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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Is the Arab Peace Initiative Dangerous?

Mr Elitzur believes the Arab peace initiative is dangerous, because accepting with it would imply that Israel accepts full withdrawal and return of the Palestinian refugees. He wants "right wing" leaders to seize the moment and reject it, or so it seems.
He is right that the Arab peace initiative could be dangerous, and that postponement of action is dangerous, because the Arab peace initiative creates a diplomatic problem for Israel. It is a public peace offer - a "peace offensive" in all senses of the phrase. It is being given momentum and importance by the publicity attached to it by the Arab states. Even if it is completely meaningless, this new "peace offensive" can isolate Israel as the party that is an obstacle to peace.
The precise meaning of the initiative is deliberately obscured perhaps, so that all the Arab states could agree to it, each with their very own interpretation. Some may believe that it implies that all Palestinian Arab refugees will return to Israel. All certainly believe that it demands Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem.
These terms are certainly unacceptable to Israel, but Israel cannot afford to stand by and do nothing.
It would be inappropriate for Israel to respond to this initiative with a simple "no" or with a half-hearted "let's talk" as PM Olmert has done. Israel must craft a public peace plan of its own and put it on the table to compete with the Arab Peace Initiative. This plan should reflect national consensus, and must be generous enough to get the backing of the European Union and the United States. It can be modeled on the Clinton Bridging Proposals or the Geneva Initiative or the Ayalon Nusseibeh plan. None of these plans contemplate full withdrawal or massive return of Palestinian Arab refugees. All of them would give both sides peace with security, if they are carried out as agreed. All of them would safeguard Israeli rights in Jerusalem and other holy places to a greater or lesser extent, as well as allowing for Arab rights. Therefore, these plans can have a greater appeal to the international community than the Arab peace plan.
 Ami Isseroff

The Saudi danger

Israeli reaction to Arab initiative reinforces notion that we accept full withdrawal

Uri Elitzur
Published:  04.08.07, 00:07 / Israel Opinion

Suddenly the Saudi initiative is "interesting." It talks about a return to the 1967 borders, the division of Jerusalem, and the return of Palestinian refugees – namely, everything that has been rejected out of hand for 40 years by all Israeli government and by all Zionist parties, including leftist Meretz.


It requires agreement, before negotiations even start, on principles that are unacceptable to begin with. It contains everything the Free World, including the European Union, would reject if Israel only asked. But Israel is saying that the initiative is interesting.


And this is not only because Ehud Olmert is facing a cloud of suspicions and dubious affairs, threatened by the Winograd Commission, and warned by the state comptroller. Olmert knows he is not Sharon, that word-games would not stop Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, and that he has been beaten so badly by now that the media would not be coming to his aid.


There is something here that is more genuine than spins and domestic policy. The Saudi initiative addresses the uncontrollable urge to do something on the diplomatic front – no matter what it is.


After it turned out that unilateral withdrawals are a resounding failure, and after we learned that we cannot arrange a withdrawal through an agreement, because Hamas does not want to play Abbas' "pretend game," we were left with a bothersome diplomatic thirst.


What shall we do now, address poverty? Develop tourism? Invest in education? Fight crime? Did we establish a country for that?


Who needs sense?

And there, the Saudis offer salvation: Engage in negotiations with the Palestinians but without the Palestinians. We will talk with Arab states, and they will take care of matters with the Palestinian government.


Yes, this makes no sense, but who needs sense when the peace vision reemerges? Perhaps we shall even fly to Saudi Arabia, meet with Arab leaders in white robes – there will be photographs, airplanes, conventions, and a sense of history in the making.


More excited commentators explained that if Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh attended the Riyadh conference and said that Hamas will not recognize Israel, this means he is in fact recognizing Israel. I swear that I heard that. I am not kidding.


However, Israel's main problem is not the diplomatic momentum messiahs. They are not bound by any kind of logic. Just give them international conferences, negotiations, summit meetings – it does not matter with whom or about what.


Once upon a time they spoke about withdrawal for the sake of peace. Later it turned out they actually want peace for the sake of withdrawal. Later they even gave up on peace, as long as we have a withdrawal. Now they are apparently giving up on both peace and a withdrawal, because the Saudi initiative, which talks about a comprehensive withdrawal and a right of return with no compromise, cannot lead to anything practical.


The most important thing is to have diplomatic momentum. However, they are not the problem, but rather, the sane Right is.


The sane Right firmly objects to the Saudi initiative because of the right of return. When it comes to withdrawing to the 1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem, the Likud says: There is a debate amongst us.


Forget about the debates, the idea of Palestinian refugees returning to the State of Israel is the end of the Jewish State. After all, there is consensus over that. So first let the Arabs renounce this demand, they say, and then we shall discuss the rest. This sounds very responsible and very sane, but it is a trap.


Saudi King Abdullah knows that nothing practical will come out of his initiative at this time. Today, there is no way to bridge the gap between what he can allow himself to get and what Israel can allow itself to give.


Arabs need Likud on their side

The Saudi initiative is not aimed at changing the situation on the ground, but rather, at changing perceptions. When figures such as Netanyahu or Reuven Rivlin say that the Saudi initiative's main problem is the question of the right of return, they also say that a full withdrawal and the division of Jerusalem are not a problem. This is not said explicitly, but it seeps into the consciousness of Israelis and the world.


This is all Abdullah wishes to achieve. This is what Abbas wants to achieve. They do not need Yossi Beilin to work for them; they need the Likud to work for them.


We can understand the desire of right-wing leaders to attract the center of the political spectrum. As long as they can use arguments that enjoy consensus, why go into a controversial area? After all, the Likud needs the centrist votes to regain power. Seemingly, when the time for controversy comes we can argue, but for now there is no need for that.


Yet meanwhile, the realization that there is no longer an argument regarding a withdrawal to the 1967 borders is being reinforced in the world's consciousness. If even the Israeli Right does not reject this idea out of hand and loudly, how can we expect someone in America or Europe to be more Israeli than the Israelis? There are arguments that must not be left for the last moment.


In 1948 there was a moment where our leaders needed to decide whether to declare the state's establishment at a very inconvenient time, or postpone it for a more peaceful junction. Ben-Gurion said at the time that he suddenly understood why in Passover we make sure to remove every crumb of chametz, because the moment where we had to get up and leave Egypt was a moment that we could have easily been tempted to miss out on.


For right-wing leaders, the Saudi initiative is this kind of moment, where postponement means missing out.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, April 6, 2007

Son of the settlers returns?

With two bold new actions, settler movement rebounds reads the title, but the question is whether they ever really went away, and whether they really rebounded. The settlers took over a house in Hebron, and are due to be kicked out of there, apparently by April 19. They also held a demonstration in Homesh. It is not clear that this constituted a rebound, or that these actions, protected by a large faction of the Israeli government, were really "Bold."
Ami Isseroff

HOMESH, West Bank (JTA) – Jewish settlers and their supporters by the hundreds climbed up six miles of winding road, their path lined with a mix of wildflowers and Israeli army jeeps and armored personnel carriers.

They made their way to the ruins of what once was one of the most remote West Bank settlements, surrounded on all sides by Palestinian villages, to make a statement: A new and defiant spirit in the settler camp would try to reclaim what was lost when Israel unilaterally withdrew from parts of the northern West Bank in the summer of 2005.

"This is symbolic, but also real … this is the Land of Israel and it is important for us to be here," said Yakov Idels, 37, who marched to Homesh with two of his children. "We are doing what we think needs to be done."

Two recent events – the march to Homesh and the purchase of a Palestinian home in Hebron by Jews – are sending a message to the government and the mainstream settler leadership that there's a more aggressive and proactive mood in the settler camp, especially among the younger generation.

After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank – including Homesh – in August and September 2005, the settler camp went through a period of shock and soul-searching.

A year and a half later, many speak of feeling increasingly disconnected from the State of Israel and its institutions as well as the Yesha Council, the settler leadership that many in the settler camp believe did not do enough to block the disengagement plan.

"They needed a demonstration to the state as well as the Yesha Council that a new game is now being played," said Lior Yavne of Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization that monitors settler activity in the West Bank.

The violent clash between settlers and police who came to evacuate the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona in February 2006 proved to be a watershed.

"We learned that the people who shed blood for the country are the ones who will own it in the end," said Erez Avrahamov, 29, from the settlement of Karnei Shomron.

Some in the more strident circles of the settler movement see Israel's withdrawal not only as a betrayal but as an event for which the country is now being punished. They cite the failures of the recent war in Lebanon, the wave of scandals plaguing the government and even former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's coma as forms of divine retribution.

"Even if this is a naive thought, it should not be mocked," Yisrael Harel, a former settler leader and prominent figure in the movement, wrote in Ha'aretz. "Only dreamers and the determined bring about a turning point at historic junctures."

Harel praised the moxy of those who marched to Homesh as following in the spirit of Gush Emunim, the founders of the settler movement, who at Passover 1975 illegally took over a train station at Sebastia – a move that launched the settlement enterprise in the West Bank.

Other observers, however, had harsh words for right-wing activists who they claimed were taking advantage of a weak government to carry out their agenda.

The army said initially that anyone marching to Homesh would be charged with breaking the law. In the end, a deal was worked out in which the protesters were allowed to stay for 48 hours under army guard.

Similarly, Yossi Beilin, a Knesset member and leader of Israel's left wing, derided the government's muted response to the some 200 settlers who have moved into the house in Hebron.

The local Jewish settlers say they bought the house from its owners, but a Defense Ministry ruling makes it illegal to purchase Palestinian homes in the section of Hebron under its jurisdiction without ministry authorization.

"We have to raise a cry against this ticking bomb in Hebron and the squatting in this house of 200 settlers," Beilin said. "I greatly fear that the situation there in Hebron is very, very dangerous, and is liable to blow up any minute."

Dov Lior, the rabbi of neighboring Kiryat Arba, said it was well within the rights of the Jews living there to purchase and live in the house in Hebron.

"We are in an age of redemption," Lior told JTA. "We need to settle all of Judea and Samaria. To my dismay the government did the opposite, and now our people need to reawaken and come back."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tales of the 1001 Arabian Nights: USA to Attack Iran any day now

The following concoction is offered by the Arab Times of Kuwait, whose editor, Ahmad Jarallah, must've gotten hold of some really good Lebanese Hashish.
Of course, if the attack never comes, then it will be ascribed to the wise leadership of the forces of the Mahdi, led by Mr. Ahmadinejad, who overcame the plots of the American Neocon sons of pigs, who are all in the grip of the Jewish Lobby, as Mr Carter insists.
Ami Isseroff

YOU CAN HIT, BUT NOT WIN: RUSSIA; 'US to attack Iran by end April'; Bush warns
The United States is planning to attack Iran's nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities by the end of this month, sources in Washington told the Arab Times Tuesday. These sources added that various White House departments have already started preparing the political speech, which will be delivered by the President of the United States later this month, announcing the military attack on Iran. These sources added that the speech will provide the "evidence" and the justification for the United States to resort to the military option after failing to persuade Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions and work with the rest of the world to ensure safety and stability in the Gulf .
Iran says it is developing nuclear facilities as it needs nuclear power for peaceful purposes while the United States is of the opinion that Iran wants to become a nuclear power and sees this as a threat to the Middle East, in general, and Israel in particular. One of the justifications which will be provided in the speech is the role of the Iranian regime in the killing of American soldiers in Iraq by supporting various militias both with money and arms.

The American President's speech will also point to Iran's political interference in the internal affairs of Iraq, obviously in cooperation with Syria. The US president will also highlight Iran's interference in Somalia , the Horn of Africa , Afghanistan, Yemen and Lebanon.
The sources, stressing that the attack will take place this month, say that the United States will not resort to a ground attack and the Americans will not enter Iran in order to avoid human losses because they plan to achieve their aim through air attacks. The United States is expected to attack only Iran's nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities through weapons and directions which will come as a surprise to Iran.
Agencies add:
US President George W. Bush warned Tuesday that a nuclear-armed Iran would be "a seriously destabilizing influence in the Middle East" and vowed to keep working to prevent it.
"I firmly believe that, if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon, it would be a seriously destabilizing influence in the Middle East," Bush said during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the White House.
"And therefore we have worked to build an international coalition to try to convince the Iranians to give up their weapon, make it clear that they have choices to make," said the president. The United States cannot inflict a military defeat on Iran and any attack would be a huge political mistake, Russia's top general said on Tuesday. "It is possible to damage Iran's military and industrial potential, but it is impossible to win," Russian news agencies quoted General Yuri Baluyevsky, head of the Russian general staff, as saying.
"The United States has a contingent in the region capable of launching a strike on Iranian territory. "However, such possible strikes would be a huge political mistake. Shockwaves from this attack could be felt around the world." Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of wanting to build nuclear bombs, a charge Tehran denies. Tensions have been further aggravated by Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines in the northern Gulf on March 23.
Russia sells weapons to the Iranian military and is helping Tehran build a nuclear power station on the Gulf although work there is on hold over a payment dispute. Russian media late last month quoted unnamed sources in Russian military intelligence as saying the United States could launch a strike on Iran as early as April 6. RIA news agency quoted a Russian security source as saying Moscow has military intelligence reports that the US has already approved a list of Iranian targets for bomb and missile strikes. The source said a land operation could follow.
President Bush has said he will pursue diplomatic means to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment plan but he has refused to rule out the use of force. Baluyevsky said military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the United States would face a fiasco if it took on Iran as well. "The Americans must think twice (about attacking Iran)," he said. "They have already got stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Carter : Jewish lobby does not want peace

No comment needed except "Carterism is racism."
Despite the campaign against him led by the Zionist lobby in the United States, former American President Jimmy Carter did not hesitate  to criticize the practices and the influence of such groups in America.

Carter said that the American Israeli Public Affairs Comittee, one of the strongest arms of these groups in the United States, is not seeking to achieve peace in the Middle East, nor justice for the Palestinians. 

He said following receipt of the Ridenhour Award for courage, that it will be difficult for any member of Congress who calls for Israel to withdraw to internationally recognized borders, because AIPAC exerts a strong influence on members of Congress during the election.
Translation Copyright 2007 MidEastWeb for Coexistence.  All rights reserved

Continued (Permanent Link)

The curse of Gaza

"Anyone who does not admit that there's a curse in the Gaza Strip does not know what he's talking about" - Mohamed Dahlan.
Vioence is the curse of Gaza. Violence induced by a culture of violence. The Palestinians have sown the wind of violence and terror, and in Gaza they are reaping the whirlwind of chaose and lawlessness.

PA fears UN may order all aid workers out of lawless Gaza
Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 5, 2007

Palestinian Authority officials on Thursday expressed fear that the United Nations may formally declare the Gaza Strip a dangerous zone - a move that would result in the evacuation of the remaining foreign nationals from the area and drastically hamper international humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

PA security sources told The Jerusalem Post that 25 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip last month in internal fighting. Another four were killed in the West Bank, the sources added.

"We're moving very quickly toward such a scenario," said Yasser Abed Rabbo, member of the PLO executive committee and a close aide to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "The Gaza Strip is full of thugs and gangsters who are responsible for the ongoing anarchy. Soon the Gaza Strip may be declared a dangerous zone, which means that all international organizations would have to leave."

The UN has yet to issue any formal statement to such effect.

Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat warned that a "dangerous zone" declaration would increase the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and called on the PA security forces to start working to end the state of lawlessness and anarchy.

"The Gaza Strip has become worse than Somalia," a prominent human rights activist in Gaza City told the Post. "Thousands of gunmen continue to roam the streets and the new government hasn't done anything to restore law and order. Every day you hear horror stories about people who are killed and wounded. The situation is really intolerable."

Muhammad Dahlan, who was recently appointed PA National Security Adviser, said it was time to admit that a "curse has hit" the Gaza Strip. "Anyone who does not admit that there's a curse in the Gaza Strip does not know what he's talking about," he said.

Dahlan expressed concern over the wave of kidnappings in Gaza, noting that a local engineer who was abducted several months ago was still being held by his captors. He said that the National Security Council was now preparing a security plan that would end the state of anarchy in the PA-controlled areas.

"The Palestinian security establishment needs to undergo major surgery," he added. "The situation is catastrophic and many young men prefer to work for clans and not the security forces."

Dahlan met earlier with the British consul-general in Jerusalem, Richard Makepeace, and briefed him on the PA's efforts to release kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, who was snatched by masked gunmen in Gaza City three weeks ago.

Hassan Khraisheh, deputy speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the commanders of the PA security forces knew where Johnston was being held, but were doing nothing to release him. "What's the point in having 85,000 security officers if they can't free a foreign journalist who has been held in the Gaza Strip for three weeks?" he asked.

Dozens of Palestinian journalists demonstrated outside Abbas's office in Gaza City on Thursday to protest against the abduction of Johnston. Addressing the journalists, Abbas said he was doing his utmost to secure the release of the BBC corespondent.

"This case will be resolved very soon," he said without elaborating. "We will not allow such things to recur." Abbas's bodyguards fired into the air to prevent the protesters from approaching his office. No one was hurt.

Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh agreed to form a joint "operations command" to follow up on the case of Johnston.

The new PA government is expected to hold an emergency meeting in Gaza City on Saturday to discuss ways of restoring law and order. But many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip expressed pessimism, saying it was too late
to talk about ending the state of chaos.

"There are too many gangs and weapons out there," said the human rights activist. "No government will be able to create a new situation."

He pointed out that at least 46 civilians had been kidnapped in the Gaza Strip in the past four weeks. The latest kidnappings took place on Thursday, when unidentified gunmen abducted three people, including one woman, in separate incidents.

Most of the kidnappings were related to family feuds and rivalries between political groups, particularly Fatah and Hamas.

Also Thursday, the bullet-riddled body of a Hamas security official, Muhammad Abu Hajileh, was discovered east of Gaza City. Abu Hajileh was a member of Hamas's "Executive Force" in the Gaza Strip.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Christian Science Monitor fans the flames of war

Iran and Syria have been doing their best to fan the flames of war this summer, or lay the groundwork for it. Both insist that Israel and US are preparing a war, which is absurd. US in mired knee-deep in Iraq, and the IDF is licking its wounds and trying to retrain people after last summer's Lebanon war. A study found that one in five Israeli reservists haven't mastered their weapons.
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.
Trying to translate the semi-coherent ravings above into English, it seems that the Iranians are claiming that Israel will start a war. But Iran wants to be prepared:
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.
Lebanon is of course not "the heart of Palestine" or even Iran. What he seems to be telling us, is that Iran wants to use Lebanon as the base for another provocation next summer, in order to start a war.
Iran and Syria have enlisted ever-willing accessories to their war propaganda. Christian Science Monitor has a long record of distinguished service in this regard. They have a reputation to live up to. In 1940 they reportedly published an article claiming that Jews were at fault for Nazi persecution. Recently they published an article that insisted that Israel's right to exist was an obstacle to peace. Now they have enlisted Nicholas Blanford and "analysts" to claim that Israel or the USA are planning a war this summer or perhaps an "accidental" war. It is clear that according to the plan, Hezbollah or Iran will offer some provocation, like kidnapping Israeli soldiers in the Golan, which would "accidentally" start a war, like last summer's Lebanon war. The purpose of articles like this plant in the Christian Science Monitor is to get public opinion marshalled against Israel and the USA.
If USA or Israel do respond to the provocation, then the perpetrators can say "I told you so." If they don't respond to the provocation, then they can claim a "Victory."
Should reputable journalists lend themselves to this sort of cynical manipulation, and are they reputable if they do?
Ami Isseroff  

From the April 06, 2007 edition -
Syria, Hizbullah, Iran prepare in case of war
Defensive measures taken amid US-Iran tensions spur concern about accidental conflict.

By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

BEIRUT, Lebanon
The prospect of an attack by the United States against Iran has triggered a flurry of military activity around the Middle East as Tehran mobilizes its allies to prepare a defense. In a region where suspicion dominates and trust is rare, politicians and analysts warn, mounting tensions between the US and Iran could spark a war by accident.

'The situation is such that you can't rule out an unplanned development,' says Zvi Shtauber, director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel. 'Since we're living in an era where there is no negotiation, it looks like everything is open.... things are so fragile that you could have an accidental development.'

Those concerns were voiced this week by Amos Yadlin, Israel's chief of military intelligence, who told the government that Lebanese Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran are making defensive preparations in expectation of war. 'We are closely monitoring these preparations because [Iran, Syria and Hizbullah] could misinterpret various moves in the region,' Mr. Yadlin was quoted by the Israeli Haaretz daily as saying. Israeli media reported that Israel asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to relay to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during her visit to Damascus Wednesday a message of reassurance that Israel has no intention of attacking.

