoritarian regimes and armed militants of the Arab world get sympathetic treatment on BBC Arabic. When Saddam Hussein was in power, he was a great favorite of the service, which reported as straight news his re-election to a seven-year term in 2002, when he got 100 percent of the vote. President Bashar al-Assad of Syria enjoys similar favor. When a State Department representative referred to Syria as a dictatorship, his BBC interviewer immediately interrupted and reprimanded him.

The Arabic Service not only shields Arab leaders from criticism but also tends to avoid topics they might find embarrassing: human rights, the role of military and security forces, corruption, discrimination against minorities, censorship, poverty and unemployment. When, from time to time, such topics do arise, they are usually dealt with in the most general terms: there may, for instance, be guarded references to "certain Arab countries."

By contrast, the words and deeds of Western leaders, particularly the American president and the British prime minister, are subject to minute analysis, generally on the assumption that behind them lies a hidden and disreputable agenda. Last summer, when the British arrested two dozen people alleged to have been plotting to blow up airplanes crossing the Atlantic, a BBC presenter centered a discussion on the theory that these arrests had taken place because Tony Blair, embarrassed by opposition to Britain's role in the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, wanted to distract the public while at the same time associating Muslims with terrorism.

The British are among our closest and most reliable allies, and it is strange that their government pays for these broadcasts, many of which are produced in Cairo rather than in London. If the BBC models its Arabic television service on its Arabic radio service, yet another anti-Western, antidemocratic channel will find its place on the Arab screen.

Frank H. Stewart is a professor in the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a visiting scholar at New York University

Continued (Permanent Link)

Polls: 44.1% of Kadima voters wants Kadima in power if Olmert falls

Polls: 44.1% of Kadima voters wants Kadima in power if Olmert falls
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 15 March 2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 541 adult Israelis (including
Arab Israelis) carried out by  Shvakim Panorama
for Israel Radio's "Another Matter" program on 14 March 2007.

If prime minister Ehud Olmert has to resign as a result of the interim Winograd Commission report, who of the following Kadima Party leader do you think should head Kadima and serve in his place as prime minister?

Livni 33.9% Peres 16.9% Shitreet 4.4% Mofaz 7.2% Dichter 4.3% Other replies 33.4%
Kadima voters:
Livni 49.7% Peres 19.1% Shitreet 10.9% Mofaz 4.0% Dichter 3.0% Other replies 13.4%
Likud voters:
Livni 27.0% Peres 8.6% Shitreet 2.1% Mofaz 8.9% Dichter 3.5% Other replies 49.8%
Labor voters:
Livni 35.7% Peres 25.8% Shitreet 6.8% Mofaz 10.5% Dichter 6.1% Other replies

And if minister of defense Amir Peretz has to leave the Ministry of Defense as a result of the interim Winograd Commission report,  who of the following two personalities in the Labor Party do you think should take his place in the position of minister of defense?

Total: Barak 24.2% Ayalon 49.6% Neither 11.1% Other replies 15.1%
Kadima voters: Barak 27.6% Ayalon 61.0% Neither 2.0% Other replies 9.4%
Likud voters: Barak 19.9% Ayalon 43.3% Neither 15.4% Other replies 21.4%
Labor voters: Barak 45.5% Ayalon 54.5%

And if in the end it turns out that the Olmert Government falls because of the interim Winograd Commission report, what do you think is the best thing to do under those circumstances?New elections, form government under Netanyahu without elections or form new government lead by whoever heads Kadima without elections?

Elections 34.1% Netanyahu government 26.0% Kadima government 29.6% Other replies 10.3%
Kadima voters
Elections 34.6% Netanyahu government 14.4% Kadima government 44.1% Other replies 6.9%
Likud voters
Elections 28.8% Netanyahu government 61.7% Kadima government 4.7% Other replies 4.7%
Labor voters
Elections 43.8% Netanyahu government 4.5% Kadima government 44.8% Other replies 6.8%

Do you think the Saudi peace initiative: end of the conflict, full peace with all the Arab states, return to the 1967 borders with small adjustments and a just agreed solution to the refugee problem, could serve as a basis for Israel for opening negotiations?

[AL: This is not really the Saudi initiative, there are no border adjustments mentioned in the initiative and while "a just agreed solution" for refugees is indeed mentioned, the initiative cites right of return and opposes settling refugees elsewhere.  Did the folks from Israel Radio who ordered the question make a mistake or instead - in order to promote their personal political agendas did they want to "improve" the question in order to increase the chances of getting the outcome they wanted?]

Total: Yes 40.2% No 48.2% Other 11.6%
Kadima voters: Yes 49.8% No 37.4% Other 12.8%
Likud voters: Yes 24.4% No 67.3% Other 8.3%
Labor voters: Yes 63.5% No 28.2% Other 8.4%

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Beware the Arab Peace Initiative - But do not ignore it

The Arab (or Saudi Arabian) peace initiative should not have been ignored in 2002. It should not be ignored now. It is not a basis for peace, but it is a basis for a basis for peace. It is not even the end of the beginning. But it is the beginning of Arab acceptance of Israel.

Avoid the 'grand solution' temptation
Gerald M. Steinberg, THE JERUSALEM POST  Mar. 15, 2007


The rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and the revival of the 2002 Saudi-Arab League initiative, is not the result of a sudden outbreak of mutual understanding, interfaith dialogue, or the dedicated work of special Middle East peace envoys. Rather, the cause is rational self-interest, in itself a rare commodity in the Middle East.

The Saudi monarchy, in concert with Egypt, Jordan and other Sunni Arab regimes, views Shi'ite power, led by the triumphant revolutionary government in Iran attempting to acquire nuclear weapons, as the greatest threat to their survival. The insurgency that has dismembered Iraq, the attempt by Hizbullah to control Lebanon, and the strength of the Muslim Brotherhood elsewhere threatens to engulf the Arab elites. Under these circumstances, a strengthened strategic relationship with the US and a tacit alliance with Israel against Iran are vital for the Saudi and "moderate" Arab regimes.

Not withstanding the lip-service paid to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict and ending "the suffering of the Palestinians," these issues are secondary in this coalition of interests. The Palestinians are as divided as ever, without effective leadership, and can be expected to contribute very little to regional stability; the most important aspect of the Mecca agreement between the leaders of Hamas and Fatah is the name, reflecting Saudi influence and power. The maneuvering over the details of a Palestinian unity government appears never-ending, and even if an agreement is announced, the chaos, internal violence and anti-Israeli terror efforts are likely to continue. But for the Saudis and other members of the anti-Iran and anti-radical alliance, the photo-opportunities, including the Olmert-Abbas meetings, are sufficient.

For Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his government, the revived Saudi initiative is a welcome opportunity to divert the attention of the Israeli public from the corruption scandals, incompetence, and continuing investigations of the Lebanon war. The buzz generated by reports of talks with the Saudis changes the daily headlines and puts Olmert at the center of regional and even world attention. In a few months, when the opposition, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, makes its move to topple Olmert and what remains of his Kadima Party, the momentum of this latest "peace process" will be the government's best card.

IN THE wake of the excitement and optimism generated by the Saudi-Israeli links and renewed hopes for Arab League plan based on recognition and normal relations with Israel, it is important to recognize the realistic limits of these developments. In the past, over-enthusiastic politicians and unworkable grand peace plans pushed other openings beyond the art of the possible, and led to failure.

In March 2002, the original Saudi and Arab League peace initiative was presented in response to the 9/11 terror attacks on the US, and the massive public relations effort to limit the damage to Saudi Arabia's image in America.

When the publicity campaign achieved its goals, the initiative disappeared. On the ground, the resolutions adopted at the Arab League summit did nothing to change Palestinian terror attacks or the pervasive anti-Israel and anti-US incitement, including the Saudi funding.

Similarly, in 1977, Jimmy Carter's attempt to force a grand solution to the Palestinian issue, and to give the Soviet Union a major role in the process, led Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin to detour around Washington. These leaders were propelled by the interests and needs of Egypt and Israel, respectively, and these clearly did not include giving terrorists including Yasser Arafat and the PLO legitimacy and power. Later, in the negotiation process and at the 1978 Camp David summit, Carter repeatedly tried to force his plans for a PLO-led Palestinian state on Begin, almost destroying the fragile relationship with Egypt.

WHILE THE current American government is more experienced and better informed than the Carter administration, the temptation to seek a grand solution remains, reinforced by Europe. But the basic issues that have fueled the conflict for decades, such as Palestinian rejectionism and refugee claims seeking to overwhelm the Jewish population of Israel, will not be resolved in a few months or years.

And the Arab refusal to recognize the need for and legitimacy of a significant Jewish presence in Jerusalem's Old City (and not only dependent on goodwill) is also too strongly entrenched to be changed in the short term. As in the past, simplistic proposals that seek instant solutions to these core obstacles will damage and perhaps destroy the gains from the Saudi-Israeli links, in terms of conflict management and stability.

At the same time, the specific opportunities presented by the revived Saudi initiative, under an American umbrella, should not be wasted. Beyond the immediate and shared strategic concerns regarding the growing Iranian influence and hegemonic goals, this channel can be used to lower the level of distrust and ignorance. The time is long overdue for Saudi leaders - political and religious - to end support for incitement and anti-Semitism. If Israelis are asked to take the Saudi plan seriously, the promised movement toward normalization must be visible, and not hidden behind closed doors.

The writer heads the Program on Conflict Management at Bar-Ilan University, and is the executive director of

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Arab student in "Love of the land" contest

An Israeli Arab student participating in a "Love of the Land" contest is good news for Israel. What is bad news for Israel is that she was not taught Hebrew, and Jewish students do not learn Arabic. What is worse news, is that studies show that Jewish Israelis have very little knowledge of Israeli or Zionist history or Israeli homeland lore.
This reminds me of the joke that is built on "Who said that?"
It is interesting that settlers and city people do not do well in this contest, in which Kibbutz kids excel.

Translator in tow, Miriam is first Arab in 'homeland' bee
By Nadav Shragai

When Education Ministry director-general Shmuel Abuav mentioned the Jewish people's special connection to Jerusalem and their long hope of rebuilding the Holy Temple, Miriam Dahla, a 15-year-old Muslim from the Galilee village of Tur'an, rocked uncomfortably in her seat.
A question Education Minister Yuli Tamir posed, toward the end of the third annual "Getting to Know the Homeland" national competition, might have also made Dahla uncomfortable: It pertained to a quote from Herzl's "Altneuland," describing the Zionist visionary's view of Jerusalem. Tamir asked which enterprises and projects, characteristic of a capital city, exist in Jerusalem, and which elements of Herzl's dream have yet to be realized. However Dahla, the first Arab contender to enter the final round of the Education Ministry's quiz on knowledge of Israel was eliminated in the final's first round of questions. Yair Lieberman, of Kedumim, the only representative from the West Bank settlements, and four others, were eliminated along with Dahla.
Miriam's father, Amran, a teacher, and her geography teacher, Khaled Adawi, accompanied her throughout the stages of the competition. Miriam's grade point average is 100 percent. Her classes, in Tur'an, are taught in Arabic and her knowledge of Hebrew is limited. She required continuous translation, as she toured the Netifim Cave and Reading Power Station, and studied for the competition. There are no Arabic textbooks that cover the material featured in the quiz pertaining to Israel's geography and environmental issues. Dahla, the eldest child in her family, broke out in tears when she discovered that she did not make the final round of questions in the competition. However, she earned tremendous respect for winning an honorable place while grappling with challenges her adversaries did not have to face.
Dalia Fenig, coordinator and supervisor of geographic and environmental curricula for Education Ministry said on Tuesday that a growing number of Arab-Israeli schools are displaying an interest in apolitical subjects connected with Israel.
"This has nothing to do with the history of [Jewish] settlement but with geography, urbanization, natural phenomena, mutual relations between man and the environment and subjects pertaining to Israel's economy and place on the map."
Fenig noted there is less interest in these subjects in schools in the heavily populated "Hadera to Gedera" central area, and that interest in the competition was several times greater in the northern and southern Regions. That may explain the fact that three of the 12 finalists, who participated in the final round held Tuesday in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, came from kibbutzim and moshavim (agricultural villages). Two of them, Gal Bien of Kfar Yehoshua (the Wizo Canada School in Nahalal), and Adi Estheri of Kibbutz Gesher (the Beit Hayareach High School in the Jordan Valley) took first and second place. Tamar Gottfeld of Jerusalem, who attends the Midreshet Sde Boker Environmental High School in the Negev, came in third. About 10,000 students, from all parts of the country, took part in preliminary rounds of the competition: 80 percent of them located areas like the Golan Heights, the Arava, and the Jezreel Valley, on the map, and 85 percent successfully answered environmental questions pertaining to air pollution, damage caused by shoreline construction, recycling issues, waste disposal, water works or loss of sand on Israel's beaches.
First-prize winner Gal Bien earned a grant to study in the Tel Aviv University Department of Geography and Human Environment for a full year.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Shla Muzzle Watch - Muslim pressure cancels UK University Lecture

Academic freedom is not for everyone it seems. This is not the "Israel Lobby" at work, is it, muzzling all those critics of Israel?

University of Leeds bows to Muslim protests and at the last minute cancels talk by Dr Matthias Kuentzel on 'Hitler's Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East'

This morning, the University of Leeds cancelled a talk, scheduled later for today, and a 2-day workshop series on the topic 'Hitler's Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East' by the German scholar Dr Matthias Kuentzel. The series of events has been well publicised for several weeks.

Last November, Dr Kuentzel gave a talk with the same title at Yale University as part of a series entitled 'Antisemitism in Comparative Perspective', which also featured talks by other internationally scholars such as Bassam Tibi, Wolfgang Benz, Jan Gross, Milton Shain, Ruth Wisse amongst others. He is a research assistant of one the worlds leading institute in the research of antisemitism, the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a member of the board of directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, an organisation with about 8000 supporters throughout the world.
Dr Kuentzel's talk is part of a series of scholars' and artists' talks at the German Department. The series is supported by a grant form the School of Modern Languages, who did not raise any issues during the grant application process.

The reason the University gives for the cancellation of the talk and seminars by Dr Kuentzel are security concerns. These concerns are founded on emails received by the Office of the Vice Chancellor. The sudden cancellation is a sell-out of academic freedom, especially freedom of speech, at the University of Leeds.

Dr Annette Seidel Arpacı
Morten Hunke

Please contact the Vice Chancellor's Office at 0113-3434030 or e-mail

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Ameinu versus AIPAC

Below are several articles about the AIPAC controversy initiated by Ameinu, the U.S. Labor Zionist group, which is unhappy at what they view as extremists resolutions adopted by the Israel lobby group.  None of the articles presents the AIPAC agenda in full, so to an extent, we are taking stabs at issues that are lurking, bobbing and dodging somewhere behind a curtain of obscurity.
Ameinu's main point is this:
"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace. The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush Administration and the Israeli Government," said Mr. Bob.
But AIPAC does not represent the entire American Jewish community and it never intended to represent the entire American Jewish community. It represents genuinely pro-Israel Israel Americans. That excludes some Jews like Norman Finkelstein (for example) and it includes an increasing number of non-Jews, as pointed out in Jerusalem Post article below. AIPAC is a lobby for pro-Israel Americans, not for all Jews or only Jews.  
Ameinu is unhappy that AIPAC wants congressppersons to sign a letter opposing US contact with Mr. Abbas and the Fatah. Ameinu is right to be unhappy. AIPAC's position is unrealistic and not constructive. It might satisfy the ZOA to get congresspersons to sign a letter asking the US not to have any contact with Palestinians, but even if every congressperson signed it, the US is not going to stop talking with Mr. Abbas. Even if the position were correct, it is unwise for any lobby group to back hopeless cases unless they are "do or die" propositions. The only value of such a letter is as fodder for press releases.
But Ameinu has to recognize that a new reality was created by Mr. Abbas when he signed the Mecca agreement on the dotted line, and then told the US and Israel, "take it or leave it." Mr. Abbas caved in to Hamas demands for his own internal reasons, but it is absurd to supposed that AIPAC should support him in that position. There has to be some Israeli and US response to the Mecca agreement, and there should have been a response from the Jewish peace lobby as well, because everyone who is a realist recognizes that that agreement was bad for peace, bad for Israel and bad for the Palestinians.
It is not right for AIPAC to become the Mearsheimer and Walt caricature of the "Israel Lobby." However it is equally unrealistic to confuse AIPAC with the Israeli peace movement or the American Task Force on Palestine.
What we are missing in all this, is a positive and progressive program for AIPAC. Ameinu has to keep in mind that AIPAC is not the peace lobby. It should represent Israeli interests as US supporters of Israel see those interests. Within that broad definition, it must be possible for Ameinu to offer some concrete action proposals that advance progressive Israeli interests. Unless and until the Palestinian unity government supports peace, supporting the Palestinian unity government is not in the interests of Israel and is not in the interests of peace. You don't have to be a neoconservative to demand that the Palestinian government must recognize the right of Israel to exist, and to demand that Mr. Abbas stick to his original stand on this issue. But between that and cutting off all contact with the Fatah and Mr. Abbas, there is still quite a distance. Ameinu doesn't give us a constructive alternative.
Ami Isseroff


Ameinu Denounces AIPAC's Hawkish Shift on Palestinians

CONTACT: Gidon D. Remba

Ameinu Denounces AIPAC's Hawkish Shift on Palestinians

Washington, DC—AIPAC'S 2007 Action Agenda, approved earlier this week by AIPAC's Executive Committee at the group's annual national policy conference in Washington, adopts radical hawkish positions which would curtail current tentative Palestinian-Israeli peace efforts, a major policy change that is contrary to the national security interests of both the United States and Israel, according to Kenneth Bob, National President of Ameinu, the leading progressive Zionist organization in the U.S.

