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Saturday, June 16, 2007

The truth about the refugees - from an impeccable Arab source

The truth about the refugees - not Zionist propaganda. Attention anti-Zionists. This article did not appear in any Neo-con Zionist newspaper. It was not written by a member of the "Israel Lobby." It was written in As Sharq al Awsat, a Saudi-supported newspaper published in London. It was written by the general manager of Al -Arabiya television and  former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat.
Now you will find out all about us lying, evil Zionist scum, so be prepared for a real treat.
Shuqran Sayyed al-Rashed - thank you for telling at least part of the truth.
Ami Isseroff
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

There is no questioning the fairness of the Palestinian issue... However, only a few know about the inhumane aspects of the issue such as the refugees in camps that are shrouded in misery and despair. They have existed for many decades, either because of a longstanding indifference and oblivion or due to giving priority to both military and political concerns over humanitarian matters.
Regarded by some as a temporary issue, the tragedy of the Palestinians is rarely presented to the Arab and international public opinion through the media or during political occasions. Even some Arabs and Palestinians intentionally turn a blind eye to the issue so as not to expose abuses. What is happening in Lebanon's Nahr al Bared camp today is just one such example where battles have raised an overwhelming number of questions: who are these people? How long have they lived in the camp and how? What are their rights? The answers can be found on the UNRWA's website. Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades.
Some Arab countries "hosting" refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world. One can imagine these randomly and poorly built houses during the winter chill and sweltering heat of the summer among the sewage and insufficient services. It is a shame. How can we talk about the liberation of Palestine, which we simply associate with stolen land, a desecrated mosque and a powerful enemy, while we do not allow Palestinians to settle down, earn a living or travel like all other human beings?
Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do. It gives citizenship to the Palestinians of 1948 as well as the right to work and the right to lead a somewhat normal life, although they are treated as second-class citizens. [Comment - how are Jews treated in Saudi Arabia? How are Arabs treated in Saudi Arabia? Who has more rights, a an Arab in Saudi Arabia who is not a member of the royal family, or an Arab street sweeper in Israel? Who can vote? Who can go to law if his rights are violated? ]
In Nahr al Bared and other camps, however, they are neither citizens nor humans based on weak pretexts. I cannot believe Lebanese allegations that state that they have been confining the Palestinians, being Sunnis, to camps so as not to disturb the demographic balance between the Shia and Christians. It is a ridiculous excuse that even Israel would not try to use. No one is asking for citizenship or permanent settlement for them—only permission to live like any other foreigner. Blame lies with the Arab League and Arab governments that took part in or kept silent about this moral scandal. Rather than seeking to help them or provide for their demands, they preoccupy Arab public opinion with conferences and hollow rhetoric on the issue and on refugees.
Finally, we have to be true to ourselves and ask whether the way of life of these one million people is fair.
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hamas Humor: Meshal: Hamas does not want to seize power in PA

After massacring every Fatah member they could find in Gaza, throwing them off roofs, murdering them in hospitals, executing them in front of their families, the Hamas declares:
Damascus-based Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal said Friday his group does not want to seize power in the Palestinian Authority, adding that Hamas recognizes Abbas as the Palestinian Authority chairman.
Addressing media in the Syrian capital, Meshal said that Hamas had not wanted to take over the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas does not want to seize power ... We are faithful to the Palestinian people," Meshal said, promising to help rebuild Palestinian homes damaged in the months of bloody infighting.
"What happened in Gaza was a necessary step. The people were suffering from chaos and lack of security and this treatment was needed," Meshal continued. "The lack of security drove the crisis toward explosion."
"Abbas has legitimacy," Meshal said, "There's no one who would question or doubt that, he is an elected president, and we will cooperate with him for the sake of national interest."
Let's face it, any movement that can invade hospitals, murder doctors and throw people off roofs can't be all bad, can they? The translation of Meshal's humorous assertion is not so funny. He means that  Abbas can remain figurehead of a Hamas dominated government. The Arab foreign ministers seem to be backing that idea.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jewish Chronicle shows ignorance, ignores many real boycott ringleaders

An article in the Jewish Chronicle, Named: boycott ringleaders proports to name the "real" leaders of the British anti-Israel academic boycott:
The JC today identifies the key players in the escalating British campaign to boycott Israel. Our investigation shows that many are Jewish or Israeli, and that they justify their stance as part of the struggle for Palestinian rights and ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.
A high proportion are deeply involved in UCU, the University and College Union, which last month sparked an international outcry by voting to facilitate a boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Anti-boycott figures suggest that the campaign has been fuelled by a well-organised mix of far-left activists and Islamic organisations. In reality, the main proponents are a loosely knit collection of academics and trade unionists linked to groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for the Boycotting of Israeli Goods, and Bricup, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine.
Israeli Haim Bresheeth, professor of media and culture at the University of East London, seconded the UCU motion, which called for consideration of the morality of ties with Israeli academia and for discussions on boycotting...
Prof Bresheeth told the JC that a boycott was not an easy decision. "I am Jewish and an Israeli, and I don't wish harm on either side. But how long can this occupation go on?..."
Bricup has a large number of Jewish supporters, among them husband and wife Hilary and Steven Rose. Hilary, a professor of social policy at Bradford University, is Bricup's co-convenor alongside Prof Jonathan Rosenhead. Her husband, an Open University biology professor, is the organisation's secretary. They have been active in the boycott movement since 2002.
In an online article, Steven Rose wrote: "It really isn't good enough to attack the messenger as antisemitic or a self-hating Jew rather than deal with the message that Israel's conduct is unacceptable."
Prof Rosenhead, of the London School of Economics, hails from a "solid Zionist and Jewish background". Bricup, he said, had been involved in the discussions about the writing of the UCU motion. "The reaction from the community was what you would expect, but we are looking forward to the debate. It was a triumph that Israel came into existence —but not this Israel."
The reality is that Jewish Chronicle has distorted and wilfully ignored the reality. Some of the boycott supporters are Jews. Britain has always had a large proportion of Anti-Zionist Jews. However, the main engine for boycott support seems to be Sue Blackwell, the Socialist Workers Party and several Palestinian organizations. The most notable Palestinian organization in this respect is the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. (see also: The program of the Israel boycotters - one state or genocide? ) Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki, who are among the founders of this organization have been active on the Web and in lectures, supporting the boycott in the guise of humanitarianism. The reality is that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is against peace with Israel and against dialogue. This group tells youth and others, in Arabic only documents, that those who engage in dialogue with Israelis are traitors who take crumbs from the Americans and Europeans, and that Seeds of Peace is the "most dangerous" organization among dialogue groups. Socialist Workers Party, which may be the source of funding for PACBI, is the lynchpin of  the UCU boycott campaign. They have a cell within UCU and a Web site at
One really has to try hard to miss the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and SWP as Jewish Chronicle did, and to minimize Sue Blackwell. Apparently, Jewish Chronicle was trying to make some point about Jewish opposition to Zionism, but it is not clear what they proved.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

The program of the Israel boycotters - one state or genocide?

....Dame Nancy Rothwell, former Times Higher columnist and vice-president for research at Manchester University, said the issue of Israel was a red herring. She has resigned her long-standing union membership in protest at the UCU vote. "The danger is that some people think if they're against the boycott, they're in favour of Israeli actions, and it's not that at all," she said.

"It's the principle that's so important. It's nothing to do with Israel: I would do exactly the same if it was Palestine. It is censorship on the basis of political views and that is fundamentally wrong - it's madness, actually."
As Ha'aretz tells us, U.K.'s boycotters of Israel support a single-state solution, that is, they are against peace, and support a solution that will lead to murder of the Jewish population in Israel. This is clear from the current events in Gaza, where the Hamas is imposing their version of "Islamic Justice" (their words) by shooting people in front of their families and murdering doctors.
The article notes:
The activists at these groups may differ on issues such as religion and gender equality, but they are united in their perception of Israel as an apartheid state. They all advocate boycotting Israel and believe in diverting funds from it.
The organizations subscribe to the belief that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved in the form of a single-state solutions, and granting the Palestinian refugees the right of return. In the past year, this group of organizations has boasted several important accomplishments, first and foremost the UCU resolution.
"We're on a roll. We're now receiving increasing sympathy for the Palestinian cause," Sue Blackwell told Haaretz Tuesday. Blackwell is a veteran activist who has been promoting boycotts against Israel for years at Birmingham University, where she works as an English lecturer. During the UCU's meeting in Bournemouth, she wore a T-shirt reading "Caterkiller," in protest against the company Caterpillar, which sells bulldozers to the Israel Defense Forces.
Anti-Israel boycott star Jeff Halper was aslo there, and got to say his piece:
"We tried working with the Israeli public in the past, but we did not manage to make any headway there," says Jeff Halper, who heads the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions in the U.K.
"The Israelis as a whole believe there is no partner on the Palestinian side, and are thereby making themselves politically irrelevant. This is why we've had to address the civil society, represented by human rights groups, churches, universities and other organizations to warn against the Israeli apartheid regime," he says.
"The recent success we have experienced in the field is serving to unite different left-wing organizations. Halper says that the 40-year anniversary of the six Day War created a unifying effect on the front against the occupation; the next milestone will occur in 2007 when Israel celebrates its 60th birthday."
With due respect, it is now 2007. Israel's next independence day is in 2008, but Halper doesn't know that it seems. More important, Halper seems to have missed the recent events in Gaza, which provide egregious examples of Justice in Palestine and of what life would be like in a "secular democratic state." His notions, which were never very connected with reality, now take on the aura of the bizarre.
The Higher Education Supplement of the Times notes that the boycott decision is generating considerable backlash:
Opposition to the threatened boycott of Israeli universities gained momentum this week with a debate in the House of Lords, a Government delegation toIsrael and a flurry of anti-boycott initiatives.

Baroness Deech, the independent adjudicator for higher education, led a Lords debate in which she condemned the UCU vote for a boycott as "McCarthyite anti-intellectualism".

She said the proposed boycott was contrary to the 70-year-old principle of the "universality of science", published by the International Council of Scientific Unions and originally designed to prevent German scientists being excluded from international conferences.

"Boycotting scientists and others by reason of their country of residence should not be permitted, because the advance of knowledge is potentially beneficial to all mankind," she said.

"It is not morally justifiable either to hold all Israeli academics collectively responsible for the actions of their government - and they are the ones most likely to be in opposition - or to use them as hostages to further the political aims of others."

The debate followed a trip to Israel over the weekend by the Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, who said that a boycott would "make the job of the progressives much more difficult" and "entrench the position of people who take a hardline position".

Mr Rammell was joined by Drummond Bone, president of Universities UK, who said that while academics were free to criticise the policies of any government, a boycott was not "defensible" under the obligations of academic freedom.

The British Academy has also this week restated its 20-year opposition to any academic boycott, warning that boycotts are inimical to research.

It quotes the statement of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies, to which it belongs: "Moratoria on scientific exchanges based on nationality, race, sex, language, religion, opinion and similar factors thwart the network's goal. They would deny our colleagues their rights to freedom of opinion and expression; interfere with their ability to exercise their bona fide academic freedoms; inhibit the free circulation of scientists and scientific ideas; and impose unjust punishment."

Reinhold Behringer, professor in creative technology at Leeds Metropolitan University, has used the "weekly ethical reflection" slot on the university website to offer to establish links with Israeli and Palestinian academics and institutions "in the belief that collaboration between the two parties can contribute more towards mutual understanding and lasting peace than any ill-conceived boycott".

A website, , has been launched. It condemns the UCU congress vote in favour of a boycott motion as "the actions of a small and unrepresentative minority that flies in the face of academic freedom". And it calls on UCU general secretary Sally Hunt to "honour her pledge" to ballot the union's 120,000 members over the proposal.

The Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre, an independent organisation that aims to boost support for Israel in the UK, is urging staff and students opposed to the boycott to register their names. It says it is engaging with a number of high-profile academics "who are not only anti-boycott but are also pro-Israel."

But Dame Nancy Rothwell, former Times Higher columnist and vice-president for research at Manchester University, said the issue of Israel was a red herring. She has resigned her long-standing union membership in protest at the UCU vote. "The danger is that some people think if they're against the boycott, they're in favour of Israeli actions, and it's not that at all," she said.

"It's the principle that's so important. It's nothing to do with Israel: I would do exactly the same if it was Palestine. It is censorship on the basis of political views and that is fundamentally wrong - it's madness, actually."
It is more than that actually, since the boycotters are trying to destroy a member state of the UN, and are actively opposed to any peaceful settlement of the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Leading proponents of the Boycott include Omar Barghouti and Lisa Taraki. Their article,"The AUT Boycott: Freedom vs. "Academic Freedom"" ,appeared in the Electronic Intifada - May 31, 2005 at Electronic Intifada is run by Ali Abunimah, a proponent of the "One State Solution." Barghouti and Taraki, who masquerade as crusaders for human rights, are founding members of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. This group tells youth and others, in Arabic only documents, that those who engage in dialogue with Israelis are traitors who take crumbs from the Americans and Europeans, and that Seeds of Peace is the "most dangerous" organization among dialogue groups. Essentially, they are an anti-normalization group, whose task inside Palestinian society is to intimidate those who do not follow the extremist line. Their founders are mostly Bir Zeit University staff sympathetic to the Hamas, and supportive of the same elements who have been murdering doctors and throwing people off the roofs of buildings in Gaza. That is the practical expression of their "humanitarian" ideals and the practical implementation of their vision for Palestinian society. That is what the boycotters are supporting.
Please link to to help stop the Israel Boycott ( with exactly that hyperlink text).
Ami Isseroff  


Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What is happening in Gaza?

What is happening in Gaza?

Dramatic escalation in the violent confrontations between Hamas and Fatah.1 Hamas has taken over extensive areas of the Gaza Strip as the collapse of Fatah and the security forces accelerates.

Left: Hamas/Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades operatives laying siege to a National Security Service building in Gaza. Right: Fatah/ Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives ready to confront Hamas. (, June 13, 2007)


1. The frail ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah which went into effect at the end of the last round of confrontations (May 13-19) collapsed completely after the talks in Cairo failed. Behind the new round of confrontations, the seventh since Hamas came to power, are Hamas' refusal to accept Abu Mazen's initiative (the ten-point plan), the abiding mutual hatred and loss of faith between the sides inflamed by virulent propaganda.

Armed men in the streets of Gaza City (Al-Aqsa TV, June 12).

2. The confrontations, which began on June 7, are more extensive and deadlier than the previous ones. They have been characterized by bitter, hard-fought battles have taken place in many hot spots throughout the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has been gained the upper hand . Hamas' Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades and Executive Force have taken over vast areas in the northern and southern Gaza Strip, and in Gaza City . On the other hand, there has been an accelerated deterioration of Fatah and of Palestinian security forces , which are demoralized and militarily inferior and have no effective leadership (Muhammad Dahlan is in Egypt , recovering from an operation). During the past few days the violence has begun to seep into Judea and Samaria has begun, where Fatah and its security forces have the advantage over Hamas .

A member of Hamas' Executive Force, the force operating as Hamas' military wing during the recent confrontations (, June 13, 2007).

3. Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen continues to demonstrate his irrelevance to the events taking place in the Gaza Strip. He blamed Hamas for attempting a violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and for planning a military coup. However, he did not take the initiative and put an end to the battles. Fatah's central committee decided to delay the movement's participation in the government as long as the confrontations continued in the Gaza Strip, but has so far avoided withdrawing from the national unity government.