Still, the Middle East has a grim history of bellicose rhetoric and military gestures causing unintended consequences. A fatal chain of misinterpreted muscle-flexing moves by Egypt and Israel provoked the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, a conflict that redrew the geostrategic map of the Middle East, and the repercussions of which continue to be felt today.

More recently, Hizbullah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12 last year sparked a 34-day war that cost Lebanon more than 1,000 lives and damage estimated at $3.6 billion. Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah subsequently all but admitted that the party's leadership had misread Israel's response to the abduction of the two soldiers.

'If any of us had a 1 percent doubt that Israel was going to reply in this savage manner, we wouldn't have captured those soldiers,' he said in a television interview.

President George W. Bush has vowed to resolve the crisis over Iran's nuclear ambitions by the time he leaves office in early 2009.
Although the White House says it is pursuing diplomacy to achieve its goal, it refuses to rule out the military option. The recent disappearance of a senior Iranian general, the arrests of Iranian diplomats in Iraq, and the deployment of US naval battle groups in the Persian Gulf have raised expectations in the region that a US attack on Iran may be imminent.

'US threats against Iran are no longer regarded by the Iranians and Syrians as just saber-rattling, and it's only natural that they prepare themselves,' says Amal Saad-Ghorayeb of the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Center in Beirut.

Hizbullah officials and fighters say that the party has launched an intensified training program with new recruits pushed through month-long courses in camps scattered along the flanks of the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. Veteran fighters receive refresher courses and can volunteer for 45-day programs to join special-forces units.
'There is a high level of recruitment. The rearmament is happening because there will be a war with Syria. The Israelis cannot accept the insult of the July war,' says Mohammed, a Hizbullah activist in Beirut, referring to last summer's conflict.

Analysts suspect, however, that Israel will bide its time to absorb and apply the lessons learned from last summer's conflict before contemplating a second round with its Lebanese foe.

Nawaf Mussawi, Hizbullah's foreign affairs adviser, says he doubts that Israel's government is strong enough domestically to persuade the public to support a second major war against Lebanon. But, he adds, Hizbullah 'is ready for all eventualities.'

'What we expect, or don't expect, from Israel has nothing to do with our preparations. In any situation, we are prepared,' Mr. Mussawi says.

Iran's region-wide defensive preparations against a potential US attack, ironically, have been aided by Washington's policy of politically isolating Syria since 2003 and the Hamas-led Palestinian government since last year.

Ignored by the US and Europe, Syria and Hamas turned to Iran. In June 2006, Syria and Iran signed a mutual defense pact and last month inked a protocol on deepening bilateral military cooperation.
'There is a belief very much in Syria and certainly with Hizbullah that, should the Americans attack Iran, then Israel will get involved in a preemptive operation here,' says Timur Goksel, a Beirut-based security-affairs analyst.

A Lebanese intelligence source says that the Syrian Army is being taught some of the guerrilla-style tactics devised by Hizbullah in Lebanon. 'The Iranians are trying to convince Syria that if they use the same tactics as Hizbullah and if they can last 20 to 30 days in a war with Israel before a cease-fire, then [the public perception will be that] they will have won and Israel will have lost,' the source says.

Iran also took advantage of the refusal by Israel and the US to deal with the Hamas government in the Palestinian territories, which was elected in January 2006. Tehran stepped into the gap, pledging Hamas $150 million to compensate for the freeze on Western development aid.
Israel claims that dozens of Hamas militants have traveled to Iran for training and that Iranian-supplied weapons are being smuggled via tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. 'Hamas is doing all its best to arm itself. The attempt to stop it is like putting a door in the middle of the desert,' Dr. Shtauber says, commenting on an Egyptian promise this week to stave the flow of weapons. 'You can just go around it.'

� Ilene R. Prusher contributed to this report from Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

At the BBC, any occasion is good for Israel Bashing

In the good old days of the Middle Ages, there were three times to blame the Jews:
1. When things go bad - if there is a plague, the Jews must have poisoned the well.

2. When things go well - holidays like Christmans were always good occasions for pogroms. "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" had a different meaning then.

3. Whenever else you feel like it.

The BBC has continued in this fine old tradition. When British sailors were released from Iran, BBC used the occassion for Israel-bashing. BBC is spending a fortune to supress a report about its anti-Israel bias. They are wasting their money. Why try to hide what everyone knows?

The item below is from Joy Wolfe. Please do complain to the BBC if you live in Britain and saw the show.

Ami Isseroff

Complaint re Newsnight 05/04/07

Complaint registered on the website and reported by telephone on 08700100 222

I wish to complain most strongly that the report on last night's Newsnight about the release of the British marines and sailors was allowed to develop into yet another opportunity to put out negative views about Israel.

Firstly I would contend this report had absolutely no relevant link to Israel, so I question why the producer would invite such a pro Palestinian activist to comment on it.

Secondly if it did have to have a go at Israel, making the outrageous, and in my opinion unsustainable claim, that it was Israel who started hostage taking and at one point was the only country using this tactic, why no mention about those Israelis who currently are hostages, with nothing known about them and the world and the BBC conveniently choosing to forget all about them.

I consider this to be yet another example of the BBC's bias against Israel, and in this case to be particularly deplorable since a link was created where none should legitimately have existed

I would like you to treat this as an official complaint, acknowledge it with a reference number, and I look forward to a response before deciding how and where to pursue this complaint.

Below is the profile of the person you chose as the one to comment on this report last night. Hardly comes into the unbiased and balanced category even if the item was about Israel, which it most clearly was not.

May I suggest you think very carefully about trotting her out on air unless there is a balancing voice to put Israel's point of view, if you wish to retain your alleged view that the BBC is unbiased and balanced.

Karma Nabulsi is the fellow in politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and university lecturer at the department of politics and international relations, Oxford University. She was a PLO representative from 1977-90, working at the United Nations, in Beirut, Tunis, and the United Kingdom. She was an advisory member of the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks in Washington from 1991-1993. She then did her doctorate at Balliol College, and was prize research fellow at Nuffield College until 2005. During this time she was the specialist adviser to the UK all-party parliamentary commission of inquiry on Palestinian refugees (and its report, Right of Return, 2000) and the specialist adviser to the House of Commons select committee's inquiry on development assistance and the occupied Palestinian territories, and its report on donor assistance.

She is currently engaged in an EU-funded collective research project, based at Nuffield College, entitled Foundations for Participation: Civic Structures in Palestinian Refugee Camps and Exile Communities.

She is the author of Traditions of War: Occupation, Resistance and the Law (Oxford University Press, paperback edition 2005) and writes on the philosophy and ethics of war, the laws of war, European political history and theory and Palestinian history and politics. She is currently writing Conspirators for Liberty: The Underground Struggle for Democracy in 19th century Europe for W W Norton, supported by a Leverhulme Trust research grant. The book uncovers the untold story of the associations and networks that worked together to build democratic societies in Europe. She contributes to the Guardian, al Hayat, the Electronic Intifada and other journals.

She is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, adviser for the Badil legal unit and a member of its expert forum and adviser to Arab Media Watch in the UK. She is a trustee of the Hoping Foundation, which raises money and provides grants to grassroots community organisations working with Palestinian youth in refugee camps all over the Middle East. She was a founding member of the Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK in 1988, and of the Palestinian Women's Union, UK branch.

"Between the Lines "

I sent the following email to Honest Reporting UK on

Did anybody see the slot on Newsnight tonight?


I want to draw your attention to yet another side swipe at Israel by the BBC, on Newsnight tonight.

As you know the news is full of the return of the 15 British Marines and sailors from Iran. As a spin-off on Newsnight, there was a slot about hostage-taking in the Middle East. They mentioned all the people taken hostage by Islamists since the American Embassy siege in the 1980s, but as you can guess the Israelis held hostage by terrorists were conspicuous by their absence.

To add insult to injury, the BBC trotted out Karma Nabulsi who then proceeded to list Israel as one of the countries which took hostages and even said there was a time when they were the only ones doing it.

I wasn't able to get a full transcript of what was said, but surely we can complain to the BBC about trotting out a person who sympathises with the aspirations of Hamas in a slot like this is bias of the worst kind?

I look forward to your alert about this, and will gladly join with everybody else in protest. Keep up your wonderful work.

Chag Same'ach LPesach

Ilana Rosen"

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Bernard Lewis: Freedom, responsibility, Europe and Islam

The following remark surely deserves to be framed by anyone trying to understand the history of the Middle East:
"In the Soviet Union, the most difficult task of the historian is to predict the past."
History is refabricated all the time here.
Ami Isseroff

American Enterprise Institute
Annual Dinner 2007
My topic this evening is Europe and Islam.  But let me begin with a word of personal explanation. You are accustomed for the most part to hearing from people with direct practical involvement in military and intelligence matters. I cannot offer you that.  My direct involvement with military and intelligence matters ended quite a long time ago – to be precise, on 31st August 1945, when I left His Majesty's Service and returned to the university to join with colleagues in trying to cope with a six-year backlog of battle-scarred undergraduates. 
What I would like to try and offer you this evening is something of the lessons of history.  Here I must begin with a second disavowal.  It is sometimes forgotten that the content of history, the business of the historian, is the past, not the future.  I remember being at an international meeting of historians in Rome during which a group of us were sitting and discussing the question: should historians attempt to predict the future?  We batted this back and forth.  This was in the days when the Soviet Union was still alive and well.  One of our Soviet colleagues finally intervened and said, "In the Soviet Union, the most difficult task of the historian is to predict the past."
I do not intend to offer any predictions of the future in Europe or the Middle East, but one thing can legitimately be expected of the historian, and that is to identify trends and processes - to look at the trends in the past, at what is continuing in the present, and therefore to see the possibilities and choices which will face us in the future.
One other introductory word.  A favorite theme of the historian, as I am sure you know, is periodization – dividing history into periods.  Periodization is mostly a convenience of the historian for purposes of writing or teaching.  Nevertheless, there are times in the long history of the human adventure when we have a real turning point, a major change – the end of an era, the beginning of a new era.  I am becoming more and more convinced that we are in such an age at the present time – a change in history comparable with such events as the fall of Rome, the discovery of America, and the like.  I will try to explain that.
Conventionally, the modern history of the Middle East begins at the end of the 18th century, when a small French expeditionary force commanded by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte was able to conquer Egypt and rule it with impunity. It was a terrible shock that one of the heartlands of Islam could be invaded, occupied, and ruled with virtually no effective resistance.
The second shock came a few years later with the departure of the French, which was brought about not by the Egyptians nor by their suzerains, the Turks, but by a small squadron of the Royal Navy commanded by a young admiral called Horatio Nelson, who drove the French out and back to France. 
This is of symbolic importance.  That was, as I said, at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century.  From then onward, the heartlands of Islam were no longer wholly controlled by the rulers of Islam.  They were under direct or indirect influence or control from outside. 
The dominating forces in the Islamic world were now outside forces.  What shaped their lives was Western influence.  What gave them choices was Western rivalries.  The political game that they could play – the only one that was open to them – was to try and profit from the rivalries between the outside powers, to try to use them against one another.  We see that again and again in the course of the 19th and 20th and even into the beginning of the 21st century.  We see, for example, in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Cold War, how Middle Eastern governments or leaders tried to play this game with varying degrees of success.
That game is now over.  The era that was inaugurated by Napoleon and Nelson was terminated by Reagan and Gorbachev.  The Middle East is no longer ruled or dominated by  outside powers.  These nations are having some difficulty adjusting to this new situation, to taking responsibility for their own actions and their consequences, and so on.  But they are beginning to do so, and this change has been expressed with his usual clarity and eloquence by Osama bin Laden.
We see with the ending of the era of outside domination, the reemergence of certain older trends and deeper currents in Middle Eastern history, which had been submerged or at least obscured during the centuries of Western domination.  Now they are coming back again.  One of them I would call the internal struggles – ethnic, sectarian, regional – between different forces within the Middle East.  These have of course continued, but were of less importance in the imperialist era.  They are coming out again now and gaining force, as we see for example from the current clash between Sunni and Shia Islam – something without precedent for centuries.
The other thing more directly relevant to my theme this evening is the signs of a return among Muslims to what they perceive as the cosmic struggle for world domination between the two main faiths – Christianity and Islam.  There are many religions in the world, but as far as I know there are only two that have claimed that their truths are not only universal – all religions claim that – but also exclusive; that they – the Christians in the one case, the Muslims in the other – are the fortunate recipients of God's final message to humanity, which it is their duty not to keep selfishly to themselves – like the Jews or the Hindus – but to bring to the rest of humanity, removing whatever obstacles there may be on the way.  This self-perception, shared between Christendom and Islam, led to the long struggle that has been going on for more than fourteen centuries and which is now entering a new phase.  In the Christian world, now at the beginning of the 21st century of its era, this triumphalist attitude no longer prevails, and is confined to a few minority groups.  In the world of Islam, now in its early 15th century, triumphalism is still a significant force, and has found expression in new militant movements.
It is interesting that both sides for quite a long time refused to recognize this struggle.  For example, both sides named each other by non-religious terms.  The Christian world called the Muslims Moors, Saracens, Tartars, and Turks.  Even a convert was said to have turned Turk.  The Muslims for their part called the Christian world Romans, Franks, Slavs, and the like.  It was only slowly and reluctantly that they began to give each other religious designations and then these were for the most part demeaning and inaccurate.  In the West, it was customary to call Muslims Mohammadans, which they never called themselves, based on the totally false assumption that Muslims worship Muhammad in the way that Christians worship Christ.  The Muslim term for Christians was Nazarene – nasrani – implying the local cult of a place called Nazareth.
The declaration of war begins at the very beginning of Islam.  There are certain letters purported to have been written by the Prophet Muhammad to the Christian Byzantine emperor, the emperor of Persia, and various other rulers, saying, "I have now brought God's final message.  Your time has passed.  Your beliefs are superseded.  Accept my mission and my faith or resign or submit – you are finished."  The authenticity of these prophetic letters is doubted, but the message is clear and authentic in the sense that it does represent the long dominant view of the Islamic world.
A little later we have hard evidence – and I mean hard in the most literal sense – inscriptions.  Many of you, I should think, have been to Jerusalem. You have probably visited that remarkable building, the Dome of the Rock.  It is very significant.  It is built on a place sacred to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  Its architectural style is that of the earliest Christian churches.  It dates from the end of the 7th century and was built by one of the early caliphs, the oldest Muslim religious building outside Arabia.  What is significant is the message in the inscriptions inside the Dome:  "He is God, He is one, He has no companion, He does not beget, He is not begotten."  (cf. Qur'an, IX, 31-3; CXII, 1-3)  This is clearly a direct challenge to certain central principles of the Christian faith.
Interestingly, they put the same thing on a new gold coinage.  Until then, striking gold coins had been an exclusive Roman privilege.  The Islamic caliph for the first time struck gold coins, breaching the immemorial privilege of Rome, and putting the same inscription on them.  As I said, a challenge.
The Muslim attack on Christendom and the resulting conflict, which arose more from their resemblances than from their differences, has gone through three phases.  The first dates from the very beginning of Islam, when the new faith spilled out of the Arabian Peninsula, where it was born, into the Middle East and beyond.  It was then that they conquered Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and North Africa – all at that time part of the Christian world – and went beyond into Europe, conquering a sizable part of southwestern Europe, including Spain, Portugal, and southern Italy, all of which became part of the Islamic world, and even crossing the Pyrenees into France and occupying for a while parts of France.
After a long and bitter struggle, the Christians managed to retake part but not all of the territory they had lost.  They succeeded in Europe, and in a sense Europe was defined by the limits of that success.  They failed to retake North Africa or the Middle East, which were lost to Christendom. Notably, they failed to recapture the Holy Land, in the series of campaigns known as the Crusades.
 That was not the end of the matter.  In the meantime the Islamic world, having failed the first time, was bracing for the second attack, this time conducted not by Arabs and Moors but by Turks and Tartars.  In the mid-thirteenth century the Mongol conquerors of Russia were converted to Islam.  The Turks, who had already conquered Anatolia, advanced into Europe and in 1453 they captured the ancient Christian citadel of Constantinople.  They conquered a large part of the Balkans, and for a while ruled half of Hungary.  Twice they reached as far as Vienna,  to which they laid siege in 1529 and again in 1683.   Barbary corsairs from North Africa – well-known to historians of the United States – were raiding Western Europe. They went to Iceland – the uttermost limit – and to several places in Western Europe, including notably a raid on Baltimore (the original one, in Ireland) in 1631.  In a contemporary document, we have a list of 107 captives who were taken from Baltimore to Algiers, including a man called Cheney.
Again, Europe counterattacked, this time more successfully and more rapidly.  They succeeded in recovering Russia and the Balkan Peninsula, and in advancing further into the Islamic lands, chasing their former rulers whence they had come.  For this phase of European counterattack, a new term was invented: imperialism.  When the peoples of Asia and Africa invaded Europe, this was not imperialism.  When Europe attacked Asia and Africa, it was.
This European counterattack began a new phase which brought the European attack into the very heart of the Middle East.  In our own time, we have seen the end of the resulting domination. 
Osama bin Laden, in some very interesting proclamations and declarations, has this to say about the war in Afghanistan which, you will remember, led to the defeat and retreat of the Red Army and the collapse of the Soviet Union.  We tend to see that as a Western victory, more specifically an American victory, in the Cold War against the Soviets.  For Osama bin Laden, it was nothing of the kind.  It is a Muslim victory in a jihad.  If one looks at what happened in Afghanistan and what followed, this is, I think one must say, a not implausible interpretation.
As Osama bin Laden saw it, Islam had reached the ultimate humiliation in this long struggle after World War I, when the last of the great Muslim empires – the Ottoman Empire – was broken up and most of its territories divided between the victorious allies; when the caliphate was suppressed and abolished, and the last caliph driven into exile.  This seemed to be the lowest point in Muslim history.  From there they went upwards. 
In his perception, the millennial struggle between the true believers and the unbelievers had gone through successive phases, in which the latter were led by the various imperial European powers that had succeeded the Romans in the leadership of the world of the infidels – the Christian Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the British and French and Russian empires.  In this final phase, he says, the world of the infidels was divided and disputed between two rival superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. In his perception, the Muslims have met, defeated, and destroyed the more dangerous and the more deadly of the two infidel superpowers.  Dealing with the soft, pampered and effeminate Americans would be an easy matter.
This belief was confirmed in the 1990s when we saw one attack after another on American bases and installations with virtually no effective response of any kind – only angry words and expensive missiles dispatched to remote and uninhabited places. The lessons of Vietnam and Beirut were confirmed by Mogadishu.  "Hit them, and they'll run." This was the perceived sequence leading up to 9/11. That attack was clearly intended to be the completion of the first sequence and the beginning of the new one, taking the war into the heart of the enemy camp.
In the eyes of a fanatical and resolute minority of Muslims, the third wave of attack on Europe has clearly begun. We should not delude ourselves as to what it is and what it means.  This time it is taking different forms and two in particular: terror and migration.
The subject of terror has been frequently discussed and in great detail, and I do not need to say very much about that now.  What I do want to talk about is the other aspect of more particular relevance to Europe, and that is the question of migration.
In earlier times, it was inconceivable that a Muslim would voluntarily move to a non-Muslim country.  The jurists discuss this subject at great length in the textbooks and manuals of shari`a, but in a different form: is it permissible for a Muslim to live in or even visit a non-Muslim country?  And if so, if he does, what must he do?  Generally speaking, this was considered under certain specific headings. 
A captive or a prisoner of war obviously has no choice, but he must preserve his faith and get home as soon as possible. 
The second case is that of an unbeliever in the land of the unbelievers who sees the light and embraces the true faith – in other words, becomes a Muslim.  He must leave as soon as possible and go to a Muslim country. 
The third case is that of a visitor.  For long, the only purpose that was considered legitimate was to ransom captives.  This was later expanded into diplomatic and commercial missions. With the advance of the European counterattack, there was a new issue in this ongoing debate.  What is the position of a Muslim if his country is conquered by infidels?  May he stay or must he leave? 
We have some interesting documents from the late 15th century, when the reconquest of Spain was completed and Moroccan jurists were discussing this question.  They asked if Muslims could stay.  The general answer was no, it is not permissible.  The question was asked: May they stay if the Christian government that takes over is tolerant?  This proved to be a purely hypothetical question, of course.  The answer was no; even then they may not stay, because the temptation to apostasy would be even greater.  They must leave and hope that in God's good time they will be able to reconquer their homelands and restore the true faith.
This was the line taken by most jurists.  There were some, at first a minority, later a more important group, who said it is permissible for Muslims to stay provided that certain conditions are met, mainly that they are allowed to practice their faith.  This raises another question which I will come back to in a moment: what is meant by practicing their faith?  Here I would remind you that we are dealing not only with a different religion but also with a different concept of what religion is about, referring especially to what Muslims call the shari`a, the holy law of Islam, covering a wide range of matters regarded as secular in the Christian world even during the medieval period, but certainly in what some call the post-Christian era of the Western world.
There are obviously now many attractions which draw Muslims to Europe including the opportunities offered, particularly in view of the growing economic impoverishment of much of the Muslim world, and the attractions of European welfare as well as employment.  They also have freedom of expression and education which they lack at home.  This is a great incentive to the terrorists who migrate.  Terrorists have far greater freedom of preparation and operation in Europe – and to a degree also in America – than they do in most Islamic lands.
I would like to draw your attention to some other factors of importance in the situation at this moment.  One is the new radicalism in the Islamic world, which comes in several kinds: Sunni, especially Wahhabi, and Iranian Shiite, dating from the Iranian revolution.  Both of these are becoming enormously important factors.  We have the strange paradox that the danger of Islamic radicalism or of radical terrorism is far greater in Europe and America than it is in the Middle East and North Africa, where they are much better at controlling their extremists than we are.
The Sunni kind is mainly Wahhabi and has benefited from the prestige and influence and power of the House of Saud as controllers of the holy places of Islam and of the annual pilgrimage, and the enormous oil wealth at their disposal.  The Iranian revolution is something different.  The term revolution is much used in the Middle East.  It is virtually the only generally accepted title of legitimacy.  But the Iranian revolution is a real revolution in the sense in which we use that term of the French or Russian revolutions.  Like the French and Russian revolutions in their day, it has had an enormous impact in the whole area with which the Iranians share a common universe of discourse – that is to say, the Islamic world.
Let me turn to the question of assimilation, which is much discussed nowadays.  How far is it possible for Muslim migrants who have settled in Europe, in North America, and elsewhere, to become part of those countries in which they settle, in the way that so many other waves of immigrants have done? I think there are several points which need to be made.
One of them is the basic differences in what precisely is meant by assimilation and acceptance.  Here there is an immediate and obvious difference between the European and the American situations.  For an immigrant to become an American means a change of political allegiance.  For an immigrant to become a Frenchman or a German means a change of ethnic identity.  Changing political allegiance is certainly very much easier and more practical than changing ethnic identity, either in one's own feelings or in one's measure of acceptance.  England had it both ways.  If you were naturalized, you became British but you did not become English.
I mentioned earlier the important difference in what one means by religion.  For Muslims, it covers a whole range of different things – marriage, divorce, and inheritance are the most obvious examples. Since antiquity in the Western world, the Christian world, these have been secular matters.  The distinction of church and state, spiritual and temporal, lay and ecclesiastical is a Christian distinction which has no place in Islamic history and therefore is difficult to explain to Muslims, even in the present day.  Until very recently they did not even have a vocabulary to express it.  They have one now.
What are the European responses to this situation?  In Europe, as in the United States, a frequent response is what is variously known as multiculturalism and political correctness.  In the Muslim world there are no such inhibitions.  They are very conscious of their identity.  They know who they are and what they are and what they want, a quality which we seem to have lost to a very large extent.  This is a source of strength in the one, of  weakness in the other.
A term sometimes used is constructive engagement.  Let's talk to them, let's get together and see what we can do.  Constructive engagement has a long tradition.  When Saladin re-conquered Jerusalem and other places in the holy land, he allowed the Christian merchants from Europe to stay in the seaports.  He apparently felt the need to justify this, and he wrote a letter to the caliph in Baghdad explaining his action.  I would like to quote it to you.  The merchants were useful since "there is not one among them that does not bring and sell us weapons of war, to their detriment and to our advantage."  This continued during the Crusades.  It continued after.  It continued during the Ottoman advance into Europe, when they could always find European merchants willing to sell them weapons they needed and European bankers willing to finance their purchases.  Constructive engagement has a long history.
One also finds a rather startling modern version of it.  We have seen in our own day the extraordinary spectacle of a pope apologizing to the Muslims for the Crusades. I would not wish to defend the behavior of the Crusaders, which was in many respects atrocious.  But let us have a little sense of proportion.  We are now expected to believe that the Crusades were an unwarranted act of aggression against a peaceful Muslim world.  Hardly.  The first papal call for a crusade occurred in 846 C.E., when an Arab expedition from Sicily sailed up the Tiber and sacked Rome.  A synod in France issued an appeal to Christian sovereigns to rally against "the enemies of Christ," and the Pope, Leo IV, offered a heavenly reward to those who died fighting the Muslims.  A century and a half and many battles later, in 1096, the Crusaders actually arrived in the Middle East. The Crusades were a late, limited, and unsuccessful imitation of the jihad – an attempt to recover by holy war what had been lost by holy war.  It failed, and it was not followed up.
Here is another more recent example of multiculturalism.  On October 8, 2002 – I insist on giving the date because you may want to look it up – the then French prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who I am told is a staunch Roman Catholic, was making a speech in the French National Assembly and talking about the situation in Iraq.  Speaking of Saddam Hussein, he remarked that one of Saddam Hussein's heroes was his compatriot Saladin, who came from the same Iraqi town of Tikrit.  In case the members of the Assembly were not aware of Saladin's identity, M. Raffarin explained to them that it was he who was able "to defeat the Crusaders and liberate Jerusalem."  Yes.  When a French prime minister describes Saladin's capture of Jerusalem from the largely French Crusaders as an act of liberation, this would seem to indicate a rather extreme case of realignment of loyalties.
I was told this, and I didn't believe it.  So I checked it in the parliamentary record.  When M. Raffarin used the word "liberate," a member – the name was not given – called out, "Libérer?"  He just went straight on.  That was the only interruption, and as far as I was aware there was no comment afterwards.
The Islamic radicals have even been able to find some allies in Europe.  In describing them I shall have to use the terms left and right, terms which are becoming increasingly misleading.  The seating arrangements in the first French National Assembly after the revolution are not the laws of nature, but we have become accustomed to using them.  They are difficult when applied to the West nowadays.  They are utter nonsense when applied to different brands of Islam.  But as I say, they are what people use, so let us put it this way.
They have a left-wing appeal to the anti-U.S. elements in Europe, for whom they have so-to-speak replaced the Soviets.  They have a right-wing appeal to the anti-Jewish elements in Europe, replacing the Axis.  They have been able to win considerable support under both headings.  For some in Europe, their hatreds apparently outweigh their loyalties.
There is an interesting exception to that in Germany, where the Muslims are mostly Turkish.  There they have often tended to equate themselves with the Jews, to see themselves as having succeeded the Jews as the victims of German racism and persecution.  I remember a meeting in Berlin convened to discuss the new Muslim minorities in Europe.  In the evening I was asked by a Muslim group of Turks to join them and hear what they had to say about it, which was very interesting.  The phrase which sticks most vividly in my mind from one of them was, "In a thousand years they (the Germans) were unable to accept 400,000 Jews.  What hope is there that they will accept two million Turks?"  They used this very skillfully in playing on German feelings of guilt in order to inhibit any effective German measures to protect German identity, which I would say like others in Europe is becoming endangered.
My time is running out so I think I'll leave other points that I wanted to make.[Shouts to go on.] You don't mind a bit more?
I want to say something about the question of tolerance.  You will recall that at the end of the first phase of the Christian reconquest, after Spain and Portugal and Sicily, Muslims – who by that time were very numerous in the reconquered lands – were given a choice: baptism, exile, or death.  In the former Ottoman lands in southeastern Europe, the leaders of what you might call the reconquest were somewhat more tolerant but not a great deal more.  Some Muslim minorities remained in some Balkan countries, with troubles still going on at the present day.  If I say names like Kosovo or Bosnia, you will know what I am talking about.
Nevertheless, I mention this point because of the very sharp contrast with the treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims in the Islamic lands at that time.  When Muslims came to Europe they had a certain expectation of tolerance, feeling that they were entitled to at least the degree of tolerance which they had accorded to non-Muslims in the great Muslim empires of the past.  Both their expectations and their experience were very different.
Coming to European countries, they got both more and less than they had expected:  More in the sense that they got in theory and often in practice equal political rights, equal access to the professions, all the benefits of the welfare state, freedom of expression, and so on and so forth.
But they also got significantly less than they had given in traditional Islamic states.  In the Ottoman Empire and other states before that – I mention the Ottoman Empire as the most recent – the non-Muslim communities had separate organizations and ran their own affairs.  They collected their own taxes and enforced their own laws.  There were several Christian communities, each living under its own leadership, recognized by the state. These communities were running their own schools, their own education systems, administering their own laws in such matters as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the like.  The Jews did the same.
So you had a situation in which three men living in the same street could die and their estates would be distributed under three different legal systems if one happened to be Jewish, one Christian, and one Muslim.  A Jew could be punished by a rabbinical court and jailed for violating the Sabbath or eating on Yom Kippur.  A Christian could be arrested and imprisoned for taking a second wife. Bigamy is a Christian offense; it was not an Islamic or an Ottoman offense. 
They do not have that degree of independence in their own social and legal life in the modern state.  It is quite unrealistic for them to expect it, given the nature of the modern state, but that is not how they see it.  They feel that they are entitled to receive what they gave.  As one Muslim friend of mine in Europe put it, "We allowed you to practice monogamy, why should you not allow us to practice polygamy?"
Such questions – polygamy, in particular – raise important issues of a more practical nature.  Isn't an immigrant who is permitted to come to France or Germany entitled to bring his family with him? But what exactly does his family consist of?  They are increasingly demanding and getting permission to bring plural wives.  The same is also applying more and more to welfare payments and so on.  On the other hand, the enforcement of shari`a is a little more difficult.  This has become an extremely sensitive issue.
Another extremely sensitive issue, closely related to this, is the position of women, which is of course very different between Christendom and Islam.  This has indeed been one of the major differences between the two societies.
Where do we stand now?  Is it third time lucky?  It is not impossible. They have certain clear advantages.  They have fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking.  They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement.  They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography, the combination of natural increase and migration producing major population changes, which could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries.
But we also have some advantages, the most important of which are knowledge and freedom.  The appeal of genuine modern knowledge in a society which, in the more distant past, had a long record of scientific and scholarly achievement is obvious.  They are keenly and painfully aware of their relative backwardness and welcome the opportunity to rectify it.
Less obvious but also powerful is the appeal of freedom.  In the past, in the Islamic world the word freedom was not used in a political sense.  Freedom was a legal concept.  You were free if you were not a slave.  The institution of slavery existed.  Free meant not slave.  Unlike the West, they did not use freedom and slavery as a metaphor for good and bad government, as we have done for a long time in the Western world.  The terms they used to denote good and bad government are justice and injustice.  A good government is a just government, one in which the Holy Law, including its limitations on sovereign authority, is strictly enforced. The Islamic tradition, in theory and, until the onset of modernization, to a large degree in practice, emphatically rejects despotic and arbitrary government. Living under justice is the nearest approach to what we would call freedom.
But the idea of freedom in its Western interpretation is making headway.  It is becoming more and more understood, more and more appreciated and more and more desired.  It is perhaps in the long run our best hope, perhaps even our only hope, of surviving this developing struggle.  Thank you.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab Peace Intiative - Full Analysis