"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace. The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush Administration and the Israeli Government," said Mr. Bob.

"Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh's remarks at the AIPAC national conference testify to this clash," added Ameinu Executive Director Gidon D. Remba. Ameinu, as a member of AIPAC's Executive Committee, cast a vote against portions of the 2007 Agenda which are ill-advised, dangerous to Israel and unrepresentative of the American Jewish community, noted Mr. Remba.

AIPAC's hawkish shift on US policy towards the Palestinians, which would cut off all US contact with moderate Palestinian leaders, is mirrored in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, initiated by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL) and John Ensign (R-NV), which AIPAC is now urging senators to sign. AIPAC's new demand is contained in "Talking Points" it has distributed to supporters who lobbied their Members of Congress yesterday on Capitol Hill as part of AIPAC's annual conference.

Mr. Remba also stated that "the 'Talking Points' disguise AIPAC's new position, leading many conference attendees to naively believe that in asking their senators to sign on to the Nelson-Ensign letter, they are merely "'holding firm and insisting' that no aid or recognition should be granted to the PA until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements," as the Talking Points memo claims. In fact, the Nelson-Ensign letter, and AIPAC's new 2007 Agenda, go much further," added Mr. Remba.

AIPAC's new 2007 Agenda calls for:

• "Urging the US government to vigorously enforce the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act," and "Urging the US government and other parties of the 'Quartet' to adhere to the position that they will not have contact with or provide funds to a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas until Hamas" meets the three international conditions.

• The Nelson-Ensign letter which AIPAC supporters are calling on their senators to endorse also urges senators to "continue to hold firm and insist that these very basic international principles do not change—no direct aid and no contacts with any members of a Palestinian Authority that does not explicitly and unequivocally recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce terror, and accept previous agreements."


• According to Mr. Bob, the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act does not bar the US from maintaining contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas until the PA meets the three international conditions. Both Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice have conducted recent meetings with President Abbas, who supports a two-state solution recognizing Israel's right to exist in peace and security, opposes violence and terror and accepts prior agreements between Israel and the PA.

• "As Israel's Deputy Defense Minister and Labor Knesset Member Ephraim Sneh stressed in his remarks to the AIPAC Plenary, strengthening President Abbas and other Palestinian moderates in the PA by providing them with political dividends and security assistance is critical to weakening Hamas and other rejectionists in Palestinian society," said Mr. Remba. Ameinu believes such steps are essential as well to building hope among Palestinians and Israelis for the success of any new peace initiative and reaching a comprehensive and durable cease-fire agreement.

• The new AIPAC policy of cutting off contact with all Palestinian Authority officials also contradicts AIPAC's own promise in its 2007 Action Agenda to "build on the commitment of the [Bush] Administration and Congress…to a peace process predicated on direct negotiations between Israel and her neighbors." It brings AIPAC full circle back to the extreme version of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act it unsuccessfully sought to pass last year.

AIPAC's new agenda, relying solely on economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority and Iran, along with the threat of possible preemptive military action against Iran in future, would now unwisely block all diplomatic bargaining between Israel and the Palestinians.

About Ameinu

Ameinu is dedicated to promoting a negotiated peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab states, and to social and economic justice for all in Israel and America. Together with the Labor movement of Israel and other partners, Ameinu reinforces Jewish continuity through support for Habonim Dror, the Labor Zionist youth movement, and the Union for Progressive Zionists campus organization.

Liberal Zionists denounce AIPAC

A liberal Zionist group denounced the America Israel Public Affairs Committee for adopting "radical hawkish positions" at the powerful lobby's annual policy conference. In a statement Wednesday, Ameinu National President Kenneth Bob said AIPAC's 2007 Action Agenda represents a major policy shift that runs counter to the security interests of Israel and the United States. Ameinu is a member of AIPAC's executive committee and voted against the measure.

"AIPAC, which presents itself as 'THE pro-Israel lobby' representing the entire American Jewish community, has now adopted highly partisan new policies on the pursuit of Palestinian-Israeli peace," Bob said. "The new approach aligns AIPAC more closely with neoconservatives, placing it in sharp opposition both to the Bush administration and the Israeli government."

AIPAC at its major annual gathering this week in Washington ran afoul of other liberal groups for urging lawmakers to sign a letter calling for a continued American boycott of the Palestinian Authority until it had met international preconditions: renouncing terrorism, recognizing Israel and accepting past agreements with the Jewish state. Brit Tzedek V'Shalom, Americans for Peace Now and Churches for Middle East Peace protested the letter, arguing that the United States must engage moderate Palestinians or risk strengthening extremist elements.

Mar. 11, 2007 23:24 | Updated Mar. 12, 2007 17:32
Non-Jewish students, officials flock to AIPAC conference

Talkbacks for this article: 16

The 6,000 participants who have congregated in Washington to participate in
AIPAC's annual policy conference have seen their numbers boosted by a growing
number of non-Jewish students and public officials.

Christian and historically black colleges which sent student delegates to the
three-day event grew by 25 percent this year, with 55 campuses represented.
The number of student government presidents jumped by a third, to 160 such
representatives, the majority of whom are not Jewish.

For a Jerusalem Online video of the AIPAC conference, click here.

The program itself continues the tradition of holding sessions on support for
Israel among the African-American, Latino and Christian communities.

Pastor John Hagee, the guiding force for the political organization Christians
United for Israel, was asked to address the opening dinner plenary on Sunday.

AIPAC, which subsidizes students who come to the conference, highlighted the
diverse student involvement in its program, which opened with all 1,200
students standing before the assembly.

Campuses have often been a place of fierce debate over Israel, not all of it
flattering, and AIPAC has spent decades building up campus organizations.

But Niiobli Armahm, president of the student government at the historically
black Southern University in Baton Rouge, said his campus suffers more from
apathy than overzealous activism. He said he plans to use the advocacy tools
he'll gain at the conference to invigorate his campus.

He supports Israel largely out of a sense of the common types of struggles the
Jewish and African-American populations have faced.

"It's about coalition-building," he said. "When these minority groups start to
team up, they accomplish more - they become a majority."
AIPAC spokesman Josh Block indicated that this diverse backing can help the
US-Israel relationship.

"As they [African-American students] and the folks from Hispanic background
and evangelical communities continue their political involvement, it's only
going to strengthen the pro-Israel movement," he said. "With close to 70
percent of Americans self-identifying as pro-Israel, obviously there are a lot
of non-Jewish Americans in that group. The pro-Israel community is quite
diverse, and the program reflects the work being done to reach out to all part
of the American society that are pro-Israel."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mullah Matters - FAQ about Islam

Web sites that give authoritative answers about Islam are pretty common. Here is one from Ayatollah Sistani that seems to give rather reasonable advice for the most part. Not all Ayatollahs are voices of darkness. Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, explained in his book that it is permissible for a man to have sex with a chicken. He is not allowed to eat the chicken, but it may be served to others.
Don't eat chicken in Tehran.

You, Too, Can Ask the Ayatollah

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, March 14, 2007; A13

Now that the British are leaving Shiastan and things are relatively quiet, folks there can fret about the more typical concerns of daily life. And many are logging on to the official Web site of the revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani for answers.

The attractive site -- has the answer for just about anything, from bullfighting ("discouraged") to birth control ("permissible"), lying on your résumé (not permissible), cloning (okay) to Zoroastrians (no one asked yet).

The answers from Iraq's preeminent Shiite cleric are often pragmatic and seem in part aimed at getting people to chill out. For example, one person worried about whether it was okay to eat cheese from a non-Muslim country if he didn't know if it was prepared according to Muslim dietary laws.

" Answer: It is permissible for you to eat it."

Another e-mailer asked: "Can a Muslim, who rents a fully furnished house in the West, consider everything in it to be ritually pure as long as he does not find any trace of impure things in it, even if the previous occupant was from Ahlul Kitab, i.e., a Christian or a Jew? What if the previous occupant was a Buddhist or an atheist who does not believe in God and the prophets?

" Answer: Yes, he can consider everything in the house ritually pure as long as he does not know that it has become impure. Just conjecture or doubt about impurity is of no value."

Yet there are some areas where Sistani is adamantly hard-line, especially about copyright law.

" Question: What is the ruling on copying computer software, movies, audio CDs and other such things, which bear the wording 'All Rights Reserved' or 'Copyright'? Does this rule apply equally to Muslim made products and those made by non-Muslim individuals or companies?

" Answer: Copyrights must be respected; it is not permissible to copy a software product, if it is against the law.

" Question: A lot of Islamic books and software have copyrights on them. What is the Islamic view of copyrights? If I photocopy a book or duplicate a CD with a copyright am I doing a sin?

" Answer: Copying or duplicating a book or software without their owner's permission is not permissible.

" Question: Can I use cracked CD software?

"Answer: If someone else has cracked the software, you can use it but you are not allowed to copy or burn it into another compact disc."

Sistani and the Recording Industry Association of America, united at last!

The site is straightforward and easy to understand, but not for the frivolous. One e-mailer asked: "I have seen a dream that has made me very anxious, will His Eminence interpret it for me?"

" Answer: Grand Ayatollah Sistani does not interpret dreams. Should you have any questions in the area of Fiqh (jurisprudence) and ideological matters, do not hesitate to email us."

Or you can write the Ayatollah at his address in Qom, Iran, heart of the Islamic revolution, or two sub-offices in Iran or to his office in Damascus. Nothing listed in Iraq.

[Remainder of this article addresses other issues]

Continued (Permanent Link)

Quartet Peace Talks: Who is not invited to the party?

What is missing in this picture? When Javier Solana says:
 the aim of involving the four Arab countries in the peace talks was to "look at the problems with the same views in order to find solutions."
Does he mean that the Quartet has now adopted the positions of the Arab countries on right of return of Palestinian refugees?
What country has not been invited to these talks?
Is the Quartet about to degenerate into a branch of the Arab League? Is that the price of getting oil at $57 a barrel and cooperation in Iraq?

Kingdom to Join ME Talks
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 14 March 2007 — The next meeting of the international Quartet focusing on the Middle East peace process will include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates, according to Javier Solana, European Union foreign policy chief.
Addressing a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal yesterday, Solana said the aim of involving the four Arab countries in the peace talks was to "look at the problems with the same views in order to find solutions."
Prince Saud said that his talks with the EU official were "in-depth and extensive," saying that they focused mainly on the situation in the Middle East. He said Solana had briefed him on the outcome of the recent EU summit, his tour in the region, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the situation in Iraq and Lebanon and also nuclear issues.
He lauded the role played by the EU in expressing its support for easing tensions in the region and its readiness to support countries in the region in their attempts to find peaceful solutions to all problems.
"I will not forget to commend the positive stance of the EU summit regarding the Makkah agreement between Fatah and Hamas," said Prince Saud. He continued: "We look forward to turning this stance into support and assistance to the coming Palestinian national unity government in order to enable it to shoulder its responsibilities for lifting the humanitarian sufferings of the Palestinian people and promoting peace in the region."
Prince Saud also said that the EU had been supportive in dealing with regional nuclear issues peacefully. He said he expected this role would continue to remain "away from the language of escalation and tension."
He went on to say that he hoped the EU would continue its role "to ensure the rights of countries to obtain nuclear energy for peaceful purposes according to the criteria of the International Atomic Energy Agency. For our part, we stress the importance of applying these criteria to all states in the region, including Israel."
The two leaders also discussed the international conference on Iraq held in Baghdad last Saturday. Solana said that peace in the Middle East was essential to promote world peace.
"We have an interest in the Middle East," he said. "It goes beyond strategic interests. For us the Middle East is also part of our neighborhood, and therefore the interests of peace and development in the region are in the interest of the European Union."
Solana lauded the Kingdom's stabilizing role in the region, describing it as "fundamental." Referring to Saudi efforts to bring peace, he said, "Every day we see initiatives; every day we see suggestions." He commended the Kingdom for its recent success in bringing the Palestinian groups together in Makkah, for King Abdullah's talks with the Iranian president and for the Saudi king's meeting with President Putin. He said that both he and Prince Saud agreed that the Lebanese issue "was close to their hearts."
He mentioned that he had been to Lebanon where he met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Saad Hariri, and members of the Lebanese Parliament. He said he would brief Prince Saud on his meeting with Syrian officials today.
Prince Saud said that threats of force in Lebanon would not produce results, calling upon all Lebanese parties to use reason and put the interests of their nation before anything else.
He denied an AFP report that the Kingdom was hosting a meeting of Lebanese groups next week. He said, however, that the groups were welcome to come to the Kingdom "if the meeting would result in restoring peace, prosperity and development to Lebanon."
Regarding the Kingdom's stance on the Iranian nuclear issue, Prince Saud stressed the importance of normalization with Iran without the country being pressured. He said it was important "that negotiations continue without the feeling of having a gun pointed at their heads. Negotiations in normal circumstances are difficult and negotiations in a confrontational situation are almost impossible."
Commenting on the EU free trade agreement with the GCC countries, Solana said discussions unfortunately were moving too slowly. He said he hoped an agreement would be reached before the end of this year. Concerning the Palestinians, Solana said the EU welcomed the formation of the Palestinian national unity government.
"We have never let the Palestinian people down," he said. "In 2005, we spent money and in 2006 we spent more," he said, referring to the EU's financial support for the Palestinian government. He said the EU was keen on seeing the "right people in the right places" in the new Palestinian government, saying that was also very important for the Palestinian people.
On the matter of Sudan, Solana said that President Bashir should accept the UN resolution to have multinational forces to restore peace in war-torn areas, adding that the EU would make financial contributions.
On the Arab peace plan which has not been accepted by Israel, Prince Saud said Resolution 242, the Madrid Conference and lastly this one had all been rejected by the Jewish state. "There were conditions by Israel in every one of those accords," he said. "You have to accept a proposal and then talk about it. To have pre-conditions before negotiations or discussions seems a ludicrous way of doing business."

Continued (Permanent Link)

US - We aren't stopping Israel-Syria negotiations

If the US is not preventing Israel-Syria negotiations, then who is? It is certainly worthwhile testing the truth of this public statement. As for the Arab peace initiative, since it includes the demand for right of return for refugees, and since Saudis made it clear that the initiative cannot be altered, it looks like a non-starter.

