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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Palestinian cause: a liberal non-dilemma

In  A liberal's lament, Rabbi David Forman writes:
"Throughout the years, I have tried to maintain a universal outlook on life, no matter the winds of change that continually blow across the international arena, relentlessly testing my ideological worldview - especially over the 35 years I have lived in Israel and, particularly, the last 10.
Since the onset of the second intifada, the rise of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hamas's takeover of Gaza, the encroachment of Hizbullah, I am fighting forces within me that are edging to the political right - all the while desperately holding on to a progressive philosophical mindset. In the deepest recesses of my being, I am finding it difficult to maintain my usual equilibrium.
I am constantly doing battle with two competing inclinations - one to preserve my body (my physical well-being) and one to preserve my soul (my moral integrity). And, right now, the urges of my body seem to be getting the upper hand. I feel my corporeal self under siege from all sides. I ache with the historical burden of persecution knocking at my door every minute of the day, fired by forces like those that engulfed us during the Crusades - read Hamas - and expelled us during the Inquisition - read Hizbullah - and led by the warriors of anti-Semitism like Chmelnitski - read Hassan Nasrallah - and those who slaughtered us mercilessly like Hitler - read Ahmadinejad."
Forman is an American and a Rabbi who settled in Israel. He is a former Israeli army officer. I can already hear the reflex ignorant  whining of the anti-Zionist pseudo-left, the readers of Muzzlewatch and Counterpunch and the Nation, which might go something like this:
"Reactionary neocon right-wing Zionists always insist that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. Any time you try to say anything bad about Israel, the Jewish Lobby yells, "anti-semitism." Forman is obviously a right wing Jewish settler religious fanatic from Brooklyn, living off the blood of the oppressed Palestinian people and supporting the apartheid regime of the messianic Zionist reactionary war criminals."
Save it. Forman is the other sort of Jew, a Jew-liberal. He is  founder of Rabbis for Human Rights, and is the director of the Israel office of the UAHC. Forman continues
"HOW DO I maintain a sense of justice for Palestinians ...when I know they are being swept up by a pan-Islamism characterized by Islamist extremism? No wonder the Israeli Left has gone underground. Many of our cherished values have gone up in smoke.
We hate the security barrier because it steals Palestinian lands, divides villages and separates families, but we sleep better knowing our children no longer play Russian roulette with their lives when they venture out in public. We deplore targeted assassinations, but when the IDF kills terrorists on their way to fire rockets into Sderot, we breathe a sigh of relief - even if innocent Palestinians are caught in the cross fire.
Has the Right read the political map better than we have? Everything that those who opposed the unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza predicted would happen has happened. Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south are squeezing us and, at a moment's notice, could wreak havoc upon the country. The internecine fighting in Gaza, where Palestinians killed each other with impunity, proved a harsh reality: These Muslim fanatics are out for anyone's blood that gets in the way of their ultimate goal - spilling the last drop of Jewish blood.
SO, WHAT'S an Israeli liberal Jew to do - turn to our leftist sympathizers abroad to gain some perspective and objectivity? Who are they - the American Center for Constitutional Rights that has issued warrants for the arrest of Moshe Ya'alon and Avi Dichter for war crimes; the International Solidarity Movement or the Christian Peacemaker Teams whose Web sites are veritable wellsprings of anti-Semitic drivel?
You see why I feel besieged - even my natural allies put me on the defensive.
We activists for decency and fair play for the other can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We must find a way to reconcile our ideological liberalism with the harsh political realities of a bellicose neighborhood and an indifferent at best, hostile at worst, world community that allows the UN Human Rights Commission to single out Israel for permanent scrutiny. (Silent complicity strikes the Jews again.) Only America has consistently stood by us.
So as not to further darken the gathering storm hovering above, we liberals will have to temper our views and moderate our behavior. Does this mean that we limit self-criticism and curtail what we say and what we do because our words and actions can supply ammunition to our detractors and to those who decry our legitimacy as a state? Does it mean that we sacrifice our moral conscience on an altar of fear? No! But, it does mean that we must carefully weigh the possible consequences of our rhetoric and activities.
It also means that we who are sympathetic to Palestinian suffering cannot become mirror images of our right-wing adversaries - abandoning any sense of balance, thus discounting Israeli pain. More so, even as we concede Israeli offenses, we must acknowledge Palestinian violence and, more importantly, its global implications. With the radicalization of Gaza, surely to be exported to the West Bank, Palestinians are part of a growing Islamist threat to Western stability, and we stand at the forefront of its eventual onslaught.
....Painful memories of our history, presently reflected in the mirror of a dangerous new reality, compel us to examine and reexamine, evaluate and reevaluate our deeply held principles - even as we resolutely cling to our ideals, steadfastly advancing a social agenda that impels Israel to be a "light unto the nations.""

Forman's anguish is honest, and his writing is powerful and compelling, but his diagnosis is mistaken. There is no logical or moral dilemma between supporting Israel and liberal values. Palestinian violence and reaction did not begin with the Hamas. Forman and others like him missed some signals over the last few years. Yasser Arafat was never the apostle of progressive values in the Middle East. He grew up in the same Ikhwan cells that spawned the Hamas. Arafat cut his teeth as a hit man for the forces of the Nazi war criminal Palestinian Arab leader, Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini , whacking Palestinians suspected of disloyalty in Gaza.  Later he was diverted to pseudo-left politics by the Egyptian secret service. The signals should have been loud and clear when Palestinians rejected the possibility of peace in 2000 and opted for violence instead. The suicide bombers of Fatah al-Aqsa were not any more moral and progressive than the suicide bombers of the Hamas.

The allies committed many "human rights violations" in the war against Fascism, bombing civilians and inflicting "collective punishment" on the Germans, Japanese and Italians. But only a fool or a knave would have broadcast for Hitler, criticizing the "atrocities" committed by Roosevelt and Churchill. No progressive worried about "maintaining a sense of justice" for the poor persecuted Nazis. Today there are many such fools and knaves, broadcasting on NPR and the BBC and the pages of the Guardian, the Independent, Counterpunch, Tikkun Magazine and even the New York Times. They  rant about Israeli apartheid and Israeli "war crimes" from the pages of every so-called liberal journal.  

You don't have to be a reactionary Zionist war criminal to oppose a society where "women" are married off at age 14, homosexuals have to cower in fear and girls suspected of pre-marital sex are regularly murdered. You don't have to be a messianic Jewish settler living in Hebron to understand that the corruption and cynicism of the Fatah is immoral and hurts the Palestinians. All of these things were always known to all of us. Alan Dershowitz wrote about some of them in his books, "The case for Israel," and "The case for Peace." But Dershowitz, who advocates a two-state solution, was pilloried by the left, and especially by Jewish anti-Zionists and portrayed as a "neocon" opponent of peace. Where was David Forman in 2002 when suicide bombers killed over a hundred Israelis in a week? Why wasn't he writing, "The case for Israel?"

Forman always knew the facts, as we all did. He chose to ignore them, and now he has convinced himself that only Hamas are no good. But the truth is that neither Fatah or Hamas are appropriate heroes exemplifying progressive ideals. Forman and others like him, like us, have to understand that opposition to the occupation is not an excuse for being blind to the faults of  Palestinian society, or to the pernicious nature of their "liberation" movements. Ending the occupation might be a good liberal cause. Empowering the reactionary gangsters of the Palestinian terror organizations was never a liberal cause and it cannot be one. As for lying to yourself and hiding the truth, they were never part of real progressive values.

Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Israel Boycotts: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people

Journals are filled with "good cheer" stories about overcoming the effects of anti-Israel boycotts. Shall we overcome? According to the Guardian, Israeli universities signed a new European Union agreement that allows the nation's scientists to take part in the next six-year research program. The Guardian notes:
Israel's participation in European research programmes was called into question in 2002 when two British academics had a letter published in the Guardian advocating a moratorium on all grants and contracts to Israel from European cultural and research institutions.
Janze Potocnik, the EU's research commissioner, said: "Israel's association to the framework programme has proved to be of mutual benefit for both sides over the last couple of years. Whereas the European research area will benefit from the renowned excellence of the Israeli research community, Israel will gain full access to the biggest research programme in the world.