Click here for an unofficial translation of a copy of the decisions of the summit. There are no official translations.

Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center
at the Israel Intelligence' Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC)

APRIL 6, 2007

Abu Mazen (foreground) and Ismail Haniya (behind him to the left)
at the opening ceremony of the Arab summit meeting
(Ahmed Jadallah for Reuters, March 28)


1. On March 28-29 an Arab summit meeting was held in Riyadh , the capital of Saudi Arabia . It was overshadowed by the escalation of the regional struggle between the radical Iranian-Syrian axis and the pragmatic, pro-Western states (chiefly Saudi Arabia , Egypt and Jordan ) and by the internal tensions in the various arenas of conflict (chiefly Iraq , the Palestinian arena and Lebanon ). The decisions reached by the participants stressed the need for Arab unity and for joint Arab action to deal with both the internal and external challenges facing the Arab world.

2. One of the topics dealt with was the reaffirmation and renewed marketing of the Arab initiative, which was ratified at the Arab summit meeting in Beirut in March 2002. The objective was to send a message of renewed Arab unity, to ease the struggle against the Iranian threat (although the decisions reached avoided directly mentioning Iran as a source of threat) 1 and to establish Saudi Arabia's status as the leader of the Arab world.

3. The objective of this Bulletin is to examine the Arab peace initiative and other topics dealt with by the Riyadh summit meeting relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (other decisions reached by the meeting are not included here). 

Background for the Arab peace initiative

4. The Arab peace initiative adopted by the Beirut summit meeting was based on the Saudi Arabian initiative proposed by the current king of Saudi Arabia , Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, who was then crown prince. It came into being at the end of 2001 after a full year of the Palestinian terrorist campaign (the "second intifada"). Saudi Arabia hoped to use it to brake the escalating Palestinian-Israeli conflict and at the same time to improve its relations with the United States and the West in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 . The Saudi Arabian initiative was revealed in an interview given by crown prince Abdullah to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman in February 2002. The initiative was later changed (stiffening its position regarding Israel ) until it was accepted by all the Arab states in Beirut , when it became "the Arab initiative."

5. The Riyadh summit meeting reaffirmed, among other things, the complete text of the Arab initiative, including the paragraph dealing with the Palestinian refugees, which is unacceptable to Israel and which does not appear in the original Saudi Arabian initiative. 2 The initiative, according to the final statement made by the leaders of the Arab states in Riyadh , is intended to prepare the way for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict relying on legitimate international decisions, and on the principle of land in return for peace.

Abu Mazen (left) and Ismail Haniya with Saudi Arabian king Abdallah. The summit meeting enabled Hamas to place itself at the center of the pan-Arab stage as Abu Mazen's equal (Hamas Website, March 27).

(the Arabic version appears in the Appendix) 3

6. The following are the main points adopted by the summit meeting in Beirut in March 27-28, 2002 :

A. The Arab League Council asks Israel to reexamine its policies and to turn to peace, announcing that a just peace ( al-salam al-'adil ) is its strategic option.

B. The Arab League Council demands that Israel take the following steps:

1) A full withdrawal ( al-insihab al-kamil ) from the occupied Arab lands, including the " Syrian Golan ," to the June 4, 1967 lines and from the lands still occupied by Israel in south Lebanon . 4

2) Finding a just solution ( hall 'adil ) for the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194. 5

3) Acceptance of the existence of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since June 4, 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

C. [In return,] the Arab states will do the following:

1) [The Arab states will] consider thereby that the Arab-Israeli conflict has ended and enter into a peace agreement between them and Israel while assuring security for all the countries in the region.

2) [The Arab states] will establish natural relations ('alaqat tabi'iyya 6) with Israel as part of an overall peace.

3) [The Arab states] will guarantee the rejection of all forms of permanent settlement of the Palestinians [i.e., refugees] [in the Arab countries] ( al-tawtin ) which conflicts with the special circumstances [current] in the Arab host states.

4) The Arab League calls upon the government of Israel and all Israelis to accept this initiative to preserve the chance for the establishment of peace and to prevent bloodshed, 7 in a way that will enable the Arab states and Israel to live in peace side by side and provide a secure future of prosperity and stability for future generations.

The main decisions reached by the Riyadh summit meeting relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Arab initiative

7. The following are the main decisions reached by the Riyadh summit meeting relating to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Arab initiative: 8

A. The meeting stressed the adherence of all the Arab states to decision 221 adopted by the Beirut summit meeting on March 28, 2002 , known as the " Arab peace initiative ." The meeting called upon the Israeli government and all Israelis to accept the Arab peace initiative and to exploit the opportunity to renew the process of direct, serious negotiations regarding all avenues.

B. The meeting charged the ministers' committee for the Arab peace initiative to continue its efforts to set up working teams for making the necessary contacts with the UN General Secretary, the members of the Security Council, the international Quartet and all the other sides involved in the peace process (by implication Israel as well, although Israel is not referred to by name.)

C. The meeting expressed the support of the Arab states for the Palestinian national unity government and called upon the international community to immediately lift the political, economic and military boycott Israeli imposed on the Palestinians and to hold Israel responsible for it, to compensate the Palestinians for casualties and damage to property, and to exert pressure on Israel to release the tax funds due to the Palestinian Authority.

King Abdallah speaking at the summit meeting, calling for the lifting of the "boycott" of the Palestinians (Saudi Arabian TV, March 28).

D. The meeting severely denounced Israel for the "excavations under and around Al-Aqsa mosque [embracing the utterly false claim that Israel is excavating under Al-Aqsa] and called upon international organizations and institutions, especially UNESCO, to bear responsibility for protecting the Islamic and Christian holy sites. The meeting stressed the "Arab nature of Jerusalem " and rejected "all the illegal steps taken by Israel to make Jerusalem Jewish and annex it."

E. The meeting also stressed the "illegitimacy of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories." It called for pressure to be exerted on Israel to release the 10,000 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails. It also called upon the Arab states to aid and support the rehabilitation of structures and infrastructures destroyed by Israel during its military actions in the Gaza Strip and West Bank .

The issue of terrorism as it appeared in the meeting's decisions

8. As noted above, the Arab peace initiative does not mention the issue of terrorism. Regarding the decisions taken at the Riyadh summit meeting, in the paragraph dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (which included the reaffirmation of the Arab initiative) no mention was made of either Palestinian or global terrorism . However, the issue does appear in paragraph 14 in the context of decisions relating to Lebanon , where, in addition to everything else, Israel is held responsible for the second Lebanon war:

9: Paragraph 14 and its English translation follow: 9

"We emphasize our condemnation of international terrorism (al-irhab al-dawli), against which the Arab states effectively fight, and the need to distinguish between terrorism and legitimate resistance (al-muqawamah al-mashrua') against the Israeli occupation. That is, we do not consider acts of resistance as terrorism activity, and as a result therefore we do not put men of the resistance on the list of terrorists."

10. It should be noted that among the decisions taken by the Arab summit meeting in Beirut in 2002 also appeared paragraphs in support of the Lebanese "resistance" (i.e., Hezbollah) 10 and which distinguished between global terrorism and "the legitimate right of peoples to resist foreign occupation." The paragraph in the Riyadh summit meeting's decisions relates to "resistance" in general, and not just "Lebanese resistance," despite the fact that it appears in a Lebanese context. The Riyadh version also distinguishes between the terrorism employed by the global jihad (which is to be denounced) and "legitimate resistance" against the "Israeli occupation" ( muqawamah ). That wording gives pan-Arab legitimization to the terrorism waged by Hezbollah and the Palestinian terrorist organizations as well . 11

11. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile mentioning that Abu Mazen, for his part, in a speech given at the summit meeting's final session, called upon Israel and the Palestinians to give up violence, saying "while we demand a comprehensive, just solution for our cause, we renounce violence and violence-in-return in all its forms, because we were and still are the first victims of that violence (Palestinian National Authority, March 29). However, taking into consideration the decisions taken by the summit meeting and the provocative statements made by Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist organizations regarding their right and determination to continue their terrorist campaign (see below), Abu Mazen's appeal was exceptional. 

Responses to the Riyadh Summit Meeting's Reaffirmation of the Arab Initiative
(updated to April 4)


12. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a preliminary response noted, among other things, the following on March 29:

" Israel is sincerely interested in pursuing a dialogue with those Arab states desiring peace with Israel to promote a process of normalization and cooperation. Israel hopes that the Riyadh Summit will contribute to that effort.

Israel's position with regard to the peace process with the Palestinians is founded on fundamental principles, the most central of which is the existence of two nation-states, each addressing the national aspirations of its own people - Israel for the Jewish people and Palestine for the Palestinian people - and with both states coexisting in peace, free of the threat of terrorism and violence.

To that end a direct dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians is necessary."

13. On March 28 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israeli daily Hebrew newspaper Haaretz he had faith that during the next five years it would be possible to reach a comprehensive peace agreement with the Arab states and the Palestinians. He related positively to the Saudi Arabian initiative but had reservations about the Arab initiative which mentioned UN Resolution 194. Olmert stated that the Saudi Arabian initiative contained interesting ideas "and we are willing to discuss them and hear from the Saudi Arabians about their position and to tell them what our position is." He added that he would be happy to participate in a regional conference which would support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians (Haaretz, March 30, 2007 ).