Last update - 09:30 14/03/2007   

U.S. ambassador: We won't stop Israel talking to Syria
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent

The United States is not preventing Israel from holding negotiations with Syria and the decision on whether to proceed on this matter is in the hands of the Israeli government, according to U.S. Ambassador Richard Jones speaking to a group of academics at the Davis Institute for International Affairs at the Hebrew University on Monday.
The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv refused to comment on the ambassador's statements, saying that the meeting was a closed forum. However, the deputy press attache at the embassy, Geoff Anisman, said Tuesday, "we are unaware that any U.S. official has ever expressed an opinion on what Israel should or should not do with regard to Syria."
Ambassador Jones, who participates in the meetings of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visits to Israel, told the crowd of academics that in all the meetings in which he took part there was never a demand that Israel avoid contacts with Syria.
Jones said he does not consider Syria a partner in the diplomatic process so long as it supports terrorist organizations and aids Hezbollah. He added that the Syrians have not done enough to lift doubts that they are interested in negotiations solely as a means of receiving international legitimacy.
"If the Syrians change the situation," the ambassador said, "the situation will also change."
During the meeting at the Davis Institute, Ambassador Jones also discussed the Arab peace initiative that is expected to be approved at the Arab League summit in Riyadh, scheduled to take place late this month.
According to the American diplomat this is an attempt to develop a regional link to the peace process, which presents Israel with a broad diplomatic horizon, and goes beyond a settlement with the Palestinians.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Back to basics: right of Israel to exist is at the bottom of it all

Haaretz has suddenly discovered the fundamental problem, which has really been obvious for years. The debate about Israeli policy was long ago converted into a debate about destroying Israel, barely hiding behind slogans such as "apartheid" and "separation wall."
Somehow, I doubt that anti-Israel activists will circulate this article as much as they circulate Ha'aretz articles about oppression of Palestinians and the op-eds of Yitzhak La'or and others published in Ha'aretz, who plainly believe that Israel does not have a right to exist.

Israel's existence is not a question
By Haaretz Editorial

"Defending Israel's right to exist will continue to stand at the center of German foreign policy," declared German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at the opening of the "Europe-Israel Dialogue" conference held during the weekend in Berlin, adding that she was sorry she had to repeat this over and over. Former foreign minister of Germany, Joschka Fischer, expressed his revulsion at the comments made by German bishops, who compared the Warsaw Ghetto to what is taking place in the occupied territories.
The erosion of Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state is particularly difficult for supporters of peace and democracy in Israel, who recognize its own dubious contribution to the attitude toward Israel.
All Israeli governments have missed - and continue to miss - opportunities to reconcile with neighboring states, have broadened settlement in the territories and have entrenched a destructive rule of occupation, oppressive and corrupting. Since 1967, under government auspices, a small and unruly group has assumed a belligerent monopoly on the Land of Israel and on Jewish identity. The liberal Zionism of Herzl was booted outside the fence and replaced by the messianic, separatist, anti-humanistic Judaism of muscle.
Through this dialogue the real reason for the establishment of the State of Israel, whose powerful expression echoes in the Declaration of Independence, was forgotten: the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people and its shaping into a member of equal rights and obligations in the family of modern nations. Instead, Israel has opted to make use of the Holocaust as the sole justification for its existence and has bequeathed generations of youth born in Israel a mix of blaming the entire world and hating the "gentiles." Israel is of course not to blame for everything. Its neighbors contributed more than once to the deepening of the conflict, and even now its leaders are dragging them toward an impasse.
The statements heard in Europe, stemming from the academia and extreme left there, are not legitimate criticisms of Israel's policies, but efforts to undermine, on principle, its right to exist as a Jewish state. Behind the simple question, "Does Israel have a right to exist" (as a Guardian editorial read three years ago), hides a definitive stance, which regards Israel as a passing colonial phenomenon and the Jewish people as an ethnic-religious group different from any other people and all other nation-states. However peripheral and radical this tendency may be, it has successfully influenced many people. A familiar stench, hundreds of years old, rises from it, even when it is framed in contemporary terminology.
It is good to witness enlightened liberals like Merkel and Fischer, and many others, rejecting this tendency completely. Israel's policies are worthy of severe condemnation; but its right to exist is absolute.

Continued (Permanent Link)

US Congressional Resolution on Salah Choudhoury

Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhury is the Bangladesh editor who is on trial for sedition because he opposes radical Islam.

US Congress passes resolution on Blitz editor
Special Correspondent

(to appear in the weekly Blitz)

US Congress on Tuesday (early hours of Wednesday in Bangladesh) has passed a resolution demanding immediate dropping of the false sedition case, which was brought against BNP-Jamaat Coalitions government. The resolution was introduced by Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and Democrat Nita Lowey.

The resolution states, "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury.

Whereas Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is a Bangladeshi journalist who, because of his beliefs in an interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims and criticism of Islamic extremism, is on trial for sedition, an offense punishable by death;

Whereas on November 29, 2003, Mr. Choudhury was arrested at Zia International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on his way to board a flight bound for Tel Aviv;

Mr. Choudhury's passport was seized, along with considerable sums of money and several personal items; on that same day police raided Mr. Choudhury's home and newspaper offices, seizing files, computers, and other valuables;

Whereas Mr. Choudhury was detained in Dhaka Central Jail for a passport violation, then subsequently charged with sedition; Mr. Choudhury suffered harsh interrogation techniques and received no treatment for a debilitating case of glaucoma; Mr. Choudhury's incarceration lasted 17 months without legal recourse;

Whereas on April 30, 2005, after intervention by the United States Department of State and congressional offices, Mr. Choudhury was released on bail;

Whereas in the subsequent months, senior members of the Bangladeshi Government made continuous public promises that there was no substance to Mr. Choudhury's pending charges and that all charges would be dropped;
Whereas on September 29, 2005, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the ''Freedom to Write Award'' by PEN USA;

Whereas on May 5, 2006, Mr. Choudhury was awarded the American Jewish Committee's Moral Courage Award in absentia in Washington, D.C.; two days prior to Mr. Choudhury receiving the award, after returning Mr. Choudhury's passport and appearing to allow him to attend, senior Bangladeshi Government officials issued threats to prevent him from leaving the country;

Whereas on July 6, 2006, Mr. Choudhury's newspaper offices were bombed by an Islamic extremist organization after Mr. Choudhury and his staff published articles in support of the Ahmadiyya Muslim minority; Mr. Choudhury received a tip about the bombing days before and reported it to police, who refused to take action;

Whereas on September 18, 2006, a judge with alleged ties to an Islamic extremist party ruled that Mr. Choudhury will stand trial for sedition; the judge made this ruling despite the Public Prosecutor's testimony in court days before that the government did not have evidence and
would not object to the charges being dropped;

Whereas on October 5, 2006, Mr. Choudhury was attacked at his newspaper offices by a large group of individuals, including prominent members of the ruling Bangladesh National Party; police protection for Mr. Choudhury was withdrawn just days before the attack; Mr. Choudhury
was called an ''agent of the Jews'' and beaten badly;

when Mr. Choudhury reported the attack to the police, no action was taken;
Whereas members of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom visited with Mr. Choudhury on their trip to Bangladesh in February and March 2006;
Whereas on October 6, 2006, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wrote a letter to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard A. Boucher calling on the United States Government to strengthen the ''voices of moderation'' in countries like Bangladesh where the rule of law, democratic institutions, and respect for human rights are under assault by violent extremists; the Commission identified Mr. Choudhury as one of those voices that should not be silenced;

Whereas, according to the Department of State's 2005 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Bangladesh, ''Attacks on journalists and newspapers, and government efforts to intimidate them, political party activists, and others, occurred frequently.''; and

Whereas moderate voices in the Muslim world must be supported and protected to advance the security of the United States and its allies: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that,
(1) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately drop all pending charges against
Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury;

(2) the Government of Bangladesh should immediately return all of Mr. Choudhury's  confiscated possessions; and

(3) the Government of Bangladesh should cease harassment and intimidation of Mr. Choudhury, take steps to protect Mr. Choudhury, and hold accountable those responsible for attacks against Mr. Choudhury.

In Tuesday's session, 409 members of the US Congress voted in favor of the resolution, while only one Congressman voted against. Now, with this historic number of votes in favor (the US Congress has total 330 members), the resolution turns into an approved bill not only in defense of Weekly Blitz editor Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, but in favor of freedom of press and expression in the world. The bill also courageously stands against religious extremism and supports those who confront religious hatred and confrontation.

The Heroes:
Republican Congressman Mark Steven Kirk and Democrat Nita Lowey introduced the resolution several weeks back.
Mark Kirk represents the 10th Congressional District of Illinois located in the suburbs north of Chicago.
Now in his fourth term, Congressman Kirk is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and serves on two of its subcommittees: State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, and Financial Services.

Congressman Kirk is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, the caucus of mainstream Republican Members of Congress.  In that capacity, Mr. Kirk works to advance a suburban agenda that is pro-defense, pro-personal responsibility, pro-environment, and pro-science.
Congressman Kirk wrote a number of provisions which became law, including funding for commuter rail, improving veteran's health care, ensuring military voting, and boosting aviation security. Congressional Quarterly named Congressman Kirk as one of the "28 Emerging Leaders in Congress."
Kirk began his career on the staff of his predecessor, Congressman John Porter. He later served in the World Bank, the State Department, the law firm of Baker & McKenzie, and the U.S. House International Relations Committee.

Congressman Kirk is a Naval Reserve intelligence officer who served during conflicts with Iraq, Haiti, and Bosnia. He served four tours at sea and three in Panama. The U.S. Navy named Kirk 'Intelligence Officer of the Year' in 1999 for his combat service in Kosovo. Kirk flew on missions over Iraq and continues to serve one weekend a month in the Pentagon. Kirk is the only member of Congress to serve stateside during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was an air crewman over Iraq during Operation Northern Watch.

Representative Kirk graduated from New Trier High School and attended the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico before earning a B.A. from Cornell. He holds a Masters Degree from the London School of Economics and a law degree from Georgetown.
Congressman Kirk and his wife, Kimberly, live in Highland Park, Illinois.

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey is currently serving her ninth term in Congress, representing parts of Westchester and Rockland counties. She was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988 and has served in the Democratic Leadership in 2001 and 2002 as the first woman and the first New Yorker to chair the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Lowey has been described as "courageous" by The New York Times, "terrific" by Newsday, and one of "New York's key Members of Congress" by the New York Daily News. The Journal News called Lowey "one of the most influential Members of Congress."
A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee and the Ranking Democrat on the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Subcommittee, Lowey is as an extremely effective, committed legislator with a substantial record. Congressional Quarterly called her one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress, saying she "maneuvers skillfully through the appropriations process," and Newsday said she "delivers for New York."

Few members of Congress have taken key leadership roles on so many vital public policy issues. Lowey is a leading Congressional proponent of educational opportunity, health care quality and biomedical research, improved homeland security preparedness, stricter gun control and public safety laws, environmental protection, women's issues, a leading international role for the United States, and national security.

In 2003, she was chosen by her colleagues to serve on the Committee on Homeland Security. An outspoken supporter of federalizing air and nuclear security and increasing port and rail security, Lowey was recognized by the New York Post as "a key general in the battle to rebuild New York" for her leadership in securing over $20 billion for recovery efforts after September 11, 2001. Her efforts to distribute homeland security grants based on risk have been endorsed by The New York Times. Lowey has also helped obtained over $30 million in federal funds to develop local bioterrorism response plans and to provide local first responders with interoperable communication devices, rescue equipment, and personal protective gear.

On the Appropriations Committee, Lowey has also worked to ensure that national security and the war on terrorism are priorities in our foreign aid policy. She has championed efforts to identify and shut down terrorists' financial networks and is a co-chair of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Financing Task Force.

Lowey is a strong advocate for women, children, and families. She has been a champion of education since her election to the House, fighting for
school modernization, teacher development, and literacy programs. Under Lowey's leadership, federal funding for after-school programs has increased from $1 million in 1996 to $1 billion today.

When GOP leaders threatened to eliminate the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the mid 1990s, Lowey "invited" puppets Bert and Ernie to a Congressional hearing. The resulting worldwide publicity is largely credited with saving the agency. In 2005, Republican leaders again targeted PBS for severe budget cuts. Bert and Ernie joined Lowey in the House of Representatives once more as she successfully restored funding to the program. Lowey has been equally stalwart in her defense of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and has served on the prestigious National Council for the Arts in recognition of her leadership.

Lowey is one of the Appropriations Committee's leading advocates of increased federal investments in biomedical research on diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer's at the National Institutes of Health. Called a "champion of increased funding for breast cancer research" by the Washington Post, Lowey has helped increase NIH's budget for cancer research by more than ten times and received multiple honors from the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

After hearing from constituents about the difficulty food-allergic consumers have reading product labels, Lowey authored the first-ever bill mandating clear, concise food allergen labeling. Her legislation was passed in 2004, and food manufacturers must now list in plain language on food labels the eight most common food allergens. The New York Times called this bill "an all too rare example … of bipartisan cooperation to serve the public good."

As public health experts warn that our nation is woefully unprepared for a possible avian flu pandemic, Congresswoman Lowey is pressing for action. Recognized as "an early advocate for pandemic preparedness" by the New York Daily News, she is the author of numerous bills to create a comprehensive pandemic plan.

Lowey has also fought to improve health care by authoring a bill to ensure that women in managed care plans have direct access to their ob-gyns and is a strong supporter of legislation to guarantee that doctors and patients -- not insurance companies -- make decisions about appropriate care.

A strong public safety advocate, Lowey supported the Brady Law and the Assault Weapons Ban, and is now working to ban the sale of handguns like the "Saturday Night Special." Lowey was named Mothers Against Drunk Driving's (MADD) "Legislator of the Year" for her leadership in authoring the nation's "Zero Tolerance" law, which made it illegal for minors to drive after consuming any alcohol, and the national DWI standard of .08 BAC. She is the author of legislation to prevent repeat drunk driving offenses.
As a candidate for Congress in 1988, Lowey pledged to clean up the Long Island Sound. In 1990 she passed legislation establishing a special Environmental Protection Agency office for Long Island Sound. She has obtained millions of dollars in federal funding for local clean-up efforts and has written legislation to improve the area's wastewater treatment infrastructure. A co-founder of the Hudson River Caucus, Lowey has taken a key role in protecting the Hudson River, Long Island Sound and New York City watershed and in preserving strong environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act.

Lowey, former Chair of the Congressional Women's Caucus and the House Pro-Choice Caucus, has been called "the most prominent abortion rights advocate in Congress" by The Washington Post. She won widespread praise for passage of her legislation to ensure that insurance companies cover prescription contraceptives for federal employees. Lowey established the Congressional Advisory Panel to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy to encourage abstinence and responsibility among teens. She has also been a leader in the fight against domestic violence, securing record increases in federal funding for battered women's shelters.

Called "one of the engines of pro-Israel activity on Capitol Hill" by the Forward, Lowey has been a leading Congressional proponent of a strong U.S.-Israel relationship and the Appropriations Committee's chief advocate of the annual U.S. aid package to Israel.
A longtime champion of human rights and enhancing the role of women in development, Lowey has taken a key role in fighting for democracy and justice in Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Indonesia, and around the world. She has been praised by the Boston Globe as someone who, "speaks of the world's victimized women and children as if they were voters in her district."

Lowey was born in the Bronx; graduated from the Bronx High School of Science; and received a Bachelor's Degree from Mount Holyoke College. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for the State of New York before being elected to Congress. Nita and Stephen Lowey have been married for over 45 years and have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
About 'Mr. No':

Our Contributor Rabbi Sue Levy informs that the esteemed Congressman Ron Paul, who represents the 14th District of Texas, voted 'no' to the Resolution. In his website, the slogan is: 'Project Freedom'.
In the website, it is written: "Congressman Ron Paul of Texas enjoys a national reputation as the premier advocate for liberty in politics today. Dr. Paul is the leading spokesman in Washington for limited constitutional government, low taxes, free markets, and a return to sound monetary policies based on commodity-backed currency. He is known among both his colleagues in Congress and his constituents for his consistent voting record in the House of Representatives: Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Dr. Paul is the "one exception to the Gang of 535" on Capitol Hill
Ron Paul was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Gettysburg College and the Duke University School of Medicine, before proudly serving as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force during the 1960s. He and his wife Carol moved to Texas in 1968, where he began his medical practice in Brazoria County. As a specialist in obstetrics/gynecology, Dr. Paul has delivered more than 4,000 babies! He and Carol, who reside in Lake Jackson, Texas, are the proud parents of five children and have seventeen grandchildren.