Of course, that doesn't prevent journals from boycotting articles by Israeli scientists and other academics, and it doesn't force researchers to treat Israeli post-doctoral applicants equally. There have been cases of discrimination in both areas and many others, even without the boycott initiatives.
The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been accepted to a presitigious international consortium of such institutes. According to a Hebrew University announcement:
Membership for the Hebrew University's IAS was voted by the consortium's existing members -- considered the Ivy League of advanced institutes. These include the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard; the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study; and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin. The Hebrew University is the tenth member to join the consortium.
The IAS in Jerusalem was accepted for its unique approach in hosting collaborative research groups and its academic achievements. It hopes that membership will open doors to further academic exchange and collaborative projects.
"We are looking forward to sharing experiences with these distinguished institutes for the benefit of all," said director of the IAS in Jerusalem, Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici. "Science should move forward by the tradition of openness and sharing and not by the ill winds of exclusion. Membership status in the SIAS consortium is a testament to the high caliber, innovative and collaborative research Israel engages in."
The IAS is the only one of its kind in the Middle East and was the fifth in the world to be established in 1975 – the first one being at Princeton. Twelve Nobel Laureates are associated with the Institute in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and economics.
And in the United States, labor unions roundly condemned the British boycott initiatives. An initiative begun by the Jewish Labor Committee was endorsed by a host of unions and union leaders, including the presidents of the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; United Food and Commercial Workers; Communications Workers of America; Masters, Mates and Pilots / ILA; American Postal Workers Union; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; UAW; American Federation of School Administrators; Office and Professional Employees International Union; American Federation of Government Employees; UNITE-HERE; United Mine Workers of America; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Transportation Communications Union; American Federation Musicians; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the presidents of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. 
Others may join the initiative as well.
They signed the statement appended below. It is comforting and heartening to know that Israel still has friends who will speak up for fair play, but the ignorance and hate demonstrated by the boycotters is nonetheless unnerving, and the trend seems to be growing, despite the rise of the Hamas, and despite the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The boycotts and divestment initiateves are a well organized and well financed pseudo-grass-roots campaign, conceived by people who are experts in organizing "spontaneous" movements and demonstrations. It has been been planned for years, and Jewish organizations were caught napping. (See Israel Boycotts and Divestment )
It really would have been better if we did not need this show of support.
Ami Isseroff
Statement of Opposition to Divestment from or Boycotts of Israel
July 18, 2007
We view with increasing concern the phenomenon of trade unions in a number of countries, including, most recently, the United Kingdom, issuing resolutions that either directly or indirectly call for divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
With the large number of local, regional and international conflicts, with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.
We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.
Any just and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought about through meaningful negotiations between their elected representatives. We believe strongly in a two-state solution, brought about through meaningful negotiations, with the involvement and encouragement of the world community.
Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations. In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.
Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of association, key principles for which academics and educational unions have struggled over many years. Rather than limiting interactions with Israeli educators, academics and educational institutions, we see the importance of maximizing, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between peoples, cultures, religions and countries.
Similarly, calls for journalistic boycotts of Israel are inimical to the free flow of information and journalistic objectivity, and must be opposed.
Rather than divestment from Israel, we believe that investment of time, energy and material aid is the best means to alleviate the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. Engagement, rather than disengagement, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is needed, so that a just and fair resolution of this conflict may be pursued, and so that meaningful progress towards achieving the legitimate needs of Palestinians and Israelis can be made.
We offer our support to assist trade unionists as well as interested members of the community-at-large who are grappling with these matters, and who share our concern over simplistic and non-constructive approaches, whether in the form of misguided resolutions or other statements on the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Stuart Appelbaum
    President, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / UFCW
    Edward J. McElroy
    Secretary, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, American Federation of Teachers
    Morton Bahr
    Treasurer, Jewish Labor Committee
    John J. Sweeney
    President, AFL-CIO
    Clayola Brown
    President, A. Philip Randolph Institute
    Timothy A. Brown
    International President, International Organization of Masters, Mates &
    Pilots / ILA
    R. Thomas Buffenbarger
    International President,
    International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    William Burrus
    President, American Postal Workers Union
    Larry Cohen
    President, Communications Workers of America
    Barbara J. Easterling
    Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America
    John J. Flynn
    President, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
    John Gage
    President, American Federation of Government Employees
    Ron Gettelfinger
    United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
    International Union
    Michael Goodwin
    President, Office and Professional Employees International Union
    Joseph T. Hansen
    International President, United Food and Commercial Workers International
    Edwin D. Hill
    International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    James P. Hoffa
    General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    Frank Hurt
    International President
    Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International
    Thomas F. Lee
    President, American Federation of Musicians
    Jill S. Levy
    President, American Federation of School Administrators
    William Lucy
    President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
    Gerald W. McEntee
    President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
    Bruce S. Raynor
    General President, UNITE HERE
    Cecil E. Roberts
    President, United Mine Workers of America
    Robert Scardelletti
    International President, Transportation Communications Union / IAM
    Michael J. Sullivan
    General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
    George Tedeschi
    President, Graphic Communications International Union / IBT
    James A. Williams
    General President, International Union of Printers and Allied Trades

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Asharq al Awsat speaks out against terrorism

This sort of article would not have been found in a Saudi-owned newspaper a few years ago.
As-Sharq Al-Awsat, London

Adel Darwish is a veteran Fleet Street Foreign
reporter and commentator on Foreign Affairs

Just as the second anniversary of the barbaric 7/7 terror attack on our capital city approached, terrorism bared its sharp teeth an unveiled it's ugly face once again. The terrorists nearly succeeded in claiming hundreds of innocent lives had it not been for a combination of good luck, the courage of a policeman risking his life to defuse a massive bomb, the quick reaction of another off-duty police officer and passengers at Glasgow airport and the terrorists' own incompetence.

Since the alleged Muslim plotters; Arabs and Asians, have not yet been tried in a court of law, it would be inappropriate to examine their individual cases in this column; although two of them were caught red-handed driving a blazed jeep (an Iraq-style car bomb) into Glasgow airport. I will, instead, confine my comment to looking into their sick Islamism, or Islamist ideology. We must all call them ' Islamists' – until someone comes up with better terminology to distinguish them from the large body of Muslims who state that they are law abiding citizens who reject terrorism. And since the violent extremists themselves have turned the Muslim faith into a political ideology, I cannot find any other term that would be more appropriate to refer to them. These Islamists only see the world through their ideological glasses and interpret world events through their narrow view, holding any other interpretation in contempt.

I, therefore, call upon all Muslims who believe their faith to be one of peace, to speak out, distancing their religion from the ideology that Islamists use to justify mass murder, kidnapping, and terror by citing Quranic verses that they argue call directly for terminating non-Muslims.

Many Muslims write to me objecting to the use of the term 'Islamists' to refer to terrorist-related atrocities such as 7/7. But to illustrate the problem that journalists face in selecting appropriate terminology, one can refer to many other examples of violent political movements, especially as some aspects of their conflict run along the religious divide. The Republican movement in the Irish conflict for example had always been deeply rooted in the Catholic faith and massed support among Catholics. On the contrary, the Unionists would tease the Irish nationalists with their Orange marches, which in turn were deeply rooted in the Protestant orange order of the 17th century. However, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) never called itself a "Catholic" movement, nor did it ever in any of its literature invoke Catholic references (furthermore, the IRA, with a few exceptions mainly related to poor communication, had always given warning to avoid human casualties, while Islamist terrorism is designed to maximise human casualties).

In his video tape broadcast by Aljazeera, the 7/7 gang leader, repeatedly claimed that he committed his crime in the name of Islam, invoking verses from Quran and even referred to us, the British citizens, as the enemy (even though he was a British citizen by birth) against whom he was revenging an alleged 'attack' on a mythical or metaphorical entity, the Muslim Ummah (nation).

The theoreticians who set the philosophy of Islamism as a revolutionary violent political movement such as Hassan al Banna and Sayyed Qutb, the ideologues of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the granddaddy of all the modern movements, invoked selected verses from Quran when putting forward their philosophical argument to justify violence as means for their movement. They argued that it was a Muslim duty to 'kill the disbelievers wherever you find them'. Within a few years of launching the movement (the Muslim Brotherhood), this definition of targeted victims was extended to include fellow Muslims who followed a liberal way of life which contradicted the lifestyle prescribed by the Islamists.

Those who blew up cinemas, theatres, bars and nightclubs, or murdered judges, artists and intellectuals in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s belong to a group that was named by its founder Hassan al Banna, the 'Muslim Brotherhood' that raised the slogan "The Messenger (Prophet Mohammed) is our leader and Jihad is our way."