14. In an interview with Time Magazine the prime minister said that if he could meet with King Abdullah he would surprise him with what he had to say. He added that the Saudi Arabian peace initiative's approach was very Palestinians

Palestinian hopes that the Arab summit meeting will help relieve some of the international pressure on them (the "blockade"). The cartoon was drawn by Omaya Joha, known for her Hamas affiliation. It makes no reference to the hope that the summit meeting will help advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians (Hamas Website, March 30)

Palestinian Authority chairman, Abu Mazen

15. Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen and national unity government prime minister Ismail Haniya headed the Palestinian delegation to the Riyadh summit conference. As opposed to Hamas officials and spokesmen, who tried to keep from revealing their real attitude to the Arab initiative (See below), Abu Mazen warmly praised the initiative and called upon the Arab states to make a serious effort to market it to the international community.

16. The points of Abu Mazen's statement regarding the Arab initiative were the following (taken from Palestinian TV and the Palestinian News Agency, March 27):

A. The Arab peace initiative is the greatest opportunity to find a solution for the crisis in the Middle East . Any failure would mean the destruction of hope for peace in the future.

B. No changes should be made in the initiative because it is "completely balanced" and ensures the "rights" of both sides. The Palestinians will receive a country of their own and a "solution for the refugee problem," and the Arab and Muslim countries will normalize their relations with Israel .

C. The initiative should be marketed to the nations of the world because, according to Abu Mazen, it has not been properly understood or explained, and has even been "corrupted by a number of factors" (Abu Mazen was careful not to clarify who or what the factors were or how they had "corrupted" the initiative).

D. In principle, there is no way of escaping from having contacts with Israel . He said he had recently set up a schedule of bi-weekly meetings with prime minister [Olmert], at which mutual problems would be raised, as would fundamental problems related to the final status agreement.

E. As to the issue of the refugees , Abu Mazen said (according to the Palestinian News Agency) that "We adhere to the literal text of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1949 [sic, i.e., 1948]." He said that the resolution was also represented in the Arab initiative, which called for "a just and agreed solution for the refugees according to Resolution 194."

17. In a speech given at the final session of the summit meeting Abu Mazen praised the reaffirmation of the Arab initiative and called for the establishment of a mechanism for implementing it and finding suitable ways to turn the initiative from a statement of principles to a practical program which should be implemented (Palestinian News Agency, March 29).

18. Senior PLO figures described the Arab initiative as an achievement. Jibril Rajoub called for the establishment of a mechanism for its implementation, for ensuring financial aid for the Palestinian national unity government and for lifting the diplomatic "boycott." He said that unless that happened, the results of the summit would amount to nothing more than polite phrases. He also called for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue which would become a multilateral regional dialogue (Palestinian TV, March 29). Muhammad Dahlan, Saeb Ariqat and Abu Alaa' also praised the Arab initiative.

The Hamas movement

A political achievement for Hamas: King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia receiving Abu Mazen
and Ismail Haniya in Riyadh (Hamas Website, March 27)

19. Hamas' position to the Riyadh summit meeting and the Arab initiative is ambivalent:

A. On the one hand, Hamas and national unity government prime minister Ismail Haniya won pan-Arab legitimacy, more than at Abu Mazen's expense. The summit meeting also called upon the international community to support the national unity government and to end the financial and diplomatic "boycott" of it. Those are all political achievements unprecedented for Hamas since the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.

B. On the other hand, Hamas is opposed to the Arab initiative on principle because it includes recognition of Israel and the end of the Palestinian- and Arab-Israeli conflicts.

C. Other considerations which influenced Hamas's position were its lack of desire for a confrontation with Saudi Arabia , Egypt and other countries which support both the initiative and the Palestinian national unity government, and its interest in preserving internal Palestinian unity following the Mecca Accord and the establishment of the national unity government.

20. Thus Hamas spokesmen in general preferred not to express blatant opposition to the initiative, to maintain a certain degree of vagueness regarding its true position toward it, to minimize its importance and to stress what it views as the initiative's positive aspects, especially adherence to the return of the Palestinian refugees.

21. Some statements made by senior Hamas figures and the organization's spokesmen regarding the decisions taken by the Riyadh summit were:

A. Ismail Haniya , national unity government prime minister, who participated in Riyadh summit meeting, told Reuters journalists that his organization did not object to the Arab initiative but that it would never give up its demand for the Palestinian refugees' "right to return." He called upon the leaders of the Arab states not to compromise regarding the basic rights of the Palestinians, especially the refugees' "right to return" (Reuters, Riyadh , March 28). In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV he repeatedly stressed that the return of the Palestinian refuges to "their" land was "a holy right" that no one had the right to cede (Al-Arabiya TV, March 29).

B. Mahmoud al-Zahar , one of the Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, said that the Arab summit meeting had not produced anything new. He said that in 2002 it had been "halted" at a certain stage and had never taken off again. He repeated Hamas' basic ideology: "Our plan is to liberate all Palestine all at once …all Palestine is [one] stage for us. As for our strategic plan, [it is] bringing Islam to every house." He added that " We have never recognized and will never recognize the right of Israel to exist in any part of Palestine …if we give up our program of resistance we give up our name! We are the Islamic Resistance Movement - Hamas" ( Ma'an News Agency , March 30).

C. Khalil Abu Leila , responsible for Hamas' foreign relations, said that he did not believe that the "Zionist entity" would agree to the Arab initiative. Therefore, he said, the PLO should be given another chance to deal with the "Zionist entity," but that it would have to be done without the Arabs' making concessions in return for Israel 's agreement to the initiative (Al-Aqsa satellite TV, March 27).

D. Salah Bardawil , Hamas spokesman in the Legislative Council, said that the Arab summit meeting added nothing to the Palestinian issue beyond demonstrating pan-Arab unity. He said there were nothing new in the Arab initiative because "it is merely more of what was proposed in Beirut in 2002" (Quds Press Website, March 30). Muhammad Barghouti as well, Hamas local government minister, said there was nothing new about the decisions made at the summit meeting (Palestinian TV, March 29).

E. Ismail Radwan , Hamas spokesman, praised the decisions made at the summit meeting to confront the Zionist-American pressures which call for the negation of the Palestinian refugees' "right to return." He expressed his hope that the decision would enable the "siege" to be lifted and that the Palestinian government would be given financial aid (Hamas Website, March 31).

22. While the above statements relating directly to the summit meeting and the Arab initiative were being made, Hamas spokesmen repeatedly said that Hamas had not abandoned its principles regarding the conflict, at the heart of which were its refusal to recognize the right of Israel to exist and its adherence to the strategy of "resistance" (i.e., violence and terrorism) . For example:

A. Khaled Mashaal , head of Hamas' political bureau, while on a visit to Algiers where he participated in the Conference of the Jerusalem International Foundation, denied that Hamas had abandoned its military jihad when it took over the government and said that it was determined to continue with the "resistance" (i.e., violence and terrorism) (El-Khabar, Algeria, March 27).

B. On March 31 at a rally in Khan Yunis, Ismail Radwan , Hamas spokesman, said that Hamas would not abandon the "resistance" and would continue with the jihad as its strategic choice "to liberate all of historical Palestine [i.e., " Palestine " from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River ]." Hinting at the Riyadh summit meeting he said, " Jerusalem will not be liberated by meetings, decisions and negotiations, but with the rifle, the Qassam and rockets ." He told his listeners to " prepare yourselves for jihad, the battle is at hand and our enemies know only the language of force… " (Pal-media Website, affiliated with Hamas, March 31).

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad

23. Unlike a certain vagueness employed by Hamas spokesmen relating to the Arab initiative, the result of the movement's unity governmental commitments, the PIJ expressed determined opposition to the Arab peace initiative because of the decisions and attacked it with strong language:

A. In an Internet posting, the PIJ claimed that the Riyadh summit meeting gave the "Zionist entity" and excuse to continue its "aggressive policies against the Palestinians." Khaled al-Batash , a senior PIJ figure, said that the Arabs had "unanimously agreed to abandon the Palestinian problem and that they no longer related [positively] to the Palestinians" (Hamas Website, March 29).

B. Ziyad Nakhleh , deputy secretary of the organization (who lives in Damascus), told the Iranian TV channel Al-'Alam that the Arab leaders meeting in Riyadh were not authorized to make concessions to the "Zionists" regarding "historical Palestine." He added that the PIJ's position was that the idea of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders side by side with Israel should not be discussed(Al-'Alam, March 28). He also said that the summit meeting's decisions "conceded the legitimate right of the Palestinian people" and added that "all Arab leaders were forbidden under any circumstances…to cede historical Palestine to the Zionist enemies" (Paltoday Webside, March 29).

Palestinian Islamic Jihad parade in Gaza to protest the Riyadh summit meeting
(Al-Jazeera TV, March 28)

24. On March 28 the PIJ and the Popular Resistance Committees held a well-attended parade in the center of Gaza City to protest the "dictations [given to] and the pressures" exerted on the Palestinian people by Israel and the United States, and to demand that the leaders of the Arab summit meeting " support the resistance in Palestine and in other countries ." Senior PIJ figure Khadr Habib gave a speech in which he said that the rockets launched by the organization on March 28 into Israeli territory "were a message to the Arab summit meeting that our only option is the option of resistance…" 12 (PIJ Website, March 28; Voice of Truth Website of the PRC, March 28).

First international responses

25. A State Department spokesman congratulated the Riyadh summit meeting for having ratified the 2002 Arab initiative for a settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "That is something we view as very positive…The United States has no interest in seeking revision to the initiative…" The foreign ministers of the European Union and the UN Secretary General also expressed support for the Arab initiative.

Appendix I 

peace initiative taken from the Arab summit
meeting in Beirut , March 27-28, 2002 13

sources" told the Ilaf Website that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wanted an invitation to the summit meeting but was refused. The sources added that Saudi Arabia was of the opinion that Iran not only conducted [Shi'ite] ethnic policies, but that Iran was trying to influence the Arabs through aid and support given to armed groups such as Hamas in "Palestine" [sic] and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The sources stated that Saudi Arabia was aware that every blatantly anti-Israeli speech given by Ahmadinejad reaches the "Arab-Muslim street" and not the "Iranian street," which was occupied with solving its difficult financial problems.

Abdullah mentioned only Israel 's full withdrawal from the occupied territories in return for the full normalization of relations, and no mention was made of the Palestinian refugees . The following appeared in the February 17, 2002 issue of the New York Times: "full withdrawal from all the occupied territories, in accord with U.N resolutions, including in Jerusalem , for full normalization of relations." The paragraph relating to the refugees was added at the Beirut summit meeting under pressure from Syria and radical Arab countries.

on the Arab League Website. See

in south Lebanon . It is clearly a hint to the Shebaa Farms (Har Dov), which are part of the northern Golan Heights and do not belong to Lebanon. It can be assumed that the Lebanese government demanded the reference be inserted into the initiative. Representing Israel as "occupying" Lebanese territory is exploited by Hezbollah for reinforcing the claim that its continued terrorist attacks are legitimate.

Resolution 194 (December 11, 1948), reads as follows: "The refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable data, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible" (from the UN Website). It should be noted that the Arab initiative does not specifically use the expression "the right to return."

charged term "normalization" ( tatbi' ). "Natural relations" is general and does not necessarily denote the nature of the relations which would be instituted between the Arab states and Israel . It does however hint that such relations might be established or that the Arab boycott of Israel would be or might be lifted. However, it also enables the Arab states to maintain a "cold peace" of the sort currently in force between Israel and Egypt . Those relations express formal recognition of Israel and establishing diplomatic relations, but they are shallow and do not include social or cultural relations.

the initiative makes no mention of the cessation of Palestinian terrorism against Israel , and at a time (the eve of the suicide bombing attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya) when Palestinian terrorism had reached unprecedented heights.

on the Arab League Website and the Saudi Arabian News Agency, March 29. The wording of the decisions relating to Israel is vitriolic and hostile, and stands in complete contradiction to the message of peace the Arab world tries to present through the Arab initiative .

summary of the decisions made), paragraph 14, taken from the Arab League's Website.

Hezbollah proclaimed its satisfaction with the praise showered on the "resistance" by the Arab summit meeting and its placing responsibility for the second Lebanon war on Israel (Lebanese News Agency. March 30).

six rockets in an attack on Israeli settlements in the western Negev on March 28.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The meaning of Arab Summits

This is a candid assessment of Arab summits. Most likely each Arab government had a different motive for approving the Arab peace plan.  However, just because the Arab peace initiative might be a trap, that doesn't mean Israel should not respond to it.  If it is a "peace offensive" in the literal sense, then Israel must counter with its own "peace offensive."


Ami Isseroff


By Michael Widlanski


What is so important about Arab summits, if anything?

What is so important and new about the Saudi "peace plan"?

Why would the Sunni Saudis offer a plan that seems to help the positions of their Iranian and Syrian adversaries?

And why is America seemingly supporting Saudi ideas that fly in the face of the Bush Administration's anti-terror policy vis a vis the Palestinians?

Why are so many dovish Israelis in favor of the Saudi plans?

While it is not easy to give easy answers to questions about Arab politics, this writer, who has attended Arab summit deliberations, will try to give some clues.

Reporters covering Arab summits always see and hear calls for Arab unity, but this activity belies the hidden agenda that outsiders rarely see and hear but that actually controls public events.

The Arab summits often stress unity when they are exactly about the opposite.

"Never has the Arab world been so split," acknowledged King Abdullah, the Saudi monarch who hosted the conference last week.

This was a rare bit of honesty from an Arab ruler, who, like his colleagues, can rarely display candor in public.

That is because Arab summit conferences, in reality, are about two things-power and survival:

.--the continuing competition between the various Arab regimes, vying for leadership in the Arab world; and

.--the need of most Arab regimes-most of which are failing authoritarian enterprises-to distract their populations from their domestic failures, especially the lingering questions of executive inefficiency and corruption.

That is another reason why Arab summits frequently repeat policies of what they have said before, including so-called peace plans, such as the Saudi idea for total Israeli withdrawal.

"The [Saudi] plan re-proposed today is similar to the original version offered in 2002," asserted Professor Alexander Bligh, one of Israel's top experts on Saudi Arabia, on the opening day of the summit.

Bligh said the Saudis have been prompted to reassert their plan by a combination of fear and confidence-fear that there is a growing regional power vacuum that Iran is trying to fill following American, Israeli and Egyptian setbacks, alongside Saudi diplomatic achievements.

"The Saudis are trying to build on the momentum of the relative success of the Mecca Agreement that set the basis for the new Palestinian national unity government," declared Bligh, but he said Israel would be wise to be wary of Saudis bearing gifts.

"The Saudi plan supposedly offers Israel security and normalization in exchange for full withdrawal from 'all occupied Arab territories,'" said Bligh who is very skeptical of Saudi pronouncements.

In fact, said Bligh, the Saudi demands are actually in line with the territorial demands of the hard-line Syrian government and its pro-Syrian and Iranian-financed allies in the Hizballah terrorist organization.

"These demands include Israeli withdrawal from 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," added Professor Bligh.

Unlike King Abdullah's candid admission of disunity, most Arab summits and most Arab politics are about posturing, about appearing to find common ground on "apple pie" issues such as "Israeli aggression," "foreign intervention," and the all-important "Palestinian rights."

These issues are picked because they are safe, because Arab leaders can be publicly pro-Palestinian and anti-American, aware that no one in their countries or in the Arab League will be vexed by their statements or actions.

That is why King Abdullah's anti-American stance on Iraq was much more typical of what one expects at Arab summits.

"In beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism," declared the Saudi monarch publicly when, in fact, he and his government are deathly afraid that America will retreat hastily from Iraq, allowing Iran greater influence.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and most other Arab governments are all frightened of the revolutionary Shiite ideology radiating from Iran and which, they fear, undermines the Sunni religious culture that is one of the building blocks of their governments.

Saudi Arabia in particular has good reason to want Iranian forces defeated in Iraq, which borders Saudi Arabia, and it has good reason to want pro-Iranian forces defeated by Israel in Lebanon and Gaza.

The Saudis, a conservative family regime, have seen their religious capital-Mecca-and strategically important oil installations attacked in the last decade by Iranian-trained terrorists trying to stir up Shiite forces in Saudi Arabia's largely Shiite eastern provinces.

The Saudi royal family does not forget that Iranian pilgrims attacked Saudi-protected shrines in the Islamic center of Mecca a few years ago.

So why, then, do the Saudis and other Arab governments often say exactly the opposite of what they think, and why are they trying to pressure Israel into a "peace plan" with Palestinians?

Part of the answer, according to Dr. Guy Bechor, an Arab affairs expert at the Herzliya Interdiscplinary Center, is that "major changes are underway in the region, and some of them scare the Saudis and the Egyptians."

Dr. Bechor said both Egypt and the Saudis felt threatened by the democracy wave ideas promoted by the United States, and he cited the changes in the Egyptian constitution designed to curb the rising power of Islamist parties.

In addition, both Bechor and Bligh said the "moderate" Sunni-oriented Arab regimes see an apparent weakening of American power in Iraq, an Israeli faltering in the summer war in Lebanon, and an Egyptian political and military withdrawal from attempts to mediate internal Palestinian warfare and terror in Gaza.

But why would the Saudis-who rarely take risks-risk their prestige on a "peace plan" that has already been received coolly by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert while seeming to reward the hard-line stance of Iran and Syria?

Part of the answer to the riddle of Saudi actions is that:

.--Offering a "peace plan" gives an illusion that the Arab leaders, particularly the Saudis, are real movers and shakers, able to shape events;

.--Seeming to make demands of Israel, including total withdrawal from "Arab lands," is always popular in the Arab world;

.--The political tradition of Arab summits stresses ijmaa' [consensus in Arabic] almost requiring unanimity in decision-making, giving a kind of veto power to hard-line Arab governments such as Syria.

There are additional reasons:

.--the fear of losing control by raising real issues that might inflame domestic populations [low Arab technological achievement, low literacy and health levels, high levels of corruption, and low national self-esteem];

.-- and the continuing influence of form over substance in Arab politics and classical literature (where showing off rhymes, grammatical twists and verbal dexterity often trump clear analysis).

Those familiar with Arab politics in general and Arab summits in particular know that it would be a grave mistake to take Arab leaders at their public word, and, indeed, in private, Arab leaders often say exactly the opposite of what they say in their public speeches.

Typically, Arab summit conferences publicly condemn American and Israeli policies-such as war in Iraq and Lebanon-when many Arab governments actually hope and pray for American and Israeli successes in these conflicts.

There are many examples of this kind of public versus private posture-as when Arab governments privately supported Israeli military actions against Hizballah in Lebanon this summer.

Similarly, Jordanian leaders have traditionally spoken out in favor of Palestinian demands in public, when, in private, they have hoped that Israel would reject Palestinian demands.

Dr. Michael Widlanski is a specialist in Arab politics and communication whose doctorate dealt with the Palestinian broadcast media. He is a former reporter, correspondent and editor, respectively, at The New York Times, The Cox Newspapers-Atlanta Constitution, and The Jerusalem Post. He has also served as a special advisor to Israeli delegations to peace talks in 1991-1992 and as Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Ministry of Public Security, editing secret PLO Archives captured in Jerusalem.

Dr. Michael Widlanski

30 Midbar Sinai Street,

Jerusalem 97805

Local Phone: 02-5322-868/ 5322-582

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IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis




Continued (Permanent Link)

Remodeling American Judaism

Scott Shay has a lot of innovative ideas for remodelling American Judaism and giving it a second chance. You might remember (OK, probably not) his idea about supporting Jewish education.  Shay specializes in saving failed companies. Is US Judaism like a failed company? Perhaps in some ways it is: intermarriage rates are very high it seems, and a lot of Jews are not really interested in being Jewish and don't know much about it. There are some important possible differences between a failed company and Judaism though, and there are many different reasons why a company might fail.
If the ABC firm sells gas lighting fixtures and keeps on trying to sell them after Mr. Edison's little invention is popularized, then they don't have much of a future. That is one sort of failed company. Another sort of failure might be a company like Studebaker, which made some great automobiles, but had commercial and finance and competition issues, as well as a design that was too far ahead of its time. Peter Studebaker was trying to sell 1956 model automobiles in 1947. Compare that with the situation of Abraham or Herzl, they had great product, but few people were going to listen at the time. In 1937, it was impossible to sell Zionism to most Polish Jews. In 1940 they were ready to "buy," but they had no "money" any more. Before a man gets a heart attack, it is hard to convince him to use anti-cholesterol drugs. Afterwards, it might be too late.
Some firms have antiquated production methods, and some have poor marketing. Some firms have a great product at the right price, but the executives are embezzling from the firm, or the firm is poorly organized, with people pulling in different directions and not enough people in the firm believe in the product.
Judaism in North America seems to be in the last category. There is a great product apparently, because Americans rated Judaism tops in a poll about religions, and non-Jews are interested in Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah and the like. If Maddona likes your product, you can sell it.
That sort of enterprise can be saved, but it takes a lot of work, and it is much harder than saving a business. There is no Chief Executive of Judaism, and no board. Instead there are a lot of different people and organizations who aspire to be the chief executives. Maybe American Jews need a more centralized leadership, but it is hard to see everyone agreeing on the same leaders and principles.
Ami Isseroff
How does one sell Judaism?
By Amiram Barkat
Can one compare the situation of the Jewish community in the United States with that of a commercial firm in difficulties? Can an investment banker from Wall Street, who specialized in buying failing companies, teach the leaders of the community how to turn Judaism in America into an attractive brand?
Scott Shay answers both questions is in the affirmative. Shay, 49, the co-director of a private capital fund in New York, has in the past few years felt deep concern about the continuity of American Jewry. This is not coincidental: Shay's Jewish-communal background started at age 16 and he has been a volunteer member of the directorates of important Jewish organizations such as Hillel and the New York Jewish Federation. He is also an active member of a modern Orthodox community in New York.
In recent years, Shay has devoted considerable time to studying closely the major research published about American Jewry. The conclusion he reached was gloomy and unequivocal: American Jewry is facing a severe internal crisis but the communal leadership is burying its head in the sand, preferring to deal with less substantive problems, such as anti-Semitism or the Iranian nuclear program.
With the practicality of an American investment banker, Shay drew up a list of 10 stern "steps to recovery." Unless these steps are taken immediately, he warns, the number of Jews in America is likely to drop by about half by 2030, and the Jewish establishment will lose a significant amount of its political influence and its economic prowess.
Shay outlines the problems and the solutions in a book, "Getting Our Groove Back," which was published at the beginning of the year. It is full of statistics and numbers that Shay says are merely a symptom. The real problem of American Jewry, he says, is a lack of vision or collective mission. "No corporation can live without a collective aim," says Shay. "If we don't find the answer to questions such as 'Why is it worthwhile being Jewish?' we shall continue to disintegrate."
Fewer children, more adults
Shay's "recovery program" relates to various facets of Jewish life: demography, connection with Israel, synagogue, mixed marriage and Jewish philanthropy.
In Shay's vision, half of the Jewish children would study at private Jewish day schools. In effect, for many years there has been talk of the importance of investing in non-Orthodox private education but the subject does not capture the imagination of donors.
Shay proposes sending every Jewish youth on a visit to Israel, just as the birthright Israel program already successfully does. But instead of the lightening visit offered by birthright Israel, Shay proposes granting every youth a $2,000 coupon that will allow him to choose between a variety of different types of visit.
One of the original ideas in the book is to initiate joint delegations of Jews from Israel and the U.S. for humanitarian aid missions throughout the world. Shay is sure that both sides will benefit from the meeting: The Israelis will acquire a serious work ethic from the Americans and an attitude of equality toward minorities, while the Americans will connect with their Jewish identity.
In the past few months, Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee have published optimistic studies indicating stability in the number of Jews and even a symbolic population increase. Shay believes the findings are misleading. "It is clear that there are fewer Jews than there were in the U.S. and that this trend will continue and even worsen," he says. "The average birth rate of Jewish women is around 1.2 [children]. Any population with a birth rate like that will decrease by about 50 percent in 50 years."
According to Shay's statistics, American Jewry is older than the general population. In New York, for example, the average age is 34 while the average age of Jews there is over 40, "and that is after one makes an adjusted calculation of the ultra-Orthodox population of Willamsburg, where the average age is about 16."
The rate of mixed marriages in cities like Denver, Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul is more than 70 percent. In San Francisco, St. Louis and Chicago "the situation is also not good," he says.
Shay does not make do with age-old argument about demographic trends but examines less talked about subjects, which are no less sensitive and problematic. For example, the situation of the Conservative movement, which lies between Orthodoxy and Reform Judaism and believes in commitment to halakha (Jewish law) with a flexible and modern interpretation. In the 20th century, the Conservative movement was the glue that held together American Jewry and was the largest stream, but in the last questionnaire, which was distributed in 2001 at the behest of the United Jewish Communities of North America, the Conservatives had taken second place to the Reform movement.
According to Shay's data, the membership of the Conservative movement now stands at 660,000 as opposed to 2.5 million in the middle of the last century. He believes the community is dwindling at the alarming rate of more than 2,000 members per month.
Shay, who grew up in a Conservative community in Chicago, mentions several reasons for the shrinking movement: paralysis in the leadership, a clumsy, bureaucratic establishment and deep rifts on questions such as ordaining homosexual rabbis.
It is no longer possible to save the movement, Shay believes, but its moral path and principles can appeal to many Jews. Relying on the lessons learned by the Reform and Orthodox movements, which faced similar crises in the past, Shay proposes that the Conservative movement be broken up into "mini" movements that do not have one central theological commitment but can offer a wide variety of ritual and prayer. Their common denominator must be basic values such as observing Shabbat and holidays, weekly synagogue visits, a commitment to Israel, studying Torah and Jewish texts, keeping kosher and social activities. Jews who do not consider themselves commited to halakha will also be able to join in these new movements if they accept the basic values.
Superfluous organizations
Shay picks up the surgeon's scalpel with Jewish philanthropy, claiming Jews contribute less and less to Jewish causes. He relies on the only real study of the subject, that of Gary Tobin of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco. The research looked at 188 mega-donations made by Jewish philanthropists and revealed that only 6 percent of them had been given to Jewish bodies and institutions.
Shay does not have a plan to stop Jews from giving their money to universities, cultural institutions and medical research. The practical steps he recommends mainly relate to the Jewish organizations. He calls for "creative destruction."
"The time has come for there to be fewer organizations," he says. "We have to kill organizations that do not have an aim and to transfer their financial resources to objectives that are crying out for money. In every competition, there are winners and losers, and there are those who go bankrupt and close their doors. That is an important and good process but it doesn't happen in the Jewish world."
In the world of American Jewish organizations it is customary to say that "no Jewish organization has ever closed down in the U.S." Against this background, Shay's approach appears especially courageous, and perhaps even naive. True, he presents an example of a Jewish organization that closed down voluntarily, Rabbi Shaul Berman's "Congregation," but admits this is extraordinary.
Shay proposes integrating organizations with similar aims, such as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress, to do away with duplication. He also proposes cuts in one of the most successful and strongest organizations in the U.S. - the Anti-Defamation League. Groups like the ADL "have pretensions to represent the Jewish people but in effect act to further the personal interests of their fund-raising mechanisms," says Shay.
What ires Shay about the ADL is its campaign against the evangelical Christian right in the U.S. To him it is a waste of money on a subject that does not really affect the Jews. An he believes "religiosity in the U.S. is actually to the Jews' benefit."
ADL chief Abraham Foxman agrees with Shay that "ignorance and assimilation are the major threats to the Jews in the U.S." He believes, however, "for Judaism to flourish in the U.S., it must first be ensured that there is an environment that is friendly to Jews. The Christian fundamentalists are a threat to the bases of democracy in America, and if they succeed, the Jews will be among the first to be hurt."
Shay says he will be satisfied if his book provokes argument. "My ideas are not the Torah from Sinai," he says. "I tell Foxman and other people: 'If you have better ideas, bring them to the debating table.'"

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Gorenberg on Lieberman and Israel

Make no mistake, this is an interview of Gershom Gorenberg, concerning his views of Lieberman. To an extent, Gorenberg's views are an enlightening insight into Israeli society as it is, rather than as it is caricatured by anti-Zionists and other outsiders. Of course, the interview also reflects Gorenberg's own prejudices, that should be obvious to all. He doesn't seem to have much use for Socialism or Labor Zionism, does he?
Ami Isseroff 

Atlantic Unbound | March 14, 2007

"Israel Is Our Home"

Gershom Gorenberg elucidates the startling politics of Avigdor Lieberman, a right-wing Israeli politician who has lately taken center stage


I n September 1917, a Russian-Jewish socialist named Bor Borochov addressed a group of fellow Zionists at a conference in Kiev. Some outside voices, he acknowledged, were charging Zionists "with the odious crime of wishing to oppress and expel the Arabs from Palestine." On the contrary, Borochov insisted, Zionist settlers would open up more land for everyone by making the desert bloom. "When the waste lands are prepared for colonization…," he proclaimed, "there will be sufficient land to accommodate both the Jews and the Arabs. Normal relations between the Jews and Arabs will and must prevail."

Were Borochov alive today, he would likely be among the many outspoken critics of Knesset member Avigdor Lieberman. Like Borochov, Lieberman is a Russian-speaking Jew and a committed Zionist, but his vision of peace and stability is at antipodes from the one Borochov set forth in 1917. In 2004, Lieberman introduced a plan to transfer all Arab citizens of Israel to a future Palestinian state in the West Bank. His initial proposal met with booing and catcalls when he presented it before the Knesset in June 2004. More recently, he has modified his suggestion, allowing for Israeli Arabs to remain in the country, provided they take an oath of loyalty to Israel's state, flag, and national anthem.

As journalist Gershom Gorenberg demonstrates in his May Atlantic profile, Lieberman, once seen as a fringe figure, now sits at the table with members of the mainstream. A native of Moldova, Lieberman was born at the height of the Cold War to a father who had toiled for 10 years in a Siberian labor camp. Like so many Russian Jews who spent years battling Soviet anti-Semitism, he arrived in Israel with a distaste for leftist politics and a profound cynicism about the old socialist dream of panethnic unity. The party he founded in 1999 is called Yisrael Beitenu, or "Israel Is Our Home," and its base consists primarily of Russian-Jewish immigrants who desire above all else, in the words of the party platform, "to actualize the Zionist vision of a Jewish State for the Jewish people."

Although his politics might appear simplistic, Lieberman is, according to Gorenberg, forcing Israelis to redefine the terms "left" and "right." Unlike traditional right-wingers, whose primary agenda was to hold onto land, Lieberman is willing to part with most of the West Bank. But his attitude toward ethnicity marks him as anything but liberal. Gorenberg explains that Lieberman's newfound prominence—at a time when socialism is all but dead and the center-right is foundering—raises important questions about the country's future:

Lieberman's ascent, say supporters (and some rivals), shows he has moved toward the center. It could just as easily be read as evidence that the center of Israeli politics has collapsed. Olmert and the centrist Kadima movement were casualties of the war in Lebanon last summer. To bolster support in parliament, the prime minister had to offer Lieberman influence over decisions that could shape, and shake, the Middle East. Simply by granting him a ministerial position, Olmert gave legitimacy to hard-line views on internal issues. In December, addressing a convention of his Yisrael Beitenu, Lieberman declared that his goal was "to be the ruling party" within two elections. When aristocracies fade, a pariah may reign.

Gorenberg's writing has appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, and The Washington Post along with The Jerusalem Report, where he is a senior editor. He is the author of the book The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements. I spoke to him by telephone from his home in Jerusalem on March 7th.

—Jennie Rothenberg

Israel is a young nation that was built entirely by immigrants. Why is there such a divide between sabras [native-born Israelis] and people who immigrated during the past couple of decades?

There's an old Israeli saying that Israelis love immigration, they just don't like immigrants. You could translate that as saying that the official ideology favors immigration of Jews, repatriation of Jews to their homeland as it were. But the social realities aren't any different in Israel than anywhere else. People come in with a different language and a different culture, want to belong, and find it hard to fit in. And that's part of what Lieberman's party appeals to. But there are certain aspects of the situation that are unique to Israel. In most cases, the right is anti-immigrant; in this case, the right is seeking its constituency among immigrants.

When immigrants began arriving en masse from the Soviet Union, they often found themselves living side by side with lower-middle-class Israeli Arabs. Did this shape their political outlook at all?

Well, there are certain glaring instances where that's true. For example, the town of Upper Nazareth is heavily Russian, and it's next to the largest Israeli Arab town, which is Nazareth. But what shaped their outlook more was downward mobility. In the Soviet Union, one of the ways Jews defined themselves was by their highly educated professions. The simple fact of mass immigration meant a large portion of those people weren't able to pursue the same professions here as they were in their home countries. So you have tension over a changed social position, you have tension over ending up in a part of the world that may have been a second choice. All of these things influenced the political outlook of many Russian immigrants.

Do Russian-born Israelis like Lieberman and Natan Sharansky feel they've earned the right to speak out forcefully against left-wing views because they spent so many years battling a socialist regime?

You know, one of the people I interviewed for this article pointed out that there's often a contradictory reading of the Russians' politics. People say, "The Russians reject socialism because the Soviet Union was socialist." But people also say, "The Russians are secular because the Soviet Union was secular."

In other words, some people believe that the Russians reacted against the culture they came from, and others believe they were colored by it.

Right. Now, that criticism is valid, and it is also true that people switching societies can do both of those things. It's just a much more complex transaction than simple rejection or simple acceptance. Somebody who stands between two backgrounds both belongs and doesn't belong and is critical of each of them.

I was intrigued by a reference you made to Avshalom Vilan, one of Lieberman's opponents in the Knesset. You wrote, "As a kibbutz member, Vilan is part of an Israeli gentry whose fortunes have faded like those of the antebellum plantation owners in Faulkner's novels." What exactly did you mean by this?

When Israel became independent, the Labor-Zionist movement was the dominant political movement, and the kibbutz was the vanguard of the Labor-Zionist movement. Kibbutz members were utterly overrepresented in every aspect of leadership. They were, in a sense, the ideal Israelis, as Israeli society saw itself at its beginning. Today, socialism in Israel is somewhere around where the log cabin is in America. It's something that you learn about in history class if you're paying attention. And the kibbutz is really very marginal.

I assume this was intentional, but there's a real irony in comparing plantation owners to socialists who owned nothing.

I understand the irony completely. But the elite of the society were also those who believed in owning nothing of their own. The fading of that idea is shown in the fact that they are privatizing their communes!

It's fairly common to newly independent countries that the movements that established them hold power at the beginning. But if they're actually successful at creating a democratic process, eventually those movements fall away, because what defined them were earlier issues. Either the movements redefine themselves, or they become irrelevant. All that's really left of socialism in Israel is the name "Labor Party," which hasn't been socialist in many a year.

Why would someone like Avshalom Vilan be particularly offended by Lieberman's population transfer proposal?

There are two things going on here. One is that Vilan is still, despite everything I've just said, left-wing in terms of being dovish, in terms of stressing equality in Israeli society, in terms of being oriented toward dialogue with Palestinians. And he saw the proposals that Lieberman was making as racist.

But in the particular comment I quoted ["What chutzpah! Who are you at all?"], I felt there was also a certain tone of "Who does this guy think he is?" So there was the irony of a very determined and committed position of pro-equality along with a kind of elitism.

I think it's difficult for Americans to fully grasp what the phrase "right-wing politician" means in Israel. How does someone like Lieberman compare to David Duke, for instance?

This is what's so interesting about the Lieberman phenomenon. For the first phase of Israeli history, through 1967, "left" and "right" meant what they meant in Europe. The left was socialist, and the right was free market. After 1967, gradually the dividing line became what you thought we should do about the occupied territories—or, for that matter, what we should call them. Were they the "liberated territories" or were they the "occupied territories"? Should we keep them because they were our homeland? Or should we give them up for the sake of peace and because it was wrong to rule over another people? How far right you were was determined by how eager you were to hold onto territory, and how far left you were was determined by how much territory you were willing to give up.

By those terms, Lieberman is not a right-winger, because he's talking about giving up land. In fact, he's even willing to give up land from sovereign Israel. On the other hand, as one of the people quoted in the article says, he's opened up a new front against Israeli Arabs. And he wants to underline in black the definition of the state as being the expression of one ethnic group. The other group will either have to declare loyalty to that or be excluded. I think one of the reasons people say Lieberman is in the center is that they don't realize he has, in effect, redefined the terms.

It's telling that you just used the term "ethnic group" to describe the notion of the Jewish State. I think a lot of Americans believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essentially a religious one.

This is the most basic misunderstanding that comes from looking at Israel from the outside, particularly looking at Israel from the American experience. In America, the word "Jew" is primarily a religious term. And in Israel, while "Jew" is a religious term, it is primarily a term of nationality. That is the entire underlying idea of the state of Israel: Jews define themselves as a nationality and seek national self-determination. And therefore, the conflict is defined as the conflict between two ethnic or national groups.

Now, there has clearly been an overlay since the beginning of the conflict of the religious connections of both groups. I will be the first to stress that the ethnic and religious dimensions are hard to separate. But you're starting with the idea of thinking of these as nationalities, in the sense of European conflicts of nationalism. For instance, one of the ethnic groups in Bosnia was "Bosnian Muslim." In other words, there were three ethnic groups, and they were called Serbs, Croats, and Muslims.

Lieberman himself isn't particularly religious, is he?

He is not religious. He lives in a mixed religious-secular settlement.

So it doesn't necessarily follow that the more religious a Jew is, the more right-wing he'll be, and the more secular, the more left-wing?

There's an overlap. And certainly if you ran a statistical study, you'd find a relationship between the two things. But there's no absolute correlation between them. For instance, there's always been a very strong secular right wing.

And there's always been an ultra-Orthodox Jewish population that doesn't even recognize the State of Israel and goes so far as to side with the Palestinians.

Yeah, but that's outside of the right and left issues. That's a different universe. Let's not go there.

I think that if you tried to understand this conflict and said, "Okay, I've got it now. There are these two shades"—you're going to be in trouble. There's more than one fault line running through this.

You mentioned the idea of left and right in Europe. Is Lieberman's status as a right-wing politician more analogous to what a right-wing politician would be in Europe right now, where they're dealing with identity issues like headscarves in schools?

Without trying to make everything line up precisely, I think a Western European could have a much easier time simply identifying Lieberman as being on the right. The whole idea that we have to define who we are, and everyone who is not part of that has to adapt to our society—if you asked somebody in France or the Netherlands or Germany, they would say, "Well, of course. That's what our right looks like as well." But because for the last 40 years Israel has been defining its left and right in terms of territorial issues, when Lieberman was willing to give up land, people said, "He's moved to the center."

In your article, Faina Kirschenbaum, director of Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party, describes the party members as "pragmatic." Some of the more moderate Israelis I know have told me that Lieberman is a pragmatic man and that his logic makes a cold sort of sense. They usually conclude by adding, "But of course we cannot do this, because it's inhumane." Is this a common Israeli reaction to Lieberman?

I haven't run a survey on it, but I think that when people react against Lieberman's ideas, what they're saying is, "You can't do that. You can't take people who are citizens and exclude them." What he's proposing is very simple. It's terribly logical. And like many terribly logical things, it can't be done. Logical simplicity is very often the mark of extreme positions. Because an extreme position is often based on saying, "This is the only problem I need to solve. And everything else will just be pushed aside in order to solve that problem." But in the real world, you have to deal with a whole set of values that you're trying to maintain, not just one.

When I was in Israel during the summer of 1999, I spent a night in an Arab village in the Galilee. I really wanted the people to share their grievances, their feelings of being an oppressed minority, but they really seemed surprisingly content. Of course, things have probably changed in the past eight years. How much unrest do you think there is in Arab-Israeli villages these days?

I think there's a lot of tension. There's been a considerable amount of politicization among Arab citizens of Israel since 2000. At the beginning of the Second Intifada, in October 2000, there were disturbances inside Arab villages in Israel, and there was a very harsh police reaction, which led to a state inquiry afterwards. That issue remains very raw.

Let me put it this way. The issue of how to deal with an ethnic minority and how to integrate it into mainstream society is certainly not a uniquely Israeli issue. I mean, Europe has been embroiled in this for ages. Go back and look at how World War I started. Look at the conflict in the Balkans. Spain is still dealing with this. That's why I said that I actually think, in a lot of ways, these issues are less surprising from a European perspective than an American perspective.

How do American immigrants fit into the political landscape in Israel?

First of all, the number of American immigrants is quite small. There are certain areas where more Americans live, but you don't have the huge subculture you do with the Russians. Russians make up one sixth of the Israeli population, and the larger an immigrant group is, the more it can maintain a separate identity. I don't think Americans, as things stand now, are a political constituency of any weight in Israel.