While serving in Congress during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dr. Paul's limited-government ideals were not popular in Washington. He served on the House Banking committee, where he was a strong advocate for sound monetary policy and an outspoken critic of the Federal Reserve's inflationary measures. He also was a key member of the Gold Commission, advocating a return to a gold standard for our currency. He was an unwavering advocate of pro-life and pro-family values. Dr. Paul consistently voted to lower or abolish federal taxes, spending, and regulation, and used his House seat to actively promote the return of government to its proper constitutional levels. In 1984, he voluntarily relinquished his House seat and returned to his medical practice.

Dr. Paul returned to Congress in 1997 to represent the 14th Congressional district of Texas. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, the International Relations committee, and the Joint Economic Committee. On the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Paul serves as the vice-chairman of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee. He continues to advocate a dramatic reduction in the size of the federal government and a return to constitutional principles.
Dr. Paul is the author of several books, including Challenge to Liberty; The Case for Gold; and A Republic, If You Can Keep It. He has been a distinguished counselor to the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and is widely quoted by scholars and writers in the fields of monetary policy, banking, and political economy. He has received many awards and honors during his career in Congress, from organizations such as the National Taxpayers Union, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Council for a Competitive Economy, Young Americans for Freedom, and countless others.
Dr. Paul's consistent voting record prompted one Congressman to comment that "Ron Paul personifies the Founding Fathers' ideal of the citizen-statesman. He makes it clear that his principles will never be compromised, and they never are." Another Congresswoman added that "There are few people in public life who, through thick and thin, rain or shine, stick to their principles. Ron Paul is one of those few.""

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not Apartheid: A Jerusalem story

There are hundreds of stories like this, that make the "apartheid Israel" campaign a sick joke.

A Jerusalem story

Benjamin Pogrund

February 26, 2007 6:30 PM

My wife, Anne, slipped and fell on Saturday evening. The little finger of her right hand was knocked out of joint and she quickly pushed it back into place. It was painful so I drove her to the Terem emergency clinic in the centre of Jerusalem.

She was swiftly attended to - the Sabbath was only just ending and religious Jewish patients from the neighbourhood were starting to come in. The doctors, nurses and receptionists were helpful, pleasant and efficient.

She was X-rayed and bandaged and the doctor who examined her told me that if I ever needed orthopaedic treatment I should go to my wife as she had done exactly what must be done with a dislocated finger.

Why I am telling this little domestic story?

Well, the doctors, nurses and receptionists were a mixture of Jews and Arabs. They worked together, they laughed together, they were kind to all the patients. And the patients, too, were a mixture of Jews and Arabs, men, women and children.

It confirmed my own personal experience of nearly four years ago when I spent more than a month at Hadassah Mount Scopus hospital in Jerusalem. It was exactly the same there.

Anyone who talks about Israel being an apartheid state must come and look at humanity in practice in hospitals and clinics. It's inconceivable to think of anything remotely like this having been allowed in apartheid South Africa.

The point is so elementary and so obvious to anyone who lived under apartheid. Yet it has to be made time and again because some people are so blinded in their hatred of Israel that they persist in the wrong use of the apartheid accusation.

There is a tragic irony about Terem: on the wall in the reception area is a large colour photograph of Dr David Appelbaum. He was a founder of the chain of Terem clinics in the city and was a much-admired and loved doctor. He was a specialist in emergency medicine and often rushed to the scene of terror attacks to succour the victims.

On 9 September 2003 Dr Appelbaum, aged 51, was himself a victim: he was murdered in a suicide bombing at a Jerusalem coffee bar. His daughter, Nava, aged 20, died with him. She was due to get married the next day. Five others also died.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Prince Saud Al-Faisal: No changes can be made in Arab Peace Plan

This is the punch line:
Concluding the conference, Prince Saud Al-Faisal rejected proposals by Israel that some changes should be drawn on the Arab peace initiative during the Arab summit in Riyadh, saying that Israel initially accepted the plan, but started to speak about conditioned agreement while the Arabs don't have conditions. We don't have a plan to negotiate a conditioned matter, he concluded.
"Take it or leave it." Since the plan would bring about the end of the Jewish state by flooding it with Palestinian refugees, it is not a peace plan. If it is not negotiable, then I guess we have to leave it. When did Israel "initially" accept the plan?
If that is the last word, then the "peace plan" hasn't a hope, and it is not a peace plan.

Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Javier Solana hold press conference

Riyadh, Mar. 13, SPA (Saudi Press Agency) -- Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, held here today a joint press conference.

Commencing the conference, Prince Saud welcomed Javier Solana and the accompanying delegation, and said "we held together today a consultation session where we discussed the developments in the Middle East. Javier Solana briefed us on the outcome of the recent EU summit meeting and his tour of the region during which he discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in addition to developments in Iraq and Lebanon as well as the nuclear issue."

Prince Saud also said "I would like to laud the positive attitude of the European Union to express their support for the issues of the region, their efforts to contain the region's crisis and their readiness to support the countries of the region to find peaceful solutions to these problems and achieve security and stability".

"I would like to commend the positive position of EU Summit towards Makkah agreement between Fatah and Hamas Movements and we look forward to translate this position to support and assist the expected Palestinian National Unity Government," Prince Saud added.

Prince Saud hoped that the upcoming ministerial meeting of the international quartet committee would result in practical steps towards reviving the peace process in the region that would respond to the positive developments on the Palestinian arena, pointing out that if there is a tendency to impose conditions in the peace process, it is assumed that these conditions will be balanced between the two conflicting parties taking into account the Israeli arbitrary actions and attitudes towards the peace process.


On the Palestinian unity government, Solana said Europe would never upset the Palestinian people. We have provided money for them in 2005 and 2006 and will continue to pour much in 2007, he added. No government has been formed yet, but we would like to see the right person in the right place, he said, adding that we would like to see a government dedicated to the interest of the Palestinian people.

Concluding the conference, Prince Saud Al-Faisal rejected proposals by Israel that some changes should be drawn on the Arab peace initiative during the Arab summit in Riyadh, saying that Israel initially accepted the plan, but started to speak about conditioned agreement while the Arabs don't have conditions. We don't have a plan to negotiate a conditioned matter, he concluded.


Continued (Permanent Link)

UINESCO - Israel didn't harm al Aqsa mosque - Temple Mount

UNESCO has found that Israel did not damage the temple mount or the al-Aqsa mosque:
In the report, which was obtained by Ynet news, UNESCO experts laud Israel for the transparency with which the works were being carried out, and note that the excavations conducted near the Temple Mount compound do not jeopardize its stability.
Why hasn't UNESCO released the report? Why aren't we seeing this trumpeted in all major media, and especially in the Arab world?
The report also states:
However, the UN organization recommends that the excavations at the place be suspended in order to allow for international monitors to arrive in Jerusalem and supervise the project.
Nevertheless, the organization criticizes Israel for failing to involve other institutes in the project, probably referring to the UN's World Heritage Committee and Muslim bodies, such as the Waqf.
It is interesting that the Waqf has been destroying the foundations of the Temple Mount for years, and trashing priceless acheological materials, but UNESCO does not call for a halt to that work.

UNESCO report clears Israel of damage to historic site
Malaysia Sun
Tuesday 13th March, 2007 
Israeli works near the Temple Mount did not cause damage to the historic site, a UNESCO report set to be published Wednesday states.
However, the UN organization recommends that the excavations at the place be suspended in order to allow for international monitors to arrive in Jerusalem and supervise the project.
In the report, which was obtained by Ynet news, UNESCO experts laud Israel for the transparency with which the works were being carried out, and note that the excavations conducted near the Temple Mount compound do not jeopardize its stability.
According to the report, the works near the Mugrabi Gate have been properly documented and supervised, in compliance with international professional standards.
Nevertheless, the organization criticizes Israel for failing to involve other institutes in the project, probably referring to the UN's World Heritage Committee and Muslim bodies, such as the Waqf.
The report calls for the establishment of a committee to examine the works in Jerusalem. Israel may protest this recommendation, seeing that the mandate given to the committee was only to inspect works on the ground, and not issue recommendations.
Sources in the Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed their satisfaction over the report findings, but not over its conclusions.
"The findings confirm Israel's claims that the works were carried out professionally and that nothing harmed the Temple Mount. However, the conclusions calling for an immediate halt of the works are inappropriate," a source said, adding that he was not certain the organization was authorized to issue such recommendations.
In an attempt to deal with the international protests, Israel built a website enabling people to watch the works "in real time." Simultaneously, diplomatic efforts were launched in order to explain Israel's stance.
The protests began with demonstrations by Islamic elements in Israel, headed by the Islamic Movement's northern branch. The protest spread and demonstrations were held across the world.
The UNESCO delegation arrived in the area about two weeks ago. The special team was formed following the riots sparked by the construction works near the Mount. The team was headed by Francesco Bandarin, director of the World Heritage Center, along with three other experts.
The team members toured the excavation site and met with Jerusalem's city engineer, members of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem Municipality officials and Waqf officials.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Standing firm on Hamas

This report contradicts some alarmist reports that claimed that the Olmert government was about to "cave in" to demands for legitimation of Hamas.

Last update - 07:46 13/03/2007   

Israel warns EU concessions on Hamas will lead to 'more terror'
By Reuters

OTTAWA - Israel cautioned the European Union on Monday against going soft on a Palestinian government including the Islamist group Hamas, saying this could lead to "more terror."
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, on a visit to Canada, made the remarks to reporters three days after EU leaders welcomed an agreement in Mecca last month between Hamas and the moderate Fatah to form a unity government.
"If somebody thinks that Hamas, while not recognizing Israel, while using terror not in order to create a Palestinian state but to demolish the Jewish one ... can be partners to something, they are wrong," she said.
"In a way this can lead to more stagnation at least, or to more terror."
The EU leaders said after a meeting in Brussels that they were ready to work with a Palestinian government that adopted a platform reflecting principles laid down by the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations.
The Quartet has called for a future government to accept Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and recognize past peace accords.
Livni urged the EU, which with the United States had suspended direct aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas beat Fatah in elections last year, to insist on the Quartet's conditions rather than giving in.
"Hamas are looking at Europe, and they want to see this kind of hesitation. When they sense this smell of hesitation, why should they change in the future?" she asked.
Livni also urged the UN Security Council to apply more sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, rather than appease what she called "the bully of the neighborhood."
"If the international community will not do it, I believe we'll see a kind of domino effect, in which some other states ... will try to achieve their own nuclear weapon," she said.
Livni met Canadian Public Security Minister Stockwell Day on Monday and planned to meet Foreign Minister Peter MacKay on Tuesday. Canada vocally supported Israel's right to defend itself during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon last year.
She also addressed American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington, D.C. Monday, where she warned the the U.S. not to show weakness in Iraq.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Watering down of Iran sanctions proposal continues

Chinese and Russian opposition will apparently guarantee that the new set of sanctions are about as worthless as the last set. Arms imports will not be banned for example. Perhaps they can consider a ban on exports of sexy photos of Ahmadinejad and other such trivia. How about a ban on travel to attend Holocaust Denial conferences?

Last update - 08:24 13/03/2007   

Major powers move closer to new package of Iran sanctions
By The Associated Press
The major powers moved closer to agreement Monday night on a modest
package of new sanctions against Iran likely to include an embargo on Iranian arms exports and an asset freeze on more individuals and companies associated with Tehran's nuclear and missile programs.
A new sanctions resolution is also likely to include a ban on government loans to Iran, council diplomats said. But a travel ban is out, and there will likely be no ban on arms imports or on export credit guarantees for companies doing business in Iran.
Ambassadors from the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council nations - the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France - and Germany emerged from a closed-door meeting far more optimistic than ever before but also cautious because of potential problems with every proposal in the package.
"This is the best meeting we have had since the beginning of these negotiations," said France's UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere. "We are now very close, and we have made today (much) progress."
Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said ambassadors would report to their capitals on the possible elements for a new resolution and wait to see if they're approved or if changes are needed.
"There are still some concerns, and some delegations have not given full agreement. But we have, I think, made overall good progress, he said. It's a package approach, and so there are things that we're very pleased about, and things that we're less pleased about - and likewise for probably every delegation involved."
The Security Council is meeting on Somalia on Tuesday and the permanent members are expected to report afterwards on their progress in putting together an Iran resolution.
"If everything goes well, our hope would be to get it done by the end of the week - a vote," Wolff said.
But he cautioned that there is still no draft resolution and it must be discussed with the 10 nonpermanent council members.
In December, the Security Council voted unanimously to impose limited sanctions against Iran for its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. It ordered all countries to stop supplying Iran with materials and technology that could contribute to its nuclear and missile programs and to freeze assets of 10 key Iranian companies and 12 individuals related to those programs.
The council warned it would adopt further nonmilitary sanctions if Iran refused to comply.
As a result of Iran's expansion of its enrichment program in defiance of the council, the three European countries that have led negotiations trying to rein in Iran's nuclear program and the other permanent council nations have been considering possible new sanctions. They include a travel ban, an arms embargo, trade restrictions, and an expanded list of people and companies subject to an asset freeze.
The United States and the Europeans favored all the measures but Russia and China, which have close commercial ties with Iran, are reluctant to impose tough new sanctions.
China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said the six countries agreed to impose an embargo on arms exports from Iran - but not on imports. The six are still debating whether to ask the 191 other UN members states to exercise vigilance or restraint in selling seven categories of heavy weapons to Iran.
There also appears to be agreement on expanding the list of individuals and entities subject to an asset freeze. Li Junhua, a senior diplomat in China's UN mission, said a much bigger list of individuals and entities was now being studied by the six governments in their capitals.
Wolff said one of the trickiest issues that we're still discussing is a proposal to freeze the assets of companies controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, an elite corps that oversees vital Iranian interests, including oil and natural gas installations and the nation's missile arsenal.
Russia has raised concerns that mentioning the Revolutionary Guards would amount to censuring the entire institution.
Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin cautioned about possible problems saying the devil is in the details. To win unanimous council approval of the December resolution, a mandatory travel ban was dropped.
The resolution that was adopted calls on all states to exercise vigilance regarding the entry or transit through their territory of the Iranians on the UN list. It asks UN member states to notify the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions when those Iranians show
up in their country.
Li said the new resolution would generally follow that language, calling on countries to exercise vigilance and restraint.
As in the December resolution, the diplomats said the new resolution is expected to ask UN nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report to the council on Iran's compliance in 60 days.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Divestment from Iran

Two can play at the divestment game. The questions are, whether a campaign of divestment from Iran can really succeed, and what the result might be. If Iran is less dependent on the west, will it be more or less responsive to pressure? Are we punishing Iranian people rather than the Iranian government? If we raise these issues regarding "Divestment from Israel" campaigns, aren't they equally relevant for divestment from Iran?