It was evident that it gave the group the 'Muslim' label, which baptised itself with blood, fire and death. It also associated the name of the Prophet [pbuh], which is sacred to every Muslim to a slogan that limited the meaning of Jihad to a narrow literary meaning of 'a crusade or holy war' rather than its much deeper philosophical meaning of one's self discipline and spiritual commitment to elevate the lot of the individual and the community.

By the 1970s, other terrorist groups followed the example of the MB in selecting labels such as Muslim, or Islamic i.e. Islamic Jihad, al Gamaa al Islamiya (the Islamic Group), Ansar al Islam (Supporters of Islam) or adopting Islamic symbols or concepts in their names for instance, al Takfir wal Hijra (Atonement and Exodus), Mohammed's Army, Al Nagoon min al Nar (Redemption from Hell), Tawhid and Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad), Hisba (the Reckoning).

For example, the Dagmoush clan in Gaza that kidnapped and imprisoned the BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, for 114 days (and initially wanted a ransom to release him) called itself Jaish al Islam (The Army of Islam).

What do those who accuse British journalists of linking Islam with terrorism suggest we do? Since the terror groups themselves use Islamic labels and Islamic slogans, we have little choice but to refer to those groups by the very names that they choose for themselves.

Others, who are uncomfortable with publishing facts about terrorist and violent acts at the hands of Islamists groups like MB or Hamas, also accuse journalists and columnists of being unfair in criticising these groups because they are elected by the people.

This is granted. However, would the MB collecting approximately 20% of the votes in Egypt in the 2005 parliamentary elections rewrite history and change documented historic facts and exonerate the Muslim Brothers from acts of violence including murder especially when they claim with pride that 'jihad' is their chosen way of struggle?

Adolf Hitler's election by the majority of Germans in 1933 will never alter the fact that he was perhaps the biggest war criminal and mass murderer in the history of mankind. If the German people had not redeemed themselves by rejecting the Nazi ideology and making an historic apology, they would have still been held responsible for his crimes.

Almost every revolutionary political group or movement I can think of renounces violence as soon as it achieves its political objectives or joins the negotiation process for a settlement. Only the Islamist Jihadist groups have no declared aims to achieve, which would lead them to desist from terrorism. It seems that Jihadists are on a road-map for continuous terrorism, a process of indefinite permanent Islamic revolution.

It is beyond the human imagination how the failed Glasgow Airport terror attack was carried out by two doctors who had taken their Hippocratic Oath, to protect and save the sacred human life in any form.

Is it some sort of a short-circuit that fused the light in their minds and distorted the equilibrium of their souls to allow them to strike with the aim of killing as many people as possible on the first day of the Scottish school holidays when the airport was packed with families and children? Or is it the same ideology of hatred and dehumanising 'the other' that prompted Nazi officers to drive millions to the gas chambers? The difference in Glasgow is that the attackers targeted those who choose to lead a way of life that is not approved by the Islamists.

The car bomb discovered in the early hours of June 29, 2007 was aimed at the nightclub 'Tiger Tiger' in Piccadilly when it was packed with approximately 2000 women who were enjoying 'Ladies Night' without upsetting anyone or harming anyone. It is noteworthy that another terrorist gang (also Muslims) were jailed in April after a lengthy trial for conspiring to blow up targets including the 'Ministry of Sound' nightclub in London. The gang leader expressed his disgust at the nightclub following because 'immodestly dressed women were dancing like slags all night,' even though those 'slags' harmed no one. Poking his nose in other people's business by attempting to impose a dress code on them was not enough for that sick Islamist, rather, he wanted to change the way the majority of people choose to lead their lives.

Why didn't he leave the land of infidels and go to an 'Islamic Emirate' where the main duty of security service would be to protect his gentle eyes from the visual aggression of 'immodestly dressed women?

The Islamists main aim has little to do with Britain's foreign policy and more to do with forcing us to change our way of life in a cultural war.

It is a battle between the culture of vibrant life which is a basic human instinct, and the culture of death, as summed up by Egyptian playwright, Ali Salem, in Asharq al Awsat last month.

Terrorists want to ram their sick culture down other people's throats and force them to change their way of life. Why not? They have already succeeded in forcing people to change their dress-code, their ways of entertainment and their way of life in regions where democracy has retreated.

Just compare the high standard of performing arts in Egyptian movies in the 1930s and 1940s with the poor standard of Egyptian television drama today. Self-censorship has always been the death of creative art. Fearing the outcry of Islamists or even the threat of terrorism that they pose, Egyptian television bosses were cowed into cutting out scenes and performances that have always been part of Egyptian culture.

We must never permit the culture of death-mongers to change our way of life or force us to change the way we eat, drink, dress, or enjoy ourselves.

Hundreds of thousands of white Britons marched in the 1970s to denounce an ultra right-wing nationalist organisation condemning its racist slogans against immigrants. Where are the British Muslims today? Why don't they march in their thousands to denounce terrorism?

Why don't Islamic scholars and clerics rule that coercing people into a different way of life is un-Islamic and that one of basic Islamic teaching is that "there is no compulsion in religion"?


Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian prisoner release - new era or more errors?

[ 20.07.07] Israelis have mixed feelings about the release of Palestinian prisoners and so do Palestinians. For Israelis, it is a worthwhile gamble if it really helps to destroy the Hamas and strengthen moderate Palestinians. But such gambles have not paid off in the past. Palestinians complained that they were not consulted about the list at all, but Abbas promissed that more would be freed shortly. Everyone was all smiles today as the prisoners got off the busses and were greeted, and Israeli PM Olmert promised the dawn of a new era. 
Most of those freed are from the Fatah movement, but they also include 61-year-old Abdel Rahim Malouh, second in command in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which assassinated Israeli minister Rehavam Ze'evi in 2001. Malouh initially would not sign a form saying he would refrain from any terror activity in the future. Hechanged his mind when Abbas intervened personally, according to a PFLP lawmaker.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Porn substitutes for sex in the Palestinian city

Sex and the single Palestinian? There isn't much of it, it seems. According to this ABC News article, young Palestinian men in Ramallah spend their time and money watching cellphone porn. Perhaps that explains the attractions of martyrdom and 72 virgins:

The four men are huddled over a cell phone screen. Its faint color splashes over the stairwell of a dingy shopping center in Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital.

In the 30-second video, a man pressures a young woman to perform a sex act. She appears to be a conservative, veiled Muslim, but grudgingly complies. The men watching shift their feet anxiously -- being caught watching the clip would bring immediate disgrace.

The men, all in their late 20s, all considered middle-class professionals, watch with eyes sprung open, and with apparent self-disgust. It's the closest thing to sex they've ever had.

In a place where tradition prohibits premarital sex, young, frustrated men are increasingly turning to outlets like cell phone pornography. Some unmarried men seek out Ramallah's few prostitutes, but the vast majority remain virgins, bursting with pent-up sexual energy, until their wedding night.

Cell phones are selling at a blistering rate. Ramallah is packed with cell phone shops, offering not only the newest Nokia models but accessories like leather holsters and shiny, new touch pads. And the Palestinian Telecommunications Co., the primary cell provider in the West Bank and Gaza, has grown to become the largest stock traded on the Palestinian Securities Exchange, according to the PSE Web site.

Suhaib, 28, is a researcher for the Palestinian Authority. "When I first watched it," he said after leading this reporter back into a cafe, "it made me desire more and more and more. I felt ashamed by it, and I only watched each video once."

Hey, don't knock it. It's better than blowing yourself up. One of the interviewees is lucky:

Unlike his friends, Suhaib is getting married in January. He's lucky. He'll marry his cousin, who is 14 years old. The family connection, he says, worked to his benefit.

"Because she's my cousin, they gave us a good price of $4,000 for the dowry. That's considered an average dowry these days," he said.

Because they are cousins, he got a bargain, but:
That's not all he had to pay. Grooms traditionally foot the bill for the customary gold that becomes a mother's heirloom to her children, the wedding feast and all the other wedding expenses.
He is marrying his 14 year old cousin. But that is progress:
In the past, says Palestinian behavioral psychologist Leila Atshan, people got married younger in unions traditionally arranged through their families.
It is all the fault of the economy. The Palestinian economy seems to be rich enough to support cellphone porn and explosives, but not marriage:
Grooms' families used to chip in, but these days few can afford to help. In Gaza most Palestinians live on less than $2 a day, and unemployment hovers near 40 percent. It's not much better in the West Bank.
And the economy, as we know, is the fault of Israel. Notwithstanding the impossible marriage situation, Palestinians still supposedly have of the highest birthrates in the world, if not the highest. It seems the economic problems just mean that girls have to postpone marriage until they are practically old maids at 16.  It is mostly a city problem:

"When people were just farmers, it was easier," she [psychologist Leila Atshan] said. "They lived their lives around their extended family. They shared a house and everything else, but now there are concepts of privacy and concepts of modern life, cities, new demands on grooms."