The other obvious difference is that the Americans, unlike the Russians, didn't come here for reasons of personal comfort or economics or safety. So you have self-selection among immigrants. They are people who are coming here out of ideological commitment. Another thing about American immigrants is that because they're not part of the old power structure in Israel, they're much more likely to get involved in non-party groups. So whether you go to a Peace Now meeting or to a settlement, you will find Americans.

On the other hand, I would stress that there's an illusion in America that I've run into repeatedly that all the settlers are Americans. I can only guess this has to do with the fact that if someone shows up with a TV camera and a microphone, the one American in the settlement will be pushed out to speak. In reality, the percentages don't line up that way at all.

Lieberman believes that Ahmadinejad is every bit as dangerous as Hitler, and that his threats are parallel to the threats the Nazis made before World War II. Do most Israelis agree?

I think there's a lot of fear surrounding this, and I think that Iranian statements serve to arouse those fears. For very obvious reasons, Israelis, as a traumatized people, have an inclination to relate the current threat to what's happened in the past. Therefore, the Nazi metaphor is very easily applied. Lieberman is certainly not the only person who uses those terms. The reason he is able to use those terms is because they resonate in the wider society.

Without any dismissal of the Iranian threat, I think the most obvious reason it can't be compared to the Nazi threat is that in 1938, the Jews were not an independent nation with considerable military power. There is something almost ahistorical and, I would say, ironically non-Zionist in equating the situation of the Jewish people today with that of 1938.

In other words, I think that because of the pain of the past, it's very easy for Israelis to have a sense of helplessness in the face of a threat and want to respond to that threat sharply. But while we are not omnipotent, we are not helpless. We have achieved what Israel set out to do: we are a country. That means we face some threats, but we also have a degree of power—not unlimited power—to deal with those threats. Both the current rhetoric of Iran and the pain of history sometimes make it difficult for people to remember those things.

The Israeli political system is so different from America's three branches of government that it's hard to get a sense of how much power Lieberman actually has and where his career is heading. Is his current position really a stepping stone to even greater power?

Look, he sees it as a stepping stone. He increased his representation in the Knesset from something marginal to something significant at the same time the traditional major parties were continuing to lose votes and influence. I won't make any predictions as to how this will play out electorally, because in a parliamentary system we don't even know when the next elections will be held, much less what the political constellation will be at that moment. Therefore, it's very difficult to say whether he is correct in his evaluation. What I tried to convey in the article is that because of the breakdown of the classic ideologies, there is an opening for him. But there are a lot of other factors that could come into play.

Is Israel's parliamentary government really the best system for a small country with so many splinter groups? Do you think another system could be more unifying?

The Israeli system is based on the idea that the primary constituencies of the country are ideological groups and not necessarily geographic regions. This is very different from the American system, which was based on the states as the building blocks of the country. The Senate is the best example of this. The Israeli system is designed to guarantee representation for all the different ideological communities so they can negotiate their coexistence in a parliament. Even though that makes it look like the government is unstable, I think it actually promotes social stability.

Israel's mission as a country has always been more complicated than "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Amos Oz has said that as far as the early Zionists were concerned, Israel was going to be the most secular country, and the holiest country, and the most socialist country, and the most democratic country, and the most ancient country, and the most modern country. With a founding vision like that, wasn't Israel bound to fall short of its own ideals?

If you don't fall short of your ideals, then you have pretty poor ideals! But I think Israel has done all right when you compare it to a lot of other countries that became independent in the post-World War II period. You could do worse at creating an independent society.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Long Standing Israeli human rights violations

The Passover story has many aspects, depending on who is telling it. From the point of view of the Egyptians, well they obviously have a different narrative. Israelites lived among them peacefully for many generations, according to the enlightened customs of Egypt. The Jews are not a people anyhow, right? It was only when Moses formed a Zionist movement to assert evil Jewish nationalism that the problems began. The Israelites escaped Egypt without proper permission by falsely requesting to worship their god in their desert, when their real intent was a violation of Egyptian law. The illegal exodus was against prevailing international law, which stated clearly that slaves are the property of their masters.
What if John Dugard of the UN Human Rights Commission were around in the time of the Pharoahs? Wouldn't Israel be condemned for inflicting civilian casualties on the Egyptians?
A few years ago, an Egyptian wanted to sue Israel for the jewelry stolen from Egyptians by the evil Jews before they departed.
Below is another take on this issue.
I got the item letter below without author's name and URL. I have tried to find the source and restore it as below.
Please do not circulate anonymous materials as it is not fair to authors.
Ami Isseroff

 If the Passover Story Were Reported by CNN or the New York  Times
Daniel P. Waxman

 The cycle of violence between the Jews and the Egyptians  continues with no end in sight in Egy pt. After eight previous plagues  have destroyed the Egyptian infrastructure and disrupted the lives of
 ordinary Egyptian citizens, the Jews launched a new offensive this  week in the form of the plague of darkness.

 Western journalists were particularly enraged by this plague.  "It is simply impossible to report when you can't see an inch in front  of you," complained a frustrated Andrea Koppel of CNN. "I have heard from my reliable Egyptian contacts that in the midst of the  blanket of blackness, the Jews were annihilating thousands of  Egyptians. Their word is solid enough evidence for me."

 While the Jews contend that the plagues are justified given the  harsh slavery imposed upon them by the Egyptians, Pharaoh, the  Egyptian leader, rebuts this claim. "If only the plagues would let up,  there would be no slavery. We just want to live plague-free. It is  the right of every society ."

 Saeb Erekat, an Egyptian spokesperson, complains that slavery  is justifiabl e given the Jews' superior weaponry supplied to them  by the superpower G-d. The Europeans are particularly enraged by the  latest Jewish offensive. "The Jewish aggression must cease if there is  to be peace in the region. The Jews should go back to slavery for the  good of the rest of the world," stated an angry French President  Jacques Chirac.

 Even several Jews agree. Adam Shapiro, a Jew, has barricaded  himself within Pharaoh's chambers to protect Pharaoh from what is feared will be the next plague, the death of t he firstborn. Mr. Shapiro claims that while slavery is not necessarily a good thing, it is the  product of the plagues and when the plagues end, so will the slavery.  "The Jews have gone too far with plagues such as locusts and  epidemic which have virtually destroyed the Egyptian economy," Mr.  Shapiro laments. "The Egyptians are really a very nice people and  Pharaoh is kind of huggable once you get to know him," gushes Shapiro.

 The United States is demanding that Moses and Aaron, the Jewish  leaders, continue to negotiate with Pharaoh. While Moses points out 
 that Pharaoh had made promise after promise to free the Jewish  people only to immediately break them and thereafter impose harsher  and harsher slavery, Richard Boucher of the State Department  assails the latest offensive. "Pharaoh is not in complete control of the  taskmasters," Mr. Boucher states. "The Jews must return to the  negotiating table and w ill accomplish nothing through these plagues."

 The latest round of violence comes in the face of a bold new  Saudi peace overture. "If only the Jews will give up their language,  change their names to Egyptian names and cease having male children,  the Arab nations will incline toward peace with them," Saudi Crown  Prince Abdullah declared.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert: No message to Damascus

Whom should we believe and why? Did Nancy Pelosi carry a message about peace to Bashir Assad from Ehud Olmert or not, and what was the message that was not carried?
Last update - 07:27 05/04/2007   
By Yoav Stern and Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

The Prime Minister's Office has strongly denied that Israel relayed a message to Syria, accepting its calls to renew peace negotiations.
The bureau responded to questions raised Wednesday by a statement made by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Pelosi said she had relayed a message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to the effect that Israel was ready for peace talks with Syria.
The Prime Minister's Office was quick to issue a denial, stating that "what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel's policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter."
In a special statement of clarification, the bureau stressed that Olmert had told Pelosi that Israel continued to regard Syria as "part of the axis of evil and a party encouraging terrorism in the entire Middle East."
According to sources at the Prime Minister's Office, "Pelosi took part of the things that were said in the meeting, and used what suited her."
The same sources explained that the decision to issue a statement of denial stemmed from questions from Israeli and foreign press regarding a change in Israel's official stance on negotiations with Syria.
The California Democrat, who headed a bipartisan delegation on a tour of the region, including Syria, had come under strong criticism from U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush considers any high-level contacts with Syria as undermining the pressure on Damascus to cease support for terrorism and as undermining Lebanese sovereignty.
Pelosi's visit to Syria was the latest challenge to the White House by congressional Democrats, who are taking a more assertive role in influencing policy in the Middle East and the Iraq war.
The Prime Minister's Office said: "We have not intervened in the internal debate in the United States and we did not harm anyone. We simply announced what had taken place in the meeting [Olmert-Pelosi] on the basis of notes that are identical to those Pelosi has."
Pelosi met with Assad on Wednesday and said that the Syrian leader was willing to resume peace talks with Israel.
"We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process. He's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel," Pelosi said.
The House speaker also said that she and other members of her congressional delegation raised with Assad their concern about militants crossing from Syria into Iraq, as well as the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas.
The speaker said the delegation conveyed to Assad the importance of Syria's role with Hamas in promoting peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
She did not reveal how Assad responded to the delegation's message on Hamas and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Syrian sources on Wednesday expressed their uncertainty that Olmert's statements were credible.
Syrian Information Minister, Muhsen Bilal, told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Israel needs to prove its seriousness in peace.
"If Israel is really interested in renewing negotiations for peace, it must declare this in a clear manner," Bilal said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The wrong of return

Alan Dershowitz takes on the "Right of Return" in a Jerusalem Post editorial.  Essentially he argues that Palestinians do not have this right because they were belligerents. He neglects  important arguments that a jurist should know. Right of return precludes Jewish self-determination. Under international law, self-determination is Jus Cogens and therefore takes precedence over any other right. As he does point out, "right of return" is not considered in other situations, such as that of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Dershowitz also writes:
The Palestinian narrative, whether factually correct or incorrect, is a reality in the minds of most Palestinians. Earlier Israeli Prime Ministers recognized that, and were prepared to compromise principle for a pragmatic peace. They indicated a willingness to accept some symbolic right of return coupled with compensation.
Unfortunately, once a right is admitted, it will take precedence over all other stipulations and Palestinians could claim that right regardless of treaties, and even stipulate that Israel had admitted it.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Olmert wants to talk, Arabs say no

This offer was rebuffed, but it was worth a try, no? We have to ask if the Saudi offer is really serious.
Ami Isseroff
Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, has said he is willing to meet with Arab leaders in order to discuss a Saudi peace initiative aimed at resolving the conflict in the Middle East.
Olmert issued the invitation on Sunday at a joint press conference with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Jerusalem.

Olmert said: "If the Saudi king initiates a meeting of moderate Arab states and invites me and the head of the Palestinian Authority in order to present us the Saudi ideas, we will come to hear them and we will be glad to voice ours."
Olmert said each side would bring its own demands, and neither would try to dictate terms.

"I do not intend to dictate to them what they should say, but I am certain they understand that we also will have something to say ... and it will not necessarily be the same thing," Olmert said.
Merkel, the current president of the EU, had earlier called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to restart peace negotiations attempting to build on the momentum created by recent talks between Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president.
Arab peace offer

Arab leaders have revived a five-year-old peace plan that offers Israel normal ties with all Arab countries in return for the withdrawal from land seized in the 1967 war, the creation of a Palestinian state and a "just solution" for Palestinians displaced in 1948 with Israel's creation.

Olmert acknowledged the efforts made at the Arab summit.

"I think the readiness to accept Israel as a fact and to debate the terms of a future solution is a step that I cannot help but appreciate," he said.
Merkel also welcomed the results of the summit and said Europe should build on it and revive diplomatic efforts by the Quartet of Middle East power brokers, which includes the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
Merkel, who visited the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Sunday where she was given an honorary doctorate, said: "We all have the feeling that things are moving. We have a window of opportunity. There is a major chance here which we must grasp."

Aides said Merkel would not meet any ministers from the Palestinian unity government during her visit.
The government, led by the Hamas movement, includes members of Abbas's Fatah faction and independents.
'Critical crossroads'
Merkel met Olmert and Tzipi Livni, Israel's foreign minister, before touring the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
Olmert said: "Israel is at a critical crossroads of important decisions.
"We are in a process of confronting significant threats on the one hand and opportunities to advance the diplomatic process with Arab countries on the other."
 During a visit to Jordan on Saturday, Merkel urged the Palestinian unity government to embrace the demands of the Quartet of Middle East mediators to recognise Israel, renounce violence and abide by existing peace accords.
Soldier's plight
She also wants to persuade the Palestinians to win the release of an Israeli soldier held in Gaza since last year.

As EU president, Germany represents the 27-member bloc in the Quartet, which also includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and United Nations.
 Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said on Saturday the group "will never recognise the right of Israel to exist".
In a break with Israeli policy, European Union foreign ministers agreed on Saturday to engage with non-Hamas members of the unity government.
Olmert has vowed to shun the unity government, including non-Hamas ministers.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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Resolving the security fence problem

Is this plan realistic? Should the Israeli defense establishment be dictating matters of policy? What happens if there is a peace agreement? Are we making a statement about Ariel if we keep it inside the fence, or are we making a different statement if it is outside the fence?  
Ami Isseroff

Haaretz, Last update - 09:14 04/04/2007
New plan may keep major settlements outside fence
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

The defense establishment may abandon the plan to include bulges in the separation fence - aimed at keeping major settlements bloc such as Ariel, Immanuel and Kedumin within the Israeli side of the divide.

Officials currently re-evaluating the "bulge" proposal are considering an alternative plan, which proposes to seal the fence near the settlements of Elkana and Beit Aryeh. The proposal includes the construction of a new parameter fence around the settlements, which would be left on the Palestinian side of the fence.

The proposed salients or bulges, meant to keep Ariel and the other settlements within the Israeli side of the fence, constitute a substantial deviation from the proposed course of the fence that was first approved by the cabinet in 2003. The course, later revised according to a High Court of Justice ruling, originally ran along the Green Line.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has of late approved additional changes to the course of the fence, adding two salients to the Israeli side of the divide: one from Beit Aryeh to Ariel, and another from Alfei Menashe to Kedumin. The fence, however, has not been completed and the 6-kilometer stretch running along the two proposed bulges remains open, making it harder for security forces to seal the area.

In an effort to solve the problem, Defense Minister Amir Peretz's aide for diplomatic affairs, Hagai Alon, contacted Colonel (res.) Shaul Arieli and requested him to compile an alternative course for the fence.

In his proposal, submitted late last month, Arieli states that the American Administration opposes the current route of the fence, which the cabinet approved last year, because it violates the territorial contiguity of the future Palestinian state. He added that future petitions against the current route of the fence would be hard to dismiss, given the humanitarian problems it poses. Arieli did add that the High Court of Justice recognized the security needs dependent on the construction of the fence, as long as it ran along the Green Line.

In addition, Arieli's proposal states that any significant renewal of the dialogue with the Palestinians would require in-depth discussions on the need to minimize the disruption to the lives of Palestinians residing along the fence's proposed path.

In addition to sealing the gap between Ofarim and Elkana, Arieli proposes to form three "special security areas": the first around Ariel, a second around Immanuel and Karmei Shomron and the third near Beit Aryeh and Ofarim. According to Arieli, this would seal the problematic gap while maintaining the security needs of the settlers in case of a future conflagration of hostilities in the West Bank.

The proposal includes an attractive financial incentive for the government, since the cost of the bulges in the fence is estimated at some NIS 2 billion. However, the chances of its realization are still unclear.


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Demonstration of Solidarity with Sderot

A long overdue show of solidarity with Sderot. However, they need more than demonstrations...
1,000 demonstrators marching from Gaza to Sderot Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 4, 2007

Around one thousand people were marching from the Gaza Strip border toward Sderot on Wednesday afternoon, as part of a day-long event to show
solidarity with the area's residents.The IDF was securing the event.

Upon arrival in Sderot, the group planned to hold a large demonstration, with MKs, reserve generals and other public figures in attendance.The protest was organized by the Sderot Security Forum, and was meant to raise the issue of the security in the area to the national agenda.

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More peace noise: Pelosi in Syria

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she gave Syrian President Bashar Assad a message from Israel that Israel was ready for peace talks.
Is it? Did anyone in Israel say they are ready for open peace talks? And does the US administration approve? And does Assad really want peace?
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 15:30 04/04/2007   
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she gave Syrian President Bashar Assad a message from Israel that Israel was ready for peace talks.
"[Our] meeting with the president enabled us to communicate a message from Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks," Pelosi told reporters in Damascus after talks with Assad.
Pelosi said Assad in turn assured her of his willingness to engage in peace talks with Israel.
"We were very pleased with the assurances we received from the president that he was ready to resume the peace process," Pelosi said. "He's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel."
An Israeli government official said, however, that Syria must stop supporting "terrorist groups" before Israel can engage it in peace talks.
"Several days ago, the speaker of the House asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert if he had any message to give to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad," the official said.
"The prime minister said Israel is interested in peace with Syria, but Syria would first have to abandon the path of terror and providing support for terrorist groups," the official told Reuters.
Pelosi said she and other members of her congressional delegation raised with Assad their concern about militants crossing from Syria into Iraq, as well the Israel Defense Forces soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Palestinian militants.
The Californian Democrat spoke to reporters shortly after talks with Assad at the end of a two-day visit to Syria, which U.S. President George W. Bush as counterproductive and encouragement for a "state sponsor of terror."
Pelosi, the third most senior U.S. official, sat next to Assad in front of cameras before starting a meeting at his hilltop palace overlooking Damascus.
Syrian officials said Damascus wants to help Washington achieve an "honorable withdrawal" from Iraq but in return the United States must press Israel to return the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
"Pelosi's visit won't be enough to remove all obstacles in the form of normalizing American-Syrian relations, but we believe that the dialogue she is conducting in Damascus is very important," government newspaper Tishreen said.
"Syria's position is rejection of the Iraq war. We are concerned about Iraq's stability and unity because Syria is the main casualty of the chaos, violence and terrorism there," Tishreen said.
The newspaper was referring to 1.2 million Iraqi refugees, who, according to Syrian estimates, have fled to Syria since the U.S.-led invasion four years ago.
Bush: Pelosi sends dangerous signals
As the speaker donned a head scarf and mingled with Syrians at a mosque and a market in Damascus' Old City, preparing for the planned meetings with Assad, Bush said at his Tuesday news conference that she was sending dangerous signals.
Pelosi arrived in Syria on Tuesday afternoon, leading a Congressional delegation on the last leg of a Middle Eastern trip. State-run newspapers in Syria published news of the visit on their front pages. One daily published a photograph of Pelosi beside the headline: Welcome Dialogue.
Syria is one of six nations on the U.S. State Department's list of terror-exporting countries.
Bush said meetings with many high-level Americans have done nothing to persuade Assad to control violent elements of the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah, who have offices in Syria; to halt efforts to destabilize Lebanon; or to stop allowing foreign fighters from flowing over Syria's border into Iraq.
The last Bush adviser in Iraq was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003.
"Photo opportunities and-or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror," Bush said.
Pelosi did not comment on Bush's remarks before heading from the airport to Damascus' historic Old City, where she mingled with Syrians in a market. Wearing a flowered head scarf and a black abaya robe, Pelosi visited the 8th-century Omayyad Mosque. She made the sign of the cross in front of an elaborate tomb which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist. About 10 percent of Syria's 18 million people are Christian.
At the nearby outdoor Bazouriyeh market, Syrians crowded around, offering her dried figs and nuts and chatting with her. She bought some coconut sweets and looked at jewelry and carpets.
When Pelosi visited Lebanon on Monday, she noted that Republican lawmakers had met Assad on Sunday without comment from the Bush administration.
"I think that it was an excellent idea for them to go, she said. And I think it's an excellent idea for us to go as well.
Pelosi, a California Democrat, is on a Mideast tour with a delegation of lawmakers, including the first Muslim member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota.
The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended in its report last year that the United States begin direct and extensive talks about Iraq with Syria and Iran, on the other side of embattled Iraq.
The Bush administration has long rejected that idea but recently agreed to allow U.S. representatives to talk with Syrian officials at an international conference in Baghdad.
"We have made it clear to high-ranking officials, whether they be Republicans or Democrats, that going to Syria sends mixed signals," Bush said to reporters at the White House.
"A lot of people have gone to see President Assad... and yet we haven't seen action. He hasn't responded," Bush told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.
He said Assad had not reined in violent elements of militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah as sought by the international community and had acted to destabilize the democratically elected government of Lebanon.
"Sending delegations doesn't work. It's simply been counterproductive," Bush said.
"So the position of this administration is that the best way to meet with a leader like Assad or people from Syria is in the larger context of trying to get the global community to help change his behavior," he said.