Last update - 12:08 13/03/2007   

U.S. campaign calls for major divestment from Iran
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent

WASHINGTON - The effort to apply economic pressure on the regime in Tehran through divestment has intensified in the United States. The pressure, which involves divestment on the part of international firms, is being carried out in parallel with continuous efforts at the United Nations Security Council to impose a second round of sanctions against Iran in response to its failure to abide by the world body's call to end uranium enrichment.
Various Israeli sources and the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are also contributing to the efforts, particularly through specific legislation in various American states where pension funds hold stock in firms invested in Iran.
The economic sanctions against Iran are being pursued on a number of fronts simultaneously. On the international front, this effort is focused on the United Nations Security Council.
On the American domestic scene, several bills have recently been put before Congress. These bills would restrict U.S. cooperation with states and companies doing business with Iran.
Legislative proposals have also been put forth that would order pension funds to divest from firms with commercial links with Iran.
At the same time, the U.S. administration is working, mostly through the Treasury, on convincing banks throughout the world to make the transfer of funds related to Iran more difficult.
A senior U.S. Treasury official, Stuart Levey, has recently returned to Washington from a visit to the Middle East, which included a visit to Israel. His team has revealed that in coming months banks and credit companies may decide to freeze their ties with Iran after having been presented with data on the types of activities supported by the Iranian financial transactions.
The front on which there is a flurry of activity is the various American states and their local legislatures. In Ohio, for example, a bill was put forth last week, which would require the state to withdraw its investments from any company doing business with Iran. Similar bills are being prepared or are already in the legislative process in the local governments of many other states.
The two Ohio legislators behind the divestment bill, Josh Mandel and Shannon Jones, say billions of dollars in state residents' pension funds are invested in firms trading with countries supporting terrorism, including Iran.
The Ohio civil servants fund holds investments in 102 firms with commercial ties to Iran. The pension funds of Ohio school teachers has invested in 48 firms trading with Iran. The two Ohio state representatives would like for these investments to come to an end.
At an AIPAC conference held Monday in Washington, Executive Director Howard Core announced that the pro-Israel lobby will begin working with specific states in order to explore different ways of chocking investments necessary for Iran to develop nuclear weapons.
Official Israeli figures have briefed legislators in a number of states on this issue and the head of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu, is visiting Washington in an effort to convince the governors of various states to rally behind the economic boycott effort.
According to estimates, some 300 large international corporations are participating in serious investments in Iran. Experts say that focusing boycott efforts on them may cause serious economic difficulties to the regime in Tehran.
Dr. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who worked on Levey's team at the Treasury, said Sunday that, "If the effort is focused on several dozen corporations, it will be sufficient," because this is the number of firms invested in Iranian petroleum, the critical area of that country's economy.
At the AIPAC conference, Levitt said that taking into consideration the limited diplomatic pressure that can be brought to bear on Iran, as well as the dangers and complexities of a potential military operation, the economic efforts of the administration are now the most efficient tool.
New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr., whose responsibilities also include the city's pension plans worth several hundred million dollars, described his efforts to pinpoint corporations with investments in Iran, so city pension funds can divest from them.
Speaking at the AIPAC conference, he said the assumption is that many of these firms will prefer to cut their ties with Iran in order to preserve the investments of American institutions.
In recent months, Netanyahu has held talks with some of the presidential candidates in the U.S., including Republican Rudi Giuliani and John McCain, in order to rally their support for the divestment efforts.
On Monday, Netanyahu met with Democratic candidate Barack Obama to discuss this issue.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel-Crossroads of History: 'Incense Route' in Negev declared a world heritage si

History is one of the biggest natural resources of Israel. Israel is a tiny country which is mostly important because of its historical significance for world culture. That is the number 1 source of our problems as well a potential source of strength. We should learn how to use it, rather than letting it be our nemesis.

Last update - 06:59 13/03/2007   

Biblical 'Incense Route' in Negev declared a world heritage site
By Irit Rosenblum, Haaretz Correspondent
The ancient Incense Route in the Negev Desert was declared a world heritage site on Monday.
Several other ceremonies are to be held this week to mark the event, which could mean a substantial increase in tourism for sites along the old route.
The main ceremony took place on Monday in Avdat, and was attended by Environment Minister Gideon Ezra as well as director-general of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INPPA) Eli Amitai.
Three other places along the route, Tel Megiddo, Tel Hatzor and Tel Be'er Sheva, are to be declared world heritage sites this Thursday.
Other world heritage sites around the world have seen a tremendous increase in tourism after they had been declared as such, and the various authorities involved in the project hope the Incense Route will be no exception.
The declaration adding the Incense Road to 830 other world heritage sites around the globe was made possible through years of preparatory work by the INPPA and the Negev and Galilee development authorities. These efforts finally bore fruit this week with the final seal of approval by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
One of the most impressive stretches along the Incense Route is the 65-kilometer segment connecting the ancient settlement of Moa (near Tzofar in the Arava Desert) with the ancient Nabatean city of Avdat.
The road is mentioned in the Bible, stating that the "Queen of the South" traveled on the "Gold and Incense Road" to meet King Solomon in Jerusalem. It is also mentioned in the Koran.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Voice of Reason from Iran?

A surprising and positive development. We may surmise that if Khatami said this, he is not alone in his thinking, and represents the thinking of powers that be in Iran.

Khatami urges Iran to compromise on nuclear plan
Agence France-Presse - 13 March, 2007

Iran's former president Mohammad Khatami made a rare intervention to urge his hardline successor to compromise and prevent a crisis with world powers over its nuclear programme, media reported Monday.

Khatami, reformist president from 1997 to 2005, told President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to make concessions over Iran's controversial atomic drive and avoid a second UN Security Council sanctions resolution.

"I believe we should pay a certain price, and pay it bravely, for talks and not head towards crisis as well as guaranteeing our rights in future," Khatami told the economic daily Sanaat va Tose'e (Industry and Development) in an interview.

"We must try to prevent the adoption of another resolution."

Khatami gave no indication of what the "price" might involve. The United States has repeatedly said negotiations with Iran are only possible if it first suspends sensitive nuclear work, which it has so far steadfastly refused to do.

Although Khatami did not mention the president or the government by name, his comments will be seen as a clear warning to Ahmadinejad, who has already been criticised in parliament and the press for his confrontational policies.

The government has repeatedly refused to give into the key demand that it suspend uranium enrichment, a process that the West fears could be diverted to make nuclear weapons.

The UN Security Council in December punished Iran's defiance by imposing its first ever sanctions against Tehran and is currently discussing a draft resolution that would step up the measures.

Khatami urged Iran to avoid provocations and act with prudence, in marked contrast to Ahmadinejad who has repeatedly vowed in the most graphic language that the nuclear programme will go on.

"We can prevent a crisis with discretion and courage. In nuclear and regional issues, especially Iraq, we should act with prudence and not provoke," said Khatami.

Ahmadinejad has already stood accused in the press of using overly provocative language, especially when he compared Iran's nuclear programme to a train without either "reverse gear or brakes".

"We have to be alert and apprehensive ... the crisis is very damaging to Iran and it hurts the United States and the region too," said Khatami in the interview, which was picked up on the front page of the reformist Ayandeh-No (New Future).

Since handing over the presidency to Ahmadinejad, Khatami has until now generally stayed out of day-to-day politics, devoting his time to working as head of a centre for dialogue between civilisations, one of the central planks of his own term of office.

He has rarely made remarks that could be interpreted as critical of the government although he raised eyebrows at home and abroad by staging high-profile visits to Britain and even Iran's arch enemy the United States.

The former president vehemently denied that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons but -- in contrast to the government -- appeared to express understanding for the West's concerns over its nuclear programme.

"Of course we don't want to make nuclear weapons but some people are concerned about proliferation of nuclear weapons. This is an important concern and we agreed to alleviate these concerns."

Khatami's intervention came amid renewed criticism in the press of Ahmadinejad, this time over his plan to attend the UN Security Council's deliberations over Iran's nuclear programme in person.

"When the president has said hundreds of Security Council resolutions are worthless to us, why are we breaking this stance?" asked the conservative daily Tehran Emrouz (Tehran Today).

"The government's behaviour in diplomacy needs a serious revision," it added.

The pro-Khatami daily Aftab-e Yazd (Sun of Yazd, the former president's hometown) said its only advice for Ahmadinejad, should he go, was that the text of his speech be prepared by experts and that "he refrain from making any comments outside the points approved by the experts".

Continued (Permanent Link)

A bit of hope in Gaza

The cease fire is helping the Palestinian economy, and that has to be good for peace. I think.

IDF: 20,000 jobs created in Gaza
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 13, 2007

Close to 20,000 jobs have been created in the Gaza Strip over the last four months thanks to coordination between the IDF and Palestinian agricultural unions, according to Col. Nir Press, commander of the IDF Coordination and Liaison Administration.

A drop in terror threats to the Karni Crossing made the changes possible, said Press. Nevertheless, unemployment in the Strip remains close to 35 percent, he said.

Out of the 19,100 Gazans who found jobs in the past four months, 10,500 were in agriculture, he said. The increase was spurred by an IDF decision to allow Palestinians to work fields in the northern Strip, particularly in the Beit Lahiya area, that had been off limits since they are used to fire Kassam rockets.

While Israel does not talk with officials from the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government, Press said, he has held a series of meetings with farmers and union leaders, and coordinated the transfer of raw materials into Gaza and the export of agricultural produce to Israel and on to Europe.

Some 1,300 tons of strawberries and 18 million flowers passed through the Karni Crossing over the last four months on the way to Europe, almost twice the amount from last year. Since December, more than 14,000 tons of vegetables have been sent from Gaza for sale in Israel.

The increase, Press told The Jerusalem Post on Monday, was due to both improved coordination and a Palestinian effort to deter terrorists from planning attacks against Karni. Last year, Karni was closed for nearly 100 days due to intelligence warnings regarding planned attacks. Last summer, a vast tunnel - intended to be filled with explosives - was discovered being dug under the crossing.

"There is a combination of a number of elements," Press said from his office at the Erez Crossing just outside the Strip. "Most important is that there is a better understanding that terror has a negative impact on economic growth in Gaza."

The 19,100 new jobs, Press said, should not be taken lightly. "Each worker feeds about eight other people," he said. "And by finding them jobs, we are keeping them out of mosques where they would hear incitement against Israel."

Gazans plan to enlarge the size of the fields they cultivate in the area from 1,800 dunams now to 2,500 dunams next year. Press said his office had received reports of farmers clashing with terrorists trying to fire Kassam rockets from their fields.

Asked about IDF plans to carry out a large-scale operation in an effort to stop the Kassam rocket fire and to destroy Hamas's terrorist infrastructure, Press said: "It is all about the balance between military and civilian issues pertaining to the people of Gaza. This is the job of the [Coordination and Liaison] Administration - to do what we can to help the Palestinian people while at the same time taking into consideration the security of the State of Israel."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hagee at AIPAC: Is AIPAC veering to the right??

John Hagee will apear at AIPAC. Well OK, he is entitled to his opinion. Perhaps George Soros should be there too. What is more worrying than the appearance of Hagee, who is just one speaker, is the general background given here:
Pro-peace groups say they will not press AIPAC to soften its language about the Palestinians, as they have done in the past. Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), will come to the executive committee meeting loaded with amendments aimed at toughening them....

Kahn said AIPAC has also strengthened itself by aggressively "pushing the Orthodox community to engage. You have more and more Orthodox rabbis who are touting AIPAC and touting joining AIPAC. AIPAC understands that if you get the rabbis on board, they in turn will press the community to get involved."

That "dramatic shift," he said, may make AIPAC "less representative, but it also strengthens the group as voices on Mideast policy become more diverse.

I can't see how the group becomes "more diverse" if it is going to be run by orthodox Jews and John Hagee.

Hardline Pastor Gets Prime AIPAC Spot
Rev. John Hagee's appearance drawing criticism on eve of policy conference.
James D. Besser - Washington Correspondent

Growing ties between pro-Israel forces and a controversial, hardline "Christian Zionist" movement will move into the national spotlight at next week's policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobby.

One keynoter at the event, which annually draws hundreds of lawmakers, administration officials, diplomats and political hopefuls, will be Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), author of several books about biblical prophecy and an opponent of new territorial concessions to the Palestinians on biblical grounds.

Rev. Hagee, who will speak at a Sunday plenary, was also a leading backer of a controversial Christian broadcast venture in Israel that critics charge sought to convert Jews.

And a time when pro-Israel forces are being accused of beating the drums for war with Iran, Rev. Hagee seems to believe such a conflict is both inevitable and necessary. In his apocalypse-oriented book "Jerusalem Countdown," he predicted a nuclear showdown with Iran and said, "The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching ... rejoice and be exceedingly glad, the best is yet to be," according to a Wall Street Journal report posted on the CUFI Web site.

Last year, Rev. Hagee told the Jerusalem Post that "I would hope the United States would join Israel in a military pre-emptive strike to take out the nuclear capability of Iran for the salvation of Western civilization."

Israeli historian Michael Oren will also speak at Sunday's plenary.

Giving Rev. Hagee such prominence at the premier pro-Israel gathering of the year — he attended last year's conference — troubles some AIPAC supporters.

Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth El in San Antonio—the home of the John Hagee Ministries and to his 18,000-member Cornerstone Church—said he hopes the minister's presence will be balanced by "Christians who support Israel but who do not share the 'end of days' theology and extremist anti-Palestinian positions and anti-Muslim prejudice so often spewed by Pastor Hagee."

Rabbi Block, who said he is an "AIPAC supporter" and participates in local activities of the lobby, added that "there are those I love and respect in my community who believe we should work with Pastor Hagee on the important concern we share—the welfare of the state of Israel. However, despite what may be good intentions, I don't think Pastor Hagee's activism is good for Israel."

Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, cofounder of a We site that opposes Christian right church-state policies, said that Hagee's AIPAC appearance will mark a "decisive point when the costs of a relationship with Hagee couldn't be clearer. AIPAC has to know that Hagee's push for an attack on Iran is not based on a logically constructed policy but on cherry-picked biblical verses. And it is only the first step to the end-times scenario that Hagee enthusiastically predicts will engulf Israel in a devastating war."

A former AIPAC official said giving Rev. Hagee a key speaking slot represents one more step toward an AIPAC embrace of the Evangelicals that began more than two decades ago, and warned that it has political risks.

"This sends out a message of an endorsement by AIPAC at a time when these Christian groups seem to be losing power in Congress—and when the Democrats, who have long opposed this cozying up to the religious right, are now in power," this activist said.

But many pro-Israel leaders believe Rev. Hagee and other Christian Zionists, representing a growing political force, are a critical addition to the pro-Israel coalition — especially as "mainline" Protestant churches continue to castigate Israel for its West Bank policies.

But Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a strong critic of many Christian right groups, said he is not alarmed about Hagee's role in the policy conference.

"I think there is a role for him," Foxman aid. "He has earned a certain recognition with the community because of his support for Israel."

Foxman said he expects Hagee will get a good reception. "It's a friendly platform," he said. "I'm sure an overwhelming majority may be pleased with what he says."

That reflects an annual conference expected to strike a hawkish note on a number of issues, starting with the threat of a nuclear Iran.

Other keynote speakers will include Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and—health permitting—Vice President Dick Cheney. The current Israeli government will be represented by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Ambassador Sallai Meridor.

Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, several sources said, will tell delegates that increased aid to Palestinian moderates is in Israel's interests—a call that may conflict with a major AIPAC theme.

In a show of both political clout and bipartisanship that has become routine for AIPAC, the conference will feature speeches by all four top congressional leaders.

AIPAC says "more than 6,000 pro-Israel activists, including 1,200 students representing over 390 campuses" will attend. "Lead by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and both House and Senate Republican leaders all speaking under the same tent, this year's AIPAC Policy Conference underscores the bipartisan nature of American support for Israel," according to AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. "The conference schedule also underscores the long history, breadth and diversity of America's centuries of support for the Jewish homeland in Israel."

Anxiety about Iran will dominate the conference, and it is a major element in the "action agenda" that, at least in theory, sets the group's goals for next year. Members of the executive committee will debate and vote on the statement on Sunday.

Proposed new language in the policy statement supports using "all means necessary for the United States, Israel and their allies to prevent Iran and other nations from developing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons and the vehicles for their delivery."

Lobbying for tougher sanctions legislation will also be a top priority for AIPAC delegates when they blanket Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Protecting Israel's big chunk of foreign aid has traditionally been a top AIPAC priority, but this year the group will also emphasize "closely monitoring assistance to countries that are not supporting American objectives in the region."

At the top of that list: the Palestinian Authority. Congress has frozen an administration request for $86 million in emergency aid to boost Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' forces.

Pro-peace groups say they will not press AIPAC to soften its language about the Palestinians, as they have done in the past. Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), will come to the executive committee meeting loaded with amendments aimed at toughening them.