4. A new peak has been reached in the military- political confrontation between Hamas and Fatah, which has continued since Hamas came to power. The confrontation, characterized by spurts of violence which end in shaky ceasefires, is motivated by the aspirations of both sides to attain positions of power in the PA, with the final objective of taking it over and forcing its ideology and agenda on the rival side and on the entire Palestinian population. The significance of the current escalation is the following:

A. The acceleration of the Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip, turning it into "Hamastan:" Hamas' successes in the confrontations in the Gaza Strip have put a significant amount of territory (where Fatah and its security forces are weak) under Hamas control. That increases the practical and political gulf between the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria , where Fatah so far has managed to retain its advantage over Hamas.

B. The paralysis of the Palestinian national unity government and the PA: The current escalation indicates that the formulas and compromises achieved by the Mecca summit are not working on the ground. That is the result of the deep differences between Hamas and Fatah and their inability to function in a common political framework based on an agenda agreed upon by both sides. Thus Abu Mazen and Fatah may consider carrying out their threats to dissolve the national unity government, and it can be expected that louder voices will be raised to dissolve the Palestinian Authority.

C. Hamas (or Fatah and other terrorist organizations) may make another attempt to end the internal confrontation by turning it against Israel : That will be done by increasing the amount of rocket fire or by carrying out grandiose terrorist attacks, such as the one at the Kissufim Crossing. Such an attempt was made by during the round of attacks in May, and was successful in Hamas eyes, although it was short lived.

The latest round of Hamas-Fatah confrontations

5. The current round of confrontations has taken place in many hot spots in the northern and southern Gaza Strip and in Gaza City . They focused on attacks against political and military leaders and field operatives on both sides, and on Hamas' attempts to take over headquarters and bases belonging to the Palestinian security forces and Fatah, especially in the northern Gaza Strip.

6. According to reports from Hamas' media, Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades and Executive Force operatives have taken over most of the Fatah and Palestinian security force headquarters and bases in the northern Gaza Strip, the southern Gaza Strip (mainly in Khan Yunis) and Gaza City. Hamas even announced that the northern Gaza Strip had been declared a closed military area (Palestine-info Website, June 12).

7. Approximately 70 Fatah operatives, Hamas operatives and members of the security forces were killed in the fighting, and close to 200 wounded. Among them were also civilians who were caught in the crossfire, or relatives of Fatah and Hamas operatives who were deliberately killed in mutual assassination attempts.

8. The battles were particularly brutal: operatives were thrown from high buildings; detainees and abductees were murdered in cold blood; operatives families were targeted; buildings were set on fire with people inside; clerics were attacks and shots were fired near mosques; and firefights took place in Gaza Strip hospitals, turning them into Hamas-Fatah battlefields.2

9. The media reported there were snipers roaming hospital corridors and firing from windows, and that armed men had barricaded themselves in the corridors and on the roofs (Ynet, June 13). Hit hard was the government hospital in Beit Hanoun, where battles were fought between Hamas and Fatah. The Fatah-affiliated Palpress Website reported the hospital director, Dr. Nasser Radwan, as saying that "the Executive Force and [Izzedine] al-Qassam Brigades operatives are laying siege to the hospital and shooting at doctors. They came inside and are firing at doctors and patients. They are shooting in the operating rooms and wards…Many people have been killed and wounded inside the hospital" (June 11). In the end the hospital was occupied by Hamas and the staff and patients were evacuated (Dunia al-Watan Website, June 11).

10. Prominent among the mutual attacks and assassinations were the following:

A. RPGs were fired at the house of Ismail Haniya and the Shati refugee camp (June 12).

Damage inflicted by RPGs on Ismail Haniya's house (Al-Aqsa TV, June 12).

B. Fatah and Force 17 operatives were thrown off high buildings in Gaza City (June 10 and 11).

C. The house of the mayor of Beit Lahia was attacked and burned (June 12).

D. Mortars were fired at the house of Rashid Abu Shbaq (June 12).

E. Hamas operatives broke into the house of Samih al-Madhoun, a senior Fatah operative, in Beit Lahia (June 12).

F. Jamal Abu Jidian, Fatah general secretary in the northern Gaza Strip, was assassinated in Beit Lahia (June 11).

G. The house of Maher Miqdad, Fatah spokesman in the Gaza Strip, was attacked (June 12).

H. Muhammad al-Dahduh, Executive Force operative, was abducted and murdered (June 11).

I. Mazen Sa'adi Ajour, Hamas operational commander, was executed (June 11).

J. Muslim clerics were abducted and murdered, among them sheikh Muhammad al-Rifati, the imam of the Al-Abbas mosque in Gaza City (Filisteen Mubasher, June 11).

K. An attempt was made on the life of Bassem Na'im, youth and sports minister, by members of Fatah's Force 17 (June 11).

11. Prominent among attacks on bases, facilities, institutions and symbols of power were the following:

A. Hamas attacked the headquarters of the national security forces in the Jabaliya refugee camp, and a bitter battle ensued (June 12).

B. Fatah operatives attacked a building in Gaza City from which Hamas's satellite channel, Al-Aqsa, broadcast. There were problems with transmission in the afternoon hours (June 12).

C. Mortar shells were fired at the presidential headquarters in Gaza City (June 12).

D. Hamas fired mortar shells at the Technology and Science College in Khan Yunis (June 12).

E. Hamas fired mortar shells at a national security force base in the town of Dir Balah (June 12)

F. Hamas operatives broke into the house of Nabil Shaath, a senior Fatah figure, in the region of Al-Sudaniya in the northern Gaza Strip. They shot a bodyguard and vandalized the house (June 12).

G. Armed Fatah operatives raided the Abu Hasira mosque near the Gaza port. They reportedly damaged volumes of the Qur'an and vandalized the mosque (Radio Al-Aqsa, June 11).

12. Two additional items related to the current round of confrontations:

A. So far no significant attempt has been made to mediate or calm the situation, neither by the Egyptians (who seem to be frustrated by the situation and in despair) nor by the Fatah and Hamas leadership. The militant announcements broadcast by the Hamas media, calling for the destruction and killing of Fatah and the PA security forces, give the impression that Hamas is looking for military gains and for the time being is not interested in another ceasefire or a political solution.

B. The other Palestinian terrorist organizations, especially the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have not participated significantly in the fighting. They make do with their daily quota of rocket fire into Israel to show they are still in the front line of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation.

The Hamas-Fatah violence begins seeping into Judea and Samaria

13. The current round of confrontations has focused on the Gaza Strip, where Hamas enjoys the advantage, and Fatah has not yet moved the fight into Judea and Samaria . However, Fatah has threatened to attack senior Hamas figures if its own activists in the Gaza Strip are harmed. In view of the threats, it was reported that Hamas announced it had put its commanders and operatives in the West Bank on alert ( Ma'an News Agency, June 12).

14. There were a number of incidents in Judea and Samaria , prominent among which were the following:

A. Several armed men, apparently belonging to the Presidential Guard, broke into Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV offices in the Pal-media building in Ramallah near the Muqataa. They confiscated equipment and computers and detained four employees (June 12).

B. Armed Fatah operatives abducted the Hamas- affiliated deputy transportation minister from his office in Ramallah (June 12).

C. Armed men shot at the Nablus city hall and at the vehicles of a number of city council members while a council meeting was in session inside (June 11).

The propaganda and mudslinging war

15. While the fighting was raging in the streets, the current Hamas-Fatah mudslinging was reached new heights. Here as well Hamas enjoys superiority over Fatah because of its vast media infrastructure, which includes television, radio, newspapers and Websites. An important role is played by its satellite channel, Al-Aqsa TV.

16. The Hamas media have a number of epithets for Fatah and its security forces: "criminal murderers," "the group that went astray," "the Oslo gang," "the wicked group," "mercenaries," "little Satans," "cold-blooded murderous dogs," "the group that sold itself to the Jews and the American," "filth that can only be found in a garbage dump," "the Lahad army" (for example, Al-Aqsa TV, June 10).

17. The mudslinging and name-calling are intended to justify the killing of members of Fatah and the security forces. In certain instances Hamas activists explicitly called for the execution of their opponents. For example, the statement openly made by Yunis al-Astal, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, to kill "the dogs" and to get rid of "the murderers" carrying out the decisions of the Jews (Pal-media Website, June 11); or the call of sheikh Abu Bilal Nizar Riyan at the Hamas forum to kill "the murderers," "the infidels" and "the Lahad agent army [of Israel]" ("agents of Lahad is one of the negative epithets hurled at Fatah and the security forces) ( forum of the Center for Palestinian Information, June 12).

"Lahad's army, an agent [of Israel]" i.e., collaborating with Israel , one of Hamas' epithets for Fatah. It appeared as the title of an anti-Fatah song broadcast by Al-Aqsa TV (June 12).

18. Hamas' propaganda machine attacked PA chairman Abu Mazen, called by Al-Aqsa TV an agent of Lahad's army (June 12). Senior Hamas activist Sami Abu Zuhri called Abu Mazen "a dictatorial president," "a traitorous agent" who "signed a treaty with the Jews and the Americans" (Palestine-info, June 12). Muhammad Dahlan received special treatment, being referred to as "the biggest Satan of them all." He was awarded propaganda video clips of his own on Al-Aqsa TV as has not been seen since the Mecca Accord. Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council representative Yehia Musa said that "Dahlan represents the worst treason of the Palestinian people and its rights ever seen…There will be no peace and quiet as long as there are people, Muhammad Dahlan foremost among them, whose agenda is that of Israel and America …" (Filastin al-An Website, June 11).

Anti-Dahlan poster: Muhammad Dahlan as Hulagu, the Mongolian ruler who conquered much of Western Asia in the 13 th century. His acts of cruelty are etched into the memory of Muslim Arabs to this day (Filastin al-An Website, June 12).


1. As of noon, June 13, 2007.

2. The American-based organization, Human Rights Watch, blamed Palestinian terrorist-operatives for committing war crimes against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. "The murder of civilians not engaged in hostilities and the willful killing of captives are war crimes, pure and simple," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, in an announcement from New York (Ynet, June 13,7340,L-3412052,00.html).

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's Defense Budget - a futile analysis

This little discussion of the Israeli defense budget by one of Israel's top security experts is revealing and scary. Giora Eiland reduces the entire problem to one of budget allocation, adminstration and bureaucracy, and apparently that is how it is handled by the government. We have a government of book keepers and bean counters, who do not consider larger issues.
The questions that are raised for example, such as why Israel might need a budget that is larger than the combined defense budgets of its neighbors are not answered, and instead a panacea is offered: multi-year defence planning. The "advantage" of this panacea is supposedly:
The more general and more important conclusion to be drawn from this incident is – defense requirements change all the time. There are tasks that required significant resources in the past (e.g., the Golan Heights front) and require less today, and there are tasks that require greater investment. By the same token, the relative need to provide a solution for new types of threats at the expense of old ones is also changing. If the defense budget is administered on a multi-year basis funds would be able to be transferred between areas within the budget framework. Just as it is not right to make deep cuts because "the wars have ended," the budget should not be increased every time "a new need" emerges.
If "defense requirements change all the time" then it would seem that we cannot make a firm multi-year budget, that will include for example
Qty Item                                                Cost       Year 
1     War, 6 Day,                                  $400 M       1967
1     War, Yom Kippur                         $1 Billion    1973
1     War, Lebanon, 2nd                      $2 Billion    2006
1     War, Syria                                     $5 Billion    2007
1     War, Iran, Nuclear                      $100 billion* 2010
* Burial costs to be defrayed by ministry of religion, not included.
The remark by Eiland, "there are tasks that required significant resources in the past (e.g., the Golan Heights front) and require less today" is frightning. It means that Eiland, and probably others, are not taking the probability of war with Syria seriously at all. This year's budget and this year's planning do not envision any problem with Syria.
Military procurement is always wasteful, and there are always schemes to reduce the waste, of uncertain value. Israel will not be saved by a better bean counting scheme alone. The Lebanon War indicated clear problems in Israeli military procurement and budget practices. These problems were not limited to inadequate training of reserves as Eiland asserts. Because of budget cuts, Israel did not try to develop a missile defense and stopped procurement of Merkava Mark IV tanks. The former left us defenseless against Hezbollah rockets. The latter meant that vulnerable Mark III tanks were deployed and blown up by Hezbollah. The disconnect between reality and analysis is remarkable.
In addressing the relative size of Israeli and "neighboring country" defense budgets, the following must be kept in mind:
1- Israel, unlike Iran or Syria, has to be absolutely certain of being able to prevent a signficant initial enemy incursion. If Israeli troops penetrate 50 or 80 miles or so into Syria, it might be unpleasant for Mr. Assad, and a Security Council meeting will be called to condemn Israel. But if Syrian troops reach Haifa, Israel may be finished, and no Security Council meeting will help us.
2- Israeli soldiers and officers get paid more than those of neighboring countries. What counts on the battlefield is how many soldiers there are, not how much salary they draw in total.
3- The cost of administering the West Bank and dealing with Gaza must be subtracted from the defense budget, because it is not related to defense against foreign threats and doesn't materially contribute to it. Defending settlers in Izhar isn't going to stop Syrian tanks in the Golan, but it costs money.
4. In 2005, the defense budget of Iran was estimated at $6.3 billion or about NIS 26 billion.  Egypt and Syria are known to spend about $5 billion annually on defense, and these are old figures and underestimates. The total, $11 billion, is far larger than the Israeli defense budget, though their manpower costs are much lower.  Therefore, the notion that Israel outspends all of its neighbors on defense is rubbish.
5. The notion of "across the board cuts" with defense getting the same priority as Yeshiva students and subsidies for settlements, is dangerous and poor thinking. The "low priority" defense expenditures that are always eliminated are things like shelters for northern towns, reserve training etc. If there is no Israel, there will be no Yeshiva students or settlers anyhow.
Ami Isseroff
INSS Briefing:
Israel's Defense Budget
Giora Eiland

The size and composition of Israel's defense budget provide a regular subject for public debate. The debate revives very year in the fall, when the time approaches to decide on the defense budget, and perforce includes the question of prioritizing among various defense and social welfare needs (or as Shaul Mofaz was wont to say, between "life and the quality of life").
This year, in the aftermath of the Second Lebanon War, a new dimension has been added to the debate: were the IDF's inadequacies in the war due in part to an insufficient defense budget (no funds for reserves training), or to an incorrect distribution of the budget (a great deal was allocated to the air force and less to the army). Alternatively, perhaps there is no correlation between the war and its results and the defense budget.
This paper aims to examine whether the issue is actually "the correct size" of the defense budget, or whether the main issue is the absence of an ordered process to create "the correct budget."
The Current Process of Defense Budget Approval
The defense budget in Israel is a product of "a clash of giants" – the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Defense. It is approved as part of a regular procedure that recurs annually. Approval of the 2003 budget, which was negotiated in the fall of 2002, is emblematic of the process. There were four stages involved:
On one Thursday evening, three days before the government discussion about the national budget, Prime Minister Sharon held a preparatory discussion with officials of the Ministry of Finance and the Defense Ministry. IDF officers were the first to present their case. They presented "the essential defense needs," whose price tag was NIS 39 billion. They cautioned that "every shekel below this price will lead to an unacceptable security risk." Ministry of Finance officials then made their presentation. They analyzed all the macroeconomic parameters and said: "The defense budget will be NIS 30.6 billion, and every shekel added to the defense budget will puncture the economic program." The discrepancy between the ministries' positions was NIS 8.4 billion. There was no possibility of bridging the gap at the discussion so the prime minister directed the director general of the prime minister's office to meet with the two sides to put together a compromise proposal.