And these days, most urban middle-class Palestinian males say they don't stand a chance of getting married. The Palestinian economy is a shambles, and they simply can't afford it.

One of the expensive things about Palestinian marriages is bullets. Bullets can cost more than a dollar, and Palestinians always shoot off their guns at weddings.
The situation in other Muslim societies is not better than it is for Palestinians. It is worse. Perhaps it helps explain why "sex" is such a popular Google search word in Arab countries.
Ami Isseroff

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Realism versus Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects

In his New York Times essay, Forced to Get Along, Mark Helprin tells us the obvious: Why the Palestinian authority and Israel are cooperating. His assessment of the chances for peace show, however, that he is not overly burdened by an understanding of the Middle East:

The principals, the important Arab states and the leading powers of the West are arrayed against a radical terrorist front that, unlike the one in Iraq, is geographically fractured, relatively contained, terribly poor and very much outnumbered. Anything for the worse can happen in the Arab-Israeli conflict, and usually does; but now the chief pillars of rejectionist policy lie flat and the spectrum of positions is such that each constructively engaged party can accommodate the others.

In the heat of a failing war, historical processes have unfrozen. If Israel and the Palestinian Authority can pursue a strategy of limited aims, concentrating on bilateral agreements rather than a single work of fallible grandeur, they may accomplish something on the scale of Sadat's extraordinary démarche of 30 years ago. The odds are perhaps the best they have been since, and responsible governments should recognize them as the spur for appropriate action and risk.

Helprin seems to lack a realistic appraisal of the balance of powers in the Palestinian authority and the Middle East. On the one side are Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, all determined, and all able to claim success from any military operation they initiate, provided only that they are not wiped out to the last man. On the other side are Israel and the Palestinian authority and the United States. The United States is hemhorraging badly from its war in Iraq. Mahmud Abbas and his allies barely control the West Bank, and they have made it clear, over and over, that their commitment to impossible goals vis-a-vis Israel - right of return of the refugees and all of East Jerusalem, is unshakable. Within Abbas's organization there are the Fatah Al-Aqsa brigades, whose commitment to any peace agreement would be shaky at best.
In Gaza, the Hamas proved that Abbas has no army except on paper.  In the West Bank there is a large contingent of Iranian-financed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as well as numerous Hamas supporters. They can easily disrupt any peace process with a few well placed bombs. They have done so in the past, and there is no doubt they will do it again.
The Israeli government of Ehud Olmert is not sure what it is and what it wants, except that it certainly wants to stay in office. Taking risks for peace in the Middle East is a bad idea if you want to stay in office - an axiom that applies to both Olmert and Abbas. More than that, it can be bad for your personal health.
In order for peace, or even limited bilateral agreements to happen, the very weak government of Ehud Olmert has to make very unpopular and risky concessions. The concessions would be especially unpopular while the bad taste of the Gaza disengagement is still in the mouth of the Israeli public.  A few Islamic Jihad bombs would make such concessions entirely out of the question. The very weak government of Mahmoud Abbas has to abandon its unrealistic, but very popular, key demands, and that may be a fatal move for Abbas. Neither side ever implemented the limited bilateral agreements that were made in the past. Israel did not allow free passage between Gaza and the West Bank, Abbas did not disarm the terror groups. Israel promised to reduce the number of checkpoints with great fanfare, but that promise was not fulfilled. There are no checkpoints that can be eliminated without endangering security. A few bombs would then mean the end of the Olmert government.
As for the Arab governments, it would be entirely illusory to count them on the side of the angels. They all sense the impending debacle of the US in Iraq. The rats are leaving the ship, as rats will do. Both Egypt and Saudi Arabia urged Abbas to seek "unity" with the Hamas, which is like a lamb uniting with a lion. All the Arab governments and most of the media continue a relentless campaign against the European boycott of the Hamas.
Ami Isseroff

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Palestinian who killed pro-Palestinian Italian activist sentenced to a Life Term

There's more to this than meets the eye. The press release of the Israel government press office states:
Palestinian sentenced to a life term for the murder of the Italian tourist- Angelo Frammartino in August 2006 in Jerusalem
But Frammartino was not exactly a tourist. What he was, really, was explained in an article I wrote a while ago:
"Frammartino was the director of the Monterotondo youth deparment of the Italian Refondazione Comunista Party (PRC) and a very active pacifist in the campaign for sustainable development in third-world countries."
Refondazione Comunista supports the Iraqi "resistance." It is very probably that Frammartino supported the Palestinian "resistance" too.
The office of the Italian Prime Minister was careful to cover all this up, and to pretend that it was not known that Frammartino was stabbed by a Palestinian, a member of the Islamic Jihad.
Frammartino himself had stated:
We must recognize that a situation with no violence is a luxury in many parts of the world, but we are not seeking to prevent legitimate self defense operations. I never dreamt of condemning the resistance, the blood of the Vietnamese, the blood of nations under colonial occupation, or the blood of Palestinian youths from the first intifada.
Apparently, he fell victim to a "legitimate self defense" operation.
Ami Isseroff

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Arab world moderates speak out

In The truth about the Arab media, Lee Smith explains who is leading Arab and Muslim protest against terror and extremism, and who is not doing it.

by Lee Smith  
In the wake of last month's terrorist attack in Glasgow and foiled plots in London, newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent, as well as members of the liberal-left intelligentsia, have placed the blame, not on Muslim extremism, but on British foreign policy. "[T]he new Prime Minister has to attend to the underlying causes of jihadist terrorism," The Independent explained in a July 1 editorial. "Of course, there is a link with foreign policy, in that British engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan is used as a grievance by the ideologues of al-Qa'ida to rouse anti-Western sentiment." Prime Minister Gordon Brown's new government has similarly decided to play down any connection between Islam and terrorism.
In accepting this argument, Western journalists and politicians may believe that they are making common cause with Muslim moderates. But Westerners have little sense of how the debates are playing out in Arabic and rely instead on entrepreneurs posing as mediators. Insofar as someone like Tariq Ramadan, for instance, is able to narrow the field and sell it as a choice between himself or Finsbury Park Mosque's fire-breathing Abu Hamza Al Masri, then it's no wonder he's become a media darling and that blaming the bombings on British foreign policy seems "moderate" in comparison. But there has been criticism of Arab and Muslim violence, and British accommodation, in at least one quarter, and it may be a surprising one to many: the London-based Arab media.

Neither in London, nor in the Arab and Islamic world has there been enough condemnation," says Hazem Saghieh, a columnist for Al Hayat. "Learning to accommodate these horrible acts is a symptom of mental disease." The Lebanese-born Saghieh is one of the pillars of London's Arab press establishment, a large collection of voices dominated, like all the Arab media, by Al Jazeera-style resentment and incitement, but also including a solid core of liberal or liberal-friendly outlets. Elaph, a Web-magazine that is something like an Arabic-language Slate, has one of its main offices in the British capital. So does Saqi Books, founded by Saghieh's late wife, Mai Ghassoub.

But the flagships of Arab liberal media are Al Hayat and the other London-based broadsheet Asharq Al-Awsat, both of which ran several articles in the last month unequivocally condemning the violence and those who justify it. "There are segments of the Arab media that seem to think it is a press freedom to incite people to kill others," Tariq Al Homayed, Asharq Al-Awsat's editor-in-chief, told me in a phone interview. "These people are more dangerous than the criminals themselves."