The AIPAC conference will be the usual display of political clout, but the group also faces some new challenges, including a new Democratic leadership that remains strongly pro-Israel but less in lockstep with AIPAC than their Republican predecessors.

Congressional observers say AIPAC remains a legislative powerhouse, "but more lawmakers will now feel free to ask questions, especially about routine and nonbinding resolutions praising Israel and criticizing the Palestinians," said a longtime pro-Israel lobbyist.

But AIPAC's influence on signature issues like Iran and foreign aid to Israel remains intact despite the partisan shift, said Kean University political scientist Gilbert Kahn.

"AIPAC has successfully maneuvered itself through Democratic and Republican administrations, Democratic and Republican Congresses, and there's no reason to think they won't do it again," he said.

Kahn said AIPAC has also strengthened itself by aggressively "pushing the Orthodox community to engage. You have more and more Orthodox rabbis who are touting AIPAC and touting joining AIPAC. AIPAC understands that if you get the rabbis on board, they in turn will press the community to get involved."

That "dramatic shift," he said, may make AIPAC "less representative, but it also strengthens the group as voices on Mideast policy become more diverse.

"It's a source of strength because this is a community that is comfortable with the direction AIPAC has taken in recent years," he said.

AIPAC also faces a rising challenge from Jewish groups on both the right and the left that take a different tack on Mideast policy, and that are increasingly active on Capitol Hill.

The Zionist Organization of America on the right and both Americans for Peace Now and the Israel Policy Forum on the left are expanding their lobbying, targeting areas where they feel AIPAC does not represent them.

None can come close to eclipsing AIPAC, although IPF, Washington sources say, is starting to build a network of campaign contributors who also support the group's perspective on Mideast affairs—a key element in AIPAC's strength.

Still, on the verge of the 2007 policy conference, they point to a changed lobbying environment for what remains the pre-eminent group on the pro-Israel scene.

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza: Trouble waiting to happen

Gaza preparing for IDF incursion
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 12, 2007

Bunkers built according to Hizbullah standards and pervasive land mines are some of the challenges the IDF will face if it decides to enter the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Southern Command has completed drafting plans for a massive incursion, which senior officers predict could be given the green light - depending on diplomatic developments, including the results of the talks that took place between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday.

Hamas's preparations, senior defense sources have told The Jerusalem Post, include an array of fortified, underground bunkers similar to those used by Hizbullah to launch attacks during the second Lebanon war last summer.

The consensus within the defense establishment is that the terrorist organizations will try to emulate Hizbullah's success in launching Katyusha rockets and fire hundreds of Kassam rockets at communities in the western Negev in the event of an incursion.

The IDF Home Front Command has been working with Gaza-belt communities to prepare for such a scenario and has drawn up plans that include the complete evacuation of some of the towns.

A high-ranking officer also told the Post that Hamas has laid dozens and  possibly hundreds of mines on routes that would be used to enter Gaza.

These bombs, as well as advanced antitank missiles recently acquired by the terrorists, could prove deadly to IDF tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Hamas has organized its men into a conventional military force and has established four regional brigades in the Strip - in the north, south, center and Gaza City. Each brigade is divided into battalions, companies and platoons.

Some of the commanders recently traveled to Syria and Iran for training.

"Everything is organized," said the senior officer. "This is no longer about the IDF against a group of terrorists, but the IDF against an army."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Guess why the anti-Semitism documentary was objectionable

The issue is apparently that the documentary focused "too much" on Muslim anti-Semitism. You kinda have to read between the lines to find that out. Why?
"I still think that this is a flawed program," Hosley told the Forward, repeating his earlier assertions that the film doesn't address antisemitism in the United States adequately. He complained that it focuses on the most inflammatory speech emanating from the Middle East without providing sufficient context or suggesting any path toward reconciliation.
That is the only mention of the reason that the documentary was problematic. Why are media afraid to show negative aspects of Islam?

Sacramento Station Backs Down on 'Antisemitism' Show

Josh Richman | Fri. Mar 02, 2007

Oakland, Calif. - Sacramento's public television station, believed to be the nation's only major PBS affiliate that had refused to broadcast a well-reviewed documentary on antisemitism, has reversed course after an outcry from the local Jewish community.

The station, KVIE, initially refused to air "Anti-Semitism in the 21st Century: The Resurgence" when it was screened in January by many public stations across the country. KVIE claimed that the documentary didn't meet its journalistic standards. But after meeting twice with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Sacramento, the station's president and general manager, Davi d Hosley, announced that the film would air later this month and again in mid-April.

"I still think that this is a flawed program," Hosley told the Forward, repeating his earlier assertions that the film doesn't address antisemitism in the United States adequately. He complained that it focuses on the most inflammatory speech emanating from the Middle East without providing sufficient context or suggesting any path toward reconciliation.

Hosley said he came to the conclusion that since the Public Broadcasting Service fed the program to 95% of the nation, it would be unfair to deprive Sacramento-area residents of a chance to judge the film themselves. He also said that he took into account the pleas from the JCRC, and that he believes a weeklong "America at a Crossroads" programming blitz that PBS is planning for April would provide the post-9/11 context that the documentary needs.

Sacramento JCRC spokeswoman Michelle Reardon praised the about-face. "He acknowledged where he had made an error. He stood by his personal worries about this film, but I think he recognizes that they're personal and the right thing to do is to show this film," she told the Forward. "He did his homework. He responded in a timely way to our community. What else can you ask for? We could ask that we shouldn't have had to lobby to have this film aired, but I think this process means the next time something like this happens, we won't have to."

Hosley - a veteran radio-and-television newsman before managing public television stations in the San Francisco Bay area, and now in Sacramento - had convened members of KVIE's board of directors and community advisory board, as well as a few local religious leaders, to pre-screen the film this past December. "We discussed it, and the consensus in that room was that this was a program that likely was going to do more harm than good in our commun ity and we shouldn't run it," said Hosley.

The elephant in the room was a 1999 arson spree in which three Sacramento-area synagogues had been torched, touching off years of community tension.

Rabbi Nancy Wechsler-Azen, of the Reform Congregation Beth Shalom in the Sacramento suburb of Carmichael, felt differently. The only rabbi at that screening, she said she found herself amid other clergy members - including a Methodist minister and a Muslim imam - with whom she has worked hard to build community bonds.

"To not show it is denial," the rabbi told the Forward. "My feeling was that it needed to be shown in a responsible way.... I wanted it to be shown with a panel-discussion following that could unpack the issues and help it be constructive... and give us some way of processing the issues that were raised."

Hosley also spoke in December with Andrew Goldberg, the film's Manhattan-based producer, director and writer , about the decision to nix the movie.

"We had a cordial, polite conversation," Goldberg recalled. "I know that he is a general manager of a station who has done terrific work in the past. I respect his right to not run the program; however, I feel it's a strong program. I disagree with the public comments he has made about the program, and I feel it's an important program that should be shown."

Goldberg has made documentaries for PBS, ABC News, E!, CNN and other networks. Two of these televised accounts have been last year's nationally aired "The Armenian Genocide" and 2002 Emmy winner "A Yiddish World Remembered." His film on antisemitism, he said, "was two years in the making, and we held it to the highest journalistic standards, enlisting the help of many experts... on the journalism, the balance, the issues. We firmly, strongly stand behind our journalism in this show."

Reardon said her JCRC is working with its counterpart in the San Francisco area to bring Goldberg to Northern California for one or more public screenings of the film, possibly later this month.

The film was well reviewed in several publications, including The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter. A review in the Boston Globe said the film "proves that Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat, the faux Kazakh reporter who believes Jews can turn themselves into cockroaches, isn't the absurd caricature we'd like him to be."

The national PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler, received a wave of correspondence both for and against the film. In his January 11 online column, he wrote that "Goldberg, moderator Judy Woodruff, and presenter Oregon Public Broadcasting did a good and bold job and provided a useful and unique public service in taking on this volatile, uncomfortable towatch but important subject at this time."

"This struck me as just the thing Public TV ought to be doing," Getler wrote. "It is unlikely that any diverse audience will ever say that you got this subject just right, but producers need to take a shot at it."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas - destruction of Israel is a religious duty.

It seems that Hamas has made its position clear once again:
"We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine," Hamas said in a statement, in a clear reference to Israel as well as to the occupied West Bank. 
That sounds pretty definite and unchangeable, and the source is Reuters, which in the past had illusions about the plans of the Hamas.

Hamas says still seeks Israel's destruction
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
Monday, March 12, 2007; 6:23 AM

GAZA (Reuters) - The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas rejected on Monday criticism by al Qaeda's second-in-command and said it was still committed to Israel's destruction despite a power-sharing deal with the Fatah faction.
"We will not betray promises we made to God to continue the path of Jihad and resistance until the liberation of Palestine, all of Palestine," Hamas said in a statement, in a clear reference to Israel as well as to the occupied West Bank. 
In an audio recording posted on the Internet on Sunday, al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahri accused Hamas of serving U.S. interests by agreeing to respect past Palestinian peace accords with Israel in a recent Saudi-brokered unity government deal with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah.
The coalition agreement fell short of meeting demands by the Quartet of peace mediators -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals.
Zawahri said the Mecca accord, which calmed weeks of Hamas-Fatah warfare in which more than 90 Palestinians were killed, was part of an attempt by Washington to offset Muslim anger at what he described as its bias toward Israel.
"It is an American scheme to hit the Islamic jihadist resistance against the Crusader-Zionist campaign. America wanted a sham solution to the Palestinian issue to remove the biggest reason for Muslim hatred (of the United States)," he said.
Zawahri accused Hamas of abandoning a tradition of suicide bombings for political gains. "They have ditched the movement of martyrdom operations ... for a government that plays with words in palace halls," he said.
Hamas killed nearly 300 Israelis in 58 suicide bombings after a Palestinian uprising began in 2000. It last carried out a suicide bombing in Israel in 2004.
In its statement Hamas said it continued to be a "movement of resistance, seekers of martyrdom" and that its "principles will never be changed."
"Zawahri's recent statements were wrong ... Resistance is our strategy. How and when? This depends on the reality at the time and our corresponding view of things," Hamas said.
"So be assured doctor Ayman, and all those who love Palestine like yourself, that Hamas is still the group you knew when it was founded and it will never abandon its path."
Hamas said its decision to run in the January 2006 Palestinian election that brought it to power and last month's unity deal with Fatah "came only to preserve the higher interests of the Palestinian people."
Hamas leaders have offered a long-term truce with Israel in return for a viable Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The group's 1988 founding chapter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Legitimate criticism of Israel? - Palestine Solidarity votes for anti-Semitism

Some anti-Zionists can't believe that anti-Zionism is racism. They insist that all attempts to conflate anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are simply propaganda of the "Israel Lobby" designed to shut them up.
Reality is stronger than their fantasies however. Two attempts to pass motions against Anti-Semitism in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign failed. How could it be otherwise? How could a movement that denies the Jewish people the right to self-determination not be racist?  
"On the whole Ant-Zionism is close to, or a mask for, Anti-Semitism."
Ami Isseroff

Added by David Hirsh on March 12, 2007 10:23:42 AM.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign almost unanimously rejects two motions against antisemitismTony Greenstein is an anti-Zionist who believes that Zionism is like Nazism, that Zionists helped the Nazis carry out the Holocaust, that Israel, uniquely, is an essentially and unchangeably racist state.

Sue Blackwell is an anti-Zionist who is best known for campaigning to exclude Israeli academics from university campuses, conferences and journals around the world. Blackwell believes that Israel is an "illegitimate" state.

Roland Rance is an anti-Zionist who campaigns for the "dismantlement of the Zionist structure of the state of Israel".

All three have been demonizing Israel, passionately and constantly for decades. They have been fighting hard for all the staple anti-Zionist principles, without rest. Israel is an apartheid state, they say, its trade unions are not real workers organisations, they say, its universities are structures of oppression, they say, its civilians are not really civilians, they argue, its anti-racists are really racists, they declare.

But now the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) in the UK has rejected them because they dared to stand up against open antisemitism within the movement.

This weekend they came to the PSC conference with two motions (reproduced below) arguing that those who push Holocaust denial and open antisemitism should be excluded from the PSC. Their motions were almost unanimously defeated.

British Anti-Zionism fights for a world-view that singles out and demonizes Israel as though it was a unique evil in the world. It exists in a world where most anti-Zionism, from Stalinist, Jihadi, neo-Nazi and Arab nationalist traditions, is openly antisemitic. It is obvious that such consistent and widespread demonization has the potential to lead to the rise of open antisemitism. And now we see exactly that happening within the Palestine Solidarity movement.

Greenstein and Rance have come under attack recently from the openly antisemitic Gilad Atzmon and they thought that they could fight back by getting the anti-racist Palestine Solidarity conference on their side. They were wrong. The PSC conference overwhelmingly backed the Atzmon line against the anti-Zionist Jews. Blackwell, it seems, is now isolated as one of the tiny number of anti-racist anti-Zionists left in the Palestine Solidarity movement. She is one of the very few to stand up for her Jewish comrades.

But Greenstein, Rance and Blackwell still seem incapable of grasping how their own anti-Israel obsessions have led to a situation where they themselves have been entirely marginalized within their own PSC by a bunch of antisemites. This wekend, our warnings of a couple of years ago began, sooner than we thought possible, to become a reality.

Before the vote Roland Rance appealed to anti-racists within the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to come to the conference and vote:
A final appeal to anyone who is a member of Palestine Solidarity, or is willing to join, to attend the AGM tomorrow. There are two motions - one from me and Les Levidow, and one from Tony Greenstein and Sue Blackwell -- opposing the infiltration of antisemites and holocaust deniers into the solidarity movement (text below). Our opponents have gone wild, with increasingly hostile postings all over the internet. It is important that these motions be passed, and the executive's wrecking amendment defeated, as otherwise the slimeballs who have wormed in and are using alleged solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for their own devious purposes, will proclaim a victory. Please swallow any reservations you may have about tactics or precise wording; the principle here is so important, that we need every possible supporter to take part in this.
However, it was the "slimeballs" who won the conference. This is how they describe the weekend's events:
If they had contented themselves with a simple resolution, calling for non-cooperation with Deir Yassin Remembered, they might have stood a chance. But with their two long-winded resolutions, attempting to impose a Jewish Socialist 'weltanchaung' on the Palestine Solidarity movement, the Greenstein/Rance onslaught stood no chance of success.

With J.A.Z. [Jews Agaainst Zionism] and J.S. [Jewish Socialist] activists popping up on all sides, coupled with the intervention of their Christian Passionara from Birmingham [Sue Blackwell], it began to look more like a Zionist takeover of PSC than a simple call for the excommunication of Paul Eisen, the Jewish humanist who dared compare the slaughter by the Irgun of hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children at Givat Shaul in 1948, with what happened in eastern Europe in the darkest days of the 3rd Reich. All it needed was Betty Hunter's empassioned and moving denunciation of Rance's public attack on the PSC in the Jewish media, for the latter to be compelled to offer an abject apology and to ensure an almost unanimous rejection of the two ill-conceived resolutions.
Motion 6: Zionism and anti-Semitism - Proposed: Tony Greenstein, Seconded: Sue Blackwell

1. Conference reaffirms its opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

2. Conference notes that the Zionist movement was the product of European anti-Semitism.

3. Conference notes that Zionism was unique in Jewish reactions to anti-Semitism in that it accepted the "logic" of the anti-Semites, namely that Jews did not belong in the lands they had been born and brought up in and it therefore sought to escape, not to fight anti-Semitism.

4. Conference agrees with Zionist novellist, A B Yehoshua, that "Even today, in a perverse way, a real anti Semite must be a Zionist." (Jewish Chronicle, 22.1.82.)

5. Conference notes the British National Party's position of support for Israel's bombing of Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

6. Conference therefore rejects the definition of anti-Semitism by the European Union Monitoring Committee as, among other things, "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor." On the contrary, it is those who hold that Jews are one people apart, regardless of the State they are citizens of, the language they speak or the place where they live, who subscribe to the anti-Semitic notion that Jews form a separate collectivity.

