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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Foreign Ministers' statement on UN Security Council resolution on Iranian nuclear program

Why do we suspect this isn't going to do much good?

Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 24, 2007

Statement on UN Security Council Resolution 1747

The following is a statement by the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, with the Support of the High Representative of the European Union:

The unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1747 reflects the international community's profound concerns over Iran's nuclear programme. We deplore Iran's failure to comply with the earlier resolutions of the Security Council and the IAEA, and we call upon Iran once again to comply fully with all its international obligations.

We are committed to seeking a negotiated solution that would address the international community's concerns. The purpose of negotiations would be to reach a comprehensive agreement with Iran, based on mutual respect, that would re-establish international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme and open the way to improving relations and developing wider cooperation between Iran and all our countries

We recognise Iran's rights under the NPT to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its NPT obligations. In this respect, future arrangements, modalities and timing will be dealt with in negotiations.

Full transparency and cooperation by Iran with the IAEA is essential in order to address outstanding concerns. We reiterate our full support for the IAEA and its staff.

We stand by our "suspension for suspension" proposal. That means that for the duration of negotiations, which would take place within an agreed timeframe, extendable by mutual agreement, Iran would maintain an IAEA verified suspension as required by Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747, and Security Council discussion of Iran's nuclear programme would also be suspended, as would the implementation of the measures adopted under the relevant Security Council Resolutions.

We reconfirm the proposals we presented to Iran in June 2006. They include cooperation with Iran on civil nuclear energy, legally-binding guarantees on the supply of nuclear fuel, and wider political security and economic cooperation. These proposals remain on the table.

We urge Iran to take this opportunity to engage with us all and to find a negotiated way forward. Our proposals would bring far-reaching benefits to Iran and to the region, and they provide a means to address the international community's concerns while taking account of Iran's legitimate interests. In a region that has known too much instability and violence, let us find an agreed way forward that builds confidence and promotes peace and mutual respect. In this spirit, we propose further talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran to see if a mutually acceptable way can be found to open


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Report: U.S. Official will meet with Hamas

If this report is true, it is serious, but hardly unexpected. It could well be disinformation. Hamas have every reason to claim the U.S. is about to grant them legitimacy.
Ami Isseroff

Relationship between Hamas and US set to improve as US official plans secret talks with Haniyeh during Rice visit
Date: 24 / 03 / 2007  Time:  15:59

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Palestinian informed source revealed that "the relationship between Hamas and the United States administration will see a positive development in the coming days".

The sources stated that many Arab countries are making great efforts in this regard and that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is leading this move.

The United Arab Emirates newspaper al Bayan reported the sources as saying that Riyadh has succeeded in opening a channel of high-level communication between Hamas and the United States administration.

The newspaper confirmed "an official will accompany Condoleezza Rice in her visit to the region, he will be visiting the Gaza Strip and meet secretly with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and hold a dialogue with him at the same time as Rice is in Israel."

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Euroleague Football Qualifier: Israel vs England 0-0

The football match was a moral victory for sportsmanship and fair play, since ISM tried to boycott it. It was also a "victory" of sorts for Israel, which frankly expected to be trounced, and was apparently planning on a miracle as a central part of its strategy. It helped that England was playing without some of its stars. It hurt that Yossi Benayoun has not recovered completely from an injury that sidelined him for a while. Lackluster offensive play on both sides and world class goalkeeper Dudu Awat kept the game scoreless.

Ami Isseroff

Last update - 23:08 24/03/2007
Israel, England play to 0-0 draw in Euro 2008 qualifier match
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Israel held England to a 0-0 draw Saturday in a European Championship qualifying game.
Needing a victory to get back in touch with the leaders, England failed to win or score for the third straight Group E game, and the pressure is building on coach Steve McClaren.
"Disappointed, frustrated," McClaren said. "To dominate the game like that, to have the chances that we did and not to score, it's disappointing and not good enough. We should have won that game."
The 4,000 traveling England fans taunted McClaren by chanting, "You don't know what you're doing."
"We got balls in the box. We got shots on target. Either it didn't fall for us or poor quality, poor finishing, poor decisions has cost us," McClaren said.
"It's two points we dropped there. We should have won that," he said.
Midway through the first half, Israel goalkeeper Dudu Awat made a one-handed catch from Wayne Rooney's header and then dived at the feet of Frank Lampard to smother the ball.
At the other end, England goalkeeper Paul Robinson dived to his right to save a powerful low shot from Toto Tamuz in the 28th minute and the 18-year-old Nigerian-born striker flashed a header just wide a minute later.
Pini Balili went close for Israel in the 56th minute when he collected a pass from Yossi Benayoun and turned to fire an 16-meter left footed shot which flew wide of the post.
Lampard forced Awat to make a diving block with a first-time volley in the 62nd and Rooney and Tal Ben Haim were both shown yellow cards for clashing with each other after they had tried to win the loose ball.
Four minutes later, Lampard's glancing header flew across the face of the Israel goal. Then Andy Johnson flicked Steven Gerrard's cross wide and Jamie Carragher headed a corner off the bar.
Substitute Jermain Defoe had a chance to snatch victory for England seven minutes from the end but Awat dashed off his line to block his shot.
Israel's coach was confident of team's chances

Israel National Team Coach Dror Kashtan on Friday expressed confidence in Israel's chances in Saturday's soccer match against England, telling reporters, "this nation knows how to fight," adding that a victory "will be possible."
Saturday's match will be the first competitive meeting between Israel and England. At Ramat Gan in 1986, England won a friendly 2-1 and the two sides played a goalless draw two years later.
McClaren needs his team to win on Saturday. Otherwise, his job and England's chances of qualifying for the 2008 championship will both be in jeopardy.
"The talking has to stop, we have to deliver on the pitch and that's what we aim to do," McClaren told reporters Friday.
England's qualifying campaign started strongly with two wins in September - 5-0 over tiny Andorra and 1-0 in Macedonia.
But England hasn't won since Owen Hargreaves broke his leg in September playing for Bayern Munich. Without the Canadian-born midfielder, England was held 0-0 at home to Macedonia and beaten 2-0 in Croatia.
England is three points behind leader Croatia in Group E, one point behind Russia and level with Israel and Macedonia. Only two teams qualify automatically. England plays Andorra in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday.
Meanwhile England called up Charlton Athletic right back Luke Young on Wednesday following a rash of injuries leading up to Saturday's game.
England is without first-choice right back Gary Neville, who has damaged ankle ligaments, while his understudy Micah Richards is doubtful for the Group E game in Ramat Gan with a calf injury.
Capped seven times, Young made his debut in a friendly with the United States in May 2005, but the 27-year-old has not played for England since a friendly win over Argentina in November that year in Geneva.
He has been drafted in as cover, should Richards not be fit in time, though McClaren has two utility defenders available in Carragher and Phil Neville.
Young is the latest addition to the squad as McClaren tries to solve a defensive puzzle on the flanks.
He drafted in left-sided midfielder/defender Gareth Barry on Monday as left backs Ashley Cole and Wayne Bridge will miss out through suspension and injury respectively on Saturday.
In central defense, squad player Jonathan Woodgate is nursing a knee injury but is due to travel.
England, which has also called up striker David Nugent of second division Preston North End after losing Darren Bent, is third in the group behind Russia and leaders Croatia.
The team also faces Andorra in another qualifier Wednesday in Barcelona, a game in which Cole will return from suspension.
"This is when the pressure is on. The atmosphere will be intense and this is where we have to perform - each and every one of us," McClaren said. "I think everybody knows that."
"The players know the expectation from myself and the fans and they're the most important people. Before we look to qualify and to win anything, we have to produce a team that the fans can be proud of."
Hargreaves is back and determined to halt the slump, suggesting the Israelis won't be able to handle England's style of play.
"They're not used to playing at a high tempo, he said. If we can do that, put some pressure on them, we'll win the ball back and get the ball to our players up front, whether that be Wazza (Wayne Rooney) or whoever's playing up there to score some goals for us," Hargreaves said.
Rooney has failed to score in a competitive match since getting two goals against Croatia at the Euro 2004 tournament. The Manchester United striker is set to play up front with Everton's Andy Johnson, who hasn't scored in five England appearances.
Saturday's match will be the first competitive meeting between Israel and England. At Ramat Gan in 1986, England won a friendly 2-1 and the two sides played a goalless draw two years later.
Both teams failed to beat Croatia in their last qualifiers. Israel lost 4-3 at home in November. England's 2-0 defeat was capped by freak own goal, with goalkeeper Paul Robinson completely missing the ball as he tried to clear a backpass.
After experimenting with tactics in friendlies against the Netherlands (1-1) and Spain (a 1-0 defeat), McClaren looks set to stick with his trusted 4-4-2 formation.
Injuries and a suspension have left McClaren without fullbacks Gary Neville, Wayne Bridge, Micah Richards and Ashley Cole. Neville's brother, Phil, and Liverpool's Carragher look likely to fill in, with captain John Terry and Rio Ferdinand set to start in the center.
"We've got a strong squad. We'll have a strong team and the talking is over. We've got to perform," McClaren said.
The players of the England football team landed in Israel's Ben Gurion International airport Thursday evening, joining thousands of fans that had begun arriving in Israel in advance of Saturday's game.
The beer supply at the Herzliya hotel housing the team was doubled in anticipation of their arrival. The Israeli team is staying at a Tel Aviv hotel.
On Friday, a huge welcoming event for the English fans was held in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv. The event included live music, food, drink and competitions.
Carlsberg provided over 10,000 liters of beer for the event.
In addition, a special "Football 4 Peace" (F4P) children's tournament, sponsored by the British Council, will be held on Friday, at the Tel-Aviv Sportek, located in Ganei Yehoshua. Thousands of British and Israeli fans are expected.

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UN Security council adopts weakened Sanctions against Iran

The noose is tightening, but only very slowly. Earlier Russia said it would veto "excessive" sanctions. As stated:
The measures adopted Saturday by the council fell far short of the punishing trade and military sanctions favored by the United States and its European partners. But U.S. and European diplomats said it would contribute to further isolating Iran internationally.
U.S. officials acknowledged that the U.N. sanctions are not as tough as they had hoped. But they said they constitute one of several pressure points -- including efforts to persuade international banks and businesses to stop business with Iran -- that are weakening Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hold on power.
This weakened resolution was passed a day after Iran seized 15 British sailors.  I wonder what Britain would have done if Winston Churchill was running the admiralty.
Ami Isseroff

U.N. Security Council Unanimously Approves Iran Sanctions
By Colum Lynch and William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 24, 2007; 4:40 PM

UNITED NATIONS, March 24 -- The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to approve a resolution that bans all Iranian arms exports and freezes some of the financial assets of 28 Iranian individuals and entities linked to Iran's military and nuclear agencies.
The 15-nation council imposed the latest sanctions in response to Iran's refusal to abide by repeated U.N. demands to halt its most sensitive nuclear activities, including the enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. The council seeks verifiable assurances from Iran that it is not pursuing a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
The council also threatened to impose new penalties on Tehran after 60 days if it does not cease its nuclear activities and provide far greater cooperation to U.N. inspectors seeking to determine whether Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.
"The unanimous passage today of Resolution 1747 sends a clear and unambiguous message to Iran that the regime's continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability . . . will only further isolate Iran and make it less, not more, secure," the U.S. representative to the Security Council, Alejandro D. Wolff, said after the vote.
The 15-0 vote came a day after Iranian forces seized 15 British sailors and marines in the northern Persian Gulf, an action that raised tensions already running high over the nuclear issue. Iran charged that the Britons had crossed into Iranian waters illegally. British officials maintained that the personnel were in Iraqi waters as part of their U.N.-mandated mission in the Persian Gulf.
The measures adopted Saturday by the council fell far short of the punishing trade and military sanctions favored by the United States and its European partners. But U.S. and European diplomats said it would contribute to further isolating Iran internationally.
U.S. officials acknowledged that the U.N. sanctions are not as tough as they had hoped. But they said they constitute one of several pressure points -- including efforts to persuade international banks and businesses to stop business with Iran -- that are weakening Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's hold on power.
Saturday's resolution is intended to restrict Iran's ability to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and to participate in international negotiations. But it goes beyond Iran's nuclear program, targeting individuals and institutions that have been linked to Iran's widening military role in the Middle East.
For instance, the resolution imposes an asset freeze on Brig. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, an elite component of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Quds Force oversees Iran's support for foreign Islamic revolutionary movements, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, the Palestinian Hamas organization and Iraqi Shiite Muslim militant groups.
In his speech to the council after the vote, Wolff said the new resolution was "in no way meant to punish the civilian population of Iran."
He and other council members also noted that the asset freeze in the new measure will not prohibit those targeted from paying off debts for services rendered before the resolution's passage.
The widening scope of the resolution suggested that the United States and Britain were seeking to use the council in a broader effort to contain Iran. But it triggered concern by some council members and observers that Western powers were trying to undermine the Iranian government.
"South African is concerned about where this resolution might go," said Jean P. Du Preez, a former South African diplomat who serves as director of the International Organizations and Nonproliferation Program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "Is this aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, or is this regime change in another form?"
Saturday's vote ended more than five weeks of intense negotiations on how to respond to Iran's defiance. The resolution's chief sponsors -- the United States, Britain, France and Germany-- secured the support of Iran's closest allies, China and Russia, only by dropping several of the toughest measures, including calls for a travel ban on select Iranian officials, a cutoff of billions of dollars in export credits for companies trading with Iran and a prohibition on arms imports by Iran.
"The impact is primarily political rather than practical," said Abbas Milani, the director of Stanford University's Iranian studies program. The financial and military restrictions are "rather limited and toothless," but they are having a profound psychological impact on investors and eroding Ahmadinejad's standing in Iran, he said.
Ahmadinejad had planned to address the Security Council before the vote, but he canceled his flight to New York Friday, claiming that U.S. officials issued visas for his air crew too late to make the trip.
"Due to the evident and deliberate failure of the American officials in issuing visa to Dr. Ahmadinejad's entourage and flight crew, the president could not attend the U.N. Security Council session,'' Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said. He accused Washington of "procrastination," the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
U.S. officials disputed that account, saying that they had provided the Iranian president and his delegation with a total of 75 visas in time for them to make the trip. They said Tehran had fabricated a crisis over the visas to spare their leader the embarrassment of seeing his country condemned for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment program.
"Any suggestion that visa issues are the cause of President Ahmadinejad's decision not to travel to New York is false," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday. "Rather, it would appear that he is unwilling to stand before the council and take the heat for his continued defiance of the international community."
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended the council meeting instead of Ahmadinejad.
The council's major powers had reached agreement on the resolution last week, but they faced resistance from three of the council's nonpermanent members: South Africa, Qatar and Indonesia. The United States and its European partners offered some final concessions to secure their support Friday, adding provisions that highlight the importance of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East and the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency known as the IAEA, in resolving the nuclear dispute with Iran.
The Security Council imposed limited sanctions on Iran three months ago and called on Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.
Earlier this month, the IAEA suspended 22 technical aid projects in Iran under the sanctions. The action followed a report by IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei that Iran had continued its uranium enrichment program in defiance of the Security's Council's demand for a suspension.
ElBaradei said in the report that because Iran had failed to provide "the necessary level of transparency and cooperation," the IAEA could not verify that the Iranian program was solely for peaceful purposes, as Iran has repeatedly claimed.
Citing the discovery in 2003 that Iran had carried out a nuclear program secretly for nearly 20 years in breach of its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, ElBaradei said in the report that "the IAEA's confidence about the nature of Iran's program has been shaken because of two decades of undeclared activities."

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Apocalypse Later

Aren't you sorry to hear that Iran's final solution for all the problems it wants to solve will take a bit longer? We were all waiting anxiously, after all, for a world without Zionism and without America.

By Ben Lando Mar 24, 2007, 9:08 GMT

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (UPI) -- If Tehran would have only focused on building nuclear power plants, it would be able to export more of the oil and natural gas it produces and avoid a growing confrontation with the U.N. Security Council and the United States.
'I think that most people now understand that Iran is doing two quite distinct things,' said Ian Hore-Lacy, director of public communications for the London-based World Nuclear Association. 'One is it has a perfectly legitimate nuclear power program for generating electricity. And the second is that it is enriching uranium without any commercial justification for that.'
The reactor Russia is building in Bushehr isn`t considered a proliferation threat, but is still considered a possible but less likely target. The most likely focus of bombing and U.N. sanctions is the enrichment facilities that may have violated the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.
'The power program, by my sort of back-of-the-envelope arithmetic, ... will pay for that reactor in about 2 1/2 years with the oil and gas that`s freed up for export as a result of having it, which is a pretty good payback,' Hore-Lacy told United Press International during a phone interview from his office in Melbourne, Australia. Iran produces nearly 4 million barrels of oil per day, exporting more than half of it. Despite having the second-largest reserves of natural gas, it lacks enough investment to be a major exporter.
'They`ve devoted a huge amount of money and energy to this enrichment program, without any evident commercial justification,' Hore-Lacy said. 'Obviously that money and energy could be put into building other reactors or something like that. It`s obvious there`s an opportunity cost there.'
Instead of the half dozen nuclear reactors Iran has on the far-off drawing board, Hore-Lacy said, they could be under construction or online.
'If Iran was in the sort of political mainstream with regard to its openness and compliance with NPT obligations, yes it would be a very different ball game,' he said.
Bushehr would be Iran`s first commercial plant. It was a project started by the German firm Siemens but abandoned for lack of payment and the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Russia signed a contract in 1995 and will deliver the nuclear fuel and take back the waste, a factor in approval by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Recent dispute between the two countries has stalled the project, with news reports that experts are leaving Iran. Russia says Tehran is behind on payments; Iran says Moscow is mixing business and politics.)
In 2002, a dissident unveiled a stealth nuclear program in Iran, bringing immediate international attention. Tehran says it has the sovereign right to a complete nuclear program -- including a full fuel cycle -- because it is a signatory to the NPT. But the IAEA says Iran hasn`t been forthright enough to determine its program is solely for energy purposes.
'It`s announced plans for about six but it hasn`t done anything about them yet. It`s all words at this stage. We will see,' Hore-Lacy said. 'I wouldn`t be surprised if they build more but it will take them many years to have enough to justify having their own enrichment program.'
'The scale of the equipment they`re installing, and enrichment plants are necessarily fairly large items, the scale of what they`re installing is disproportionate to their foreseeable needs,' Hore-Lacy said.
And even demand for fuel doesn`t guarantee international acceptance of a full cycle, Hore-Lacy said. Regardless, Iran isn`t making that pitch too well.
'That would be the understatement of the week,' he said. 'The fact that the darn thing`s been clandestine in contravention of Iran`s obligations under the NPT for 19 years is the first sort of little stumbling block. And the second is if you`re setting up a very expensive enrichment program there you probably need it to be servicing about 50 reactors, not one.'
Hore-Lacy compared it to buying a car and 'then say `oh gee I better go out and buy the service station down on the corner so that I can make sure that I`ve got petrol for it.` Who would you expect to buy that story? But that`s what Iran is trying to expect the world to believe in respect to what it asserts is the peaceful purposes for that program.'
'It`s obvious from the IAEA and U.N. arena they haven`t convinced anyone,' Hore-Lacy said.
Still, international nuclear agreements are no sure bet against proliferation, since much of the nuclear technology and know-how to generate electricity could be used to generate a bomb.
An attack on Iran 'would make aspiring countries more leery,' said Cliff Kupchan, director of Europe & Eurasia for the business risk analyst Eurasia Group. 'But we still face a broken regime, an NPT that basically allows a country to get right to the cusp of developing a nuclear weapon legally' and then break out into a weapons state.
Iran has spread out and buried its facilities, making it more capable of surviving an attack, though it could cause other countries intent on a similar program to reevaluate, especially if Bushehr is hit, said Jon Wolfsthal, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
'If the United States were to demonstrate that it is prepared to bomb ostensibly civilian facilities, facilities under (IAEA) safeguards, to which Iran arguably -- I don`t make this argument -- but arguably has the legal right to utilize, it does cast a major pall over the security of nuclear facilities everywhere,' Wolfsthal said.
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Ahmadinejad is not coming to the Big Apple

What a pity Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not coming to New York after all! The world missed a good show no doubt.

Last update - 01:57 24/03/2007   
By Reuters

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has canceled his visit to New York to address the United Nations Security Council because of delays in granting visas to his entourage, Tehran's UN ambassador said on Friday.
Ahmadinejad had wanted to address the council before it votes on imposing new sanctions on Iran for refusing to stop enriching uranium in what is widely believed to be a bid to achieve nuclear weapons. The meeting is expected to be held on Saturday, although it has not been officially scheduled yet.
A diplomat on the Security Council said Ahmadinejad would instead send his deputy foreign minister Saturday to address the Security Council before the vote. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because there had not been an official announcement.
The United States issued visas in two batches on Friday at its embassy in Berne, Switzerland, but Iran's UN Ambassador Javad Zarif said it was too late.
"There was no time for the visas to be sent to Tehran in time for the president to be able to fly to New York," Zarif told Reuters. But he said Iran's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, who had received his visa early on Friday, would take a commercial flight to New York to address the council.
Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, challenged Zarif's statement.
"Too late for what?" Grenell said. "The meeting hasn't even been scheduled yet. How can they say they are too late to come if the Security Council has not given a date and time for the event?"
Zarif said some of the visas were issued early in the morning in Berne but the remainder not until near 6 p.m. local time, which did not leave enough time to take the passports back to Tehran in time for the president's plane to take off.
In Berne, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy said some 38 visas had been issued, including one for Ahmadinejad, early on Friday, and an additional 40 for the entourage late in the day once all the paper work was completed.
"The applications were incomplete but they were completed this morning," said Daniel Wendell, press attache at the embassy. "The two batches amount to about 75 visas," he said. "That's a pretty sizable group."
In Washington, the State Department said the reasons for the cancellation were a ruse.
"Rather, it would appear that he is unwilling to stand before the Council and take the heat for his continued defiance of the international community," said spokesman Tom Casey.
Casey said the visas were issued late Friday afternoon "despite the fact that the completed applications for many of them were not received until this morning."
And at the United Nations, the American representative, Alejandro Wolff said, "I think this is all a pretext. The visas were issued in ample time."
But in Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini was quoted on television as saying, "Due to the obvious negligence in issuing a visa for members of the Iranian delegation accompanying the president and the plane crew, American officials stopped the president from attending the Security Council's meeting."

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Articles about George Soros keep coming and coming

George Soros' article in the NY Review of Books, a shallow and unoriginal piece that regurgitated the usual complaints against AIPAC, continues to make waves. Enough already.

Rosner's Blog
Some American Jewish leaders are worried, and for good reason. They are paid to be worried, and paid well. We're heading for hard times, said one, recounting several reasons. For one, the pro-Israel lobby has been on the defensive for the past several months.
This week Jewish billionaire George Soros joined the chorus, not for the first time, writing an article in the New York Review of Books in which he accused AIPAC of exerting a damaging influence over American policy.
"Supporters of Israel have good reason to question AIPAC's advocacy and they have begun to do so," he wrote. It appears that Soros considers himself to be an Israel supporter, even if many would disagree. In the article, Soros did not repeat past statements in which he accused Israel of exacerbating anti-Semitic trends, but he provided readers with different reasons to doubt the sincerity of his support. Regarding Hamas, for example, he wrote that "according to some reports it has a military wing." In other words, Soros isn't quite convinced that the rumors are true. He also trotted out the standard accusation, which Carter also made, that AIPAC silences criticism of Israel.
Soros is a prominent contributor to the Democratic Party. He was surely somewhat disappointed when it became clear that its leaders are not enthusiastic about responding to his call to arms. Sure, they want his money, but not his image. Democratic presidential candidate
Sen. Barack Obama, who is seen as being further to the left than other candidates, and whose candidacy has elicited a great deal of interest from Soros, has officially stated that he does not agree with Soros' views on Israel. This will certainly strengthen Soros' feeling that AIPAC is indeed succeeding in silencing others, in taming even the lions. And the article won't be Soros' last word in his struggle against AIPAC. The pro-Israel lobby won this round, but no tranquility is guaranteed by long-term trends.
Note to the readers: this part of the blog was taken from my weekend print edition column.
The New York Jewish Week reported this morning that Soros has decided not to fund a dovish alternative to AIPAC. Soros spokesman Michael Vachon told the paper lack of prior involvement in Jewish life was the prime reason for his decision. "He feels he would not have the necessary standing in the community," said Vachon. "Some people might even be put off by his involvement in such an effort."
If you regularly read this blog you will not be surprised by this decision. Back in October, I quoted an Israeli well-versed in the intricate ways of American politics. He wanted to explain how difficult it is to set up an efficient Washington lobby, one that would exert considerable influence and chose to use the following joke: The chicken and the pig decided to give the farmer a present for his birthday. They were trying to figure out what to bring when the chicken had an idea: "Why don't we make him breakfast? What do you say about bacon and eggs?" No way, answered the pig, and he had his reasons: "Bacon and eggs might be a contribution for you, but for me it's a commitment."
You can read a summery of Soros' criticism - and that of others - in Nathan Guttman's Forward comprehensive piece: Major critiques of Jewish lobbying were published by controversial billionaire George Soros, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, the respected British newsmagazine The Economist and the popular Web site Salon. The replies were furious. The New York Sun accused Kristof and Soros of spreading a "new blood libel." The American Jewish Committee?s executive director, David Harris, wrote in a Jerusalem Post opinion article that Kristof had a "blind spot" and had "sanctimoniously lectured" Israel. The editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, renewed an attack on Soros that he began a month ago when he called the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor a "cog in the Hitlerite wheel."
When I wrote about the Carter book a while ago, I referred to the fact that "The critics [of the book], as Carter justly claims, are almost all Jews. That is the only card left in his hand, but it is a strong one, which embodies a trap from which there is no escape."
This reality didn't change much since, and an especially painful manifestation of it was a speech Bill Clinton gave in which he stated that "If I were an Israeli, I wouldn't like it because it's not factually accurate and it's not fair." Clearly, he didn't agree with the book, but fell short of saying that he was upset about it as an American. Has this started to change? I'm not so sure. Clinton sent a letter to AJC's Executive Director David Harris, thanking him for "your articles about President Carter's book. I don't know where his information [or conclusions] came from", Clinton wrote. Again, unhappy with the book but shy of making it clear that he is upset.
Maybe it's a polite way for an ex-President to rebuff a fellow ex, maybe its Clinton's habit to stay vague whenever possible. Bottom line: Jews are still those who make the case against Carter. Cheering from the sidelines doesn't count as much.
And look what my weekly guest has to say about AIPAC: recent (poorly researched and politically slanted) publications have transformed this organization into something quite sinister. Personally, I do not share the underlying philosophy of AIPAC, in particular its unreflective support of hard-line, right wing policies in Israel. But this organization is merely playing by the rules governing the American political system.

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"Peace Plan" - Egypt is in on the act too

Along with Secretary Rice, Egypt is pushing the Arab peace plan. They insist that Israel must accept the Arab peace plan before negotiating with the PA. If Israel accepts the Arab "peace" plan, then there is nothing to negotiate about. Everyone can go live in Europe or the US, and leave their homes to the "returning" Palestinian refugees, who are the numerous descendants of the refugees of 1948 and their spouses, often of foreign descent.
What is the point of negotiating and what would we negotiate about?

Last update - 18:56 23/03/2007   
By The Associated Press
Egypt said Friday that Israel should approve in principle the 2002 land-for-peace Saudi peace initiative before negotiations with the Palestinians could begin.
"Israel must announce first that it is accepting the initiative, then we start searching for a mechanism of negotiations, for a peaceful settlement for the conflict," said Egyptian Deputy Foreign Minister Hani Khalaf.
The Arab plan offers Israel recognition and peace in return for full withdrawal from the land Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War, plus the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. It also calls for allowing Palestinian refugees the right to return to homes in Israel.
The plan, first proposed at the Beirut Arab Summit in 2002, is expected to be revived at the upcoming Arab Summit later this month in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.
Israel initially rejected the plan, and is particularly opposed to its granting the right of return to Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
However, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday that the plan could provide a convenient basis for renewed talks with Arab moderates. His remark was seen as indicating a tentative interest in the initiative after the failure of other avenues toward peace. The Egyptian official hinted that if Israel accepted the plan in principle, negotiations could begin on its specific points.
"Israel should not make any requests to reformulate the initiative before negotiations, as the process of negotiations in itself will bring modifications," Khalaf said.
Meanwhile, Arab diplomats say the United States has been pushing for changes to the Arab plan to make it consistent with the road map, a peace plan supported by the United States and other members of the Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators ? the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The road map calls for a two-state solution but falls short of specifying border lines for the proposed Palestinian state.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit the southern Egyptian city of Aswan this weekend, where she is expected to discuss the American vision for a solution to the conflict in the Middle East with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and representatives of the UN, the EU and Russia.
Khalaf said Arab parties would listen to that vision, but would also focus on marketing the Arab plan to the United States.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rice pushing Arab peace plan

Rice is pushing the Saudi peace plan. This is a bit strange, since it was the Arabs who first announced the intention to renew the plan at the upcoming Arab summit. They should not need encouragement from Rice. It is even stranger. The plan is basically inimical to Israel, and Israel Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni insists that the plan cannot be acceptable unless it gives up insistence on right of return for Palestinian refugees. So Rice is pushing a plan that is inimical to the number 1 ally of the US in the Middle East.
Very peculiar.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 10:13 24/03/2007   
Rice urges Arab states to recommit to Saudi plan
By News Agencies

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, heading to the Middle East on her third trip since the start of the year, on Friday urged the Arab states to recommit to a 2002 Saudi peace initiative, and said that there should be room for negotiation.
The plan should be revived "in a way that leaves open the possibility for active diplomacy based on it, not just putting it in the middle of the table and leaving it at that."
The secretary of state denied reports from some Arab diplomats, however, that she had asked for changes in the original proposal.
She also called on the Arab states to negotiate with Israel, giving new impetus to the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"You need the energy and the help of moving forward on the Arab-Israeli side not at the end of the process but earlier," Rice told reporters.
Her trip to Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt comes ahead of an Arab League summit at the end of March. The meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is expected to revive the proposal for blanket
peace with Israel in return for a complete withdrawal from terrotories captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
Despite her plans to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Rice said that the issue of the Saudi peace plan could center stage.
"It's almost at this point more important, given the upcoming Riyadh summit, to have the discussion with the Arabs about relaunching the Arab initiative," she said.
Rice stops first in Aswan, Egypt, for talks with the foreign ministers of the so-called Arab quartet - Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - and with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
She also is expected to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah.
Rice also criticized Hamas for not releasing captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit, held since June 2006, saying it would have helped the new Hamas-Fatah government. The Palestinians had hoped the formation of the government would win international approval.
Freeing Shalit "would have gotten this national unity government off to a better start internationally than it's off to right now," Rice said.
She also said that the U.S. might one day propose its own solutions to the most vexing problems dividing Israel and the Palestinians, such as the borders of an eventual independent Palestinian state.
In the meantime, Rice said, she wants to use meetings like those she will attend in coming days in Jerusalem and the West Bank to draft a common set of questions and concerns on both sides. She gave no timetable for either effort but made clear that the United States would be at the center of them.
"I don't rule out that at some point that might be a useful thing to do," Rice said when asked about presenting a set of U.S. proposals to settle enduring problems that have scuttled past negotiations for peace. Those include borders, the fate of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinians and their descendants who left when Israel was formed in 1948.
The United States has not publicly placed its own proposed solutions before the Israelis and Palestinians since the closing months of the former President Bill Clinton's administration.
Both sides say U.S. involvement is crucial to any political
accommodations between the two sides.
Rice is trying to invigorate new peace talks despite long odds. She will see Israeli and Palestinian leaders separately on this trip, which comes a week after the Palestinians formed a coalition government that falls short of international demands.
"What I want to do is to establish ... a common approach in parallel between the two parties, to have a mechanism or certain elements that I am using to structure the discussion," Rice told reporters before leaving for her trip.
"I hope that I can get them to see that there is some advantage to having a common language, a common approach, a common mechanism for working through what issues have to be resolved," Rice said.
Rice said she will shuttle between the two sides to develop a common set of concerns, but she said she hopes she can produce a document which might eventually allow for a way for them to structure a conversation between them.
Rice brokered a three-way meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas when she last visited the region last month. She said she did not even ask the two to come together this time, although U.S. officials say that kind of meeting will come again in time.
For now, Rice is repeating a well-tested pattern from past peace negotiations, where the United States is a go-between and provocateur. That is another step toward the kind of central role in Israeli-Arab peacemaking that the Bush administration resisted in its early years.
Part of Rice's goal on this trip is to rally greater Arab support for peace efforts, and the smaller, practical steps that would precede any substantive peace talks. She is seeing leaders and diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the so-called
Arab quartet.
Analysts say Rice wants to make a mark by tackling a conflict that is often seen as intractable before she leaves office.
"She has 18 months to become a consequential secretary of state," said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser on Middle East issues to both Republican and Democratic administrations. "The way to become a consequential secretary of state is to take a problem that normal human beings know is hard and make it better."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jewish state for the Jewish people

This article from Ha'aretz  turns a simple point to a complex and devious one. It is not necessary to hide the fact that the Jewish people assert the right to self determination, as is done here, in all manner of circumlocutions about multicultural societies. The Palestinian people should have their own state, and one day they will. Nobody will try to make anything of that state other than what they Palestinian people decide. There is no doubt that it will be an Arab Palestinian state, and like most Arab states in the Middle East, Islam will be the official religion of that state. The Palestinian state will come about because the world supports the right of self determination.
By what right then, do Israeli Arabs wish to change the complexion of the State of Israel? Their claim is that they were "always" here. Perhaps it is so, though the Nashashibi family came here as the bowmen of Sallah ed-Din and the Husseini family came with the Mameluke Turks apparently, and many Arabs came here from Bosnia and other places in the last century, invited by the Ottoman government. Nonetheless, those Palestinian families who have been here since the time of the Philistines spoke a different language before they spoke Arabic. Of course they are welcome to stay and to keep their own customs, but they cannot force their culture and their customs on the only Jewish state in the world.
My family were Palestinians until May 15, 1948. Everyone here was a "Palestinian," Jews and Arabs. After May 15 1948 there were no more Palestinians here. Everyone who remained here got Israeli citizenship and became Israelis. If there are Arabs of Israel who want to be "Palestinians" they will need to do it elsewhere.
Ami Isseroff

By Avi Sagi and Yedidia Stern

The wheel comes full circle. Not long ago, we sinned by asserting lordship "There is no Palestinian people." Over the years this view was shorn from the marketplace of ideas of the Jewish majority in Israel, and we no longer reject the national identity of these others. Now however, leading figures among Israel's Arab community are paying us back in a similar coin: Several recently published documents laying out their vision for the future call for the annulment of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, from which it follows that they are rejecting a central element of identity of the Jewish people in our generation. This is a strategic move by a substantial portion of the leadership of about a fifth of the country's citizens, and it should be taken seriously.
We pushed the Arab citizens into an alley with no exit: they are experiencing prolonged discrimination that cannot be justified. Their right to full civil equality is not being realized. Decent Israelis cannot remain silent in the light of the state's ongoing failure in its treatment of minority group. Moreover, decent Jews cannot ignore their responsibility to protect the national minority from manifestations of racism. We did not make an effort to consolidate civil partnership; we did not create inviting conditions for honorable coexistence. The outcry of the poor Arab, who is discriminated against as a person and who feels excluded and alienated as the member of a minority group, is resonating across the country. It raises doubts about the depth of our true commitment to the values of a "Jewish state" and a "democratic state."
However, the new initiatives of the Arab leadership in Israel are not making do with a call to rectify the wrongs done to the minority. The central innovation of principle in these documents lies in their categorical assertion that proper equality will not be achieved as long as Israel is a Jewish state. Accordingly, they launch a frontal assault against the state's Jewish character. If the previous generation of Arabs, the "stooped generation," was content to aspire to civil equality, the present "erect generation" is challenging the right of the majority to maintain a Jewish nation-state.
Conspiracy of elites
The broad context of the "Future Vision" document arises clearly from its opening lines. The reproof sticks out like thorns in one's eyes: "Israel is the outcome of a settlement process initiated by the Zionist-Jewish elite in Europe and the West and realized by colonial countries." The voice that is speaking here is none other than the National Committee for the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities in Israel. These people, Israeli public representatives who live in close proximity to us Jews, believe that the State of Israel is not the realization of generations of Jewish longing to return to Zion, but a conspiracy by elites seeking to impose Western control over the Middle East. "Next year in Jerusalem, As long as deep in the heart... My heart is in the East and I am at the ends of the West?" none of these are authentic expressions of the Jewish soul across the generations.
This is historical nonsense. Postcolonial theories cannot transform a full life into a fiction. Even those who feel victimized by the Nakba cannot erase the fact that "The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped," as Israel's Declaration of Independence states. Israel's Arabs lose our attention if they refuse to recognize the fact that, as the declaration states, "After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it hroughout their dispersion, and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom. We are not strangers in our homeland."
The Arabs' visions also offer concrete solutions. They are striving to shape Israel as a multicultural state. However, the Arab leadership is not content with protecting certain public spaces, which are populated largely by members of the Arab minority, as areas in which Arab culture and identity will be embodied. They want much more. They are demanding that all the elements of the Israeli space - sovereignty, territory, norms and symbols - be freed of any specific identity. They are unwilling to make do with the rights accruing to a cultural minority. They want the Jewish majority to narrow its identity and apply it only in sub-state spaces. The state will be a neutral playing field, transparent and hollow, possessing a universal character.
An attempt to fashion a multicultural state of this kind will not succeed. History shows that multiculturalism has blossomed only when it is cultivated in a stable national-political space. The leadership of Israel's Arabs is seeking what no one had dared call for: for the overwhelming majority of the country's citizens to withdraw their collective identity to outside the public space, which is so vital to realize identity. In the absence of another Jewish state, the import of their demand will be to dwarf and diminish Jewish identity in our generation to its private and community dimensions, just as it was for two thousand years, when we were a people in exile.
Moreover, states need a unifying national ethos. Without it, a state is liable to become a random federation of communities that will find it difficult to exist as a homogeneous unit. This is even more acute in the Israeli context. The Arab minority is tied to social-cultural communities that exist in the Arab states and it is part of the Palestinian nation, which is in the process of establishing an independent state abutting on Israel. Is it far-fetched to be concerned that the Arab minority is actually interested in a two-state plan: voiding the existing ethos and replacing it, when the time comes, with a different national vision that will integrate into Arab or Islamic visions that are shared by the rest of the Palestinian nation, across the border.
If the State of Israel is voided of identity components, it will lose one of the crucial elements of national resilience which that its continued existence in a hostile arena. Will Israeli youngsters - to whom the whole world is open - respond to a mobilization call that asks them to give up their best years, and sometimes also their very lives, for an organizational framework that does not provide them with meaning? The internal centrifugal forces will make us fall apart from within, and the opportunities that beckon in the global village will hasten the process from without.
Behind the multicultural rhetoric

The suspicion arises that behind the multicultural rhetoric lies the aspiration to liquidate Israel as a political entity. Implicit in it is the ouster of the Jewish nation from the world?s nations. Academic language possessing political charm might turn out to be a weapon in the struggle against the State of Israel. The Arab elite is leading its followers into dangerous realms. They must understand that the members of the Jewish people, including the salient supporters of civil equality for all, will not forgo the realization of their right to self-determination in this space, the cradle of the Jewish nation. The Jewish people has an inalienable right to the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.
Israel's Arab citizens have to demand - and the Jewish majority must agree to - a fair division of the public space between the two groups. The Jewish majority will have the larger part of the realization of identity in this space, and the Arab minority will be left with the smaller part. Any other alternative will undermine, and ultimately void of content, the concepts of identity that underlie multiculturalism.
However, not all the public assets are amenable to division between majority and minority. Thus, for example, the definition of the state's character as "Jewish," to which the documents of the Arab vision object, is indivisible. This is the source of the argument that the right of the Arab minority to equality in the public space is infringed upon. Even though this is true, it cannot lead us to hesitate in our insistence on preserving the state?s definition as "Jewish."
Isaiah Berlin stated that "[equality] is neither more nor less rational than any other ultimate principle." The basic point of departure of a liberal society is that equality is the primary value that must be applied, but it is possible to depart from this value if there is sufficient cause. Indeed, in Berlin's view, the majority of social disputes are related to the question of the nature of the sufficient cause to depart from equality.
As we noted, the demand of the Arab minority for civil equality is meritorious because no sufficient cause to justify its rejection is posited against it. In contrast, their demand for equality in the public space, to be achieved by removing the collective identity of more than three-quarters of the country?s citizens from the sovereign space, is intolerable. Posited against it are extremely cogent sufficient causes, above all the discrimination against the Jewish national identity (vis-a-vis either national identities which find expression in a political space, including the Arab identities) and the degeneration it is liable to suffer as a result. To this we must add the concrete concern that the Israeli political state will be disassembled into unconnected sub-units, and the danger that strategic harm will accrue to national resilience.
The Arab public in Israel would do well to direct its energy to a struggle for civil equality, in which it will find many partners among the Jewish people. But continuing to build verbal sandcastles in the form of documents of the vision is pointless. The Jewish people does not intend to divest itself of its aspiration to realize its nationhood in the political space of the State of Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Reliance on NGOs discredits State Department human rights report

Unprofessional and biased treatment of Israel in the U.S. State Department's latest human rights report seriously undermines the the entire document, Gerald Steinberg writes.

JTA Published: 03/22/2007
For State Department, reliance on NGOs saps report's credibility
By Gerald Steinberg

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- The annual U.S. State Department report on human rights are important in documenting systematic violations in Darfur, China, Iran, Russia and elsewhere.

For this reason, the lack of credibility and professionalism reflected in the chapter on "Israel and the Occupied Territories" in the publication for 2006 (released March 6) is particularly disturbing, and seriously undermines the credibility of the rest of the report. While the State Department's version recognizes the context of terror and the legitimacy of Israeli self-defense, and is far more balanced than the farcical United Nations reports, this publication is still highly flawed.

The main reason is the almost total reliance on allegations made by the large number of non-governmental organizations active in this conflict zone. Instead of doing their own research on these complex human rights issues, the authors of this report in the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem (on the Palestinians) and in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv (on Israeli actions) parrot the claims of highly political NGOs.

Groups such as Adalah, Mossawa, HaMoked, B'Tselem, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), and Human Rights Watch are the real authors of this chapter. With the exception of HRW, these NGOs are funded by European governments, radical church groups and similar donors.

As NGO Monitor's carefully referenced and detailed studies show, these NGOs follow a highly politicized agenda that views the Palestinians as perennial victims and Israel as guilty of "war crimes," "racism" and "violations of international law." These organizations apply double standards that single out and demonize Israel, following the strategy adopted at the infamous NGO Forum of the 2001 U.N. Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.

This strategy includes false allegations of human rights abuses, selective or distorted interpretations of international law and use of inflammatory rhetoric. These groups cannot be considered "reputable international organizations" or "credible NGOs," as the State Department claims.

For example, the 2006 report includes numerous references to petitions brought to the Israeli judicial system on behalf of Palestinian groups or individuals by "reputable NGOs." Many of these are dismissed -- as in the case of PCATI's case against targeted killings aimed at Palestinian terrorist leaders -- but the main result is to influence public opinion by reinforcing the image of Israel as guilty of "war crimes."

The political biases that underlie these NGOs' activities and distort their factual claims and interpretations of international law are very visible. Mossawa and Adalah routinely refer to Israel as "racist" and call for changing the Israeli flag and national anthem, "abolishing the Jewish elements of Israel" and implementing a "right of return" for millions of Palestinians claiming refugee status.

And PCATI is the sole source for the State Department claim that the Israel Security Agency used "torture" in 20 percent of its interrogations. No evidence or sources are provided, and the report failed to note that members of PCATI's staff and board campaign for radical causes, such as the "Free Tali Fahima" campaign. Fahima was convicted for assisting Zakaria Zubeidi, a Palestinian terrorist and head of the Al-Aksa Brigades in Jenin.

HRW is another example of a powerful NGO that lacks credibility and balance on Israel. The State Department report repeats HRW statements that "claimed that between May 30 and June 20, IDF forces attacked Palestinian medical emergency personnel on at least six separate occasions in Gaza, including two attacks by missile-firing drone aircraft."

HRW's reports are based on "eyewitness testimony" of Palestinians and selected journalists, and strip away both the context and the numerous examples in which Palestinians have used medical vehicles and clothing in terror attacks. HRW's blatantly false reports during last summer's war with Hezbollah, including the claim to have found "no cases" of Hezbollah activity during its investigations, further lower this organization's credibility.

In many places, the language of the State Department report imitates the rhetoric of the anti-Israel NGO network. Atomic spy Mordechai Vanunu is incorrectly termed a "whistleblower," adopting the term used by Amnesty International and other groups. A "whistleblower" reveals illegal behavior by others, while Vanunu acted illegally in revealing sensitive national security information. Such actions are illegal under U.S. law, and the report's characterization reflects the double standards applied to Israel that have been copied from NGOs.

These and other flaws in this report do not mean that Israel should be immune from criticism for real violations of human rights when they occur. In responding to terror, Israelis, Americans and others make mistakes and should be held accountable.

But this objective is inconsistent with the exploitation of human rights for demonization and political warfare by politicized NGOs, and the U.S. State Department should not be part of this process.

Gerald Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor and heads the program on Conflict Management at Bar Ilan University.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanese admirer of Bin Laden

This should not surprise anyone, but sadly it will..

Special Dispatch-Lebanon/Jihad & Terrorism Studies Project
March 23, 2007
No. 1518
Top Lebanese Sunni Cleric and Former MP Fathi Yakan on Al-Jazeera:
Bin Laden a Man After My Own Heart; I Am Not Sad Because of 9/11 and Never Condemned this Attack .
The following are excerpts from an interview with Lebanese Sunni cleric and former MP Fathi Yakan, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on March 16, 2007. 
Yakan is the founder and head of the Lebanese Islamist Front. He holds a Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, and was secretary-general of the Lebanese Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya group until he won a parliamentary seat, which he lost in 2005.
In a visit to Iran last week, he called for a joint defense pact for Iran and Arab and Muslim countries to defend the Muslim world. He also said, "Muslims of the world are united in efforts... to counter the U.S. and Zionist regime's threats, aggressions, and plots."(1) 
The excerpts of Yakan's Al-Jazeera interview are followed by transcripts of two previous MEMRI TV clips of his interviews on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV.

*Al-Jazeera TV, March 16, 2007

Fathi Yakan: "There is no doubt that Sheik Osama bin Laden has a high level of faithfulness, trustworthiness, and transparency. He is faithful to his religion and to jihad for the elevation of the word of Allah. Unfortunately, there have been many rumors that he is an American creation, and that all that is happening is the result of scenarios concocted by him and America, especially following the Russians withdrawal from Afghanistan. There were claims that these people were biased towards the Americans, and that America toyed with them, and so on. I believe this is all nonsense, and that this is totally untrue. This man has a pure, honest and believing personality. He defends all that belongs to Islam and who renounces anything that is not Islamic, and therefore, he is a man after my own heart."
Interviewer: "You met him once, didn't you?"
Fathi Yakan: "It may have been more than once, because whenever I go to Saudi Arabia, I am invited to meetings and to deliver talks, just like many other preachers and scholars from Egypt and elsewhere. So I may have met him more than once.
"From what I know of the man, he is very sincere in what he calls for. I could almost say that I would not regard anyone else the same way I regard Osama bin Laden with respect to Al-Qaeda. Every person has his own characteristics, of course. I once wrote to Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, [warning him]: 'Oh Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, fear Allah in the way you behave.' I said this should be determined by Islamic law. I even wrote to the Al-Qaeda leadership, saying neither Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi nor anyone else should be left to act on their own accord, because of the fate of Islam..."
Interviewer: "Just to prevent misunderstanding – are you in contact with these people?"
Fathi Yakan: "Yes. With regard to Iraq, the Association of Muslims Scholars maintains constant contact with all the forces that operate there."
Interviewer: "But there was an operation, for which Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility – the bombing of the Twin Towers in America, and what was described as terrorist attacks against the Americans. In this case, for example, are you with him or against him? Were you happy when you saw the towers collapse?"
Fathi Yakan: "If we examine the ideology of Al-Qaeda and bin Laden in depth, we see that he has become completely convinced that the only way to curb the disease that is afflicting the Islamic world... The only way to stop this octopus is to crush the serpent's head."
Interviewer: "Do you share this opinion?"
Fathi Yakan: "It's fine with me. I might have crushed the serpent's head in a different way. I might have crushed it by means of the Islamic resistance in South Lebanon, by attacking Israel. But bin Laden said: 'No, I will strike it in its own home. I will strike it in the World Trade Center, and shake its economic status.' This is his methodology, and he should bear responsibility for it, but I am not sad or depressed that this happened, and I do not condemn it. In all honesty, I have never condemned this. Just like it had negative ramifications, it had positive ones as well."
*Al-Manar TV, December 12, 2006
Fathi Yakan: "It's not true that the [Hizbullah] ministers' resignation from the government is an attempt to thwart the international tribunal. It was a response to pressure by the opposition and an effort to foil the plan of hijacking Lebanon, in order to Americanize and Zionize it.
"Brothers, are you aware that this tribunal – and, I'm sad to say, anything that comes out of the U.N. – must first be Zionized and get the Zionist stamp of approval? Are you aware that at the head of the legal team, appointed by Kofi Annan to study the proposal for an international tribunal... Are you aware that this legal team is headed by a Jewish woman? Yes, she is a Jewish woman, in the full sense of the word. It is no secret that this Jewish woman is Dr. Daphna Shraga, who graduated with a Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University. What else can be said about this tribunal, its role, its direction, and its rulings, if it is headed by a Jewish woman of this kind?
"Brothers and sisters, it is not true that the resistance is turning the Sunnis into Shiites. What is true is that we, the Sunnis, who began the resistance, must fulfill our natural role, which is dictated to us by our shari'a law. The shari'a dictates this upon us and upon our Shiite brothers. It does not dictate this just upon them, but upon all of us Muslims.
"If the enemy occupies even an inch of the land of Islam, jihad becomes an individual duty, incumbent upon each and every Muslim man and woman. A woman can leave her husband's home, even without his permission, and a child can leave home without his father's permission. This is shari'a law if even an inch of Muslim land is occupied. Today, entire countries are occupied by the American enemy, and according to shari'a law, the response to this occupation must be through the duty of jihad. Jihad, brothers, is our path to Paradise."
*Al-Manar TV, October 20, 2006
Fathi Yakan: "Tomorrow, Allah willing, the 'true promise' will be fulfilled in Palestine, all of Palestine -  not just in Jerusalem, not just in the 1967 territories, but on all Palestinian soil, the land of the frontline. Then, brothers, the greatest victory awaits us – the promise of the world to come. These promises will be followed by other promises, and then the greatest promise will be fulfilled, through the words of the Prophet Muhammad: 'Judgment Day will only come when the Muslims fight the Jews, and kill them.' This is the promise of the world to come. Through the true promise in Lebanon and in Palestine, we proceed, Allah willing, to the final promise, when the state of Israel, this cancerous growth, will be eliminated, Allah willing.
"Every day, the Israeli enemy opens a small window, and looks out at what happened in Lebanon, confirming that the resistance and Lebanon were victorious, and that defeat was the lot of Israel and this accursed Israeli people – this accursed nation, the offspring of apes and pigs. I say to you, brothers, with all honesty: I suggest that the Lebanese who feel [Israel won the war] should go see a doctor, because they may be afflicted with psychological or mental AIDS."
(1) Ya Libnan (Lebanon), March 18, 2007.

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

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

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

Continued (Permanent Link)

Did Palestinian Police help kidnap a BBC reporter?

...according to senior security sources, BBC representatives were conducting talks with officials in the Palestinian Authority police force who might have been involved in Johnston's abduction. Johnston, 44, was abducted on March 12 when four masked gunmen snatched him from his car as he headed to his apartment in Gaza City.
Isn't there something surrealistic about negotiating with "police" who abducted someone? (or is it more PC to say that he was "captured" as a prisoner of war?)

Jerusalem Post, March 23, 2007
PA police may have helped snatch BBC reporter

The Israeli defense establishment has no leads concerning the whereabouts of missing BBC reporter Alan Johnston, who was abducted in the Gaza Strip almost two weeks ago.

But, according to senior security sources, BBC representatives were conducting talks with officials in the Palestinian Authority police force who might have been involved in Johnston's abduction. Johnston, 44, was abducted on March 12 when four masked gunmen snatched him from his car as he headed to his apartment in Gaza City.

"There are currently no leads as to who is holding the reporter or where he is being held," said a security source.

Two Fox News employees were abducted last summer and held in Gaza for two-and-a-half weeks. "We hope he is released before two weeks are up on Monday," the sources said.

On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said the British government was "using every channel and opportunity" to secure Johnston's release.

AP contributed to the report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Middle East Reality: Who is making peace impossible?

Burston makes it clear why it is now impossible for Israel to make any sort of concessions: Hamas. That is the reality of Israeli politics. Outsiders like George Soros and Nicholas Kristof who babble about pressuring Israel to negotiate forget that there is nobody on the other side who is a serious negotiating partner.
Ami Isseroff, Rehovot

By Bradley Burston

There was a time, not long ago, when, no matter what happened in this part of the world, Hamas came out the winner.
Palestinian disenchantment with the peace process? Support for Hamas grew. Suicide bombings provoked Israeli crackdowns, curfews, house demolitions, and massive military incursions? Support for Hamas grew further. Israeli raids and assassinations made Islamic militants into martyrs? Washington invaded and occupied Iraq? Corruption was rife in the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority? Poverty deepened in the territories? Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip? Hamas was right there every time, to reap the rewards.
What a difference a regime change makes.
It's been a little over a year since Hamas took power. For a little over a year, in fact, no matter what Hamas has done, the settlers have come out the winner.
In its policies, its platform, and particularly, in its stubborn inability to reinvent itself, Hamas has proven the answer to an anxious settler's prayer.
Thanks largely to Hamas, the threat to settlers of a further withdrawal in the West Bank, with wholesale eviction of scores of settlements, has been lifted.
Who would have guessed a Hamas government would have proven so settler-friendly?
A few months before the rise of the Hamas government, the settlement movement was on the ropes. The Israeli pull-out from the Gaza Strip and settlements in the northern West Bank, a measure which the movement had confidently predicted would never take place, took a bare six days to complete. Many settlers found particularly galling the fact that the disengagement was the brainchild of Ariel Sharon, for decades the champion, patron, architect and contractor of the settlement enterprise.
The disengagement went ahead despite the most extensive, certainly the most expensive protest movement in the nation's history. The disengagement went ahead with the support of a strong majority of the public, whose response in opinion polls was nearly as favorable at the end of the long, painful process as it has been at the beginning.
The settlement movement, meanwhile, was riven by squabbling, mutual recriminations, heartache and despair.
Not only had the movement failed to block the disengagement - the first instance of dismantling government-authorized settlements in the West Bank and Gaza since the territories were captured in 1967 - but the cornerstone of Ehud Olmert's later campaign for prime minister was a plan under which Israel would cede most of the West Bank to the Palestinians within four years.
There was no one left to save the settlement movement. Except Hamas.
Ironically, the most effective life preserver thrown the settlement movement was the Hamas-developed Qassam rocket.
Qassams had been fired at Gaza Strip settlements and at the western Negev since 2001. But it was only with the disengagement that the launches began in earnest, with as many as a dozen or more rockets a day striking civilian targets in the Israeli city of Sderot and its environs.
Daily Qassam barrages quickly and precipitously eroded Israeli support for a further withdrawal in the West Bank. Palestinian gunners pointedly used the ruins of evacuated settlements as launch platforms.
The lesson drawn by most Israelis - including leftists - was clear: If Israel willingly removes settlements and carries out a withdrawal in the territories, it can expect only rocket attacks in return.
But there were more lessons to be drawn as well:
If you pull IDF forces out of Gaza and redeploy them on Israeli territory outside the Strip, Hamas, with help from other groups, will tunnel under the border, attack your forces on Israeli territory, capture a soldier, and hold him hostage indefinitely.
If Hamas kidnaps a soldier from sovereign Israeli territory in the south, then its new partner Hezbollah, backed by Iran, will kidnap two in the north. The same border to which Israel withdrew from south Lebanon in an act recognized by the United Nations as a full withdrawal from occupied Lebanese soil.
Offered a chance to prove that Palestinians could govern themselves with skill and maturity - therefore demonstrating to the world, and to the Israeli electorate, that a further withdrawal in the West Bank could contribute to stability and increased coexistence - Hamas and Fatah spent much of the past year at war with one another, often literally.
Offered a chance for international legitimacy and restoration of much-needed aid, Hamas will opt, as it did this month in an open letter to Al Qaida, for a restatement of its commitment to taking over all of the Holy Land by force.
To underscore this commitment, the Hamas military wing this week sent one of its marksmen to the Gaza border to kill an electrical worker on the Israeli side. The plan nearly succeeded, but the victim lived.
These days, thanks to Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Meshal, and the Qassam Brigades, settlers find themselves sleeping better, secure in the perception that plans for a further West Bank withdrawal have been rendered a non-starter.
Who says Hamas is not a partner?

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"Progressives" Against the Exodus

This satire is a lot of fun, but of course, not all progressives think like this.

"Progressives" Against the Exodus
March 20, 2007
By Daryl Temkin, Ph.D.
       Why did Moses have to stop and take notice of that burning bush?  Couldn't he have simply walked past it and not have engaged in conversation?

       In a progressive view, Moses became a radical Egyptophobe who publicly denounced the terrible conduct of the Egyptian taskmasters, slave owners and, worse, he discredited the words of Pharaoh. Moses exposed Pharaoh and embarrassingly demonstrated that he was not a "moderate".  But in spite of a mountain of evidence, the progressive view insisted that Pharaoh's political leadership was just fine. Moses' view was marginalized and seen as alarmist and extremist.

       The "progressive" slaves hated Moses' freedom campaign because they saw it as disruptive to Egypt, and a justification for anti-Jewish protests.  The progressive intellectual slaves proclaimed Moses to be a stupid stutterer who couldn't even pronounce basic words.  Although all the documents of Egypt consistently pressed for the annihilation of the Jews, the progressives argued that Pharaoh was really benign and had recognized the existence and rights of the Nation of Israel -- it was only for political reasons that Pharaoh couldn't publicly state his recognition.

       Two professors from the prestigious Nile University published research which indicated suspicion that the Israelite nation was not politically supportive of Egyptian attitudes and was organizing to achieve its own goals. Progressive slaves quickly argued in favor of continued Jewish enslavement.

       The fact that Moses the radical wanted the Jews to abandon Egyptian enslavement was a terrible affront to Egyptian taskmasters and was a reason to initiate widespread anti-Semitism. The progressives claimed that if the Jews would only stay and cooperate with the Egyptian plan to kill them, then hatred of the Jews would not have to be aroused.

       The progressive slave position declared that Moses was an "imperialist expansionist" whose goal was to have the Jews leave Egypt and become a free people in their own land.  Leaving Egypt meant that the Jews were planning to conquer the entire universe. The progressives warned that the Jews who entered the Sinai desert would be the beginning of an unbearable occupation and would create an unsightly refugee problem of Jews living in makeshift tents for decades. The world would be in constant fear regarding where the Jews would settle and which indigenous population would be displaced.

       In the face of trying to negotiate with an administration that doesn't recognize you, Israel embarked on a unilateral decision to leave Egypt.  The progressives protested the decision claiming that it was misguided, it wouldn't lead to the betterment of the Israelites, and that the Egyptians were given virtually no choice in the matter.

       By leaving Egypt, the Jews robbed the Egyptians of their slaves.  Robbing a nation of its slaves was a human rights violation of the Ramsee Convention's Protection of Slave Owners' Rights.  At the Nile International Court of Justice, crowds of progressives joined Egyptians chanting, "Give us back our slaves so they can serve us."

       The prosecution's legal argument stated that the slaves couldn't leave Egypt because that would cause an enormous loss to Egyptian brutality and would basically destroy Egyptian brick production.  The price of bricks would skyrocket and cause the collapse of the international brick market.

       Progressive slaves joined the Egyptian conspiracy theory stating that the Jews knew the opening and closing times of the Red Sea and therefore planned the entrapment and destruction of Pharaoh's army.  Furthermore, they claimed that the Israeli apartheid leaders had filled Egyptian swimming pools with blood so that an entire generation of Egyptians couldn't learn how to swim.  The enormous damage caused to Egypt with the loss of countless waterlogged chariots, army uniforms, drowned horses and soldiers would be the fault of the Jews. 


Egyptian historians conducted conferences to prove that the Jews never belonged in Egypt and that they only came to steal the Egyptian land.  Yet, the Egyptian-Goshen two state solution was touted by progressives as being a safe and secure living condition that would guarantee Jewish enslavement.  The security fence surrounding Goshen would comfort Egyptians that no slave would ever escape.

       Moses realized that no matter how hard Jews slaved away for the Egyptians, and no matter how many "Nile Prize" science awards the Jews would earn, the Egyptians would continue publishing anti-Semitic school textbooks.  No matter how perfect the Jews would be, the Egyptian media would continue preaching that the Jews are the usurpers of the land, pariahs and blood sucker expansionists whose only interest was to rob Egypt and to push the Egyptians into the sea. In response to the blatant Egyptian anti-Semitism, the progressive slaves chose to be silent and just act as if nothing was wrong.

       Using magical thinking, the progressives claimed that eventually Egypt would recognize the Israelites and the Egyptian taskmasters would stop killing Jews for sport. The progressives claimed that everything would be fine if only  Moses would stop his demands and the Israelites would behave as model cooperative slaves.  But if Moses continued to demand freedom and liberty, the Egyptians and the world would be forced to hate the Jews.

       Although the progressive slaves would fight ferociously for other people's right to be free, when it came to themselves, it was better that they remain a no-people with no rights and no-land, and let the nations of the world decide where and what should be done with them.

       Then, the progressives turned the discussion of freedom up-side-down. They claimed that Moses was the real threat to the Jews, not Pharaoh, and that Moses was the enslaver. They claimed that the world hated the Jews because of Moses' plan to take the Jews beyond their borders.  The progressives just wanted to be loved by those who articulated their plans to kill them.

       Pharaoh preached that he wasn't anti Semitic -- after all, he was a Semite; so how could he be called anti-Semitic?  Pharaoh was just "anti-Israel".  He just didn't want the Jews to go off and become their own people in their own land. The fact that he made it legal to kill, murder, and abuse the Israelites was just a minor detail which human rights groups would choose to ignore.

       It is estimated that 80% of the Egyptian Jews were against the Moses plan of seeking personal and religious freedom.  If there had been a democratic vote, Moses would have been defeated by a landslide, imprisoned, and likely lynched.

       The 80% of the slave community who sounded so rational in their refusal to leave Egypt vanished; some say they disappeared during the biblical Plague of Darkness.  Basically, they became invisible because their beliefs led to the erosion and dismantling of the Jewish mission.


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US and Iran start to talk - about what?

This view of US-Iranian engagement presented by Ephraim Kam claims there is not much for the US and Iran to talk about. It is not necessarily realistic. Almost everyone understands that Iran (and Syria) are being called upon to do more than "help Iraq deal with the problem of internal violence." They are being called up to stop contributing to that violence. Syrians admit that they have been behind terrorist activity in Iraq.
Israeli analysts have to face an unpleast reality: The US is anxious to fix the Iraq mess at practically any price. If the Iranians offer to trade Israeli land for peace in Iraq, it may be an offer the US cannot refuse.
Ami Isseroff

INSS Insights
March 22, 2007 No. 14
The Beginning of American-Iranian Engagement
Ephraim Kam

On March 10, a one-day conference on the stabilization of Iraq was held in Baghdad. The ambassadorial-level conference included representatives from Iraq itself and all of its neighbors, including Iran and Syria, from the five permanent members of the Security Council, and from several other states. The discussions focused on the question of how to help Iraq deal with the problem of internal violence and reconcile its various ethnic and sectarian groups. Conference participants described the meeting as a positive first step and agreed to set up a working group that will address infiltration from across Iraq's border, oil, and the problem of refugees. Most importantly, the participants agreed to prepare a follow-on conference that will meet soon, perhaps at the ministerial level, although its precise mandate and timing were not decided.

A particularly noteworthy aspect of the conference was that it provided the setting for the first public meeting in many years in which American and Iranian officials discussed a central political issue. Working-level meetings have taken place in the past, without advance publicity, to discuss discrete matters, such as those connected with American military operations in Afghanistan. This time the meeting was official, it came after prior notification, and it took on added significance with respect to the totality of relations between the two countries. At the same time, the parties insisted on stressing that there were no direct, bilateral contacts between them outside the conference plenary.

The Baghdad meeting between American and Iranian representatives stemmed from the distress of both sides and their interest in moving the situation in Iraq in directions favorable to their interests. The U.S. is caught in a bind because of its involvement in Iraq and the administration is torn between unpalatable alternatives: to stay on and risk even greater domestic and international opprobrium or to withdraw its forces quickly and risk the further destabilization of Iraq and the further undermining of its credibility and stature. Iran, for its part, is under growing pressure on the nuclear issue (including the threat of future military action) and is concerned at the prospect that instability in Iraq might spread into Iran. However, Iran also sees opportunities in the way the situation has developed, with the elimination of Iraq as serious regional power that once blocked and threatened it and the emergence of Shi'ites as a leading force in Iraq.

These considerations led both the United States and Iran to change course and agree to meet in Baghdad. The U.S. administration wants to explore all possibilities to stabilize Iraq in the clear understanding that its military effort there must be complemented by some political effort. In doing so, it can respond to proposals in the U.S. – such as the Baker-Hamilton Report – to engage Iran on this matter. There is another factor. If the administration does eventually decide to carry out a military attack, it wants to be able to demonstrate that it first tried all other means of dealing with the nuclear issue, including engagement with the Iranians. Iran, for its part, wants to exploit any engagement to achieve several objectives: entrenched recognition of its status and influence in Iraq, the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, and reduced pressure on the nuclear issue in return for help in stabilizing Iraq.

The fact that U.S. and Iranian representatives sat together in Baghdad is important in and of itself. By breaking the ice, it may make possible other meetings in the future. And if the parties can overcome the scars of the past, such meetings may generate their own dynamic. At the same time, real U.S.-Iranian engagement will have to overcome the very formidable obstacles that have hitherto constrained contacts and prevented any understanding or agreement between them. First of all, there is a high level of mutual mistrust. The radical wing of the Iranian regime has consistently opposed any engagement with the administration since it sees a rupture with the United States as one main criterion of revolutionary Islamic authenticity. And in the United States, important elements reject engagement with the Iranian regime, which they see as part of the "axis of evil." This suspicion is apparently the reason why, even in Baghdad, American and Iranian representatives refrained from any direct bilateral contact.

Secondly, there are serious differences between the U.S. and Iran over the future of Iraq. The administration wants to establish a stable, pro-western regime that will conciliate and involve Sunnis, to prevent the emergence of a Shi'ite bloc linking Iran and Iraqi Shi'ites, to block and balance Iran's standing and aspirations in the Gulf, and to withdraw U.S. forces in a way that minimizes damage to American standing and credibility. Iran has contradictory goals: to create a stable but weak Iraq in which the Shi'ite element will be tied to Iran and dependent on it, and to accelerate the departure of American forces in a manner that weakens the regional stature of the U.S. The Iranian regime has no reason to help the U.S. rehabilitate its reputation in the region.

Thirdly, if a serious U.S.-Iranian dialogue over Iraq does develop, Iran will almost certainly demand an end to pressure on the nuclear issue in return for help in Iraq. It is difficult to imagine the United States agreeing to such a demand, which would effectively mean acquiescing in Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. Besides, even if Iran were willing to help stabilize Iran, its influence is ultimately limited. After all, there is little that Iran can do to conciliate Iraqi Sunnis; its ability to subvert the existing order is greater than its ability to contribute to a peaceful new order.

Thus, there is not much room for substantial U.S.-Iranian engagement in the current circumstances. However, the prospects that such engagement could lead to substantial results would improve in one of two possible scenarios. The first is if the U.S. administration decides to withdraw its forces from Iraq, in which case the Iranians would have an interest to engage in order to accelerate that process and take advantage of it in order to entrench their hold on Iraq. The second is if Iran shows some willingness, in response to greater pressure on it, to agree to a package deal on the nuclear issue that would also include some understandings on the question of Iraq.
INSS Insight is published
through the generosity of
Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia


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Bill Clinton versus Jimmy Carter: A book waiting to be written

Jimmy Carter's innacurate and unfair diatribe about Israel, "Palestine: Peace or Apartheid," has gained a big audience because it was written by an ex-President. If someone else had compiled a poorly written, thin book about the Middle East that makes wild accusations without providing any references, nobody would bother to read it, even if it were published. As it is, the cause of Israel bashing gained a valuable ally.
Bill Clinton has a very different version of events. What is just begging to happen is a book by Bill Clinton about the peace process, Israel and the Palestinians that would set the record straight. Please Bill Clinton, please write this book. Clinton has, extraordinarily, thanked the AJC for exposing errors in Carter's book, as noted below. But the AJC can be discounted as "Zionist propaganda," whereas Clinton's account would gain respect, and Clinton can supply "insider information" that the AJC cannot. This is a job that should be done by Clinton, because Carter's book was essentially an attack on Clinton's policies.
Ami Isseroff

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bill Clinton thanks AJC for exposing errors in Carter's book

The American Jewish Committee, in its weekly news bulletin, says that Bill Clinton (who was skewered in Carter's book) has thanked the Jewish group for its efforts in exposing the errors in Carter's book. (FYI, Clinton and Carter--both Democrats, both Southerners, both ex-presidents who have many concerns in common--can't stand each other).

Former President Clinton Thanks AJC for Efforts on New Carter Book

Former President Bill Clinton, in a handwritten letter to AJC Executive Director David Harris, voiced appreciation for his efforts to expose the inaccuracies in President Jimmy Carter's book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "Thanks so much for your articles about President Carter's book. I don't know where his information (or conclusions) came from …" said Clinton. "I'm grateful."


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Pluralism: Is it OK for Muslims to beat their wives in Germany?

The Guardian seems to be outraged by the decision of a German judge, not to grant a divorce to a Muslim woman whose husband beat her, because the the Qur'an permits wife beating. It is an interesting ruling that illustates what happens if multicultural pluralism is carried to an extreme. What will the judge do if people revive paganism? The ancient Canaanites practiced child sacrifice as well as temple prostitution. The Bible permits polygamy, and as for divorce, it is prohibited expressly by the New Testament, "That which God has joined together, let no man put asunder."

German judge invokes Qur'an to deny abused wife a divorce
Kate Connolly in Berlin
Friday March 23, 2007
The Guardian
A German judge who refused a Moroccan woman a fast-track divorce on the grounds that domestic violence was acceptable according to the Qur'an has been removed from the case following a nationwide outcry.
The judge, Christa Datz-Winter, said the German woman of Moroccan descent would not be granted a divorce because she and her husband came from a "Moroccan cultural environment in which it is not uncommon for a man to exert a right of corporal punishment over his wife," according to a statement she wrote that was issued by a Frankfurt court. "That's what the claimant had to reckon with when she married the defendant."
The 26-year-old mother of two had been repeatedly beaten and threatened with death by her husband.
When the woman protested against the judge's decision, Ms Datz-Winter invoked the Qur'an to support her argument. In the court she read from verse 34 of Sura four of the Qur'an, An-Nisa (Women), in which men are told to hit their wives as a final stage in dealing with disobedience. The verse reads: "... as to those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping places and beat them".
The woman's lawyer, Barbara Becker-Rojczyk, protested, saying: "When Christians are arguing for a divorce they don't use the Bible."
Commentators, politicians and Muslim leaders criticised the judge's decision, saying that choosing sharia above civil law was a threat to jurisprudence. Wolfgang Bosbach, of the Christian Democratic Union, said: "One thing must be clear: in Germany only German law applies."
Irmingard Schewe-Gerigk, women's affairs spokeswoman for the Greens, agreed, saying: "This decision is in conflict with the basic law."
The woman applied for divorce before the statutory one-year separation after receiving death threats from her husband. Fast-track divorces can be granted under German law if it is deemed the woman is suffering hardship as a result of marital breakdown. Her husband continued to threaten her despite a restraining order.
Christa Stolle, of the women's rights organisation Terre des Femmes, called the decision "scandalous". She said: "In a democratic country like Germany religious law cannot be drawn on to justify abuse".
The leftwing Tageszeitung ran a headline on its front page "In the name of the people: beating allowed" above the relevant passage from the Qur'an, while the tabloid Bild led its front page with: "Where are we living?".
Germany's Central Council of Muslims was quick to criticise the ruling. In a statement, it said: "Violence and abuse of people are of course naturally reasons to warrant a divorce in Islam as well."
Another judge has already been appointed to the case.

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Kristof: "Talking about Israel"

This article by Nicholas Kristof has raised hackles. It is not as unreasonable or unreasoned as some people make out, and it is not "anti-Semitic" or anti-Zionist. It contains a number of errors and contradictions. Kristof wants to encourage Israel to make peace. He writes:
The best hope for Israel in the long run isn't a better fence or more weaponry; they can provide a measure of security in the short run but will be of little help if terrorists turn, as they eventually will if the present trajectory continues, to chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Ultimately, security for Israel will emerge only from a peace agreement with Palestinians. We even know what that peace deal will look like: the Geneva accord, reached in 2003 by private Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
Perhaps it is so, but Kristof forgot that the Hamas and the Palestinian unity government do not accept the Geneva accord, or even the existence of Israel. That's what current US administration and Quartet policy are all about: Trying to get the Hamas to recognize the right of Israel to exist, and to carry out existing agreements. There is no possible way to make peace with an enemy that says that negotiations and international conferences are a waste of time, and that the only solution is Jihad. Kristof's bid for peace is directed at the wrong party.
Kristof writes:
A second reason may be that American politicians just don't get it. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Congress this month and observed: "The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine." Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right: from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan, the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops more than almost anything else.
The "Arab street" has been concerned about Palestine since 1948 and before. The "Justice" that is being denied to the Palestinian people is the right to throw the Jews into the sea and establish an Islamic Republic here, as they Hamas insist they are going to do.
Kristof writes:
So let's be better friends -- and stop biting our tongues.
He doesn't seem to be biting his tongue, does he?
Ami Isseroff

Talking about Israel
N.Y. Times - March 18, 2007

By Nicholas Kristof    

Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Mr. Bush's crushing embrace of Israel.
There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.
Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.
Three years ago, Israel's minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?
One reason for the void is that American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves. In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries, Howard Dean said he favored an "even-handed role" for the U.S. — and was blasted for being hostile to Israel. Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say: "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton has safely refused to show an inch of daylight between herself and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
A second reason may be that American politicians just don't get it. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Congress this month and observed: "The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine." Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right: from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan, the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops more than almost anything else.
You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard, focusing on repression by Israelis while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs. But the suffering in Palestinian territories, while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq, is still tragically real.
B'Tselem, a respected Israeli human rights organization, reports that last year Palestinians killed 17 Israeli civilians (including one minor) and six Israeli soldiers. In the same period, B'Tselem said, Israeli forces killed 660 Palestinians, triple the number killed in 2005. Of the Palestinians killed in 2006, half were not taking part in hostilities at the time they were killed, and 141 were minors.
For more than half a century, the U.S. was an honest broker in the Middle East. Presidents Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan were warmer to Israel and Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush a bit cooler, but all sought a balance. George W. Bush has abandoned that tradition of balance.
Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country's long-term security by adding vulnerable settlements, radicalizing young Palestinians, empowering Hamas and Hezbollah, isolating Israel in the world and nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon. The Israeli right's aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security, just as President Bush's invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests.
The best hope for Israel in the long run isn't a better fence or more weaponry; they can provide a measure of security in the short run but will be of little help if terrorists turn, as they eventually will if the present trajectory continues, to chemical, biological or radiological weapons. Ultimately, security for Israel will emerge only from a peace agreement with Palestinians. We even know what that peace deal will look like: the Geneva accord, reached in 2003 by private Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
M. J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum headlined a recent column, "Pandering Not Required." He wisely called on American presidential candidates instead to prove their support for Israel by pledging: "If I am elected president, I will do everything in my power to bring about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving peace and security for Israel and a secure state for the Palestinians."
Last summer, after Hezbollah killed three Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two others, Prime Minister Olmert invaded Lebanon and thus transformed Hezbollah into a heroic force in much of the Arab world. President Bush would have been a much better friend to Israel if he had tried to rein in Mr. Olmert. So let's be better friends — and stop biting our tongues.
Source: New York Times, 18 March. 2007

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bolton admits US blocked early cease fire in Lebanon war

It is not clear what is being admitted, since everyone knew that this was happening at the time, and not only the US, but European countries as well, were quite happy for Israel to try to oust the Hezbollah.

Bolton admits Lebanon truce block
Israel was criticised for bombing Lebanese civilian centres
A former top American diplomat says the US deliberately resisted calls for a immediate ceasefire during the conflict in Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
Former ambassador to the UN John Bolton told the BBC that before any ceasefire Washington wanted Israel to eliminate Hezbollah's military capability.
Mr Bolton said an early ceasefire would have been "dangerous and misguided".
He said the US decided to join efforts to end the conflict only when it was clear Israel's campaign wasn't working. 

The former envoy, who stepped down in December 2006, was interviewed for a BBC radio documentary, The Summer War in Lebanon, to be broadcast in April.
Mr Bolton said the US was deeply disappointed at Israel's failure to remove the threat from Hezbollah and the subsequent lack of any attempt to disarm its forces.
Britain joined the US in refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire.
'Damn proud'
The war began when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers, but it quickly escalated into a full-scale conflict.
BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says the US-UK refusal to join calls for a ceasefire was one of the most controversial aspects of the diplomacy.
The UK, US and Israeli were alone in resisting an early ceasefire
At the time US officials argued a ceasefire was insufficient and agreement was needed to address the underlying tensions and balance of power in the region.
Mr Bolton now describes it as "perfectly legitimate... and good politics" for the Israelis to seek to defeat their enemy militarily, especially as Hezbollah had attacked Israel first and it was acting "in its own self-defence".
Mr Bolton, a controversial and blunt-speaking figure, said he was "damned proud of what we did" to prevent an early ceasefire.
Also in the BBC programme, several key players claim that, privately, there were Arab leaders who also wanted Israel to destroy Hezbollah.
"There were many not - how should I put it - resistant to the thought that the Israelis should thoroughly defeat Hezbollah, who... increasingly by Arab states were seen as an Iranian proxy," said UN special envoy Terje Roed Larsen.
More than 1,000 Lebanese civilians and an unknown number of Hezbollah fighters were killed in the conflict.
Israel lost 116 soldiers in the fighting, while 43 of its civilians were killed in Hezbollah rocket attacks.

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US to reduce aid to Abbas security forces

US is reducing aid to Abbas's security forces, though we have seen elsewhere that US officials believe the forces loyal to Abbas are no match for Hamas forces.

Published: March 22, 2007
WASHINGTON, March 21 — The Bush administration will reduce by about 40 percent the aid it is seeking from Congress for the security forces of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and set new conditions for monitoring the money because of concerns that some of it could end up with Hamas, the militant Islamist organization, administration officials said Wednesday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is returning to the Middle East this weekend for another round of shuttle diplomacy, told a House panel on Wednesday that she would soon send Congress a revised package that would try to restrict the use of the money to security forces loyal to Mr. Abbas, whom the United States considers more moderate than Hamas.
Officials said the revised request would be for about $50 million, down from $86 million, for the 2008 fiscal year.
"I have reformulated the plan," Ms. Rice said. "It will request less money, precisely because some of the money I would have requested, I could not fully account for." She said the new plan would take pains to make certain the money did not go to Hamas, which has formed a national unity government with Mr. Abbas.
Congress has delayed Ms. Rice's original request, and it is unclear if even the reduced amount will get out of the House, where the pro-Israel lobby is particularly strong.
But Ms. Rice's decision to continue to seek aid — albeit less — underscores the more tempered approach the administration is taking to issues involved in peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians after years of solid support of Israel.
Direct international aid to the Palestinian Authority was suspended more than a year ago when Hamas won control of the government in elections. The new unity government is still dominated by Hamas. But it includes figures from Mr. Abbas's Fatah faction and several independents.
Salam Fayyad, the new finance minister, is a former official with the International Monetary Fund, and has good relations with the West. He met Tuesday with the American consul in Jerusalem, Jacob Walles.
In another sign of a potential thaw in relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority, major powers issued a statement on Wednesday saying that the new government would not be judged only on its "composition and platform, but also its actions."
The statement, released after two days of talks among the so-called quartet — the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union — called on the new Palestinian government to demonstrate a "clear and credible" commitment to peace with Israel as a condition for receiving international aid.

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Soros and the "Israel Lobby" Controversy

Here is one take on the attack by George Soros and others on AIPAC and the Israel lobby. For a discussion of Soros's views and his tactics, see here.

Soros and Media Heavyweights Attack Pro-Israel Lobby's Influence on U.S. Policy
Nathan Guttman | Fri. Mar 23, 2007
Washington - The simmering debate over American policy toward Israel and the role of the Jewish community in shaping it exploded with near-nuclear force this week. Several of the nation's best-known international affairs commentators fired salvos at pro-Israel lobbyists and defenders of Israel fired back with unprecedented fury.

In the space of three days, major critiques of Jewish lobbying were published by controversial billionaire George Soros, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof, the respected British newsmagazine The Economist and the popular Web site Salon.
The replies were furious. The New York Sun accused Kristof and Soros of spreading a "new blood libel." The American Jewish Committee's executive director, David Harris, wrote in a Jerusalem Post opinion article that Kristof had a "blind spot" and had "sanctimoniously lectured" Israel.
The editor of The New Republic, Martin Peretz, renewed an attack on Soros that he began a month ago when he called the Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor a "cog in the Hitlerite wheel."
The outburst over Middle East policymaking was triggered in part by the annual Washington conference last week of the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a highly publicized event that put the issue of pro-Israel influence in the media spotlight. A parade of politicians and presidential candidates came to the conference to declare their unwavering support for Israel, while the lobby itself reaffirmed a hard-line agenda that included cutting all American ties with the new Palestinian government.
At the same time, the latest attacks and counterattacks were also a continuation — and an escalation — of an ongoing debate in Washington over the purported role of the pro-Israel lobby in shaping American policy in the Middle East and stifling debate. Those attacks reached a peak of venom last year with the publication of a contentious document by two senior political scientists, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, who charged that a sprawling, powerful "Israel Lobby" had pushed the United States into war with Iraq.
Among the latest group of critics, Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and currency trader, was the harshest. In an article in The New York Review of Books, published
Monday, he argued that the United States is doing Israel a disservice by allowing it to boycott the Hamas-Fatah Palestinian unity government and to turn down the Saudi peace initiative. But, he wrote, there is no meaningful debate of such policies.
"While other problem areas of the Middle East are freely discussed, criticism of our policies toward Israel is very muted indeed," Soros wrote. He added that pro-Israel activists have been "remarkably successful in suppressing criticism."
Soros singled out Aipac as a key source of the problem, accusing the lobby of pushing a hawkish agenda on Israeli-Palestinian issues. "Aipac under its current leadership has clearly exceeded its mission, and far from guaranteeing Israel's existence, has endangered it," he wrote.
Soros's article was noteworthy in part because it broke his longstanding practice of avoiding public identification with Jewish causes. While he has given hundreds of millions of dollars in the past decade to democratization in the former communist bloc, he has given almost nothing to Jewish causes. In this week's article, however, he stated — apparently for the first time — that he has "a great deal of sympathy for my fellow Jews and a deep concern for the survival of Israel."
He said that while he has disagreed with Israeli policies in the past, he has kept quiet because he "did not want to provide fodder to the enemies of Israel." However, he said, the mishandling of recent events by Washington and Jerusalem now demanded greater public debate, which he said was stifled by groups like Aipac.
He also sprang to the defense of his fellow Jewish liberals, criticizing a recent essay on "Progressive Jewish Thought," written by Indiana University historian Alvin Rosenfeld and published by the American Jewish Committee, for its attack on critics of Israel.
Soros wrote that he is "not sufficiently engaged in Jewish affairs to be involved in the reform of Aipac" and called on the American Jewish community "to rein in the organization that claims to represent it."
A spokesperson for Aipac said the group will not comment on Soros's remarks.
An argument echoing Soros's was posted a day later on the popular Web site Salon, in an article titled "Can American Jews unplug the Israel lobby?" The writer, Gary Kamiya, called on American Jews to "stand up and say 'not in my name'," and to challenge the notion that Aipac's views are representative of the broader Jewish community.
Less pointed, but far more widely circulated, was a critique of American policymaking published Sunday by New York Times opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof. The much-decorated journalist, famous for his determined coverage of the Darfur genocide, argued that American politicians have "muzzled themselves" when it comes to Israel and that "there is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians."
Both Kristof and Soros compared America's Middle East policy discussion unfavorably with the lively debate in Israel over the government's policy. Both claimed that while Israelis feel free to criticize their government and question its policies, American politicians are afraid to take it on.
The Economist, the internationally respected British newsweekly, summed up Friday in a prescient article the "changing climate" facing the pro-Israel lobby. It mentioned challenges to Aipac from Arab Americans, liberal Jews and foreign-policy experts worried about America's standing in the Arab world. "America needs an open debate about its role in the Middle East and Aipac needs to take a positive role in this debate if it is to remain such a mighty force in American politics," the article concluded.
This burst of criticism against the Israel lobby and its role in the shaping of American policy toward Israel was immediately met by critical articles from supporters of Aipac and of America's pro-Israel policies.
A Monday editorial in the New York Sun was the harshest of all. It compared Soros's and Kristof's criticisms to the so-called blood libels directed against Jews in medieval Europe. "The fact is that they write at a time when a war against the Jews is underway," the Sun wrote. "It is a war in which the American people have stood with Israel for three generations… The reason is that Americans are wise enough to understand which side in the war against the Jews shares our values — and to sort out the truth from the libels."
But Soros's greatest critic is no doubt New Republic editor Martin Peretz, who posted only a brief reaction on his blog to Soros's article, promising to elaborate when he returns from his trip abroad. Peretz had attacked Soros in February for saying that the United States would need "de-Nazification" after President Bush leaves office, charging that Soros himself had been guilty of collaborating with the Nazis as a teenager in Hungary. Soros replied in the magazine that the charge was false, and Peretz backed off somewhat. Now, however, he has promised to come back with guns blazing, after he returns from an overseas trip.
"Since he has picked the scab off his own wound this time, I will not be so kind this time," Peretz warned.
David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, also joined the debate in an opinion article in the Jerusalem Post. Harris praised Kristof's acclaimed foreign reporting but said he has a "blind spot" regarding Israel. He added that "Israel doesn't need lectures from well-intentioned journalists on the need for peace. Israel needs well-intentioned partners for peace."
The current round in the debate over the pro-Israel lobby is already spilling over into the political system. Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who was seen as being supported financially by Soros, distanced himself from the billionaire following Soros's article on Aipac.
"On this issue he and Senator Obama disagree," said a statement from the Obama campaign issued Tuesday. It is now unclear how willing Democratic candidates will be to accept campaign contributions from Soros, who is one of the biggest donors to Democratic-aligned advocacy groups.
While the debate is reaching a boiling point in the public sphere, work on the ground on establishing a new lobbying apparatus by dovish Jewish groups and individuals is moving at a much slower pace.
The initiative was initially called in media reports "the Soros lobby," after the financier attended an exploratory meeting last fall in New York to discuss creating a new lobby. Since that meeting, however, Soros has shown no further interest in the effort, organizers said.
"He met with us once and that's it," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, one of the main figures behind the initiative. Ben-Ami stressed that that Soros has not yet pledged any funds for the new advocacy group and that the initiative is still in need of donors. Many in the group now refer to it jokingly as the "non-Soros lobby."
Fri. Mar 23, 2007

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Palestinian government says "no" to Quartet

The Palestinian government has rejected even the watered down and minimal requirements of the Quartet. Nonetheless, we can sure that there will be increasing pressure to deal with this unity government.

Palestinians reject Quartet demands  
Representatives of the new Palestinian unity government have said they will reject the Middle East Quartet's offer to reinstate direct aid in return for a renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel.
The Quartet's statement "reflects an evolution of its positions, [but] this remains insufficient," Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman the Palestinian presidency, said on Thursday.
On Wednesday the Quartet - which brings together the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States - reaffirmed that the new Palestinian coalition must renounce violence, recognise Israel and accept past peace deals.
The new government, comprising members of the rival Hamas and Fatah parties as well as independent candidates, was sworn in last weekend after months of negotiation.
Unveiling its political programme on Saturday, Ismail Haniya, the Hamas prime minister, said while his government would "respect" past peace accords, the Palestinians had a "legitimate right" to "resistance in all its forms."
'Two-state solution'
In its statement on Wednesday the Quartet laid down key conditions for the resumption of direct aid.
"The quartet expressed its expectation that the unity government will act responsibly, demonstrate clear and credible commitment to the quartet principles, and support the efforts of president Abbas to pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," it said.
The statement added that the new Palestinian government - composed of Hamas, Fatah and independent candidates - would be judged by its actions.
"The commitment of the new government in this regard will be measured not only on the basis of its composition and platform, but also its actions."
The statement also said it hoped the formation of the new government would ensure calm and lead to a drop in violence in the Palestinian territories.
Despite the Quartet's outwardly unified response to the new government, several European states have already taken steps to restore ties with the Palestinians.
Clashes between Fatah and Hamas members have continued despite the agreement [AFP]
Norway, which is not an EU member, is a key donor nation to the Palestinians and has already pledged to resume economic aid.
Raymond Johansen, Norway's deputy foreign minister, arrived in Gaza on Monday calling on other states to follow his country's lead and recognize the new Palestinian coalition.
France and Belgium have also moved quickly to re-establish ties with members of the new government.
Karel De Gucht, the Belgian foreign minister, is to go to Gaza on Friday where he will be the first minister from an EU nation to meet the new Palestinian foreign minister, Ziad Abu Amr, De Gucht's spokesman Rudy Huygelen said on Monday.
The German foreign ministry spokesman, Martin Jaeger, said the question of how the EU deals with the Palestinian government is likely to be a "central theme" at the informal meeting in Bremen.
"We should evaluate very carefully how this government, how the individual members of this government, behave in the coming days and weeks," Jaeger said.
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, will travel to the Middle East this weekend, shuttling between Israel and the Palestinian territories to try to get both sides closer to resuming stalled peace negotiations.

Source: Agencies

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What is Zionism?

It is wonderful that so many of these people support Zionism. It is a pity that none of them can define what it is.

Taking back Zionism

Jonathan Leibtag, the President of Hillel-McGill, argues that Israel's critics unfairly define Zionism in terms of only politics and conflict. It's more than that.

In my experience as a pro-Israel activist on campus, I have come to notice a trend in the discussion of Zionism; its ideology is increasingly associated solely with politics and conflict, a reductionism which obscures the true aims of the movement.
Zionism is about more than uniting the Jewish people around the idea of a Jewish homeland. For one thing, it encompasses the tradition of Jewish social justice and responsibility extolled in the Hebrew phrase Tikkun Olam, literally translated as "repairing the world." Yet such aspects of Zionism are often ignored, and as a result, any connection to Israel is often looked down upon. This limited understanding and negative perception undermines any chance of honest debate.
Politically constructed issues, such as "Israel as an Apartheid state," immediately force Israel's advocates on the defensive. As a result, the observers of such debate – McGill students included – envision a David versus Goliath conflict with Israel as the aggressor. It's an uneven playing field from the onset of debate.
The product of misconception
There are many students on campus who feel a strong connection to Israel and define themselves as Zionists. How can it be that so many people love, and are active in, something that is portrayed as so negative? The answer lies in what Zionism is, rather than what it is not. Although people see Israel as an issue of conflict and politics, it is not politics (and surely not conflict) that connects people to the land. Israel is much more, and its contributions extend beyond its borders. This is manifested in the work of numerous Israel-based programs that see the need to contribute to the global community as part of the responsibility of the Jewish state. For example, the Jerusalem-based non-profit Tevel b'Tzedek runs a three-month program that integrates study and service internships in social and environmental justice programs in the developing world. Tevel b'Tzedek is as much a Zionist program as it is humanitarian, marrying the Jewish tradition of social justice with frontline work in slum rehabilitation and environmental degradation.
At Hillel, we have been trying to focus on these unseen aspects of Zionism as we attempt to escape the skewed frameworks of debate which have developed across campuses. To be sure, Hillel continues to confront pro-Palestinian groups that we see as fostering a misrepresentation of Israel – but this is not at the core of our actions. I went out and asked students about how they feel connected to Zionism. I asked these students what they do in the name of Zionism based on their connection to the land.
I was fortunate enough to spend the past year volunteering in Israel, a country I feel has given me so much. I have lived in Jerusalem, the holy city of some of the world's major religions. I have become part of the immigrant community of Bat Yam, where I taught English to little kids and cared for mentally disabled adults. I have worked alongside paramedics of Israel's national ambulance service and now I am going to help rebuild parts of the country devastated by war this past summer.
What is it about this tiny country that continues to fuel my deepest convictions? Maybe it is the fact that the Israeli people are simply unlike any other people on the planet. Where else could I sit down on a bus and have a woman I have never met before plop her baby down on my lap, invite me to dinner, and even give me her phone number in case I ever need anything? Where else in the world could that happen on more than one occasion?
Israelis are a rare breed, and their sense of community is astonishing. Every Friday evening (the Jewish Sabbath), you cannot take more than ten steps in Jerusalem without being asked if you have a place to eat for dinner. It is this sense of community that has inspired me to volunteer as I have.
At midnight one evening, an oil tanker overturned on a major highway, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. After about an hour, people became antsy, but instead of complaining they started blasting music and pulled out their barbecues. Suddenly this antsy group of strangers became a community united; united in frustration, but a community nonetheless. Somehow, the Israeli nation is a family. And I'm lucky enough to feel a part of it.

– Hartlee Zuker (U0)
My Zionism has always been a process of reclamation. From a very young age, I have been aware of the negative associations with Zionism. I have also seen, with equal disappointment, the reactions to this disapproval from the mainstream Jewish community. Each side seems to cling to its own ideology without any desire to get to the root of the conflict.
Luckily, I found progressive Zionism. The words progressive and Zionism may seem incompatible, but that's what progressive Zionism is all about: breaking down false dichotomies. We understand that both sides are hurting and angry, but the solution to this must be understanding and dialogue, not binary opposition. The progressive Zionist community recognizes the history of both Arabs and Jews and the historical and contemporary necessity for both to have a state.
Before coming to McGill, I lived in a 30-person commune associated with my progressive Zionist youth movement, Habonim Dror. Each year, our movement sends about 250 gap-year volunteers from 20 different countries to work in Israeli and Arab schools to teach English and lead programs that stress mutual respect. At Habonim Dror, we aim to change the hate-filled education on both sides and start working toward peace through dialogue. That is how I did my part and exercised my Zionism.
Zionism does not have to be a dirty word. I hope that one day Israel and Palestine will both be progressive autonomous states that have equal rights for all of their citizens and are both seen as a "light unto the nations." Hope can only get me so far though. I will continue to work for the rest of my life to reclaim the word Zionism.

– Paul Gross (U1)
Growing up as one of few Jewish children in Nova Scotia, I was encouraged to love Israel not only as the backbone of the Jewish people, but also as a place where Jews from across the globe could find comfort. This was reassuring for someone who was always the only Jewish kid in his class, embarrassed every year when his mom came to talk about Hanukah and hand out latkes. But even with this inculcated admiration, it was not until last year that I truly developed a passion for Israel.
Last May I traveled with a small group of Canadian Jews to Ethiopia. Our mission was to accompany a group of Ethiopian Jews as they traveled to Israel. Many of these Falas Mura, as they are called in Amharic, had sold all of their possessions to reach the compounds of the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee, with the hope of passing all the required steps to reach Israel. Many wait five to fifteen years to complete the process.
It was quite an experience to meet our group of 90 Ethiopians. After years of waiting, their faces were drained of emotion, but fear of losing the long awaited dream still blazed in their eyes – probably because many of their Jewish countrymen, having heard stories of Israel as a land of opportunity and fulfillment, perished while traveling to Israel through war torn Sudan years before.
The most touching moment occurred when, exhausted and relieved, they were handed Israeli flags. I saw that each person gripped the small plastic flag tighter than the last. I was glad to have helped them reach their promised land.

– Eric Goldberg (U1)
Israel is!
These students have defined their Zionism and their connection to the land of Israel. To Hartlee, it is a sense of community; to Paul, it is the "breaking down of false dichotomies;" and to Eric, it is humanitarian action. These students have shown that Zionism can be a call to action – a call for compassion, community, and initiative. Zionism is more than merely politics and conflict. For McGill students to gain a better understanding of Zionism, they must be willing to view it as an encompassing concept.

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UK Muslim opposes anti-Semitism

Why should this be newsworthy? It should not, but it is.

UK Muslim opposes antisemitism

A British Muslim has called for reconciliation between Jews and Muslims:

One of Britain's most controversial Muslim leaders has declared that there is "an enormous amount" that Muslims could learn from the way Jews have integrated into the UK.

[Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB)] also has demanded an end to Islamic anti-Semitism, in what is being viewed as a remarkable move towards reconciliation between the two communities. — European Jewish Press

Bunglawala has previously made comments to the effect that the British media is controlled by Jews and similar statements. He indicated that the MCB's policy of boycotting Holocaust Rememberance Day was under consideration (!) and might be changed.

Bunglawala…said his organization's ties with the Muslim Brotherhood shouldn't be a barrier to ties between the two communities, as they don't seek to undermine Jews in the UK. He added that the Muslim Brotherhood believes the creation of Israel was a tragic mistake. — Jerusalem Post


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Ask the Ayatollah: Questions of Sex, Islam and Wood Alcohol

The Ayatollah Khomeini laid down the rules for the good life. It is OK for Muslims to drink methanol and denatured spirits according to the Ayatolla:
Industrial alcohol used for painting doors, tables, chairs, etc., is clean if one does not know it was made of something inebriating.
On the other hand, it is not OK to get divorced all the time:
Divorcing a menstruating woman is void.
There are some dietary laws too:

It is loathsome to eat the meat of a horse, a mule, or a donkey if someone has had coitus with the animal.
Elsewhere, the Ayatollah explains that it is OK to have sex with a chicken, but one must not eat the chicken. It is OK to serve the chicken to someone else however. If they ever open a KFC in Tehran, don't eat there.

Now we understand why Iranians are so fanatical. They are fighting to preserve their superior way of life -- and to make it your way of life. You better study up on this, as many people insist it is the wave of the future.

Ami Isseroff

The Ayatollah's Book Of Etiquette

Posted on Thursday, February 10, 2005. From "A Clarification of Questions," by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, published in 1985 by the Westview Press. Khomeini's treatise sets out his position on 3,000 questions of everyday life. Translated by J. Borujerdi. Originally from June 1985.

64. Evacuation is unlawful in four places. First, in dead-end alleys. Second, on the property of a person who has not given his permission. Third, in a place assigned to a specific group of people, such as some schools. Fourth, over the graves of the faithful, if it would be considered disrespectful.

107. The whole body of an infidel, even the hair, the nails, and its wetness, is unclean.

112. Industrial alcohol used for painting doors, tables, chairs, etc., is clean if one does not know it was made of something inebriating.

120. The sweat of a camel that eats unclean substances is unclean.

125. When a clean object touches an unclean object and one or both are wet enough to convey that wetness to the other, then the clean object becomes unclean. But if the wetness is not enough to reach the other, the clean object does not become unclean.

145. If a host, while eating, realizes that the food is unclean, he must inform his guests. But if one of the guests realizes this, it is not necessary to inform the others, unless his relations with the others are such that as a result of remaining silent he himself becomes unclean.

462. Divorcing a menstruating woman is void.

464. If a woman begins menstruating while praying, her prayer is void.

2,054. These are the major abominable dealings. First, selling real estate. Second, butchery. Third, selling shrouds. Fourth, dealing with base people. Fifth, dealing between the morning azan and the onset of sunshine. Sixth, choosing to buy and sell wheat, barley, and the like as one's occupation. Seventh, entering into a deal involving the purchase of a commodity that another person is about to buy.

2,622. Eating locusts caught with the hand or by some other means is lawful after they are dead. It is not necessary that the person who caught them be a Moslem or that he mentioned the name of God when he caught them. But if a dead locust is held by an infidel and it is not known whether it was caught alive, it is not lawful to eat it, even if the person who caught it says that he caught it alive.

2,629. It is not unlawful to swallow the food that exits from between the teeth as a result of flossing if one's nature has no aversion to it.

2,631. It is loathsome to eat the meat of a horse, a mule, or a donkey if someone has had coitus with the animal.

2,637. Several things are loathsome (abominable) when eating. First, eating while satiated. Second, excessive eating (it has been said that the God of the World dislikes a full stomach more than anything else). Third, looking at other people's faces while they are eating. Fourth, eating hot food. Fifth, blowing at what one is eating or drinking. Sixth, waiting for something else after the bread has been put on the tablecloth. Seventh, cutting bread with a knife. Eighth, putting bread under a container of food. Ninth, cleaning the meat stuck to a bone so that nothing remains on it. Tenth, peeling fruit.

2,858. The prizes that banks give to encourage borrowers, and those that institutions give to encourage buyers and customers, are lawful. The thing that sellers put inside their merchandise to attract customers and increase buyers, such as gold coins in boxes of shortening, are lawful and of no concern.

2,874. It is not unlawful to introduce a man's semen into the uterus of his wife with devices such as suction cups.

2,882. When the preservation of a Moslem's life rests on grafting an organ from a dead Moslem, severing that organ and grafting it are acceptable

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IDF Chief of Staff: Years needed to prepare IDF

The IDF chief of staff claims it will be years before the army is ready. The first question is whether the Syrians and Iranians are going to wait around that long.  The second question is whether the army will be ready for the next war or the last one. The third question is why it should take years rather than months, since troops are trained over a period of months.

Last update - 09:39 22/03/2007   

Ashkenazi: IDF needs years to become satisfactorily prepared
By Aluf Benn and Nir Hasson, Haaretz Correspondents

Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi warned the security cabinet Wednesday that the Israel Defense Forces would need time to reach the necessary level of preparedness.
"Do not think the army will be ready in three months," Ashkenazi told the security cabinet during the meeting. A team of senior IDF officers briefed the ministers on the lessons of the Second Lebanon War.
Ashkenazi said several years would be needed. Preference would be given to forces likely to participate in dangerous operations.
He told the security cabinet that when he took over as chief of staff, he considered interfering with the IDF's in-house investigations into its problems and performance during the war, and said he decided not to do so. Dan Halutz was chief of staff during the war.
The head of the General Staff's doctrine and training department, Brigadier General Danny Biton, presented the security cabinet with the main findings of more than 20 IDF in-house investigations since the war.
The ministers commended the army on its openness in exposing shortcomings.
"We are dealing with the debriefing of the army, irrespective of the Winograd Committee," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. "It is no replacement for the lessons that we must learn regarding the political-military connection, and the translation of government decisions into military objectives."
"We always say it is necessary to move the fight onto enemy territory as quickly as possible," Olmert added. "But, when you are faced with ballistic missiles and indirect fire, even when you have penetrated enemy territory to a certain point, the enemy can still fire missiles. The question is how to apply this principle to the contemporary battlefield."

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kiddy show - 4 year old Palestinian girl vows to be a suicide bomber - just like mommy

Hey kids, be the first on your block to blow yourself up -- just like Mommy! This could be your daughter. Don't you empathize? Don't you have compassion for the people who made this movie to motivate little children to be terrorists?
Ami Isseroff

 Palestinian Media Watch Bulletin - March 21, 2007
View this bulletin online here

Four-year-old girl vows to be suicide terrorist in Hamas TV dramatization
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Palestinian Media Watch:
p:+972 2 625 4140e:
f: +972 2 624 2803w:

Hamas TV broadcast today a video dramatization of the four-year-old daughter of female suicide bomber Reem Riyashi singing to her dead mother and vowing to follow in her footsteps. The video clip ends as the little girl picks up sticks of explosives from her mother's drawer.

The Al Aqsa TV children's program shows a child actress playing the daughter, watching Riyashi preparing the bomb and asking her mother, "Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me? A toy or a present for me?" She later sees a TV news story about her mother's suicide mission and death, and realizes her mother had been carrying a bomb.

"Only now, I know what was more precious than us . . . " she sings of the bomb.

Although she misses her mother, she vows to follow in her footsteps. The video ends as she opens her mother's drawer and picks up the sticks of explosives her mother had left there.


Reem Riyashi killed four Israelis and wounded seven at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel in 2004. She gained the sympathy of the Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint by telling them that she had a metal plate in her leg that would trigger the metal detector. After she was taken to a room to be searched privately, she detonated the bomb hidden under her clothes.

Click here to see the video clip

The following is the text of the song that Duha, Reem's daughter, sings to
her mother:
[Daughter sees mother preparing explosives sticks]
"Mommy, what are you carrying
in your arms instead of me?
[Mother turns to hide bomb]
A toy or a present for me?...
Mommy Reem!
Why did you put on your veil?
Are you going out, Mommy?...
Come back quickly, Mommy
I can't sleep without you,
unless you tell me and Ubaydah [her brother] a bedtime story.
[Daughter sees mother's picture and news story about bombing on PA TV]
My mother, my mother,
Me and Ubaydah are awake and waiting for you
to come to put us to sleep.
Me and Ubaydah, oh Mommy,
still need you to wipe our tears...
Instead of me you carried a bomb in your hands.
Only now, I know what was more precious than us...
May your steps be blessed,
and may you be flawless for Jerusalem.
Me and Ubaydah wish we were there with you.
[Images of her mother's grave and the graves of other terrorists,
including Aayat Al-Akhras, 17-year-old female suicide terrorist]
Send greetings to our Messenger [Muhammad] and tell him:
'Duha loves you.'
My love will not be [merely] words.
I am following Mommy in her steps.
[Finds explosives that mother left in her drawer,
picks up stick of explosives]
Oh Mommy, oh Mommy."

Please feel free to forward this bulletin, crediting Palestinian Media Watch

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And the prize for Palestinian understatement goes to...

The spokesman of the Palestinian Hamas Izzedin al-Qassam brigades, in a rare understatement, noted that he doesn't expect the government to take any security action against "resistance" factions.
Anybody who had other expectations, like the Americans for example, must've been smoking some good dope.
Speaking out of all three sides of his mouth at once, The versatile spokesperson explained that "resistance" is the job of the resistance factions, not the department of the government. This division of labor assures that the the Palestinian government cannot be held culpable for crimes against humanity. On the other hand, he noted that divisions between the factions and the government and the people are artificial.

Abu Obaida: We don't expect the new government to take any security action
against resistance factions
Official website of the Hamas Ezzedeen AL-Qassam Brigades


When asked about that the what you expect this resistance  to comprise from the new government , Abu Obaida, the spokesman of the Qassam Brigades answered that We don't expect the government to take any security action against resistance  factions as  with the case in previous governments but the government will not be involved directly in the resistance that is for the resistance factions to conduct .

Our task is to resist the occupation and reply to its crimes through out the Gaza Strip and the West Bank We don't expect the government to help us directly but we don't expect the government also to coordinate with occupation forces against resistance activists.

Abu Obaida added that " I would expect that Palestinians as a whole are in support of resistance and trying to grow the wide between  government and resistance factions is not something accurate."

Palestinians people  as a whole government , Palestinian factions, political parties are under occupation and the Palestinian people as a whole exercise their right to resist and so trying to divide government and people and factions is something that is very realistic.

Regarding any action from the Qassam Brigades against the occupation forces , the Brigades will not stop its military operations as the occupation forces did not stop their aggression against the Palestinian people.

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Peace Now distorts the occupation

It is OK to be against the occupation, but Peace Now had better get its facts right.

Peace Now's margin of error
Wildly inaccurate report raises questions about organization's credibility
Tamar Sternthal Published:  03.21.07, 14:04 / Israel Opinion

"The media whirlwind surrounding this report has just begun," Americans for Peace Now boasted Nov. 21, 2006 with the release of a document charging that Palestinians privately own 40 percent of the lands upon which settlements are built.
 The stunning case of Ma'aleh Adumim, 86.4 percent of which was reportedly private Palestinian land, was singled out in many international media outlets, the New York Times among them.
When the report again made headlines just last week, Peace Now was not so ecstatic. "Military database released to Peace Now shows little land seized from Palestinians to build largest West Bank settlement," was the headline in the International Herald Tribune March 14, prompting the organization to swing into damage-control mode. In the much publicized case of Ma'aleh Adumim, Peace Now was off by a factor of 15,900 percent; 0.5 percent - not 86.4 percent  -- was built on private Palestinian land.
 Peace Now "settlement expert" Dror Etkes is likewise careless with the facts in his Feb. 23 Op-Ed in Ynet, in which he egregiously downplayed and justified the widespread phenomenon of illegal Arab building.
For instance, he erroneously states that illegal Palestinian construction "is undertaken by private individuals in all cases." In fact, there is substantial evidence that for more than a decade, the Palestinian Authority and Arab governments have abetted the massive phenomenon of illegal Arab building.
On June 5, 2000, Ha'aretz quoted Feisal al-Husseini, the late Palestinian figure most associated with Jerusalem, speaking almost openly about the PA backing: "The most important Palestinian activity at this time is building, even without permits."
In his book Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon, Justus Reid Weiner documents numerous examples proving Palestinian Authority involvement in illegal construction.
 They include letters from PA officials, like Ziad Abu Ziad, to Yasser Arafat, requesting infrastructure funding in neighborhoods such as Ras Hamis, which contains massive illegal building and which abuts the Jewish neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev; an article in the PA's El Hiya El Jdida newspaper in which Jamil Othman Nasser, the PA governor of the Jerusalem District, calls for the establishment of a "development council" to aid Palestinians who skirt Israeli building laws; and requests from Nasser to Arafat that the PA pay the fines assessed against those who build illegally.
Blatant falsehood
Hence, Etkes' claim that illegal Palestinian building is meant mostly to shelter families in need and serves no political purpose is also nonsense. Why, then, do apartment buildings stand empty in Arab suburbs of Jerusalem like A'Zaiam or E'Ram?
 Similarly, on what basis does Etkes assert that "Most of the Palestinian illegal construction is undertaken on their own private land?" Has Peace Now undertaken a comprehensive study of all illegal construction, including the vast Muslim theft of Christian lands in greater Bethlehem, as well as the theft of private land by Arab developers in Jerusalem neighborhoods, Beit Hanina, the Old City, Shuafat and Hod El Tabel, among them? And, would such a study have a better margin of error than 15,900 percent?

In another blatant falsehood, Etkes states that the Palestinian population in "east Jerusalem does not have the right to vote. As a result, it does not have the practical possibility of taking part in shaping the planning and construction policy in the areas where it has been living for generations." East Jerusalem Arabs unconditionally have the right to vote in municipal elections, a fact that even Peace Now has elsewhere recognized ("Settlements in Focus," Vol. 2, Issue 4.)
Dror Etkes and Peace Now may very well persevere in their promises to deliver up "the facts." News consumers need only think two thoughts - "Ma'aleh Adumim" and "15,900 percent error" - and not be fooled.
The writer serves as director of the Israel office of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)

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Blair: Jerusalem is up for grabs - Britain doesn't recognize any sovereigty

This ought to draw a sharp protest from Israeli diplomats, as Britain declares it doesn't even recognize Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem - it is all up for negotiation.

UK prime minister tells Moroccan monarch: "We recognise no one claim to sovereignty over the city [of Jerusalem]"
Date: 21 / 03 / 2007  Time:  17:58   
Jerusalem - Ma'an - In a letter sent to the chairman of the Al Quds Committee, King Muhammad VI of Morocco, on 12 March, the UK prime minister, Tony Blair, assured that Britain does not recognize sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem.
The Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) reported in a press release that Blair stated:
"Jerusalem's status has yet to be determined, and should be resolved as part of a final status agreement. Pending agreement, we consider East Jerusalem to be occupied territory. We recognise no one claim to sovereignty over the city. We do not support any action that predetermines final status negotiations on the future of Jerusalem."
CAABU states that this is "the clearest statement" Tony Blair has made regarding the UK's view on the holy city for many years. "In it," CAABU says, "Blair states explicitly that Britain does not recognize sovereignty over any part of the city."
CAABU adds that this does not represent the formal position of the UK government. However, "Blair himself has been very reluctant to make such strong legal statements on Jerusalem especially ones that contrast markedly with the US and Israeli positions," CAABU points out.
The Al Quds (Jerusalem) Committee has sixteen member states from across the Islamic world, presided over by King Muhammad VI of Morocco. It was established during the 6th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in 1975 in Saudi Arabia.

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Palestinian internecine violence continues

Palestinian inter-factional violence has not abated following the "unity" agreement. Almost every day brings news of new clashes and kidnappings...

One killed, 8 injured in armed inter-factional clashes in northern Gaza
Date: 21 / 03 / 2007  Time:  18:05   

Gaza - Ma'an - One Gazan was killed and 8 others were injured in armed inter-factional clashes in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday.
Dr. Muawiya Hassanein, the head of emergencies in the Palestinian ministry of health, reported that Rami Srour, 23, was killed and 8 others were injured in the clashes, which were believed to be between armed men affiliated to Fatah and Hamas. Srour was transferred to hospital after he sustained mortal wounds to which he succumbed later. The three injured were reported to be suffering from moderate to light injuries.
Fatah's delegate for national relations, Abdul-Hakim Awad, said that the home of a leader in the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades, Samih Al-Madhoun, was subjected to heavy fire followed by two mortar shells on Wednesday. Clashes erupted after the incident.
Awad also said that some cars belonging to Fatah members were seized in the northern Gaza Strip by gunmen.
He also denounced the assault against a military post belonging to the presidential guards - 'Force 17' - in addition to other actions against Fatah members, which he depicted as "irresponsible". He called on the lawbreakers to halt their atrocities so as to preserve the Mecca agreement, which protects the Palestinian blood.
On the other hand, the spokesperson of the Hamas-affiliated Al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obeideh, denied that his brigades launched any shells.
He affirmed that gunmen on the roof of Al-Madhoun's home shot at a neighboring house which belongs to a member of the Al-Qassam Brigades, which led to the eruption of the clash. He also explained that the deceased, Rami Srour, who was an escort of Al-Madhoun, was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded in his hands as he was trying to launch it.
The governorate of the northern Gaza Strip has witnessed several clashes since the Mecca accord was signed between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions, agreeing to form a national unity government, and a state of tension still prevails there.

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EU Middle East representative Meets Palestinian Foreign Minister and Finance Minister

As might have been anticipated, the European boycott of the Palestinian government, which was more a formality than a fact, is crumbling pretty quickly, as is the US boycott.
I have straightened out some of the Ha'aretz jumbled prose below.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 17:42 21/03/2007   

Top EU envoy meets Palestinian FM, to meet PA Finance Minister on Wednesday
By The Associated Press

The top EU envoy to the Middle East Marc Otte met Tuesday with [Palestinian Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr] ,,,, according to Otte's aide Francoise Attal, despite an Israeli push for a continued boycott of the new unity government due to the fact that it has not met international demands.
Otte is to meet later Wednesday with Palestinian Authority Finance Minister Salam Fayad, according to officials in Fayad's office.
Sweden and Belgium's foreign ministers will also meet with Palestinian officials in the coming days.
"We will evaluate and have working contacts with the new government, and that's why I'm going down there," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters in Stockholm.
Bildt said he would meet with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and two cabinet ministers in the Hamas-Fatah government during the trip to the Middle East starting Saturday.
He said no meetings were scheduled with representatives of Hamas, which is listed as a terror organization by the EU, the United States and Israel.
Bildt was also scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and members of the Knesset, Bildt's spokesman Christian Carlsson said.
Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister and United Nations envoy to the Balkans, welcomed the formation of the Palestinian unity government Saturday, saying it opened the way for a genuine peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gught is already on a trip to the Middle East and is expected to meet with Palestinian officials Friday.
Israel is pushing for a continued boycott of the Palestinian government, because the Hamas-Fatah coalition stopped short of meeting international conditions for lifting the boycott, including recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.
The U.S. and EU have indicated that they will maintain contacts with certain Palestinian ministers considered to be moderates, but will continue conditioning the resumption of direct aid to the PA on the government accepting the international demands.
Political sources in Jerusalem said on Tuesday that according to a government decision of April 2006, whoever meets Hamas ministers will not be invited to meet Israeli officials during that same visit.
Norway's Deputy Foreign Minister Raymond Johansen met Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas on Monday, becoming the first high-ranking Western official to visit leaders of the violent Islamic movement.
Following the meeting, Israeli officials canceled their meetings with Johansen that were scheduled for the next day.
Norway, a major donor, also was the first country to lift sanctions against the PA.
Other European countries - including France and Belgium - are planning talks with the Palestinian officials. Russia and France say sanctions on the PA should be lifted.
The United States made its first contact with the new Palestinian government on Tuesday, as Jacob Walles, the U.S. consul in Jerusalem met with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad, a political independent.

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Muzzlewatch - Students may be charged with desecration of "Allah"

If these students had stepped on an American flag that said "God" on it, nobody would have minded. If they had burnt an American flag, the ACLU would stand up for their rights.  But college Republicans desecrated the holy Hezbollah and Hamas flags that had "Allah" written on it, and may face chages of desecrating Allah!
What will be forbidden next? Is it ok to burn a picture of Hassan Nassrallah? Who are these officials, and what were they thinking?
Is this the "Israel Lobby" at work, muzzling dissent?
Ami Isseroff
Students facing charges of 'desecration of Allah'
Hamas, Hezbollah flags used in college Republicans protest
Posted: March 10, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
© 2007

College Republicans at San Francisco State University desecrated the name of Allah by stepping on makeshift Hezbollah and Hamas flags, charged school officials who brought the students before a hearing yesterday.
The trouble began at an Oct. 17 anti-terrorism rally in which the students stepped on butcher paper painted to resemble the flags of the Middle East terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah. The College Republicans say they simply copied the script from an image on the Internet and didn't know it bore the name of Allah in Arabic script.
University spokeswoman Ellen Griffin, however, told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra J. Saunders the university "stands behind this process" of investigating the students for possible punishment.
"I don't believe the complaint is about the desecration of the flag," Griffin said. "I believe that the complaint is the desecration of Allah."

The university has 10 days from the time of the hearing to decide whether to sanction the students.
Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, which represents the students, insisted the school has no basis for punishing them.
"The College Republicans engaged in unequivocally protected political expression, and it strains all credibility to think the SFSU administration does not know this," he said. "There is nothing to try or investigate here other than protected expression."
Ten days after the incident, a student filed a formal complaint with the university against the campus group, alleging "attempts to incite violence and create a hostile environment" and "actions of incivility."
FIRE argues the university's Office of Student Programs and Leadership Development could have settled the matter informally or dismissed the charges instead of pressing forward today with a hearing.
The legal advocacy group sent a letter to SFSU President Robert A. Corrigan Jan. 23 arguing no American public institution can lawfully prosecute students for engaging in political protest or for desecrating religious symbols.
FIRE asserted "incitement" and creating a "hostile environment" are legal terms not applicable to the College Republicans' actions of stepping on flags.
"SFSU has a duty to uphold the First Amendment rights of all of its students, even if their expressive activity offends the religious sensibilities of some," the letter stated.
University officials wrote back Jan. 29, saying the school would continue to investigate the complaint "to give all parties the confidence that they will be heard and fairly treated by a panel that includes representatives of all the university's key constituencies."
A follow-up letter by FIRE urged Corrigan to call off the hearing, warning "if you continue to ignore your constitutional obligations, you risk personal liability for depriving your students of their rights."
"This is not even a close call, legally speaking," FIRE Vice President Robert L. Shibley contended. "The First Amendment protects using or destroying flags in political protest, and even SFSU administrators must realize that they cannot prosecute students for failing to respect a religious symbol."

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Palestinian aid - the detailed picture - Where is the money going?

Palestinians got more aid in 2006 than 2005, so the international embargo of the Hamas is a fiction. On the other hand, wherever that money is going, it is not getting to the people who need it. Some of the shortfall is due to Israel witholding funds, but that should have been more than compensated by huge increased in foreign aid - over double the amounts paid by the EU before the start of the Intifada, plus increased Arab subsidies. Where is all the money going?


JERUSALEM, March 20 — Despite the international embargo on aid to the Palestinian Authority since Hamas came to power a year ago, significantly more aid was delivered to the Palestinians in 2006 than in 2005, according to official figures from the United Nations, United States, European Union and International Monetary Fund.

Instead of going to the Palestinian Authority, much of the money was given directly to individuals or through independent agencies like the World Food Program.
The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations say the Palestinians received $1.2 billion in aid and budgetary support in 2006, about $300 per capita, compared with $1 billion in 2005.
While the United States and the European Union have led the boycott, they, too, provided more aid to the Palestinians in 2006 than 2005. Washington increased its aid to $468 million in 2006, from $400 million in 2005.
The European Union and its member states alone are subsidizing one million people in the West Bank and Gaza, a quarter of the population, as part of their effort to avoid creating a catastrophe from the embargo.
Asked if the European Union could spend any more money on the Palestinians if it recognized the new Palestinian government than it does now, a senior European diplomat laughed and said, "We'd probably spend less."

One side effect of the redirected aid, some officials said, is that while starvation has been avoided, institutions are withering and a culture of dependence is expanding.

In 2007, the United Nations began a humanitarian appeal for the Palestinians of more than $450 million, twice the 2006 appeal, the third largest United Nations request, after Sudan and Congo, ahead of 18 other disasters.

"These numbers are quite stunning," said Alexander Costy, head of coordination for Álvaro de Soto, the United Nations special Middle East envoy, "given the relatively small size of the population of the Palestinian territory."
He added: "What we do know for sure is that Palestinians, and their economy and society, are becoming increasingly dependent on humanitarian handouts, and this dependency is growing fast. For a state in the making, I think this was a step backwards in 2006 and a cause for alarm."

The International Monetary Fund and the United Nations estimate that direct budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 was about $740 million, more than double the $350 million in 2004 and 2005.
But Salam Fayyad, the finance minister in the new Palestinian unity government, thinks the Palestinians received at least 250 percent more than that in direct support when cash from Iran and Arab nations is counted, as well as the amount smuggled in by Hamas officials after trips abroad.

"I say the minimum for direct budgetary support was $880 million in 2006 compared to about $350 million the year before," Mr. Fayyad said. He estimates total aid in 2006 was closer to $1.35 billion.

The United States, Europe and Israel imposed their boycott because Hamas supports terrorism and refuses to recognize Israel, renounce violence or honor existing Palestinian-Israeli agreements. The unstated aim has been to build enough disaffection among Palestinians that they would drive Hamas from power and replace it with Fatah.

Mr. Fayyad, who is from Fatah, says the international embargo should be lifted for the new unity government that includes non-Hamas ministers like him, because much of the money coming in cannot be traced and some is surely being stolen or misappropriated.

Mr. Fayyad, a former official with the International Monetary Fund, is considered to be credible by the United States and the European Union. He met Tuesday with the American consul here, Jacob Walles.

The larger amounts of aid Western countries poured into the Palestinian territories in recent months were aimed at making up for the inability of the Palestinian Authority to pay salaries. To a large degree, beginning in the summer of 2006, the European Union and Arab countries paid the salaries instead.

By the last quarter of 2006, full salaries were again being paid to Palestinian Authority employees, who, over the year, received about 55 percent of their salaries.
Those salaries were paid despite Israel's decision — beginning in March 2006, when Hamas took office -- to withhold from the Palestinian Authority some $50 million a month it collects for the Palestinians in duties and taxes, after it deducts the cost of electricity and water that it supplies to the West Bank and Gaza.
While Israel recently handed over $100 million of the sum as a humanitarian gesture to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Israeli officials say that as of today, they are holding back $475 million in money belonging to the Palestinians, a big hole in the normal Palestinian budget.

European and American officials also cited the difficulties in Gaza caused by Israeli security restrictions on Palestinian imports and exports as another reason for the increased aid. Their contributions were to United Nations agencies that deal with the Palestinians, like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the World Food Program and various health agencies, to nongovernmental agencies and, in the case of the European Union, large cash payments directly to employees of the Palestinian Authority.
The United States provides more money to the United Nations refugee agency than any other country. Congress authorized $400 million in aid to the Palestinians in fiscal year 2005, including its aid to United Nations agencies, said Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, a spokeswoman for the American Consulate in Jerusalem which deals with the Palestinians. In fiscal year 2006, she said, $468 million
was authorized.
The European Union, moved by the plight of Palestinians, set up a mechanism to pay partial salaries directly to nonsecurity employees of the Palestinian Authority and to help pay fuel bills, either to Israeli fuel companies or through the office of Mr. Abbas of Fatah.
In 2005, according to Emma Udwin, spokeswoman for the European Commission, the European Union and its individual states contributed about $711 million to the Palestinians, not including contributions through United Nations agencies.

In 2006, Ms. Udwin said, the European Union and its states spent $916 million on the Palestinians, not including United Nations contributions.

The amount of aid has increased, but the structure of the aid has changed: aid that had gone to economic development has been diverted to simply keeping people fed and sheltered. In 2005, 16 percent of European aid was classified as humanitarian; in 2006, 56 percent was.

The point, Ms. Udwin said, was to isolate the Hamas-run authority, "but not to punish individual Palestinians."
But rather than pressuring Hamas, the European aid is now paying 77,000 Palestinian households, or 88 percent of the salaried nonsecurity personnel of the Palestinian Authority, a subsidy to nearly 470,000 people, plus another 73,000 low-income households who are considered to have special needs.
Arab countries provided an estimated $400 million in 2006, the International Monetary Fund says.
Despite all the aid, the economy, hampered by security restrictions put on Palestinian travel and exports and fierce Palestinian infighting between Hamas and Fatah, continued to show signs of collapse. The Palestinian gross domestic product dropped by 6.6 percent in 2006, poverty rose by 30 percent and unemployment was over 30 percent. The proportion of those who would be unable to feed themselves without aid reached 49 percent of Gaza's population, and internal violence among Palestinians caused ten times the number of deaths and injuries as in 2005.

Since 1999, before the second intifada caused Israel, in the name of protecting its citizens, to reinvade the West Bank and set up various security restrictions, the Palestinian gross domestic product per capita has dropped 40 percent in real terms, according to the International Monetary Fund — a severe depression. So even external aid of $1.2 billion or more doesn't offset the loss of what would have been another $2 billion in Palestinian Authority income.

In general, the Palestinians take in about $15 million to $20 million in taxes a month, Mr. Fayyad said, plus the $50 million or so from Israel. But the budget now is at least $170 million to $175 million a month, with a bill for wages and pensions alone of $115 million a month.

The Palestinian Authority's self-generated income, including the amount Israel collects but is not now delivering, is only about 60 percent of the monthly wage bill alone, and only about 40 percent of the monthly budget. So the Authority needs between $1.2 and $1.3 billion in foreign aid every year now just to break even — about what Palestinians, if not the Authority itself, got in 2006.

Numerous aid officials think that the current aid structure for the Palestinians is highly inefficient and undesirable since it is not going to development or training but is simply being consumed by one of the most aid-dependent populations in the world.

A United Nations official who asked for anonymity in order to speak frankly, said "aid is going down the sink hole," keeping people alive rather than creating jobs or helping them to create economic opportunities.
Álvaro de Soto, the United Nations special envoy, says that because so much aid has been redirected to humanitarian purposes, development aid has dried up. "And by not engaging with government bodies that actually run Palestinian affairs, the international community has undercut its ability to promote the reform goals it advocates, to ensure that the Palestinian administration runs efficiently," he said in an interview.

"There is a real fear that Palestinian institutions that the international donor community has toiled to build and beef up over the years are being gradually undone," he said. "This has grave political consequences, since these institutions are meant to be the foundation on which, one day, a Palestinian state will be built."

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Evacuated Gaza settlements used for Hamas training centers

The Hamas are working overtime to prove to the world why Israeli concessions are dangerous. Evacuated settlements are used as training bases for terrorists, greenhouses are used to launch rockets and as termini for arms smuggling tunnels. How could this possibly be helping the cause of the Palestinians? How can it be permitted by the world community?

Ex-Jewish cities now for Hamas terror training
Conversion of Israeli towns 'sign from Allah' Palestinian resistance works

Posted: March 20, 2007
10:48 a.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein

TEL AVIV – Two Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip evacuated by Israel have been turned into advanced Hamas militant training centers, a senior member of Hamas' so-called military wing told WND today.

Last night, Israelis living near Gaza and Palestinians inside the territory heard loud explosions coming from the northern Gaza Strip area. Israeli security officials at first feared the blasts were terrorist attacks, while some Palestinians immediately reported the explosions as an Israeli raid. Israel has refrained from carrying out military operations in Gaza since a cease-fire was forged last November.

It turned out the blasts were part of Hamas explosives training exercises conducted in the former Jewish communities of Eli Sinai and Dagit in Gaza, according to Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Martyrs Brigades, Hamas' declared "resistance" department.

Israel Defense Forces officials confirmed the explosions were attributed to Palestinian terror groups inside Gaza.

(Story continues below) Abu Abdullah told WND Hamas turned Eli Sinai and Dagit into advanced training zones, which he said include areas for "physical shape exercises; use of weapons training; practice lands for ambushes of Israeli forces; courses for the reading of maps and [production and use of] explosives and many other trainings; military techniques, fighting in open fields and in built and populated areas; and rockets shooting."

The two former Jewish communities were located in Gaza, north of Gush Katif, a slate of former Jewish neighborhoods of the Gaza Strip. The areas were entirely evacuated by Israel in August 2005.

Abu Abdullah called the utilization by Hamas of the former Jewish towns for anti-Israel activity a "big sign from Allah that the settlements that were the strongest symbol and proof of the Zionist injustice are now turned into tools at the service of the Palestinian resistance against the enemy plans and are proof that the resistance works."

The Hamas terror leader said his group stepped up the pace of its training the past few weeks because of a "coming" confrontation with Israel.

"We think that the confrontation with Israel is not a question of if but a question of when. We have no doubt that the Israelis are not ready for a full withdrawal from the Palestinian territories and that they will try to escape from this withdrawal by trying to invading Gaza and cities in the West Bank," Abu Abdullah said.

"The Israeli officers say everyday that a big operation in Gaza is being prepared and is waiting for the decision of the enemy government," he said.

Hamas sources said that until recently, Palestinian training in Gaza was conducted quietly. They said last night's testing of explosives should be taken by Israel as a "warning" Palestinian groups are "ready" for a confrontation.

In November, Israel agreed to a truce with Gaza militants in which the Jewish state vowed to suspend anti-terror operations in the Gaza Strip in exchange for quiet. Since then, more than 160 rockets have been fired from Gaza, but the IDF has been restrained from operating in the territory. Yesterday, Hamas carried out a shooting attack against an Israeli civilian near Gaza.

Last week Yuval Diskin, head of Israel's General Security Services, told the Knesset Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip aided by Iran used the four-month-old cease-fire to improve the range of their rockets, smuggle in mass quantities of weapons, construct underground bunkers and build guerrilla-like armies.

He said Palestinian advances during the cease-fire period will now make it more difficult for the Israel Defense Forces to confront Gaza's terror infrastructure.

In December, three weeks after the Nov. 23 truce was forged, WND quoted top Gazan terror leaders explaining they would use the truce to smuggle in weapons, increase the range of their rockets, construct underground bunkers, fortify military positions and build guerrilla armies.

Diskin said Hamas was sending hundreds of Gaza-based militants to Iran for prolonged periods of advanced training. He announced smuggling of weaponry into Gaza from the neighboring Egyptian Sinai desert recently increased six-fold and that Palestinian terror groups were taking advantage of the cease-fire to enhance rockets and create a complex system of underground bunkers.

Last week, Yoav Galant, chief of the IDF's Gaza-area division, told reporters the Gaza truce enabled Hamas to grow from a ragtag terror group into a well-organized militia resembling an army – complete with battalions, companies, platoons, special forces for surveillance, snipers and explosive experts.

Galant compared Hamas to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia which last summer engaged in 33-days of confrontations with the IDF, bombarding northern Israeli population centers with thousands of rockets.

The use of Eli Sinia and Dagit as Hamas training zones are the latest in a string of reports Gaza's former Jewish communities are being utilized for terror.

WND reported a Hamas-affiliated university with a history of involvement in terrorist activity opened a branch earlier this month in Nitzarim, a former Gush Katif community, building on the foundations of evacuated Jewish structures.

Last month, WND broke the story the ruins of two large synagogues in Gush Katif's former capital city, Neve Dekalim, were transformed into a military base used by Palestinian groups to fire rockets at Israeli cities and train for attacks against the Jewish state

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Hamas getting stronger than Fatah

This is discouraging news. Hamas are beating out the Fatah However, the reason for failures of Fatah may not be lack of money, but lack of motivation. If Abbas surrendered to Hamas demands in Mecca, it was probably because he understood he could not count on his forces in a pinch. He has promissed that any guns he gets from the US will be used against Israel, not against Hamas. Will it really help to give him more money?
Iranian help can be stopped by effectively monitoring the Rafah crossing and stopping the construction of tunnels, rather than trying to compete with the illegal arms by providing Fatah with even more arms.

Last update - 12:13 21/03/2007   

U.S.: With Iranian help, Hamas forces growing faster than Fatah
By Reuters

With Iranian help, Hamas forces are expanding fast and getting more sophisticated weapons and training than do those under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' control, according to the U.S. security coordinator.
U.S. Lieutenant-General Keith Dayton said Hamas' growing military strength, if left unchecked, would erode Abbas' already limited ability to enforce any ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and increase the chances of Israeli military intervention.
Dayton delivered his assessment in a series of closed-door briefings late last week to congressional leaders and staff, sources familiar with the discussions said on Wednesday.
Concerned about Abbas' coalition government with Hamas, a group that Washington considers a terrorist organization, the U.S. Congress has blocked $86 million in U.S. funding to bolster Abbas' presidential guard and national security forces.
Sources familiar with the Bush administration's deliberations said a revised spending plan would be submitted, likely limiting aid to Abbas' presidential guard and security improvements at Gaza's main commercial crossing with Israel.
It is unclear if and when the money will be approved.
Palestinians hope a unity government formed on Saturday between Abbas' secular Fatah faction and Hamas Islamists will bring an end to fighting between the groups. But tensions remain high, especially in the Gaza Strip.
In his first act after swearing in the new government, Abbas appointed Hamas' long-time foe, Mohammad Dahlan, as national security adviser, angering the Islamist movement.
Over objections from Fatah, Hamas is pushing ahead with plans to double the size of its Executive Force to 12,000 members. The force is built mostly from members of Hamas' armed wing, which on Monday carried out its first attacks against Israelis since a shaky Gaza truce took effect in November.
The U.S. wants Abbas' own forces to be strong enough to maintain law and order, and to prevent militant groups like Hamas from firing rockets and launching other attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip.
But in fierce fighting before Abbas agreed to join the unity government, Hamas' Executive Force and armed wing were beating their Fatah rivals, Dayton said, according to two sources familiar with his comments.
Dayton, who became U.S. security coordinator between Israel and the Palestinians in December 2005, said Hamas has continued to build up its forces using Iranian funds and equipment.
He added that Abbas' troops will not be strong enough to confront them without outside assistance.
Israeli officials have likewise said that Hamas fighters are receiving training in Iran and smuggling into Gaza rockets that could penetrate deep into Israeli territory.
Despite the U.S. funding embargo, Palestinian officials and Western diplomats say Abbas has continued to expand his own forces.
The presidential guard recently set up a camp near the Karni commercial crossing in Gaza, and it is finishing construction of a larger training base in the West Bank city of Jericho.

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Palestinians floating in aid money, but broke

The boycott of the Hamas government is a fiction. Palestinians got more aid last year than ever before. It seems impossible, yet the dollars did not alleviate poverty. As in Iraq, the money may be going to Swiss bank accounts, or to purchase weapons. It is not being invested in economic development and it is not helping people survive. More aid is not a solution unless ways can be found to institute responsible management.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 11:21 21/03/2007
International aid to Palestinians grew in 2006 despite sanctions
By The Associated Press

International aid to the Palestinians grew from about $1 billion in 2005 to more than $1.2 billion in 2006, despite a boycott of the Islamic militant Hamas government, United Nations officials said Wednesday.
Much of it was emergency aid from Europe, the UN and the Arab world that was funneled to people outside the government to ease a humanitarian crisis largely triggered by the international sanctions.
As the world weighs whether to also shun the new Palestinian government, a coalition of Hamas and the moderate Fatah movement, critics say the sanctions have cost the donors more money while causing long-term damage to the Palestinian economy.
In the past year, the Palestinians received more than $1.2 billion, compared to $1 billion in 2005, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA.
Mario Mariani, the head of the European emergency aid mechanism, said total European aid came to about ?700 million in 2006, an increase of more than 30 percent from the year before.
Palestinian officials said it's a rough estimate, because it's not clear how much money came from the Arab world, particularly Iran, or was carried into Gaza in cash-stuffed suitcases by Hamas officials.
The aid was delivered less effectively because - in an attempt to bypass the Hamas government - it went to multiple recipients, including Abbas' office and Palestinians' personal bank accounts, rather than to the Treasury.
"More money was spent in a less coordinated manner," said Pierre Bessuges, OCHA's deputy director in the Palestinian areas.
The disjointed way of delivering money helped to dismantle the Treasury's single account, which had been praised by the donor countries as the biggest achievement in Palestinian fiscal reform.
"The donor community, particularly the Europeans, first invested billions in the institutional development of the Palestinian Authority, and over the past year, invested in a policy that basically dismantled the past achievements," said Mouin Rabbani, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, an independent think tank.
However, Israeli analyst Gerald Steinberg said he thinks the sanctions have forced Hamas to share power and delivered a clear message to the Palestinians. "Most Palestinians recognize that they are paying a huge price for having the radical leadership of Hamas and in that, I would say, yes, they [the sanctions] are effective," said Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
Palestinian economists warn that some of the damage inflicted by the sanctions is irreversible, including the flight of investors, loss of trust in the economy and weakening of government institutions. Also, with aid restricted to averting a humanitarian crisis, development projects have largely been put on hold.
"There is no investment, nothing, zilch," said Bassim Khoury, president of the Palestinian Federation of Industries. "You are creating a country that is not sustainable in the future."
Israel is pushing for a continued boycott, but Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Wednesday that "we wholeheartedly support efforts by the international community to upgrade support to the Palestinian people."
Prospects for an international policy change are uncertain, because the Hamas-Fatah coalition stopped short of meeting the conditions for lifting the boycott, including recognizing Israel and renouncing violence.
However, the European Union and the U.S. have signaled they are willing to deal with some of the non-Hamas members of the coalition. On Tuesday, a U.S. diplomat in Jerusalem, Jake Walles, met with incoming Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, a respected economist who, in his previous term in the post, was credited with cleaning up the free-wheeling spending of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Norway, a major donor, has already resumed contacts with the Palestinian government.
The sanctions kicked in last spring, after Hamas took power. Since then, the international community has stopped most development projects and frozen aid to the Palestinian Authority, while Israel has withheld more than $500 million in tax transfers. With the boycott, the Hamas government had trouble paying the salaries of civil servants, whose incomes provide for one quarter of the Palestinians. The government also struggled with providing basic services, such as health care, welfare payments and education.
The international community rallied to the rescue.
The UN had initially budgeted $216 million in 2006 on food distribution and ensuring basic services. After the sanctions took hold, the humanitarian appeal for 2006 was increased to $384 million. In 2007, the UN is seeking $454 million in emergency contributions for the Palestinians, Bessuges said. Only Sudan and Congo are ahead on that list, with $1.2 billion and $687 million, respectively.
European emergency aid - the so-called Temporary International Mechanism, of TIM - was crucial to survival.
Set up in June, the fund has paid out ?312 million through February.
It kept hospitals running, supplied emergency fuel after Israel bombed Gaza's power station last June over the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, and helped pay salaries of more than 77,000 civil servants. In all, TIM sent money to 150,000 heads of households, including social hardship cases, benefiting about 1 million people, fund officials say.
The Arab world sent hundreds of millions of dollars, and the outgoing Hamas-backed finance minister, Samir Abu Eisha, said some $68 million were brought into Gaza in suitcases of cash by Hamas officials in 2006.
Yet despite the large amounts of money coming in, the Palestinian Gross Domestic Product dropped by 6.6 percent in 2006, according to George al-Abed, head of the Palestinian Monetary Fund.
The emergency aid helped Palestinians survive, just barely.
"It was like a drop of water on a hot day," Rafik Wasfi, 39, a nurse at a Health Ministry-run clinic in Gaza City, said of the two TIM payments of 1,500 shekels he has received.
Wasfi, a father of seven, said he used most of that money to pay back his in-laws who supported the family with groceries.

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General Strike: Fixing the Israeli municipality mess, once and for all

The strike broke out because of unpaid municipal salaries. The strikers are right this time, and no doubt about it. The government has violated its own laws that require prompt payment of wages. The problem of financial management of  local municipalities has been festering for years. It erupts in periodic sanctions and general strikes like today's strike. The solution of withholding funds, adopted by the government, doesn't seem to work. The problem is that the municipalities often do not collect taxes and spend money on grandiose projects. The officials of these munipalities themselves owe tax money. The idea of publishing a budget in advance, holding public hearings on that budget and accounting for how funds were spent is completely foreign to the mentality of local municipal leaders. It is time to move beyond the days of the Ottoman empire...

Last update - 12:25 21/03/2007   

Histadrut: General strike likely over within hours
By Haim Bior, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

The Histadrut labor federation predicted Wednesday noon a speedy end to the crippling general public sector strike that went into effect across the country hours earlier.
The strike took hold following the failure of last-minute overnight talks between the unions and government aimed at averting the industrial action.
Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini stormed out of the overnight talks, saying the government had failed to guarantee salary payments for the 3,700 local authority employees whose wages have been withheld.
The strike has caused the closure of all local authorities, except for departments dealing with special education. In addition, all government ministries, with the exception of the Defense Ministry, are closed to the public. The National Insurance Institute, the Employment Service, the Israel Land Administration, the vehicle licensing office, and the land registration office are also shut.
There is no train service, nor are planes being allowed land or take off at Ben-Gurion International Airport. Sea ports are also shut down.
Bank of Israel employees are imposing sanctions, although ATMs will be restocked with cash. Health services and the security services, banks and the stock exchange are operating as usual.
The National Labor Court has yet to rule on the state's petition for an injunction against the strike. Israel Radio said that the court is expected to rule on the matter within a short time.
The state is arguing that the strike is unjustified given the progress that has been made in negotiations on the issue.
The state informed the court Wednesday morning that only 10 local authorities and three religious councils have yet to receive state funds in order to pay their employees, promising that those bodies would receive the funds by Thursday.
In addition, the state said the government would discuss sanctions against local authorities that fail to pay their employees' wages, a key Histadrut demand, during the next cabinet meeting.
Eini and the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, Ra'anan Dinur, conducted intensive negotiations throughout the night Tuesday, during which the Histadrut agreed to take responsibility for part of the solution to the crisis and grant loans to local authorities that the government is unable to pay.
According to the proposal, the Histadrut would grant loans totaling millions of shekels to 625 employees in 10 local authorities which are worst-hit by financial difficulties.
But Eini said Wednesday morning that the government "was not willing to say unequivocally that every worker would be paid today. We will not agree to lees than this. We must put an end to this issue once and for all."
"It is unacceptable that in a properly functioning country employees go to work and don't get paid," said Eini. "The prime minister promised a complete solution and when I say a complete solution, that means until the last employee [is paid]."
Dinur also gave the Histadrut documents showing the government had transferred funds to 20 local authorities for the purpose of paying employees.
The government has transferred NIS 175 million to local authorities in the past two months, including NIS 85 million during the past two weeks, although not all of the funds were used to pay employees - in part because some of the money was used to pay off authorities' debts.
The government agreed to amend the Municipalities Law such that an emergency committee would be formed to take over control of any local authority that fails to pay a quarter of its employees for two months.
Eini asked for the public's forgiveness Wednesday morning, but said that the issue of employees' wages is a matter of principle and called on Israel's citizens to "show restraint and patience."
England fans can land
All flights from England will be allowed to land in Ben-Gurion Airport, general strike notwithstanding, a senior Histadrut official told Haaretz last night after attending a meeting between Eini and the heads of large unions.
The chairman of the Israel Football Association, Avi Luzon, succeeded on Tuesday in persuading Eini to permit the English fans to land in Israel despite the strike, contrary to the labor federation chief's earlier decision to allow only the English team to land.
On Tuesday, Eini met Airport Authority Chairman Pinhas Idan, and the two decided not to deny thousands of England fans to attend the game in Ramat Gan.
"We're expecting from 5,000 to 7,000 English fans to arrive in an airlift from England," a senior Histadrut official said. "We will prepare accordingly. They will all be well treated in spite of the strike. We won't tarnish Israel's image in Europe and won't hinder the huge celebration planned here," he said.

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What Achmed learns in school

Palestinian texts have been getting worse. A whole generation is being prepared to "liberate" "Palestine" as a holy duty. Unfortunately this problem was raised to U.S. Authorities, with a request to block funding, Brit Tsedek VeShalom tried to intervene to stop the move. One would think that education for peace would be a top priority for a Middle East peace group, but apparently it is not so.
Rabbi Melchior, who has raised the problem in the Knesset is a moderate dovish man, known for his opposition to religious coercion and support for pro-active peace policies.

Melchior: Raise PA textbooks with Abbas
Haviv Rettig, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 20, 2007

"You can't have agreements while this kind of hatred is inculcated in the children," Knesset Education Committee Chairman Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) said on Tuesday after seeing new 12th-grade textbooks published by the Palestinian Authority late last year.

"I intend to demand from Prime Minister [Ehud Olmert] that he present the findings [of a new report on the textbooks] to Abu Mazen [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] at their next meeting," Melchior said.

Melchior's statements at the Knesset followed the presentation of Palestinian Media Watch saying that Palestinian 12th grade textbooks teach that hating Israel and pursuing its destruction are religious duties.

PMW director Itamar Marcus told the Education Committee it was the first time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been depicted in Palestinian schoolbooks as a religious, rather than a territorial, conflict.

"According to these books," Marcus told the MKs, "the war over this land is a war for Muslim land, and will end only with the resurrection of the dead." The books teach that "recognition of Israel is forbidden by religion," he said.

Committee members promised to pressure international donors, particularly Belgium, whose contributions receive specific mention in the textbooks, to suspend their aid as long as such incitement continues in PA textbooks.

According to the report, the schoolbooks, the products of the official education arm of the PA, written by Fatah-appointed officials at the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula and published by the PA Ministry of Higher Education, are also used by schools in east Jerusalem that are under the jurisdiction of - and receive funding from - Israel's Education Ministry.

Shlomo Alon, deputy head of the Pedagogic Secretariat in the Education Ministry, told the lawmakers the ministry would investigate whether the books were distributed in east Jerusalem schools and would cut funding for schools found using them.
According to Melchior, the report's findings indicate a trend from "a conflict over land, which can be resolved by partition, to an existential religious conflict that cannot be resolved."

MK Zeev Elkin (Kadima) called on the government to put in place "sanctions against the PA for such violations [of the Oslo Accords]," which he called "more dangerous than security violations in the long run."

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kadima MK backs settler takeover of building in Hebron

The most interesting part of this affair may be that Schneller claims that Kadima intends to keep Hebron. Schneller has made statements about party policy in the past that were later denied by the party. He was active in the Yesha council in the past.

Last update - 14:50 20/03/2007   

MK in Hebron declares Kadima backs settlers
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Kadima MK Otniel Schneller, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his liaison to the settlement movement, Tuesday visited a Hebron house occupied this week by settlers, saying that the takeover of the house was consistent with Kadima's policy, and that the party viewed a Hebron settlement bloc as part of a future peace agreement.
Scnheller was speaking a day after dozens of settlers moved into an unoccupied Palestinian building in Hebron, saying it was legally purchased from its Palestinian owner for $700,000. The building is located near the "worshiper's way," a road linking the settlement of Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a site holy to Muslims and Jews in the biblical city.
The structure is currently under construction, and has yet to be connected to water or electricity. The settlers say they will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars more in order to complete the construction. Settlers brought a generator to the site in order to prepare for a long-term stay.
Schneller said that he is proceeding on the assumption that the sale was legal, and if that is the case, it was in line with Kadima's program of settlement in blocs, as it created a continuous strip between Kiryat Arba settlement and the adjacent Jewish community of Hebron.
"This is a continuity of unparalleled importance," Schneller said. "This is extraordinary. The work of saints is done by others. By rights, the government of Israel should have done this, but since it was done, and assuming that it is legal, this is definitely in line with Kadima's approach from the demographic standpoint, an approach which views Kiryat Arba - Hebron as a Jewish settlement bloc, under any future agreement."
"In my understanding, this is part of Kadima's world view."
Peres: Settlers create 'unbearable' situation
Vice Premier Minister Shimon Peres, also of Kadima, said on Tuesday that the presence of settlers inside the West Bank city of Hebron has created an "unbearable situation" for Israel and the Palestinians.
Peres said Kiryat Arba, on the outskirts of Hebron, had been built so that a Jewish community would be living alongside, rather than within, a Palestinian community. "It is very hard to have both at the same time," he said.
Asked directly if he thought Israel should retain Kiryat Arba but move settlers out of Hebron itself, Peres said he did not want to stir up the subject now, but added:
"The current situation is unbearable and it is absolutely clear to me that we must find a solution, and a quick one, and at this stage to uphold the law."
Settlers: We can prove ownership
According to Hebron's Jewish committee, the settlers have documents proving ownership. "Everything is copied, taped, documented - the entire purchasing process," a committee member told Haaretz. "No one can contradict our ownership claims."
Noam Arnon, a spokesman for Hebron's Jewish community, told Haaretz: "The purchasing process was complex and carried out through a Jordanian office. This is a house that has been under construction for several years. No one lives in it yet, so no one was evacuated from it."
A Palestinian claiming to the be the owner of the building, Mohammed Al-Baradei (Abu Samir), told Haaretz however that all of the ownership documents are in his possession. "I handed all of the documents over to police after making copies," he said. "Anyone who claims otherwise is a liar."
Al-Baradei says that some 100 settlers arrived at the site Monday evening.
Police and the Israel Defense Forces are investigating the matter.
The settlers intend to use the building as a memorial to the 12 IDF troops killed in the area during fighting with Islamic Jihad militants in November 2002. Dozens of settlers also intend to live there.
"The place could house many Jewish families in the future," said Arnon. "It is located on the main road between Kiryat Arba and Hebron, in an area that the IDF controls and secures on a permanent basis, in an area that was determined in agreements to be Jewish."
"Currently mostly young people are in the house, but in the future, after we renovate it, families will live there, like in other areas of Jewish settlement in Hebron," Arnon added. "This is not a provocation, this is a completely straightforward purchase."
"Jews lived in Hebron in the past, Jews live [in Hebron] today, and Jews will live [in Hebron] in the future as well - despite the left-wing and Arabs' attempts to drive us out," he said.

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Alliance of Islamists and leftist extremists.

The ironic and alarming alliance of leftist extremists and reactionary Islamist fanatics that is described by Fred Halliday below, has characterized opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years, though it is only recently being applied and generalized to Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Iran. The spectacle of British socialists parading with Islamists carrying signs "Europe is the Cancer, Islam is the Answer" should have alarmed and saddened anyone who cares for the left. Osama Bin Laden, Ismail Hanniyeh, Hassan Nassrallah and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not "Progressives" however much they might radiate "radical chic."  
Ami Isseroff

The Jihadism of Fools
By Fred Halliday

Over the last few years, and especially since the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003, there have been indications across the world of a growing convergence between the forces of Islamist militancy, on the one hand, and the "anti-imperialist" left on the other. Leaving aside widespread, if usually unarticulated, sympathy for the attacks of September 11, 2001, justified on the grounds that "the Americans deserved it," we have seen since 2003 an overt coincidence of policies, with considerable support for the Iraqi "resistance," which includes strong Islamist elements, and, more recently and even more explicitly, support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. In the Middle East itself, and on parts of the European far left, an overt alliance with Islamists has been established, going back at least to the mass demonstrations in early 2003 that preceded the Iraq War, but also including a convergence of slogans on Palestine—supporting suicide bombings and denying the legitimacy of the Israeli state. Last year, for example, radical Basque demonstrators were preceded by a militant waving a Hezbollah flag. Moreover, since most of those who oppose the U.S. action in Iraq of 2003 also opposed the war in Afghanistan in 2001, this leads, whether clearly recognized or not, to support for the anti-Western Taliban, armed groups now active across that country.

At the same time, some far left-wing politicians in Europe have sought, on issues of "anti-imperialism" and of social exclusion within the West, to find common cause with representatives of Islamist parties. An example of this is the welcome given by the British left, including the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, to the Muslim Brotherhood leader Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. More important, of course, and separate from support for Islamist guerrilla groups, has been alignment at the state level: Iran, for example, has received increasing support from Venezuela. Hugo Chבvez has been to Tehran no less than five times. This partnership has been made all the easier by the shift noticeable over the past two decades whereby solidarity based, at least formally, on class or socialist grounds has been replaced by identity politics as the basis for political activism. Inchoately perhaps, a new international united front is being created.

This relationship of the radical left to political Islam has a long history, one that should give pause to those who now seek to form an alliance, however "tactical," with Islamist movements and states. The early Bolsheviks tried to establish just such an alliance: faced with the blocking of the proletarian revolution in Europe after 1917, they turned to the anti-imperialist and sometimes Islamic forces then active in Asia. The first state in the world to recognize the Bolshevik Revolution was the monarchy of Afghanistan, then locked in a conflict with the British. As a result, Lenin gave instructions that Soviet Russia must always pay "particular attention" to the needs of the Afghan people, a piece of advice that was to have ironic, but momentous, consequences in 1979, when the Soviet leadership, against the better judgment of many of its experts and leading members, sent a military force to protect the embattled Afghan regime of the People's Democratic Party.

Even in the years after 1945, Soviet strategists sought to find a "national democratic" content in Islam, interpreting its stress on equality, charity, sharing of property and, not least, struggle, that is, jihad, as early forms of communism. While some Soviet orientalists portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as the agent of commercial capitalism, other Marxist writers, notably the French specialist Maxime Rodinson, drew a more positive portrait, even if he later admitted that his admiration for Muhammad derived, in part, from the similarities he saw between the prophet and Stalin. Soviet foreign policy presented the Soviet Muslim republics of Central Asia as a model for third world development, including in this the promotion of women's education and participation in public life and the teaching in schools of a socialist interpretation of Islam. These practices were held up as a model when third world Muslim countries, particularly Afghanistan and South Yemen (the erstwhile People's Democratic Republic of Yemen), were under Soviet influence.

This sympathy and search for tactical alliances were, however, long overshadowed by another trend, that of confrontation and struggle between communism and socialism, on the one side, and Islamism and organized Islam, on the other. In the 1920s and 1930s, the Bolsheviks found themselves facing widespread religious and tribal opposition in Central Asia and sought to destroy the social bases of organized religion, above all by emancipating women, whom they saw, in this social context, as a revolutionary alternative to the largely absent working class (see the marvelous book by Gregory Massell, The Surrogate Proletariat). The term used to denounce the Islamist rebels in the 1920s, basmachi, was later recycled to refer to the mujahidin in the Afghan War of the 1980s. From the other side, the nationalist/fascist insurgents in Spain recruited tens of thousands of Arab soldiers, claiming that Catholicism and Islam were equally threatened by the "godless" forces of the Republic.

In the early 1960s, faced with the rise of "Arab socialism" in Egypt, and with the publication in May 1962 of an Arab "National Charter," the Saudis (supported by the United States) replied with their own "Islamic Charter," in which they denounced "false nationalism based on atheistic doctrine" and, with the offer of Saudi money, called on Arabs and Muslims to reject the message emanating from Cairo. In 1965, Saudi Arabia established its own antisocialist international organization, the World Islamic League, through which it financed and guided groups across the world. The League is still active, not least among Muslim immigrants in Western Europe, and, symptomatically perhaps, maintains a large building in the center of Brussels.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood came into increasing confrontation with the Nasserist regime, and its leader, Sayyid Qutb, later to be the intellectual inspiration of Osama bin Laden, was executed in 1966. In all of this, one of the oldest tropes of European anti-Semitism, that socialism and Bolshevism were really the work of the Jews, was vigorously replayed, as evident in a statement in January 1964, by King Feisal of Saudi Arabia, linking the struggle against the Jews in Palestine to that against communism: "It is our duty, our brothers, to move today . . . to save our holy places and to drive out our enemies, and to [stand] against all the doctrines founded by the Zionists—the corrupt doctrines, the atheistic communist doctrines, which seek to deny the existence of God and to deviate from . . . our religion of Islam."

The increasing opposition of secular left and Islamist forces was exploited by a number of Middle Eastern states within the context of the cold war. Thus in Turkey the military promoted Islamist groups against the far left in the 1970s. In Syria, opponents of the Baathist regime encouraged a Muslim Brotherhood uprising in 1982. In Algeria, the rise of the Islamic Salvation Front, or FIS, in the 1980s, was encouraged by a faction of the ruling National Liberation Front, the FLN—hence the observation that the FIS was the son, in French, le fils, of the FLN. Even in Israel, the occupation authorities in the 1970s, seeking to undermine the secular institutions of al-Fatah, allowed Islamist groups, including those that later founded Hamas, to open educational centers and universities, and permitted funds to be transferred from the World Islamic League.

Elsewhere, Islamists took matters into their own hands, as in Morocco, where, in December 1975, radical Islamists killed the leader of the socialist party, the USFP. Those associated with the killing are now working within the Party of Justice and Development, the legal Islamist organization that is expected to score a major advance in the elections scheduled for this spring. Even more relevant to the situation today is the early record of Hezbollah, which, in its bid to establish itself as the dominant force within the Lebanese Shiite community, not only engaged in a fierce attack on a rival, more moderate group, Amal, but also assassinated a number of left-wing Lebanese politicians and writers who stood in its way.

The campaign against the left was accompanied by one against writers of a liberal, secular, or simply independent-minded stamp. In Egypt, Islamists launched a wave of terror against intellectuals accused of betraying Islam: the secularist academic Faraj Fuda was killed in 1992; the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfuz, accused of having criticized Islam in a novel written years before, was badly beaten up in 1994; and the historian and literary critic Nasir Abu Zeid was forced to leave the country in 1995 and seek refuge in Holland, where he still lives. Most famously of all, of course, was the death sentence and the general incitement to murder pronounced in February 1989 by the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini against the writer Salman Rushdie, a move that certainly encouraged the murderers of Egypt, but was also replicated in a campaign in Bangladesh against the writer Taslim Nasrin, after which she was forced to leave the country. We can only guess at how many others were forced into silence and into exile, internal or external, by this climate of fear.

The mobilization of Islamism against the left was, however, most evident in four other countries. In Sudan, the advent of the National Islamic Front, a remote branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, to power in 1989 led to widespread use of imprisonment, torture, and execution against secular and left opponents. The NIF indeed modeled itself on a Leninist party and sought, while crushing the communists in Sudan, to follow the revolutionary policy of exporting revolution, to Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Eritrea, among other places. In this it was assisted, from 1990 to 1996, by its distinguished internationalist guest, Osama bin Laden. In Indonesia, an even greater repression took place when, in 1965, the army turned against the Communist Party, then the largest in the noncommunist world. In massacres across Java and other islands, Islamist groups, notably Nahdat ul-Ulema, which has recently come into prominence again, joined forces with the army and with people settling local quarrels to kill up to a million people.

In the Iranian revolution, too, a strong anti-American rhetoric was combined with increasing hostility to the left, culminating in 1981–1983 in the wholesale suppression of communist and left-wing groups. A spate of executions, rigged trials, and theatrical show trials followed, leading up to the slaughter of thousands of opponents in jail in 1988, in the aftermath of the end of the Iran-Iraq War, when the regime feared a popular backlash against its conduct of that conflict. Graphically illustrated in the work of Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, this purge was orchestrated by the Revolutionary Guards, the organization from which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his close associates have recently emerged. As an associate if not perpetrator of state-backed mass murder, albeit on a smaller scale, it is little wonder that Ahmadinejad feels comfortable denying the even larger administrative massacres committed by the Nazis.

The most spectacular and consequential alliance between the West and Islamism was, of course, in Afghanistan. Here, in the largest covert operation ever run by the CIA, the United States, with help from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, mobilized Islamist forces throughout the 1980s against the government of the People's Democratic Party and the Soviet forces that came to rescue it in December 1979. It was in Afghanistan that bin Laden organized his army of militant jihadis from around the world and developed the ideology of international struggle that later came to fruition on September 11, 2001. Those who backed the Afghan Islamists in the 1980s seem to have been totally insouciant as to the later consequences of their actions. Yet the Afghan War was to the world of the twenty-first century what the Spanish Civil War was to the Second World War—the devil's kitchen in which all the brews that later poisoned the globe were first prepared.

To this history of jihad against the left, over many decades, must be added one further fact, namely the deep differences that should separate any conceivable program of the radical left from that of Islamist parties. Whether on the rights of women, on secularism, or on free speech, the two political currents are radically opposed; they espouse what should be incompatible positions. So too are they opposed on another issue: the complete absence from the Islamist program of any inclusive internationalism. Instead, while appealing to the community or umma of Muslims, the Islamists, be they al-Qaeda or Hezbollah, appeal only to particular communities and pour out the venom of an unrelenting chauvinism toward nonbelievers, Jews, and even toward Muslims of a different sect than their own. Their rhetoric against Jews far exceeds anything of which the earlier generation of secular Palestinian nationalists was capable. Few today seem to recall the remark of the German socialist leader August Bebel, that anti-Semitism "is the socialism of fools." Presumably those on the left today who ally with Islamists do so by reference to some concept of false consciousness. It is open to question, however, whose consciousness is the most mistaken.

Fred Halliday teaches international relations at the London School of Economics and at IBEI, Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals. His book 100 Myths About the Middle East was published by University of California Press in 2005. An earlier version of this article appeared on in September 2006.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian national unity government - an analysis

" We want Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and if we do not succeed in liberating it now, or in the near future, with the help of Allah, it will be done… " (Al-'Alam TV, March 18). "
That may be the keynote of the new government as far as Israel is concerned.

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S) March 20, 2007

 Analysis of the Palestinian national unity government: its composition, platform and the implications of its establishment 
 1. In the late morning hours of March 17, 2007, the Palestinian Legislative Council held a vote of confidence for the new national unity government and ratified its establishment, with 83 representatives voting in favor and three against (two from the PFLP, which is not part of the government, and one independent). In the evening the government ministers were sworn in by Abu Mazen , the chairman on the Palestinian Authority, in at a festive ceremony held simultaneously in Gaza and Ramallah by conference call.

2. In his speech before the Palestinian Legislative Council Abu Mazen appealed to Israel to return to the negotiating table to achieve a "just peace." He said that the Palestinians extended their hand to peace and coexistence, and promised to act to bring about the release of Gilad Shalit, the abducted Israeli soldier. Ismail Haniya , prime minister of the national unity government, read out the new government's platform, which clearly reflects Hamas's ideology: no recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist, stubborn adherence to "resistance" (i.e., violence and terrorism) as a "legitimate right" of the Palestinians, and a demand for the implementation of the "right to return" (i.e., the destruction of the State of Israel) . 

The composition of the government
3. There are 25 ministers in the new government (24 with ministries and one without portfolio). Twelve of them belong to or are affiliated with Hamas, six with Fatah, three are independent and four belong to leftist factions. Although most of the ministers are from or affiliated with Hamas, Fatah and the leftist factions have a strong bloc. With the exception of Ismail Haniya, the Hamas representatives are technocrats, some of them previously political unknowns, while Fatah ministers are old political hands, half of whom belong to the Palestinian Legislative Council. For an analysis of the composition of the new government, see Appendix I .

Ismail Haniya (sixth from left) and some of the new ministers (apparently photographed in the Gaza Strip) (Palestine-info Website, March 18)
 4. Prominent among the new government ministers are three independents who hold key portfolios, and who have replaced Hamas ministers. Two of them (the foreign and finance ministers) were chosen, in our assessment, because, as opposed to their predecessors, they are acceptable to the international community. For full biographies, see Appendix I .
A. Foreign minister Dr. Ziyad Abu Amro is a native of Gaza , married to an American woman and has American citizenship. He holds a PhD in political science and international relations from Georgetown University and is an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He is close to Abu Mazen and has served as Mazen's liaison with Hamas.
B. Finance minister Salam Fayyad is a native of Tulkarm. He is a financial expert and holds a PhD in economics from the University of Texas . He is acceptable to the United States and the international community and has a reputation for being reliable. In previous governments he managed to stabilize the PA's budget to a certain extent and to advance important reforms.
C. Interior minister Dr. Hani Talab al-Qawasmi , whose family comes from Hebron but who was born in Gaza . He served as director of administrative affairs in the previous interior ministry. He is a devout Muslim and has no experience in internal security.
The government's platform
5. A number of changes were made in the draft of the government's platform which was made public at the end of last week. The changes are semantic and intended to make the government's basic position seem less extreme. However, despite the rhetorical acrobatics, in the final analysis the platform does not meet the demands of the Israel and the Quartet , and they reflect the fact that Abu Mazen and Fatah have almost completely accepted Hamas's basic ideology and demands (For a full analysis of the platform, see Appendix II ).
6. Conspicuous are the following:
A. The continuation of violence and terrorism is legitimate : According to its platform, the new Palestinian government will adhere to the "legitimate right" of Palestinians to continue employing "all forms of resistance." That is, in its platform there is legitimization for the continuation of all forms of terrorism against Israel (including suicide bombing attack within Israel) until all the Palestinians' far-reaching demands have been met. That is in full accord with Hamas's basic preference for terrorism, although it does not reject a temporary lull in the fighting. Thus is can be expected that the Palestinian terrorist organizations, including the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council, will continue attacking Israel (including suicide bombing attacks) under the aegis of the national unity government . 1
B. The platform of the national unity government does not include recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist, and no mention is made of the concept of two states for two peoples . 2 It does, however, go into minute detail as to the Palestinians' far-reaching demands on Israel and the international community: the release of prisoners, the dismantling of the security fence, the cessation of the earthworks in Jerusalem , the cessation of Israeli security force counterterrorist measures and Israel 's withdrawal from the "Palestinian lands" it conquered. The reworked version of the government's platform, as opposed to the original version, mentions the establishment of a Palestinian state on "the lands conquered in 1967" with Jerusalem as its capital, but it does not state that the establishment of such a state is the final Palestinian demand. A Palestinian or Muslim Arab reader will understand that the arrangement is only temporary, and not a permanent arrangement to end the conflict based on the concept of two states for two peoples.
C. The platform includes adherence to the "right to return" and calls for the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (December 1948) regarding the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and property and to receive reparations. The wording reflects Hamas's position and interpretation of Resolution 194 as the physical return of the refugees to their lands, that is, the destruction of the State of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people .
D. According to the platform, agreements previously signed by the PLO are to be "honored" but no commitment is made to implement them : The new government "honors" the "legitimate decision" and agreements signed by the PLO (in the spirit of the Mecca Accord). The term used is " honors " but strict avoidance of a " commitment " to implement them is maintained. In effect, the refusal to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist (at the foundation of the previous agreements) and the justification for continuing terrorism (through which previous agreements were sabotaged) make the "honoring of agreements" a phrase devoid of meaning.

E. Limiting Abu Mazen's ability to ratify agreements he and the PLO reached with Israel : according to the platform of the new government, Abu Mazen and the PLO have the authority to conduct negotiations for the PA. At the same time, Hamas and its supporters can sabotage any agreement reached. The platform states that any agreement must either be ratified and signed by the "new Palestinian Legislative Council" (which has yet to formed 3) or put to a referendum of Palestinians living within the PA and abroad. (Hamas can make it extremely difficult to hold a referendum in the PA, and it can be assumed that the Palestinian refugees living in the Arab states will oppose any agreement that does not include the "right to return.")
F. The ratified platform has a section dealing with Jerusalem (apparently because of the developments following the emergency earthworks carried out at the Mugrabim ramp): The new government will confront Israeli policy in Jerusalem , including the issue of the holy places. It will allot funds, encourage the Palestinians living in Jerusalem to take "a firm stance," and enlist the Arab-Muslim world to support the residents of Jerusalem politically and through the media.
The response of the government of Israel
 On March 18 the government of Israel met to discuss the Palestinian national unity government and its platform. An examination of the platform showed that "it does not accept the principles of the international community," therefore " Israel will not be able to work with the government or any of its ministers." However, " Israel will continue to work with Mahmoud Abbas in order to advance issues of security and issues pertaining to improving the quality of life of the Palestinian population." The government also noted that " Israel expects the international community to maintain the policy it has taken over the past year of isolating the Palestinian government until it recognizes the three principles of the Quartet."

Summary and assessment

The Palestinian national unity government reflects, first and foremost, Hamas and Fatah's desire (and in fact the desire of the entire Palestinian population) to put an end to the violence and anarchy which increased during the past year and to establish a stable, functioning Palestinian government. To that end Hamas agreed to give up three key government ministries to independents, and to let Fatah have a series of ministries as well, although they are less important. In return Hamas received the stamp of approval from Abu Mazen and Fatah that it had sought since its victory in the January 2006 election. In addition, there is a possibility that the Palestinian government will break out of its isolation (without Hamas's giving up its control of the government and its extremist ideology).
In addition to achieving the main goals of internal quiet and an end to the violence and anarchy which plagued the PA for the past year, the Palestinians seek to market the new national unity government to the international community. They hope to have the economic and political embargo lifted, even though the government is influenced by Hamas and its ideology and even though it has not met the demands of the Quartet, central to which are recognition of the right of the State of Israel to exist and the abandoning of terrorism.
Their efforts to market the new government have taken various forms : Using convoluted rhetoric in setting out its basic principles, Hamas has tried to camouflage the new government's extremist nature and give the Western countries something to hold on to; they have appointed ministers who are not affiliated with Hamas and who are acceptable to the United States and Europe to important government posts; 4 they have warned that if the government did not receive international support the situation was liable to deteriorate and that the PA and the Palestinian economy would collapse; they have enlisted Abu Mazen (who continues to call for peace, coexistence and a renewal of negotiations) to seek international legitimization for the new government and its platform. Initial international reactions (especially from European countries such as Norway , France and Britain ) are likely to reinforce Palestinian expectations that it will be possible to sell the new national unity government, with its extremist principles, to the international community.

However, the basic differences of opinion between Fatah and Hamas have not been resolved, and anarchy still exits within the PA. As negotiations for the establishment of the national unity government were being held, there were violent confrontations between Fatah and Hamas (although not widespread) until the last minute (March 17), and signs of anarchy. 5Thus it can be seen that the basic tensions between Fatah and Hamas and the difficulties of instituting law and order in Palestinian society still exist . The power struggles between Fatah and Hamas have not been clearly won and it can be expected that the rival sides will continue to seek as great an advantage as possible over one another within the government despite the Mecca Accord and the establishment of the national unity government. A list of controversial issues still remains, such as the future of the Executive Force, control of the security forces and integrating Hamas into the PLO. They will continue as focal points of friction between the two sides and may lead to political tensions and even a renewal of the violence, which will make it difficult for the national unity government to function.
Note : Shortly the translation of the two appendices will be posted. Appendix I is a profile of the new Palestinian government; Appendix II is an analysis and translation of the national unity government platform.

1 The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is not represented in the Palestinian Legislative Council and which did not participate in the elections, is not committed to supporting the new government and its platform. The PIJ and the other terrorist organizations can be expected to continue carrying out terrorist attacks, including rocket and suicide bombing attacks. PIJ spokesman Daoud Shehab said that his organization had many reservations regarding the new government's platform, but that the PIJ's position would be examined primarily according to the governmental support and reinforcement it gave the "resistance." It is understood that his organization clearly has no intention of stopping its terrorist attacks (Al-Aqsa TV, March 17). Since the establishment of the government there have already been a number of attacks initiated from the Gaza Strip, including rocket attacks and a Hamas sniper attack at the Dekalim terminal near Kibbutz Nahal Oz, in which an Israeli civilian was critically wounded.
2 Fathi Hamad, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said the following in a program broadcast by Al-'Alam, the Iranian Arabic language channel: " We want Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and if we do not succeed in liberating it now, or in the near future, with the help of Allah, it will be done… " (Al-'Alam TV, March 18).
3 The "new Palestinian Legislative Council" does not yet exist, and it can only be formed after agreement has been reached regarding Hamas participation in the PLO and a change in the PLO's character. The issue of the establishment of a new PLO in which Hamas will participate has been in the works since the Cairo Agreement of March 2005, and it can be assumed that it will not happen in the near future (despite the fact that the platform of the new government calls for the implementation of the Cairo Agreement to be accelerated so that in the end, Hamas will be able to take over the PLO ).

4 A Palestinian "government source" told BBC radio in the Gaza Strip that the new government had decided to send its foreign and finance ministers to the United States to try to convince Washington to cooperate with t he national unity government (BBC radio, March 18).
5 On the eve of the new government's swearing in (March 15-16), there were manifestations of anarchy and clashes between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip: the convoy of the director of UNWRA in the Gaza Strip was shot at, the son of the director of the lands authority was abducted, unknown assailants killed a military intelligence officer and three Hamas operatives were abducted by Fatah. On the day the government was sworn in, March 17, there were new abductions and violent clashes between quarreling clans.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ahmadinejad in Riyadh - The Iran-Saudi Arabia summit

This analysis from INSS insight is imperfect, but it should remind supporters of Israel that Saudi Arabia is not the black villain it is often painted to be. Their policy is complex and inconsistent, reflecting both rational policy considerations and internal political needs and differences. As Heller points out, they want to support the US and come to some sort of accomodation with Israel. However, the big Saudi ambition that Heller misses is that they always aim to dominate the Muslim and Arab world and Arab politics, as they are the guardians of the two holy places of Islam. The meeting was a genuine attempt at achieving Muslim harmony and shoring up the leading role of the Saudi kingdom in Muslim affairs. The Saudis hastened to announce that Iran accepts the Saudi peace plan and the Iranians hastened to deny it.
Of course Saudi Arabia is concerned about Shi'a dominance. Saudi Arabia has a large, discontented Shi'a minority that is concentrated in the south-east corner of Saudi Arabia, which happens to have most of the known oil reserves. The Shi'a complain of discrimination and neglect and are a perfect target for radical propaganda. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would never openly support an attack on another Muslim country or sanctions against that country unless it was directly threatened.
Ami Isseroff

March 18, 2007 No. 13

The Iranian-Saudi Summit:

A Microcosm of Middle Eastern Contradictions

Mark A. Heller


On March 3, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid his first official visit to Saudi Arabia. Those who anticipated some dramatic outcome were disappointed. Not only were no concrete agreements announced; the summit with King Abdullah did not even produce the kind of anodyne communique that normally follows such meetings.

That should not have been surprising. After all, while Iran and Saudi Arabia may share certain near-term interests, they embody fundamentally conflicting forces and ideas that potentially feed a Middle Eastern clash of civilizations. The former is an overwhelmingly Shi'ite and Persian-dominated republic ruled by a revolutionary Islamic regime bent on subverting the regional order, defying the United States, and challenging the existence of Israel; the latter is an overwhelmingly Sunni and Arab monarchy ruled by a conservative Islamic regime bent on preserving the regional order, cooperating with the United States, and encouraging some Arab accommodation with Israel. So while the leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia may pay lip service to the notion of rejecting sectarian strife and promoting coexistence throughout the region, they view the sources and nature of threats to their interests through entirely different prisms, shaped by diametrically opposed ideologies and divergent if not mutually exclusive identities. These differences were not resolved in a one-day summit and they are unlikely to be resolved in the future unless one or the other of these states is totally transformed.

This was clear in the post-summit "spin" by the two parties. Iranian spokesmen gave enthusiastic accounts of the meeting and focused on the need for Muslim unity to frustrate plots to sow discord among Muslims; Saudi-oriented media were considerably more reserved and placed the onus for change on Iran because, as one newspaper wrote, "the sense of danger is posed by Iranian conduct in the region and the ensuing American escalation against Iran [my emphasis]." Similarly, Iranian spokesmen reacted to a report by the Saudi Press Agency that Iran had endorsed the Saudi peace initiative by claiming that the issue had not been raised in the discussions.

These differing interpretations of what took place reflect a more profound contradiction between the two leading states in the Gulf, which now also embody the two main identity groups in the Islamic world. Indeed, the Iranian-Saudi summit and its murky aftermath encapsulate all the main political trends in the contemporary Middle East.

For centuries, the Sunni-Shi'ite fault line coincided with frontier between the Ottoman and Persian Empires. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Iraq (dominated by Sunnis although the majority of the population was Shi'ite) assumed the role of Sunni front-line state. As such, it enjoyed the support of most Sunni Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia, during its almost decade-long war against post-revolutionary Iran.

Iraq battled Iran to a standstill and preserved the confessional status quo in the 1980s. But after the American-led coalition destroyed Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003, the Sunni-Shi'ite fault line shifted westward into Iraq itself (just as it had shifted eastward two years before into western Afghanistan). These changes, together with rising Shi'ite self-assertion in Bahrain, Hizbullah's increasingly aggressive challenge to the Lebanese government, and particularly Iran's undisguised quest for nuclear capabilities, combined to produce a palpable fear throughout the Sunni-Arab world of Shi'ite empowerment and Iranian hegemony. King Abdullah of Jordan expressed this fear when he warned about the dangers of a "Shi'ite crescent" in the Levant, and Egyptian President Husni Mubarak voiced a similar concern when he accused Iraqi Shi'ites of being more loyal to Iran than to their own country. Perhaps the most noteworthy manifestation of this mood came in the summer of 2006, when the immediate reaction of the Jordanian, Egyptian and Saudi governments to the outbreak of fighting in Lebanon took the form, not of ritualistic denunciations of Israel, but rather of criticism of Hizbullah for its irresponsible behavior and, by implication, for acting in the service of Iranian interests.

In another era, the lead in responding to the perceived Iranian/Shi'ite challenge would have been taken by Egypt, traditionally the "big brother" of the Arab world. But Egypt's preoccupation with domestic concerns and its declining regional and international weight, together with Saudi Arabia's orthodox Sunni centrality, economic clout, and geographic location have all thrust the latter into a more prominent role. In fact, Saudi Arabia has become the pivotal player in efforts to block the growth of Iranian/Shi'ite power and influence that threaten Sunni Arab interests, American and other western positions in the region, and Israel. As one defender of Saudi policy put it, "Lebanon cannot be left as a hotbed of political gangs that carry out assassinations and seek to control the country's resources only to thrust the country into the fire of civil war. Riyadh can neither allow Palestine to be a commodity in Iran's hands nor allow the breeze to blow through Baghdad only from Tehran."

These objectives explain Saudi actions to shore up the Lebanese government, to support Sunni and semi-independent Shi'ite factions in Iraq and oppose a premature American withdrawal, and to virtually dictate an agreement on a Palestinian national unity government that potentially serves the dual purpose of extracting Hamas from the Iranian sphere of influence and reducing Arab public sympathy for the self-proclaimed Iranian champions of the Palestinian cause. They even explain the high-level direct contacts with Israel reportedly initiated by senior Saudi personalities like National Security Adviser Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Saudi Arabia has not been alone in recognizing the primacy of the Iranian/Shi'ite challenge. The United States, which shares the Saudi perception, has invested considerable effort in promoting a "coalition of moderate states" to meet that challenge, and since Saudi Arabia and Egypt are critical members of any such coalition, American policymakers have essentially abandoned the campaign for "democratization" that occupied center stage in the Bush Administration's Middle Eastern policy immediately after September 11. Israel, too, sees Iran and its Hizbullah client in Lebanon as the most serious threats to its security and has therefore recently adopted a more favorable, though still qualified, attitude to the Saudi peace initiative. But while that may be enough to maintain lines of communication with Saudi leaders, more effective regional and international cooperation against Iran will require more decisive action, if not to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, then at least to lower its profile in Arab public opinion.


INSS Insight is published

through the generosity of

Sari and Israel Roizman, Philadelphia

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Secular Islam: The St. Petersburg Declaration

A group of Muslims met in St. Petersburg Florida recently to found a new movement for the reformation of Islam. Their movement is supported by a spectrum of dissidents seeking reform and enlightenment in Islam. It is too early to know the significance of this movement, but it has attracted the opposition of CAIR and the derision of the Washington Post. It is a development worth watching.

Ami Isseroff

The St. Petersburg Declaration

Released by the delegates to the Secular Islam Summit, St. Petersburg, Florida on March 5, 2007
( at many Web sites - EG - )
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.
We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called "Islamaphobia" in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:

  • reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;
  • eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women;
  • protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;
  • reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;
  • and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid strictures of orthodoxy.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers:

  • there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine;
  • to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens;
  • and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.

Endorsed by:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Magdi Allam
Mithal Al-Alusi
Shaker Al-Nabulsi
Nonie Darwish
Afhin Ellian
Tawfik Hamid
Shahriar Kabir
Hasan Mahmud
Wafa Sultan
Amir Taheri
Ibn Warraq
Manda Zand Ervin
Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi

Continued (Permanent Link)

How to get the message across - or not?


In response to these repeated vilifications by international non-governmental organizations, the Government of Israel should perhaps adopt a simple "broken record" response. To every condemnation of their defensive measures, they should simply respond, "First the Arabs must stop their incitement and violence."

There is something to be said for repeating a message over and over, if it is true. On the other hand, if nobody is getting the point, it just might be better to say it a different way, and to try to understand why folks are not listening. Sometimes they are not listening because:

they don't like the singer

the tune isn't catchy, 

they don't understand the language, 

they don't like the message.

For example:

Stop the incitement and violence, and then there will be peace, harmony, and tranquility.

But will there be redress of legitimate grievances? There will be peace, harmony and tranquility for whom?

Sometimes people are not listening because they too have something to say, but nobody is listening to them.

Ami Isseroff

Resolving Disputes With the Broken Record Response

By Israel Zwick, CN Publications, March 18, 2007

Those that are growing up in the current generation are accustomed to listening to clear, crisp digital music from their CD's, DVD's, MP3 players, and satellite radios. Those of us that were raised in the turbulent years of the Viet Nam War and Yom Kippur War can still recall the static, scratchy noises coming from vinyl LP records. Whenever the phonograph needle encountered a particle of dust or a scratch, the music would be accompanied by irritating noise. Occasionally, the scratch would be deep enough to prevent the phonograph needle from advancing. In that case, the last few words would be repeated continuously until someone picked up the phonograph arm and advanced it manually.

Psychologist Manuel Smith used the analogy of the "broken record" in his bestselling book When I Say No, I Feel Guilty, published in 1975. Dr. Smith's popular book presented a variety of suggestions for using verbal techniques to resolve conflicts, disputes, and disagreements. His first lesson on assertive responses involved verbal persistence, a technique he titled, "Broken Record" which employed continuous repetition of the desired outcome.

Though the book is over 30 years old, much of its advice is still pertinent, and perhaps even more important today then it was then. The current leaders of the State of Israel would be advised to incorporate some of these skills in their diplomatic dealings. The Palestinian Arabs have portrayed themselves as "poor, oppressed, suffering people who are struggling for liberation and self-determination." They condone and excuse their barbaric violence against Israeli civilians as "legitimate resistance operations against the harsh Israeli occupation and aggression." In contrast, the defensive security measures of the Israeli government are repeatedly condemned as "violations of the humanitarian rights of the Palestinian people." 

In response to these repeated vilifications by international non-governmental organizations, the Government of Israel should perhaps adopt a simple "broken record" response. To every condemnation of their defensive measures, they should simply respond, "First the Arabs must stop their incitement and violence." Israeli spokesmen would respond to criticism with the following simple statements:

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no security fence.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no checkpoints.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no travel restrictions.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no military incursions.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no targeted killings.

Stop the incitement and violence and there will be no arrests.

Stop the incitement and violence, and then there will be peace, harmony, and tranquility.

Another oft repeated statement is, "The best defense is a good offense." Instead of Israel having to repeatedly defend itself from fallacious accusations, Israel should start going on the offensive and make demands from the Arabs as preconditions for peace negotiations. The following demands should be considered and repeated often:

  1. Acceptance. The Arabs must accept that Jews have strong historical, religious, and cultural ties to the Holy Land. Jews have every right to live and establish communities in the environs of Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Shechem, Shiloh, and other historical sites. Jews should even have the right to live in Arab countries where they lived for 2000 years until they were forcibly expelled.
  2. Recognition of Israel as a Jewish State. On a map of the Middle East, the State of Israel is barely visible. About 6 million Jews live in an area of about 25,000 sq. km. They are surrounded by 22 Arab countries with over 300 million Arabs living in 14 million sq. km. The Arabs must recognize that Israel will remain a Jewish state with a Jewish flag, a Jewish national anthem, Jewish street names, Jewish national holidays, and Jewish schools. Of course, the Arabs living there will still enjoy full democratic and civil rights. Israel will not become a binational Arab and Jewish state. If there are 22 Arab Muslim states, there can be one Jewish state.
  3. Negotiation and Compromise. There will always be disputes and disagreements between people sharing the same space. Spouses have disputes, parents and children have disputes, and special interest groups have disputes. In civilized societies, the disputes are resolved by negotiation, compromise, and due process of law to avoid violent conflict. The Arabs must learn to accept negotiation and compromise. They still have not deviated from Yasir Arafat's original demands in the peace talks of July 2000. That is, a) Israel must return to the jagged, indefensible borders of May, 1967 including the division of Jerusalem, b) Israel must dismantle Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and c) Israel must allow the descendants of the 1948 and 1967 refugees to return to Israel. The Arabs cannot present these demands as a fait accompli. If there is to be a lasting peace, there must be dialogue, negotiation and compromise.
  4. Renunciation of Violence. The Arabs must publicly and repeatedly renounce the use of violence from their public forums, schools, mosques, media, and textbooks. Violence and martyrdom should not be glorified as a means for resolving disputes.
  5. Reliability and Consistency. When we go into our automobiles we expect them to start up and get us to our destination. If we don't get reliable performance from automobiles, we repair them or dispose of them. We should expect the same from agreements with our neighbors. Mutual agreements must be consistently reliable to maintain trust. To date, the Arabs have not adhered to any agreement made with the State of Israel. To develop trust, Arabs must demonstrate that their agreements are reliable.

These should be the minimal starting points for negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors. If the Arabs cannot accept these minimal conditions of civilized society, they should not be given international support.

Manuel Smith was not the only voice of that era to advocate verbal techniques for resolving disputes. The popular country singer, Kenny Rogers, also offered sound advice for avoiding conflict in his two hit songs, The Gambler, and Coward of the County.

They are presented here in crisp, clear, digital sound, so it won't be necessary to pick up the phonograph needle and advance it manually.

Play MP3, Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

Play MP3, Kenny Rogers, Coward of the County

Continued (Permanent Link)

Churchill did not write anti-Semitic article - Independent strikes out again

The allegation that Winston Churchill had written an anti-Semitic article, made in the Independent, caused a bit of a sensation. Now it appears that the article was written by someone else, and that the "scoop" of the Independent was due to negligent research as usual.
As to whether or not Churchill was an anti-Semite, that cannot be judged by a single article. Churchill was a great man, but he also made mistakes. Martin Gilbert may not have found any of Churchill's views appalling, but many were unhappy over his praise for Mussolini. Churchill's words about the Jews were fine. Churchill, like Roosevelt, knew about the destruction of European Jewry, and like Roosevelt, he did little or nothing to save them. He did not press Roosevelt to bomb the railroads to the death camps. He did not use British influence to get visas for Jews to neutral countries. Churchill's Palestine policy in World War II caused death and suffering to many Jews. It was implemented in large part by his friend, Lord Moyne. When the revisionist underground assassinated Lord Moyne, Churchill supposedly turned against Zionism. But surely he could have understood that this was not an act representative of the Jewish people. The fact is, that no British politicians delivered on their promises to the Jewish people in World War II, whether or not they were anti-Semitic.

Churchill was not an anti-Semite

British leader did not write the alleged anti-Semitic article, nor did he publish it. Churchill Center responds
Richard M. Langworth Published:  03.15.07, 18:12 / Israel Opinion
A lifelong supporter of Zionism and the Jewish people, Winston Churchill is now being accused of anti-Semitism on the strength of an alleged article of his, making the rounds on the internet.

Informed of a 1937 article draft in the Churchill Archives, accusers say it proves Churchill's lifelong sympathy for the Jews was hypocrisy - that Churchill was, ipso facto, a closet anti-Semite.

The allegations began with an article in Britain's The Independent: "Uncovered: Churchill's Warnings About the 'Hebrew Bloodsuckers'" on 11 March 2007.
 "The 1937 document, 'How the Jews Can Combat Persecution,' was unearthed by Dr. Richard Toye, a Cambridge University historian," The Independent states. "Written three years before Churchill became Prime Minister, the article has apparently lain unnoticed in the Churchill Archives at Cambridge since the early months of the Second World War.
"Churchill criticised the 'aloofness' of Jewish people from wider society and urged them to make the effort to integrate themselves... Churchill says: 'The central fact which dominates the relations of Jew and non-Jew is that the Jew is "different." He looks different. He thinks differently. He has a different tradition and background.'
"He then goes on to criticise Jewish moneylenders: 'Every Jewish moneylender recalls Shylock and the idea of the Jews as usurers. And you cannot reasonably expect a struggling clerk or shopkeeper, paying 40 or 50 per cent interest on borrowed money to a "Hebrew Bloodsucker," to reflect that almost every other way of life was closed to the Jewish people.'"
"Dr Toye said: 'I nearly fell off my chair when I found the article. It appears to have been overlooked....It was certainly quite a shock to read some of these things and it is obviously at odds with the traditional idea we have of Churchill.'"

We at The Churchill Center would have fallen off our chairs too - if Churchill had written such words. But Churchill did not write them. Nor did he publish them. Nor did he approve of them.
Now, the facts
"How the Jews Can Combat Persecution" has not "lain unnoticed since the Second World War." It was "unearthed" nearly thirty years ago by Oxford historian and Churchill biographer Sir Martin Gilbert, poring through the million documents in the Churchill Archives Centre.
Twenty-six years ago, Gilbert actually reprinted the letter conveying the draft of this article to Churchill, in Winston S. Churchill, Companion Volume V, Part 3, The Coming of War: Documents 1936-1939 (London: Heinemann, 1982), page 670.
The author of "How the Jews Can Combat Persecution" was Adam Marshall Diston (1893-1956), whom Gilbert's volume identifies on page 190:
"Born in Scotland. Served in a Highland Regiment, 1914-18. Joined the Staff of Amalgamated Press after the war; subsequently Assistant Editor of Answers, and acting Editor (1934).... A Socialist, he joined Sir Oswald Mosley's New Party in 1931. Unsuccessful New Party Candidate for Wandsworth Central in the 1931 election (where he polled only 424 votes out of a total of 11,647, and lost his deposit); he never stood for Parliament again."
Churchill briefly employed Diston to write rough drafts for the popular press. While drafts for Churchill's weighty histories, such as Marlborough and A History of the English Speaking Peoples, were prepared by distinguished historians such as Bill Deakin and Keith Feiling, Diston drafted some of what Churchill called his "potboilers," which supplied much of his income in the 1930s. Indeed, says Sir Martin Gilbert, this article "was the only serious subject Diston was asked to tackle, in which he went over the top in the use of his language."

Diston's membership in Mosley's fascist party suggests his sentiments. Indeed, in his letter conveying the draft to Churchill, he recognized them: "Mrs Pearman (Churchill's secretary) did not tell me for what paper it was wanted. If it is for a Jewish journal, it may in places be rather outspoken. Even then, however, I do not know that that is altogether a bad thing. There are quite a number of Jews who might, with advantage, reflect on the epigram: 'How odd, Of God, To choose, The Jews.'"
Diston's draft departed drastically from the article guidelines Churchill had sent him only three weeks earlier: "Obviously there are four things. The first is to be a good citizen of the country to which he belongs.
The second is to avoid too exclusive an association in ordinary matters of business and daily life, and to mingle as much as possible with non-Jews everywhere, apart from race and religion.
The third is to keep the Jewish movement free from Communism.
The fourth is a perfectly legitimate use of their influence throughout the world to bring pressure, economic and financial, to bear upon the Governments which persecute them." (Companion Volume 5, Part 3, 654). All those sentiments are typical of Churchill. and certainly do not smack of "Shylock," or people who "look different." Winston Churchill was among the least conscious of how people looked of anyone in his generation.

Interviewed March 11th by London's The Sunday Times, Sir Martin Gilbert said Churchill refused to have Diston's article published because it was not his work and did not reflect his views. Gilbert added that Dr. Toye, the lecturer who "found" the article and includes it in a new book, Lloyd George and Churchill, must have failed to consult Companion Volume V, Part 3, which describes it: "I'm amazed. My book would have been on the same shelf in the same library. I immediately recognised the name of the article."

Not only did Churchill not write about "Hebrew Bloodsuckers." He refused even to subject Diston's draft to his usual heavy editing and revision, which he traditionally did before submitting an article to a publisher. (See footnotes on the drafting of "King George VI," Companion Volume 5, Part 3, 519.)

Subsequent correspondence in the Churchill Archives, from March 1940, has Charles Eade, then Churchill's editor for his war speeches, suggesting that Diston's "rather provocative" article be published in the Sunday Dispatch. Kathleen Hill, forwarded his proposal to Churchill with a note: "I cannot trace that this article on the Jews has ever been published. You originally wrote it for the American Magazine Liberty about June 1937....However, the article was not published as Colliers objected to any of your articles appearing in a rival magazine." (Churchill Archives, CHAR 8/660/32.)

It has been suggested that the piece was not published only because of Colliers' objections. But that opinion was Mrs. Hill's, not Churchill's. While she might have remembered Collier's objections, Churchill was never one to fail to place a good story. Yet, after reading Mrs. Hill's memo, Churchill himself wrote across the bottom: "better not." Mrs. Hill in turn informed Eade: "Mr.Churchill thinks it would be inadvisable to publish the article." (Churchill Archives, CHAR 8/660/31.)