The director general of the prime minister's office called an urgent meeting for the next day (Friday). The compromise proposal was put together, whereby the defense budget would be NIS 32.6 billion, NIS 2 billion more than the Finance Ministry requested and NIS 6.4 billion less than the Ministry of Defense wanted. The proposal was submitted to the government meeting on Sunday, where it was approved over the protestations of the other ministers, who were suddenly informed that they had to weather a NIS 2 billion cut. The important part of the meeting was the comment by the chief of staff, who said that while it was the government's authority to decide on the defense budget, he requested the opportunity to demonstrate to the prime minister the security ramifications of the ("irresponsible") budget. Naturally, the prime minister agreed.
Two months later there was a meeting between top IDF officers and the prime minister. One after another, the generals presented the damage that the IDF's capabilities would suffer. The prime minister, who began to waver, convened a meeting of the government two weeks later to approve an additional NIS 4 billion to the defense budget.
This chain of events reveals six problems, four connected to the process and two to the outcome. The problems with the process are:
a.       There is no staff work by the government. There is no professional process that "connects" cost to effectiveness, or the budget to the quality of the defense solution.
b.      There is no discussion of specifics by the government. The ministers have no idea about the risks involved in a particular budget versus the smaller risks of a larger budget.
c.       The final decision is made months past the time when it should have been made. Consequently, the other government ministries undergo an across-the-board cut after having finished planning the work year and finalizing their budgets.
d.      Every year, an enormous amount of energy is expended on the same process that in the end leads to a result that could have been predicted from the outset. This creates uncertainty about the size of the defense budget, which prevents optimum multi-year planning.

In terms of the outcome, the cost is twofold:
a.       There are specific expenses that the Ministry of Defense considers justifiable, but one can assume that they would not be approved by the government if the ministers knew enough to vote on them. An opportunity for genuine control of the particulars of the Ministry of Defense budget is missed.
b.      The ministers, including the prime minister, are not familiar with the IDF's capabilities. They do not have anyone who is not an interested party who can explain to them the significances of various budget levels, or what the alternatives are within the framework of a given budget. In other words, there is no real government control of the "defense output" produced or that would be produced by different budget levels.
2004: A Proposal for Change
In the course of 2004 a committee made up of David Ivri, Yossi Kuchik, Yaakov Sheinin, and the author of this essay prepared a proposal on the defense budget that was presented to the government in August 2004. The proposal comprised four elements, three general and one specific:
a.       A recommendation that the defense budget be a multi-year budget with changes made to its framework only in extraordinary situations and if initiated by the prime minister. The same recommendation appeared in the Meridor committee report in 2006.
b.      It was recommended that the multi-year budget comprise fixed annual sums (in real terms). Since the GNP increases by 3-5 percent each year, the defense budget's share of the national product will (gradually) decrease. The state budget also increases every year, and thus, the share of the defense budget in the general budget will also decrease annually.
c.       The staff entity of the government (the National Security Council) will prepare a graph displaying the connection between the level of the defense budget and the level of defense. The government will be able to hold an informed discussion on a selected budget area in the graph. For example, the government can ask how much would be saved from the defense budget if Israel decided to waive the capability for a direct military operation against Iran, or if the government agreed to take a risk and decided that in the coming "x" number of years Egypt will not be involved in a war against Israel. Each of these two examples represents a possible saving of billions of shekels. The "right budget" is the budget that reflects the acceptable degree of risk and the alternative price (i.e., which "civilian" objectives would we have to forego to allow a solution to these threats.)
d.      The concrete component was a recommendation on the size of the defense budget. A graph was prepared based on the above recommended elements, the significances of each point were presented, and the recommendation was to set a budget of NIS 35 billion (excluding the dollar aid budget).
The government discussed the committee's recommendations and did not approve or reject them. The matter fizzled out. The actual defense budget was approximately NIS 34 billion each year. The damage to the state of preparedness (training and stock levels) increased. In April 2006 the defense budget was cut suddenly by a further NIS 0.5 billion. In July 2006 the government decided to go to war, without checking or knowing the IDF's state of readiness.
The Size and Composition of the Defense Budget
Although this article addresses the deficiencies in the process of determining the defense budget and not the sum that should be allocated to defense, two aspects that impact on the size of the budget should also be noted:
a.       Every year, prior to the budget discussions, there are calls for a deep cut in defense spending. The sums mentioned start from NIS 4 billion. The rationale used includes a comparison between Israel's defense budget and its potential enemies' defense budgets. One of the arguments claims that Israel's budget is larger than the combined budgets of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt and thus can be cut. This argument ignores a number of key factors. One is the nature of most military confrontations in the 21st century – clashes between state armies and terror and guerilla organizations. An outlay of $100 is required in order to "produce" a suicide bomber, but $1 million is needed to prevent the attack. How does the comparison between the budget of Hamas or Hizbollah and the IDF budget contribute here?
b.      In November 2006 the prime minister held an urgent discussion about a solution to the increasing threat of incursions by terrorists (and criminals) into Israel through the Egyptian border. The IDF presented a plan, including procurement of numerous types of equipment. The cost of the plan requested by the army as an addition to its budget, due to "the new task," was about $1 billion. The prime minister quite rightly rejected the request. The more general and more important conclusion to be drawn from this incident is – defense requirements change all the time. There are tasks that required significant resources in the past (e.g., the Golan Heights front) and require less today, and there are tasks that require greater investment. By the same token, the relative need to provide a solution for new types of threats at the expense of old ones is also changing. If the defense budget is administered on a multi-year basis funds would be able to be transferred between areas within the budget framework. Just as it is not right to make deep cuts because "the wars have ended," the budget should not be increased every time "a new need" emerges.
Prime Minister Olmert established a committee headed by David Brodet to examine the defense budget in the wake of the Lebanon War and it recently submitted its findings. It seems that the committee reached conclusions similar to those of this article, at least with respect to the need for a multi-year budget. However, the need to provide the government ministers a means of connecting a budget (input) and defense (output) that would act as the basis of any discussion on the matter is no less important.
In addition to the above recommendations regarding handling of the defense budget on a government level, steps to increase efficiency in the process of formulating the budget and its implementation within the defense system should also be examined. Not everything that appears axiomatic to the Ministry of Defense or the IDF is also right in terms of a "civilian" approach that has no prior commitment to existing practices. For example, there is a principle in the defense bureaucracy according to which "officers do not deal with money." According to this principle, after the professionals in the IDF decide what equipment they want, the requisition is transferred to the Ministry of Defense whose personnel are the only ones authorized to issue a tender and administer the requisition process. The duplication of systems costs millions of shekels.

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Fatah activist going to his death: "We are not Jews"

Last words of a Fatah activist: "We are not Jews"
Conflict Blotter thinks that the fighting will remain mostly in Gaza and not spread to the West Bank. However, his account of the last broadcast words of the brother of Jamal Abu al-Jediyan is chilling:
Hamas has stormed the home of Jamal Abu Jideyan, general secretary of Fatah in Northern Gaza and an Al Aqsa Brigades commander, and assassinated him. About 20 minutes ago we were listening to Sawt Al Hurriya, a Palestinian radio station, as Jideyan's brother called into the station frantic. Hamas militants had surrouned the family's home in the Jabbaliya refugee camp and had fired 16 RPG rounds at the home, with 35 family members inside, he said. "They're firing at us, firing RPGs, firing mortars. We're not Jews," he screamed into the telephone live on air, gun fire bursting in the background.
The obsession of the Fatah with killing Jews is such, that they allowed themselves to be destroyed, not believing that Hamas would kill anyone other than Jews. The members of the Palestinian "resistance" movements and the PA police did not remain loyal to their government and their leaders, because killing Jews was a higher priority than buidling a Palestinian state.
Ami Isseroff

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What's behind Syrian peace proposals?

Here is one explanation of Syrian peace proposals.
By Amitai Etzioni

Recently I participated in a lunch at the home of the Syrian government's representative to Washington, attended by a small group of people. The meal was arranged according to what is known as the "Chatham House rules," which ban mention of the meeting's specific location and of the names of the participants, but allows for unhindered discussion of what was said.
A large part of what was said at that meeting was clearly intended to prepare the ground for the visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, who arrived in Washington the following day. The Syrian representative's tongue slipped just once, when he acknowledged that Syria's peace gesture contains a poison capsule.
In order to explain the nature of this poison capsule, the context in which the remarks were made has to be explained. The Syrian representative once again declared that his country wants to improve its ties with the United States. He acknowledged that Syria enjoys good relations with all the factions in Iraq and therefore is capable of helping to achieve a political arrangement to end the civil war that is tearing the country apart. He noted that Syria also has good ties with Iran and can therefore serve as a mediator between Iran and the U.S. He complained bitterly about the Bush administration's position, which holds that there is no need for high-level talks to rebuild the ties between Syria and the U.S. He spoke of Syria's desire to hold talks without preconditions, both with the Bush administration and with Israel.
The representative added that the expected military confrontation between Israel and Syria is most distressing, since the disputed issues could be resolved through peaceful means. Nevertheless, he said, if Israel wishes war, Syria is prepared and ready. "Israel will face another surprise, like the one that awaited it in Lebanon," he cautioned.
He spoke somewhat bemusedly of the visit by the U.S. House of Representative Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, to Damascus. She brought with her a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, according to which "Israel is ready to enter peace talks." Olmert was supposed to issue a public announcement along those lines the following day. The representative said that the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, smiled upon hearing Pelosi's words and merely said, "We'll wait and see." The next day Olmert denied having sent such a message.
The Syrian representative reiterated that Syria is willing to begin peace talks at any time without preconditions, but noted that "Israel never agreed to this, because it would create a shared border between Syria and Hamas, through which Syria could arm Hamas as it pleased." In other words, his remarks implied that the peace gestures are empty, because Syria knows they would entail a condition that Israel could not live with.
All of this seems to indicate that while Israel continues to express its desire for peace talks with Syria and for a two-state solution, it is thereby placing itself into a trap. When Israel refers to a Palestinian state, almost everyone, except for few diplomats specializing in the Middle East, thinks this refers to a truly sovereign state. Such a state would be free, of course, to import all the arms and foreign soldiers it wishes.
However, it seems that Israel is assuming that it will continue to oversee the borders of this Palestinian state, including those with Syria and Jordan, much like it oversees the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and Gaza's sea and air ports today. If that is the case, Israel will be accused of turning the Palestinian state into a prison. That is indeed how many describe Israel's current attitude to the Gaza Strip.
Therefore, when Israel resumes peace negotiations with Syria and with the Palestinians, it would do well to stop relying on sophisticated legal distinctions between autonomous territories and sovereign territories. It must make it clear that the Palestinian state that will be established in the wake of a peace arrangement will be demilitarized and that there will be a need for effective enforcement methods, such as a combination of Israeli and European patrols, in order to maintain this demilitarization. Any other peace arrangement would contain a poison capsule.
The author is a lecturer in international relations at Georgetown University.

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Needed: A poll about poll results

A new poll claims Israeli Jews believe it is NOT OK for Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel. An earlier poll showed that Israeli Jews believe it IS OK for Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel.
Fifty-four percent of Israelis believe Diaspora Jews have no right to publicly criticize the government of Israel, compared with 40 percent who believe that Jews who live in the Diaspora can publicly criticize Israel, according to a recent survey commissioned by the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem.
The survey found that a quarter of Israeli Jews think it is fine for Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel no matter what, while 35 percent said such criticism was acceptable, but only to a certain extent.
And what percent of Israeli Jews think that survey results are often bumph?
Ami Isseroff

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why isn't Fatah fighting back?

The big mystery, the question I have been asking myself, is why Fatah is not fighting back in Gaza, as Hamas stands to slaughter them and remove their military potential. It is not only Fatah that is about to be wiped out in Gaza, but the entire secular arena of Palestinian politics. Apparently, I am not the only one asking the question.
Khaled Abu Toameh reports:
Fatah officials call for Mahmoud Abbas to resign

Fatah officials and activists in the West Bank on Wednesday called on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to resign, holding him responsible for the fact that Hamas was now in control of most parts of the Gaza Strip.
The calls for Abbas's resignation came as Hamas militiamen scored more victories in their battle to take control over the Gaza Strip. More than 30 Palestinians were killed in Wednesday's fighting, which also spread to some parts of the West Bank.

Fatah officials here confirmed that Hamas had seized large amounts of weapons and military equipment belonging to Abbas's security forces in the Gaza Strip. Some of the weapons were supplied to the PA in recent weeks by Egypt and Jordan as part of a US security plan to boost Fatah-controlled forces.

Hamas said it had seized thousands of M-16 and Kalashnikov rifles and pistols, communication equipment, armored vehicles, trucks, binoculars, military outfits, tents, sleeping bags, hand grenades, mortars and documents.
At a stormy meeting of Fatah leaders here, Abbas came under severe criticism for failing to issue clear orders to the PA security forces and Fatah militias in the Gaza Strip to launch counterattacks on Hamas.

Furious Fatah leaders demanded that Abbas declare a state of emergency and call early elections. They also expressed dismay with the way Abbas was handling the current crisis.

"Hamas is slaughtering our sons in the Gaza Strip and the only thing our president is doing is appealing for a cease-fire," said one Fatah leader.

"We have at least 40,000 police officers and militiamen in the Gaza Strip.  What's preventing them from launching a massive attack on Hamas? Does the president want to see the Gaza Strip fall into the hands of Hamas?"

Another top Fatah official called on Abbas to step down. "The president must resign," he said. "Unless he takes real measures to halt the Hamas  offensive, President Abbas will face a revolt by Fatah."
Sources close to Hamas told the Post that the Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various armed groups, had joined Hamas in the fight against the PA security forces and Fatah militiamen.

The sources also claimed that dozens of PA policemen had surrendered and handed over their weapons to Hamas in the past 24 hours.

General Musbah Buhaisi, commander of Abbas's Presidential Guard in the Gaza Strip, was said to have fled to the West Bank following death threats by Hamas.
It is simply incredible and inexplicable.
Ami Isseroff

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D.C. Anti-Israel rally flops - or does it?

According to the Forward, the Rally Against Occupation Drew Sparse Crowd in D.C.
Actually, it was not a rally against the occupation. It was a rally against the existence of Israel, since the organizing groups all support a one state "solution" and, as indicated by hate speech at the rally, and based on independent evidence, the groups are probably anti-Semitic as well as anti-Zionist.
Though the Forward is satisfied, the appearance of 2,000 people at an anti-Semitic rally is not a cause for complacency.
Surely, it should have been possible to overwhelm this gathering with pro-Israel supporters, and surely the Forward could have done a better job of shedding light on the real nature of the organizers, rather than casting them as innocent protestors against the occupation.
Ami Isseroff


Organizers of this past weekend's "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation" rally in Washington pulled out all the stops.

They secured the backing of the nation's largest grass-roots anti-war coalition, United for Peace & Justice, which has brought hundreds of thousands into the streets to protest the Iraq War. They reserved prime real estate on the National Mall, with the Capitol as a backdrop. They purchased ads on the Washington Metro system and on cable television. They had a promotional rap song ("June 10, come out and represent/June 10, the day to protest/June 10, got to end this occupation/June 10, Palestinian liberation"). Comedy legend Roseanne Barr recorded a message urging participation.

There was one area, however, in which the rally was lacking: Not many people showed up.

The rally's sponsors, UFPJ and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, placed the number of attendees at "more than 5,000." The U.S. Campaign labeled the rally a "huge success." But pro-Israel activists and bloggers who observed the rally said there were far fewer in attendance, some placing the number at about 1,000. Right-wing blogs ridiculed the gathering, posting photos that suggested a sparse crowd. The Jerusalem Post put the number of attendees at "upwards of 2,000." Mainstream news outlets largely ignored the rally.

"I think they have to be very disappointed," Roz Rothstein, national director of the pro-Israel group StandWithUs, said of the organizers of the pro-Palestinian demonstration. StandWithUs organized a small counter-protest.

The U.S. Campaign stated that its rally was called "to protest the 40th anniversary of Israel's illegal military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, and Syrian Golan Heights." The group had been planning the event since late last year, according to the U.S. Campaign's office manager, Omar Masri, a rally organizer.

"We expected a large number. We didn't know exactly how much. We were excited to know that 5,000 were there, of course," Masri said. "We were hoping for a bit more, but we didn't have an official estimate."

Masri stood by the 5,000 figure while acknowledging that it was a "rough estimate." He said that the number of attendees was less significant than the fact that "this was the first time in our history that two of the largest coalitions come together demanding an end of Israeli occupation of Palestine."

Speakers at the rally variously denounced American aid to Israel, railed against the "Zionist lobby that took this country to war in Iraq," and accused Israel of practicing "apartheid" and of violating Palestinians' human rights. Another speaker warned of "a plan to create a new American-Israeli century where those who dare to speak out will be squashed."

Wed. Jun 13, 2007

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Shimon Peres wins an election at last - President of Israel

The evil that was done seven years ago, when suspected rapist Katsav was elected president by the perfidy of certain MKs, has been finally undone today. Both other candidates also showed themselves worthy of the office when they graciously bowed out of the running after the first round.
Last update - 15:50 13/06/2007   
By Shahar Ilan and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondents

Vice Premier Shimon Peres was elected Israel's ninth president Wednesday, winning 86 votes in a second round ballot after his two rivals in the race threw their support to him.
In the first round, Peres fell three votes shy of the 61 needed to clinch the presidency.
Minutes after the balloting was announced, with Peres taking 58 votes to 37 for Likud challenger Reuven Rivlin and 21 for Labor MK Collette Avital, Avital called an impromptu news conference to announce that she had decided to pull out of the race and throw her support to Peres. Soon after, Rivlin followed suit.
Despite the octogenarian Peres' record as a Nobel laureate, former prime minister, protege of David Ben-Gurion and founder of Israel's nuclear program, much of his political legacy was still riding on the vote, following a string of electoral defeats going back decades.
The Peres victory followed an especially painful defeat seven years ago at the hands of then-Likud MK Moshe Katsav. On the eve of the vote, Peres was said to have been assured by no less than 66 lawmakers that they would vote for him. But when the votes were counted in a secret ballot, 63 MKs had voted for Katsav and only 57 for Peres.
Katsav, who now faces the possibility of rape and sexual assault charges, has suspended himself from presidential duties.
Rivlin, a former speaker of the Knesset who enjoys broad popularity in the house, was until recently seen as the clear favorite in the race. But a late surge by Peres, courting the endorsement of ultra-Orthodox spiritual leaders and other key figures, closed the gap.
Avital, who first came to public prominence as Israel's consul-general in New York, was the first woman to mount a serious challenge for the presidency.
Among Peres' challenges in winning the presidency was his defection from the Labor Party prior to elections last year, a move which cost him his traditional power base. Peres left the party following his 2005 defeat by Amir Peretz for the position of Labor chairman. Peres, now 84, joined the Kadima faction founded by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.
The presidential race was made particularly tense by the position of the Labor faction as potential kingmaker. But when Labor's Avital endorsed Peres after the first round, his victory was all but guaranteed.
On the morning of the election, Maariv daily's front page was bordered by individual portraits of Peres detailing each one of his eight electoral defeats ranging back to the early 1970s.
In the early phase of the current campaign, Peres, maligned by the press as a serial loser, sought in vain to have the Knesset vote take place openly, and not by secret ballot.

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Women's lib - Palestinian style: Two women would-be suicide bombers caught on way to attack

"There is nothing like a dame."
Last update - 16:26 13/06/2007   
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

The Shin Bet security service revealed Wednesday that it successfully curbed a double suicide attack planned for Tel Aviv and Netanya by the Islamic Jihad.
According to the Shin Bet, two women from the Gaza Strip were arrested who were supposed to carry out the attack.
The two women, mothers to young children, were arrested at the Erez checkpoint on May 20, while attempting to enter Israel.
One of the women, a 30-year-old mother of four, requested permission from Israel to reach Ramallah, falsely claiming she needed medical care. Her aunt, a 39-year-old mother of eight who was pregnant, was supposed to accompany her to treatment in Ramallah.
The Shin Bet maintains that the two were due to meet with an Islamic Jihad militant in Ramallah, who was supposed to give them explosive belts and take them to their destined locations inside Israel.

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Hamas Hebrew Jingle: Lucky Hamas goes to war

This is the Middle East, where anything can happen. The Hamas takeover of Gaza has brought a brave new reality of militant Islamism.

There is nothing funny about the murderous fighting in Gaza, and the strange and tragic inaction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Human Rights Watch has condemned both Hamas and Hezbollah for "grave crimes." The crimes include killing civilians, invading hospitals and endangering journalists. People were thrown off the top of buildings, doctors were thrown out the window.

But there is a ligher side to everything, for those with a sufficiently macabre sense of humor. Hamas has been broadcasting victory jingles, including one in Hebrew. The propaganda technique is borrowed from the Hezbollah.

This was not invented by a satirist apparently, but actually broadcast on Hamas radio in Gaza. For those who cannot read Hebrew, the words are:

"Hamas my eyes (from "'Ayuni" in Arabic - which is big praise) destroyers of the Merkava (tank), a pigua (terror hit) every minute, scared soldiers in black bags, pieces of Jewish meat, we want the head of Sharon."

Or in English idiom,

"Hamas Cola Hits the spot,
Twelve dead Jews and that's a lot"

Islamism Lite, anyone?

Ami Isseroff

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Syrian peace response - and Syrian war strategy

A senior Syrian official said Tuesday that Damascus was ready for peace talks with Israel but without any preconditions.
"Syria is ready for negotiations and ready for peace based on the Madrid (peace conference) principles and international (UN) resolutions without conditions," Syrian Assistant Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous said.
Official peace talks between Israel and Syria were suspended indefinitely in January 2000.
Israeli officials claim that he left out the word "direct" - indicating that Syria is interested only in U.S. mediated talks. That  assessment seems to be borne out by a comment from a Syrian friend regarding the need for direct talks. The point of Assad's move therefore, is to drag the U.S. into legitimizing his regime.
The article continues:
For the first time Monday, Olmert held a meeting of the "Syria cabinet," which was established last week and comprises 11 members of the security cabinet. The Syria cabinet heard intelligence assessments about Syria, its relations in the Arab world, its strategy, its military deployment on the Golan Heights, and the domestic and regional standing of Bashar Assad.
According to the reports, the Syrian army is busy improving its capabilities but its deployments are "defensive," according to a senior political source in Jerusalem.
Of course the deployments are defensive. Clearly, Syria intends to trigger an Israeli attack by allowing a terroist attack from its territory. The Israelis will respond and then the Syrians will launch a barrage of missiles against Israel. The Syrian defensive deployments are intended to prevent an Israeli ground attack.
Ami Isseroff

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British boycott backlash continues - Zionists strike back

Last update - 06:47 13/06/2007   
By Assaf Uni and Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondents

The leader of Britain's Conservative party, David Cameron, called himself a "Zionist" Tuesday as he slammed a British initiative for an academic boycott against Israel.
Cameron, responding to questions at the annual luncheon of Conservative Friends of Israel, said the academic boycott was completely uncalled for, and that attacks against Israel often slid into anti-Semitism.
"If by Zionist you mean that the Jews have the right to a homeland in Israel and the right to a country then I am a Zionist," the Tory leader said, adding that support for Israel is "in the DNA" of members of his party.
He also justified construction of the separation fence, but expressed concern that it might torpedo a two-state solution.
British Jews launch campaign against academic boycott
A coalition of British Jewish organizations will launch a campaign Thursday to combat the University and College Union's initiative for an academic boycott of Israel.
Advertisements signed by hundreds of anti-boycott academics were scheduled to appear in Wednesday's newspapers, followed Thursday by a press conference by Jewish politicians, university lecturers and community leaders.
Jeremy Newmark, director of the Jewish Leadership Council, told Haaretz that the campaign's goal was to get British University and College Union director Sally Hunt to make good on her pledge to bring the boycott proposal to a referendum of the union's rank and file.

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Gaza: The anti-Altalena of the Palestinians

The Palestinian authority in Gaza is apparently falling apart. Palestinians are actually asking for the return of Israel:
On Tuesday, a Palestinian journalist likened the Palestinian Authority to a smoke-belching car wreck, adding that it was time to toss the keys to the Israelis. His view is shared by many Palestinian civilians in Gaza, who in recent days have told the media that they are fed up. "We've had enough, we should be so lucky as to see the return of the Israeli occupation."
There are a few lessons here for everyone. In 1948, dissident Irgun fighters tried to import arms to Israel for their group. Ben-Gurion saw it as an attempt at a coup and ordered Yitzhak Rabin to sink the ship, the Altalena, that was bringing the arms. Since then, there was only one rule in Israel, and it was decided democratically.
Israelis waited in vain for a Palestinian "Altalena," in which the various militant groups would be suppressed.  It never came.
The Gaza fighting spells out the obvious lesson: The Palestinian authority was never democratic, because  in a democracy, power cannot grow out of the barrel of a gun. The tragedy of secular Palestinian nationalism is that they did not have an "Altalena," but an anti-Altalena.
History can take many twists. We often like to indulge in "what if" speculation. It is very rare that we can really see what would have happened "if." For those who wonder what would have happened if Rabin had not sunk the Altalena, the fighting in Gaza is a demonstration.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 07:58 13/06/2007   
By Avi Issacharoff , Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service

Hamas attacked Fatah positions in the central Gaza Strip with mortars and anti-tank rockets, Palestinian sources, as fighting between the rival groups continued Wednesday.
Five people, apparently civilians, were wounded in the attacks, including two who are in serious condition.
Hamas said it also seized and bulldozed a key Fatah outpost that controls Gaza's main north-south road.
At least 25 people were killed and dozens wounded in Tuesday's fighting, including at least 10 who were killed when Hamas captured the headquarters of the Fatah-allied security forces in northern Gaza.
Since the latest round of violence broke out Monday, 36 Palestinians have been killed.
The capture of the Fatah headquarters was seen as a key victory for Hamas, which said its forces had taken control of all of northern Gaza. Fatah sources said Tuesday they believed Hamas was seeking a decisive victory in the Strip.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh both made calls for restraint Tuesday, but they went largely unheeded. Fatah announced Tuesday night that it was suspending its participation in the Palestinian unity government until the fighting stopped.
Forces loyal to Abbas were ordered Tuesday evening to defend their positions in Gaza, and counter a "coup" by Hamas.
The fighting also targeted senior officials from both sides. A deputy cabinet minister from Hamas was abducted in Ramallah, sparking fears that the fighting could spill over into the West Bank. Late Tuesday evening, Fatah said it had wounded four Hamas gunmen during a shootout in the West Bank city of Nablus.
On Tuesday morning, gunmen attacked Haniyeh's home in a refugee camp near Gaza City, for the second time in as many days.
Hamas branded the assault with a rocket-propelled grenade an assassination attempt. Haniyeh and his family were in the house, but unhurt.

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Barak wins Labor party primaries

Ehud Barak seems to lose opinion polls and win elections. Prediction: He will be the next prime minister of Israel.
Last update - 08:10 13/06/2007   
By Barak Ravid, Yuval Azoulay and Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, who defeated rival MK Ami Ayalon to capture the chairmanship of the Labor Party, pledged in a victory address early on Wednesday to focus his efforts on bolstering the military and Israel's deterrent capability.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is widely believed to be intending to name Barak as defense minister, replacing Amir Peretz, Barak's predecessor as party chairman.
"I will invest all my energy and knowledge into strengthening the defense establishment and the Israel Defense Forces, and returning to Israel the power of deterrence," Barak, an ex-army chief who was Israel's most decorated soldier, told cheering supporters at the party's headquarters in the Hatikva neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
Barak, who came from behind after trailing a distant fourth in early opinion polls for Labor's top spot, received 54.4 percent of the Labor Party members' votes, to 44 percent for Ayalon. The remaining votes were abstentions. Israel Radio reported that the final count had been 34,561 votes for Barak and 31,100 votes for rival MK Ami Ayalon.
The results suggested that Ayalon's alliance with Peretz - who was knocked out in the primary's first round - hurt Ayalon in the kibbutzim, where Ayalon had enjoyed a lead of some 300 votes in the first round.
Barak beat Ayalon in the counts for Jerusalem, the kibbutzim, moshavim and Druze and Arab sectors. Associates of Ayalon, who was victorious in Lod, Sdot Yam and Shoham, claimed that there had been fraudulent voting in the Arab and Druze communities, where Barak scored a comfortable win.
However, in a congratulatory phone call to Barak, Ayalon promised not to appeal the results, regardless of fraud. He promised to work together with Barak. "Today I take office as Labor chairman, replacing Amir Peretz, and I wish to thank him for his work," Barak told his supporters in his victory speech.
Barak also thanked all the ministers and MKs that supported him in his campaign and called for a unification within the party. "In our joint efforts we will march hand in hand with all the constructive forces in the country. We have the best team, the most experienced group of any party in Israeli politics," Barak said.
"I have been chosen to lead the achievement of the tasks at hand, but I intend to do so with a wonderful team. Together with Ami [Ayalon] and all the other wonderful friends. There is no regime without the public's trust. In these times of anxiety, distrust and the general feeling of a loss of the way and a loss of leadership, the Labor Party must place itself at the head of a democratic alternative for Israel," he added.
Barak called on Labor supporters that had abandoned the party with the election of Amir Peretz as is chairman a little over a year ago to "return home."
"Without anger and without taking inventory, I ask of you and call on you to come home. The Labor Party is your true home, and you know that, you feel that. We will welcome you back with open arms," he said. "The internal competition has come to an end," Barak said, "now we must centralize our efforts and do our best, each in their own field.
We will march in the path of the founder of the state and in the path of the founding generation. A path that combines insistence on security without compromise while simultaneously maintaining a solidarity in Israel, working toward peace and truth, fortifying the leadership and rehabilitating society," he concluded.