7. In particular Conference rejects the All Parliamentary Report on Anti-Semitism that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are synonymous, that the Boycott of Israeli universities has any connection with anti-Semitism or that, as a collective, the Jewish community, as defined by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, "is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute antisemitism."

8. Conference also rejects any attempt by any individuals or group, in particular those around the Deir Yassin Remembered (DYR) Group, to introduce anti-Semitic ideas and discourse into the Palestine solidarity movement. This can only be of benefit to the Zionist enterprise and cannot help but undermine the Palestine solidarity movement. We note that the British Director of DYR has published articles on "Jewish Power" and the "Holocaust Wars" in support of one of the most infamous Holocaust deniers, Ernst Zundel; that Dan McGowan, founder of DYR, has recently visited Zundel in prison, describing him as "a man with strong convictions and the courage to express them"; and that Holocaust denial material by Paul Eisen is available on the DYR website.

9. In particular we reject notions of "Jewish Power" and any attempt to resurrect medieval anti-Semitic stereotypes or deny the historical fact of the Holocaust, by whomsoever it is done. There is much room for legitimate debate concerning the Holocaust, not least concerning the role of the Zionist movement during the Holocaust; however, there is no room for legitimate debate concerning the fact of the Holocaust. In the words of the Israeli Palestinian MK, Azmi Bishara, "Arabs and Palestinians who deny the Holocaust offer European and Zionist racism no greater gift ... What possible Arab or Islamic interest can it serve to even offer to exonerate Europe of one of the blackest pages in its history?"

10. Conference rejects the attempt by the Zionist movement, post-1967 in particular, to use the Nazi Holocaust in order to legitimise the oppression of the Palestinians. One of the primary lessons of the Holocaust must be that racism must be rejected wherever it comes from and whoever its victims or targets are. Ethnic cleansing and attempts at securing racial purity of any State are wholly abhorrent to the Palestine solidarity

11. Conference rejects any suggestion that support by the United States and western imperialism for the State of Israel is motivated by the "Jewish lobby", "Jewish power" or other secret and sinister cabals or conspiracies. The Israeli State was created by imperialism and is supported by imperialism because the existence of Israel has been deemed to be in its interest. Those who look to anti-Semitic theories and arguments merely seek to exonerate and forgive the leaders of US imperialism for their crimes
against the Palestinians and other oppressed peoples.

12. Conference declares that support for anti-Semitic ideas or anti-Semitism is incompatible with membership of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

13. Conference notes that respected campaigners Jeff Halper and Lea Tsemel, have resigned from the board of DYR in protest at the activities and pronouncements of Paul Eisen and Israel Shamir.

14. Conference resolves to suspend all links with, and withdraw all facilities from, Deir Yassin Remembered until its board no longer includes individuals who publicly endorse anti-semitism or holocaust denial.

15. Conference likewise resolves to have no links with, or offer any facilities to, any other individuals who publicly endorse anti-semitism or holocaust denial.

EC Amendment (this is what Rance refers to as the "wrecking amendment"): Delete all and substitute

Conference reaffirms its opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Jewish prejudice and that the expression of or support for anti-semitic viewpoints are incompatible with membership of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Conference rejects any attempt by supporters of the State of Israel to try to label those who criticise or condemn actions and policies of that state as guilty of anti-semitism.

Conference recognises that as more and more people become aware of the unjust treatment of the Palestinian people by the state of Israel and in particular its army; the collusion with the Government of Israel by the United States Administration, the European Union, the British Government and others and the failure of the United Nations to deliver the implementation of General assembly and security Council resolutions; that those seeking to defend the indefensible will use any arguments to deflect attention from the continuation of the oppression and repression of the Palestinian people.

The AGM reaffirms that PSC will not be deflected from its task and will meet and challenge all attempts to deflect attention from the plight of the Palestinians.

Motion 7: Opposition to Zionism and Antisemitism - Proposed by Roland Rance, seconded by Les Levidow.

1. As a campaign in support of the just struggle of the Palestinian people for national liberation, PSC sees itself as part of the global movement against oppression. PSC reaffirms its commitment to opposing all forms of racism, including Zionism and antisemitism.

2. To resolve the Palestine-Israel conflict, it will be necessary to confront Zionism as a form of apartheid. So we resolve to conduct a campaign against the Zionist institutions in Britain and the state of Israel.

4. The Zionism movement sought to escape European antisemitism â€" and sometimes even colluded with it - rather than fight it. Unlike anti-racist movements, Zionism has accepted the antisemitic argument that Jews have no place in non-Jewish societies. "Even today, in a perverse way., a real anti Semite must be a Zionist.", said novelist A B Yehoshua, a committed Zionist (Jewish Chronicle, 22.01.82). Those who support antisemitism are in effect supporting Zionism. Therefore struggle against antisemitism is a necessary element of any struggle against Zionism.

5. We reject the attempt by the Zionist movement to use the Nazi Holocaust in order to legitimise the oppression of the Palestinians. As a primary lesson of the Holocaust, racism must be rejected, from wherever it comes and at whomsoever it is directed.

4. We reject the statement by the European Union Monitoring Committee that antisemitism includes anyone "denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour". Likewise we reject claims that anti-Zionism is synonymous with anti-Semitism; that the boycott of Israeli products, institutions and events is anti-Semitic; and that "the Jewish community" (as defined by the Board of Deputies of British Jews) "is best qualified to determine what does and does not constitute antisemitism", according to the All-Party Parliamentary Report on Antisemitism.

6. We also reject any attempt to introduce antisemitic ideas into the Palestine solidarity movement. Some important initiatives have been hijacked by people whose agenda appears to be anti-Jewish propaganda. For example, some individuals have tried to explain the Palestinians' oppression by reference to Jews, Judaism, "Jewish power", etc. Some have also promoted Holocaust denial. Such ideas can only benefit Zionism and undermine the Palestine solidarity movement. In the words of the Israeli Palestinian MK
Dr Azmi Bishara, "Arabs and Palestinians who deny the Holocaust offer European and Zionist racism no greater gift than this denial of the occurrence of the Holocaust."

7. We reject any suggestion that support by the United States (and its allies) for the State of Israel can be explained by "the Jewish lobby", "Jewish power" or other secret conspiracies. Such anti-Semitic arguments serve to exonerate the leaders of US imperialism for their crimes against the Palestinians. The Israeli State has been created and supported by imperialism in its own perceived self-interest. The Zionist lobby exploits this support but does not explain it.

8. Support for Holocaust denial, antisemitic ideas or antisemitism is incompatible with membership of Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The UN is trying to destroy Israel - so what else is new?

Israelis don't care much about the UN ("oom-shmoom") and are under the comfortable, but dangerous, delusion that it is powerless (see Can the UN be ignored? ). Zionists abroad often despair of it entirely and want to eliminate it. Bradley Burston points out that the UN is being used to eliminate Israel. But in reality, the "plot" that Bradley B. relates is just another episode in the subversion of the UN as an instrumnet for destroying the Jewish state. Consider that a WHOLE DIVISION of the Secretariat is devoted to "The_Question_of_Palestine" - huge resources are allocated each year to demonization and delegitimization of Israel, and for recruiting NGOs around the world to the hate Israel campaign.
The Right of Return, advocated by the UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination is of course part of the "inalienable rights" of the Palestinian people, which have been pressed for many years by the  Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), which was created in 1975.
Let's do something about it! 

The Plot: Use the UN to rid the world of Israel
By Bradley Burston
Imagine, for a moment, that several constituent members of the United Nations had an interest in the eventual elimination of the state of Israel.
Just to indulge the fantasy one step forward, imagine that - having failed through war to push Israel off the map, having failed through persistence to wait until despondent Israelis simply picked up and left the land to the Palestinians - they conceived a scheme to leverage their move. With the United Nations.
They would use the UN to undo for them what, in their view, the UN once did to them. The UN, the reasoning holds, made this mess in 1947, by passing General Assembly Resolution 181, the Partition Plan for Palestine that created a Jewish state. Now the UN can help clean up the mess. And the map.
The ultimate goal, would be to have an official body with a name as irreproachable as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination endorse the Palestinian demand for the right of Palestinians and their heirs to return to properties and lands they claim within Israel.
Far-fetched? Of course it is. But if somehow it were true, it might unfold like this:
First, establish a UN Commission on Human Rights.
Stack the membership of the commission with officials of some of the most reprehensible regimes on the planet, beginning with Sudan, the site of what the UN has determined is currently the worst humanitarian crisis anywhere.
This will ensure that the committee, which will turn a blind eye to all human rights violations in places like Myanmar, China, Cuba, Russia, Nepal, North Korea, Congo, Gabon, Guatemala, Libya, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, and, especially Darfur, will be free to focus its work solely on Israel.
If you go too far, and the commission has become an obvious embarrassment even to the United Nations, to the point that even the General Assembly votes 170 to 4 to replace the panel with a more even-handed successor, change its name, to the Human Rights Council.
Make sure that the Organization of the Islamic Conference and a coalition of African despotisms keep the Darfur genocide off the agenda.
Make sure that the new Council specifically condemns only one country - Israel.
Make sure that it does so repeatedly - eight times over the past year. Pass a rule which states that a permanent feature of every council session will be a review of charges of human rights abuses by Israel.
Propose a rule change, which would fire many of the council's rapporteurs, experts who document human rights abuses - but which would specifically exempt from firing, those who monitor the Palestinian territories.
In its current session, beginning on Monday in Geneva, see to it that the heart of the deliberations will be a report commissioned by the panel that compares Israeli actions in the territories to apartheid in South Africa.
Finally, bring the Right of Return issue - phrased to suit foreign consumption, before the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Now we're getting somewhere. Now Israel can be attacked and delegitimized on the one issue on which leftist and rightist Jews in Israel agree. Now Israeli military policy is irrelevant. Now the issue of occupation is irrelevant. Now even day-to-day issues of discrimination against Arabs are irrelevant.
Now Israel can be attacked for its very essence.
Now Israel can be attacked by people thousands of miles away, who, turning their backs on their own histories of colonization, maltreatment and annihilation of indigenous populations, xenophobia, and immigration curbs against unwanted peoples on the basis of color, creed, illiteracy and poverty, will be happy to preach regarding the way the Holy Land's problems should be solved.
What's one less Jewish state in the world, after all?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Shalit: Rumors of freedom

The basis for this optimism is unclear, since it is unlikely that Shalit would be freed without a major concession from Israel, such as release of over a thousand prisoners, release of Marwan Barghouti or consent to end the boycott of Hamas.

Livni: We expect Shalit freed before new PA gov't
By Haaretz Service

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Monday that Israel expects captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit to be released before Hamas and Fatah form a new unity government.
Livni was speaking after officials in Hamas were quoted as saying that the creation of the new Palestinian unity government and Shalit's release were in no way connected.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Prime Minister Ehud Olmert during their meeting Sunday that he would make an effort to secure the release of Shalit as soon as possible, and perhaps before the formation of the unity government.
Livni, currently in Washington where she will meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said Abbas now had more influence on Hamas, which is keen to form a coalition with Abbas' Fatah movement.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas] has stated that before establishing a new Palestinian government, he wants Gilad released," Livni told Army Radio.
"If in the past he could say that he was separate from Hamas and had no power to influence them, today his situation has changed. Today, with Hamas wishing to form a government, and, with Abu Mazen moving toward an agreement with Hamas, we expect that the release of Gilad Shalit will be part of this process."
According to Livni, "This is an Israeli demand, and I believe it should be an international demand as well. Now we must see if [Abbas} is capable of keeping this [promise]."
Livni: EU standing firm on Hamas, for now
Speaking to Israel Radio, Livni played down an EU statement last week that said the nascent Palestinian coalition must adopt policies reflecting the long-standing demands of the Quartet
of Mideast peace makers - the U.S., EU, Russia and UN.
The language in the statement has raised concerns in Israel that the EU is easing its commitment to the Quartet's principles as the rival Fatah and Hamas factions try to cobble together a government. Livni said the EU statement did not represent any softening of its commitment to the Quartet conditions, but acknowledged that things could change.
"The Europeans expect any Palestinian government to meet the Quartet conditions. Europe is a partner in the Quartet," Livni said. "At the moment Europe has not changed its position, and I hope it will not do so soon."
Olmert-Abbas summit
Olmert and Abbas met face to face in the Prime Minister's Residence Jerusalem for more than two hours Sunday. According to the Prime Minister's Office, the two leaders agreed to continue meeting on a regular basis in order "to discuss issues related to security, the war on terrorism, and improving the conditions in which Palestinians live."
Senior Abbas aide Mohammed Dahlan said the meeting was difficult and produced no agreements. Dahlan said the Palestinians called on Olmert to ease travel restrictions in the West Bank by removing roadblocks, and to release sick and elderly Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but Olmert made no promises.
The prime minister promised that, beginning at the end of the month, the Karni goods crossing would begin operating on extended hours in order to handle of the transport of goods into and out of the Gaza Strip without delays.
Olmert reiterated his commitment to the two-state solution, in accordance with his Sde Boker address several months ago.
According to PMO sources, Abbas told the prime minister that he supports the three principles laid out by the Quartet of Middle East negotiators, according to which the PA government must recognize Israel, renounce terror and abide by prior agreements.
The PA chairman also accepted Israel's security demands, namely the release of Shalit, a halt to the ongoing Qassam rocket fire, and prevention of arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The prime minister also told Abbas that not only would Israel not recognize the PA unity government unless it agrees to the Quartet demands, Israel would not hold contacts with Fatah ministers serving in the unity government. In essence, Olmert told Abbas not to appoint Fatah officials who are in contact with Israel, in order to prevent the contacts from being terminated.
Olmert also asked Abbas how the $100 million in tax revenues that Israel transferred to the PA in recent months was spent. Israeli officials have said that a large portion of the funds was used to pay the salaries of members of the PA security forces, instead of being used to reform the security forces.
The meeting was Abbas and Olmert's second round of talks in less than a month, and comes weeks after Abbas' Fatah movement and the ruling Hamas reached an agreement at a summit in Mecca to form a unity government.
Hours before the summit, Olmert said Sunday that Israel was willing to treat the 2002 Saudi peace initiative "seriously," and said he supports a regional summit to discuss the plan.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestine: Wonder where the money went?

This is about like the sacks full of US money disappearing in Iraq.

Palestinian minister admits aid millions lost

By Josh Mitnick in Ramallah, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 12:25am GMT 11/03/2007

A former World Bank official who is about to become the Palestinian finance minister has warned foreign donors that he has no idea where much of their money has been spent.

Salam Fayyad warned donors

In the 14 months since Hamas won elections, Palestinian finances have descended into such chaos that there is now no way to confirm whether aid is going to its stated purpose, according to Salam Fayyad, 54, who is poised to start his second stint as treasury chief once the rival Hamas and Fatah factions finalise a "unity" government.

An estimated GBP 362.5 million has flowed into Palestinian government coffers from abroad since the election that brought Hamas to power and ushered in a period of internal conflict that came close to all-out civil war.

The European Union alone provided GBP 59.5 million last year and sent a far greater sum directly to hospitals, power generation projects and to families in need.

Now, Palestinian Authority spending is out of control, salaries are being paid to workers who never turn up, and nobody can track where the money is going, according to Mr Fayyad.

There was no way to be certain that aid was being used as intended, he admitted. "Please write this: no one can give donors that assurance. Why? Because the system is in a state of total disrepair."

Five years ago, Mr Fayyad - who had worked at the US Federal Reserve Bank - was asked to create order out of Palestinian finances by the president at the time, Yasser Arafat. Now, he is confronting the fact that his accounting reforms have all unravelled, there is a ballooning wage bill, a yawning budget shortfall and an international financial boycott of Hamas.Mr Fayyad conceded that until he assumed office he could not be sure of the depth of the crisis or how to fix it. He expected it to take weeks to regain enough control over Palestinian funds to restore oversight over new donations. It would take several months to begin reining in the inflated salary bill.