The origins of the Arab media and Arab liberalism are both found in the Middle East's landmark encounter with Western modernity--Napoleon's 1798 invasion of Egypt. The French scholars that accompanied him brought a printing press, and though the first newspaper published in the region was intended mostly for the French landing force, Napoleon's easy walkover showed Middle Eastern potentates how far the lands of Islam lagged behind its historical rival, Christian Europe. As Muhammad Ali Pasha, the father of modern Egypt, sent military students off to the continent to learn the latest advances in European war-making, one of the delegations included Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, a young Al-Azhar-educated imam who immersed himself in French culture, history, literature and philosophy, including, among his favorites, Voltaire and Rousseau.
When Tahtawi returned to Egypt and became editor of The Egyptian Gazette in 1842, he substituted Arabic for Ottoman Turkish as the language of the educated classes and hammered out the foundations of Arab liberalism, including the emancipation of women, human rights, and political sovereignty issuing not from God or violent coercion but popular mandate. Tahtawi's early-twentieth-century progeny included intellectuals like Ahmed Lutfi al-Sayyid and Taha Hussein who used journalism as a venue to advance a rights-based liberal nationalism derived from English and French political theory, from Locke to Mill.
Arab liberals were already fighting a rear-guard battle by the time of Gamal Abdel Nasser's 1952 coup d'etat, but when the pan-Arabist demagogue nationalized the press--an example that regimes throughout the region emulated--the liberal era in the Middle East was officially over. Lebanon was one of the few to preserve its free press, until the civil war when many journalists and their press organs scattered, some of them, like Al Hayat, landing in London. And it was there the liberal Arab media enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, thanks to press freedoms unavailable in the Middle East and large sums of Saudi cash. It is perhaps surprising given the kingdom's well-earned reputation for funding global jihad, but most of the liberal pan-Arab media in London and now Dubai is majority-Saudi owned.
Today, as refugees from the violence of Arab-nationalist politics in the 1960s and 1970s, liberal Arab journalists in London acknowledge their affiliation with the West. And it is they who saw more clearly than anyone the danger of the UK's lax immigration policies.
"People like me kept saying, you are allowing radicals in this country," says Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, former editor of Asharq Al-Awsat and now a regular columnist at the paper. "These people were chased out of their own countries, and the British government chose to let them in. They pay for their housing and even pay for their lawyers to argue to extend their stay. This system is on auto-pilot." For Adel Darwish, a Fleet Street veteran who writes for a number of British papers as well as a column for Asharq Al-Awsat and, whose family left Alexandria, Egypt in 1959, the pattern of violence is familiar. "This all begins with the Muslim Brotherhood's campaign in Egypt in the 1930s, when they targeted cinemas, nightclubs, judges, and writers. This was before the creation of the state of Israel, or the U.S. was a major power in the region. What they did then is what they are doing now. They are targeting our way of life."

Here is the difference between Europe's "moderate Muslim" leadership and the liberal Arab media based there: The former wants much of what a liberal society has to offer, various opportunities and freedoms, as well as entitlements and concessions, in addition to a thick layer of Islam separating them from what they perceive as the sickness of liberal societies, the freedoms and entitlements of others; the latter, at one time anyway, had hoped for Arab societies to be more like Western liberal democracies.
"This liberal opinion reflects the private sector, business people, and media people," says Rashed, now General Manager of Dubai-based Al Arabiya TV. "Right now it is the only voice taking on the arguments coming out of the radical mosques."
Europe's moderate Muslims, like Tariq Ramadan, however, are not taking on the radicals; rather, they are translating the fear terrorism generates into shares of political power for themselves. Western intellectuals and journalists can either court the goodwill of men who claim to represent the vast majority of Arab and Muslim longing, or, they can listen to the intellectuals and journalists who are actually interested in promoting liberalism.
Lee Smith is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he is working on a book about the Arab media.

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Daily Star: UN will say Shebaa farms belong to Syria

A headline in the Beirut Daily Star tells us UN Security Council fails to confirm Shebaa Farms is Lebanese territory. Actually that is not confirmed in the story, which only states:

BEIRUT: The Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team's report is nearing completion and UN cartographer Miklos Pinter is expected to visit the Shebaa Farms before submitting his final report. UN spokesperson in New York Farhan Haq told The Daily Star that Pinter's report, while not yet completed, is "proceeding toward its conclusion." Pinter has determined in his report that the Shebaa Farms span 20-40 square kilometers, according to a report in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz last week.
But it is still quite different from the Ha'aretz report, which insisted and then had to retract, that the UN had decided the area belongs to Lebanon.
Ami Isseroff

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Islamic Jihad might (or might not) halt suicide bombings in Israel

The headline states "Islamic Jihad says will halt suicide bombings in Israel." The text says: "The Islamic Jihad may stop initiating suicide bombings inside Israel," which is a different story. They may, or they may not.
Commander of organization's military wing tells Ynet move aimed at improving situation of Palestinian population; adds group members rejected PA's call to join deal granting amnesty to dozens of Palestinian fugitives
Ali Waked Published:  07.19.07, 00:18 / Israel News

The Islamic Jihad may stop initiating suicide bombings inside Israel, according to Walid Abeidi, commander of the group's military wing, the al-Quds Brigades.
Most suicide bombers sent to Israel in the past few years were affiliated with the Islamic Jihad. In January 2007, an Islamic Jihad member carried out the terror attack in Eilat, in which three people were killed.  
A month later, a suicide bomber affiliated with the organization was caught in the city of Bat Yam. The group was also responsible for a terror attack in Tel Aviv's old central bus station on April 2006, in which 10 people were killed and dozens were injured.

Abeidi, also known as Abu al-Qassam, said that "the organization is considering halting the suicide bombings in order to help bring both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to a mutual calm and ceasefire."
From "will" in the headline, to "may" in the lede, to "considering" in the body of the article. Quite a distance to travel!
Ami Isseroff

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Support for Israel: Perhaps too enthusiastic?

Support for Israel is always welcome, but perhaps this support is a bit too enthusiastic. Few in Israel want the US to attack Iran immediately, but moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be an important gesture of support.

Christians United for Israel call on US to attack Iran immediately, move US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem as sign of support
Yitzhak Benhorin and AP Published:  07.18.07, 23:13 / Israel News
WASHINGTON - Thousands of members of Christians United for Israel headed to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby Congress on behalf of the Jewish state.
 The group's founder, the Reverend John Hagee, declared, "We support Israel because we are Bible-believing Christians," and said the world needs to see that "the sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened."
 Hagee said that the entire Christian world kept quiet during World War II and allowed the genocide of the Jewish people. "This time we will not be silent," Hagee said.

At "A Night to Honor Israel" banquet, Hagee called on President Bush to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. He also called for American divestment from Iran, which he compared to Nazi Germany as a threat to the Jewish people.
Hagee said Mideast tensions shouldn't be blamed on Israel, but on Islamic radicals and moderate Muslims who won't condemn them.
Hagee continued to warn against Iranian President Ahmadinejad, calling him the new Hitler, saying the Iranian president will use a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel the first chance he gets.

Ahmandinejad must be stopped, Hagee said, calling on the United State to attack Iran immediately.
'We must end the madness'
Former speaker of the US House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, who is considering running for the Republican Party's presidential candidate, said at the event that if US President George W. Bush really wanted to get a message across to Hamas, he should move the US Embassy to Jerusalem "tomorrow morning".

Gingrich charged that instead of fighting to win, President Bush is now pursuing appeasement through a proposed Mideast peace conference.

Comparing that to the attempted appeasement of Nazi Germany at Munich before World War II, Gingrich said, "We don't have a peace process. We have a surrender process."
Gingrich said the United States and Western civilization are in a global conflict with radical Islam, and must choose between victory and surrender.

Gary Bauer, who ran for the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States in 2000, also spoke at the rally, saying, "You are Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hizbullah's worst nightmare, because you support Israel. They are telling you to give back land. We are telling you, don't give back one inch."
Israeli Ambassador to the US Salai Meridor, told the protesters, "We must end this nightmare. We must end the madness. We must make it clear to the Iranians that all options are on the table and that there is no way they will be allowed to hold nuclear weapons."


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UK terror plot: Life imitates art

Is this just a coincidence, perceptive writing, or self fulfilling prophecy?
Egyptian author's story about Arab doctors' bomb plot turns into reality
Smadar Peri Published:  07.19.07, 07:56 / Israel Opinion
Six months ago a thick novel was placed on the shelves of Cairo bookstores and immediately began to sell like hotcakes. It was replete with sex, corruption, desperation and a series of particularly frustrating life stories. However, "Chicago", the fast-paced literary work by Egyptian author Alaa al-Aswani is not available in Hebrew.
Although his last bestseller, "The Yacoubian Building", was translated into 17 languages, al-Aswani is fiercely brushing off Israeli publishers. "Any contact with you will be deemed normalization," the dentist from Cairo announced, "and I oppose any form of cooperation with Israel."
From page one I couldn't put the 453-page book down. The style is coherent; the plot is gripping, and now the monstrous prophesy in the novel has fulfilled itself: The novel tells the story of seven top Egyptian medical students who have tired, each for their own reasons, of the harassments by the Egyptian security forces, the connection between capital and power, and the meager chances of earning a steady income or finding lodgings.

After being awarded a scholarship for further studies at an American hospital, the seven doctors set off to Chicago to realize their dreams. One of them escaped the grooms that were forced on her. Another fled a moment before being thrown into jail. A third specialist was fired from his job in favor of a relative of a top government official.

The literary success of Al-Aswani, who himself was trained in Chicago, reveals the everyday confrontation of young exiles in the estranged, materialistic US that alarms the Muslim world. This leads the female heroine to shroud herself in a veil while her friends find their way to the mosques. This is where the real problems begin: On the one hand they are imbued with hatred towards the values of American culture, and on the other they are seeking revenge against the Egyptian regime that made them flee.
No condemnation in Arab world

I am willing to swear that the author of "Chicago" never dreamed that the plot of his novel would turn into reality. Two weeks ago, seven Muslim doctors were apprehended in Britain for planning a series of terror attacks reminiscent of the 9/11 bombings. Had there not been a series of mishaps in the explosive devices planted in the vehicles, a terrible disaster would have occurred.

As in "Chicago," a Jordanian laboratory assistant - a doctor's wife - was apprehended in connection with the botched bombings. As in "Chicago," the heavily veiled image of the doctor's wife from Amman sparks animosity among neighborhood residents. The angels in white revealed their true colors, headlines in Britain screamed.

The satanic mind is hiding in Afghanistan. Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, hailed as a prodigious doctor who is also Osama Bin Laden's deputy and advisor, has ascended the monstrous path of enlisting doctors to the service of terror. He is not perturbed by violent methods of enlistment and is unconcerned about murdering children, even if they are Muslim. His wet dream focuses on carrying out a massive terror attack here in Israel.

It is disturbing that no one in the Arab world condemned the new trend of doctors being enlisted to the service of terror. On the contrary, this week in Algiers a 10-year-old boy was recruited at a hospital clinic to blow himself up along with an explosive device.

And what about "Chicago's" sales? The Arab edition of the book has been sold out since the London terror attacks were foiled.

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Israeli education is in trouble

Israeli education is in trouble, as Avirama Golan explains in Ha'aretz.
By Avirama Golan

The outrageous slap that Amnon de Hartog gave MK Yakov Cohen blurred the evil that gave birth to it: cancelation of the requirement that ultra-Orthodox schools teach a core curriculum. This cancelation, included in a bill that the Knesset has approved in preliminary reading, rests on an agreement between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the ultra-Orthodox, with Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak remaining enthusiastically silent.
The weaker the political system is, the weaker public education becomes; and the more the political system disintegrates into sectors, the more the education system does, too. Since there never was a uniform education system, and since political sectors (the national religious and the ultra-Orthodox) have been implanted in this system from the start, the conditions for implementing the core curriculum do not exist. The desire to rehabilitate public education on the basis of civic, democratic, humanistic and knowledge-seeking values has therefore now run into a high sectorial wall.
Enthusiasm for the multicultural fashion, which denigrates anything that looks like state involvement in education, has ruined public education, along with the desire of various groups for unique cultural expression (which is legitimate in itself), the state's abandonment (under the cover of a neoliberal ideology that widens social gaps) of its obligation to provide equal education to all, and the demographic growth of the ultra-Orthodox and religious publics.

In less than a decade, every fourth child will be in the ultra-Orthodox education system. Even today, secular public education is the weakest and most neglected of the various Jewish school systems - only the Arab public education system is weaker. The Education Ministry and proponents of the core curriculum must therefore understand that the attempt to restore the public education of the 1950s and 1960s is a rearguard action that is destined for failure.
The old public education system has reached the end of the road. Anyone who wants to prevent its final collapse would do better to adopt realistic solutions. Professor Yitzhak Kashti of Tel Aviv University's School of Education, for instance, proposed new principles for dealing with the change in a recently published academic article.
Unlike other education experts, Kashti sees education not as a tool for shaping students' characters, but as part of a social policy. The uniform republican education of the state's early years could have succeeded, he says, had it been supported by a well-developed social safety net that would have strengthened the margins and integrated them with the center. But because Israel did not choose the model of a European welfare state, "and the new modernizers in Israel's education and welfare fields were strong-minded, on one hand, but blind to cultural needs and expressions, on the other," its momentum was cut short in its prime, and it produced only short-term results. The weaker sectors on the margins grew, and the state-oriented center was weakened.
In response to this reality, he recommends that the system recognize the existence of different cultural circles and set up "educational clusters" catering to them. These clusters would provide equal educational services to all, with their public funding anchored in law - no special allocations, no political intervention and no semi-private but state-supported education. The only difference among them would be their cultural content. Parents would be able to choose whichever cluster they preferred. This would not be means-influenced "parental choice," but a choice between alternatives that differ only in terms of content.
Each of the different clusters would be required to sample portions of the content offered by the others, in order to give them a deep familiarity with the culture, language and values of the others. This mutual transparency is a sophisticated solution that enlightened countries such as England and Sweden have begun to adopt. Like them, Israel, too, would let go of its centralization and move to a supervised federative system.
And what will connect these various clusters, fans of the core curriculum may ask? Beyond the obvious subjects like sciences, languages, etc., Kashti proposes the strongest collective asset in our possession "thanks to the vision and persistence of the previous generations": the Hebrew language.
Language, Kashti explains, "is not merely a tool and a gateway to a world of meaning; it is also a system via which meaning is shaped and interpreted." Indeed, the Hebrew language, with all the layers of its historic creation and modern revival, is an interesting and proper basis, the quintessential product of Israeliness, which could rescue public education from the bonds of its perplexing weakness. In the worst case, it will prevent total segregation. In the best case, it will discover a civic and cultural kernel at the heart of Israeliness that is far stronger than any "core curriculum."


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Israeli government versus the Zionist project

Bradley Burston, at his usual excellent best, raises important and worrisome questions in Why Israel was created, why it still exists. Can Israel be killed by the greed, short sightedness and incompetence of its own leaders? We should add to the list below, discrimination against Reform and Conservative Jews that is preventing immigration from the United States, laws that make it difficult for non-Jews to join the Jewish people, lack of action on democracy, lack of action on demographic issues, lack of action to save the Jews of Russia and many more policy blunders that "just happen."
By Bradley Burston

One way or another, Israel will spend this summer fighting the last war.
Never has a prospective war been more expected. Well before the Second Lebanon War was over, the Third was already being confidently predicted by a broad consensus of experts.
But even if the predictions of a new war are proven mistaken, the last war is likely to remain a focus of the nation's attention though the summer and beyond. Inquiries on the government's wartime failings are likely to monopolize the attention of a prime minister whose every calculation is keyed to political survival.
At the same time, there is every danger that in dealing with the fallout of the last war, the government will find ways to refrain from working to resolve issues that go the very heart of why the state of Israel was created, and why it continues to exist.
The problems represent critical tests of the very idea of Zionism. As such, the government may have every interest in trying to skirt them, ignore them, or otherwise dodge them. Here are five:
1. The new Palestinian refugees - the settlers of Gaza
Israel was not created in order to settle and hold the West Bank. Ironically, however, the 2005 disengagement from Gaza may serve to keep the West Bank in Israel's hands indefinitely.
Any future peace prospects will hinge on Israel's treatment of the Jews it expelled from Gaza. The logic is simple. Israel has shown itself unable or unwilling to find adequate permanent housing and satisfactory employment for less than 2,000 families evacuated from an area for which a large majority of Israelis felt no affinity and which polls showed most had wanted to abandon years before. How can the government then expect to win support for the expulsion of tens of thousands in the West Bank, an area which many more Israelis consider traditionally Jewish land.
And this consideration is brought into even greater relief at a time when Qassam rockets are still being fired from abandoned settlements into Israel ? some of them striking areas to which evacuated settlers have been moved.
The situation is oddly advantageous for the larger settlement movement, which can rest assured that the treatment of Gaza settlers, and the overkill evacuation of the illegal Amona outpost in January, 2006, coupled with Qassams, virtually guarantee that present settlements will remain where they are.
As such, the situation bears peculiar reminders of the plight of Palestinian refugees still in Gaza. For sixty years, Arab states and fellow Palestinians made strenuous efforts to enshrine the misery of the Palestinian refugees. They blocked efforts to resettle them in improved housing, and generally took advantage of their own and Israel's inaction, holding the refugees hostage for their own ends.
2. The refugees from Darfur
Israel was not created as a refuge for all the world's threatened and displaced persons. Nonetheless, when peoples are threatened with genocide and appeal for help, Israel cannot turn its back.
Jews cannot continue to complain about the world's silence during the Holocaust, if they are willing to stand on the sidelines while another people is systematically slaughtered.
In recent months, refugees from the Sudan, currently the site of the signal human rights atrocity in all the world, have made their way on foot through the Sinai desert and across the border into Israel. Government agencies and the Knesset have ducked and deferred policy decisions regarding their status. Soldiers who have picked them up as they cross the border, have been instructed to simply take them to Negev cities and leave them there. The government cannot decide how - or when, or whether - to deport them. The Knesset cannot even decide whether to discuss the issue.
"We as Jews are obliged to help not only Jews." Nopel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel told Haaretz last year. "I was a refugee and therefore I am in favor of admitting refugees."
"I thought it was very laudable when Israel became the first country to admit the Vietnamese boat people. History constantly chooses a capital of human suffering, and Darfur is today the capital of human suffering. Israel should absorb refugees from Darfur, even a symbolic number."
3. The people of Sderot
Sderot is a test case for Israel, and for the world as well. It is a daily target of war crimes violations. The world should pressure Hamas to stop rocket attacks targeting civilians. The world has shown itself unwilling. Israel's military efforts have also been unable to stop the attacks.
In the present reality, protecting the people of Sderot and the western Negev must be a primary priority of the government. Resources must be marshaled, here and abroad, to make certain that homes, schools, and workplaces receive proper reinforcement, that children and adults receive needed psychological support.
Israelis must redouble their efforts to show the people of the western Negev that they are not an expendable appendage, but that their resistance to what Palestinians have laughably called "resistance" is crucial to the future of all Israelis.
4. Economic support of destitute Holocaust survivors
Over the past year, Israelis have learned in detail that large numbers of the hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors in the country are living in poverty. Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik has announced that she will seek to block passage of the State Budget unless and until the treasury agrees to address the needs of survivors.
If the effort fails, this will be the surest proof that the very foundation of the state has been sold to finance some Thatcherite ideal.
5. The end of the People of the Book
In large part, the Jewish people, and the state it created, are alive today because of education. Unsexy, not violent, the subject barely draws yawns in crisis-inured Israel. But public education is being allowed to die a slow death. When it does, the rest of this enterprise will not be far behind.

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Iran: Divestment works both ways

Iranian officials insist on a "world without America" and Iran supports anti-US violence in Iraq. Why should US allow investment in Iran?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 06:14 19/07/2007   
By The Associated Press

The governor of Texas wants state pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Iran, a move advocated by Israeli officials he met with last month.
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, said Wednesday he is trying to determine whether he could begin the divestment process without legislation. If he cannot, he said he might call a special legislative session.
"This is a country that has a clear terrorist focus, has a clear mission to wipe a friendly democracy and a very close ally of the United States off of the face of the earth," Perry said, referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's calls for the elimination of Israel.
The effort mirrors similar moves in various U.S. states where lawmakers have been considering pulling investment from companies doing business with Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.
Perry has already signed a bill the Legislature passed this spring that directs the $108.3 billion Teacher Retirement System and $24.9 billion Employees Retirement System to get rid of holdings in companies doing business in Sudan because of atrocities in Darfur.
A bill involving divestment from Iran died in the Legislature this spring.
Perry visited Israel last month courtesy of a firm called Global Capital Associates to accept a Friend of Zion award from the company. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made the case for divestment, said Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson, who was present at the meetings.
The governor's office has not yet totaled the amount affected if pension funds divested of companies with Iran ties, Wilson said. Officials with the funds also didn't have an immediate estimate of Iran-related investments.
'We think it's hundreds of millions of dollars,' Wilson said in Wednesday's edition of the Houston Chronicle.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is this how to stop Hamas?

Ephraim Sneh tells us  how to stop Hamas. According to him, and he is, in my view, partly right, Israel has to weaken Hamas by showing visible progress in peace negotiations, bolstering the regime of the Fateh and Abu Mazen by economic improvements and concessions and ensuring the failure of the Hamas regime. If Hamas people were stupid, the IMO this might possibly be enough. But we know that Hamas people are anything but stupid, and that they will certainly try to sabotage this plan - literally, by sending people to blow up in public places and the other means usually at their disposal. There cannot be real progress toward peace until and unless Abbas and the Fateh can control the terror groups, and they can't do that while Hamas is around. The only way to stop Hamas is to stop Hamas. The Fateh won't do it for us. They can't and they don't want to.
Any peace initative that tries to weaken Hamas indirectly without confronting it is doomed to failure, because Hamas can always sabotage any peace process.
Ami Isseroff


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American Jews: Impaled on the horns of a dilemma?

Yair Sheleg writes that the dilemma of American Jews is a conflict between liberal values and Jewish identity. Jews cannot oppose mixed marriages for example, because this would conflict with liberal values. Jews cannot accept US government support for Jewish education, because it would threaten separation of Church and state.
But the reality is that opposition to mixed marriages would not do any good, because people who have decided on a mixed marriage have often already declared their choice. They have put themselves outside the voluntary coercive framework of "institutional" Judaism and they will not be influenced by the institutional version of the irate old country patriarch, any more than the daughter of Tevye the Milkman was deterred from marrying a Russian. Sometimes, if their mate becomes Jewish, there is no conflict with Jewish identity, but that is a personal decision that is beyond the scope of Jewish instiutions and beyond their control. Sheleg's proposal is like saying that Jewish institutions are conflicted about whether or not to control the weather or stop aging. They can't do much about either, so there is no real dilemma.
The real dilemmas of American Jews are elsewhere. In the first place, they each have to decide if they want to remain Jews or not and balance all the advantages and disadvantages of the decision to accept their cultural, national and religious heritage as they see fit. 
No community can make that decision. In America this is a matter of conscience that is up to the individual. If an individual decides that remaining Jewish is important, then they will find a way to include this in their personal choices. But if being Jewish only consists of eating bagels and lox and making bad jokes in corrupted Yiddish, there is no chance that many will give up the complete American dream or the mate of their dreams in order to be Jewish. Likewise, if being Jewish consists of wearing a fur hat in summer and poring over ancient law books in Aramaic, that isn't going to attract many American Jews. Are any of these attributes essential for Judaism? Did Moses wear a shtraymel? Did King David know the Talmud and the Sulkhan Aruch?  Did Jacob eat bagels and speak Yiddish? The essentials of Judaism are social ethics, monotheism in religion, and attachment to Israel. Bagels, kippot and all the other trappings were added at a later date, or are added to remind Jews of the important issues,  and they are incidental.  
The second dilemma is that of the Jewish community. They have to decide whether they are going to continue traditions and approaches that failed to stop assimilation in 19th century Europe and are totally anachronistic in the twenty-first century, or whether they are going to adapt to a new reality and provide individuals with an attractive vision of Jewish life and ethics, and an attractive path to Judaism. The former policy will ensure that more and more individuals will choose assimilation. "Stay Jewish or else!" is not going to work. The latter policy will help ensure the continuation of Jewish life in the United States and Canada.  It is between control, hypocrisy and obscurantism on the one hand, and positive adaptation on the other, and it is a no - brainer, not a real dilemma.
The Book of Ruth  tells the story of how Ruth the Moabite became part of Israel and the Jewish people. The book of Ezra and Nehemiah on the other hand, declares that Moab and Amalek cannot be part of Israel and enjoin the Jews to divorce their foreign wives. So there are at least two traditions in Judaism about intermarriage - going back over two thousand years, and not one "hallowed" tradition, as some would have you believe.
The real dilemma of American Jewish leadership is between the book of Ruth and the book of Ezra and Nehemiah. There can't be a conflict between liberal values and Jewish identity, because "Jewish identity" is meaningless if it is not a free personal choice, and if it is not liberal, it is not Judaism.
Ami Isseroff

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Getting everyone to school in Israel

School study for 12 years mandated reads the headline. They are talking about Israel. It is about time, no? But they should introduce it gradually: First one year of actual studying, then two... What they really mean (and would know how to write had they gone to school) is that students will now have to attend classes for 12 years. No law can force them to study, just as no law can force the Jerusalem Post to write their articles carefully.  
It is inexplicable why Israel did not have a 12 year compulsory education act until now. Even more inexplicable, is why Yeshiva students get free tuition and supported study, while those studying engineering and chemistry must pay huge tuition fees, which the state is contemplating increasing even further.
Ami Isseroff