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Saudis - Israel must accept peace plan first, talk later

What does this mean? If the plan is "accepted" does that mean that Israel accepts right of return? Does it mean that Israel accepts 1967 borders?
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 14:46 04/04/2007   
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press

Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that Israel must first accept the Arab peace initiative before it would agree to any direct talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert has called for a summit with the Saudis in order to discuss the peace process, following an Arab League decision to re-launch a 2002 peace initiative that calls for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 boundaries and a just and agreed solution to the refugee problem.
A Saudi source told The Associated Press that Israel must accept the proposal "before any meeting is considered."
The source's comments, given on condition of anonymity, were the first Saudi response to the prime minister's offer.
Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni have expressed reservations regarding several of the proposal's clauses, specifically the clause regarding the refugee issue, although have said the initiative contains many positive elements.
It has been previously reported that Saudi Arabia is holding secret contacts with Israeli officials, but is refusing public talks.
The foreign ministers of 10 Arab states will meet in Cairo in two weeks to call on Israel to accept the peace initiative approved at the Arab League summit in Riyadh last week, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa announced on Tuesday.
The foreign ministers "will call on the government of Israel and on all Israelis to accept the Arab peace initiative and use the existing opportunity to renew the direct negotiations on all tracks," Moussa was quoted as saying.
The 10 countries that will be represented are members of the Committee for Furthering the Arab Peace Initiative. Moussa heads the committee, which includes Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia, Bahrain and the PLO.
According to the Arab press, the purpose of the conference would be to offer Israel normalization in relations in return for a withdrawal to the 1967 lines. Part of the program would include the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
The Saudi Arabian government announced on Monday that it was now Israel's responsibility to undertake steps that would enable progress in contacts with Arab states.
"First and foremost, Israel must recognize that peace requires that it end its continued and inhuman attacks against the Palestinian people," the Saudi statement read.

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Is the Gaza truce over?

It looks like the Gaza truce is over, sort of...

Last update - 16:41 04/04/2007   
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Israel Defence Forces troops on Tuesday afternoon entered the Gaza Strip in pursuit of Islamic Jihad militants, killing one, injuring another and arresting a third.
Infantry troops entered the area after spotting the militants planting explosives by the security fence along the Gaza Strip.
The militants detonated two explosive devices during the incident. No IDF soldiers were injured.
Palestinian officials speaking on condition of anonymity say the IDF initially prevented Palestinian ambulances from evacuating the wounded, which they said also included two farmers.
Islamic Jihad militants frequently fire Qassam rockets into Israel from the zone where the incident took place.
IDF soldier moderately wounded while on patrol in Jenin
An Israel Defense Forces soldier was moderately wounded predawn Wednesday while patrolling in the West Bank city of Jenin.
The soldier was wounded in the shoulder in an ambush by Palestinian gunmen in the Jenin refugee camp. He was evacuated to Haemek Hospital in Afula.
On Tuesday, a wanted Fatah militant was seriously injured by IDF troops in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The incident occurred after soldiers from a patrol unit of the Golani Brigade noticed a group of five armed men approaching them.
In an exchange of fire, the wanted militant Ahmed Sanakra was badly wounded and taken to a nearby hospital in the city. He left behind his M-16 rifle.
The IDF reported no injuries in the incident.
Sanakra's brother said Ahmed was not taken to hospital for fear of being arrested by the IDF, and was treated outside of the hospital.
Sanakra, 22, has been involved with the planning of numerous bombing and shooting incidents against the IDF in the Nablus area, and with attempts to send suicide bombers to infiltrate the Green Line. He is known as one of the main leaders of Fatah's military wing.


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Hidden deal over Iran release of sailors?

The mysterious "happy ending" of the Iran capture of British sailors may be due to a deal made over captured Iranian terrorists in Iraq. Guardian notes "by the way":
In other developments today, Iran's official news agency said an Iranian representative was due to meet five Iranians detained by US forces in Irbil, in northern Iraq, in January, Reuters reported.
Tehran says the men are diplomats; the US says they are Revolutionary Guards linked to insurgents in Iraq. There have been claims that Tehran orchestrated the seizure of the British crew with a view to an exchange for Iranian captives.
The US president, George Bush, said yesterday that he agreed with Mr Blair that there should be no "quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages".
More indications emerged today of the role Syria is playing in the diplomacy. The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, told the newspaper Al-Anba that the situation needed "quiet diplomacy", which Syria was involved in. Syria has long been the Arab country closest to Iran, a non-Arab state.
Ami Isseroff

Mark Oliver, Peter Walker and agencies
Wednesday April 4, 2007
Guardian Unlimited
The 15 British sailors and marines detained in Iran for nearly a fortnight have been formally pardoned and will be released immediately, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said today.
The 14 men and one woman, detained on March 23, would be released and taken to the airport as soon as his speech was over, he said, calling it a "gift" to Britain at Easter.
"After the news conference they can go to the airport and go back home," he told the ongoing press conference. "They will be going back home today."

The announcement was a distinct surprise, coming at the end of the president's hour-long address to reporters in Tehran, much of which consisted of complaints against Britain and other western nations.
During the address, Mr Ahmadinejad even presented a bravery medal to the commander of the Revolutionary Guard naval patrol, which seized the 15 Britons as they searched an Indian-registered merchant ship in the Gulf as part of a routine patrol.
"On behalf of the Iranian people, I want to thank ... the commander who managed to arrest the people who entered our waters," the president said.
Elsewhere in the speech, Mr Ahmadinejad also attacked Britain for sending the crisis over the arrested sailors to the UN Security Council and using "media hype". He additionally launched into a long complaint about the invasion of Iraq, and accused the UN of being institutionally biased against nations such as Iran.
And in a reference to Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only female among the captured Britons, Mr Ahmadinejad said: "How can you justify sending a mother away from her home, her children. Why don't they respect the values of families in the west?"
The news follows several days of rising hopes in Britain that the stand-off could soon be resolved, especially after Downing Street confirmed last night that the first high-level direct talks had taken place between British and Iranian officials.
Last night, Tony Blair's office said Iran's top diplomat, Ali Larijani, the head of the country's national security council, had spoken by telephone to British officials.
In a statement, No 10 said Tony Blair believed "that both sides share a desire for an early resolution of this issue through direct talks".
Earlier today, Iranian state media reported that Mr Larijani had now spoken to Mr Blair's chief foreign policy adviser, Sir Nigel Sheinwald. Downing Street would not confirm which British officials were involved in the talks, though it is likely Sir Nigel has a role.
In other developments today, Iran's official news agency said an Iranian representative was due to meet five Iranians detained by US forces in Irbil, in northern Iraq, in January, Reuters reported.
Tehran says the men are diplomats; the US says they are Revolutionary Guards linked to insurgents in Iraq. There have been claims that Tehran orchestrated the seizure of the British crew with a view to an exchange for Iranian captives.
The US president, George Bush, said yesterday that he agreed with Mr Blair that there should be no "quid pro quos when it comes to the hostages".
More indications emerged today of the role Syria is playing in the diplomacy. The Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, told the newspaper Al-Anba that the situation needed "quiet diplomacy", which Syria was involved in. Syria has long been the Arab country closest to Iran, a non-Arab state.

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Satire: Arab League announces new tournament and team called "The Heebs"

A new Web log, Rotten Falafel, brings you satire from the Middle East:

Arab League announces new tournament and team called "The Heebs"

The Arab League, which was formed in 1945 to give Arab Women the right to play any sport, announced it would authorize a new franchise to allow direct competition with Israel and that would consist of Jews and be called "The Heebs."

The League, which has both never won a tournament in any competition nor signed on any female players, said that they hoped to change their losing streak by using the new team, "The Heebs" to negotiate franchise contracts with the Arabs.

"The Heebs will be a special team that will consist of honorary Arab sports players who are Jewish. I mean, after all, we are all Semitic peoples," explained League Secretary General Amr Moussa after announcing a new tournament initiative presented to Israel.



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CPJ Reminds us: BBC Correspondent kidnapped by Palestinians is still missing

This is a reminder from the Committee to Protect Journalists. BBC correspondent Alan Johnson is still missing in Gaza, which has been reduced to utter chaos. The Palestinian unity government changed nothing, because there is no government. It doesn't matter who presides over the anarchy. If Palestinians want a state, they must get their society in order. The CPJ release is inaccurate. Most of the hostages are realeased for ransom, but the details are kept secret.
Ami Isseroff
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA     Phone: (212) 465­1004
Fax: (212) 465­9568     Web:     E-Mail:      Contact:  Maya Taal
e-mail: Telephone:  (212) 465-1004 x-105

In Gaza, BBC correspondent still missing after 22 days

New York, April 3, 2007-The Committee to Protect Journalists today renewed its call for the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, seized in Gaza more than three weeks ago, amid intensifying pressure by Palestinian journalists on government officials to do more.

Despite reports that the Hamas-led Palestinian government had identified Johnston's abductors and expected him to be freed soon, no further information about the journalist has surfaced. Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal told CPJ today that preliminary information led the government to believe that a certain group he did not identify was behind the abduction, but after several communications with the group they denied any involvement. Since then, he said, the government has been following several leads but they have not yielded any new information.

Abu Hilal told CPJ that the abduction took place during a transitional period when a unity government was being formed, which impeded a quick response from the government.  He added that the Palestinian security forces are weak at the moment further exasperating efforts to locate the journalist.

"We are deeply concerned that Alan Johnston has been missing for 22 days, and we appeal to those holding our colleague to release him at once," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "We call on President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and the Palestinian Authority to do everything in their power to return our colleague to safety."

Journalists in Gaza began a three-day boycott on Monday to pressure the Palestinian Authority to do more to locate Alan Johnston, local journalists told CPJ. During that time, journalists said, they will not cover any official government news. Palestinian journalists have staged several protests calling for Johnston's immediate release. More than 300 journalists held a picket line outside the Council of Ministers building in Gaza City on Monday.

The BBC reported that top media personalities, including CNN's Chief International Correspondent and CPJ board member Christiane Amanpour, signed an open letter published in Britain's Guardian newspaper urging Johnston's quick and safe release.

Johnston, 44, was seized by four armed men in a white Subaru as he was driving near the BBC's Gaza City office on Al-Wihdah Street around 2 p.m. on March 12, according to CPJ sources in Gaza. Johnston was quickly identified because he threw his business card on the street, according to news reports. No claim of responsibility was made and the motive for the kidnapping remained unknown, local journalists told CPJ. Johnston joined the BBC in 1991 and has been based full-time in Gaza since April 2004. He was due to return to London at the end of this month.

Johnston, who has been held in captivity longer than any other journalist abducted in Gaza, is the 15th journalist abducted in the Gaza Strip since 2004, according to CPJ research. CPJ research shows that all of the previously abducted journalists were released unharmed.

Past kidnappings appeared to be the work of private individuals or groups seeking to exploit foreign hostages for political purposes or to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of jailed relatives or to win government jobs. To CPJ's knowledge, none of those responsible for abducting members of the media has ever been apprehended or brought to justice.

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to
safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit

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Monday, April 2, 2007

FBI AIPAC Prosecuion: First They Came for the Jews

Why is the US government pursuing an unconstitutional prosecution of a lobby for a friendly state?
First They Came for the Jews
A prosecution under the Espionage Act threatens the First Amendment.

Monday, April 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Early in June 2004, an employee of the American Israel Pubic Affairs Committee, AIPAC--better known by its media tag, "the powerful Israeli lobby"--received an urgent phone call. Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin, a specialist on Iran, informed AIPAC lobbyist Keith Weissman that they had better meet because he had news of the most important kind to disclose. Mr. Weissman not surprisingly agreed to the rendezvous, held in Pentagon City, Va., where he was told about an imminent, Iran-directed assault on American troops and Israeli agents in Iraq. First, though, Mr. Franklin delivered a warning whose purpose would be clear only later. What he was about to tell him was highly classified, "Agency stuff," and having it could get him into trouble, he informed Mr. Weissman.

Impelled by the urgency of the message, the lobbyist nonetheless quickly shared it with his senior colleague, Steve Rosen, director of foreign policy issues for AIPAC. Hoping to raise the alarm about the imperiled Americans and Israelis, the two then contacted a Washington Post reporter (who filed no story on the matter) and an Israeli embassy officer.

Mr. Weissman didn't know for some time that his trusted Pentagon informant--a man he and his AIPAC colleague had met with several times before--had, at this particular meeting, been wearing a wire for the FBI. Or that his warning that he was sharing highly classified stuff had been spelled out for the purpose of evidence gathering. Neither of the AIPAC lobbyists knew, then, that they had been entrapped in a sting, to lead ultimately to a remarkable legal show. Their trial, which begins this June, marks the first ever attempt by government prosecutors to convict private citizens under the 1919 Espionage Act. Nor did Larry Franklin have any idea, either, of the trap in which he was himself now ensnared.

Mr. Franklin's problem began when he was spotted lunching with Steve Rosen, for some time the object of FBI surveillance. The Iran specialist had first met with Messrs. Rosen and Weissman in February 2003, meetings repeated on at least three other occasions. The two AIPAC employees had reason to see in Mr. Franklin, a reserve Colonel in the U.S Air Force, a staunch patriot who held values and geopolitical views much like their own. Mr. Franklin's driving concern--the danger posed by a terrorist Iran, and the need for vigorous countermeasures by the U.S.--played no small role in their discussions. The centerpiece of the indictment to come concerned his disclosures to Steve Rosen about an internal policy document on Iran, which, the government alleged, was classified.

The sympathetic bond (characterized as a conspiracy in the government's indictment) between the Pentagon analyst and the AIPAC employees abruptly unraveled when FBI agents paid Mr. Franklin a home visit on June 30, 2004. Appealing to his patriotism, they persuaded him to cooperate, telling him that the two lobbyists were up to no good, and might be endangering American interests. Perhaps even more persuasive was the FBI's discovery in his house of 83 classified documents--material he had taken to work on at home, as he had done repeatedly despite warnings from his Pentagon supervisors that this was impermissible.  

He was to enjoy nothing of the good fortune of Sandy Berger, former National Security Adviser for President Clinton, who pleaded guilty in 2004 to making off with highly classified documents related to that administration's policy on terrorism--papers he was observed stuffing into his pockets while sitting in the secure reading room of the National Archives. Mr. Berger was charged with a misdemeanor and paid a $10,000 fine. Former CIA director John Deutch, who also faced charges of mishandling government documents, was pardoned on Mr. Clinton's last day in office.

Anguished, his wife ill, and faced with loss of his job--now a likely possibility, as the FBI informed him--Mr. Franklin agreed to help gather evidence on Messrs. Rosen and Weissman.

By Aug. 27, FBI agents apparently felt they'd gathered enough--enough, at least, to go public, via a leak to CBS's Lesley Stahl, about the Pentagon mole they had succeeded in unmasking. FBI investigators soon after informed a stunned Larry Franklin, who had cooperated with them without receiving any promise of consideration about those classified materials, that he now faced serious prison time. He would have been still more stunned had he known of the elaborately detailed indictment to come, charging him, among other allegations, with conspiracy to gather and unlawfully transmit national defense information. He had yet to appreciate what it meant that his alleged co-conspirators were lobbyists for AIPAC.

The tone of the CBS News story (Aug. 27, 2004) provided more than a few clues on this point. In a higher than usual state of excitement, Ms. Stahl announced that the FBI was, in agent terminology, about to "roll up" a suspected spy who had given classified information to Israel, and "at the heart of this, two people who work at AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israeli lobby." The investigators had "concerns," we learned: "Did Israel also use the analyst to try to influence U.S. policy on the war in Iraq?" The analyst, furthermore, had "ties to top Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith."

The entire investigation, with wiretaps, surveillance and photography, Ms. Stahl announced, had been headed up by the FBI's David Szady. It was a name she had reason to know well. This FBI luminary was the same agent who had headed another investigation--the subject, just two years earlier, of her own scathing "60 Minutes" report about the FBI's obsessive, confident, willfully blind pursuit of CIA counterintelligence agent Brian Kelley, whom the bureau suspected of being a Soviet mole in the late '90s.

While Mr. Szady and his agents persisted in pursuing an innocent man for three and a half years, solemnly citing evidence for their charges that would have done Inspector Clouseau proud (a hand-drawn map supposedly of the mole's site of operation turned out to be a map of Mr. Kelley's jogging routes through a park), the real mole continued to turn vital intelligence over to his KGB handlers. That mole was the FBI's very own Robert Hanssen, who had gone undetected thanks to Mr. Szady's insistence that his agents had the goods on Brian Kelley.

None of this history got a mention in Ms. Stahl's report on the new Szady investigation she'd been privileged to disclose, unlike the innuendo about the alleged spy's ties to those Pentagon officials, Messrs. Wolfowitz and Feith.

It was a mere hint of things to come. News of the spy story, it was clear, had brought new life to the obsessed. From quarters of the left and right, and not infrequently the mainstream media came, now, daily rumblings about the spy for Israel, his ties to neoconservatives in the administration, the influence and machinations of the neocons, their effort to push the war in Iraq. More than a few of these meditations on Israel, AIPAC and the power of the neocons bore a strong resemblance to a kind of letter that occasionally shows up in journalists' mailboxes. The sort that bring punctiliously drawn diagrams, cosmic in scope, with endless tiny boxes, and tinier labels, handprinted with a concentration only the deranged can summon, all intended to illustrate the sinister interconnectedness among certain institutions and persons--the president, the Pope, CIA, World Bank, the Association for Dental Implants and so on.

Steven Rosen, 63 at the time of his indictment in August of 2005, and Keith Weissman, age 53, both shortly thereafter lost their jobs at AIPAC, whose leadership was clearly alert to the disastrous potential in this case. AIPAC itself was not threatened with indictment, though suggestions of the behavior it would do well to follow were plain enough, as when government attorneys pointedly and repeatedly asked AIPAC's lawyer if the lobbyists still were employed there, and if the agency was still paying their health insurance and their legal fees. Not long after, the answer to all three was no. Mr. Rosen's attorney, Abbe Lowell, and Mr. Weissman's--John Nassikas and Baruch Weiss--are carrying their clients, who have by now racked up millions in legal fees.

In October 2005, with pro bono attorney Plato Cacheris at his side, Lawrence Franklin pleaded guilty--a decision he could not avoid making, given the indisputable proof of offense--to keeping classified documents at his home. His indictment charged much more--conspiring to communicate national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it, meetings with representatives of foreign nation A (Israel), and Messrs. Rosen and Weissman, cited as furtherance of a conspiracy. The former desk officer for Iran stood charged with conspiracy to "advance his own personal foreign policy agenda" and influence people in government. One Washington insider, hearing this, tartly noted that if all government officials who leaked material to effect policy changes were charged and convicted, the prisons would soon be packed.

The guilty plea brought a sentence of 12 years, seven months--not a light one. Mr. Franklin's hope for reducing it hinges on the cooperation he gives government prosecutors in the trial of the lobbyists. The role assigned him has from the beginning been noteworthy--a reversal of norms. Government officials don't normally get to take part in stings of ordinary citizens. But Mr. Franklin, an official with top security clearance, sworn to protect classified information, is the one asked to wear a wire to amass evidence against the two men with whom he has allegedly conspired. It usually goes the other way around. There is a reason that the government official caught taking a bribe is the object of the law's pursuit, rather than the citizen who has tried to pay him off--and why it is the citizen, crooked as he may be, who wears the wire and gets the possibility of a deal. That reason, of course, is the higher standard expected of those sworn to uphold their offices. If nothing else, the role assigned Mr. Franklin testifies to the government's singular focus on nailing the AIPAC lobbyists.

Even so it remains to be seen what help Mr. Franklin will give the prosecutors at the forthcoming trial of Messrs. Rosenvand Mr. Weissman. In the course of his guilty plea, the otherwise respectful Mr. Franklin forcefully objected to the government's characterization of the self-typed paper about Iran he'd faxed to Mr. Rosen--a document at the heart of one of the significant charges against the lobbyist--as "classified."

"It was unclassified," Lawrence Franklin told the court, "and it is unclassified."

The government would "prove that it was classified," announced the U.S. attorney.

Mr. Franklin: "Not a chance."