Hours earlier, the World Bank had published a 197-page report warning the Palestinians to control a wage bill that totals two thirds of all spending, and of a "dire'' budget deficit, estimated at GBP 57 million per month.

Hamas refuses to recognise Israel's right to exist and is widely viewed as a little more than a terrorist faction. Last year, a ban on funding it was enforced by the EU, the US, many Arab states and international banks.

Ironically foreign aid to Palestinians increased, either carried across the border into Gaza in cash-stuffed briefcases by Hamas officials, or through a special financial channel to the office of President Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the rival Fatah faction with whom the West is prepared to work.

As a result, Mr Fayyad said, incoming funds have been widely dispersed with
no central authority to monitor them. Some have gone to people who do not
appear on the Palestinian budget ledger. "Where is the control?" asked Mr
Fayyad. "It's gone. Where is all the transparency? It's gone."

He said his first objective would be to make the finance ministry the sole conduit for incoming aid, and to reinstate proper audits. That meant no more financial back channels or border smuggling, he said. "It's not my intention to manage the Palestinian budget system through the brown bag." The
Palestinian Authority's unchecked proliferation of government jobs - growing by 11 per cent a year - is another threat to its existence, the World Bank said. Mr Fayyad acknowledged that the problem of thousands of absentee employees was "serious", but said it would take up to five years to bring
wages into line with income.

He was reluctant to say how he would do that, perhaps understandably, given that unpaid security forces have a habit of barging into government offices with guns blazing, and that gunmen recently shot up the outside of his office.

Now some of Mr Abbas's presidential guard is assigned to his premises - a stark reminder of the connection between restoring security and bringing finances under control. "This will be extremely difficult," he said. "It's virtually impossible."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Al-Qaeda vs Hamas: The enemy of the extremely fanatical is the even more fanatical

What can be more fanatic than a group that insists on destroying Israel, that proclaims that negotiations are a waste of time, and only holy war will accomplish its goal? That insists it will never make peace with Israel?  Apparently, it is possible to be more fanatic than the Hamas.
According Al Qaeda, the Hamas are wimps.  
In the Middle East, the much worse is always the enemy of the very bad.

Al-Zawahiri: Hamas has surrendered  
Ayman al-Zawahri, the number two leader in al-Qaeda, has accused Hamas of "submission" for agreeing to form a Palestinian national unity government.
Al-Zawahiri said Hamas had "fallen into the swamp of surrender" by accepting a Saudi-brokered deal with the US-backed Fatah faction in Mecca, in an audio recording broadcast by Al Jazeera on Sunday.

"The leadership of Hamas surrendered to the Jews, most of Palestine" in order to keep leadership of the Palestinian government, he said.
Hamas and Fatah agreed a month ago to forge a coalition cabinet, largely ending factional fighting centred in the Gaza Strip where more than 90 people died.
Zawahiri said: "Hamas has sold out so it can keep a hold of a third of government.
"But what government? A government that doesn't even have the  right to enter or leave [the Palestinian territories] without  Israeli permission."
He said: "The leadership of Hamas government has committed an aggression against the rights of the Islamic nation by accepting what it called ... respecting international agreements.
"I am sorry to have to offer the Islamic nation my condolences for the [virtual demise] of the Hamas leadership as it has fallen in the quagmire of surrender."
'Little progress'
Hamas, which came to power in January 2006, refuses to recognise Israel a stance which has led to Western countries boycotting the Palestinian government, led by Hamas after its electoral win in January 2005.
His comments were broadcast as Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and head of Fatah, were reported to have made little progress during talks on key issues in Jerusalem.
The two men met in Olmert's official residence on Sunday hours after violent clashes took place between Hamas and Fatah fighters in Gaza.
Olmert has already said he will boycott any unity government that fails to recognise Israel's right to exist.
But he also promised to keep channels of communication open and officials said more talks between the two men were likely to take place.
Olmert and Abbas last met on February 19 in trilateral talks with Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, that ended with no sign of progress towards resuming peace talks that ended six years ago.
The unity deal, reached last month in the Saudi holy city of Mecca, only agrees to "respect" past agreements, falling short of international conditions.
"The Israeli government has expressed its disappointment over the Mecca accord and has not changed its position," Olmert told his cabinet before the summit on Sunday.
"We hope that the Palestinian government that is to be formed will accept the Quartet [international] principles."

Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

State of Palestinian Society

The person executed was a Hamas member, and it is claimed apparently that he was corrupt. This report, coupled with closing of Internet Cafes etc. is indicative of the deteriorating state of democracy and order in Palestinian society. "Have gun will rule" seems to be the order of the day. Inevitably, it will be blamed on Israel, won't it?

'Swords of the truth in the land of steadfastness' claim responsibility for
murder in Gaza
Date: 11 / 03 / 2007  Time:  18:09

Gaza - Ma'an- A group calling themselves 'swords of the truth in the land of
steadfastness' claimed responsibility on Sunday for execution of "the
symbols of corruption in the Gaza Strip." They said they are complying with
God's jurisdiction on Earth.

The Amir (prince) of the group, Abu Suhayb Al-Maqdisi, said in a statement
that "the group will not make any concessions regarding the punishment for
violations of God's laws." They added that they enacted the punishment
against a corrupt group.

The statement added that the group will "reach all those who were involved
with the individuals who were punished, because we have the proofs and the
confessions." They said "their rank will not protect them from punishment."

The same group prohibited internet cafי's from opening after 10pm,
describing them as "night prostitution houses", which are not immune from
punishment if they do not comply with orders.

The group also revealed that they have a list of girls' names whom they
depicted as "sluts and corrupting others at the universities." The group
threatened to punish all of these girls if their families do not deter them.

The Amir of the group also threatened to punish drug dealers if they do not
cease illegal activity.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians will not give up terror attacks

That is a pretty blunt but accurate translation of "Resistance is the only way to Liberate Palestine."
Qaddoumi and others are announcing that they have reneged on the Oslo accords, which abjured violence, and that rather than seeking a negotiated solution, they want to force their solution on Israel by terror attacks. And following this announcement, they will also once again swear that the PLO will keep its word.

Qaddoumi: "Resistance is the only way to Liberate Palestine"
Sunday, March 11, 2007 - 12:05 PM
[Syrian gov't news agency]
DAMASCUS, (SANA)- Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization Politburo Farouk al-Qaddoumi has stressed that the resistance is the only way to liberate the occupied Palestinian territories and the establishment of the Palestinian state on all its lands of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In an interview to the Syrian satellite Channel broadcast yesterday, al-Qaddoumi said that the imbalance between the Palestinians and the Israelis blocked reaching a solution to the struggle through peaceful means.

Qaddoumi expressed a hope that the Palestinian people could be forming government of a national unity as soon as possible according to Mecca accord to face the Israeli occupation.

Nawal / Idelbi

Continued (Permanent Link)

Terror attack thwarted at Tomb of the Patriarchs

Terror attack thwarted at Tomb of the Patriarchs Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 11, 2007

Border police thwarted a planned terror attack Sunday which targeted
visitors to the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

According to reports, one Palestinian woman was arrested on suspicion that
she planned to stab visitors at the site. A 25 cm-long knife was found on
the suspect at the time of her arrest, police said.

The suspect was transferred to security forces for further interrogation.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: UN Committee - End Jewish State

This article states:
"A United Nations committee has called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their property and land "
If this report is correct, it means that a UN committe has recommended the elimiation of the Jewish right to self-determination. It is possible that the report refers only to "internal" refugees however, which would not affect the demographic composition of Israel.
The report also concludes, according to the article:
"the state party ensure that the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result in any systematic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin."
This is very strange, because there is no "state party" in Israel. Israel is not an Arabic "republic" where there is one party rule, or a totalitarian state like Nazi Germany or USSR. Either the translation is bad, or the reporting is incorrect, or the UN committee has very strange notions about Israel. What could the "state party" be in Israel?

UN committee: Israel should let Palestinian refugees come back
By Yoav Stern

A United Nations committee has called on Israel to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their property and land in Israel and to ensure that the bodies responsible for distributing property, such as the Jewish National Fund, not discriminate against the Arab population.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination made the recommendation in its concluding observations released Friday, in response to a report Israel submitted on the matter. Representatives of a number of human rights groups appeared before the committee, including Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which presented objections to the official Israeli position.
The report recommends that Israel scrutinize its policy in a number of areas. Among them, it recommends that "the state party ensure that the definition of Israel as a Jewish nation state does not result in any systematic distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent or national or ethnic origin." The committee also said it "would welcome receiving more information on how [Israel] envisions the development of the national identity of all its citizens."
The committee's deliberations were made in the framework of overseeing the implementation by various countries of the provisions of the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. Israel has been a signatory to the convention since the late 1970s, and should submit a report every two years. However, it has not done so for nine years.
The appearence before the committee of the human rights organizations, which also included B'Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) and Ittijah (the Union of Arab Community Based Organizations in Israel), is part of an increasing trend to fight Israeli policies in international forums. Adalah said some of the information provided to the committee came from its international advocacy department assigned to UN committees.
The committee also noted positive developments, suchas the ministerial appointment of Raleb Majadele and the High Court decision to allow an Israeli Arab couple to buy land in a Jewish community.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians are resisting what?

by Carlos

March 9, 2007 - I was discussing with a friend the possibility of Israeli-Palestinian (or more generally, Jewish-Arab) dialogue. She sent me an article, entitled "Palestinians Debate 'Polite' Resistance to Occupation." The article provides some insight into Palestinian thought about the peace process. It reports widespread distrust within the Palestinian community in any notion of a non-violent intifada. A member of Hamas put it like this: "Nothing can be achieved through resisting the occupation in a polite way."

I can't say I was surprised, but for some reason the following statements caught me up short:

From Ahmad Muhaisen, described as a respected Palestinian thinker:

Expressing a commonly held opinion, Muhaisen described the Oslo agreement, and the intellectuals, as having reframed the conflict around negotiations, thereby robbing resistance to the occupation of its legitimacy. "If we return to the origins and show the world that there is occupation, and we are resisting occupation, then no one would say to us that we aren't allowed to do attacks. The first thing that needs to be said is that there is an occupation to be gotten rid of. It means that when you portray the issue correctly, no one can reject you. Even America itself can't say that it is with the occupation."

And this in a press release from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine:

"[The forms of resistance and the timing of attacks] is not the prerogative of a group of intellectuals, known to our people as mouthpieces of the propaganda of the Western democracies that regard the struggle of our people and their resistance to the occupation as terrorism."

As to the second statement, I would only ask, If the intentional killing of civilians for the primary purpose of spreading fear is not terrorism, then what is?

What else, I suppose, would one expect from the PFLP? But in a way Muhaisen's statement is far more disturbing. He says that negotiations rob the "resistance" of its legitimacy. Only violence is worthy of respect. "If we... show the world... we are resisting occupation, then no one would say to us that we aren't allowed to do attacks."

"Resistance to occupation" legitimizes everything, including the rejection of negotiations, and including the murder of unarmed civilians. People are robbed of their humanity, and become pieces in a bizarre and endless war game.

To be sure, there are tendencies on both sides to dehumanize people on the other. It is always that way in war. Israel is not free of such problems. The mutual hatred that has been building between both groups leads members of each to treat the other as less than human. There is even a fringe group in Israel that supports forcible transfer of Palestinians out of the West Bank. Fortunately they have no chance of success, and are rejected by the mainstream. On the Palestinian side, however, anti-Jewish hatred is institutionalized in officially sanctioned sermons, TV and radio broadcasts, and textbooks. Unlike the PFLP and other Palestinian terrorist groups including Hamas, which is now the Palestinian government, Israel does not justify the intentional killing of civilians. If it were ever to do so, I would close down this web site.

The Palestinians have extended the dehumanization of Israelis to a well-coordinated campaign to call into question Israel's right to exist at all. Not that long ago the notion would have been unthinkable. But today more and more people are taking seriously - on supposedly moral grounds! - the idea that Israel has no right to exist and indeed should not exist.

Continued at 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who are the real leftists?

Dr. John Ray has posted my blog on Who are the Good Guys in the Middle East? at his blog, Dissecting Leftism. That's all to the good, and I hereby return the compliment. However, some things need to be clarified. I need to constantly point out to anti-Zionists who admire my criticism of Israel, as well as to Zionists who rebuke me for criticizing Israel, that I am a Zionist. I live in Israel. Equally, I need to point out to anti-Zionists who criticize me as a "Zionist reactionary" and to anti-progressives who admire my support for Israel that I am what they would call a "leftist" and what I would call a social progressive or social revolutionary. I would much rather agree with everyone, but apparently that's not in the cards.
Firstly, I do not think there is such a thing as "leftism." It is not a defined movement or coherent ideology. It cannot, for example, encompass BOTH Karl Marx with his vision of the inevitability of social change and class warfare on the one hand, based on his historical metanarrative, and also encompass postmodernists who insist that there is no metanarrative at all. "Leftism" becomes just a label that is applied to people whose political views one likes or does not like, and is not a key to understanding their beliefs about society.
Secondly, it seems to me that people who support reactionary medieval religious movements that advocate repression of women and murder of homosexuals cannot possibly be socially progressive or "leftist." There is no reason to give them that honor. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that a group of US "leftists" had gotten together a petition asserting, among other things, that the US should not interfere with the repressive mullocracy of Afghanistan, which was allowing the Afghani people to exercise "self-determination" by repressing women and smashing Buddha statues. It is incredible that those British socialists and "liberals" who claim to be inheritors of the ideas of Karl Marx, or of John Maynard Keynes or Bernard Shaw, would demonstrate in London in support of Hassan Nassrallah, the mad dervish who leads the Hezbollah, which means, let us not forget, "the Party of God." What happened to "religion is the opiate of the people?" It is scarcely believable that the New York Times would write an article about "Liberal" Jews who oppose Israel, that includes among those "Liberals" a reactionary ultraorthodox rabbi, David Weiss, who traveled to Iran to kiss Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and attend a Holocaust denial conference with former Ku Klux Klan Wizard David Duke. Can these people be "leftists" or "liberals"?
It may embarrass Dr. Ray to find out that one of my other blogs is entitled ZioNation - Progessive Zionism & Israel, and that I do not think John Maynard Keynes' economics are any more incorrect than any other economic theory. In fact, he had some useful ideas.
If you are a reader of The New Republic or Front Page magazine or the New York Sun, it is a  perhaps embarrassing  fact, that Zionism is an inherently "leftist" social revolutionary movement. It is the only one of the nineteenth and twentieth century "isms" that succeeded.  Zionism is the god that did not fail. Zionism, like other social revolutionary movements, stems from the tradition of anti-authoritarian questioning that began, perhaps with people like Jan Hus and John Wycliffe, and evolved to the enlightenment and the French and American revolutions, and then evolved again to support the quest for social justice.
Oppressed people have often tried to stand up against their oppressors throughout history. Spartacus, who led the slave revolt in ancient Rome, probably had little ideology beyond the realization that it was not much fun being a gladiator or a slave. However, modern social movements were initiated by those who posited, in various ways, that the social order was not ordained by God, and that what is, is not necessarily what is correct or the will of God. The 2000 year exile and persecution of the Jews was the social condition that was questioned by Zionism, and that was upheld by religious anti-Zionists, who insisted that the Messiah must come before the Jews could seek any salvation. Almost all the founders of modern Zionism were what Dr. Ray would call "leftists," including Zeev Jabotinsky, who later founded the "right wing" revisionist movement.
Real "leftists" were long ago pushed into a corner by the followers of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Josef Dzugashvilli, who replaced the egalitarian socialist dream with the totalitarian USSR and Maoist nightmares. "Socialist" society "as implemented" had nothing to do with the original design. After the fall of the USSR, the "leftist" cause took another wrong turning, so that instead of supporting Fascist atheists, they find them supporting reactionary religious Fascist Islamists. Their ideas should not be mistaken for Leftism. Similarly, real Zionists should not let themselves be pushed off the stage by right wing Messianic Jews whose ideas have little or nothing to do with the original concept of Zionism.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

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

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Elsewhere On the Web
Stop the Israel Boycott


Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory