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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Merkel asks PA to meet Quartet demands, Hamas refuses

According to Ha'aretz:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday urged the new Palestinian unity government to embrace Western demands it recognize Israel and renounce violence to revive Middle East peace talks....
But Hamas insisted it would not recognize Israel or renounce violence.
"We stress that we do not and will never recognise the right of Israel to exist on one inch of Palestinian land," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
"We will not abandon the resistance to the Zionist occupation until the liberation of all Palestinian soil," Barhoum said.
Hamas will not recognize Israel, will not recognize Israel, Hamas will not stop violence.  All the rest is "commentary" to obscure the facts.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

iranian rant: New Zionist Plot

Sometimes Middle East hysteria reaches the point of semi-incoherence. See what you can make of this:  
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi declared on Saturday that the international Zionism and the Zionist regime, being supported by American neoconservatists, are determined to implement a new plan in the center of Palestinian occupied territory...
Firouzabadi said that the plan, which is due to be implemented in the coming summer, aims to prevent withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the region, given that in addition to exploitation of the regional oil reserves, the incentive for US presence in the Middle East is to incite the Israeli Zionists.
It is not a language problem. I can understand the words. The ideas make no sense. I confess that it is difficult for me, a bona fide international Zionist, sitting here on my tail in the heart of "Palestine" (Rehovot)  to understand what plan the "Zionists" might be implementing in Palestine this summer, or how anything Israel might do would prevent the withdrawal of US troops, or why the US presence in the Middle East incites the Israeli Zionists, or why, if that were so, the Americans would want to incite the Israeli Zionists. It seems to me that America does everything possible to keep us international Israeli Zionists from getting incited.
Moreover, given the state of readiness or unreadiness of the IDF, and the estimated time required for IDF readiness, it is manifestly unlikely that any of us international Zionists would be planning to do anything this summer other than going to the beach and keeping our eyes peeled for Syrian missiles and the like.
This man must be smoking good stuff. Or maybe not. 
Firouzabadi adds the following, which is significant:
He urged that agreement on a national coalition government should soon be reached in Lebanon among its leaders and domestic solidarity should be developed in the country to resist against such conspiracy.
Though the center of Palestine is not near Lebanon by any reckoning, it is an interesting remark. It tells use where the trouble is going to start and what the nature of that trouble will be.  From the above we can gather that Firouzabadi believes Lebanon will be under Iranian control by this summer, and that the aforementioned international Zionist plot involves Lebanon.
Assuming he is sober and sane,  my rough translation of the above is that General Firouzabadi  is telling us that Iran is contemplating putting the Hezbollah into operation once again next summer, and is laying the advance groundwork for blaming this on Israel.
Ami Isseroff

Zionists determined to implement their new plan in Palestine
Tehran, March 31, IRNA - Iran news agency
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi declared on Saturday that the international Zionism and the Zionist regime, being supported by American neoconservatists, are determined to implement a new plan in the center of Palestinian occupied territory.

The remark was part of a speech delivered at the Saturday morning's flag hoisting ceremony at the Armed Forces General Headquarters.

Major General Firouzabadi added that such a plan will not be beneficial to any country.

He urged that the heads of the state and Muslim brothers of Palestine's neighbors face the serious threat of the Zionists attacks.

"In the first place, neither Lebanon nor Syria, and not even Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be immune to the attacks of Zionists," he added.

Firouzabadi said that the plan, which is due to be implemented in the coming summer, aims to prevent withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and the region, given that in addition to exploitation of the regional oil reserves, the incentive for US presence in the Middle East is to incite the Israeli Zionists.

He urged that agreement on a national coalition government should soon be reached in Lebanon among its leaders and domestic solidarity should be developed in the country to resist against such conspiracy.

Firouzabadi called on heads of state of the Zionist regime's neighboring countries to fortify their front in the face of Israel, defend the oppressed Palestinian nation and take the necessary decisions to thwart the Zionist plan.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ban warns Lebanese about arms smuggling from Syria

Arms smuggling from Syria to Lebanon is like those unmentionable bodily functions. Everyone knows it happens, but almost nobody will talk about it. As for doing something about it, it seems to have become an elemental force in the Middle East, like barchash flies and Hamsin weather, that is not to be defied.

UN chief: Arms smuggling threatening cease-fire
The UN chief warned Saturday that arms smuggling from Syria could threaten the cease-fire in Lebanon and urged full compliance with a UN resolution that ended the summer war between Hezbollah and Israel.

UN Resolution 1701 which halted the 34 days of fighting calls among other things for a stop in arms shipments to Hizbullah guerrillas and demands the "unconditional release" of two Israeli soldiers the militants captured, triggering the conflict.

Noting allegations that the arms embargo on Hizbullah was not being enforced, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Friday with Lebanese security chiefs during his two-day visit to Lebanon to discuss ways of enhancing the Lebanese army's monitoring capabilities of the along border with Syria, one of Hizbullah's principal patrons.

The leading Lebanese daily An-Nahar reported Saturday that Ban told the Lebanese security chiefs that Israel had provided him with "evidence and pictures" of trucks crossing from Syria to Lebanon and unloading weapons.

On Saturday, Ban again voiced concern about the reported arms smuggling.

"There are intelligence reports that arms are smuggled. I am concerned by that kind of arms smuggling, which will destabilize the situation in Lebanon," he told reporters during a stop at the headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

Ban urged all sides to obey the UN resolution and expressed the need for "an enhanced monitoring capacity of the Lebanese armed forces to ensure that there will be no such smuggling activity."

Defense Minister Amir Peretz told Ban during a stop in Israel in March that the UN-brokered cease-fire in southern Lebanon is endangered by Hizbullah militants. He accused the Iranian- and Syrian-backed guerrillas of continuing to receive arms shipments from Syria.

Lebanese leaders have rejected Israeli claims that weapons smuggling continues.

Prime Minister Fuad Saniora, who is opposed to Hizbullah and Syrian influence, said at a news conference with Ban in Beirut on Friday that the Lebanese government was trying to improve its monitoring capabilities but stressed that "not one single case of arms smuggling across the border" with Syria has been recorded.

His defense minister, Elias Murr, recently said that not a "single mosquito" is getting across the border, adding that Hizbullah did not need to resupply. On Friday, the defense minister again dismissed reports of arms smuggling through Syria as "not true."

But Hizbullah has boasted that it replenished its stockpile of rockets after the war.

Israeli warplanes have continued to fly reconnaissance missions over Lebanon though Beirut and the United Nations consider them a violation of the cease-fire and have demanded Israel stop the overflights. Israel has refused, saying they are vital intelligence-gathering missions. But an internal Israeli military document has said the flights are intended in part to pressure the international community to stop arms smuggling to Hizbullah guerrillas and release the two abducted Israeli soldiers.

The UN chief arrived Thursday in Beirut from Saudi Arabia, where he attended an Arab summit. His Mideast tour has already taken him to Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.

On Friday, Ban also expressed disappointment that there had been no progress toward the release of two Israeli soldiers whose capture during a cross-border raid triggered the fighting.

Hizbullah has not provided any information about the conditions of the two soldiers seized on July 12 and has insisted they would be released only through a prisoner exchange with Israel.

Ban also traveled by helicopter to southern Lebanon near the Israeli border to thank the peacekeepers from 30 countries who are monitoring the cease-fire. He was briefed by senior commanders at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon at the Lebanese coastal border town of Naqoura. He later flew by helicopter over the Blue Line, the UN-demarcated border between Lebanon and Israel, and made stops at several of the force's bases before departing for New York.

"This is an occasion for me to express my gratitude in person to all of you," he said during a ceremony at the headquarters. He also paid homage to those who "paid the ultimate sacrifice" and those who were injured during the 29-year-old mission in southern Lebanon.

UNIFIL first deployed in Lebanon in 1978 after an Israeli invasion but has been ineffective over the years. The fighting between Hizbullah and Israel last summer killed more than 1,000 in Lebanon and 159 Israelis.

The cease-fire resolution called for a reinforced UNIFIL, which now numbers close to 13,000. It currently patrols a weapons-free zone alongside some 15,000 Lebanese troops.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Preventing an Israeli invasion of Gaza - No projectiles in the Easter feast

The formation of a "Quartet" to stop terror in Gaza seems to be superfluous. The Israelis can stop it only by entering Gaza. The US cannot be expected to do anything. The Egyptians can control smuggling, but they can't prevent manufacture of Qassam rockets. Only the Palestinians could do that, and they do not need anyone else to tell them who is launching the rockets or where to find them.

Emergency quartet formed to prevent Israeli attack on Gaza Strip
Date: 31 / 03 / 2007  Time:  14:34

Bethlehem - Ma'an - Israeli TV revealed that a quartet committee from Egypt, Israel, Palestine and the United States, was formed recently to prevent an escalation between the Israelis and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli TV Channel 2 said that the committee was formed during United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent visit to Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Egyptian mediators

The committee will convene in Egypt soon but no exact dates have been announced. The representatives from each of the four nations will discuss security issues such as monitoring the Rafah crossing from Egypt into the Gaza Strip and arms smuggling, in addition to the launching of projectiles from the Gaza Strip into Israeli areas.

Israeli analysts said that the Israeli leadership hopes that this committee will succeed in preventing projectile launching. Other analysts believe that the Israeli military commanders are pushing for a military confrontation in the Gaza Strip, but that the political leaders are less inclined to create an escalation in Gaza.

One analyst was asked what might prevent an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip and his response was: firstly, a prevention of arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza, secondly, an end to the manufacture of projectiles and thirdly, the cessation of the launching of projectiles at Israel.

The red line

When asked if there was a line that Palestinians could cross to provoke an attack, he said "the landing of a projectile during the Jewish Easter feast on an Israeli Jewish family and if that kills the Israelis; that will be enough to launch an attack on the Strip."

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Gaza Magen David Adom saves another Palestinian

This is getting to be a habit...

MDA enters Gaza to treat Palestinian
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 30, 2007

MDA medics risked their lives Friday and crossed Erez Crossing to the Palestinian side in order to stabilize and evacuate a Palestinian woman who had suffered a heart attack in Gaza.
IDF sources said the MDA medics took a "great risk" by crossing over to the Palestinian side of Erez.

The woman, 31, was evacuated to the crossing by Palestinian medics who had failed to resuscitate her following the heart attack.

After coordinating with the Gaza Liaison Administration, the MDA medics crossed into Gaza, stabilized the woman and evacuated her into Israel where she was transferred to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv.

On Thursday, for the first time since the beginning of the second intifada, an MDA ambulance entered Ramallah to evacuate a six-month-old Palestinian baby for medical treatment.

The baby, who was in critical condition, was thought to have been exposed to toxic chemicals.

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David Harris takes on the 'Israel lobby' myth

A pernicious argument is making the rounds. What's striking is its resilience, despite its lack of any basis in fact.
The argument claims that "open and honest" debate on the Middle East is squelched by the pro-Israel community, led by organizations like AIPAC. This false claim persists, in large measure, because those who assert it keep it alive to serve their own purposes.

This allows them to portray themselves as a beleaguered group in possession of the "truth," but unable to be heard because "sinister" forces stifle discussion.
What's their evidence? Well, apart from citing ad nauseum the so-called attempt to deny Tony Judt a chance to speak at an event at the Polish Consulate in New York in the fall, and Alvin Rosenfeld's much-discussed AJC essay on Jews who delegitimize and demonize Israel, their principal assertion is that the US Administration and Congress are overwhelmingly supportive of Israel, as if this fact in and of itself proves the point.
Judt shouldn't flatter himself. No one I know spends any time trying to pull the plug on his speaking engagements. The Polish Consulate story wasn't the dark conspiracy that Judt and his supporters tried to portray, allowing them to complain loudly that his free-speech rights were being abridged by a pro-Israel "thought police." It was a simple foreign policy matter. Poland is a close friend of Israel. Consequently, the Polish consul general decided, after learning that his space was going to be used by a group whose speaker questioned Israel's right to exist, that it was inappropriate. As he said, the consulate is not a catering hall, available for hire by anyone; rather, what goes on there reflects that country's worldview. Instead, Judt spoke in another venue, no one uttered a peep, and that was the end of that, or so you would have thought.
And Rosenfeld's trenchant essay has been twisted beyond all recognition by those who either fell for its mischaracterization by the New York Times as part of a liberal-conservative face-off, which it was not, or who themselves were cited and couldn't accept the role reversal. Instead of doling out harsh criticism, they were on the receiving end. Rather than deal with the facts of Rosenfeld's argument, though, they cried foul and created bogeymen, principally the pro-Israel community's alleged McCarthyite tactics. Why they should have the right to say the most outrageous things about Israel—and its supporters—but remain immune from critical scrutiny escapes me.
Their ace-in-the-hole proof that policy debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict is suppressed in the US is America's pro-Israel orientation. After all, any sensible nation would have figured out by now that standing proudly with Israel isn't necessarily in America's interests, right?
Those who industriously peddle this theory prove that, at times, the most difficult thing to see is what's right in front of your nose.
If they really want to understand why America is pro-Israel, they should save their breath and stop looking for dark conspiracies. The answer is much simpler. The vast majority of the American people identify with Israel and its aspirations, as well as its challenges.
Sure, it must be painful for those who write in the New York Review of Books to accept something so shockingly elementary. But Americans, to their everlasting credit, have figured out the basic story line of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
That doesn't mean they necessarily regard Israel as blemish-free or incapable of errors in judgment—what country is?—but they can clearly distinguish among the key protagonists. They know the difference between the peace seeker and the peace spoiler, the fireman and the arsonist, the friend and the foe.
They can identify with a country whose roots go back to the Hebrew Bible and whose historical and spiritual journey informed the thinking of our nation's Founding Fathers.
They recognize democracy when they see it and cherish the shared values on which friendship among freedom-loving nations is built.
They grasp clearly that Israel's foes, including Hamas, Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad, and Iran, are the enemies of everything Americans stand for.
As immigrants and refugees themselves, or their descendants, they understand that countless people in history have been displaced (including hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab countries), not just Palestinians. The answer, Americans have proven by their own example, is to build new lives and not wallow in self-pity.
They appreciate Israel's determination, against all the odds, to establish and defend itself, while building a vibrant, pluralistic society and seeking peace with its neighbors from day one.
And Americans intuitively know that wanting peace is one thing, making it happen is quite another. When Israel has had a credible partner, peace, based on compromise by both sides, became not just possible but inevitable. Yet absent that partner, there's no choice but to stand your ground until someone comes along who is seriously interested in peace.
Yes, AIPAC has become one of America's most effective advocacy groups. And other groups, like AJC, which believe the democratically elected government of Israel should determine the country's fate, not outsiders, are active as well. Is there something wrong with playing by the rules and doing a job well, especially when the stakes are so high?
But let's not forget that there are countless other groups all over Washington—Arab, Arab American, Muslim, Jewish, and others, some well funded,—that are utilizing the US Constitution's invitation to "petition the government" to get their own differing or contrasting views across on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
And, despite tiresome claims that debate is suppressed, they're also out in full force in the media, universities, think tanks and speaking halls of America. Look, for example, at the extraordinary coverage Jimmy Carter received since his controversial new book on the Middle East appeared. His countless appearances, including, ironically his demand to avoid debating formats, belie the very notion that "dissident" voices can't be heard in the US. If critics of US policy toward Israel haven't been nearly as successful as they'd like, it's not because their right to express themselves has been mysteriously suppressed. Instead, it's because, till now, they haven't persuaded the vast majority of Americans.
It's time these critics face reality squarely rather than cooking up outlandish and self-gratifying theories for their predicament.

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Saudi Arabia reverses visa ban, admits Israeli journalist

Saudi Arabia apparently reversed its earlier decision. She got in on chutzpa apparently, by just boarding the plane.
Saudis admit Israeli journalist

Saudi Arabia admitted an Israeli journalist for the first time. Orly Azoulay, a U.S.-based correspondent for Yediot Achronot, flew to Riyadh this week as part of a press delegation accompanying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Arab League summit.

Azoulay wrote Wednesday that Ban, "who is now working to promote the Saudi peace initiative between Israel and the Arab states, wanted to convey a message of conciliation: He believed that if he were to bring together on his plane Arab journalists and an Israeli media representative, he would
succeed in partially breaking the ice."

Azoulay, a dual French-Israeli citizen, was the only journalist in Ban's entourage to whom the Saudis denied a visa. According to Azoulay, she boarded Ban's plane while U.N. officials were still lobbying Saudi Arabia over the issue.

When they landed, a representative of the Saudi Information Ministry who met them had still not been informed of Azoulay's participation. When he learned of it, the representative told her, "Welcome to Riyadh. Welcome, you have nothing to worry about, we will all watch over you here. You are our guest."

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Anti-Zionist anti-Historian Ilan Pappe is leaving Israel

Ilan Pappe is leaving Israel, according to a report in the French Web journal Bella Ciao. Pappe, who has written several mendacious books about Israeli history, insists that the facts of history are for pedants, only his opinions count. Pappe stated for example:
The myth of Latrun in the case of the number of immigrants who died, eh, is not really related to numbers. Um, very pedantic and empiricist historians like to argue and to waste a lot of ink so to speak on figures, on numbers, as if the numbers are really important for the construction of myth, or if you have the accurate number you can destroy a myth or debunk it and I don't think it's very true. // I think what is important is that there were enough immigrants who died // over Latrun.
He was talking about accounts of the battle of Latrun, which had stated that hundreds of new immigrants had been rushed to the front and died there. Research showed that about 19 of the 73 Israeli dead were new immigrants.
His accounts of history are written according to his thesis that facts don't matter. Pappe championed the discredited thesis of Teddy Katz, which claimed, based on false transcriptions of oral evidence, that there had been a massacre of Arabs by Israelis in Tantura in 1948. Later, he made headlines again by supporting a boycott of his own university, Haifa University.
Pappe will be going to England, where he will no doubt be welcomed by local anti-Zionists.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians say: Palestinian Authority 'irresponsible' in handling of sewage disaster

Of course, Palestinian officials try to blame every disaster that results from their malfeasance on Israel, but Palestinian people have a different view.

Palestinian Authority 'irresponsible' in handling of sewage disaster
Date: 30 / 03 / 2007  Time:  12:02   
Gaza - ma'an – Although the environmental disaster that occurred three days ago in the Gaza Strip was expected, the Palestinian Authority did nothing to prevent it according to the citizens of the village of Um Nasser.
The bursting of a cesspit near the village destroyed most of the houses in Um Nasser with floods of sewage water.
Some Palestinian officials blamed the Israeli occupation forces as they prevented a sewage treatment firm from tending to the cesspit.
At least 250 of the houses were destroyed and the village inhabitants were forced to sleep in the desert in the cold March weather.
Many of the villagers are afraid that diseases might spread from the floods of sewage and warned of an impending crisis.
5 Palestinians were killed and 35 injured during the floods and the damage done to property mounted to millions of US dollars.
The relatives of the victims are calling on the Palestinian Authority to sue all those responsible for the tragedy.
The villagers said that they will never forget the disaster and insisted that this terrible accident is never repeated.
They called on the PA to find a suitable solution to the problem and appealed to officials to solve the problem of the families who are now living outdoors.
They also urged the PA to compensate them for their losses.
The villagers insisted that the PA officials are not paying enough attention to the crisis and some accused the PA of lying about the incident.
Other villagers said that they have contacted the PA officials but none of them have visited the scene of the disaster.
The villagers accused the PA of not warning the local citizens of the dangers in the area.

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Anti-Zionism is a way of hiding Anti-aemitism

A.B. Yehoshua explains what we already know, 'Anti-Zionism: is a Mask for anti-Semitism'

Other articles that reach the same conlclusion, are for example,  Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism at the Guardian, and John L. Strawson's article on academic boycotts of Israel, who writes that Anti-Zionism usually adds up to anti-Semitism.  

"Anti-Zionism" is a politically correct and socially acceptable way of attacking Jews. The words "Zionism" or "Zionists" or "Israel Lobby" are substituted for "Jews" to render the now unacceptable slogans of anti-Zionism respectable once more.

"The Jews control America" morphs into "The Israel Lobby controls America" or "Zionists control America."

Ami Isseroff 

A.B. Yehoshua : 'Anti-Zionism: Mask for anti-Semitism'

Criticizing Zionism has become a socially acceptable way to attack Jews, author A.B. Yehoshua told a gathering in New York City.

Instead of "attacking Jews, they are attacking Zionism, and this is the way because you cannot attack Jews anymore openly," Yehoshua told some 250 Jewish professionals at Manhattan's Jewish Community Center last week.

"Zionism is becoming a dirty word everywhere. They are identifying the policy of Israel with Zionism. There is the policy of Israel - you can criticize it and you can say whatever you want about it but this is not Zionism," Yehoshua said.

He defined a Zionist as someone who believes the State of Israel belongs not only to its citizens but also to the Jewish people.

"Zionism is not an ideology. You can be a fascist Zionist, a communist Zionist, a religious Zionist," he said. "All the great debates about the country... these are not Zionism."

He said he wanted to restrict the meaning of the term Zionism because of the attacks being made on it, particularly by Arabs. "You saw [Hizbullah leader] Sheikh Nasrallah... He doesn't speak about Israel. All of the time [it's] Zionists, Zionists, Zionists, Zionists."

Sponsored by Dor Chadash, a network of Israeli and American Jews, the lecture marked the first time Yehoshua has addressed a US audience since he raised the ire of American Jewry in May when he told the centennial celebration of the American Jewish Committee in Washington that only those who reside in Israel can live a "total" Jewish life.

Yehoshua clarified those remarks at the New York gathering, saying that Jews in Israel face moral questions that Diaspora Jewry never do, including sending Jews to war and evicting Jews from their homes.

"We are 'total' by the fact that we are living in a compulsory relationship with one another. You are 'voluntary.' You don't have any power over each other," he said. "The totality obliges us to conduct dialogue between factions of society that Jews don't do in the Diaspora."

"When I say we are total and you are partial, I am not saying we are better and you are worse. When a I say a total Jew and a partial Jew I just mean the difference in the quantity of Jewishness that is automatic in Israel and the totality of the relationship vis- -vis your partiality," he added.

"What I want to say to you is if Jewishness is important for you, come to the totality... to the real thing, and the real thing is not here but there."

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UK decides not to ignore anti-Semitism: Does this mean Ken Livingstone is out of a job?

It is hard to ignore UK anti-Semitism, considering that Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, is one of the most notorious examples.


'UK anti-Semitism can't be ignored'

"We share the concerns of Jewish communities, and fully support the police and prosecuting authorities in taking a tough line to stamp out anti-Semitism wherever it occurs," said Phil Woolas, minister for Local Government and Community Cohesion, in an official response by the British government on Wednesday to a parliamentary inquiry into the recent escalation of anti-Semitism in the UK.

Woolas spoke at a reception in the British Parliament, representing the government in response to an all-party inquiry which published its report late last year, and made 35 recommendations to challenge the growing threat of anti-Semitism in the country.

"I speak for everyone in saying how much the government and Parliament value the vast and varied contribution the Jewish community in our country makes; socially, economically and culturally it enriches British society as a whole," Woolas said, and promised to step up action to eradicate anti-Semitism, recognizing and strongly condemning the increase of incidents in the UK.

Areas outlined by the response include the
improvement of recording and reporting of anti-Semitism incidents; reviewing and strengthening the prosecution process; accelerating work to confront extremist groups; promoting community cohesion through education about different faiths; and preventing any manifestation of racial or religious intolerance on university campuses.

Jewish community representatives met in London with officials of the Department of Communities and Local Government to discuss the government's response, and to explore ways to implement the recommendations.

Following the meeting, the community representatives said they looked forward to establishing a framework of working together in close partnership with government and other agencies "to help ensure that the vital work to tackle anti-Semitism remains as focused, constructive and effective as possible."

"With this robust response, neither anti-Jewish discourse nor more overt forms of anti-Semitism can be brushed aside. This is the start of a process and we look forward to working closely with the government and others to take forward the report's recommendations," said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

This positive view of the government's response was also voiced at the reception itself, by John Mann, chairman of the all-party panel. "I am encouraged that the government is taking the scourge of anti-Semitism seriously and I look forward to working with them to confront it head on," Mann said. "We must not allow this alarming rise in incidents and hostility to go unchecked."



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UN Refuses to hear honest criticism of Human Rights Council Bias

UN Refused to allow a speech criticizing the operations of its Human Rights Council, where China and Cuba routinely condemn "Human Rights violations" of Israel.

If you haven't seen it yet, please watch the video below. It's a glimpse into UN Watch's daily work—in public statements and private diplomacy -- to hold the United Nations accountable to the principles of its charter, and to promote human rights for all. Thank you for supporting our ability to fight for what is right -- and to speak truth to power. Rest assured: we won't give up.

Yours truly,

Hillel Neuer
Executive Director

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The following quotes are a sample of the truly offensive statements and daily invective that are welcome and admissible at the newly created U.N. Human Rights Council:

Insulting Council Members

  • "The distinguished delegate is ignorant..." -- Zimbabwe delegate, speaking of his counterpart from Finland, and accusing him of "astonishing and astounding hypocrisy," Sept. 20, 2006.

Insulting UN Experts

  • "This libelous report does not deserve any respect or credibility. We will send it to the same place that we have sent all previous reports: the paper-recycling bin... There is, however, Madame, a significant contribution that you might make—and that would be by quitting..." — Cuban Ambassador Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Sept. 26, 2006, insulting UN expert Christine Chanet after she documented abuses by Cuba. The chair's defense of the expert was limited to noting "the importance of not personifying or personalizing comments that will only exacerbate difficulties before us," and followed his "Thank you to the delegate of Cuba for his statement."

Mocking High UN Officials

  • "The one who has monopoly on the violation of human rights is Israel... the darling of the High Commissioner." -- Palestinian Ambassador Mohammad Abu-Koash, Dec. 1, 2006, mocking Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, for daring to cite Palestinian obligations to stop terrorism in addition to her regular criticisms of Israel.

Violence Against Women

  • "Incidents of violence against women have been exaggerated..." -- Sudan's Farah Mustafa, Deputy Governor of the state of South Darfur, Dec. 12, 2006, after the Council heard reports of mass rape of Darfur women by the Sudanese-sponsored Janjaweed militia.

Attacking Gays

  • "Death penalty by stoning under Sharia law for unnatural sexual acts... should not be equated with extrajudicial killings and indeed should not have been featured in the report..." -- Nigeria Ambassador Joseph Ayalogu, Sept. 19, 2006, challenging criticism by UN expert Philip Alston of Nigeria's use of stoning to death as punishment for homosexuality.

Glorifying Terrorism

  • "Hezbollah is everyday simple people resisting, resisting an occupation..." -- Cuban Ambassador Juan Antonio Fernández Palacios, Oct. 4, 2006.

Holocaust Denial

  • "The Tehran Conference is not about denial of the Holocaust, it is rather an academic one that examines all aspects of the issue." — Iranian delegate Forouza Ndeh Vadiati, Dec. 12, 2006.
  • The Holocaust is a "historical claim", "the number of perished" is a particularly "legitimate question," and there are "serious opposing ideas over the issue." -- Iranian Ambassador Alireza Moayeri, in letter circulated Jan. 11, 2007 by Secretariat of the Human Rights Council (under standard UN practice) "at the request of the President of the Human Rights Council," which "has the honour to forward attached herewith a letter addressed to him by the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran." The President expressed no objections in carrying out this routine duty.
  • Iran's Holocaust denial conference of December 2006, "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision," was "an academic event," and Zionism is an ideology "charged with hegemonic racial desires." — Moayeri letter, ibid.

Demonizing Israel

  • "Israel has not quenched its thirst for the blood of the Lebanese and has now directed it against unarmed civilians in Beit Hanoun." -- Lebanese representative, Nov. 15, 2006, referring to Israel's response to the Palestinian firing of Kassam rockets at the city of Sderot.
  • "The Holocaust is going on, and it is an Israeli holocaust against the Palestinian people." -- Palestinian ambassador Mohammad Abu-Koash, Dec. 12, 2006.
  • "Furthermore, as the distinguished Ambassador of Palestine reminds us, there is an Israeli holocaust against Palestinian people on a daily basis for more than sixty years, which was already noted by three special sessions." — Iranian delegate Forouza Ndeh Vadiati, Dec. 12, 2006.
  • "[Israeli] massacres against the displaced people, women and children, those were deliberate acts..."-- Nord-Sud XXI, Libyan-funded organization that manages the "Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize," Sept. 29, 2006.
  • "A certain number of deliberate massacres of civilian populations" were committed by Israel." -- Jean Ziegler, UN special rapporteur on the right to food and 1989 co-founder of the Moammar Khaddafi Human Rights Prize, Oct. 4, 2006.

Dehumanizing Israelis

  • " . . . civilian people were killed, massacred, by the invading forces who have come from the Planet Mars which they now call the Israeli occupier." — Syrian delegate, June 23, 2006.


The following UN Watch speech, lifting a mirror to the shortcomings of the UN Human Rights Council, was rejected by council president Luis Alfonso de Alba as "inadmissible." (See response at bottom.) He banned the statement from being delivered again, and the speech was stricken without notice from the official extranet record of the Human Rights Council Secretariat (

"The Dream of Human Rights"

Testimony before
UN Human Rights Council
4th Session

March 23, 2007

Delivered by Hillel Neuer
Executive Director of UN Watch

Mr. President,

Six decades ago, in the aftermath of the Nazi horrors, Eleanor Roosevelt, Réné Cassin and other eminent figures gathered here, on the banks of Lake Geneva, to reaffirm the principle of human dignity. They created the Commission on Human Rights. Today, we ask: What has become of their noble dream?

In this session we see the answer. Faced with compelling reports from around the world of torture, persecution, and violence against women, what has the Council pronounced, and what has it decided?

Nothing. Its response has been silence. Its response has been indifference. Its response has been criminal.

One might say, in Harry Truman's words, that this has become a Do-Nothing, Good-for-Nothing Council.

But that would be inaccurate. This Council has, after all, done something.

It has enacted one resolution after another condemning one single state: Israel. In eight pronouncements -- and there will be three more this session-- Hamas and Hezbollah have been granted impunity. The entire rest of the world -- millions upon millions of victims, in 191 countries -- continue to go ignored.

So yes, this Council is doing something. And the Middle East dictators who orchestrate this campaign will tell you it is a very good thing. That they seek to protect human rights, Palestinian rights.

So too, the racist murderers and rapists of Darfur women tell us they care about the rights of Palestinian women; the occupiers of Tibet care about the occupied; and the butchers of Muslims in Chechnya care about Muslims.

But do these self-proclaimed defenders truly care about Palestinian rights?

Let us consider the past few months. More than 130 Palestinians were killed by Palestinian forces. This is three times the combined total that were the pretext for calling special sessions in July and November. Yet the champions of Palestinian rights -- Ahmadinejad, Assad, Khaddafi, John Dugard-- they say nothing. Little 3-year-old boy Salam Balousha and his two brothers were murdered in their car by Prime Minister Haniyeh's troops. Why has this Council chosen silence?

Because Israel could not be blamed. Because, in truth, the dictators who run this Council couldn't care less about Palestinians, or about any human rights.

They seek to demonize Israeli democracy, to delegitimize the Jewish state, to scapegoat the Jewish people. They also seek something else: to distort and pervert the very language and idea of human rights.

You ask: What has become of the founders' dream? With terrible lies and moral inversion, it is being turned into a nightmare.

Thank you, Mr. President.


For the first time in this session I will not express thanks for that statement. I shall point out to the distinguished representative of the organization that just spoke, the distinguished representative of United Nations Watch, if you'd kindly listen to me. I am sorry that I'm not in a position to thank you for your statement.

I should mention that I will not tolerate any similar statements in the Council. The way in which members of this Council were referred to, and indeed the way in which the council itself was referred to, all of this is inadmissible.

In the memory of the persons that you referred to, founders of the Human Rights Commission, and for the good of human rights, I would urge you in any future statements to observe some minimum proper conduct and language. Otherwise, any statement you make in similar tones to those used today will be taken out of the records.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert: Not one Palestinian refugee can return

Previously, Israel had offered to accept 100,000 refugees based on reunification of families. Now Ehud Olmert says Israel will not accept even one Palestinian refugee.
Ami Isseroff

herb keinon and david horovitz,

While the Prime Minister's Office had no formal reaction to the Arab League's land-and-refugees-for-peace initiative relaunched in Riyadh on Thursday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told The Jerusalem Post there is absolutely no wiggle room on the refugee issue.
Olmert reiterated that Israel would not accept the return to Israel of any refugees. It is "out of the question," he said. "I'll never accept a solution that is based on their return to Israel, any number."
The initiative adopted Thursday was the same one passed by the Arab League summit in Beirut in March 2002, commonly known as the Arab Peace Initiative. It is not, however, identical with the so-called Saudi initiative from a month earlier that did not mention the refugee issue.
Olmert: The comptroller is out to get me
Asked if the Arab initiative could be the basis for talks, Olmert said, "The Saudis don't speak at all about [General Assembly] Resolution 194 [on the refugees]. The Saudi initiative looks better in this respect than the Arab initiative."
Olmert said that not only would Israel refuse to accept any refugees, it would also not recognize a "right of return."
In this regard he was even firmer than the Barak government, which in 2000 accepted then-US president Bill Clinton's parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that dealt with the refugee issue. The thrust of the Clinton parameters was that Israel would recognize the right of return in principle, but would have the right to determine how many - if any - refugees would be allowed to exercise that right.
Olmert, asked specifically if he accepted the Clinton parameters, replied simply: "No."
"I will not agree to accept any kind of Israel responsibility for the refugees. Full stop," he said. "It's a moral issue of the highest level. I don't think that we should accept any kind of responsibility for the creation of this problem."
At the same time, Olmert had warm words for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, calling him a "remarkable leader."
"The Saudi initiative, which he initiated when he was the crown prince, was very interesting. It indicated a greater sense of responsibility that Saudi Arabia is prepared to take in the politics of the Middle East," Olmert said.
Asked what made Abdullah "remarkable," Olmert said, "For many years, they [the Saudis] were not there. For many years, they were on the other side, perhaps on the extreme. And now they start to understand that Israel is a reality, that Israel is maybe not such a negative reality. And considering that Saudi Arabia is the most important Arab country, with enormous influence on everyone, don't take it lightly."
Olmert said he "would have loved to meet" Abdullah, but that he didn't "think such meetings are being scheduled."
Olmert's first formal reaction to the Arab League summit is not expected until Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting.
The Post's interview with Olmert took place on Wednesday morning, just as the Arab League summit convened, but was embargoed until Friday.
The Arab Peace Initiative accepted again in Riyadh on Thursday calls for a full Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, including on the Golan, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem, in return for a peace agreement, an end to the conflict and normal relations. It also calls for a "just solution" to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN Resolution 194. Israel has unsuccessfully tried over the last few weeks to get this article removed.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Israel had not received the text of the initiative, and needed time to study it and to see if there were any changes in the text from the original, which Israel rejected. The officials advised patience, saying that with Pessah beginning on Monday evening, the process would likely take some time.
The Foreign Ministry, for its part, issued a statement that was very noncommittal. "Israel believes in peace, and seeks to establish peaceful and neighborly relations both with the Palestinian people and with all the states of the region," the statement said.
"Israel is sincerely interested in pursuing a dialogue with those Arab states that desire peace with Israel, this in order to promote a process of normalization and cooperation. Israel hopes that the Riyadh Summit will contribute to this effort."
Although not mentioning the refugee issue directly, the statement said that the peace process with the Palestinians was based on the two-state idea, with "each state addressing the national aspirations of its own people."
This is code for saying that Palestinians refugees should be absorbed in a Palestinian state, just as Jewish refugees were absorbed in the Jewish one.
In Riyadh, the Arab leaders created "working groups" to drum up support for the initiative from the US, UN and Europe. American allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan hope the smaller groups will be able to be more flexible in promoting the proposal to the West, despite the summit's rejection of changes in the refugee clauses.
The summit ended Thursday, however, without an agreement on who will participate in these working groups. Arab governments will work that out later, but membership could be a significant issue. Some want them to be restricted to the more moderate states - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates - in hopes they can convince the US and Israel to come on board.
Syrian President Bashar Assad praised the decision to hold the next Arab League summit in Damascus.
Syria has sharply opposed any changes in the initiative. But in a summit where unity was the theme, Assad was muted in his insistence the Arabs stick to their original offer.
He said the summit was sending a "strong message to those forces eyeing our land and wealth... that we are an Arab nation that doesn't submit to oppression and refuses to bargain over its rights."
Meanwhile, Lebanese President Emile Lahoud lambasted Israel, saying the war last summer was a deliberate attempt to destroy Lebanon. He said the war did not start because of Hizbullah's kidnapping of IDF reservists Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
"Israel and its allies are trying to thwart the Saudi peace initiative and to empty it of it contents," he added.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas warned that war would break out if Israel rejected the Palestinian "hand of peace." During a speech at the summit, Abbas called on Israel to "share in the dream of peace" and not to miss the opportunity.
"Whoever wants to change the Saudi initiative wants to escape from a peace agreement," Abbas said.
Negotiators from the Quartet of Middle East mediators - the US, UN, European Union and Russia - hope to meet with Israel before the summer, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said. The Quartet will also hold talks with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the next few weeks, he said.
The leaders painted the peace offer as the cornerstone of an effort to bring a new energy and unity to the Arab world. The leaders warned repeatedly of the possibility of Iraq's violence and sectarian divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni spreading.
Sunni Arab leaders are also worried over the increasing influence of Shi'ite Iran and possible fallout from its standoff with the West over its nuclear program.
The summit's final statement warned of "a dangerous and destructive arms race in the region."
The leaders called for greater cooperation among Arab nations to develop peaceful nuclear energy programs, seeking to prevent a monopoly of nuclear technology by Israel and Iran.
AP contributed to this report.

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Israelis enter Ramallah - Not lynched

An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance entered Ramallah to rescue a baby. It is the first time since the violence broke out in 2000. It will be recalled that Ramallah was demoted as a tourist destination after two Israeli soldiers lost their way and were lynched, murdered and their bodies thrown out of a window.  At least, the Palestinians did not lynch the crew. No doubt the UN Human Rights Council will condemn this incursion, and the Arab media will insist that Israel is poisoning the babies somehow.
The report states:
A source from the Palestinian Ministry of Health told Ynet that all humanitarian matters, especially those concerning human lives, should be separated from political issues.
So, that means Palestinians will offer Israel -- what?? Israel will rescue Palestinian babies, and Palestinians will lob rockets at Israel towns. The former is humanitarian, the latter is political. It is clear, no?
Ami Isseroff

MDA enters Ramallah to save Palestinian baby
For the first time since the intifada, an Israeli ambulance enters Palestinian territories in order to evacuate critically injured baby
Lilach Shoval YNET Published: 03.29.07, 22:37 / Israel News

A bullet-proof Israeli ambulance entered the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday in order to save a six-month old baby in critical condition after reportedly inhaling toxic substances.

This was the first time a Magen David Adom ambulance entered the Palestinian territories since the second intifada broke out in the year 2000.

Up until now, MDA ambulances would only go as far as the IDF checkpoints, where they would pick up Palestinian patients in need of medical care in Israel.

Immediately after receiving the Palestinians' call for help, the Civil Administration's West Bank division called MDA requesting paramedics from Jerusalem take on the mission. Two Arab-Israeli paramedics took the call.

The paramedics evacuated the unconscious baby, just a few hours after two other babies, who went to the same daycare center as the boy, died of similar symptoms.

MDA believes the babies were poisoned, but it is not clear with what or how.

Upon arriving in Ramallah, the ambulance was escorted by a convoy of Palestinian police, who accompanied it all the way to the hospital, and blocked roads to ensure it got through safely.

The MDA team reported that the baby was handed over to them in a professional manner, along with all the needed medical documents. The team was in constant contact with the Jerusalem dispatch.

The baby was taken to the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer, along with his parents, who received a special permit from the Civil Administration due to their son's serious condition.

A source from the Palestinian Ministry of Health told Ynet that all humanitarian matters, especially those concerning human lives, should be separated from political issues.

Ali Waked contributed to this report

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The WJC Financial Scandal

Everyone interested in Jewish affairs should be concerned about the financial irregularities of the WJC. Isi Leibler's long fight has been vindicated.  

Save the World Jewish Congress

by Isi Leibler
March 29, 2007

Almost three years have passed since I became aware of serious financial irregularities within the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and called for an independent audit.

My proposal was not merely rebuffed but together with those who supported my request, I was censured, demonized and ultimately forced out of the organization.

The cover-up was ruthless and brutal. I still remember the anonymous posters plastered throughout Jerusalem calling on Jews to place me in cherem (excommunication from the community).

But ultimately truth prevailed.

The damning report of the New York State Attorney-General, released January 31, 2006, should have ended the story. But no: an irrational rage overcame the WJC leaders who launched a vindictive $6 million libel suit against me. It backfired and they were obliged to withdraw and ordered by the court to pay my costs. Moreover, the failed libel suit created a worldwide furor and led to even more damning disclosures of previous improprieties, including millions of dollars of unreconciled funds from a WJC account in Switzerland as well as details of expense account extravaganzas that astounded even the sharpest critics.

The final chapter in this unhappy and demoralizing scandal was the recent decision by WJC president Edgar Bronfman to dispense with the services of his former secretary-general without prior consultation with his colleagues. Subsequent internal political intrigues challenging his judgment obliged Bronfman to publicly spell out some of the unedifying reasons justifying his decision. That reignited the media scandal-fest worldwide.

While I cannot deny satisfaction for being vindicated, I am genuinely distressed that the WJC which I have served for so many years has been besmirched and so fundamentally compromised that today its very future is in doubt. I wish to state categorically that my objective was never to harm the WJC but to insist on clear governance and financial transparency; to reform and democratize the organization. Had our appeal for an independent audit made three years ago been endorsed, this entire issue could have been resolved internally without the shameful flood of public scandal.

Ever since, the WJC has been in virtual freefall. It squandered millions of dollars in legal fees and other payments in the course of frenzied but futile efforts to cover up financial improprieties. As a result, its financial resources are close to exhaustion and its ability to raise future funds has been enormously damaged.

For three years, at a time when the Jewish people were being confronted with enormous problems and anti-Semitism had become a global plague, the WJC was utterly impotent, concentrating exclusively on defending itself from critics.

Worst of all, the cover-up backfired, generating a flow of scandal which deeply embarrassed Jews throughout the world and provided grist for the mills of anti-Semites and enemies of our people.

EVERY DIASPORA Jewish organization based on public funding must heed the important lessons to be learned from this tragic meltdown of a distinguished international Jewish organization.

The most important is the need for organizations to ensure that senior lay leaders and professionals must at all times remain accountable to a board or executive. When, either by default or design, senior officials begin operating beyond the framework of governance, corruption becomes ingrained.

The tragic downfall of the World Jewish Congress is truly encapsulated in Lord Acton's famous dictum "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Every executive officer must be aware of his personal responsibility for maintaining the propriety of the organization, especially in relation to financial affairs. When WJC leaders initially failed to condemn the improprieties of a single person out of deference to his perceived former contributions, they paved the way for the lies, cover-ups, and disasters which subsequently engulfed the organization.

The New York State Attorney-General has now imposed on the WJC a structure designed to provide checks and balances and ensure financial transparency. But to be meaningful, these structures must ensure that governance is applied in substance as well as in form. That requires genuine accountability, consultations and collective responsibility. Above all, it obliges leaders to be personally sensitive to democratic procedures. The days of a WJC being a one-man personal fiefdom are over.

There is also the need to adopt a dramatically different moral approach to the utilization of public funds. Mr. Bronfman has undoubtedly been an extraordinarily generous donor. But approximately 90% of WJC funds were contributed not by Bronfman, but by the American Jewish public. These funds must be recognized as sacrosanct and treated accordingly. That implies that expenses should not only be reasonable but must be transparent. A situation in which one official could exploit expenses as a vehicle for leading a profligate lifestyle must never recur. Salaries and expenses must be as transparent as they are in public companies and the public sector. Above all, donors have the right to know how their funds are being applied.

The World Jewish Congress is today on the verge of imploding. And alas, after the global media exposure of the scandals, the majority of Jews today would probably endorse the closedown of this once-venerable organization.

That would be tragic and would necessitate the creation of a new global body.

Whereas the powerful American Jewish community can stand alone, other Jewish communities need a body like the World Jewish Congress, not the least in Latin America and Europe.

A reformed WJC should encompass a broad spectrum of Jewish political and religious attitudes and provide an arena for international consultations and strategizing. It must be in the vanguard of the struggle against global anti-Semitism and develop alliances with other groups on a broad range of issues. It should also be at the forefront of the battle to buttress the legitimacy, welfare and future of the Jewish state. It must provide support for embattled and isolated Jewish communities.

How can the World Jewish Congress close the chapter on this unhappy affair and move forward with a dynamic and creative agenda? In the first instance the current leaders should call for elections and make way for a new team, untainted by the recent scandals. They can retire with dignity, taking pride in their successful role in the historic campaign for restitution and other notable achievements which will occupy a place of honor in Jewish history.

There is an urgent need to heal the divisions and concede that major mistakes were made in the past.

Apologies are called for. There must be a determination to move forward on the basis of genuine governance and display greater sensitivity to the concerns of the regional branches and constituents. That means that in future no major policy decisions should be made in the absence of prior consultations intended to achieve consensus.

This is the time for a rejuvenated World Jewish Congress in association with the leading American Jewish agencies to look to the future and confront the enormous challenges and perils facing our Jewish people.

The writer, a veteran international Jewish leader was formerly chairman of the governing board and senior vice president of the World Jewish Congress.

This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who is telling the truth about Israeli settlements

Peace Now and Camera make different claims about West Bank land ownership. We can't easily get to the bottom of this issue, but it seems to me that Zionist advocacy should not be devoted to defending the occupation, while peace advocacy should not be devoted to Israel bashing. If we continue in this way, there will be no Israel to argue about.  


CAMERA's condemnation of Peace Now report nothing but spin, distortion
Ori Nir Published:  03.29.07, 10:31 / Israel Opinion

CAMERA's continued criticism of Peace Now's report on West Bank settlement construction on private Palestinian land (Tamar Sternthal: "Wildly inaccurate report" – 21 March 2007) is odd.
 It's peculiar because the newly submitted official Israeli government data, with which Peace Now updated its November 2006 report on this issue, strongly substantiates the original report. The official data, which Peace Now was able to receive from the West Bank's Civil Administration after a long legal battle, leave no room for doubt about Peace Now's findings: Large portions of the West Bank land in control of the settlers – as much as one third – are privately owned by Palestinians.
This finding has serious implications for Israel's security and for the legality of these settlement sites under Israeli law.
 You would think that the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America would be interested in presenting the facts - accurately. But since CAMERA's Sternthal did such a poor job with them in her commentary, let's review:
The original Peace Now report was based on Civil Administration data, dated 2004, which was leaked to Peace Now by a credible source. Peace Now held off for a long time before releasing its report, hoping that the government would respond positively to its request to provide the official data. Unfortunately, this didn't happen, and Peace Now was forced to sue the government under Israel's freedom of information law.
When the government did eventually respond, it argued that release of the data could damage Israel's foreign relations. Peace Now understood this as a clear indication both that the government recognized how embarrassing and compromising the facts were, and that the government was ready to go to great lengths to avoid releasing the data.
Peace Now subsequently decided to release its report, based on the leaked data, in part to challenge the government to release what clearly ought to be in the public domain. This tactic appears to have worked, and shortly after the report's was published, the government agreed to settle out of court and released the official data.
This new dataset is dated 2007. The information is fresh and it is official. And it generally substantiates the findings of November's report. Yes, there are discrepancies between the two reports but they reflect differences between the two datasets, not errors in Peace Now's thesis or analysis.
The whole truth
In some cases, the new data paint a picture that is worse than originally reported: In some settlements, the percentage of privately owned Palestinian land is larger than what the 2004 database showed. In other cases, the percentage of privately owned Palestinian land is smaller than what the 2004 database showed.
One such settlement is Ma'ale Adumim, the second-largest settlement in the West Bank. What CAMERA fails to note, or tries to hide, is that this one case accounts for nearly the entire difference between the 2004 and the 2007 data. If you leave Ma'ale Adumim out of the analysis, the remaining discrepancies amount to only 1%.
 What is the reason for the differences between these two sets of data? There is no clear answer. Those who may know sit in the Civil Administration, and they are not telling. We can only speculate: Possibly, there were land acquisitions between 2004 and 2007, or, more likely, some of the land could have been declared "State Land." It is also possible that the differences are a result of the reexamination of West Bank land status by a newly appointed Civil Administration taskforce (known as the "Blue Line Team.")
 Whatever the reason, Peace Now has not tried to hide the discrepancies, regardless of whether they paint a better or worse picture of the situation. Peace Now promptly updated the public with all of the new data right after completing its analysis earlier this month.
CAMERA, however, seems more interested in discrediting Peace Now than in telling the story straight. It is yet another example for how an organization that purports to promote "accuracy" offers nothing more than spin and distortion.
Peace Now has done its utmost - and will continue to do so - to bring the best available information about settlements into the public domain. Unlike CAMERA, it does not fear the truth and does not distort it. It certainly was not Peace Now who created the damaging facts on the ground in the West Bank.
What happens in the West Bank impacts the security and wellbeing of all Israelis. Peace Now and its American sister organization believe that Israelis and their friends in America have the right to know the truth about it. The whole truth.
Ori Nir, former West Bank correspondent for the Israeli daily Haaretz, is the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a Zionist organization that promotes Israel's security through peace.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Winograd and the Lebanon war: What we don't know can hurt us

The public needs to know the truth about the Lebanon war. In this case, what we don't know can hurt us. Of course, if the Prime Minister, Defense Minister and others involved in the war will resign, then perhaps the files can be closed. The important thing is not to air dirty laundry, but to remove incompetents and remove the government and the IDF. Apparently, that will not happen if the Winograd commission testimony is not made public.
Ami Isseroff  

Last update - 09:42 29/03/2007   
By Nir Hasson, Aluf Benn and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondents

The Winograd Committee is considering appealing once more to the High Court of Justice to postpone or revoke its order for the publication of the transcripts of testimonies by the prime minister, defense minister and former chief of staff on the Second Lebanon War. Committee officials and the Justice Ministry met Wednesday to discuss such a possibility.
Justice Ministry sources said Wednesday that there had been a general discussion and that a serious legal evaluation of the issue had not been made.
It is therefore possible that the Winograd Committee will not pursue the option of appealing to the High Court and allow the publication of the transcripts, scheduled for Sunday.
The committee argued before the High Court that the publication of the transcripts may compromise national security and also the panel's work as it prepares to publish its interim report on its findings on the Second Lebanon War. The report is due in late April.
However, in two separate decisions, the justices decided that the importance of having a public and open debate supersedes other considerations and that it was possible to check the problem of security leaks through censorship of critical information.
The High Court was scathing in its criticism of the committee, once it felt that the Winograd panel was unduly delaying the publication of the transcripts.
Even after the publication of the first transcripts of testimonies by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, former Military Intelligence chief Amos Malka and the head of the Emergency Economy Administration, Arnon Ben-Ami, the members of the Winograd Committee continued to express their reservations about the release of the transcripts.
Attorney Dafna Holtz-Lechner, who filed a petition on behalf of Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On, said Wednesday that the chances for more deliberations before the High Court were limited.
"The decision is final, and it was possible to request that the panel of justices deliberating the case be broadened, but even that can be done under very specific circumstances, when it is a very fundamental legal issue. But now, after two rulings were passed on the issue, by a panel headed by the president of the High Court, it is not logical. It seems that there are forces at play, if such a legally theoretical possibility is even being raised," she said.
Holtz-Lechner added that there is a possibility that the Winograd Committee is trying to use a legal ploy in order to delay the publication of the transcripts until the end of the Pesach holiday.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is also opposed to the publication of the testimonies made before the Winograd Committee, and is of the opinion that the High Court of Justice erred in its decision to order that transcripts of the sessions be made available to the public.
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office said Wednesday that Olmert was not opposed to the release of his testimony to the public, "which only presents his version to the events of the Second Lebanon War," but is concerned that the release of testimonies of officers and senior government officials will have negative impact on Israel, politically and security-wise.
According to the sources, "we did not wish to censor anything, but only to ensure that the details on sensitive meetings with foreign countries are not made public."
Other criticism that emerged from Olmert's bureau had to do with the release of the transcripts one at a time, and not at once.
"The way selected to do this, each testimony immediately becomes a leading headline and there is no balance," the sources said.
In an official announcement Wednesday, the Prime Minister's Office officially slammed the publication of the testimonies, charging it caused "damage to essential interests of the state. This involves real and present danger ... to the security of the state, in its foreign relations and its ties with various individuals and organizations that dealt, and continue to deal, with its security interests. "
The Winograd Committee refused to respond to the statement from the Prime Minister's Bureau, but it drew a great deal of criticism from the political arena.
MK Gal-On said that "the prime minister is the first person who leaked his testimony in a biased fashion to the press, and he is now trying to prevent public discourse."
Likud faction leader, MK Gideon Saar said that "today, exactly a year since the elections, it is possible to say definitively that the continued rule of Olmert, Livni, and Peretz, undermines the security of the state and its foreign relations. Olmert continues to spend most of his energy in failed attempts to prevent the truth of the failures of his government to emerge in order to keep his job."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Democracy and Identity confusion - Arab Lesbian conference in Haifa

A conference of Arab Lesbians was held in Haifa. Such a conference could never be held, for example, in Gaza or even in Cairo. The conference met to complain about "Israeli discrimination." The participants claim to be "Palestinians," but we know they could not be Palestinians. If they were Palestinians who announced they are lesbians in, for example, Gaza city or Jenin,  they would be dead.
In Israel, they only had to be guarded from the ire of their fellow Arabs (or "Palestinians") who would have expressed their democratic choice by ripping them to pieces if given the chance, it seems.
Not only are they confused about their identities, they also have poor reality perception:
"This is the first conference of its kind. There is no doubt that the Arab public respects minorities, but as a precautionary measure we have obtained security guards because we don't know what tools will be used by those who oppose us," said the organization's coordinator, Ruada Murkus.
That reminds of the witness who told the lawyer that his neighbors are honest. "And yet, you keep a shotgun and lock your door, why is that?"
"That's to keep 'em honest."
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 11:13 29/03/2007   
By Fadi Edayat, Haaretz Correspondent

The first conference of Israeli Arab lesbians was held Wednesday in Haifa by the organization Asawat ("Voices").
The discussions dealt with homosexuality in the Arab public and the so-called "triple discrimination" of being women, lesbian and Arab in Israel.
News released in the past two weeks of plans to hold the conference aroused bitter opposition in the southern branch of the Islamic Movement, members of which demonstrated Wednesday outside of the Haifa auditorium where the conference was planned.
At the conference, participants discussed the difficulties faced by Arab lesbians in dealing with their identities and coming out of the closet.
One participant spoke about her personal experience of moving to Tel Aviv on the pretext of continuing her studies, while actually seeking, "to answer the many questions that arose in adolescence," that she was not allowed to ask.
"Many times I felt as if I was in a 'diaspora' while in my 'homeland,'" she said. "I had to leave my village in order to realize my sexual orientation."
The participants also spoke of the struggles of lesbians to uncover their sexual identity and of the fear of being harmed.
As a precautionary measure, photography was prohibited at the conference and security officers escorted a number of participants and guarded the venue itself.
"This is the first conference of its kind. There is no doubt that the Arab public respects minorities, but as a precautionary measure we have obtained security guards because we don't know what tools will be used by those who oppose us," said the organization's coordinator, Ruada Murkus.
Some 300 people participated in the event, including Arab and Jewish lesbians and homosexuals, as well as feminists from Israel and abroad.
Outside of the auditorium, a demonstration was held by nearly 30 men and women affiliated with the Islamic Movement.
"The activity of these women diminishes the value of the human being and their actions are not accepted in the Muslim and Palestinian world," said MK Abbas Zakoor (Ra'am-Ta'al), who headed the demonstration.
The Asawat organization said that "listening to the voices of the various groups in Arab society" is the proper response to the opposition.
Asawat was founded five years ago by three Arab lesbian women whose stated goal was to raise awareness and to work towards achieving freedom to express lesbianism and homosexuality within Arab society.
The organization has sought to link the national and sexual identities of Israeli Arabs.
The group's participants define themselves as linked with a nation under occupation and racism, struggling for political and social freedom within Arab society.
"There is no need to differentiate between the Palestinian and sexual identities," said Nabila Asfaniuli, a feminist activist and director of Asawat. "We refuse to remain in the darkness of the closet, drawers and bins. The time has come for us to raise our voices and knock on the sides of the bin."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab news claims that UN Secretary General supports Arab initiative

Arab News (Saudi Arabia) is circulating the notion that UN  Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supports the "Arab" (Saudi) peace initiative. In fact, as the text of the article shows, Ban simply restated UN positions. The Arab peace plan calls for full withdrawal to 1967 borders and seems to call for return of Palestinian refugees. These are not UN positions. Ban is not quoted as saying he specifically supports the Saudi peace initiative, but Arab News wants to claim that is so.
Ban, however, did express support for the initiative as a positive step and a "way forward":
"Here in Riyadh, I urge you, my Arab friends, to use this summit to reaffirm your commitment to this initiative," he added. "The Arab peace initiative suggests a new way forward to the region." 
The peace initiative cannot be ignored.
Ami Isseroff

RIYADH, 29 March 2007 — In a clear sign of support to the Arab peace initiative first proposed by the Kingdom in 2002, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said here yesterday that the creation of an independent Palestinian state and the end of Israeli occupation of Arab land was a basis for peace in the Middle East region.
"The wound that is still fresh even after 40 years is the continued occupation of Arab territory and the denial of legitimate Palestinian claims to statehood," he said in his speech at the 19th Arab Summit here.
"The basis for a solution is clear: the end to the occupation that began in 1967, the creation of an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside as secure and fully-recognized state of Israel, and the lasting comprehensive peace in the region as called for in the resolution of the United Nation Security Council."
Ban commended Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his leadership and his commitment to peace with Israel, which he described as "unambiguous." He also said the Palestinian leader was determined to approach Palestinian unity in support of that cause.
He also described the new Palestinian national unity government as "an important step forward".
"I congratulate His Majesty King Abdullah and the other Arab leaders for help making this agreement possible," he said.
The UN secretary-general encouraged the new Palestinian unity government to take actions that would demonstrate its true commitment to a negotiated two-state solution.
"I encourage Israel to do the same by curbing settlement activity and barrier construction in the West Bank and engaging in serious dialogue with President Abbas for a final settlement."
He said the broader Arab world continues to have a decisive role to play, calling the Arab peace initiative as "one of the pillars of the peace process."
"Endorsed in the road map, the initiative sends a clear signal that the Arab world wants to create peace," he added. He said that prior to his arrival in Riyadh he had urged the Israelis to take a fresh look the Arab peace initiative.
"Here in Riyadh, I urge you, my Arab friends, to use this summit to reaffirm your commitment to this initiative," he added. "The Arab peace initiative suggests a new way forward to the region."
Ban described the status quo as "dangerous", but said there was room still for optimism: "Solving this conflict is a moral and strategic necessity," he said, adding that political divisions in the Arab world have caused despair and unemployment among the young generation.
He also called for more "dynamic and civil societies" to be established in the Arab world.
Resolving the political situation in Lebanon should be another priority for the Arab leaders, said the UN chief. "Lebanon continues to go through internal political turmoil," he pointed out. He urged Arab leaders to support the democratically elected government of Fouad Siniora.
Ban called the Iraq situation "troubling" and praised Arab efforts to help the victims of the war. "I commend Jordan and Syria in particular for extending their hands to so many Iraqis in need," he said.
He said next month the UN would hold an international conference to mobilize financial and other support to meet the urgent needs of those who have been displaced. "I am solely committed to having the United Nations do more in particular areas, such as political facilitation," he said. "The UN is also devoting itself to the country's economic development and social recovery."
He said that improving security in Iraq would not only require military means, "but genuine efforts to promote national reconciliation." Ban also talked about the Darfur issue in Sudan, urging Arab leaders to prioritize the matter.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's silence on Jewish refugees is deafening

This note from "Point of No Return" points out the strange silence of the Israel government about Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were often forced to leave with no compensation for their extensive properties. Why shouldn't they have "Right of Return"?. As it is a good bargaining point for Israel, it is really odd that this issue is swept under the rug in negotiations.

Ami Isseroff

Israel's silence on Jewish refugees is deafening

Anyone who follows developments in the Middle East will have found it hard to escape the latest fuss about the resurrected Saudi peace initiative .

This is the plan that demands a full withdrawal by Israel from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and 'the right of return' to Israel for Palestinian refugees - in exchange for 'normalisation' of relations between Israel and the Arab world.

While the Israeli government has rightly rejected the 'right of return for Palestinians' as asking Israel to commit demographic suicide, it is bizarre - and alarming - that neither the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, nor the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, has even mentioned the rights of Jewish refugees.

Because Israel has not even tried to widen the agenda for discussion, it reinforces the Arab perception that they are the sole victims of injustice. By ignoring the Jewish refugees, Israel is doing nothing to prepare the Arab world for any demands for compensation, let alone admission of guilt for causing the Jewish exodus.

The concept of an 'exchange of populations' of roughly equal numbers of refugees has not even penetrated Arab consciousness.

And as long as the Arabs are shielded from feeling any responsibility for the flight of a million Jews, there is little chance of true reconciliation.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The man who didn't come to dinner

It is not often that US Presidents get their dinner invitations turned down, but, though Bush promised a dinner fit for a king, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia turned him down. The reason is that while nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure. As they feel they can no longer trust the US, the Saudis are trying to cut deals with the Iranians and the Hamas.
What it all illustrates is that the Iraq Study Group got it backwards. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not a prerequisite for success in Iraq. Rather victory in Iraq is essential to allowing the US to catalyze Middle East peace. If the US proves that it is an unreliable ally in Iraq, it won't be able to do anything at all in the Middle East.
Ami Isseroff

Bush's Royal Trouble
Why Is King Abdullah Saying No to Dinner?
By Jim Hoagland
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; Page A15
President Bush enjoys hosting formal state dinners about as much as having a root canal. Or proposing tax increases. So his decision to schedule a mid-April White House gala for Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah signified the president's high regard for an Arab monarch who is also a Bush family friend.
Now the White House ponders what Abdullah's sudden and sparsely explained cancellation of the dinner signifies. Nothing good -- especially for Condoleezza Rice's most important Middle East initiatives -- is the clearest available answer.
Abdullah's bowing out of the April 17 event is, in fact, one more warning sign that the Bush administration's downward spiral at home is undermining its ability to achieve its policy objectives abroad. Friends as well as foes see the need, or the chance, to distance themselves from the politically besieged Bush.
Official versions discount that possibility, of course. Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national security adviser, flew to Washington last week to explain to Bush that April 17 posed a scheduling problem. " 'It is not convenient' was the way it was put," says one official.

But administration sources report that Bush and his senior advisers were not convinced by Bandar's vagueness -- especially since it followed Saudi decisions to seek common ground with Iran and the radicals of Hezbollah and Hamas instead of confronting them as part of Rice's proposed "realignment" of the Middle East into moderates and extremists.
Abdullah's reluctance to be seen socializing at the White House this spring reflects two related dynamics: a scampering back by the Saudis to their traditional caution in trying to balance regional forces, and their displeasure with negative U.S. reaction to their decision to return to co-opting or placating foes.
Abdullah gave a warm welcome to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh in early March, not long after the Saudis pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into accepting a political accord that entrenches Hamas in an unwieldy coalition government with Abbas's Fatah movement.
"The Saudis surprised us by going that far," explained one White House official in a comment that reached -- and irritated -- Saudi officials. So don't count on Abdullah to put new force behind his long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative at the Arab summit scheduled this week in Riyadh.
Rice had hoped the summit would provide a boost in her current proximity talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials, but she appears to have struck a dry well. "She is conducting crisis management, not grand diplomacy," a European official who talked to her recently said disappointedly.
Adds an admirer who tracks Rice's intentions and assessments in the Middle East: "Condi is doing everything she can. But she is dancing with a corpse that just keeps flopping over in another direction every time she tries to move it."
A few months ago, Bandar was championing the confrontational "realignment" approach in Saudi family councils: Iran's power would be broken, the Syrians would have to give up hegemonic designs on Lebanon, etc., etc. Now the Saudi prince visits Tehran and Moscow regularly. He helped set the stage for the Palestinians' Mecca accord, which has caused Israel to reduce what little cooperation it felt it could extend to Abbas.
And he delivered the king's regrets about dinner. (The White House declined all comment about the April 17 dinner and Bandar's visit.) This is less a clear strategic reversal than a tactical adjustment for the Saudis: They remain frightened of the expanding ambitions of Iran. And the personal bond between the Saudi royals -- especially Bandar -- and Bush and his father remains strong.
But the Saudis, too, know how to read election returns. They see Bush swimming against a tide of scandal and stench that engulfs his most trusted aides. In the traditional Saudi worldview, this is a moment to hedge, not to indulge in the kind of leadership needed to break the Israeli-Palestinian deadlock or the deadly morass of Iraq.
It could be less calculated than that. Part of the royal family was unhappy with Bandar's earlier break-their-bones realignment rhetoric. Abdullah would not want to come to Washington to front for a divided family. He may need more time to patch things.

But Rice will get no relief when she returns to Washington. She will have to deal with more depressing society news: Jordan's King Abdullah, who has spent more time in George W. Bush's Washington than any other foreign leader, has let the White House know that he can't make that state visit discussed for September. Can you do 2008? the king asks instead.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why Condoleezza Rice didn't do anything in the Middle East

Condoleezza Rice came and went and did nothing. That much is clear. One interpretation of why she did nothing is that Saudis and Jordanians poured ice water on her ambitious plans for a peace conference including Israel, either because they really want to go slow on the peace process, or because they don't want to meet Israel. Another interprelation is below. A third interpretation is that she never intended to do much except to prod people a bit and make it seem like something is happening.
Ami Isseroff

By Yossi Sarid

The terms we routinely use for our situation are beginning to sound more literary than political. "Road map" could be from a Shlomo Artzi song performed by the Gevatron. "Political horizon" is a phrase that suggests we're dealing with poetry, not politics.
The horizon, in the Israeli-Arab context, is not an especially successful image. Every child knows that a horizon is tricky; the closer you approach the farther it moves out of reach. The Middle East does not need horizons, it needs leaders with horizons, and they better be broad ones. But the world of this region's leaders - both ours and theirs - is as narrow as an ant's - another image taken from poetry.
Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni borrowed the horizon from old Hollywood movies, which they must have loved in their romantic period. Rice and Livni are walking arm in arm toward the distant horizon, but this heavenly gliding is usually toward the sunset, while we here are still waiting for the sun to rise. This beautiful betrothal also marks the happy ending to this movie, we're still waiting for it to begin.
If Condoleezza Rice won't or can't do what is required in this explosive region, then it is not clear why she insists on not doing it here. To do nothing she could stay in the White House with her best friend, whom she serves with blind obedience. It is also much more convenient to do nothing in Washington, because here it is much more dangerous and desperate Levantines might threaten the safety of the entire world.
The negotiations between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will reportedly not include the three core issues - Jerusalem, refugees and borders. After three such hieroglyphic nos it is difficult to detect the remains of a single yes. Rice is already familiar with the powers-that-aren't and she should know by now that they are prisoners of their own device. Olmert's hands are tied and Abbas' feet are chained. Scared of their own shadow, they won't move. Someone must release them from their bondage, but there is nobody to do so. That someone is now busy up to his neck in Iraq.
Instead of going from here to Riyadh, Rice preferred to return to Washington. How could she come to the Arab summit conference with empty hands? Once again the United States is missing an opportunity, for the umpteenth time, and who knows when it will present itself again.
The Saudi initiative, despite its flaws, is a good blueprint; there's no better one in sight on the "political horizon." A serious person, who also happens to be secretary of state, would not have let it slip away. He would have grabbed it by the horns and not let go until all the sides accepted it - a comprehensive peace with all the Arab and Muslim states in exchange for complete withdrawal from all the occupied territories. That's the deal basically, there is no other, and all the other controversies, including the Palestinian refugees issue, will be settled in negotiations and only by mutual consent.
But Rice made do with stating "I came to open doors and not to close them." She came, she said, she left. Maybe someone told her that in six days' time, on Seder night, we all leave a door open for a prophet. But Elijah has not come yet. Will George?

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Maurice Ostroff on the Hamas conundrum (IHT)

Various desperate attempts to make believe that the Hamas wants peace, to claim that they want peace or that they almost want peace, are always refuted by Hamas spokespeople. The International Herald Tribune sometimes loves to engage in wishful thinking. Maurice Ostroff notes some of the salient problems.
Ami Isseroff

March 28, 2007
From Maurice Ostroff
To The editor
International Herald Tribune

The statement in your editorial that seeking an opening for genuine peace in the Israel-Palestinian conflict will not be easy, is unfortunately too true. (The Hamas conundrum March 27).
In fact, there can be no hope at all of a peaceful solution, unless the following essential factors are addressed.
Palestinians cannot be expected to think of peace while their state controlled media teach children to emulate suicide martyrs, video clips portray happy child martyrs in the after-world and hatred is spewed daily in mosques and schools. See
Article 9 of the PLO Covenant declares plainly that armed struggle is not merely tactical, it is the overall strategy. Article 19 rejects the 1947 UN partition, thereby rejecting the Quartet's proposed  two-state solution and advocating destruction of the entire Jewish state. Article 20 unashamedly deems the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate null and void.
Peaceful negotiation is emphatically ruled out by the Hamas charter. Article 13 states that peaceful solutions and international conferences, contradict the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement and that the only solution is through Jihad.
We must also ask if it is possible to negotiate rationally with a party that generates hatred based on fantasies. For example the Hamas Charter states that freemasons, Rotary clubs, Lions and similar organizations stirred the French and Communist revolutions as well as World War I, formed the League of Nations and control the world media. It promises that these organizations will be obliterated when Islam takes control. Obviously, to be realistic, any proposed solution for the conflict must take the above considerations into account. 

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More good financial news for Israel in 2006

More good financial news in 2006 - Israel's foreign debt falls 53% to record low. This is the future. This is what really will make Israel strong. To continue on this path, we must have peace.

Israel's foreign debt falls 53% to record low
Israel's net external surplus reached a record $31.5 billion at the end of 2006.
Zeev Klein 27 Mar 07   16:34;

Israel's net balance of external liabilities totaled $14 billion at the end of 2006, 53% less than at end of 2005, and the lowest ever figure as a proportion of GDP, the Bank of Israel  reports.

Israel's net external surplus (debt instruments) rose by of $10 billion during 2006 to reach a record $31.5 billion at the end of 2006. The short-term asset (debt-instrument) surplus rose by $8.3 billion to $47 billion at the end the year.

The Bank of Israel said, "The balance of assets abroad totaled about $156 billion at end of 2006, a rise of $34 billion on the end-2005 position. Most of this increase was due to an increase of about $13 billion in direct investments, with the Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.  (Nasdaq: TEVA ; TASE: TEVA ) deal contributing some $10 billion of this. Portfolio investments grew by $10 billion due to continuing portfolio adjustments in the private non-banking sector in light of the tax reform."

The Bank of Israel added, "The balance of other investments grew by $10 billion mainly due to the banking system's deposit abroad (of $6 billion) as a result of their foreign-currency surplus, and deposits of the business sector abroad (principally through the transfer to deposits abroad of receipts from the Iscar deal).

"The balance of Israel's external liabilities totaled some $171 billion at the end of 2006, a rise of about $18 billion compared with the end of 2005. Direct investments in Israel during 2006 were influenced by global trends, including growth led by an expansion in world trade, which increased both the amount of capital seeking investment opportunities and company profitability, as well as a wave of mergers and acquisitions… Among the most prominent components, one should mention the investment in Iscar Ltd. , the realization of the sale of the controlling interest in Israel Discount Bank  (TASE: DSCT ), investments in high-tech companies, and investments in real estate totaling $1.4 billion"

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news -  - on March 27, 2007
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

Missing the point of the Saudi Peace initiative.

Here is a different opinion on the Saudi initiative. It misses the point, which is that the initiative is a public gesture, and therefore it requires a public response. Israel cannot be seen as "against peace" and should use the initiative to develop positive momentum for peace.
Ami Isseroff

The Saudi Initiative: A Starting Point for an Israeli-Saudi Dialogue?

Alexander Bligh

Perspectives Paper No. 26, March 27, 2007 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The recently revived Saudi initiative is premised on terms permanently unacceptable to Israel. Nevertheless, given current realities, Israel should not reject the initiative out of hand. Israel should take advantage of the initiative in order to transform it into a real opening for direct yet secret negotiations with Saudi Arabia.

The "Saudi initiative," recently revived and pushed to the forefront of Middle East headlines, is not new. It was first raised in March 2002 by the (then) Heir apparent, today King Abdullah b. Abd al-Aziz, of Saudi Arabia. Shortly thereafter, the Arab League adopted the plan as its pan-Arab initiative for peace in the Middle East.

The plan re-proposed today is similar to the original version; it supposedly offers Israel security and normalization in exchange for full withdrawal from "all occupied Arab territories" including the Golan Heights, the western Slopes of the Hermon mountain range (claimed by Hezbollah as the "Shaba farmlands"), the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the "return" of Palestinian refugees.

Simply put, these are terms that Israel cannot accept. Given the current regional and internal Israeli political circumstances, however, Israel should not reject the initiative outright. Israel should take advantage of the tentative and problematic initiative in order to transform it into a real opening for direct negotiations with its Arab neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

Political Dynamics

Any serious consideration of the Saudi plan must take into account the political dynamics behind the initiative, both in Israel and in Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli leadership is in trouble. The incumbent Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, failed to receive a 3 per cent margin in public approval ratings. He is hungry for a breakthrough in foreign and security relations in the hopes to improve his image. A new process of public peace diplomacy could provide him with the needed momentum.

The Saudi regime, on the other hand, is more self-confident after brokering a shaky ceasefire and a new division of power among the Palestinian factions. For the Saudi royal family, it is once again time to resort to the Saudi traditional modus operandi: work in secret behind the scenes and announce your success only after it is reached.

This clash of interests between public and secret diplomacies has resulted in the first Israeli mistake concerning the initiative: Israel should not have approached Washington about changes in the scheme. It should have sought and pursued direct and secret talks outside the Middle East (and away from the media) with authorized representatives of the Saudi Kingdom. In such negotiations, Israel could emphasize its common interests with the Saudis while raising its objection to some of the elements of the plan.

Shared Interests

It is self-evident that Saudi Arabia is motivated by its desire to counteract the potential Iranian nuclear threat. Any new weapon in the Persian Gulf constitutes a major challenge to this pro-American regime which controls about a quarter of the world's proven oil reserves. Israel also shares this concern about Tehran's ambitions. For all intensive purposes, Israel is the lynchpin holding the current Middle East together. Moreover, Israel is still the strongest country among the pro-US countries of the region. Their existence depends to a large degree on the continued existence of a strong Israel.
Dealing with Iran is not the only issue on which Israel and Saudi Arabia have shared interests. Both are trying to avoid the emergence of a radical Shi'ite regime in the wake of the future withdrawal of the coalition forces in Iraq. Creating such a regime not only would enhance Iranian interests in the region but would destabilize the current status-quo among all Middle Eastern countries.  The first potential victims of such a new regime would be the smaller countries of the lower Gulf; Kuwait, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. These countries comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council – a body under strong Saudi influence and a stabilizing pro-US player in that area. Israel stands to lose dramatically if these regimes are hurt in any way since most of them engage in open relations with the Jewish state.
Israeli-Saudi concerns are not limited to the Iranian and Iraqi arenas. Both are dissatisfied with recent Egyptian diplomacy. The failure of the Egyptian efforts to bridge the differences between the Palestinian factions (as opposed to the Saudi success in that field which brought about the creation of the new Palestinian government) has revived Saudi claims for a leadership position among the moderate Arab countries.

Self-assured, quiet and realistic Saudi diplomacy is precisely what Israel needs, especially at a time when Egypt seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Egypt's ability to be a broker in Israel-Arab relations has deteriorated significantly in Israeli eyes. Egypt continues to allow large quantities of arms to be smuggled from Sinai into Gaza. Just this month, Egypt revived old and dubious allegations about the alleged killing of Egyptian POW's by Israeli troops during the 1967 war. In this atmosphere, Saudi Arabia has gained even more traction as a quiet and reliable partner for Israel.
The Israeli-Saudi meeting of interests does not necessarily mean that Israel should accept the Saudi initiative. It is no accident that Riyadh floated its initiative again at a time of great flux in the Israeli political system and in the aftermath of a war that dangerously eroded Israeli deterrence. Moreover, the "right" of return would gut the very essence of a Jewish and Zionist state by flooding it with refugees. Arab insistence on the "right" of return within the initiative raises significant questions about the sincerity and intentions of its proponents.

And thus, the initiative as it stands now cannot serve as a basis for peace negotiations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. However, it can and must serve as a starting point for a confidential Israeli-Saudi dialogue on ways to advance their common interests in this volatile region.

Prof. Alexander Bligh is the Chair of the Department of Israel and Middle Eastern Politics & Director of the Israel National Strategic Assessment Center at The College of Judea and Samaria (Ariel) and President of Strategic Objects, a consulting firm dealing with risk assessment and coaching for the higher echelons of the Israeli political and economic scene. He is the former head of Middle Eastern Studies and Dean of Students at Jezreel Valley College and senior lecturer at the Hebrew University (Jerusalem, 1982-1996); and former deputy advisor (1987-1990) and advisor (1990-1992) to the Prime Minister of Israel on Arab affairs, specializing in impact of political radicalism among Israeli Arabs.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians give conflicting messages on Arab Peace initiative

Haniyeh insists on right of return, while Abbas invites Israel to live in a sea of peace. Peace has many definitions of course.
"What concerns me more than anything else ... is not to compromise on the fundamental Palestinian rights, foremost being the right of return," Haniyeh said shortly before the summit opened.
...senior Hamas officials admitted that they are opposed to parts of the initiative relating to a peace agreement with Israel or its recognition.
"This initiative simply says to Israel 'leave the occupied territories and you will live in a sea of peace that begins in Nouakchott and ends in Indonesia'," he said, referring to the Mauritanian capital in West Africa and the southeast Asian country that is the world's most populous Muslim country.
Meanwhile, it is worthwhile encouraging the Arab peace initiative, which has different interpretations.

Last update - 14:18 28/03/2007   
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh urged Arab leaders meeting at a summit in Riyadh on Wednesday not to compromise on the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their homes in Israel.
Haniyeh, the leader of the Islamist Hamas movement, told Reuters in an interview that his group would not oppose an Arab peace initiative which the summit is expected to relaunch, but would not give in on the Palestinian refugees' right of return.
"What concerns me more than anything else ... is not to compromise on the fundamental Palestinian rights, foremost being the right of return," Haniyeh said shortly before the summit opened.
"I expect the Arab summit meeting in Riyadh to reiterate the Arab countries' commitment not to compromise in any way on the Palestinian refugees right of return under any circumstances," Haniyeh said.
Arab leaders officially began the two-day summit in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
At the summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Arab leaders to prove they were serious about peace with Israel by reviving their five-year-old initiative.
"The Arab peace initiative is one of the pillars for the peace process .... This initiative sends a signal that the Arabs are serious about achieving peace," Ban told Arab leaders, according to an Arabic translation.
"When I was in Israel I urged my Israeli friends to take a new look at the initiative. Here in Riyadh, I also urge you, my Arab friends, to benefit from this initiative and reiterate your commitment to it because the situation is dangerous."
At the summit, Arab League chief Amr Moussa urged Israel to accept the initiative rather than ask for changes.
"The Israelis response was to ask for an amendment. We tell them to accept it first," Moussa told Arab leaders at a summit in Saudi Arabia.
"We are at a crossroads, it is either we move towards a real peace or see an escalation in the situation."
Hamas adopts ambiguity policy on Arab peace plan

In discussions with Haaretz Tuesday, a number of leading Hamas figures in the Gaza Strip said the group would refrain from expressing its views on the Arab peace initiative that members of the Arab League, including the Palestinian Authority, are expected to support during the summit in Riyadh.
The figures said the organization would adopt a policy of ambiguity on its stance vis-a-vis the peace initiative. However, senior Hamas officials admitted that they are opposed to parts of the initiative relating to a peace agreement with Israel or its recognition.
Palestinian sources said Tuesday that Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal has promised Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah not to disrupt the decisions of the summit.
The same sources said that the policy of ambiguity stems from concerns that open opposition to the initiative, which is a revived version of the Saudi initiative approved at the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut, will cause friction between Hamas and the Saudis. The initiative offers Israel normalization of relations with the Arab world in exchange for a full withdrawal to 1967 lines and a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian refugee problem.
Israel and the United States have not rejected the initiative but expressed reservations on such Israeli red line issues as the refugees problem. When asked whether Hamas will accept the initiative, senior officials in the group said they reject some of its principles.
The spokesman for Hamas in the Palestinian parliament, Salah al-Bardawil, told Haaretz, "we will not agree to recognition of Israel or peace with it [as it appears in the initiative]. We have no problem with the part of the initiative that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders and the right of refugees to return."
Bardawil told Haaretz that Meshal had promised to Saudi King Adbullah that Hamas will work with the Arab consensus view, but "we cannot recognize Israel or agree to peace and normalization."
Meshal called on Arab leaders participating in the summit not to make concessions on refugees and the Palestinians' right to defend themselves, according to Saudi media.
"Meshal called on Arab leaders meeting in Riyadh to adopt a strategy based on the right to self-defense," the official Saudi news agency SPA said. "He said that conceding legitimate rights such as the right of return and the Palestinian people's right to protection was unacceptable," the report added.
Meshal spoke to SPA in Algeria, after a visit to Saudi Arabia for talks with officials there on Sunday.
Taking a more severe position, Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, declared Tuesday that "the Hamas positions have not changed in any way. The new government has accepted commitments but our positions remain unchanged."
Another Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhum, told Haaretz that "the issue is not a 'yes' or 'no' by Hamas regarding the initiative. We respect the Arab efforts to attain Palestinian rights and we will act within the Arab consensus. Nonetheless, the Zionist enemy continues to reject the initiative and we will not determine our position in reference to it before it has been accepted."
Meanwhile, President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce the Palestinian Authority's support for the initiative. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas is not expected to present the unity government's views on the initiative.
Abbas: Arab plan offers Israel chance to live in 'sea of peace'

The Arab peace plan could be Israel's last chance to live in a "sea of peace" and should not be squandered, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday.
"This initiative simply says to Israel 'leave the occupied territories and you will live in a sea of peace that begins in Nouakchott and ends in Indonesia'," he said, referring to the Mauritanian capital in West Africa and the southeast Asian country that is the world's most populous Muslim country.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peace versus the Hamas

This release from The Israel Project sums up the current situation pretty well.
Calev Ben-David: 011-972-2-6236427,

Leah Soibel: 011-972-2-6236427,

While Israel Seeks Peace Through Two-State Solution,
Hamas Hardliners Continue to Embrace Terror

Israel renewed its efforts to find a peaceable solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict this week, with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreeing to meet regularly for talks with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas after both held discussions with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

According to a senior U.S. official, "The issues [to be discussed] would be security, humanitarian and the political horizon." [1]
The Olmert government has already said that its political horizon is a negotiated settlement for a Jewish and Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace.
Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stopped in Jerusalem this week prior to the Riyadh Summit, which is to take place March 28-29 in Saudi Arabia.
Both Rice and Ban refused to meet with Hamas members of the new Palestinian unity government, noting that Hamas has still refused to meet the three conditions laid down by the so-called Middle East Quartet (the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia): renunciation of violence and terror, recognizing Israel's right to exist and honoring past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. [2]
The political platform adopted by the new Palestinian unity government last week specifically approved "resistance in all its forms," [3] which includes continued terror attacks on Israelis, the firing of Qassam rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, and the continued holding of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped from Israeli territory into the Gaza Strip on June 29, 2006.
Following the Feb. 19 trilateral summit between Rice, Olmert and Abbas, the U.S. Secretary of State returned to the region this week to garner support among the 'Arab Quartet'- Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - for reviving Saudi Arabia's 2002 peace initiative.
The Saudi Initiative, a basis for normalized relations between Israel and the Arab world, was scripted by Saudi's Crown Prince Abdullah - first as an interview with Thomas Friedman in The New York Times in Feb. 2002 and again one month later at the March 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut, Lebanon. [4]
At the time, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that the initiative was "an interesting idea." [5]
More recently, Olmert and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni both spoke of "positive elements" in the Saudi plan as a basis for negotiations. [6]
"We sincerely hope that at the summit of the Arab leaders in Riyadh, the positive element in the Saudi initiative will be emphasized and would maybe allow an opportunity to strengthen the chances for negotiations with the Palestinians on its basis," said Olmert. [7]
The Saudi Initiative, Based on the 2002 Model
The three key clauses for Israel, outlined by the Arab League in the 2002 Saudi Initiative adopted at the Beirut summit are: [8]

I- Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the June 4, 1967 lines as well as the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon.

II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

III- The acceptance of the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

In return, Arab leaders guaranteed a cessation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel and to fully normalize relations with the Jewish state.

On March 24, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon landed in Israel and was met by Israeli Minister of Defense, Amir Peretz. Ban and Peretz discussed a range of political and security matters. [9]
Threats emanating from Iran, Syria and Lebanon were also on the agenda.
Ban met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, March 25.
The Middle East is the U.N. chief's second international tour since becoming Secretary-General. [10]  His first trip was to several African countries.
As a member of the international Quartet Commission (United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia), Ban said on March 24 in Cairo, "We [U.N.] expect that the national unity government will meet the expectations of the international community for peace and security in the region." [11]
The Quartet requires that the PA government fully recognize the State of Israel, comply with former peace agreements and renounce terror.
However, the Hamas-led PA unity government, comprised of Fatah, Hamas and independent technocrats, still has not accepted all three of the Quartet's conditions. [12]
Shortly after the Secretary-General landed in Israel, the 15-member U.N. Security Council unanimously passed a new resolution against Iran, which will halt all military exports to the Islamic Republic and freeze 28 Iranian personal and institutional financial accounts. After Iran failed to comply with the U.N.'s 60-day deadline for halting all nuclear enrichment activity, the Security Council voted for harsher sanctions against Tehran. [13]
On Saturday, March 24, Secretary-General Ban and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with foreign ministers from the 'Arab Quartet' to discus Arab opportunities for negotiations with Israel. [14]
Statements by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
March 27

In a joint-press conference with PM Olmert, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "The Quartet would like to see this government clearly committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of existing agreements and it will be assessed by its actions in the future. A vital first step would be for the new government to take action against the firing of rockets from Gaza and to secure the release of Corporal Shalit."[15]

March 15

U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas said Secretary-General Ban "hoped that the Palestinian government [sic] would respect all existing agreements and reflect principles outlined by the diplomatic Quartet, the international grouping that includes the U.N. as well as the European Union, Russian Federation and the United States." [16]

February 27
"Both Palestinians and the wider regional and international community are keen to see this agreement implemented in a positive manner. I hope that a national unity Government will take positions and actions that help to facilitate renewed international support," said Ban at the 2007 session of the Committee on the Exercise of Inalienable Rights of the Palestian People. [17]

Hamas's Intransigence
On March 26, Israel Radio quoted Hamas' Syrian-based political chief Khaled Mashaal as saying that Hamas has not ceased its armed struggle against Israel and militants are waiting to set in motion another Intifada (popular uprising). [18]
Hamas is calling for the 'persecution' of Nemr Hammad, a political advisor to Abu Mazen, for his "unwarranted" and "erred" statement of a resumption of cooperation between Israeli and P.A. security forces. Hamas fears that a joint Israel-P.A. security force would lead to the disbandment of all militant cells. [19]
According to the Israel Defense Forces spokesperson's office, between March 5 and March 19 a total of 13 Qassam rockets and mortar shells were launched from the Gaza Strip. Six of the rockets and shells landed in Israel.


[1] Arshad, Mohammed, "Israel, Palestinian leaders agree to regular talks," Reuters, March 27, 2007,

[2] Al-Mughrabi, Nidal, "Palestinian PM says new cabinet backs 'resistance,' " Reuters, March 17, 2007,
[3] Ibid.
[4] Usher, Graham, "The Saudi initiative," Al-Ahram Weekly Online, Feb. 28-March 6, 2002, Issue No. 575,,eg/2002/575/fr3.htm
[5] Ibid.
[6] Erlanger, Steve, "2002 Saudi plan revived as spur to Arab-Israeli talks," The New York Times, March 23, 2007,
[7] Ibid.
[8] "The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002,",
[9] Sofer, Ronny, "UN Secretary-General lands in Israel," YnetNews, March 24, 2007,,7340,L-3380504,00.html
[10] "UN chief announces Mideast visit," published in YnetNews via Associated Press, March 10, 2007,,7340,L-3374561,00.html
[11] News Agencies, "UN chief urges PA government to meet expectations of the international community," Haaretz, March 23, 2007,
[12] Department of Public Information  " Statement by Middle East Quartet," United Nations, Secretary -General, SG/2125, PAL/2071, March 21, 2007,
[13] Lynch, Colum, and Branigin, William, "UN Security Council unanimously approves Iran sanctions," The Washington Post, March 24, 2007,
[14] News Agencies, "Rice discusses peace efforts with foreign ministers of 'Arab Quartet,'" Haaretz, March 24, 2007,
[15] "Joint press conference by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 26, 2007,
[16] "Secretary-General welcomes new Palestinian government," United Nations News Centre, March 15, 2007,
[17] Department of Public Information, "World community must take advantage of 'political opportunities at hand,'" United Nations, Secretary-General SG/SM/10892, GA/PAL/1039, Feb. 27, 2007,
[18] Staff, "Mahaal: Hamas has not abandoned armed struggle," The Jerusalem Post, March 27, 2007,
[19] "Hamas: Hammad's call tantamount to national treason," Palestine Information Center, March 26, 2007,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas: Implementing Oslo accord provisions is Treasonous

Supposedly the Hamas agreed to "respect" (or "honor") previous agreements, but the reality is different. Security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians is mandated by the Oslo accords, but when Nemr Hammad, political advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas called for resumption of security cooperation, Hamas called it treason.

How can Secretary of State Rice, or anyone, expect Israel to negotiate "final status" agreements with this government or with Mr Abbas, when the leading party in that government insists that honoring the provisions of the agreements is treason?
Ami Isseroff

Hamas: Hammad's calls tantamount to national treason

[ 26/03/2007 - 08:35 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas Movement has criticized Nemr Hammad, the political advisor of the PA chief, over his "unwarranted" calls to resume security coordination between Palestinians and Israeli security apparatuses, and regarded those calls as "permitting the IOF troops to kill more Palestinians".

The Movement, furthermore, charged that Hammad's statements meant to spoil the cordial relationship between PA president and the PA government, to divide the PA security apparatuses, and to plant distrust among them among other goals.

"Those statements are tantamount to national treason that aims at portraying PA security elements as traitors working for Israel against their own people", a statement issued by Hamas and a copy of which obtained by the PIC affirmed.
In addition, Hamas urged the immediate prosecution of Hammad over his "erred" statements, and called on PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to officially react to those statements and to specify his stand towards them.
Nixing Hammad's calls, Hamas stressed on the Palestinian people's right to resist the Israeli occupation government that usurped their lands and displaced millions of Palestinians out of their homes at gunpoint.
Moreover, the Movement called on the PA unity government to swiftly open the file of Palestinian collaborators who backed the IOF troops against their own people, to prosecute them, and to carry out execution terms issued by local courts against a number of them.

In an interview with the Hebrew radio on Sunday, Hammad urged the immediate resumption of security coordination between PA and Israel's security apparatuses, spurring waves of condemnation in the Palestinian street.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas: TIgers are not becoming vegetarians

If anyone had any doubts about the intentions of Hamas, the new Hamas, the reformed Hamas, here is an authoritative source on the matter. According to the Jerusalem Post:

Mashaal: Hamas has not abandoned armed struggle Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 27, 2007

Hamas political leader Khaled Mashaal said that the group had not abandoned its armed struggle against Israel, and that operatives in the field were already waiting to begin another intifada...
Speaking at a conference in Algeria on Monday, Mashaal called on Arab leaders to take advantage of the momentum in the region to push Israel into a corner and to develop a new strategy for retaking Jerusalem.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Palestinians: Israeli army kills two Al-Aqsa members in a new Nablus incursion

Israeli army kills two Al-Aqsa members in a new Nablus incursion
Date: 27 / 03 / 2007  Time:  09:14   
Nablus - Ma'an - Two members of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Brigades were killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers in the old city of Nablus on Monday night, according to Palestinian medical sources. Clashes also broke out in Qabatia, south of Jenin, between Israeli Special Forces and Palestinian fighters.
Sources in Nablus added that Ala' Ziad, 26, and Muhannad Imraish, 24, who were members of an Al-Aqsa group called 'Knights of the Night', were killed after bleeding for hours because the medical crew was not able to approach them after they were injured.
The sources added that Ziad bled for an hour and a half and that Imraish was hit in the main artery of his leg, causing heavy bleeding.
The director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Services, Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, told Ma'an that both men were injured in the clash and left to bleed for hours. He added that the Israeli forces banned the medical crews from approaching Imraish to give him the suitable medical aid.
A state of general mourning was announced in the city and a general strike was declared; the shops in the city have closed their doors.
The Al-Aqsa brigades announced that the funeral for both men will take place today before noon, starting at Rafidia Hospital in Nablus.
The Israeli forces frequently raid the city of Nablus, situated in the north of the occupied West Bank, and yesterday the Israeli forces entered the city and its old centre, which ended in the killing of the two Palestinians.
While in Qabatia, south of Jenin, the Israeli forces failed to assassinate some members of the Al-Quds brigades, who are affiliated to the Islamic Jihad movement, and the An-Nasser Salah Addin brigades, who are affiliated to the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC).
Speaking to Ma'an via telephone, one of the members who escaped assassination said, "A group of Israeli Special Forces infiltrated the western neighbourhood of Qabatia; a group of fighters discovered them and clashed fiercely with the Israeli unit."
He added, "More than 15 Israeli vehicles arrived on the scene to support the special unit and shot at the houses of the citizens before launching a search campaign in the houses, looking for the so-called 'wanted' Palestinians."
The spokesman for the brigades condemned the Israeli escalation against activists and members of the Islamic Jihad movement. He claimed that the Israeli forces are pressuring the relatives of the 'wanted' Palestinians in order to force them to reveal details about where they hide. He stressed that "all policies of killing and assassination will not stop the Palestinians from continuing their struggle against the occupation."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert & Abbas to meet twice a month, discuss final status

This gives Secretary Rice something to show for her visit, but it may not be worth much more than that.

Last update - 15:39 27/03/2007
Rice: Olmert and Abbas have agreed to meet twice a month
By Aluf Benn and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to meet biweekly, holding talks that could include discussions about the formation of a Palestinian state.
Rice made the statements at a news conference at the end of a brief visit to the Middle East, after shuttling between the two sides for three days.
Rice also said her envoy will try to set benchmarks for implementing a cease-fire, including the halting of rocket fire from Gaza, and for improving the flow of Palestinian travelers and goods through Israeli crossings.
The secretary said doors had been opened during her visit and that she was laying the ground work for future peace talks. She said she believed it was still possible for a peace deal to be reached during U.S. President George W. Bush's term.
She said Olmert and Abbas showed flexibility. Rice said she would occasionally participate in the meetings between the two.
"The parties will also begin to discuss the development of a political horizon consistent with the establishment of a Palestinian state in accordance with the 'road map'," she said, adding that "new thinking" was needed to move the stalled peace process forward.
"We are not yet at final status negotiations. These are initial discussions to build confidence between parties," Rice said.
The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said Rice had "managed to keep the door open between us and Israel." While Israel had tried to limit discussions to humanitarian and security issues, he said, Rice ensured that talks would include a "political horizon," if not a final status deal.
Rice said her task had been complicated by the formation of a new Palestinian government, a coalition between Hamas and Fatah. Rice said a path to cooperation with the new government exists, but that it must first renounce terrorism.
Rice also called on Arab states to take an active role in Middle East peacemaking.
Rice also met briefly on Tuesday with the families of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
During the 20-minutes meet, the families sought to have Rice join the efforts to release the abductees. The secretary of state said she is happy to help, but stressed that she cannot deliberate directly with Hamas and Hezbollah, saying she would seek the assistance of European intercessors in that matter.
This has been Rice's first meeting with the families of the abductees.
American officials had hoped that the secretary would announce a new diplomatic drive for talks toward Palestinian statehood.
But the hopes were dampened late on Monday, when she met with Olmert for a second time, with the prime minister expressing his strong opposition to any mention of the "core issues" in the final status agreement with the Palestinians - namely Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the 1967 lines.
Following deliberations between the two, Rice decided she would not make any dramatic statements during the Tuesday news conference in Jerusalem, rather that she would summarize her diplomatic efforts in the region in recent days.
Echoing the lack of any substantive progress, Erekat told Haaretz Monday that there had been positive efforts on the part of the U.S., but there was no American plan before to resume negotiations.
The discussions between the two leaders will initially revolve around confidence-building measures, and will leave an opening for discussions on other issues in the future.
For her part, Rice will continue her periodic visits to the region, in which she will hold parallel talks with Israel and the Palestinians on all issues pertaining to the "political horizon."
Rice postponed the press conference, originally planned for Monday night, because of differences of opinion with Olmert over the content of her statement.
Rice made it clear to Olmert that she is trying to substantiate the concept of a "political horizon."
It appears that the compromise between their differing stances will be that the "core issues" will be mentioned in passing.
Olmert also asked that any formula for the resumption of negotiations be based on the road map and the stages it proposes (combating terrorism, dismantling outposts, a Palestinian state along interim borders and a final settlement).
Olmert also agreed to begin deliberations on less sensitive issues, such as the security arrangements of a future Palestinian state, and the conditions for implementing the agreement on the basis of the road map.
Olmert also opposed the proposal Rice made, that American mediation replace direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Maintaining constant and fluid contact with Olmert is for the Palestinians, at this juncture, considered a priority.
Erekat said Monday that "one of the most important elements from the point of view of the PA is to maintain the channel of communication open between Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Olmert. There is no substitute for this."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Londonistan: Ex Jihadi Hassan Butt - Killing In The Name Of Islam Is A "Cancer"

A 60 minutes interview breaks a lot of stereotypes and tells us that people who warn about Londonistan, as unpalatable as it may seem, may be absolutely correct. An ex-Jihadi explains how the terror network works, and how British authorities tried to buy "peace" with local extremists.
They could preach hatred, they could recruit followers, they could raise funds, and they could even call for Jihad - Holy war - as long as they didn't call for attacks on British soil. London became such a safe haven for Muslim militants that it came to be known as "Londonistan."

"Do you think this was an unspoken deal with the establishment? That, do whatever you want here as long as you don't blow us up?" Simon asks Butt.

"Absolutely. I believe that sincerely," Butt tells Simon. "That was an unspoken deal. And as a result of that, what tended to happen is the British government lost count of how many people were going abroad getting trained and coming back and going into operational mode as sleeper cells."

And once again it is shown that suicide bombers are not bred by despair or occupation or poverty:
"The four men who blew themselves up all came from good families, good homes, good educations. How do you explain what they did?" Simon asks.

"I mean, for me, they did it simply because they were convinced that they were doing something in the name of God, in the name of Islam. And they honestly believed they would obtain paradise from doing the activities that they carried out, the terrorist attacks that they carried out," Butt explains
About militant Islam and his own personal reform:
"The position of moderate Muslims is that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. Do you buy that?" Simon asks.

"No, absolutely not. By completely being in denial about it's like an alcoholic basically. Unless an alcoholic acknowledges that he has a problem with alcohol, he's never gonna be able to go forward," Butt argues. "And as long as we, as Muslims, do not acknowledge that there is a violent streak in Islam, unless we acknowledge that, then we are gonna always lose the battle to the militants, by being in complete denial about it."

Butt's private life is a shambles right now. His family has called him a traitor to Islam and his former friends from the network have threatened his life. He's writing a book about his transformation and his challenge to Muslims.

More about this here.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians - Still Dreaming the impossible dream

A Maanews editorial insists that the Arab summit is Israel's last chance for peace. The reason:
.... if the Arab summit fails, there will emerge entire generations of Arabs and Muslims antagonistic to Israel and the United States in an unimaginable way.
The most important part is the belief amongst the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim new generation that Israel will not survive for more than 7 years even if it possesses the whole nuclear arsenal of the globe. This leads to the conclusion that once the current generation of Palestinian leaders is absent, no other moderate leader can persuade the Palestinian public of the need to try again to negotiate with Israel.
Actually, it leads to the conclusion that after Israel survives for another 7 years, the next generation will probably still believe that, that Israel will not survive more than 7 years, and if Israel survive 50 years, the Arabs and Muslims will still believe that Israel will not survive more than 7 years, because that is what they have believed since 1948.
What might possibly change this strange belief?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi Arabia: No Israelis please

Saudi Arabia would not admit an Israeli journalist with a French passport travelling in the UN press entourage. Is this the Saudi Arabia of the peace plan? The responsible Saudi Arabia that wants to help bring about reconciliation. Is this the same Saudi Arabia that talks about "international legitimacy?"
Ami Isseroff

The New York Times 
March 24, 2007

CAIRO, March 24 - Saudi Arabia has barred entry to a Washington-based Israeli journalist traveling with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on his current Middle East tour, the United Nations said today.

Mr. Ban is going to Riyadh on Tuesday for two days of the summit meeting of the League of Arab States.

Orly Azoulay, the Washington bureau chief of Yediot Aharonot, was unable to obtain a visa to Saudi Arabia despite assurances the Saudi mission in New York gave the United Nations last week, said Michele Montas, Mr. Ban's spokeswoman.

Ms. Montas said that both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia initially refused to grant Ms. Azoulay a visa, but that Lebanon had dropped its objections last week and given her the needed stamp.

Ms. Azoulay, 53, an Israeli-born dual citizen of France and Israel, sought the visa on her French passport. She said she had traveled during the past two years to Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan and had gone to Saudi Arabia in 2000 with correspondents covering then-Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright.

When the Saudi consulate in New York returned the passports of the 11 news reporters and broadcasters to United Nations headquarters on Friday afternoon, only Ms. Azoulay's bore no Saudi visa. Ms. Montas said this
occurred despite repeated appeals to the Saudis during the week from Vijay Nambiar, Mr. Ban's chief of staff.

Mr. Azoulay joined the trip in London on Thursday, and Ms. Montas said that the United Nations had been told that the visa might come through while the United Nations group proceeded to Cairo and Jordan.

In recent days, though, she said, the Saudi mission did not return calls from United Nations officials, and they have now concluded that Ms. Azoulay will be not be allowed to accompany the United Nations group to Riyadh.

"The Saudis have a lot of countries coming which have no relations to Israel, and it appears they had more concern about that than they did about the United Nations," said an organization official who asked not to be identified so as to speak frankly.

Mr. Ban will be in Israel on Sunday and then go to Riyadh with only a six-hour stopover in Jordan for a working lunch with King Abdullah II.

Israel granted visas to all 11 news people, including at least 3 who are Arab- or Iranian-born and traveling on European passports.

"When the secretary general decides that he will take under his auspices a group of journalists, then there is some kind of responsibility that he takes upon himself and we respect this and this is the reason Israel granted
the visas without hesitation," said Daniel Carmon, Israel's deputy United Nations ambassador.

Asked the United Nations' reaction, Ms. Montas said, "What she was trying to do was to report objectively, which would improve the political climate in the region and would have been an asset to the secretary general's mission."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

NY Review of Books: Lelyveld unmasked

The New York Review of Books has been an unending source of anti-Israel criticism, often very biased. It is interesting that a former editor reveals himself as systematically and hopelessly biased against Israel.

Ami Isseroff

Former NY Times Editor Reveals his Bias in Anti-Israel Magazine  

The New York Review of Books has been described as "the premier journal of the American intellectual elite." It's also been said to have an "ingrained distrust of Israel."

Unfortunately, these two often go hand in hand. While there's no inherent relationship between progressive thought and Israel-bashing, one-sided attacks on Israel and its legitimacy are a staple of some self-styled "progressive" publications.

The New York Review, for example, was cited in Alvin Rosenfeld's essay implicating "segments of the intellectual left," including some Jews who call themselves "progressive," as sharing with the far right and radical Islam an "emphatic dislike" of Israel. Rosenfeld, a professor of English and Jewish studies at Indiana University, was referring specifically to an article by Tony Judt, whose "emphatic dislike" drove him to call for the end to the Jewish state.

It is both shocking and telling that, well before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made his infamous call to "wipe Israel off the map," it was Judt and the New York Review encouraging an end to the Jewish state.

But delegitimization of Israel is sometimes less overt and direct. In the current issue of the biweekly magazine, Joseph Lelyveld, the former executive editor of the New York Times, takes a slightly more roundabout route. His review of Jimmy Carter's widely criticized new book, Palestine Peace not Apartheid, emphasized two main problems. One is merely a complaint about style: "The former president's peculiar combination of rectitude and starchy pride can be a little irritating," he says. The other complaint is much more striking, especially coming from someone who was until recently at the helm of one of America's most influential newspapers. According to Lelyveld, Carter's book doesn't go nearly far enough with its apartheid analogy.

It's not easy to establish yourself as more extreme an Israel-basher than Jimmy Carter, but Lelyveld does so by borrowing from the former president his main techniques of argumentation: distortions, lies, and ignoring or minimizing Israel's legitimate security concerns.

Lelyveld writes:

Obviously, apartheid had plenty to do with racism but land was also at the heart of the South African struggle. ... Under the Group Areas Act, for instance, more than two million blacks and other nonwhites were forcibly moved from what were sometimes called "black spots" in areas designated as "white" to remote settlements and tribal reserves that were rebranded as "homelands." In the process, their lands and homes were confiscated. Finally the denizens of the homelands were told they were citizens of sovereign states, that they were no longer South Africans. All this was in service of apartheid's grand design.

With adjustments for the large differences in population size and land mass, it might be argued that land confiscation on the West Bank approaches the scale of these apartheid-era expropriations in South Africa. Jimmy Carter is well aware of the pattern of land confiscation there; he quotes Meron Benvenisti at length on the subject. But since he thinks apartheid in South Africa was all about race and not about land, he fails to see that it's precisely in their systematic and stealthy grabbing of Arab land that the Israeli authorities and settlers most closely emulate the South African ancien regime.

Apparently aware that a straightforward comparison of Israeli policy in the West Bank to the race-centric policies of apartheid South Africa would fail to convince most readers that the two have much in common, Lelyveld instead resorts to a highly misleading juxtaposition. He sets up the comparison by discussing the forcible transfers of blacks into "homelands" and the revoking of these residents' South African citizenship. But why? He makes no such claims about the West Bank, and for good reason-nothing of the sort has happened there. Unable to accuse Israel of these apartheid practices, Lelyveld apparently is trying to attribute to Israel guilt by juxtaposition.

Moreover, if land was "at the heart of the South African struggle," as the article asserts, it was so only to the extent that land and race issues overlapped. Nonetheless, Lelyveld disingenuously unlinks South Africa's apartheid land policies from its racist ideology in order to compare supposed Israeli land confiscation to that of the apartheid regime. (This would be akin to saying that laws of eminent domain in the United States have much in common with apartheid policy because both involve taking land.)

Lelyveld misleads further on the issue of confiscation. Here, from Carter's book, is Lelyveld's evidence that Israeli authorities "closely emulate" the South African regime:

Later I received a briefing from Meron Benvenisti .... With maps and charts, he explained that the Israelis acquired Palestinian lands in a number of different ways: by direct purchase; through seizure "for security purposes for the duration of the occupation"; by claiming state control of areas formerly held by the Jordanian government; by "taking" under some carefully selected Arabic customs or ancient laws; and by claiming as state land all that was not cultivated or specifically registered as owned by a Palestinian family.

So Lelyveld's evidence that Israel "confiscates" land in a manner similar to apartheid South Africa includes the fact that Israelis purchased land and retained Jordanian, British and Ottoman law relating to West Bank land as per Israel's obligations under international law. (See  here for details about the Hague Regulations of 1907 and Ottoman law about state land.)

Details aside, the article has it backward on the most basic of levels. Blacks were forcibly removed from their homes so that a region could be exclusively white. If there is any parallel in the West Bank, it is in the Palestinian insistence that their future state be Judenrein, despite Jewish historic, cultural and religious ties to the land. (Lelyveld apparently has no problem with the ethnic cleansing of Jews from land on which they have lived for millennia.)

Elaborating on "other similarities [to apartheid] of which Carter seems to be unaware," Lelyveld asserts:

Israel has proven that it's not at all dependent on imported cheap labor from the territories, that it can get along just fine with Thais, Filipinos, and Romanians. It has thus gone beyond South Africa's apartheid theorists who dreamed of a day when they could do without black labor but never got close. The argument absurdly conflates race with citizenship, and racism with security. Arab citizens of Israel can, and of course do, work in the country, often alongside Jewish workers. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, however, are not citizens of Israel but rather residents of an area from which a brutal war against Israeli civilians was launched only a few years ago. It was as a result of this war that the number of Palestinians working inside Israel was reduced. One can call Israelis' apparent preference to hire workers from countries with peaceful relations many things; but a parallel to apartheid it is not.

More evidence of Israel's supposed similarity to apartheid South Africa can be seen, according to Lelyveld, in the fact that "there's a much bigger and more obvious military presence in the occupied territories than normally existed in the black townships and 'homelands' of the apartheid state." By that logic, the U.S. occupations of Germany and Japan after World War II were also like apartheid with their vast armaments, bases and manpower.

Lelyveld repeats the disproved canard about a supposed "network of roads for the exclusive use of the [West Bank Jewish] settlers and the Israel Defense Forces." (See here and here for rebuttals to this common error.)

Lelyveld mischaracterizes United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, saying that it calls for an Israeli withdrawal from "the territories." This a particularly striking error, since he is well aware that the resolution makes no such call. During Lelyveld's tenure at the New York Times, the newspaper on three separate occasions incorrectly described Resolution 242 as calling for an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines. Each time, the errors were acknowledged with corrections, such as the one published on September 8, 2000:

An article on Wednesday about the Middle East peace talks referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel's armed forces to withdraw "from territories occupied in the recent conflict," no resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal from all territory, including East Jerusalem, occupied in the war. It is precisely because 242's drafters did not believe Israel should withdraw to the precarious 1949 lines that they insisted the resolution call for an Israeli withdrawal "from territories" rather than "from the territories" or from "all the" territories.

Lelyveld clearly understood the content and meaning of Resolution 242, and clearly understood that by repeatedly getting it wrong the New York Times was harming its own credibility. After the third correction, he convened his staff and said to them: "Three times in recent months we've had to run corrections on the actual provisions of UN Resolution 242, providing great cheer and sustenance to those readers who are convinced we are opinionated and not well informed on Middle East issues."

But he apparently realized the New York Review of Books doesn?t hold itself to such journalistic standards. Not only does the former Times editor let Carter's fallacious characterizations of Resolution 242 pass without comment, but himself mis-describes 242 by inserting what the resolution's drafter's intentionally left out -- the definite article "the."

Lelyveld echoes the partisan Palestinian line that the security situation became more dangerous "pretty much as a direct result" of the growth of Israeli settlements, ignoring the fact that anti-Israel violence by Palestinians preceded not only the settlements, but the occupation itself, and ignoring the fact that groups that perpetrate violence against Israelis continuously make clear they are fighting not against settlements, but against Israel's very existence.

Lelyveld minimizes the success of Israel's security barrier (which he, of course, calls a "separation wall"), claiming a Hamas declaration that it would not bomb inside Israel was "as much or even more" responsible for a decline in attacks than the barrier itself.

Even Ramadan Shalah, a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization, seems more willing than Lelyveld to unequivocally credit the fence for thwarting attacks. On Hezbollah's al-Manar television station, he admitted the barrier is "an obstacle to the resistance, and if it were not there the situation would be entirely different."

He suggests that U.S. support for Israel's reaction last summer to Hezbollah's attacks is evidence of American "bias" for Israel.

Lelyveld's polemic is extreme, but it is hardly the only example of radical anti-Israel rhetoric in the pages of the New York Review of Books and other supposedly "progressive" magazines -- as if there is anything progressive about closed-minded, distorted and error-filled delegitimization of Israel.


Continued (Permanent Link)

BBC spending 200,000 pounds to muzzle report on anti-Israel bias.

We knew that the BBC is doing its best to cover up the Balen report. If they had nothing to hide, that would not be the case. Muzzle-watchers take note.

BBC pays £200,000 to 'cover up report on anti-Israel bias'>

by PAUL REVOIR - Last updated at 21:24pm on 22nd March 2007

The BBC has been accused of "shameful hypocrisy" over its decision to spend £200,000 blocking a freedom of information request about its reporting in the Middle East.

The corporation, which has itself made extensive use of FOI requests in its journalism, is refusing to release papers about an internal inquiry into whether its reporting has been biased towards Palestine.

BBC chiefs have been accused of wasting thousands of pounds of licence fee payers money trying to cover-up the findings of the so called Balen Report into its journalism in the region, despite the fact that the corporation is funded by the British public.

BBC bosses have faced repeated claims that is coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been skewed by a pro-Palestianian bias.

The corporation famously came under fire after middle-east correspondent Barbara Plett revealed that she had cried at the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004.

The BBC's decision to carry on pursuing the case, despite the fact than the Information Tribunal said it should make the report public, has sparked fury as it flies in the face of claims by BBC chiefs that it is trying to make the corporation more open and transparent.

Politicians have branded the BBC's decision to carry on spending money, hiring the one of the country's top public law barrister in the process, as "absolutely indefensible".

They claim its publication is clearly in the public interest.

The BBC's determination to bury the report has led to speculation that the report was damning in its assessment of the BBC's coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict that the BBC wants to keep it under wraps at all costs.

Others believe that the BBC is using the case to test the law about how much protection it has got from making its editorial activities public and also because it fears that if it loses the case it will create a precedent.

The BBC's action over the case have provoked inevitable charges of hypocrisy as the BBC itself makes frequent used of freedom of information requests to get stories.

The BBC's own website boasts of 69 stories that it says it has broken with the help of the Freedom of Information Act.

If the BBC loses the High Court case next week it could appeal again and again until the case reaches the European Court in Strasbourg.

This would soak further thousands from BBC coffers, which should be spent on making TV programmes.

Conservative MP David Davies said: "An organisation which is funded partly to scrutinise governments and other institutions in Britain appears to be using tax-payers money to prevent its customers from finding out how it is operating. That is absolutely indefensible."

He added: "I think the BBC are guilty of shameful hypocrisy. What could possibly be in this report that could possibly be worth £200,000 to bury. What is it they feel is so awful in this report."

A source close to the case said they believed that the BBC had spend in the region of £200,000 on the case so far, while another legal expert claimed the cost could be as much as £300,000.

The document was put together by BBC editorial advisor Malcolm Balen in 2004 but never released.

The High Court action next week is the latest episode in what has become a lengthy legal battle which has been pursued by London solicitor Steven Sugar, who made the initial FOI request.

Initially Information Commissioner Richard Thomas agreed with the BBC's decision not to release details of the report.

But Sugar appealed the Information Tribunal and they backed his claims in September. This then saw the BBC appeal to the High Court.

The BBC claims public broadcasters do not have to disclose material that is held for the purposes of "journalism, art or literature".

But the BBC is now facing accusations it is using this rule as a smoke-screen.

It claims the measures are there to protect the integrity of its reporting and protects its journalists from interference from the public.

The BBC Believes that this includes the Balen Report.

The BBC also claims that if the court finds in Sugar's favour it could lead to a sudden increase in FOI requests which would require more staff and a further burden on the licence fee.

While the BBC did not reveal the findings of the Balen Report, which was compiled in 2004, the corporation did last year make public the findings of an independent panel report into the BBC's impartiality on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

That report found said that there was "no deliberate or systematic bias" in the BBC's reporting, but said its approach had at times been "inconsistent" and was "not always providing a complete picture" which had been "misleading".

But some claimed that the independent panel report only took a snapshot of the BBC's activities and should have looked more deeply at the reporting of the most troubled moments of the conflict.

Steven Sugar, who said he was prepared to take the case all the way to European court, said: "What I would like to see is the disclosure of an important document which will give us an insight into what the BBC itself thinks of its own performance.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Knesset Christian Allies Caucus: First Ever 'Jerusalem Assembly' to Be Launched in Jerusalem

Can Jews say "no" when Christians offer friendship and an apology? I don't see how.

First Ever 'Jerusalem Assembly' to Be Launched in Jerusalem

Over 200 Christian Zionists from around the world to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem, repent for wrongs committed against the Jewish people, swear allegiance to Support Israel

Jerusalem - The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC), in conjunction with the Texas-based Christian organization Covenant Alliances, will host the first ever Jerusalem Assembly in Jerusalem from Tuesday, March 27, 2007 to Wednesday, March 28, 2007 in Jerusalem.

Celebrating the nearly forty years since the reunification of Jerusalem, Covenant Alliances will bring a delegation of more than two hundred Christian Zionist leaders for the U.S., Canada, England Africa and Israel who will highlight their love and dedication to the State of Israel.

Kicking off the 'Jerusalem Assembly', Covenant Alliances will be leading an all day conference at the Jerusalem Regency Hotel on Tuesday, March 27th, 2007. Beginning at 8:30AM, this event will include a variety of seminars, worship sessions and fellowship gatherings. Top Evangelical leaders will speak about the Jewish-Christian relationship throughout the day, along with Members of Knesset Effie Eitam and Elhanan Glazer. The days events, taking place from 8:30 to 17:30, will be followed by a gala banquet dinner beginning at 18:45. Member of Knesset Elon, Chairman of the KCAC, will address the group during this dinner.

On Wednesday, March 28, 2007 at 12:30 in the auditorium of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Covenant Alliances and the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus will join together for a monumental ceremony.

Top Evangelical pastors will take this opportunity to present a "Love Letter to Israel", a document pledging their "undying love" for the Jewish people and acknowledging their so-called position "as the Called Spiritual Nation
of the Almighty." They will then present the "Letter of Repentance" to the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, in which they they will request forgiveness for the crimes Christians have committed against the Jewish people throughout history. The letter reads,

On behalf of millions of Christians who love Israel and pray for her, we would like to repent before you for crimes committed against the Jewish people throughout history in the name of Christianity. We have sinned against G-d and against you...

Accepting these two documents will be Members of Knesset Benny Elon, Gilad Erdan and Orit Noked.

The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus of the Israeli Parliament, which is co-hosting this event, serves as a multi-partisan caucus made up of Members of Knesset from the entire political spectrum. Established in 2004, this
body works to open formal and direct lines of communication between Israeli Members of Knesset and Christian leaders worldwide. Member of Knesset Benny Elon, Chairman of the KCAC, and Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan will accept the "Letter of Repentance" on behalf of the caucus.

All 'Jerusalem Assembly' events are open to the press.

For more information:
Knesset Christian Allies Caucus
Miya Keren, Office Administrator
Tel. 054-697-4172

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Text of UN SC Iran Sanctions resolution 1747

Considering the circumstances, including the kidnapping of British Sailors by the Iranian navy, this is a mild resolution that offers broad concessions and advantages in return for giving up nuclear enrichment temporarily.

24 March 2007 Security Council SC/8980

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

Security Council 5647th Meeting (PM)



Further Steps Promised if No Compliance Reported by IAEA in 60 days; Iran's Foreign Minister Says Pressure, Intimidation Will Not Change Policy

Determined to constrain Iran's development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes, the Security Council today widened the scope of its December 2006 sanctions against Iran by banning the country's arms exports and freezing the assets and restricting the travel of additional individuals engaged in the country's proliferation-sensitive nuclear activities.

Unanimously adopting resolution 1747 (2007), submitted by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the Council affirmed its decision that Iran should, without further delay, suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). ===========

The text reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling the Statement of its President, S/PRST/2006/15, of 29 March 2006, and its resolution 1696 (2006) of 31 July 2006, and its resolution 1737 (2006) of 23 December 2006, and reaffirming their provisions,

"Reaffirming its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the need for all States party to that Treaty to comply fully with all their obligations, and recalling the right of States parties, in conformity with articles I and II of that Treaty, to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination,

"Recalling its serious concern over the reports of the IAEA Director General as set out in its resolutions 1696 (2006) and 1737 (2006),

"Recalling the latest report by the IAEA Director General (GOV/2007/8) of 22 February 2007 and deploring that, as indicated therein, Iran has failed to comply with resolution 1696 (2006) and resolution 1737 (2006),

"Emphasizing the importance of political and diplomatic efforts to find a negotiated solution guaranteeing that Iran's nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes, and noting that such a solution would benefit nuclear non-proliferation elsewhere, and welcoming the continuing commitment of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the support of the European Union's High Representative, to seek a negotiated solution,

"Recalling the resolution of the IAEA Board of Governors (GOV/2006/14), which states that a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue would contribute to global non-proliferation efforts and to realizing the objective of a Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction, including their means of delivery,

"Determined to give effect to its decisions by adopting appropriate measures to persuade Iran to comply with resolution 1696 (2006) and resolution 1737 (2006) and with the requirements of the IAEA, and also to constrain Iran's development of sensitive technologies in support of its nuclear and missile programmes, until such time as the Security Council determines that the objectives of these resolutions have been met,

"Recalling the requirement on States to join in affording mutual assistance in carrying out the measures decided upon by the Security Council,

"Concerned by the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme and, in this context, by Iran's continuing failure to meet the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors and to comply with the provisions of Security Council resolutions 1696 (2006) and 1737 (2006), mindful of its primary responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security,

"Acting under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

"1. Reaffirms that Iran shall without further delay take the steps required by the IAEA Board of Governors in its resolution GOV/2006/14, which are essential to build confidence in the exclusively peaceful purpose of its nuclear programme and to resolve outstanding questions and, in this context, affirms its decision that Iran shall without further delay take the steps required in paragraph 2 of resolution 1737 (2006);

"2. Calls upon all States also to exercise vigilance and restraint regarding the entry into or transit through their territories of individuals who are engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, and decides in this regard that all States shall notify the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 18 of resolution 1737 (2006) (herein "the Committee") of the entry into or transit through their territories of the persons designated in the Annex to resolution 1737 (2006) or Annex I to this resolution, as well as of additional persons designated by the Security Council or the Committee as being engaged in, directly associated with or providing support for Iran's proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or for the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, including through the involvement in procurement of the prohibited items, goods, equipment, materials and technology specified by and under the measures in paragraphs 3 and 4 of resolution 1737 (2006), except where such travel is for activities directly related to the items in subparagraphs 3 (b) (i) and (ii) of that resolution;

"3. Underlines that nothing in the above paragraph requires a State to refuse its own nationals entry into its territory, and that all States shall, in the implementation of the above paragraph, take into account humanitarian considerations, including religious obligations, as well as the necessity to meet the objectives of this resolution and resolution 1737 (2006), including where article XV of the IAEA Statute is engaged;

"4. Decides that the measures specified in paragraphs 12, 13, 14 and 15 of resolution 1737 (2006) shall apply also to the persons and entities listed in Annex I to this resolution;

"5. Decides that Iran shall not supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft any arms or related materiel, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such items from Iran by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran;

"6. Calls upon all States to exercise vigilance and restraint in the supply, sale or transfer directly or indirectly from their territories or by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft of any battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large calibre artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles or missile systems as defined for the purpose of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms to Iran, and in the provision to Iran of any technical assistance or training, financial assistance, investment, brokering or other services, and the transfer of financial resources or services, related to the supply, sale, transfer, manufacture or use of such items in order to prevent a destabilising accumulation of arms;

"7. Calls upon all States and international financial institutions not to enter into new commitments for grants, financial assistance, and concessional loans, to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, except for humanitarian and developmental purposes;

"8. Calls upon all States to report to the Committee within 60 days of the adoption of this resolution on the steps they have taken with a view to implementing effectively paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above;

"9. Expresses the conviction that the suspension set out in paragraph 2 of resolution 1737 (2006), as well as full, verified Iranian compliance with the requirements set out by the IAEA Board of Governors would contribute to a diplomatic, negotiated solution that guarantees Iran's nuclear programme is for exclusively peaceful purposes, underlines the willingness of the international community to work positively for such a solution, encourages Iran, in conforming to the above provisions, to re-engage with the international community and with the IAEA, and stresses that such engagement will be beneficial to Iran;

"10. Welcomes the continuous affirmation of the commitment of China, France, Germany, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, with the support of the European Union's High Representative, to a negotiated solution to this issue and encourages Iran to engage with their June 2006 proposals (S/2006/521), attached in Annex II to this resolution, which were endorsed by the Security Council in resolution 1696 (2006), and acknowledges with appreciation that this offer to Iran remains on the table, for a long-term comprehensive agreement which would allow for the development of relations and cooperation with Iran based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme;

"11. Reiterates its determination to reinforce the authority of the IAEA, strongly supports the role of the IAEA Board of Governors, commends and encourages the Director General of the IAEA and its secretariat for their ongoing professional and impartial efforts to resolve all outstanding issues in Iran within the framework of the IAEA, underlines the necessity of the IAEA, which is internationally recognized as having authority for verifying compliance with safeguards agreements, including the non-diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes, in accordance with its Statute, to continue its work to clarify all outstanding issues relating to Iran's nuclear programme;

"12. Requests within 60 days a further report from the Director General of the IAEA on whether Iran has established full and sustained suspension of all activities mentioned in resolution 1737 (2006), as well as on the process of Iranian compliance with all the steps required by the IAEA Board and with the other provisions of resolution 1737 (2006) and of this resolution, to the IAEA Board of Governors and in parallel to the Security Council for its consideration;

"13. Affirms that it shall review Iran's actions in light of the report referred to in paragraph 12 above, to be submitted within 60 days, and:

(a) that it shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations in good faith in order to reach an early and mutually acceptable outcome;

(b) that it shall terminate the measures specified in paragraphs 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 12 of resolution 1737 (2006) as well as in paragraphs 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above as soon as it determines, following receipt of the report referred to in paragraph 12 above, that Iran has fully complied with its obligations under the relevant resolutions of the Security Council and met the requirements of the IAEA Board of Governors, as confirmed by the IAEA Board;

(c) that it shall, in the event that the report in paragraph 12 above shows that Iran has not complied with resolution 1737 (2006) and this resolution, adopt further appropriate measures under Article 41 of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to persuade Iran to comply with these resolutions and the requirements of the IAEA, and underlines that further decisions will be required should such additional measures be necessary;

"14. Decides to remain seized of the matter."

Resolution Annex I

Entities involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities

1. Ammunition and Metallurgy Industries Group (AMIG) (aka Ammunition Industries Group) (AMIG controls 7th of Tir, which is designated under resolution 1737 (2006) for its role in Iran's centrifuge programme. AMIG is in turn owned and controlled by the Defence Industries Organisation (DIO), which is designated under resolution 1737 (2006))

2. Esfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Centre (NFRPC) and Esfahan Nuclear Technology Centre (ENTC) (Parts of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran's (AEOI) Nuclear Fuel Production and Procurement Company, which is involved in enrichment-related activities. AEOI is designated under resolution 1737 (2006))

3. Kavoshyar Company (Subsidiary company of AEOI, which has sought glass fibres, vacuum chamber furnaces and laboratory equipment for Iran's nuclear programme)

4. Parchin Chemical Industries (Branch of DIO, which produces ammunition, explosives, as well as solid propellants for rockets and missiles)

5. Karaj Nuclear Research Centre(Part of AEOI's research division)

6. Novin Energy Company (aka Pars Novin) (Operates within AEOI and has transferred funds on behalf of AEOI to entities associated with Iran's nuclear programme)

7. Cruise Missile Industry Group (aka Naval Defence Missile Industry Group) (Production and development of cruise missiles. Responsible for naval missiles including cruise missiles)

8. Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International (Bank Sepah provides support for the Aerospace Industries Organisation (AIO) and subordinates, including Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) and Shahid Bagheri Industrial Group (SBIG), both of which were designated under resolution 1737 (2006)

9. Sanam Industrial Group (subordinate to AIO, which has purchased equipment on AIO's behalf for the missile programme)

10. Ya Mahdi Industries Group (subordinate to AIO, which is involved in international purchases of missile equipment)

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps entities

1. Qods Aeronautics Industries (Produces unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), parachutes, paragliders, paramotors, etc. Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has boasted of using these products as part of its asymmetric warfare doctrine)

2. Pars Aviation Services Company (Maintains various aircraft including MI-171, used by IRGC Air Force)

3. Sho'a' Aviation (Produces micro-lights which IRGC has claimed it is using as part of its asymmetric warfare doctrine)

Persons involved in nuclear or ballistic missile activities

1. Fereidoun Abbasi-Davani (Senior Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) scientist with links to the Institute of Applied Physics, working closely with Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, designated below)

2. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi (Senior MODAFL scientist and former head of the Physics Research Centre (PHRC). The IAEA have asked to interview him about the activities of the PHRC over the period he was head but Iran has refused)

3. Seyed Jaber Safdari (Manager of the Natanz Enrichment Facilities)

4. Amir Rahimi (Head of Esfahan Nuclear Fuel Research and Production Centre, which is part of the AEOI's Nuclear Fuel Production and Procurement Company, which is involved in enrichment-related activities)

5. Mohsen Hojati (Head of Fajr Industrial Group, which is designated under resolution 1737 (2006) for its role in the ballistic missile programme)

6. Mehrdada Akhlaghi Ketabachi (Head of SBIG, which is designated under resolution 1737 (2006) for its role in the ballistic missile programme)

7. Naser Maleki (Head of SHIG, which is designated under resolution 1737 (2006) for its role in Iran's ballistic missile programme. Naser Maleki is also a MODAFL official overseeing work on the Shahab-3 ballistic missile programme. The Shahab-3 is Iran's long range ballistic missile currently in service)

8. Ahmad Derakhshandeh (Chairman and Managing Director of Bank Sepah, which provides support for the AIO and subordinates, including SHIG and SBIG, both of which were designated under resolution 1737 (2006))

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps key persons

1. Brigadier General Morteza Rezaie (Deputy Commander of IRGC)

2. Vice Admiral Ali Akbar Ahmadian (Chief of IRGC Joint Staff.)

3. Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi (Commander of IRGC Ground Forces)

4. Rear Admiral Morteza Safari (Commander of IRGC Navy)

5. Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi (Commander of Bassij resistance force)

6. Brigadier General Qasem Soleimani (Commander of Qods force)

7. General Zolqadr (IRGC officer, Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs)

Resolution Annex II

Elements of a long-term agreement

Our goal is to develop relations and cooperation with Iran, based on mutual respect and the establishment of international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the nuclear programme of the Islamic Republic of Iran. We propose a fresh start in the negotiation of a comprehensive agreement with Iran. Such an agreement would be deposited with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and endorsed in a Security Council resolution.

To create the right conditions for negotiations,

We will:

. Reaffirm Iran's right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in conformity with its obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (hereinafter, NPT), and in this context reaffirm our support for the development by Iran of a civil nuclear energy programme.

. Commit to support actively the building of new light water reactors in Iran through international joint projects, in accordance with the IAEA statute and NPT.

. Agree to suspend discussion of Iran's nuclear programme in the Security Council upon the resumption of negotiations.

Iran will:

. Commit to addressing all of the outstanding concerns of IAEA through full cooperation with IAEA,

. Suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities to be verified by IAEA, as requested by the IAEA Board of Governors and the Security Council, and commit to continue this during these negotiations.

. Resume the implementation of the Additional Protocol.

Areas of future cooperation to be covered in negotiations on a long-term agreement

1. Nuclear

We will take the following steps:

Iran 's rights to nuclear energy

. Reaffirm Iran's inalienable right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with articles I and II of NPT, and cooperate with Iran in the development by Iran of a civil nuclear power programme.

. Negotiate and implement a Euratom/Iran nuclear cooperation agreement.

Light water reactors

. Actively support the building of new light water power reactors in Iran through international joint projects, in accordance with the IAEA statute and NPT, using state-of-the-art technology, including by authorizing the transfer of necessary goods and the provision of advanced technology to make its power reactors safe against earthquakes.

. Provide cooperation with the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste through appropriate arrangements.

Research and development in nuclear energy

. Provide a substantive package of research and development cooperation, including possible provision of light water research reactors, notably in the fields of radioisotope production, basic research and nuclear applications in medicine and agriculture.

Fuel guarantees

. Give legally binding, multilayered fuel assurances to Iran, based on:

-- Participation as a partner in an international facility in Russia to provide enrichment services for a reliable supply of fuel to Iran's nuclear reactors. Subject to negotiations, such a facility could enrich all uranium hexaflouride (UF6) produced in Iran. 

-- Establishment on commercial terms of a buffer stock to hold a reserve of up to five years' supply of nuclear fuel dedicated to Iran, with the participation and under supervision of IAEA. 

-- Development with IAEA of a standing multilateral mechanism for reliable access to nuclear fuel, based on ideas to be considered at the next meeting of the Board of Governors.

Review of moratorium

The long-term agreement would, with regard to common efforts to build international confidence, contain a clause for review of the agreement in all its aspects, to follow:

. Confirmation by IAEA that all outstanding issues and concerns reported by it, including those activities which could have a military nuclear dimension, have been resolved;

. Confirmation that there are no undeclared nuclear activities or materials in Iran and that international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's civil nuclear programme has been restored.

2. Political and economic

Regional security cooperation

Support for a new conference to promote dialogue and cooperation on regional security issues.

International trade and investment

Improving Iran's access to the international economy, markets and capital, through practical support for full integration into international structures, including the World Trade Organization and to create the framework for increased direct investment in Iran and trade with Iran (including a trade and economic cooperation agreement with the European Union). Steps would be taken to improve access to key goods and technology.

Civil aviation

Civil aviation cooperation, including the possible removal of restrictions on United States and European manufacturers in regard to the export of civil aircraft to Iran, thereby widening the prospect of Iran renewing its fleet of civil airliners.

Energy partnership

Establishment of a long-term energy partnership between Iran and the European Union and other willing partners, with concrete and practical applications.

Telecommunications infrastructure

Support for the modernization of Iran's telecommunication infrastructure and advanced Internet provision, including by possible removal of relevant United States and other export restrictions.

High technology cooperation

Cooperation in fields of high technology and other areas to be agreed upon.


Support for agricultural development in Iran, including possible access to United States and European agricultural products, technology and farm equipment.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert: Abbas broke promises over freeing Gilad Shalit

Palestinian officials broke their word? How surprising!

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has accused Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, of violating a commitment to free a captured soldier.
Abbas "blatantly violated a series of commitments given to Israel, especially a commitment not to form a national unity government before the release of Gilad Shalit," Olmert said.

The soldier was captured by Gaza-based Palestinian fighters nine months ago and Palestinians hope the issue can be resolved through a prisoner swap deal.
"This commitment was given time and again to myself and to world leaders," Olmert said.
Palestinians have said Abbas made no such promises, committing only to do his best to work for the soldier's release.
Western demands
The statements came ahead of separate meetings between Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, and both Olmert and Abbas on Sunday during four days of shuttle diplomacy aimed at restarting the dormant Middle East peace process.
Olmert said any talks would likely be complicated by the programme of the Palestinian unity government.
"The platform of the unity government - the legimitisation of armed resistance, the violation of commitments by the president - all this won't make contacts any easier in the future," Olmert said.
The unity cabinet has stopped short of agreeing to Western demands of renouncing violence, recognising Israel and agreeing to abide by past peace deals.
Ismail Haniya, the prime minister, has said the new government will respect past peace accords, but he has also insisted on the Palestinians' right to resist Israeli occupation.
Israel is continuing to boycott the new government.
The US and other countries are boycotting its Hamas members, instead maintaining contact with independents and Fatah representatives.
UN visit
The Israeli accusations came on the same day as a flurry of top-level diplomatic activity in the region.
Ban visited the Aida refugee camp in
Bethlehem [AFP]
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, visited the West Bank town of Bethelhem and later held talks with Abbas.
The UN chief said the time was not right to meet with Haniya and urged the Palestinian government to agree to the West's demands.
"I expect that with this formation of the national unity government, the leaders of this government will abide by the principles laid out by the Quartet," he said.
Rice warning
Despite the flurry of activity, a senior aide to Abbas warned the US that Palestinians needed to see results if the US was to make any headway in its efforts to resolve the conflict.
Nabil Abu Rudeina said he has told Rice that US efforts "will lead only to frustration" if Palestinians see no progress on the ground.
"If the American administration wants its peace efforts to succeed it must force Israel to enter into serious negotiations,"  Abu Rudeina told Palestinian television.
"The shuttle visits to discover horizons of the peace process without results on the ground will lead only to frustration in the Arab and Palestinian street," he added.
Source: Agencies

Continued (Permanent Link)

Review: A Political History of the Hebrew University - reflections on "treason" and "McCarthyism"

An interesting examination of the role of academic dissidents in shaping Zionist discourse. It is often not possible to know, except in hindsight, what is honest dissent, what is treason, what stands are well meaning errors, and what criticism is McCarthyism. 

By Yechiam Weitz

"Hahar vehagivah: Ha'universita ha'ivrit beyerushalayim betkufat trom ha'atzma'ut veresheet hamedinah" ("The Mountain and the Hill: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem During the Pre-Independence Period and the Early Years of the State of Israel") by Uri Cohen, Tel Aviv University & Am Oved, 410 pages
Many regarded the opening ceremony of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, held on Mt. Scopus in April 1925, as a highly significant Zionist event. The establishment of the university was perceived as the Zionist movement's most successful enterprise since the Balfour Declaration, and one of the symbols of Jewish renaissance in the Land of Israel. Some even hailed it as a "new national temple."
In practice, though, relations between the university and the Jewish community in pre-state Palestine were edgy and tense from day one. In his new book, Uri Cohen writes that the founders of the Hebrew University sought to maintain autonomy, not only academically, but ideologically.
A clear example of this ideological stance was the university's embrace of Brith Shalom, a movement founded in 1926, with a platform influenced by the views of Ahad Ha'am, Chaim Weizmann and Martin Buber. Brith Shalom combined support for Zionism with plans for a binational state, that is, it was prepared to give up the demand for exclusive Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael for the sake of peace. In keeping with this idea, it was willing to accept quotas on Jewish immigration and allow the minority status of the Jewish community in Palestine to continue.
In the eyes of most of the Yishuv leadership in those days, these views were regarded as subversive, if not treasonous. But Hebrew University professors were very visible supporters of this movement. The membership of well-known personalities like Hugo Bergmann, Ernst Simon and Gershom Scholem made Brith Shalom and the university almost synonymous, and this image remained in the public mind long after Brith Shalom was gone.
'Nest of pythons'
In the early 1960s, during the uproar sparked by the Lavon Affair, right-wing poet Uri Zvi Greenberg called the university a "nest of pythons," on account of the "evil spirit of Brith Shalom" that continued to hover over the campus.
After the traumatic riots of 1929, relations between the university and the Yishuv became even more strained. Criticism of the university, which focused on its cultural and academic isolation from what was happening in the Yishuv, intensified. Broad sectors of the population denounced the heads of the university for adopting a political policy that was perceived as radical and dangerous.
There were two primary targets. One was Judah Leib Magnes, who, as chancellor of the university, made many of the important administrative and academic decisions, and was responsible for implementing the resolutions of the board of trustees. Magnes became the first president of the university in 1935. It was an honorary position, without any real power or authority. In the 1940s, he headed Ihud (Unity), a political organization that favored a binational entity over a Jewish state. His ideas were completely contrary to the views of the Yishuv leadership. The appearance of Magnes before the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry in 1946 set off a wave of angry newspaper articles demanding his resignation.
The second target of criticism was less well known: Werner David Senator, another member of Brith Shalom. In 1937, Senator was appointed administrator of the university, a job that put him in a very powerful position. He basically ran the institution in the 1940s.
Once the state was founded, and especially in the 1950s, the policies of the university changed dramatically, from opposition to active collaboration with the new government, and identification with its goals. There were several contributing factors, but the need for government funding was at the top of the list. With Jerusalem divided, and access to the campus on Mt. Scopus cut off, the university urgently needed to build an alternative campus in the city's west.
Fear that the university would be nationalized was another factor. The founding of the state greatly enhanced the effectiveness and power of the political center. With its monopoly over law enforcement, something that was not possible during the British Mandate, and its control over financial resources, there was less room for bargaining and compromise.
Organizations that had previously enjoyed ideological and professional autonomy were forced to adjust to a new situation, writes Cohen, and the Hebrew University was one of them. For the university, it was either "do or die." Clear evidence of this trend was the opening of new faculties that were "practical" in nature, which went against the Ahad Ha'am spirit of intellectualism that had dominated previously. In May 1949, a medical school was approved, and in November 1949, a faculty of law was established, filling the void created when the British mandatory government closed the doors of its law school. In 1952, it was announced that the agricultural institute founded by the university in 1940 would become a full-fledged faculty of agriculture.
Some professors objected to this vocational shift. Gershom Scholem, for instance, contested the decision to open a school of social work. At the end of 1955, he asked the university senate to reconsider the idea of establishing vocational tracks. Alexander Dushkin, a professor of education, replied that the university was not just a place for intellectualism or pure research, but also an academic tool that could serve the needs of the state.
Dushkin's remarks articulated a view shared by many university executives. The pioneer of this approach was Prof. Benjamin Mazar, who served as rector and president throughout most of the 1950s. In the same way that Magnes symbolized the previous era, Mazar became the spokesman of the new era.
Clash with Ben-Gurion
Mazar was an integral part of the Mapai establishment: As an archaeologist, he was connected to the Zionist mainstream, and in terms of his family, he was close to the "royals" (his wife, Dina, was the younger sister of Israeli president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi). Cohen, however, says he managed to find a balance between the demands of the government and the need to maintain the university's independence.
In 1960, as the Mazar era was coming to a close, the Lavon Affair erupted, triggering a serious clash between the university and David Ben-Gurion. The professors were among the chief protesters against the prime minister's "tyrannical behavior," and many of them signed an open letter denouncing him, which was published on December 30, 1960.
Did this confrontation send the university hurtling back to its pre-state days? Cohen's answer is clear. The hidden motive of this clash was not ideological, but professional: The Mapai elite supported the establishment of a new university in Tel Aviv. Up until the end of 1959, the government had given the Hebrew University a free hand in the battle against a new university, but when Mapai won the Tel Aviv municipal elections, it changed its mind. To the heads of the Hebrew University, this represented an attempt to deprive their institution of its status as a national university and challenge its monopoly over higher education. Therefore, according to Cohen, this was not part of the conflict of days gone by.
Uri Cohen has written an interesting and painstakingly researched book, and best of all, one that is error-free. He sheds new light not only on the subject at hand, but on public life in general during the days of the British Mandate, and especially the first decade of Israeli statehood, when patterns were set that affect our lives until today.
Prof. Yechiam Weitz is a historian at the University of Haifa. His book "The Herut Movement, 1949-1955" is being published by Yad Ben Zvi (in Hebrew).

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bronfmam fires Israel Singer from WJC for Embezzlement

Who can we believe in this embezzlement imbroglio? Is a man innocent until provent guilty? Probably. Is there fire where is smoke? Often. Would Bronfman turn on his friend for no reason? Not likely.

By Amiram Barkat
World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman fired Israel Singer after becoming convinced the secretary general was embezzling funds, according to a letter publicized yesterday.
In his first public response since his dismissal last Wednesday, Singer said Bronfman was "receiving bad advice" and warned him he would "regret having stained my good name." Singer had held senior positions in the organization for the past three decades.
 Bronfman, who until recently was considered Singer's patron, announced the dismissal during a conference call with members of the WJC steering committee. The organization refused to issue an explanation at the time.
In a letter to European Jewish Congress President Pierre Besnainou, Bronfman said he decided to dismiss Singer after discovering he "had helped himself to cash from the WJC office, my cash. This had gone on for a very long time."
The letter was published by the JTA, the Jewish news agency.
"The final blow came when we discovered that he was playing games with his hotel bills in Jerusalem," Bronfman wrote.
Referring to his long friendship with Singer, Bronfman wrote that he went through "many weeks of crying to find out that I was so badly used by a man I used to love."
Commenting on news of his upcoming retirement, Bronfman wrote, "I am determined to leave only when this whole mess is cleaned up."
Singer described Bronfman's accusations as slanderous and said he had plenty of supporters and good friends.

Continued (Permanent Link)

John Hagee: Address at the AIPAC Conference

Hagee said:

I came here tonight to deliver a message to you from those millions of evangelicals in America and I want to say this as clearly and plainly as I can possibly say it - Israel you are not alone.


If a line has to be drawn, draw the line around both Christians and Jews; we are united; we are indivisible; we are bound together by the Torah - the roots of Christianity are Jewish. We are spiritual brothers and what we have in common is far greater than the things we've allowed to separate us over the years.


Let me be clear; Israel is not the problem here.

Scapegoating Israel will not solve the problem; the problem is the Arab rejection of Israel's right to exist.


Not everyone will agree with all of John Hagee's views about Israel and other matters. However,  it seems absurd to argue that Hagee is not a good friend of Israel, or that Zionists should turn away the hand of friendship when it is offered.

Ami Isseroff

Pastor John Hagee: AIPAC Policy Conference 2007

March 11, 2007



Good evening dear friends of Israel; thank you for the privilege and pleasure of speaking to this distinguished AIPAC gathering. May I begin by thanking Melvin Dow for his friendship and wisdom that have been a guiding light for me personally and in all out endeavors on behalf of Israel over the years. I also want to thank AIPAC and each of you for being Israel's defender in the halls of the US Congress. You are the finest and most efficient advocacy organization in Washington, DC.

On September 10, 1981 we conducted our First Night to Honor Israel in San Antonio and there are two people with me tonight that made that First Night to Honor Israel possible - my wife Diana, the love of my life and Rabbi Aryeh Sheinberg without whose courage there would never have been the First Night to Honor Israel nor the birth of Christians United for Israel. There to my left, would you please stand; I'd like you to be welcomed by this great group of people.

We meet tonight at dangerous and difficult time in world history. To anyone with eyes to see and ears that hear, it is clear that Israel is in the gravest danger she has faced since six Arab armies tried to strangle the Jewish state in the birth canal in 1948. I know that during difficult days such as this when it seems that the whole world is against Israel many in the Jewish community nervously scan the globe searching for friends. You look toward the United Nations which Dore Gold calls The Tower of Babble. You look at Europe where the ghost of Hitler is again walking across the stage of history. You open your newspapers and read about American universities where Israel is being viciously vilified by students taught by professors whose Middle Eastern chairs are sponsored by Saudi Arabia. You look to America's mainline churches and their initiatives to divest from Israel. You go to the bookstore and see slanderous titles by the former President of the United States and you feel very much alone.

I came here tonight to speak about Christians United for Israel and millions of evangelicals in America who have a deep-seated faith-based belief to love Israel, to speak up for Israel, to standup for Israel, to pray for Israel and to financially support Israel until Israel achieves a just and lasting peace.

I came here tonight to deliver a message to you from those millions of evangelicals in America and I want to say this as clearly and plainly as I can possibly say it - Israel you are not alone.

There are millions of evangelical Christians across America who consider the Jewish people the apple of God's eye, who see you as the chosen people, a cherished people and a covenant people with an eternal covenant that will stand forever. Ladies and gentlemen of AIPAC it's a new day in America. The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened; there are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel.

If a line has to be drawn, draw the line around both Christians and Jews; we are united; we are indivisible; we are bound together by the Torah - the roots of Christianity are Jewish. We are spiritual brothers and what we have in common is far greater than the things we've allowed to separate us over the years.

As you know, Iran poses a threat to the State of Israel that promises nothing less than a nuclear holocaust. I have been saying on national television, in churches and auditoriums across America it is 1938; Iran is Germany and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. Ladies and gentlemen we must stop Iran's nuclear threat and stop it now and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The only way to win a nuclear war is to make certain it never starts. Iran's President has not limited his maniacal threats to Israel. He has also asked his fellow Iranians to imagine a world without America. This is a clear threat to destroy the United States of America. I have something to something to say to Iran's President or Iran; Mr. Ahmadinejad, don't threaten America.

Do not threaten Israel by saying they will pass away in a sudden storm. In the Bible when Pharaoh threatened the Jewish people of Egypt he became fish food in the Red Sea. When Haman threatened the Jews in Persia in modern-day Iran he and his sons hung from the gallows that he built for the Jews. Mr. Ahmadinejad's threats against Israel have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy; you may be well speaking about your own demise when you talk about passing away with a sudden storm, but you are not talking about Israel's future.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is watching you. King David wrote that thou that keepeth Israel neither slumber nor sleeps. The Christians of America are not going to sit by in silence this time and watch you plod and plan a nuclear holocaust. There will never be another holocaust - not on our watch and never again.

Beyond that threat from Iran there's another more subtle threat that concerns me. I am concerned that in the coming months yet another attempt will be made to parcel out parts of Israel in a futile effort to appease Israel's enemies in the Middle East. I believe that misguided souls in Europe, I believe that the misguided souls in the political brothel that is now the United Nations and sadly - and sadly even our own State Department will try once again to turn Israel into crocodile food. Winston Churchill said and I quote an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile in the futile hope that it will eat him last - end of quote. In 1938 Czechoslovakia - Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland land was turned into crocodile food for Nazi Germany. The Nazi beast smelled the weakness in the appeasers, ate the food and marched and devoured most of Europe and systematically slaughtered 6,000,000 Jewish people.

We are again hearing calls to appease the enemies of Israel.

Once again those who would appease seek to do so at the expense of Israel.

They tell us that if we want the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop massacring each other in Iraq then Israel must give up land.

They tell us that if we want the Syrians to stop murdering the leaders in Lebanon, then Israel must give up land.

They tell us if we want the Saudis to permit women to drive and to vote, Israel must give up land.

If we want the sun to rise it the east and set in the west, Israel must give up land.

Let me be clear; Israel is not the problem here.

Scapegoating Israel will not solve the problem; the problem is the Arab rejection of Israel's right to exist.

The problem is that Israel has no partner for peace; the problem is radical Islam's blood - blood-thirsty embrace of a theocratic dictatorship that believes they have a mandate from God to kill Christians and Jews. The problem is the failure of the moderates in the Arab and Muslim world to stand up and rein in these Islamic extremists.

If the moderate Arabs believe that murdering Christians and Jews is wrong then standup and say so - this is America. We welcome your participation in free speech but your silence is deadly.

Appeasement is not the answer my friends. To quote the great evangelical abolitionist William Wilberforce - quote - appeasement is nothing more than surrender on the installment plan - end of quote. America should not pressure Israel to give up land and America must never pressure Israel to divide the City of Jerusalem.

Dore Gold in his latest book, The Fight for Jerusalem said and I quote - turning part or all of Jerusalem to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban - end of quote. I agree. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people now and forever. Jerusalem is united under Jewish control and must always remain under Jewish control.

Why do Christians support Israel? Truth is not what I say it is. Truth is not what you think it is. Truth is what the Torah says it is; there's the Torah way and the wrong way. Genesis 12 and 3 says I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. We believe those blessings are very real and those judgments are very real.

Where are the nations that have persecuted the Jewish people? Where is Pharaoh and his army? Where are the Babylonians? Where are the Greeks? Where is the Ottoman Empire? Where are the Romans? Where is that goose-stepping lunatic Adolf Hitler and his Nazi hoards? All are historic footnotes in the bone yard of human history. Where are - where are - where is Israel? Where are the Jewish people? They're alive and well; they're thriving; they're prospering; they're growing - even on a day of adversity they're still going forward.

Where is Israel? Where are those who are scattered throughout the Diaspora? The mighty right hand of God has gathered them from the nations of the world and Israel was miraculously born May 15, 1948. Israel lives! Shout it from the house top - Israel lives! Let every Islamic terrorist group hear it - Israel lives! Let every tin horn dictator in the Middle East hear it - Israel lives! Let it be heard in the halls of the UN - Israel lives! Let it echo down the marble halls of the Presidential Palace in Iran - Israel lives! Let it ring in the terrorist camps of Osama Bin Laden - Israel lives! Israel lives! Israel lives!

Jews have suffered programs and persecution; they have outlasted Pharaoh's slavery and Hitler's final solution and I have no doubt that long after Hamas and Hezbollah have been buried in the bone yard of human history long after the crisis with Iran has been resolved, the Flag of Israel will still be flying over the ancient walls of the sacred city and Jerusalem and Israel will be the praise of all the earth.

Why do Christians support Israel - because Christians deeply believe we owe a debt of gratitude to the Jewish people; you gave us the word of God, you gave us the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; you gave us the Prophets, Ezekiel, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zachariah, Amos, Josiah, Joel - not a Baptist in the bunch. The first family of Christianity - Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the Apostles, John the fourth chapter says salvation is of the Jews; that's a New Testament verse. You don't hear it many sermons that preached on that but that's a real verse. Salvation is of the Jews; the point is if you take away the Jewish contribution from Christianity there would be no Christianity. Judaism does not need Christianity to explain its existence but Christianity cannot explain its existence without Judaism.

Therefore I have been saying for 26 years over national television it's time for Christians to stop praising the dead Jews of the past - Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while avoiding the Jews who live across the street. That's anti-Semitism and anti-Semitism is sin and as sin it damns the soul. As Christians tonight on this historic occasion we ask God's forgiveness and yours for every act of anti-Semitism in our past. The crusades, the inquisition, Martin Luther's Concerning the Jews and Their Lies; the final solution of Adolf Hitler carried out by baptized Christians in good-standing with their church; the fact that the Roman Church was silent during these atrocities and did not share - we did not share their theology. They did not share our appreciation for the great contribution the Jewish people have given to humanity and to Christianity. Tonight I humbly ask forgiveness of the Jewish people for every act of anti-Semitism and the deafening silence of Christianity in your greatest hour of need during the Holocaust. We were not there; we cannot change the past but together we can shape the future. Think of our potential future together; 50,000,000 evangelicals joining in common cause with 5,000,000 Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.

Let the word go forth from Washington, DC tonight. There is a new beginning in America between Christians and Jews. We pledge to God and to the Jewish people to fulfill the words of the Prophet Isaiah; for Zion's sake we will not hold our peace and for Jerusalem's sake we will not rest. You who make mention of the Lord do not keep silent and give the Lord no rest until he makes Jerusalem the praise of all the earth. We have organized Christians United for Israel. We have 13 Regional Directors; we have 40 State Directors; we have 80 City Directors and they're growing. We're organizing Congressional District by Congressional District, so that as body we can standup and speak up for Israel every year in Washington, DC and Congress will know that the matter of Israel is no longer just a Jewish issue; it is a Christian Jewish issue from this day forward.

In closing - in closing, I believe 2007 is the year of destiny. America and Israel are at war with a common enemy. It is a war of good versus evil. It is a war of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness versus the culture of death. I close with the words of Winston Churchill, who is my favorite statesman of all time. Spoken during the dark days of World War II when Hitler seemed unbeatable and victory seemed impossible, Churchill said, you ask what is our aim; I can answer in one word - it is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of the terror, victory however long and hard the road may be for without victory there is no survival - end of quote. Ladies and gentlemen, as Christians and Jews, our aim is victory - victory for Israel and victory in our time. May God bless Israel; God bless America; and God bless each of you.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Online summaries of Lebanon War testimony in Hebrew

This must be a first of some kind. An Israel commission of inquiry that is investigating the conduct of the Second Lebanon War has created a website where it is posting summarized testimony even before it issues a report.

Here is a Ynetnews story about the website and its contents.

Winograd Commission protocols now online

Commission probing Second Lebanon War launches website, invites public to submit information that may help investigation

Aviram Zino
Published: 03.24.07, 08:55,7340,L-3380396,00.html\

The Winograd Commission, which is probing the political and military echelons' conduct during Second Lebanon War, launched a website Friday in which it published some protocols of the testimonies that will be mentioned in its interim report next month.

The site, which does not offer an English version as of yet, includes details on the five commission members and information on its activity.

Currently posted on the site are the testimonies of Vice Premier Shimon Peres, former chief of Army Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (reserve) Amos Malka and Arnon Ben-Ami, chairman of the Israel National Emergency Economic Authority.

The testimonies of the other 71 witnesses, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former Chief of Staff Dan Halutz will be published at a later date.

On its site the Winograd Commission also responds to the petition filed by Meretz Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On with the High Court of Justice, in which she demanded that all the protocols be made public.

According to the website, “Most of the testimonies included confidential or top secret information.”

“The commission does not take the importance of transparency lightly, but opening the commission’s hearings to the public would hinder its ability to do its job properly.”

The commission further mentions on the site that its conclusions will focus on the implementation of the lessons drawn from the Second Lebanon War and invites the public to submit any additional information that may help the investigation.

--posted by Joseph M. Hochstein, Tel Aviv

Continued (Permanent Link)

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