Ayalon was quoted as saying that he intends to seek a police investigation into the fraud. However, Ayalon called Barak and congratulated him on his win, and promised he would not appeal the results.
"Unfortunately, there have been grave falsification incidents on a very large scale. Beyond the testimonies that we have heard, we also possess clear proof of fraudulence, including a recording we have recently received," said Ayalon's strategic adviser Yuval Porat.
Meanwhile, Barak's rival Ayalon said late Tuesday that when the final results of the primary are announced, "I will call Barak and we will join hands."
In an interview with Channel 2 News, the chairman of Labor's central elections committee said that "there have been incidences of violence but thus far there has been no indication of fraud."
Official results from the Kibbutz sector were released Tuesday evening with Barak winning 54.4 percent of the vote, compared to 44 percent for Ayalon and 1.6 percent who abstained. In the moshavim, where there was a voter turnout of 72 percent, Barak won 60 percent of the vote to Ayalon's 40 percent.
In the Druze sector, Barak won 4,323 votes compared to 2,518 for Ayalon. In Umm al-Fahm, once a center of anti-Barak sentiment in the wake of October, 2000 rioting in which 12 Arabs were shot dead, Barak received 156 votes compared to 42 for his opponent.
Barak scored a slim victory in Jerusalem, receiving 1,097 votes compared to 1,043 for Ayalon. In Lod, Ayalon received 420 votes compared to only 39 for the former prime minister.
There was a relatively high voter turnout in the election, with 64.5 percent of Labor Party members casting their ballots.
Both Barak and Ayalon invested a great deal of effort in recent days to bring out thousands of voters who did not participate in the first round two weeks ago. Barak cast his ballot in Kfar Sava, while Ayalon voted in Geva Carmel. During a visit to a polling station in Ramat Gan, Barak was asked by a voter to describe the difference between himself and Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu.
"The difference is that Bibi is a bad person who walks all over people," Barak responded, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. "I do not walk all over people."
While visiting a polling booth in Givatayim, the former prime minister was asked if Ami Ayalon and current party chairman Amir Peretz, who was eliminated in the first round, would have a place in the government should he win. "We will find the appropriate place for everyone," Barak answered. He reiterated the central message of his campaign - that only he can defeat Netanyahu, prepare Israel for war, and make the right decisions for peace.
Shortly after he secured the support of MK Ophir Pines-Paz - who was also knocked out in the first round - Barak declared that Olmert should resign after publication of the Winograd Committee's final report on the government's performance during the Second Lebanon War. He added that Labor will attempt to form an alternative government, but should it fail to do so, this would mean early elections.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Did Mohamed's followers drink his urine in order to be blessed?

From MEMRI, we get this interesting news:

Media Uproar Following Egyptian Mufti's Fatwa on Companions of the Prophet Muhammad Being Blessed by Drinking His Urine 
This learned opinion was delivered in a recent book by Egyptian Mufti Dr. Ali Gum'a. The  Mufti claimed that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad would drink his urine to be blessed.
According to MEMRI:
The fatwa provoked strong objections on the part of the Egyptian religious establishment. Leading Al-Azhar and Religious Endowments Ministry officials stated that Gum'a's conclusions were mistaken even though they were based on Islamic sources. They added that his claims were inappropriate for the modern era and that they only caused embarrassment in the Egyptian street and did damage to the Prophet and to Islam.
There was an outcry against the fatwa from the Egyptian public, and a complaint was filed against Gum'a demanding that he stand trial for harming Islam, the Prophet, and the Companions of the Prophet. Columnists in the Egyptian papers ridiculed the fatwa and protested against it: While some argued that there was no point in raising such issues from the past that had nothing to do with public life today, others stated that the fatwa was for Islamic scholars, not for the masses, and still others said that it was a tool for those who sought to harm Islam. Some also called on Gum'a to resign from his post as the Mufti of Egypt.
While according to some reports Gum'a had apologized for the fatwa, in actuality he clarified that he had not apologized, but had only decided to remove the book from the market and to refrain from appearing in the media until the uproar subsided.
In a multipluralistic society, is there no room for urine drinkers? Le'hayim.
Ami Isseroff

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Friedman: Israel Discovers Oil

An optimistic view of Israeli entrepreneurship.
NYTimes, June 10, 2007
Israel Discovers Oil


Lucien Bronicki is one of Israel's foremost experts in geothermal power, but when I ran into him last week at Ben Gurion University, in Israel's Negev Desert, all he wanted to talk about was oil wells. Israel, he told me, had discovered oil.

Pointing to a room full of young Israeli high-tech college seniors, Mr. Bronicki remarked: "These are our oil wells."

It was quite a scene. Once a year Ben Gurion students in biomedical engineering, software, electrical engineering and computing create elaborate displays of their senior projects or — as in the case of a student-made robot that sidled up to me — demonstrate devices they've invented.

On this occasion, Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israeli venture capitalism — ever since he backed the four young Israelis who invented the first Internetwide instant messaging system, Mirabilis, which was sold to AOL for $400 million in 1998 — brought some of his venture capital pals, like Mr. Bronicki, down to Ben Gurion to scout out potential start-ups and to mentor the grads.

The first student exhibit I visited was by Yuval Sharoni, 26, an electrical engineering senior, whose project was titled an "Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images" (which has to do with military targeting). When I told him I was from The Times, he declared: "This project is going to make the front page, I'm telling you." The cover of Popular Mechanics, maybe, but it could one day make the Nasdaq, where Israel now has the most companies listed of any nation outside of the United States.

"Today, every Israeli Jewish mother wants her son to be a dropout and go create a start-up," said Mr. Vardi, who is currently invested in 38 different ones.

Which gets to the point of this column: If you want to know why Israel's stock market and car sales are at record highs — while Israel's government is paralyzed by scandals and war with Hamas and doesn't even have a finance minister — it's because of this ecosystem of young innovators and venture capitalists. Last year, VCs poured about $1.4 billion into Israeli start-ups, which puts Israel in a league with India and China.

Israel is Exhibit A of an economic phenomenon I see a lot these days. Of course, competition between countries and between companies still matters. But when the world becomes this flat — with so many distributed tools of innovation and connectivity empowering individuals from anywhere to compete, connect and collaborate — the most important competition is between you and your own imagination, because energetic, innovative and connected individuals can now act on their imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.

Those countries and companies that empower their individuals to imagine and act quickly on their imagination are going to thrive. So while there are reasons to be pessimistic about Israel these days, there is one huge reason for optimism: this country has a culture that nurtures and rewards individual imagination — one with no respect for limits or hierarchies, or fear of failure. It's a perfect fit with this era of globalization.

"We are not investing in products or business plans today, but in people who have the ability to imagine and connect dots," said Nimrod Kozlovski, a top Israeli expert on Internet law who also works with start-ups. Israel is not good at building big companies, he explained, but it is very good at producing people who say, "Wouldn't it be great if you could do this ...," then create a start-up to do it — which is later bought out and expanded by an Intel, Microsoft or Google.

"The motto here is not work hard but dream hard," Mr. Kozlovski added. "I had some guy come see me the other day and say, `You know Google? They make a lot of money, very famous, right? They're not that good. We have a much better system that correlates to the cognitive process of searching. Google is worth $50 billion? Probably we can match their numbers.' He was dead serious."

My guess is that the flatter the world becomes, the wider the economic gap we will see between those countries that empower individual imagination and those that don't. High oil prices can temporarily disguise that gap, but it's growing.

Iran's ignorant president, who keeps babbling about how Israel is going to disappear, ought to pay a visit to Ben Gurion and see these rooms buzzing with student innovators, with projects called "Integration Points for IP Multimedia Subsystems" and "Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance." These are oil wells that don't run dry


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Optimistic rumor: Olmert sends fresh 'nuances' in new message to Syria's Assad

The headline reads, Olmert sends fresh 'nuances' in new message to Syria's Assad. Hey folks get your fresh nuances here. Organic nuances too.
But the actual facts as reported are not the same as the headline:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert sent a new message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in which "interesting nuances" were included, according to a senior political source in Jerusalem. The message was sent through Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who visited Israel on Monday and then traveled to Damascus.
On Tuesday, Israel Radio quoted unnamed aides to Olmert Tuesday as denying the report. There was no immediate elaboration.
Also responding to the report, Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos, who is accompanying Bakoyannis on her Middle Eastern tour, told Haaretz in a phone interview from Damascus that he was surprised at the news.
"Greece and its foreign minister, Ms. Dora Bakoyannis, are not mediators or envoys in the region. The only message that the foreign minister delivered to the president of Syria is one from the Greek government and the European Union, regarding the need to further peace and stability in the area."
Shouldn't the headline read "Israel and Greece deny that Olmert sent nuanches to Assad?"
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tell us something we did not know

The headline, UN envoy warns Mideast faces possibility of 'full-scale war'. What a bummer! I thought we live in Switzerland all along. Seriously, so what else is new? Mr Terje Roed-Larsen should know that the Middle East has faced the possibility of full scale war since wars were invented and especially since the Turkish empire started to go kaput.
He said, according to the artlicle:
"A few years ago, as it had been over many, many decades, the center of gravity for all the conflicts were the Israeli-Arab conflicts," he said.
"Now, there seems to be four epicenters of conflict in the region with their own dynamics, the Iraqi issues, the Iranian issues, the Syrian-Lebanese issues, and of course the heart of hearts, the traditional conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli issue."
"The new phenomenon seems to be that all these conflicts are now completely intertwined so that it is very difficult, maybe impossible, to find a solution to one of them without finding a solution to all of them," Roed-Larsen told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.
"One is that we continue on the path of violence - the kind of mildest one being that we continue on the slippery slope of violence that we've seen not only in Lebanon but also in Gaza, West Bank, Iraq and elsewhere in the region," he said.
"The other one is that it leads to a full confrontation, and worst case to a regional confrontation with arms."
"The second option is energetic diplomacy by the international community to address the underlying problems," he said.
Roed-Larsen said this is extremely difficult today because the four conflicts in the Mideast are separate, but have become entwined.
"Hopefully there is still a possibility to address this diplomatically and with peaceful means," he said. However, that this will happen in the very foreseeable future is not that likely.
The third option, he said, is a vigorous containment policy which stems the slide on the slippery slope and moves to address broader regional tensions.
Note that he mentions four epicenters, but lists three, and mentions three options, but lists four. Another option, not mentioned is to get better diplomats, and a U.N. with teeth. The conflicts are not "intertwined." There are two countries, Syria and Iran, who are stirring up trouble, and their footprints are found in all of the "epicenters."
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Alarming news from Ha'aretz

The Ha'aretz article, Bush to suggest new ideas for Israeli-Palestinian agreement, brings a lot of alarming news. Most people will comment regarding Bush's new ideas:
Officials believe U.S. President George W. Bush will make new suggestions for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement in a speech slated for June 24. The event will mark the fifth anniversary of the speech in which he unveiled his "two-state vision" to end the conflict.
It was not clear what ideas the administration is formulating, the officials said.
It will not be much clearer after the speech, probably. Any time Bush has an idea about something it can be very dangerous. Ask the Iraqis. But Bush and everyone else are always suggesting new ideas about Israeli-Palestinian peace, and somehow nothing comes of them. That is really bad news, not good,  but it is a fact.
However there are two other bits of alarming news in this article. The first is this gem:
"This is why the U.S. wishes to supply the JDAM bombs to Iran despite Israel's objection."
The U.S. supplying bombs to Iran??? Of course it is one of those wonderful editing errors.
The real alarming news is this:
The officials said Bush was expected to report progress on a memorandum of understanding to increase U.S. military aid to Israel. The current accord expires next year, as does the civil economic aid package. Israel wants the U.S. to gradually raise the military aid to more than $2.4 billion annually, as the current accord stipulates.
Israel is increasing its dependency on the US, step by step.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is this trip really necessary?

Isn't there a better way to spend Israel's defense budget then deploying four battalions of IDF to secure this march?
Last update - 10:29 12/06/2007   
By Nadav Shragai and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents

The Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday it will deploy four battalions of Israel Defense Forces troops to secure a march to the former West Bank settlement of Homesh planned for Tuesday.
The IDF spokesman told reporters the march "was coordinated with the Yesha council and approved at the state level. The IDF and the Police will work together to keep the peace and secure the event."
The spokesman added that the IDF will not allow anyone to seize or resettle any of the territory of the former settlement and will require all rally participants to leave the area by nightfall.
Some senior IDF officers have harshly criticized the decision to allow the march and to provide security for it, saying that instead of focusing on fighting terror, the IDF is wasting its time providing security for political demonstrations by settlers.
Over the past year, numerous illegal rallies and marches have been held at Homesh, which was evacuated during Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank.
Tuesday's rally is being organized by groups headed by the Yesha Council. It will leave from the old train station of Sebastia, a symbolic place as the site of the first post-1967 Jewish settlement in the West Bank, and head for Homesh where participants will be addressed by MKs and public officials. Thousands are expected to take part in the march, mostly members of youth groups.
Rally organizers have purchased shovels, brooms, rakes and hoes, and participants have been asked to bring tools to help "prepare the place for occupation, or at least give it back its previous appearance, with paths, roads and vegetation."
The Homesh First organization, which was behind the previous protests at the site, is not participating in the rally and is planning a separate march aimed at permanently resettling the site.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, June 11, 2007

No intention to take military action against Israel: Speaker

This is a comforting thought, Iran says it has "No intention to take military action against Israel." Except of course, that it is already taking action against Israel through Hamas and the Hezbollah.
Ami Isseroff
No intention to take military action against Israel: Speaker
Kuwait City, June 11, IRNA - Iran news agency

Iran's Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said on Sunday that the recent comments by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about destruction of Israel did not mean Tehran intended to attack the Zionist regime.

Speaking in a press conference before ending his three-day visit to the Persian Gulf state, the speaker said: "What President Ahmadinejad has said about Israel's destruction did not meant that Iran intends to taake military action against Israel.

"What the president said is that Israel is on the natural course of disintegration because it has emerged in the region by force. This issue is even discussed inside Israel," Haddad-Adel stressed.

Asked if a deal between Iran and US would be possible over Tehran's nuclear case, as well as the issue of Iraq and Lebanon, the speaker said: "We will not strike any deal to settle our nuclear case nor would we sacrifice the interests of the Iraqi and Lebanese peoples.

"Our stand over the nuclear issue is clear and there is no need to make any compromise with others in this regard. Peoples of Iraq and Lebanon also trust Iran and know that Tehran would make no deal with anyone over their interests out of respect for Islamic teachings," the speaker stressed.

Asked what was his anticipation of the results of the next presidential and parliamentary elections in Iran, the speaker said "It is difficult to say as there is complete freedom in Iran." 1394/1414

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Avram Burg's case against Israel

In this interview, Avram Burg presents his controversial case against Israel, elaborated in his book. It seems that though there are valid criticisms in his point of view, he has carried them to an extreme. Likewise, his notion that the EU is Jewish is absurd, even disregarding the growing population of Muslim extremists there.
In a television interview he gave for Israeli Channel 2 television, he appeared to be much more reasonable.
Ami Isseroff

Ari Shavit
We met 25 years ago. Exactly 25 years ago. Avraham - Avrum - Burg and I were then part of a small group of reserve soldiers and officers who came out against the First Lebanon War. "Soldiers Against Silence," we were called. Very quickly Avrum was taken from us. In the great demonstration of the 400,000 [the peace rally in Tel Aviv following the September 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Chatilla camps in Beirut], he became a star and immediately turned to politics. At first he was one of Shimon Peres' smart young men. Then he was the great hope of the Labor Party's Young Guard. After that the chairman of the Jewish Agency, Speaker of the Knesset, a candidate for the Labor leadership.

And then, suddenly, three years ago, Burg got up and left. Went to feather his nest. Got entangled in a problematic and failed privatization deal. Was slandered in the papers, scrutinized by the state comptroller, investigated by the police. And all this time he was writing a book.

All this time he was formulating the bold insights of "Defeating Hitler."

Burg will not admit it, but from his point of view the book he is launching now, to coincide with Hebrew Book Week, is a book of prophecy. A book that is intended to vest the kingdom with prophecy. For others, the book will not be easily definable. It contains deep thoughts about Israel and Zionism, a prolonged comparison between Israel and Germany, trenchant criticism of Eichmann's hanging, reflections on Judaism in the age of globalization and memories from his father's house.

Yosef Burg, the refugee from Dresden, accords the book a certain softness that is not to be found in the angry words of his son. True, toward the end the optimist Avrum tries to transform his eulogy into a paean, but the attempt is not entirely convincing. The Israel of "Defeating Hitler" is a very harsh place. Brutal and imperialist, confrontational and insular. A shallow place, thuggish, lacking spiritual inspiration.

I was outraged by the book. I saw it as a turning away of an Israeli colleague from our shared Israeliness. I saw it as a one-dimensional and unempathetic attack on the Israeli experience. Still, the dialogue with Avrum was riveting. We got angry at each other and raised our voices at each other and circled each other warily like two wounded gladiators in the arena. You can't take away from Avrum what he has. You can't take away the education or the articulateness or the ability to touch truly painful places. Maybe that's why he is so infuriating. Friend and predator; brother and deserter.

Avrum Burg, I read your new book, "Defeating Hitler," as a parting from Zionism. Am I wrong? Are you still a Zionist?

"I am a human being, I am a Jew and I am an Israeli. Zionism was an instrument to move me from the Jewish state of being to the Israeli state of being. I think it was Ben-Gurion who said that the Zionist movement was the scaffolding to build the home, and that after the state's establishment it should be dismantled."

So you confirm that you are no longer a Zionist?

"Already at the First Zionist Congress, Herzl's Zionism was victorious over the Zionism of Ahad Ha'am. I think that the 21st century should be the century of Ahad Ha'am. We have to leave Herzl behind and move to Ahad Ha'am."

Does this mean that you no longer find the notion of a Jewish state acceptable?

"It can't work anymore. To define the State of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end. A Jewish state is explosive. It's dynamite."

And a Jewish-democratic state?

"People find this very comfortable. It's lovely. It's schmaltzy. It's nostalgic. It's retro. It gives a sense of fullness. But 'Jewish-democratic' is nitroglycerine."

We have to change the national anthem?

"The anthem is a symbol. I would be ready to buy into a reality in which everything is fine and only the anthem is screwed-up."

Do we have to amend the Law of Return?

"We have to open the discussion. The Law of Return is an apologetic law. It is the mirror image of Hitler. I don't want Hitler to define my identity."

Should the Jewish Agency be dismantled?

"Back when I was chairman of the Jewish Agency, I suggested changing its name from the Jewish Agency for the Land of Israel to the Jewish Agency for Israeli Society. There is room for philanthropic tools. But at the center of its experience it have to deal with all of Israel's citizens, including the Arabs."

You write in your book that if Zionism is catastrophic Zionism, then you are not only post-Zionist but anti-Zionist. And I say that since the 1940s, the catastrophic element has been integral to Zionism. It follows that you are anti-Zionist.

"Ahad Ha'am made the charge against Herzl that his whole Zionism had its source in anti-Semitism. He thought of something else, of Israel as a spiritual center - the Ahad Ha'am line has not died, and now its time has come. Our confrontational Zionism vis-a-vis the world is disastrous."

But it's not just the Zionist issue. Your book is anti-Israeli, in the deepest sense. It is a book from which loathing of Israeliness emanates.

"When I was a boy I was a Jew. In the language prevalent here: a Jew-boy. I attended a heder [religious school]. I was taught by former yeshiva students. After that, for most of my life I was an Israeli. Language, signs, smells, tastes, places. Everything. Today that is not enough for me. In my situation today, I am beyond Israeli. Of the three identities that form me - human, Jewish and Israeli - I feel that the Israeli element deprives the other two."

On the face of it, your position is conciliatory and humanistic. But out of that approach you develop a very harsh attitude toward Israeliness and Israelis. You say terrible things about us.

"I think that I have written a book of love. Love hurts. If I were writing about Nicaragua, I wouldn't care. But I am coming from a place of tremendous pain. I see my love withering before my eyes. I see my society and the place I was raised in and my home being destroyed."

Love? You write that Israelis understand only force. If someone were to write that Arabs understand only force or that the Turkmen understand only force, he would immediately be condemned as a racist. And rightly.

"You can't take one sentence and say that this is the whole book."

It's not just one sentence. It is repeated. You say that we have force, a great deal of force and only force. You say that Israel is a Zionist ghetto, an imperialistic, brutish place that believes only in itself.

"Look at the Lebanon War. The people returned from the field of battle. There were certain achievements, there were certain failures, things were revealed. You would expect people in the mainstream and even on the right to understand that when the IDF is allowed to win, it doesn't win. That force is not a solution. But then comes Gaza, and what is the Gaza discourse? We will smash them, we will erase them. Nothing has sunk in. Nothing. And it's not just between nation and nation. Look at the relations between people. Listen to the personal conversation. The graph of violence on the roads, the discourse of the battered women. Look at the mirror of Israel's face."

What you are saying is that the problem is not just the occupation. In your eyes, Israel as a whole is some sort of horrible mutation.

"The occupation is a very small part of it. Israel is a frightened society. To look for the source of the obsession with force and to uproot it, you have to deal with the fears. And the meta-fear, the primal fear is the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust."

That is the book's thesis. You are not the first to propose it, but you formulate it very acutely. We are psychic cripples, you claim. We are gripped by dread and fear and make use of force because Hitler caused us deep psychic damage.


Well, I will counter by saying that your description is distorted. It's not as though we are living in Iceland and imagining that we are surrounded by Nazis who actually disappeared 60 years ago. We are surrounded by genuine threats. We are one of the most threatened countries in the world.

"The true Israeli rift today is between those who believe and those who are afraid. The great victory of the Israeli right in the struggle for the Israeli political soul lies in the way it has imbued it almost totally with absolute paranoia. I accept that there are difficulties. But are they absolute? Is every enemy Auschwitz? Is Hamas a scourge?"

You are patronizing and supercilious, Avrum. You have no empathy for Israelis. You treat the Israeli Jew as a paranoid. But as the cliche goes, some paranoids really are persecuted. On the day we are speaking, Ahmadinejad is saying that our days are numbered. He promises to eradicate us. No, he is not Hitler. But he is also not a mirage. He is a true threat. He is the real world - a world you ignore.

"I say that as of this moment, Israel is a state of trauma in nearly every one of its dimensions. And it's not just a theoretical question. Would our ability to cope with Iran not be much better if we renewed in Israel the ability to trust the world? Would it not be more right if we didn't deal with the problem on our own, but rather as part of a world alignment beginning with the Christian churches, going on to the governments and finally the armies?

"Instead, we say we do not trust the world, they will abandon us, and here's Chamberlain returning from Munich with the black umbrella and we will bomb them alone."

In your book we are not only victims of the Nazis. In your book we are almost Judeo-Nazis. You are careful. You do not actually say that Israel is Nazi Germany. But you come very close. You say that Israel is pre-Nazi Germany. Israel is Germany up to the Nazis.

"Yes. I started the book from the saddest place. As mourning, but for the loss of Israel. During most of the writing the book's title was 'Hitler Won.' I was sure it was finished. But slowly I discovered the layer of not everything being lost. And I discovered my father as a representative of German Jewry that was ahead of its time. These two themes nourished the book from beginning to end. In the end I am an optimistic person, and the end of the book is also optimistic."

The end may be optimistic, but throughout its entire course the book repeatedly equates Israel with Germany. Is that really justified? Is there sufficient basis for the Israel-Germany analogy?

"It is not an exact science, but I will describe to you some of the elements that go into the stew: a great sense of national insult; a feeling that the world has rejected us; unexplained losses in wars. And, as a result, the centrality of militarism in our identity. The place of reserve officers in society. The number of armed Israelis in the streets. Where is this swarm of armed people going? The expressions hurled publicly: 'Arabs out.'"

What you are actually claiming is that we have viruses of Nazism within us.

"The term 'Nazism' is extremely charged."

Avrum Burg writes in his new book: "It is sometimes difficult for me to distinguish between the primeval National-Socialism and some national cultural doctrines of the here-and-now."

"There is a difference between saying 'Nazi' and saying 'National-Socialist.' Nazi is an ultimate icon; in us it goes to final and terminal places."

OK, we will leave Nazism. Are you concerned about a fascist debacle in Israel?

"I think it is already here."

Do you really believe that the racist slogans which, appallingly, do indeed appear on the stone walks in Jerusalem are akin to the slogans of the 1930s in Germany?

"I see that we are not weeding out those utterances with all our might. And I hear voices coming out of Sderot .... We will destroy and kill and expel. And there is a transferist discourse in the government .... We have crossed so many red lines in the past few years. And then you ask yourself what the next red lines that we cross will be."

In the book you both ask and answer. "I feel very strongly," you write, "that there is a very good chance that a future Knesset in Israel ... will prohibit sexual relations with Arabs, use administrative means to prevent Arabs from employing Jewish cleaning ladies and workers ... like the Nuremberg Laws ... All this will happen, and is already happening." Didn't you get carried away, Avrum?

"When I was Speaker of the Knesset, I heard people talking. I conducted in-depth conversations with members from all parts of the House. I heard people of peace say -I want peace because I hate Arabs and can't stand to look at them and can't tolerate them, - and I heard people on the right use Kahanist language. Kahanism [referring to the ultranational doctrine of Rabbi Meir Kahane] is in the Knesset. It was disqualified as a party, but it constitutes 10 and maybe 15 and maybe even 20 percent of the Jewish discourse in the Knesset. These matters are far from simple. These are roiling waters."

I will tell you frankly. I think we have serious moral and psychological problems. But I think that the comparison with Germany on the eve of the rise of Nazism to power is baseless. One example: There is a problem with the place of the army in our lives and with the place of the generals in our politics and in the relations between the political echelon and the army. But you are likening Israeli militarism to German militarism, and that is a false comparison. You describe Israel as a Prussian Sparta living by the sword, and that is not the Israel I see outside. Certainly not in 2007.

"I envy your ability to read the situation as you read it. I very much envy you. But I think we are a society that in its feelings lives by the sword .... It is not by chance that I make the comparison with Germany, because our feeling that we are obliged to live by the sword stems from Germany. What they deprived us of in the 12 years of Nazism necessitates a very large sword. Look at the fence. The separation fence is a fence against paranoia. And it was born in my milieu. In my school of thought. With my own Haim Ramon. What is the thinking here? That I will erect a big wall and the problem will be solved because I will not see them. You know, the Labor movement always saw the historical context and represented a culture of dialogue, but here we have terrible pettiness of soul. The fence physically demarcates the end of Europe. It says that this is where Europe ends. It says that you are the forward post of Europe and the fence separates you from the barbarians. Like the Roman Wall. Like the Wall of China. But that is so pathetic. And it is a bill of divorce from the vision of integration. There is something so xenophobic about it. So insane. And it comes just at a time when Europe itself, and the world with it, has made such an impressive advance in internalizing the lessons of the Holocaust and has fomented a great advance in the normative behavior of nations."

The truth is that you are a salient Europist. You live in Nataf but you are all Brussels. The prophet of Brussels.

"Completely. Completely. I see the European Union as a biblical utopia. I don't know how long it will hold together, but it is amazing. It is completely Jewish."

And this admiration you show for Europe is not accidental. Because one of the riveting things in your book is that the sabra Avrum Burg turns his back on being sabra and connects very deeply with some sort of yekke [a reference to Jews of German origin] romanticism. Zionist Israel comes across as a vulgar baron in the book, whereas German Jewry is the ideal and the paragon.

"You are dichotomous, Ari, and I am inclusive. You slice off and I try to contain. Therefore I do not say that I am turning my back on being sabra but that I am turning in a different direction. And that is true. Completely. true."

I have a bone to pick with this romanticism. You describe a thousand wonderful years of German Jewry. In large measure you view German Jewry as a model. But it ends in Auschwitz, Avrum. It leads to Auschwitz. Your yekke romanticism is understandable and attractive, but it lies.

"Is there a well-grounded romanticism? Is your Israeli romanticism grounded?"

My Israeliness is not romantic. On the contrary: It is cruel. It stems from understanding necessity. And you blur the necessity. Emotionally, you prefer the move from Dresden to Manhattan over coping with the Jewish-Israeli fate.

"We do not want to accept this, but the existence of the Diaspora dates from the beginnings of our history. Abraham discovers God outside the borders of the Land. Jacob leads tribes to outside the borders. The tribes become a people outside the borders. The Torah is given outside the borders. As Israelis and Zionists, we ignored this completely. We rejected the Diaspora. But I maintain that just as there was something astonishing about German Jewry, in America, too, they also created the potential for something astonishing. They created a situation in which the goy can be my father and my mother and my son and my partner. The goy there is not hostile but embracing. And as a result, what emerges is a Jewish experience of integration, not separation. Not segregation. I find those things lacking here. Here the goy is what he was in the ghetto: confrontational and hostile."

There really is a deep anti-Zionist pattern in you. Emotionally, you are with German Jewry and American Jewry. They excite you, thrill you, and by comparison you find the Zionist option crude and spiritually meager. It broadens neither the heart nor the soul.

"Yes, yes. The Israeli reality is not exciting. People are not willing to admit it, but Israel has reached the wall. Ask your friends if they are certain their children will live here. How many will say yes? At most 50 percent. In other words, the Israeli elite has already parted with this place. And without an elite there is no nation."

You are saying that we are suffocating here for lack of spirit.

"Totally. We are already dead. We haven't received the news yet, but we are dead. It doesn't work anymore. It doesn't work."

And you see in American Jewry the spiritual dimension and the cultural ferment that you don't find here.

"Certainly. There is no important Jewish writing in Israel. There is important Jewish writing in the United States. There is no one to talk to here. The religious community of which I was a part - I feel no sense of belonging to it. The secular community - I am not part of it, either. I have no one to talk to. I am sitting with you and you don't understand me, either. You are stuck at a chauvinist national extremity."

That is not completely accurate. I am aware of the Jewish richness you are talking about. But I am also aware that the basic Zionist analysis was correct. Without Israel there is no future for a non-Orthodox Jewish civilization.

"Take the purest Israeliness there is. Moshe Dayan, for example. And we will shed all the Avrums from him. Totally immaculate Israeliness. No nudniks. No effete types. Nothing. Are you sure that this living-in-order-to-live will endure? Take on the other hand the 'kites.' Martin Buber, George Steiner. You say that these [ethereal] kites will not get anywhere. But my historical experience tells me that these kites get farther than the troopers."

You are actually preparing tools for exile.

"I have been living with them from the day I was born. What is it when I say in prayer that because of our sins we were exiled from our land? In Jewish history the spiritual existence is eternal and the political existence is temporary."

In this sense, you are essentially non-Zionist. Because the energy needed to establish and maintain this place is tremendous, and you are saying that we must not give our all to this place.

"There is no Israeli whole. There is a Jewish whole. The Israeli is a half-Jew. Judaism always prepared alternatives. The strategic mistake of Zionism was to annul the alternatives. It built an enterprise here whose most important sections are an illusion. Do you really think that some sort of floating secular Tel Aviv-type post-kibbutz entity will [continue to] exist here? Never. Israeliness has only body; it doesn't have soul. At most, remnants of soul. You are already dead spiritually, Ari. You have only an Israeli body. If you go on like this, you will no longer be."

Israeliness is far richer, Avrum. It has energy and vibrancy and diversity and productivity. But you fled from Israeliness. You defected from Israeliness. You were an Israeli. You were more Israeli than I was. But no more.

"No more. I think that the 'non-Israeli' is not an alternative to the whole Jewish existence of two thousand years that I am talking about. That is why I wrote this book. Because I cannot leave this world while lying to myself. I told you: There is no Jewish existence without a narrative. There is no such thing. And here there is certainly no narrative. But what is even graver is that there are no forces that will draw out a narrative from within.

"Accordingly, I am going to the world and to Judaism. Because the Jew is the first postmodernist, the Jew is the first globalist."

You really are a globalist now. You really are going out to the world. You have taken a French passport, and as a French citizen you voted in the French presidential elections.

"I have already declared: I am a citizen of the world. This is my hierarchy of identities: citizen of the world, afterward Jew and only after that Israeli. I feel a weighty responsibility for the peace of the world. And Sarkozy is in my eyes a threat to world peace. That is why I went to vote against him."

Are you French?

"In many senses I am European. And from my point of view, Israel is part of Europe."

But it isn't. Not yet. And you are an Israeli public figure who is taking part in the French presidential elections as a Frenchman. That is a far-reaching act. A pre-Zionist Jewish act. Something that neither an Englishman or a Dutchman would do.

"True. It is completely Jewish. I am moving forward to the Jewish condition."

Do you recommend that every Israeli take out a foreign passport?

"Whoever can."

But in this, in this too, you are dismantling the Israeli mutual surety. You are playing with your multiple passports and your multiple identities, which is a course not available to many others. You are dismantling something very basic.

"Those are your fears, Ari. I suggest that you not be afraid. That is what I say in the book. I propose that we stop being afraid."

But you are not only the book, Avrum. You are also the person outside the book. And there is a contradiction between the purism of the man who wrote the book and the political life you lived here.

"A terrible question. Terrible. And it's true. For some of those years I lived a lie. For many years I was not myself. At the outset of my political path I had the energy of the struggle for religion and state and the struggle for peace. I had the precise wind of [the late Prof. Yeshayahu] Leibowitz in my sails. Those were my years of honesty. That was me. But afterward, for long years I was a Mapainik [Mapai, forerunner of the Labor Party]. I was there just to be. And I was no longer me. I was false to the tenets."

And now that you are free of the limitations of politics, you are going all the way with the Leibowitz in you. You describe the targeted assassinations as acts of murder. You are happy that your mother's grandson is not a fighter pilot who kills innocent people. You describe the occupation as an Israeli Anschluss. An Israeli Anschluss?

"That is what we are doing there. What do you want me to say about what we are doing there? That it's humanism? The Red Cross?"

And the targeted assassinations are murder?

"Some of them, certainly."

We are being dragged into carrying out war crimes?

"I have no other way to see it. Especially if there is no horizon of dialogue. The Israelis are very calm. One more Arab, one less Arab. Ya'allah, it's alright. But in the end, the pile grows high. The number of innocent people is so large that it can no longer be contained. And then our explosion and their explosion and the world's will be infinite. I see it happening before my eyes. I see the pile of Palestinian bodies crossing the wall we erected so as not to see it."

And you are not only Leibowitz. You are also Gandhi. You say that the right reaction to the Holocaust was not Anielewicz [Mordechai Anielewicz, commander of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising] but Gandhi.

"I believe in the doctrine of nonviolence. I do not think that to believe in nonviolence is to be a patsy. In my eyes, Gandhi is as Jewish as there is. He embodies a very ancient Jewish approach. Like Yochanan ben Zakkai, who asked for Yavneh and its sages. Not Jerusalem, not the Temple, not sovereignty: Yavneh and its sages."

And your Gandhiist approach has a political expression: You believe Israel should be relieved of nuclear weapons.

"Of course, of course. The day the Bomb is dismantled will be the most important day in Israel's history. It will be the day on which we get such a good deal with the other side that we will no longer need the Bomb. That has to be our ambition."

Avrum, your book is that of a man of peace. Almost a pacifist. How did it happen that when a man of peace like you left politics you tried to buy from the government a factory that manufactures tank parts?

"I am a businessman. I deal with companies. With bringing them back to health. Privatizations. I like this job and I am also good at it. One of my main projects was Ashot Industries in Ashkelon, 40 percent of which manufactures arms. My intention was to close down that production line and expand Ashot's involvement in the world of civil aviation. I will not be responsible for manufacturing arms for one day. The challenge I saw was to take a place that makes spears and beat them into plowshares."

That deal raised serious questions. It led to an investigation by the state comptroller and by the police. But I don't want to ask about its criminal aspect, because the case was closed and you were exonerated. I want to ask how it can be that the first thing a politician who presented himself as an anti-Thatcherite and as a sworn enemy of privatization did after leaving politics was to try to earn a huge personal profit from privatization.

"I set out to do the most anti-Thatcherite thing. The state sold badly but I wanted to buy well. The state wronged the workers and I wanted to ensure their rights. I wanted to show a different model of partnership between employees and owners. So I think it is unjust that the State of Israel took this deal away from me. When I left politics, the temptations were great. I could have sat on this board or that board. People wanted me to open doors and close doors. But I said no. I went to the old [type of] industry. To the periphery. I am now producing corn in Hatzor Haglilit. Show me another person like me who emerged from politics and is doing work like this. I am not sitting in Kiryat Atidim [a high-tech industrial zone]. I am not sitting in the slick places. I am sweating my guts out every month to pay my 600 employees. Their salary."

It's not exactly right that you decided not to open doors or close doors. In your joint venture with businessman David Appel you were supposed to open doors so he could reincarnate the 'Greek Island' tourist project in southern Italy.

"Nothing came of that project. Not even a business opportunity. But if something had come of it - so what? Because 20 people don't like David he is unacceptable? Because terrible things are said about him in the judicial system but nothing is proved? That is violence I cannot tolerate. It is simply an executioner's approach. Israeliness as executioner, and we really love it - it sells papers."

Are the allegations against you concerning Ashot Industries and David Appel part of an Israeli executioner's approach?

"There is a gallows society here. First we'll hang you and when you breathe your last breath we will clarify why it was your last. How it left your body. We are now living in the equivalent of the 1950s in America. In a McCarthyite era. The assault on corruption is McCarthyism. It is important that we set boundaries. In the past we swiped things from the chicken coop, and today that is impossible. Once we asked girls, When you say no, what do you mean? - and today sexual harassment is forbidden. But the way it is being done - the style, the vulgarity, the populism, the superficiality. The inability of those who are under attack to fight back properly."

You do know how to fight back. For example, Salai Meridor [former Jewish Agency chairman] decides that there is no justification for him and you to enjoy the baseless privilege of a service car with a chauffeur for life, and you go to court to fight for that privilege with all your might.

"As a former chairman of the Jewish Agency, I have pension rights just as you have pension rights. One day they are suddenly gone. Out of the blue. Think that part of your pension is to receive Haaretz free and one day Amos Schocken [the publisher] suddenly takes it away. Wouldn't you fight? Wouldn't you go to the workers' committee?

"But every person is allowed to fight when something is taken from him - only Avrum is not allowed. Why? Because. This whole thing is such a pittance in money terms that it doesn't even exist. But the level of principle sent me up the wall."

We're talking about NIS 200,000. And about your behavior, which the judge found disgraceful. And about the fact that even though you talk high and mighty about morals, you don't see the moral flaw in the fact that 10 years after leaving the Jewish Agency you are driving on your business trips throughout the country with a Jewish Agency chauffeur driving you everywhere. On top of which, today you are so alienated from everything the Jewish Agency stands for.

"I have something to say about what the judge said. But I will not counterattack. I will not correct violence with violence. We are talking about a person's basic right. About a pension right."

Was it worth it? What will remain engraved in people's memory is that Salai Meridor was fair and modest, and Avrum Burg was a hedonist who coveted benefits.

"What remains of all this is that I am at peace with myself. Everyone who feels good with secret violence or hidden knifing or with being an open or covert Sicarius [name given to Second Temple Jews who used a dagger, sicarius, to dispose of collaborators with Rome] - good luck to him! Well and good. I am not going to educate the world. What's important for me is that I am at harmony with myself."

But there is a question mark here which has accompanied you all along. You speak so impressively. Not only articulately but morally. And now you have written a book that is all morality. But your activity in the world is different. In political life you were sophisticated, cagy and snakelike, and in the business world, too, you are far from being a saint. The disparity between your language and your deeds is disturbing.

"The disparity is in the eye of the beholder. I do not ask myself how Ari Shavit sees me. I am finished with the world in which I care what you think of me. I live in a world in which I care what I think about me. For many years I lived with the Moloch of what people would say. That Moloch led me to wrong places. To places of a very large gap between the inner me and the outer me. Today I live with my truth."

Maybe the things connect. You really are a man of peace who rejects the militarist, nationalist, brute-force Israeli. But when you reconnect to the Jew, you are connecting not only to the spiritual Jew but also to the Jew of money.

"True. Life is not just to be a pioneer with a hoe and a bold fighter at Lion's Gate. Life is also to be a merchant in Warsaw. Unequivocally, that is a richer totality in life."

Still, you haven't given up the political. You are a close friend of Prime Minister Olmert. Do you continue to support him even after the Second Lebanon War?

"The story of Ehud Olmert is a terribly great tragedy. Of everyone in the generation that is slightly older than me, he is the most talented. The most experienced. There is a great fondness between us. I like him very much. He is one of the most humane people and most moral people in regard to relations between people, and in terms of his relations with his family. But his ability to translate into practical terms what he has is impossible because of the declaration of the war. The Bush-like notion that war is the first option is a mistake that colors all of Olmert's other essential qualities. I still pray that he will correct this by means of a great political drama. Hamas or Syria or the Saudi initiative. I tell him not to entrench himself in the mistake. It is still possible for a great healing to come out of the blunder."

Who do you support in the Labor Party primaries?



"He has already proved once that he is ready to go beyond the Israeli Rubicon. And there will be Rubicons to cross here. His ability to do that is very important to me."

Do you see yourself returning to politics?

"An open question. Only in 2010 will a new political era begin in Israel. After the Olmert-Barak-Bibi [Netanyahu] generation comes to its end, the turn will come of a new generation who will come from the economy, the academy, the arts. Maybe then there will be a place for me."

A place in the Prime Minister's Bureau?

"Once I wanted very much to be prime minister. It burned like fire in my bones. I didn't know what I wanted to do there, but I wanted terribly to be there. Today I say that I have lot of marathons to run before that can happen."

But you are in the marathon?

"All my life."

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Continued (Permanent Link)

What your tax dollars pay for: PA paying Schalit captors' families

EU and US funds get to the Palestinian authority - your money. Money is fungible, as James Baker once remarked. This is one use to which these moneys are put: paying salaries of kidnappers, as Khaled abu Toameh explains in the Jerusalem post:
Some of the Palestinian gunmen who participated in the kidnapping of IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit last year have long been on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian sources revealed Sunday.

The sources named two of the suspected kidnappers as Muhammad Azmi Farawneh and Majdi Tayseer Hammad. The two were killed by Israel in separate attacks over the past year.

Farawneh is believed to have played a key role in the abduction of Schalit. Hammad was the commander of the Nasser Salah Eddin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees - one of the groups that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

The two were killed a few weeks after the abduction in air strikes launched by the IAF in the Gaza Strip.

The fact that they have been on the payroll of the PA was disclosed after their families protested against the low pension that the PA has decided to allocate them. Farawneh's family is now receiving a monthly payment of NIS 38 (less than $10), while Hammad's family is getting only NIS 79 (just under $20).
A Palestinian pension law approved in 2005 grants the families of PA pensioners and the deceased monthly salaries constituting 7.5% of the basic salary.

The families have sought the assistance of a Palestinian legal group in exerting pressure on the PA to change the pension law so that they would receive larger sums of money.

The group wrote over the weekend to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas protesting against the "injustice" done to the families of Palestinian "martyrs" and pensioners.

The group, called the Association Center for Palestinian Right, also wrote to members of the Palestinian Legislative Council asking them to change the law immediately, saying it was inconceivable that the families of "martyrs" should receive such ridiculous payments.

Almost all Palestinians who are killed in clashes with the IDF are entitled to a salary from the PA to support their families.

The PA has also been paying salaries to thousands of Fatah gunmen belonging to the faction's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades. The majority of these gunmen are registered as members of various branches of the PA security forces, particularly the General Intelligence, Force 17 and the Preventive Security Service. But until now it was not common knowledge that members of the Popular Resistance Committees had also been receiving  salaries from the PA.
The demand that Israel should be paying Palestinian tax money in order to provide pensions for the families of murderers and kidnappers should be reviewed.
Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

New Eye in the Sky for Israel

The question is, whether the satellite resolution is better than that of commercially available satellite photos. For Ofek 5, it was apparenlty not better. And, the question is, suppose you spot a problem in Iran, ranging from a new building to preparations for a missile launch. What do you do about it?
Ami Isseroff
Israel successfully launches Ofek 7 spy satellite
Yaakov Katz, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 11, 2007

In the face of Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons and predictions that war with Syria is on the horizon, Israel strengthened its foothold in space pre-dawn Monday and successfully launched a spy satellite, which defense officials said granted the IDF unprecedented operational capabilities.

The satellite, called Ofek 7, was launched from the Palmahim Air Force Base and successfully reached orbit. Officials said however that it would take several days to test the satellite's systems before it would be declared operational. The satellite was launched atop a Shavit missile.

The successful launch came as a great relief for the defense establishment and particularly Israel Aerospace Industries, lead contractor of the Ofek project. In September 2004, Israel failed to successfully launch the Ofek 6, which in its third boost stage plummeted to the sea. At the time, despite the disappointment, the Defense Ministry continued ahead with its development of the Ofek 7.

Weighing 300 kilograms, the Ofek 7 will orbit earth from up to 600 kilometers in space. It has a four-year lifespan and will communicate its images via downlink with an IAI-run ground station.

Defense officials said that the launching of the satellite was part of the MOD's multi-year work plan but was also in line with the defense establishment's "operational needs." Israel has traditionally launched a new satellite once every two-and-a-half years staring in the late 1980s.

While refusing to divulge the performance levels of the new satellite, defense officials said that it was by far the most advanced satellite Israel has launched into space. Officials said that it was superior to the Eros B satellite - launched in April 2006 - which has the ability to spot images on the ground as small as 70 centimeters. The officials refused to divulge what made it superior

"With this launch we have improved Israel's operational capabilities by dozens of percent," said Brig.-Gen. Haim Eshet, director of Space Programming at the MOD's Research and Development Directorate (MAFAT). "This is due to the improvements made to the satellite and also since we now have better coverage in the skies."

In addition to the Eros B - a civilian-owned satellite used by the MOD on a contract basis - Israel currently operates the Ofek 5 spy satellite, successfully launched in May 2002.

It was supposed to have had a four-year life span, but its producers boast that it is still functioning and continues to produce high-resolution pictures from space. Its telescopic camera was designed by Elbit Systems and has variable direction capability.