Clearly, both in 1937 and 1940, Churchill did not want this article published. As William Manchester wrote, Churchill "always had second and third thoughts, and they usually improved as he went along. It was part of his pattern of response to any political issue that while his early reactions were often emotional, and even unworthy of him, they were usually succeeded by reason and generosity." (Manchester, The Last Lion vol. I, Boston: Little Brown, 1982, 843-44).
The feet of clay school
Not long from now, we may assume, The Independent's story or portions of the Diston draft will be dredged up out of context as proof of Churchill's hypocrisy. There is an element in modern discourse that seeks always to deconstruct time-proven institutions, societies and leaders. No matter how positive their record, their least peccadilloes are seized upon as proof that revered institutions and individuals are no better than the villains of history: that "we" are no better than "they." Call it the Feet of Clay School.
Winston Churchill is particularly susceptible to such accusations. Thanks to the massive archive he left us, ably marshalled and made available to one and all by the faithful Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, Churchill is in the relatively unique position of being subject to criticism not only for his most personal thoughts in his most private letters, but even for articles he never wrote.
Leave aside Churchill's lifelong support of Zionism. Forget his legion of Jewish friends, from Sir Ernest Cassel to Henry Strakosch to Bernard Baruch, who stuck by him when it took courage to do so, often bailing him out of financial misfortune. Omit the fact that his official biographer is also a leading Holocaust and Jewish historian. Churchill was a friend of the Jews because, as a moral man, his sense of justice was revolted by persecution. "How can any man be discriminated against," he once asked, "purely because of how he was born?"
But Churchill was not an uncritical friend. He once observed that most Bolsheviks were Jews, but added (in a phrase usually omitted by the Feet of Clay School) that the reason for this was that they were also the most persecuted minority in Europe. (See notes on Churchill's 1920 article "Zionism vs. Bolshevism," Finest Hour 128, page 43.)
In November 1944, Churchill was outraged by the killing of his friend Lord Moyne (Walter Guinness), the Minister Resident in Cairo, by members of the terrorist Stern Gang.
In a statement to Parliament, Churchill said: "If our dreams for Zionism are to end in the smoke of assassins' pistols and our labours for its future to produce only a new set of gangsters worthy of Nazi Germany, many like myself will have to reconsider the position we have maintained so consistently and so long in the past. If there is to be any hope of a peaceful and successful future for Zionism, these wicked activities must cease, and those responsible for them must be destroyed root and branch." (See Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill vol. VII Road to Victory, 1050).
An under-appreciated quality of Churchill was his consistency. If his principles were offended, the offenders were chastised, no matter who they were. He never paid the slightest attention to "public opinion"; Political Correctness would be lost on him. And yet Churchill could always be counted upon, at the end of any debate, to come down on the side of justice, right and freedom.

"I never felt that he was going to spring an unpleasant surprise on me,"

said Sir Martin Gilbert, reflecting on his forty years of biographical research with the historian Max Hastings (Finest Hour 65). "I might find that he was adopting views with which I disagreed. But I always knew that there would be nothing to cause me to think: 'How shocking, how appalling.'"
Richard M. Langworth is the editor of Finest Hour, The Journal of Winston Churchill

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egyptians guilty of war crimes in Yom Kippur war, murdered captured Israelis.

The question of whether or not Israel killed Egyptian prisoners in 1967 was the subject of an acrimonious debate I had with an Egyptian ex-friend. At most, Israel killed Egyptians who were retreating and trying to re-form their units for counter attack, according to an Israeli documentary film. The Egyptians however, did kill Israeli prisoners of war.

TV documentary: Egyptians killed captured IDF troops in 1973 war

By The Associated Press  Last update - 22:16 18/03/2007

Egyptian troops killed dozens, if not hundreds of captured Israel Defense Forces soldiers in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, according excerpts of an Israeli TV documentary screened Sunday, responding to charges that IDF forces killed captured Egyptian prisoners of war during the 1967 Six-Day War.

Channel 10 TV showed parts of interviews with IDF soldiers who served in the 1973 conflict, relating specific cases in which they said Egyptian forces killed soldiers who had been captured or had surrendered.

The channel said its documentary was a response to the outcry over a different program shown earlier this month on Israeli TV about the 1967 conflict.

Egyptian media said that the program showed that IDF forces executed 250 captured Egyptian soldiers sparked widespread outrage in Egypt and a crisis in relations between the two countries, which signed a peace treaty in 1978.

The documentary producer denied that his film made such an allegation. Participants said the 250 were armed Palestinian fighters killed in a battle, but senior Egyptian officials demanded an investigation.

In the 1973 war, Israeli forces were caught by surprise in a two-front lighting attack by Egyptian and Syrian armies. Thousands of IDF soldiers on the front lines were killed, wounded or captured.

The Channel 10 documentary showed film of what it said were IDF soldiers, their hands bound behind their backs, shot to death in the Golan Heights and the Sinai desert.

Defense correspondent Alon Ben-David concluded, "Investigations of the Egyptian army's behavior in wars against Israel will find dozens, if not hundreds, of cases of captured Israeli soldiers murdered in cold blood by their Egyptians captors."

Egyptian government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

One of the ex-soldiers, Issachar Ben-Gavriel, said he witnessed one of the incidents. He said he was one of a group of 19 IDF soldiers who surrendered at the Suez Canal, flying white flags and raising their hands.

"They (Egyptians) just shot them," he said, "11 guys."

Another Israeli who fought in the 1973 war, Eitan Mor-Gan, said he was in a group of captured soldiers who were lined up against a wall. Mor-Gan said before opening fire at them, an Egyptian officer told the soldiers, "I will kill whoever stays on the ground. Whoever manages to get up will be saved."

In another case, an ex-soldier told of a fighter in his unit who was captured alive but beaten to death during interrogation.

Ben-David said the interviews were done during a visit by the ex-soldiers to the sites of the Sinai desert battles, which have been turned into museums by the Egyptians.

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Palestinian Unity Government - Deal with it, or not

Is the US opening a back channel to the Palestinian Unity government? If they won't deal with it, how come its representatives remain on US soil? Is Israel really not going to deal with anyone in that government? The article states:
Israel and the West had hoped that the new government would explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept all previous signed agreements.
Actually, there didn't seem to be much hope of that, did there?
Ami Isseroff

International Herald Tribune
A split between U.S. and Israel on new unity government
By Isabel Kershner
Sunday, March 18, 2007

JERUSALEM: First differences emerged Sunday in the Israeli and American approaches to the new Palestinian unity government, though the core policies of both remain fundamentally in tune.

The Israeli cabinet voted overwhelmingly to boycott the Palestinian government, while the American Consulate in Jerusalem said it does not rule out contacts with moderate Palestinian "individuals" who are now government ministers.

The unity government is dominated by Hamas, an Islamic movement defined as a terror organization by the United States, Israel and the European Union. It also includes figures from the mainstream Fatah faction and several independents. Two key independent members, Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr, have enjoyed good relations with the West in the past.

An international economic and political embargo was imposed on the Palestinian Authority government after Hamas won elections over a year ago.

"We are not going to change our policy of not dealing with foreign terrorist organizations, of which Hamas is one," said Micaela Schweitzer-Bluhm, spokeswoman at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem. But she added: "We won't rule out contact with certain individuals with whom we have had contact before. We will evaluate the situation as we go along."

The use of the word "individuals" seems to imply that any contacts will be in a private capacity, rather than dealings between government officials.

Indeed, Schweitzer-Bluhm said American officials were "disappointed," on first impression, with the Palestinian unity government platform that was unveiled on Saturday. She said that the Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniya, of Hamas, had "failed to step up to international standards."

Israel and the West had hoped that the new government would explicitly recognize Israel's right to exist, renounce violence and accept all previous signed agreements. Instead, the new government agreed only to "respect" previous agreements, did not specifically endorse a two-state solution, and insisted on the Palestinians' "legitimate right" to resist occupation "by all means."

Ehud Olmert, the prime minister of Israel, said on Sunday that "The platform of the new government includes very problematic elements that cannot be acceptable to Israel or the international community."

Israel, like the United States, still sees the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, as a partner for dialogue. Abbas is not a member of the government and accepts the international principles. But Olmert said that Israel will now limit its talks with him to humanitarian matters.

There is a certain contradiction in the fact that Israel will deal with Abbas, but not with Palestinian ministers who meet the international criteria, such as Fayyad, according to Martin Indyk, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. The U.S. administration is trying to leave itself "wiggle room" by allowing for individual contacts, he said in a telephone interview, adding that "the Israeli position leaves itself open to such developments."

Israel is struggling to maintain a solid international boycott of the new government. Some European countries, among them Britain, are said to be considering dealing with moderate members of the
Palestinian government.

The minister of internal security for Israel, Avi Dichter, a member of Olmert's Kadima party, has also proposed talking to Palestinian ministers who accept the international principles, Israel Radio said.

But an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, rejected making any distinction between Palestinian government ministers. "Moderates in the Palestinian government cannot be fig leaves" for Haniya and the "extremist" government platform, he said. "It  is one government, with one platform and one prime minister," he added.

He provided no specific reaction to the U.S. Consulate announcement but said, "We have an open dialogue with the United States. Obviously we're following events closely."

The United States has rarely provided direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, channeling assistance through the United Nations and other organizations instead. That assistance to the
Palestinian people will continue, Schweitzer-Bluhm said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Progressive Zionists should be doing Zionist advocacy

Dan Fleshler wrote:
The mainstream machers of American Jewry correctly assert that some of the rhetorical excesses of Israel's critics, particularly on the far left, can foster outright antisemitism. But when these organizational leaders and academics recently claimed that provocative denunciations of Israel's occupation or calls for a binational state were beyond the pale, all they succeeded in doing was bolstering the widespread conviction that powerful Jewish groups want to stifle all public criticism of Israel.

Indeed, if you search on the Internet for "Israel lobby" and "thought police," more than 30,000 entries show up, many of them quite recent. Next to some of the people who post these entries, including radical lefties, Henry Ford seems like a UJA supporter.

Rather than adding more fuel to this fire, the usual Jewish organizational suspects should step back and take note of a more promising way to lower the flames. Outside of the media glare, in isolated and uncoordinated efforts, American Jews who support Israel's peace and human rights camp are reaching out to progressive counterparts. They are criticizing the tone and substance of left-wing discourse on the Middle East, but they are also trying to find common ground.

This has been happening in dialogues between Jewish peace activists and divest-from-Israel groups in Chicago, Philadelphia and elsewhere. It is happening on scores of college campuses under the umbrella of the Union of Progressive Zionists, which gives a home to Jewish students who are equally alienated by the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd and by those who equate Ehud Olmert with Darth Vader. It is also happening in leftist neighborhoods in the blogosphere, where I and other Jews who are often critical of Israel, but care deeply about it, have begun to venture.

From conversations with people engaged in these efforts, it becomes clear that Jews who agree with many of the left's objections to Israeli policies can have more of an impact than those who don't.

The ideal candidates for addressing the claims of the far left aren't afraid to say publicly that the occupation is morally repugnant. They want to be able to talk about Israel in the public arena with the same candor that can be found in the Israeli media....
At the same time, they proudly say they are pro-Israel. They want to change the atmosphere on campuses and on the Internet, where so-called "progressives" often see nothing wrong with comparing Israeli Jews to Nazis, praising suicide bombers as freedom fighters or proclaiming that the very idea of the Jewish people is an illusion — what is known in leftist parlance as "Jewish particularism." And these moderate leftists insist that Palestinians and other Arabs not be absolved of responsibility for the Arab-Israeli conflict.
I have seen it in action and it can work. This is an idea whose time has come. Only progressive Zionists can talk to leftists and only progressive Zionists have a chance of convincing people committed to human rights of the fundamental justice of Israel's cause. Of course, nobody is going to convince hard-core ISM activists that Israel has a right to exist, or get Norman Finkelstein to stop minimizing the Holocaust and calling Holocaust survivors liars. But somebody has to be able to speak to the audience that these people are addressing.
The plain truth is that right-wing Zionist Israel advocates are very convincing to themselves. They are often admirable people in many ways. They are earnest, convinced of the truth of their mission, and armed with arguments that work just fine in their synagogue or church or in the Conservative club.
Unfortunately, when they confront leftist extremists and even neutral folks, right wing Zionist adocates can't speak a language their audience can understand. They can't empathize with legitimate grievances of the other side, they can't frame their arguments in terms of human rights. They can't ask for support for self-determination for two peoples, because they do not support it. All bright eyed and bushy tailed, they trot out their arguments from Prof Pipes and Mr. Emerson, only to find that their audience doesn't respect those people, and doesn't believe Joan Peters' quaint notion that there were no Arabs in Palestine, and won't accept that "there are no Palestinians.
This is the role that progressive Zionists have to play if we are to win back the support of fair minded people for Zionism. But they can only play that role if they are proud Zionists, and fit Zionism into the framework of their progressive ideas as a logical outcome of them, not as appendage that is attached because they are sentimental about being Jewish. They can only be convincing if they  clearly understand the basis of their arguments for Zionism, if, for example,  they can articulate why Israel is NOT like apartheid South Africa and should not be treated like apartheid South Africa, and if they are brave enough to draw the line at "off the wall" comments of anti-Zionists. No progressive Zionist would say, or would be allowed to say in a dialogue that there are no Palestinians, or that the Palestinians are like Nazis, and we must equally insist that those kinds of accusations about Zionism are off limits.  
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who is Really Suppressing Debate on Israel?

Good article about the "Israel Lobby is shutting us up" complaint.
      Who is Really Suppressing Debate on Israel?   

By Jeffry V. Mallow, Phd.
Sitting up here in Scandinavia reading the International Herald Tribune, I came upon yet another claim that American Jewry stifles debate on Israel. This time it was a piece by IHT columnist Roger Cohen, entitled "Time for U.S. boldness on Israel and Palestine," in which he urges America to push Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians. Well, that's a case I might support, although I am less sanguine about the role of Hamas than Cohen seems to be.

But what troubles me is Cohen's quoting of an Israeli professor. "Since 2000, there has been no real interest on the Israeli side in settling with anyone," says Professor Fred Lazin. (Maybe so, maybe not. The Gaza withdrawal could hardly be called a negotiation, but surely it was a huge positive step towards a settlement.) But then, relates Cohen, "Lazin...attended a meeting of the American Jewish Committee... and said that if he wrote a favorable review of Jimmy Carter's recent book...he'd be 'blackballed as a speaker in many American Jewish venues.'"

Say what? An Israeli professor critical of Israel's policies, speaking to one of the pre-eminent American Jewish organizations, says that if he lauds the book of former President Carter, who just spoke to an SRO crowd at Brandeis, America's pre-eminent Jewish university, he will be blackballed by American Jews? Hello Planet Earth.

But seriously folks, this is getting serious. Cohen in the same IHT article decries "post 9/11 American taboos that have lowered debate of Israel to the scurrilous (and paralyzing) if-you-back-Palestinians-you-back-terrorists level"; Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have a fat contract for their soon-to-be-published book claiming that they are being muzzled; hardly a day goes by without someone somewhere criticizing Israel, in print or blog read by millions, then moaning that he or she is being censored by "the powerful Israel lobby." If it's so powerful, how come it's so ineffectual at shutting anyone up? (Indeed, one day after Cohen's piece, the IHT ran op-eds by Henry Siegmann and H. D. S. Greenway, harshly critical of Israel.)

More at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rule Britannia - a little bit at least - Taking on the BBC

Taking on the BBC. Don't think the New York Times is a bastion of leftishness, do you? But the point about the BBC is well taken.  Anyone who grew up just after World War II can remember the aura of almost sacred importance that once attached itself to the BBC. And anyone who lived in Nazi occupied Europe or whose parents did so, or in communist Eastern Europe, has a healthy respect for the old BBC. They blew it folks. What a shame!

March 16, 2007

Great capital city. Shame about the awful BBC

By Gerard Baker

For someone who has not lived in the city for more than a decade, the occasional trip to London is a reminder of how richly it deserves its new reputation as the world's capital.

As my colleague James Harding wrote in times2 this week, there's a vibrancy about London these days that easily eclipses New York or Paris or Tokyo. To many residents, perhaps, life in London may be a struggle against rising crime and a crowded Tube and overpriced housing, but from an international perspective, it is truly the world's preeminent urban locale.

In fact, in anything other than the most literal, geographic expression of the term, London is really no longer an English city at all. Its great economic dynamo, the City, powers corporations from Shanghai to Seattle. Its labour force, drawn to it by the opportunities of its free markets, is much more polyglot and multinational than any other urban concentration in the world.

But there's salt to this strawberry. London's political culture has been uprooted from its English heritage. It is run - if you can call it that - by a sort of postmodern communist Mayor, whose political voice - minus the annoying nasal whine - would sound right at home in Paris, Bologna or San Francisco. It hosts a metropolitan elite that loftily gazes three ways: outward, at the supposed superiority of anything not British; inward, at its own ineffable genius; and down its elegantly pampered nose, at the provincial trivialities that consume the dreary lives of the rest of the population.

But worst of all; much more, much more baleful than any of these irritations, is the political, cultural and intellectual hegemony exercised by the ultimate self-serving metropolitan monopoly, the BBC. Much worse because, unlike mayors and snobs, its domination of the rest of the country is so complete and so permanent.

On a recent trip back to Britain, I happened to hear on the BBC an interview with Helen Mirren, shortly before her Oscars triumph. Amid the usual probing sort of questioning that is the currency of celebrity journalism ("How do you manage to look so young? Is there anyone since Shakespeare who has come close to matching your talent?") one particular gem caught my attention.

Dame Helen was asked how difficult it had been to play such an "unsympathetic character" as the Queen, the eponymous heroine of her recent film. She replied, quite tartly, that she didn't find the Queen unsympathetic at all and launched into her now familiar riff about how she thought Elizabeth II really, surprisingly, quite agreeable.

It was a little incident, a small crystal in the battering hailstorm of drivel that pours daily through the airwaves. And yet to my mind it signified something so large. It had nothing to do with politics or Iraq or America. It was so telling in its revelation of prejudices and presumptions precisely because it was on such a slight matter as the sensibilities of an actress.

It betrayed an absolutely rock-solid assumption that the Queen is fundamentally unsympathetic, and that anyone who might still harbour some respect for the monarch - or indeed for that matter, the military or the Church, or the countryside or the joint stock company or any of the great English bequests to the world - must be some reactionary old buffer out in the sticks who has not had the benefit of the London media's cultural enlightenment.

More than that, the question - all fawning and fraternal and friendly - contained within it an assumption that, of course, every thoughtful person shares the same view.

You really do have to leave the country to appreciate fully how pernicious the BBC's grasp of the nation's cultural and political soul has become. The groupthink and assumptions implicit in almost everything broadcast by BBC News, and even less explicitly by much else of the corporation's output, lie like a suffocating blanket over the national consciousness.

This is the mindset that sees the effortless superiority, at every turn, of benign collectivism over selfish individualism, exploited worker over unscrupulous capitalist, enlightened European over brutish American, thoughtful atheist over dumb believer, persecuted Arab over callous Israeli; and that believes the West is the perpetrator of just about every ill that has ever befallen the world - from colonialism to global warming.

I'm often told, when I take on like this, that I'm ignoring the quality of BBC output. But I spent almost a decade in the employ of the BBC and I can say, without demeaning my gifted colleagues at The Times, that it has probably one of the highest concentrations of talent of any institution in the world. But that, of course, is the problem. It perpetuates its power by attracting and retaining an educated elite that is distinguished by its unstinting devotion to collectivist values. I've no doubt it does what it does very well. It is what it does I object to.

A necessary word here about our sponsor. Anything critical of the BBC written by an employee of Rupert Murdoch is instantly dismissed. It's not an unreasonable instinct. Outside Murdochland it is solemnly assumed that each morning the drones of News Corporation are given their marching orders on how to interpret every event so that it conforms precisely to the commercial and political instincts of the proprietor.

In the real world, not only does the Murdoch media have only a fraction of the reach of the BBC, but a casual glance at its output demonstrates it is far less monolithic in its outlook than is the BBC.

Fortunately, in the US this week, I was struck by an article on the oped pages of The New York Times, the very citadel of leftish political correctness. Written by an apparently completely sane professor at a prestigious US university and entitled "Biased Broadcasting Corporation", it assailed the BBC's Middle Eastern services for their consistently antiWestern tone and content.

When the editorial pages of The New York Times accuse the BBC of anti-Western bias it is worth taking notice. It is a little like Osama bin Laden accusing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being a bit harsh on the Jews. It suggests that in other, even pretty unlikely, parts of the world, people are waking up to the menace to our values represented by the BBC. The British sadly, seem curiously content to remain in thrall to it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

For the record: Israel wants peace

Following is the Israel Cabinet Communique regarding the Palestinian Unity government. It is important to keep in mind the following:
"Israel has not changed its position; Israel is for peace with the Palestinians according to the Roadmap. Israel stands for a two state solution. Israel is ready to initiate contacts with any government in the Palestinian Authority, whatever the composition of it may be, which fulfills the conditions of the international community, and will be willing to discuss all issues with it."
It is important because in the coming days there is going to be a barrage of propaganda and pressure on "inflexible" Israel which is "standing in the way of peace" by "refusing to negotiate" with the "democratically elected" Hamas government.
There is no point in negotiating with those who obstinately declare repeatedly that they will never make peace under any conditions and never stop their "resistance."  
Ami Isseroff


(Communicated by the Cabinet Secretariat)

1. In light of the fact that the new Palestinian Government, based on the platform formulated and approved by it, does not accept the principles of the international community: recognition of Israel's right to exist, elimination of terror and the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure, and recognition of the agreements signed with Israel including the Roadmap (, Israel will not be able to work with the Government or any of its ministers.

2. Israel will continue to work with Mahmoud Abbas in order to advance issues of security and issues pertaining to improving the quality of living of the Palestinian population.

3. The Palestinian Government's platform, which include, inter alia, the use of terror as a legitimate right, the acceptance of previous agreements with Israel based only in accordance with Palestinian interests, as well as limitations the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority took upon himself, including bringing any agreement with Israel to the authorization of the new Palestinian National Council and the Palestinian Diaspora, gives, in essence, a veto right to Hamas and other terrorist organizations over any agreement that would be reached with Israel, and limits the possibilities and range of topics which Israel can discuss with the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

4. Israel will continue to demand that the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority implement his obligations: to bring about the unconditional release of the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit (, to stop Kassam missile attacks (, to dismantle the terrorist organizations and their infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority and to fully implement the first stage of the Roadmap.

5. Israel expects the international community to maintain the policy it has taken over the past year of isolating the Palestinian Government, until it recognizes the three principles of the Quartet (

6. Israel has not changed its position; Israel is for peace with the Palestinians according to the Roadmap. Israel stands for a two state solution. Israel is ready to initiate contacts with any government in the Palestinian Authority, whatever the composition of it may be, which fulfills the conditions of the international community, and will be willing to discuss all issues with it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Anniversaries: The Jenin Massacre Myth, the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt and the lie of Zionists as Nazis

Manfred Gerstenfeld has written an excellent article about the demonic demonization of Zionists as Nazis. Georges Sarfaty noted the same phenomenon in his article about the linguistics of hate. The theme is repeated over and over in many ways, and with no foundation in truth whatever.

Contrary to the charges of anti-Zionist extremists. Israel is not herding Palestinian Arabs into death camps. There is no genocide going on the West Bank or Gaza strip and none was ever planned. There are more Palestinian Arabs today than there ever were. There is no Palestinian "Holocaust." In all the years of its existence, Israel has not killed as many Arabs or Muslims as were killed by Muslims in Darfur or in the Iran-Iraq war.

It is particularly fitting to raise the problem of Zionists as Nazis in this season, which approaches the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt, staged by an alliance of Jews led by Zionist Mordechai Anielewitz, and also the anniversary of the mythical Jenin "massacre" of 2002. In the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were herded together for the purpose of rounding them up and transporting them to death camps. 350,000 Jews were crowded into the ghetto. All but a few were ultimately sent to death camps, and the rest were murdered when the ghetto uprising was crushed. When a few remaining survivors revolted in desperation, the SS and the Wehrmacht moved in with massive force to kill off the remnant of Jews in the Ghetto who had not yet been sent to their deaths elsewhere. The Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had done nothing at all to deserve their fate. They had harmed no German citizens, had attacked no German soldiers prior to being herded into the ghetto.

In 2002, a spate of Palestinian suicide attacks in ever-rising crescendo had reached a peak in March of 2002, when about 100 people were murdered, including diners at a seder celebration. The victims were not soldiers, they had done nothing to any Palestinians and they were leading peaceful lives in Israel. The Palestinians had been granted autonomous rule of Nablus, Jenin and other cities as part of the Oslo peace accords. Instead of negotiating peace, their leaders had started a campaign of terror and suicide bombings. The attacks in March were organized by cells of Palestinian "resistance" people in Jenin and Nablus, financed by the Palestinian authority with the approval of Chairman Yasser Arafat. All through 2001 and 2002 the attacks had continued. The international community and the Palestinian authority had done nothing to stop them. Chairman Yasser Arafat condemned violence publicly while privately signing the pay chits of terrorists. There was a debate in Israel about what to do. The final spate of attacks on eve of Passover 2002 made it irresponsible and politically impossible for the Israeli government to remain idle. Israeli forces entered the West Bank to remove the sources of the terror attacks in operation Defensive Shield. Civilian residents were warned repeatedly to leave the combat area. Most did. A few stayed out of "solidarity" with the terrorists or because no means could be found to transport them. In Jenin, IDF was greeted by gunfire of armed snipers in an ambush that killed about a dozen soldiers. It was decided that the only way to eliminate the terrorists, who would not surrender, was to destroy small area in the center of town. Civilians were once again asked to leave. In the operation, 56 Palestinians were killed, as a report by HRW subsequently found. Most of them were armed terrorists. Even one civilian death is too many, but the accidental death of about 20 civilians in a clearly defensive action cannot be compared with the intentional murder of 350,000 people. However, Palestinians and their supporters, aided by irresponsible and unprofessional international journalists, spread the myth that Israel had "massacred" 500 Palestinian Arabs in Jenin. Had it been true, it still would not have compared with the murder of 350,000 people. But it was a lie. The lie still exists and is perpetuated at numerous Web sites, in books and in movies. Because operation Defensive Shield occurred close to the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which occurred n Passover of 1943, Jewish and other anti-Zionists built the obscene comparison between the IDF and the Wehrmacht.

A particularly skillful and odious lie that is circulated, is that the IDF studied the tactics of the Wehrmacht and the SS in the Warsaw Ghetto and applied them in Jenin. There is no actual evidence that this occurred, but it is repeated in dozens of places. In the usual fashion of apocryphal "Zionist quotes." the lie quotes or paraphrases, out of context, an article that was written by Amir Oren in Haaretz in January of 2002. Oren was speculating regarding various options that Israel had to deal with the rising wave of terror, and the dreaded possibility of urban warfare. He wrote, among many other things:

In order to prepare properly for the next campaign, one of the Israeli officers in the territories said not long ago, it's justified and in fact essential to learn from every possible source. If the mission will be to seize a densely populated refugee camp, or take over the casbah in Nablus, and if the commander's obligation is to try to execute the mission without casualties on either side, then he must first analyze and internalize the lessons of earlier battles - even, however shocking it may sound, even how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto.

The officer indeed succeeded in shocking others, not least because he is not alone in taking this approach. Many of his comrades agree that in order to save Israelis now, it is right to make use of knowledge that originated in that terrible war, whose victims were their kin. The Warsaw ghetto serves them only as an extreme example, not linked to the strategic dialogue that the defense establishments of Israel and Germany will hold next month.
The Warsaw ghetto was an example. Nobody in the IDF said that they were actually studying the tactics of Nazis, or that they would use the tactics of the Nazis. Amir Oren did not write that either. Every army studies the tactics of every other army in every battle. The IDF did NOT use the tactics of the Nazis, who used tanks and air support and artillery to blast the ghetto out of existence, and who did not give civilians a chance to escape to safety. If it were a sane world, I would not have to explain the obvious, but it is not a sane world, as the false and demented accusations of mendacious degenerates in dozens of places will attest.

Ami Isseroff

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