What chance the defendants--who asked no one for classified information--have of acquittal and the avoidance of prison remains to be seen. Though Judge T. S. Ellis rejected defense motions to dismiss the charges on constitutional grounds, his early rulings have so far shown a keen appreciation of the meaning this case. In this he stands in sharp contrast to the nation's leading civil rights guardians, these days busy filing lawsuits against the government and fulminating on behalf of the rights of captured terrorists in Guantanamo and elsewhere, while accusing the U.S. of failing to provide open trials and assurances that the accused have the right to view the evidence against them. As of this day neither the ACLU nor the Center for Constitutional Rights has shown the smallest interest in this prosecution so bound up with First Amendment implications. Nor has most of the media, whose daily work includes receiving "leaks" from government officials far more damaging to national security than anything alleged in this case. In this as in the Scooter Libby matter, the desire to see Bush Administration officials nailed apparently counts for more than First Amendment principle.

The government has also moved (in the interest of protecting classified information) to impose strict limits during the trial, on the testimony the public and press will be allowed to hear. If the proposal is allowed, significant portions of the testimony will be available only in the form of summaries. Witnesses, furthermore, would not be allowed to deliver certain testimony directly to jurors, who would instead be told to look at secret documents. It will be, as a member of the Reporters Committee For Freedom of the Press, now opposing the government efforts, describes it, "a secret trial within a public trial." (Dow Jones, publisher of this newspaper, has joined the Reporters Committee in filing an objection.)

The prosecutors may in fact need all the help they can get in this trial, which, the judge has noted, concerns actions that go to the heart of First Amendment guarantees. Above all, the government will have to prove that those charged with disseminating classified information "knew that its disclosure could injure the national defense."

One of the charges against Mr. Rosen was that he enabled Mr. Franklin's illegal transmission of classified material. This occurred, according to the indictment, when Mr. Franklin said he wanted to fax a paper to Mr. Rosen, and asked for his fax number. Mr. Rosen's crime, the charge establishes, was in giving him that fax number. Such is the sort of crime for which he could get upwards of 20 years, and Mr. Weissman, 10. The document, whose classified status the government claimed it could prove, was in fact a single sheet typed by Mr. Franklin, consisting of eight bullet points stating the offenses of which Iran was allegedly guilty.

As Judge Ellis noted, the government didn't allege that the lobbyist ever asked for the document, or that it had any classification markings, or that Mr. Rosen ever even received or viewed the paper.

The consequences of this spectacle--the indictment of two citizens for activities that go on every day in Washington, and that are clearly protected under the First Amendment--far exceed any other in the now long list of non-crimes from which government attorneys have constructed major cases, or more precisely, show trials. A category in which we can include the mad prosecutorial pursuit of Mr. Libby.

The government could succeed in this prosecution of two non-government professionals doing what they had every reason to view as their jobs--talking to government officials and reporters, and transmitting information and opinions. If such activities can be charged, successfully, as a "conspiracy," every professional, every business, every quarter of society--not to mention members of the press--will have reason to understand that this is a bell that tolls not just for two AIPAC lobbyists, but also for countless others to face trials in the future, for newly invented crimes unearthed by willing prosecutors.

Ms. Rabinowitz is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Is the Arab peace initiative a fraud?

A joint press conference of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League, explained the meaning of the Arab peace initiative. Quoting from the Saudi Press Agency:
Arabic Sumit 1428-2007


This seems to imply that the Arab states expect that Israel will first undertake to withdraw from all territories in separate agreements with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians, and without any formal commitment from the Arab states, and that after the withdrawal, the matter of peace with Israel will be considered, with each Arab state free to make its own decision about peace. Even if agreement is reached with the Lebanase, Syrians and Palestinians, there would be no guarantee that any other Arab states would agree to peace after Israeli withdrawal.
Ami Isseroff

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria and Iran: War this summer?

Syria and Iran are supposedly convinced that the US will stage an attack (on Iran presumably) this summer with the aid of Israel. Since it is really unlikely that the US or Israel will start a war such as is postulated below, and since Iran and Syria are not stupid, we must reach one of two conclusions:
1- They are being fed false information, deliberately, by some foreign power or
2- They are themselves preparing for a war.
The situation is similar to the eve of the Six Day War when the Soviets deliberately fed the Syrians false information about an impending Israeli invasion.
Given the remarks of the Iranian general about the plans of the International Zionists for war this summer, the possibility cannot be ignored.
Ami Isseroff  

Last update - 17:53 01/04/2007   
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent , and Reuters

Israel is closely monitoring preparations by Syria, Iran and Hezbollah for a U.S.-led war this summer, Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin said during a cabinet session on Sunday.
According to Yadlin, Iran and Syria believe that a war this summer will be initiated by the U.S. and that Israel will be involved. He said added that the Muslim forces' preparations are defensive, and they are not expected to initiate the war.
"What we are seeing is their preparation for the possibility of war in the summer. My assessment is that they are defensive preparations for war," Yadlin was quoted by a government official as saying, referring to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
"We are closely monitoring these preparations because [Iran, Syria and Hezbollah] could misinterpret various moves in the region," Yadlin said, according to the official.
Yadlin noted that, as in the case of the 1967 Six-Day War, military conflict could erupt despite that fact that neither side is interested in war, because of "the involvement of many players."
Regarding Hamas, Yadlin said that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has warned that if the international financial embargo on Gaza is not lifted within three months, a third intifada will break out.
Yadlin added that there senior Hamas members that are displeased with the Saudi Arabian initiative, and that the military branch of Hamas has renewed its activity.
In Washington on Thursday, U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said the United States was "convinced diplomacy is the way to proceed" to curb Iran's nuclear program.
Burns told the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee that Washington did not believe conflict with Tehran was inevitable.
The United Nations Security Council widened sanctions against Iran on March 24 after it defied a second deadline to stop enriching uranium, a process Tehran says will yield solely electricity but world powers fear could be used to build atomic weapons.
Washington and London also accuse Iran of supporting insurgents fighting their forces in Iraq.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Fatah forces outnumber Hamas 23,400: 8500

The number of heads doesn't matter as much as their probable loyalty and willingness to fight. It is unlikely that civil police for example, are all Fatah, or that they are trained as combat soldiers or properly armed. "Operations force" below probably refers to the executive force.
Ami Isseroff

Fatah forces on PA payroll for Gaza clash already outnumber Hamas 23,400:

Table prepared by Avi Issacharoff  - published in Haaretz Herbew edition 1
April 2007
translation by Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA

Fatah forces [AL: Only includes those on the PA payroll.  Fatah also has various armed militias:
 1,400 The Special Force (additional soldiers being added)
 7,000 National Security
 9,000 Civil Police
 2,000 Presidential Guard (additional soldiers being added)
 1.500 General Intelligence
 1,500 Military Intelligence
23,400 Armed forces allied to Fatah on the PA payroll

 4,500 Operations Force (AL: On PA payroll)
 4,000 Military wing of Hamas
 8,500 Armed forces allied to Hamas both on and off the PA payroll

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Janus: The two faces of the unity government

This policy brief from INSS points out the totally ambivalent nature of Palestinian non-policy. Whether by accident or design, they have created a powerful diplomatic tool through the paradoxical union of opposites. Their unity government can project a chimera of peace while pursuing the opposite policy.

Ami Isseroff

INSS Policy Brief: No. 4 April 1, 2007

"There is a Partner, There is no Partner":

The Platform of the Palestinian Unity Government

Amir Kulick

The swearing in of the Palestinian unity government on March 17, 2007 raised great hopes in the Palestinian street and earned widespread public support. The European Union and the United States have decided for the interim to maintain the economic boycott of the Palestinian government and refrain from contributing to its budget directly, as long as it fails to meet the conditions laid down by the Quartet (recognition of Israel, commitment to non-violence, and acceptance of agreements ratified previously by the PLO). At the same time, they have expressed a willingness to establish contact with the members of the government not associated with Hamas. The government of Israel, on the other hand, has decided to continue to boycott the unity government and cease transferring the taxes that it collects. Israel's official position is that the unity government's platform imposes constraints on Abu Mazen, and thereby "limits the possibilities and range of topics which Israel can discuss with the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority." Journalists and Middle East experts have also dismissed the platform as devoid of any important breakthroughs, contending instead that it is a tactical attempt to circumvent international sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority.

Against this background, the goal of this essay is to offer a textual analysis of the unity government platform and examine whether it in fact limits Abu Mazen in future negotiations. The main conclusion of the analysis is that the platform does not actually impose limitations on the president of the Palestinian Authority as far as political contacts are concerned regarding a final status agreement. This of course does not necessarily imply that current conditions are ripe for this type of negotiations, or that Abu Mazen is in practice not bound by related restrictions (in the political arena, on the security level, and vis-א-vis intra-organizational concerns – within Fatah and in relation to Hamas).

The platform of the Palestinian unity government clearly does not fulfill the conditions of the International Quartet. The platform contains no commitment to refrain from the use of violence; more than that, it explicitly states that: "the resistance to occupation, in whatever a legitimate right of the Palestinian people." In addition, there is no explicit and direct recognition of the State of Israel. Even the wording that the government will respect the documents signed by the PLO does not fulfill the requirement of explicit acceptance of those said documents. On the other hand, the government's platform contains several positive points that indicate a degree of progress towards accepting some of the Quartet's conditions. The document certainly does not limit the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, and may even allow him relative flexibility in future political negotiations. This provision is also significant given its timing, namely, while the Palestinian prime minister is one of the Hamas leaders in the territories. Within this context, a number of important points should be highlighted:

Readiness to establish a state within the 1967 borders. In the first article the platform declares that the government will act to "establish an independent Palestinian state...occupying all the territories conquered in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital." This statement is the political formula sanctioned by the Palestinian National Council as a cornerstone of a peace agreement with Israel. The inclusion of the statement in the platform enables further negotiations along the lines of a two-state solution. Abu Mazen's degree of freedom on this point is clear, especially if one compares this statement with the official position of Hamas, which declares that all of Palestine is Islamic land (wakf), no part of which can be ceded or forfeited.

Rejection of a state with temporary borders. Article 4 of the platform (section 1) states that the "government adheres to its rejection of what is called the state with provisional borders proposed in the American-Israeli plan." In other words, it prefers negotiations about a permanent status. This article implies an additional restriction to further negotiations: the rejection of a long-term interim solution. Opposition to this has been part of Abu Mazen's official position since he was elected to office in late 2004. It is worth noting that this position does not replicate Hamas' position, which prefers the idea of a time-limited armistice (hudna) – in effect, a temporary agreement, as was proposed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon over the course of 2001.

Accepting previous agreements as a basis for further negotiations. Article 2, section 1 of the platform states: "the government will honor the international agreements and decisions signed by the PLO." This article falls short of Israel's entire demand for abiding by the agreements signed by the PLO. Nevertheless the specific language of the platform still leaves room for Israel to demand that the agreements be fulfilled, and at the same time leaves Abu Mazen the ability to present the previous agreements with Israel as a basis for further negotiations. It is clear that this does not constitute full de jure acceptance of the Oslo agreement, but certainly the wording (as well as Hamas' very participation in the elections and government), constitutes a de facto recognition of these agreements.

Conducting negotiations based on the Arab initiative. Article 2 also states that the government will strive "to achieve the national goals as stated," among others, "in the decisions of the Arab League summit." This text enables working with the Arab peace initiative (the Saudi initiative), accepted at the Arab League summit in Beirut in 2002 as the basis for further negotiations. Within the framework of this initiative the Arab states proposed normalization of relations with the State of Israel and a declaration of an end to the conflict, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from all areas conquered in 1967, establishment of a Palestinian state, and a solution to the refugee problem.

Abu Mazen and the PLO have the authority to conduct negotiations. In the third section of the platform ("Dealing with the Occupation"), article 3 declares that "conducting negotiations is within the mandate of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the president of the Palestinian National Authority," and that "any political agreement that is reached will be submitted to the Palestinian National Authority for approval or to a referendum among the Palestinians, both those inside (i.e., in the territories) and outside (i.e., in the diaspora)." This wording gives Abu Mazen and the Palestinian Authority internal license – including from Hamas – to conduct peace negotiations with Israel. Similar declarations have been made in the past by various spokesmen for the movement, most notably Ismail Haniyeh. At the same time, putting it in writing and including it in an official document to which Hamas is a partner grants this assertion greater authority. The end of this clause, which requires approval of any agreement by either the Palestinian National Authority or by the Palestinian people themselves, is neither new nor constricting with regard to future negotiations. It is completely reasonable that any political agreement, and certainly one with profound national implications such as a permanent settlement, would need approval of one of these entities, if not both.

In addition to the discussion about future negotiations, the platform contains another important point relevant to this analysis:

Expansion of the ceasefire. The new government, at least according to its statement (Article 2, section 3), will strive to "stabilize the lull in hostilities (tahdiya) and to expand it in order to achieve a comprehensive calm." The platform's preconditions to expand the ceasefire are numerous, and their practical application means a cessation of all Israeli military activity in the West Bank. These terms complement other preconditions, including a removal of roadblocks, cessation of the excavations in Jerusalem, and timetables for releasing prisoners. At the same time, there is no doubt that this article could come into play as the basis for negotiation about the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank. Various security sources argue that an interruption of the Israeli military activity in the West Bank is likely to lead to Hamas' rehabilitating its armed forces in this area. At the same time, one could claim that this step might be a useful turning point in creating a different, more positive dynamic between Israel and the Palestinians. This might happen, especially if it is accompanied by significant benefits (freedom of internal movement and economic benefits) alongside release of prisoners (perhaps as part of the deal to release Gilad Shalit). Beyond that, it would be possible to use a ceasefire of this type as an initial step towards renewing permanent status negotiations. In addition, the positioning of this article in the document may be significant. The formulators of the document declared the intention to work towards a ceasefire immediately following the statement that "resistance to the the legitimate right of the Palestinian people," and included it in the section dealing with negotiations with Israel. The contiguity of these two sections may testify to the Palestinians' pragmatic intentions. It seems they intended to say that resistance to the occupation is their right, but in practice it is their intention to strengthen and expand the ceasefire and bring about the end of the occupation by way of negotiations.


One way or another, the platform of the Palestinian unity government can certainly be seen as a tactical step whose purpose is to remove the political and economic sanctions imposed on the Palestinian government. It attempts to achieve this without Hamas or the government that it heads recognizing Israel or dissociating itself from the path of terror. On the other hand, one can also look at the document from a different angle and see it as part of the new pragmatism characterizing Hamas. If so, the platform could serve as the basis to establish initial contacts with the new government. This should of course be done slowly and gradually, in order to leave some of the political and economic pressures in place until Hamas and its partners in government completely fulfill the Quartet's conditions.

In any event, however, it is clear that the text of the platform in no way inhibits Abu Mazen in future negotiations with Israel. It enables him, at least formally, to advance on the political front. Therefore, the decision whether or not to enter negotiations with Abu Mazen should be based on broader and more serious considerations, such as the internal and public state of the Israeli government or the ability of Hamas to torpedo further negotiations, and not on the wording of the Palestinian unity government platform.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslim atrocities - in Gaza and Nigeria.

Bradley Burston tells us:
As Jews, we learn not to talk about it. We're taught, from an early age, that it's not our business. As leftists, we're taught to interpret it in the broader context, as the understandable outgrowth of occupation, of colonialism, of Western oppression.
So this month, when a Palestinian toddler named Hassan Abu Nada was killed in the crossfire of a Hamas-Fatah gunfight in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lehiya, we said nothing. His grandmother was wounded. This was none of our affair.
Just as in December, when Palestinians gunned down three children of a Fatah security chief, boys aged three to nine on their way to school. We knew better than to pass judgment, protest on their behalf, raise our voices.
Just as we kept our opinions to ourselves when, in a Frankfurt court, a Muslim woman whose Muslim husband beat her and threatened to kill her, was denied a divorce. Judge Christa Datz-Winter ruled that "the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives," The New York Times reported. "The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse."
Just as every morning, when the news of a fresh act of moral obscenity reaches us from Iraq, we swallow hard and shut up. On Sunday, for example, when a Sunni Muslim mosque was stormed, its minaret blown to pieces, and the structure set ablaze, in apparent retaliation for a suicide truck bombing the beside a Shiite mosque the day before.
Muslims should be able to worship without other Muslims blowing them to mist. Muslim children should be able to go to school and back without other Muslims shattering their bodies with automatic fire. Muslim women should be able to live their lives without worrying that their husbands are within their rights to beat them and threaten to kill them.
And we, as non-Muslims, should be able to say something about it.
Not a simple issue. Especially for those of us Jews and leftists who were educated at places like Berkeley, where we received our degrees in Selective Blindness, with a minor in Understanding the Roots of Violence when practiced by Muslims.
He forgot to mention hundreds of thousand killed in Sudan, and perhaps he was also not aware of this story:
GOMBE, Nigeria – Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in this northern Nigerian town, was in high spirits last Wednesday (March 21) as she made her way to school where she teaches government..
Soon her happiness would be cut short. Muslim students at the school, along with outside Islamic extremists, murdered Oluwasesin on March 21 over claims that she desecrated the Quran. They beat, stoned, and clubbed her to death, then burned her corpse...  
Musa told Compass that Oluwasesin had collected papers, books and bags before the exam in the all-girls class, in accordance with school procedures to prevent cheating, and dropped the materials in front of the class.
"Soon after the bags collected by Oluwasesin were dropped in front of the class, one of the girls in the class began to cry. She told her colleagues that she had a copy of the Quran in her bag, that Oluwasesin touched the bag, and that by doing so she had desecrated the Quran, since she was a Christian."
Soon after the student raised this alarm, other students in class began to shout "Allahu Akbar [God is great]."
"It was at this point that I was attracted to the riotous scene in that class, and I then rushed there," said Musa...
He notified Malam Baba Musa, patron of the Muslim Students' Society at the school. The MSS patron, along with three other school staff members, went to the classroom to try to bring calm, Aluke Musa said. In the raucous confusion, he managed to rush Oluwasesin out of class to the principal's office.
"The principal left me and Oluwasesin in his office and also went there to calm down the Muslim students," he said. "Knowing that the students may soon come to this office, I pushed Oluwasesin into the bathroom in this office and then locked up the office."
By the time he had rejoined the principal and other staff members, he said, the entire school was engulfed in uproar. Muslim extremists from outside the school rushed in to join in the unrest.
"They destroyed school property and were demanding that Oluwasesin must be given to them to be stoned to death," Musa said. "When we could not give in by releasing Oluwasesin to them, they started stoning us..."
"While we were thinking of ways to take Oluwasesin out of the school, the Muslims broke into the principal's office and dragged her out," he said. "The principal rushed there to save her as they clubbed her with an iron on the head and blood was gushing out from the wounded side of the head. He was pleading that they should not kill her, but they were insisting that she must be killed..."
"The principal succeeded in getting Oluwasesin up to the school gate," he said. "There was a house near the gate, and he dragged her into the house, but the rioting Muslims went into the house and dragged her out again. This time, they clubbed her to death, brought old mats and placed dirt on her corpse, and then burned the body."
Quran Unfound

Musa said he was baffled that throughout the unrest, the copy of the Quran supposed to have been desecrated was never seen, nor was it produced by the offended student.
"Whether the Quran was in the bag of that student, nobody knows," he said.
Attempts by at least four policemen to quell the unrest had failed as they had been forced to retreat, Musa told Compass.
"The Muslims smashed the car of Oluwasesin, which was parked in the car park attached to the building housing the library, office and some classrooms," he said. "Her car was set on fire, and soon the entire building went up in flames."
Along with Oluwasesin's car, the school library, and other offices near the parking lot were all burned, he said. When the Fire Brigade arrived, he said, Muslims prevented firemen from coming into the school by striking them with stones.
Having killed Oluwasesin, the extremists turned their attention on Musa, who said he had been advised to leave and had done so in time. The extremists set his motorbike on fire, he said, when they realized he had eluded them.
The Government Secondary School of Gandu has a student population of about 4,000, about 10 percent of whom are Christian, Musa said.
The school has been closed down since the incident. Principal Mallam Mohammed Saddique, who was injured in the melee, could not be reached for comment, but Vice-Principal Hajiya Hadiza Ali Gombe told Compass that the situation had been brought under control.
"There is no more problem," she said, declining to speak further on the issue.
All secondary schools in the Gombe metropolitan area have been shut down indefinitely to avert a spread of the crisis, according to news reports.
Authorities have arrested at least 12 students involved in the killing, according to Voice of America. A five-member committee appointed by the state to investigate the incident is due to present findings in two weeks.
In February 2006 in the neighboring state of Bauchi, at least 20 Christians were killed and two churches were burned down by Muslims furious that a Christian high school teacher had tried to confiscate a Quran from a student who was reading it during class. (See Compass Direct News, "Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in Nigeria Disappears," March 28, 2006).
All of this is greeted with silence, more or less, by Christians and Jews alike.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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