The Ofek 5 satellite is in an elliptical orbit that reportedly takes it over Iran, Iraq, and Syria once every 90 minutes.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

You'll never guess who is Jewish

Continued (Permanent Link)

Reza Pahlavi: Ahmadinejad is serious about annihilating Israel

Reza Pahlavi, the pretender to the throne of Iran in exile, suggests taking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threat to annihilate Israel  seriously. However, he suggests refraining from military action. Instead, he wants to bolster opposition groups. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any good way to do that. Iranian opposition inside the country is divided and apathetic, and the regime has a powerful secret service. Efforts of foreigners to strengthen opposition are likely to discredit the opposition as "lackeys of the Zionists and Americans." If Iranians want their freedom back, they will have to find a way to do it on their own, and seek out help when they need it and can really use it effectively.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:58 10/06/2007   
By Lily Galili, Haaretz Correspondent

Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the last shah of Iran, suggests taking Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threat to annihilate Israel very seriously. However, he suggests refraining from military action against his country.
That's not what scares the regime there," he explains. "What scares it are the opponents from within, who should be strengthened. An attack from outside could give this regime carte blanche to do anything, and even lead to a nationalist awakening that would bring into its camp people who do not belong to it now."
Pahlavi spoke with Haaretz at a gathering in Prague of dissidents from 17 countries that was sponsored by the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Shalem Center. For the past 19 years he has lived in Washington, where he married a woman of Iranian descent and fathered three daughters. He operates from the exile he entered at age 19 like a bench player who practices determinedly for the moment when he is called to step back onto the court. Two years ago he even went on a hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners, even though he cannot escape the fact that during his father's reign there were many political prisoners in Iran.
I am not saying there were no mistakes made under the previous regime," he says. "But you have to remember the context of that time. Those were the days of the Cold War, and there was in Iran a sense that the Soviet Union wanted to turn us into its satellite. I can understand why the public went along with the revolution, but I also know that no one wished for the tragic result of today."
Iranian exiles, who come from polar opposite groups, have a complicated attitude toward the Shah's son, and their interests truly overlap only in the desire to overthrow the current regime.
Asked whether he supports a return of the monarchy, Pahlavi replies diplomatically. "The people will decide," he says. "One of the options is indeed a parliamentary monarchy. That suits the character of our people. In heterogeneous societies, the monarchy is a symbol of unity".
Pahlavi says he has been feeling encouraged lately, especially following the recent statements on Iran by France's new president.
"It is possible that the divide-and-conquer system that sabotages the efforts to eradicate such regimes is now being replaced by greater unity," he says hopefully. "We have in Iran now an inquisition like the one they had in Europe and that was followed by the Renaissance. We are not far from that. Iran needs a further push, additional pressure on the regime by means of sanctions that hurt the system without hurting its citizens.... The Iranians must become convinced that the world is serious enough not to abandon them along the way."
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Shah's son is accorded a wary respect. He wasn't an original invitee to the conference, which was organized by Natan Sharansky, Vaclav Havel and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and whose high point was an appearance by George Bush en route to the G-8 meeting. With so many conflicting interests among the regimes the human rights crusaders hailed from including Egypt, Sudan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and others it was hard to spot the unifying political interest, aside from the participants' subjective feeling that they represent absolute good opposing the absolute evil in the world. At times, the uniting factor was anger at Bush, like that which linked Garry Kasparov, a vehement Putin opponent, and Saad al-Din Ibrahim, a noted freedom fighter from Egypt and longtime opponent of Mubarak's. For years they have felt that Bush betrayed them along the way, based on erroneous considerations, and they got a chance to tell him so during a brief meeting with the U.S. president in Prague.

Continued (Permanent Link)

USA now against Israel-Syria talks

The US, which blows hot and cold on the issue of negotiations with Syria, is now blowing cold. What if there is a war this summer? Who will pay the price?
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 09:56 10/06/2007   
By Aluf Benn and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents

The U.S. administration opposes a renewal of Israeli-Syrian negotiations and believes efforts should be focused on the Palestinian track, State Department Deputy Spokesman Tom Casey told a media briefing on Friday.
A source in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's bureau said the Israel-Syrian track was not expected to come up at next week's meeting between Olmert and President George W. Bush.
"It's up to Israel to determine how it's going to conduct its diplomatic relations with Syria or with any other country. We would certainly note that with respect to Syria, Syria has not to date taken any of the kind of positive steps that we would like to see happen with respect to Lebanon, with respect to its support for Palestinian rejectionist groups, with regard to the need to police its borders with Iraq to prevent foreign fighters from moving across. And certainly, we think that would be something that Israel would like to consider," Casey said.
He also said that, "Ultimately, in addition to an Israeli-Palestinian settlement and a two-state solution, there needs to be a broader regional settlement with all of Israel's neighbors, and that includes Syria. But I think for us, certainly, discussions with Syria wouldn't be a substitute for what we consider to be the most important focus, which is furthering the cause of peace and furthering the development of a two-state solution with Israel and the Palestinians."
Casey's comments came after Yedioth Ahronoth reported Friday that Olmert told Bush during an Independence Day phone call on April 24 that he had decided to look into the possibility of renewing talks with Syria, after realizing the chances for a breakthrough with the Palestinians was nil. The report said Bush agreed with Olmert's assessment and gave him the go-ahead.
Olmert's bureau yesterday said "Syria was not mentioned in the conversation between Bush and Olmert on Independence Day nor in any other conversation." A source said the Americans have generally been informed that Olmert was checking into the Syrian track.
It is not known whether the White House mentioned anything to Israel about the report on the statements attributed to Bush, which are ostensibly in opposition to the official American position.
Olmert transmitted a message through a Turkish third party and another individual in April to Syrian President Bashar Assad, in which he asked if Syria would agree to end its alliance with Iran, Hezbollah and extremist Palestinian organizations in exchange for Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The source said Assad's lack of response showed Syria was not serious, which confirms the evaluation of Mossad head Meir Dagan.
The source said it was the prime minister's duty, after being faced with two conflicting intelligence assessments, of the Mossad and Military Intelligence, to check them through accepted channels vis-a-vis the Syrians, so as to determine whether renewed negotiations with Syria can serve Israel's interests.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The truth about Syria - Barry Rubin

Foreign Policy Research Institute E-Notes
Distributed Exclusively via Fax & Email


by Barry Rubin

June 8, 2007

Barry Rubin is an FPRI senior fellow, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal, and author of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave- Macmillan, 2007).  This essay is based on his BookTalk for FPRI held May 31, at which copies of his book were sold by Joseph Fox Bookshop, 1724 Sansom St., Philadelphia (, where the book is also available.

Negotiating with Syria, as advocated by so many in the United States--including many members of Congress--can produce nothing positive.  The problem is not so much "talking" to Syria, in a manner equivalent to a date.  The real issue is that the West is looking for a long-term, meaningful relationship.  But that is foreclosed by the real interests of the Assad regime and its very structure.

We should begin by discarding the idea that "talking" is a risk-free proposition.  The Syrian regime and its apologists, along with well-intentioned but poorly informed people, advocate making concessions to get talks started and keep them going to prove Western good intentions.  How, they say, could Syria negotiate while under investigation by the UN for the murder of popular Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's in 2005?  How can it be asked to stop instability in Lebanon unless it is given power there?  While the talking process is beset by these questions, Syria need not act with restraint because there are no preconditions.

And which of Syria's desired items can negotiators offer without further destabilizing the region?  Should they force Lebanon once again to be a Syrian colony?  Implant a government Syria likes in Iraq?  Give the regime money so it can better pursue its ambitions?  Hand it all the Golan Heights plus a slice of Israeli territory without Syria making full and permanent peace with Israel?  To illustrate just what mere "talking gets us, a fully frank U.S.-Syrian dialogue over Iraq's future would go something like this:

American negotiator: "So, President Bashar, what kind of Iraq would you like?"

Bashar: "An Iraq that would be anti-American, dominated by Iran, supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, ready to fight the Arab-Israeli conflict forever, dominated by the Sunni minority holding down the Shia-Kurdish majority or an Islamist state, and not too democratic, so as to avoid giving my own people a bad example."

It won't do much good for the American negotiator to say, "I'm sure we can work something out if we only talk about it."

Similarly, the regime will not soften its enmity to an independent Lebanon or Israel under any circumstances because it needs to control the former and fight the latter in order to retain popular support at home.  Thus, the issues on which it has grievances cannot be resolved because its own actions and inflexibly maximalist demands are the very factors blocking a solution.

Syria has been brilliant at creating and maintaining such Catch-22 situations, where the only way to "solve" a problem is to buy Syrian "cooperation" with deals that would make things worse.  Over decades, Syria has perfected how to act first as an arsonist, then the fireman who would put out the fire only on condition that the burning property be given to him.  This was how Syria fomented terrorism in Lebanon against Western peacekeeping forces in the early 1980s, driving them out and then offering to stabilize Lebanon by controlling it completely.  The same approach was applied to the Palestinians, post-Saddam Iraq, and to Lebanon again.

Lebanon was indeed the masterpiece of this political genre.  Thus, Syrian Minister of Information Muhsin Bilal explained, "How can we be asked to disarm Hezbollah [since] we're out of Lebanon?"  (2006) But what if Syria was allowed to return to Lebanon in force, would it then clamp down on Hizballah?  Well, on another occasion, Bilal was asked, "Will you be using your influence to persuade Hezbollah to disarm, or not?"  His response: "Why on earth should we?"  (2005) In fact, Hezbollah is the main element in Syria's plan to recapture Lebanon entirely.  If the West wants a stable Lebanon or to avoid more Lebanon-Israel wars it has to battle Syria, not make a deal with it.

To deal with Syria, the West needs to form a realistic assessment of Bashar, the regime, and the country.  Syria is a weak and fragile entity, dependent largely on oil income and European commerce.  The regime has flourished to the degree it has from enjoying a free ride, a lack of pressure except for American economic sanctions.

The traditional realpolitik way to handle such problems is not to propitiate aggressors and beg them to make a deal on their terms, but to pressure and deter them.  To do so requires credibility and patience, to demonstrate that the West will not cave in or be worn down to surrender.  In Syria's case, that country must be denied assets and isolated, and its endeavors frustrated.  This requires the use of everything in the foreign policy arsenal from trade sanctions, to counter-alliances, serious criticism, and covert operations.

Likewise, Syrians must be shown that their leaders are a failure and can offer neither lasting glory nor material gains.  The regime must be contained until it crumbles or retreats.  This can be a long process, but it is ultimately a less costly one than the alternatives.  And yet, recently, a lot of Americans have been dropping in on Assad.  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress visited Damascus, flattered their hosts, and called for talks.  Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice broke the previous U.S. government boycott by meeting her Syrian counterpart.

What has happened since then shows this approach to be totally wrong.  As demonstrated in the state-controlled Syrian media, the regime took all the calls in America for U. S. concessions as a victory, as proof that it could continue its policies.

Syria's democrats have been treated with special harshness even as the Syrian government calls for new relationships with the West.  Mamoun Homsi is a courageous pro-democracy activist who had been one of the few independent members of Syria's puppet parliament.  In March 2002 he was thrown out of the legislature and sentenced to five years in prison.  As he was dragged off to jail, Homsi shouted, "This is a badge of honor to me and others like me.  Long live the people!"  Released in 2006, Homsi immediately left the country, saying there was no possibility of changing the regime by reform and that any criticism would bring more imprisonment.  He wrote Pelosi a letter urging her not to visit Syria as such a step would only strengthen the regime.  In late May, the government seized all of his assets in the country, leaving his family destitute.

Kamal Labwani, head of Syria's Liberal Democratic Gathering, visited the United States in 2005, meeting with human rights groups and visiting the White House.  He told the Americans he saw that he would be arrested once he got back home.  Sure enough, the Syrian police grabbed him at Damascus airport in November 2005.  But he was not tried.  After all, the regime reasoned, perhaps the United States might get even tougher with Syria if it repressed a man who had just been a White House guest.  Last week, confident that the current administration and its presumed Democratic successors were caving in, the government sentenced Labwani to life imprisonment, "kindly" commuted to 12 years with hard labor.  The charge?  "Inciting a foreign state to attack Syria."

Anwar al-Bunni, a lawyer and another brave dissident, knew what held back Syria from crushing any dissent.  Back in 2003 he explained, "The government's fear that it will be next on America's 'regime change' list may make it wary of committing gross violations of human rights.  .  .  .  Some of us say that it is only because of what America did in Iraq, the fright it gave our rulers, that we reformers stand a chance here."

Bunni was proven right.  Once Syria no longer had any fear, the regime sentenced him to five years' imprisonment.  Two more democratic activists, one of them Michel Kilo, a journalist who most clearly expressed the hope of peaceful change in Syria, will be sentenced soon.

The White House condemned the sentencing of Labwani and Bunni, and credible information that they were tortured in prison, in an eight-line-long press release.  No doubt, Syria is not intimidated.

Damascus knows that it can continue helping insurgents next door kill Americans and murder Iraqis.  The regime understands that it can continue to sponsor terrorism against Israel and Lebanon.  It has a good hope of escaping indictment in the investigation of its involvement in the murder of Hariri.

Those who call for engaging Syria and giving it concessions are only helping the worst dictatorship in the Arab world and the leading Arab sponsor of terrorism in the post-9/11 world.  Syria is the main partner of radical Islamist Iran, which is now seizing American-Iranian hostages.  In May, Iran arrested on trumped-up spying charges Haleh Esfandiari, director of Middle East programs for the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. and an American citizen.  Her boss is former Congressman Lee Hamilton, co- sponsor of the Iraq Study Group report that called for engagement with Syria and Iran.

The lessons about these regimes' extremist behavior should be clear by now.  When someone extends its hand in offered friendship, they interpret this as hands raised in surrender.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Only a matter of time: IDF foils kidnap attempt near Kissufim

Only a matter of time?  

IDF foils kidnap attempt near Kissufim


Two weeks before the one-year anniversary of Cpl. Gilad Schalit's abduction, an Islamic Jihad terror cell infiltrated into Israel from the Gaza Strip on Saturday and broke into an empty military outpost with the goal of capturing a soldier.

The IDF thwarted the kidnap attempt - the first successful infiltration into Israel since Hamas terrorists tunneled under the border to kidnap Schalit - and killed one of the gunmen. The three others escaped to Gaza.

The soldiers spotted a suspicious car with the letters TV taped on it, traveling near the Kissufim Crossing, Israel's main gateway into Gaza prior to disengagement in 2005.

The car attracted attention since journalists do not usually drive so close to the security fence, and a military unit was immediately dispatched to the scene.

While the soldiers continued to track the car, four Islamic Jihad terrorists quickly appeared and blew a hole in the security fence, running through and straight to a nearby vacant IDF outpost.

Givati Brigade infantrymen quickly arrived and a gun battle ensued.

IDF sources said the attack was probably designed to kidnap a soldier.

Schalit was abducted on June 25, 2006, during a cross-border attack near Kerem Shalom, some 20 kilometers south of Saturday's shootout.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, confirmed that four gunmen broke through the Gaza border fence and attacked soldiers. He said three of them returned to Gaza unharmed, but that Muhammad Jaabari, 19, was killed.

Abu Ahmed said the raiders meant to snatch a soldier but the attempt was foiled when IAF helicopters arrived.

"The aim of the operation was to withdraw with the soldier a captive," he said, "But the participation of Israeli helicopters prevented that."

IDF officers said the Southern Command's high level of alert along the border was responsible for thwarting the attack.

"Proper readiness on the part of the forces of the Gaza Division and the correct actions in the field prevented an attack, apparently a kidnap [attempt]," said OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant.

Also on Saturday, near Khan Yunis, infantry from the Givati Brigade, along with tanks and armored personnel carriers, were operating two kilometers inside the southern Gaza Strip.

The troops entered Gaza early in the morning and killed an armed Palestinian in a gun fight near the security fence.

The operation, according to the IDF, was designed to gather intelligence and to uncover weapons caches and terror tunnels.

On Friday night, IDF troops shot and killed an armed Palestinian near Hebron, Palestinian sources reported.

Paratroopers operating in Taffuh spotted a group of suspects conducting target practice. The soldiers opened fire, wounding two of the men.

Yusuf Yusuf Abed a-Nabi Zarikat was seriously wounded and evacuated to a hospital. The second man, Hajazi Muhammad Zarikat, died of his wounds.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian driver ran over a soldier at a checkpoint near Fawar, south of Hebron, lightly injuring him.

The driver disappeared and the army was searching for him.

Earlier Friday, an Islamic Jihad gunman died hours after he was wounded in a skirmish with IDF troops in the Gaza Strip. He had opened fire on the soldiers together with a second gunman, who managed to escape.

AP contributed to the report.-

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Continued (Permanent Link)

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