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Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative goes into high gear, meets Hamas opposition

As anticipated, High-profile diplomacy gets boost after Bush speech. Also as anticipated, Hamas rejects the entire Bush Middle East peace initiative. Ostensibly, it is because Bush backed Fatah. But, let's suppose that Hamas were decide to comply with all the Quartet demands, lay down its arms and recognize Israel. Bush would not be backing only Fatah in that case, would he? So in reality, Hamas is opposed to the peace initiative because they are opposed to peace with Israel. Since they have always said so, there is nothing surprising there. The problem is, of course, that Hamas tends to express their discontent with the peace process by blowing up people. Blowing up people tends to disrupt peace processes. It is bad for the health and makes the relatives of those who get blown up very angry.
That is why, as I wrote, there cannot really be any peace process as long as Hamas is not neutralized.
Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Syria is getting ready for something OK

...Assad, in his speech, called on Israel to respond publicly to peace overtures from Damascus.
"The Israelis should remember that the price of peace is lower than the cost of war," Assad said.
But, he said, Syria wanted "certain guarantees" from Israel - namely a promise for a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights as part of a peace deal, before negotiations would begin.
"There must be guarantees to return the whole land," Assad said. "We cannot enter negotiations without knowing what they're going to be about. They must present a word of trust or something written."
The Syrians should also remember that peace is better than war. What guarantees is Syria going to offer prior to negotiations? As Assad was speaking, it seems that Syrian reservists were being called to their posts - or so it is reported. What does it mean? A rumor? a misunderstanding? an exercise?
Ami Isseroff

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A tiny flaw in Bush's Middle East Plan?

Was this the only thing wrong with the speech??  
Hilary Leila Krieger,
Jul. 17, 2007

Despite US President George W. Bush's declaration of increased support for the Palestinians, particularly financial help, the administration has acknowledged that no new funding requests have been made to Congress as part of the program outlined in Bush's speech on Monday.
Critics of the president and his speech seeking to reinvigorate the peace process and bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas labeled the lack of promised financial support symptomatic of the administration's treatment of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, saying it shed doubt on whether the speech could impact the reality on the ground.
"The United States is taking a series of steps to strengthen the forces of moderation and peace among the Palestinian people," Bush said Monday. "First, we are strengthening our financial commitment."
He pointed to more than $190 million in humanitarian assistance, $225m. in loan backing and $80m. in a security-reform program to be headed by Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.
Yet administration officials said Tuesday that what amounts to $194m. in humanitarian aid - a combination of the US yearly contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and $50m. in civil society and infrastructure funds - was already budgeted as part of the current year's spending, well ahead of Monday's speech.
Oops! But for sham renunciation of terror, after all, you can only expect sham increases in aid.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Report: "Former Israeli agent predicts new terror attacks in USA"

The following was received as an anonymous e-mail that has been "circulating." As far as I know it is only on the Web in precisely this form at a Bulletin Board forum. It may be the scoop of the year, or it may be a silly hoax. Whoever originated this letter, the "I," didn't trouble themselves to sign their name to it, which should be a big warning. It claims that former Mossad agent Juval Aviv predicts a massive Al-Qaeda attack in the United States in the near future.
Juval Aviv was really the Mossad agent involved in killing the Munich Olympic Games terrorists, but there is no guarantee that the writer of what is below actually met him, or that Aviv really said any of these things. This report is not the first indication that Al-Qaeda is reorganizing and planning another attack on the United Staes. Many of the things stated below seem to make sense from a security standpoint. That doesn't mean that the prediction of an imminent Al-Qaeda attack came from Juval Aviv, or that such an attack is really being planned. The background information, such as the fact that the US relies too much on satellites and El-Int, and doesn't have a good Human Intelligence organization, is all well known, and could have been written by almost anyone at any time.
 As of today, at least, this letter has not been debunked as a hoax, but that doesn't mean it will not be proven a hoax. It also doesn't mean there will not be a terror attack as predicted.  
Anyhow here is the letter. "Caveat Lector" - let the reader beware.
Ami Isseroff  
A week ago, I was able to attend a dinner with Juval Aviv - the   Israeli Agent who the movie "Munich" was about... He was Golda Meir's bodyguard and she appointed him to track down and bring to justice the Palestinian terrorists who took the Israeli athletes hostage and killed them during the Munich Olympic Games.  Tonight he shared information that EVERY American needs to know but our government has not shared.  His bio is below, his book is "Staying Safe" and I suggest you buy and read it.
  First, I am going to share what he discussed in regard to the Bush Administration, 9/11 and Iraq and then I will share his predictions for the next attack on the U.S. (and he predicted the London subway bombing on the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox News stating publicly that it would happen within a week - O'Reilly laughed and mocked him saying that in a week he wanted him back on the show and unfortunately,  within a week the terrorist attack occured.
  Juval Aviv gave intelligence (via what he had gathered in Israel and the Middle East) to the Bush Administration about 9/11 a month before it occured.  His report specifically said they would use planes as bombs and target high profile buildings and monuments.  The Administration ridiculed him and refused to respond (Congress has since hired him as a security consultant - but still the Administration does not  listen to him).  Within a month 9/11 occured.
  He didn't agree with going into Iraq - said it didn't make sense if we wanted terrorists responsible for 9/11 (and also he believes in Golda Meir's approach which was to bring justice to the terrorists but do not take down civilians - killing civilians only creates more terrorists - but similar to Bush,  Israel's subsequent leaders were not as insightful as Golda Meir) - however, when we did decide to invade Iraq we should have learned from Israel's past mistakes.  He very articulately stated that Israel's greatest mistake against their war on terror was to invade the West Bank and Gaza and stay there...

He said they should have done the proven anti-terrorist strategy which was "Hit and Leave" instead of "Hit and Stay."  Now we are stuck in Iraq and it is worse than Vietnam - Iraq is the U.S.'s West Bank/Gaza.  He doesn't think we will ever be able to truly leave because even when we are able to pull our troops back we will still have to go back regularly which will keep us quagmired.  We should have hit hard and left immediately - or actually, we shouldn't have gone in at all...

  Now for the scary stuff.... He predicts the next attack on the U.S. is coming within the next few months.  Forget  hijacking airplanes because he says terrorists will NEVER try and hijack a plane again as the people on the plane will not go down quietly.
  Aviv believes our airport security is a joke- we are being reactionary [reactive = a.i.] versus looking at strategies that are effective.
  1) our machines are outdated.  They look for metal and the new explosives are made of plastic
  2) He talked about how some idiot tried to light his shoe on fire - we now have to take off our shoes, a group of idiots tried to bring aboard liquid explosives - now we can't bring liquids on board.  He is waiting for some suicidal maniac to pour liquid explosive on their underwear and light up in a plane or in the terminal and then we will all have to travel naked!
  3) We only focus on security when people are heading to the gates, he says that if a terrorist attack targets airports in the future, they will target busy times and on the front end when people are checking in.  It would be easy for someone to take two suitcases of explosives, walk up to a busy check-in line, ask a person next to them to watch their bags for  a minute while they run to the restroom or get a drink (and I have done that for people myself) and then detonate the bags
  BEFORE security even gets involved.  Israel checks bags before people can enter the airport.
  Now, back to his predictions:  He says the next attack will come in the next few months and will involve suicide bombers and non-suicide bombers in places that people congregate:  Disneyland, Las Vegas, Big Cities (NY, SFO, Chicago, etc...) and there it will be shopping malls, subways in rush hour, train stations, casinos, etc.. as well as rural America (Wyoming, Montana, etc...).  The attack will be simultaneous detonations around the country (they like big impact) 5-8 cities including rural areas.  They won't need to use suicide bombers because at largely populated places like the MGM Grand in Vegas - they can simply valet park!
  He says this is well known in intelligence circles but our government does not want to alarm Americans.  However, he also said that Bush will attack Iran and Syria before he leaves office (we are being prepared for that!  and I have to wonder if we are not hearing about this impending attack so America will support attacking Iran and Syria?).  In addition, since we don't have enough troops Bush will likely use small, strategic nuclear weapons regardless that the headlines the next day will read "US Nukes Islamic World" and the world will be a different place to such an extent that global warming will be irrevelent.
  These are not conspiracy theories or crazy rantings.  This is the man (and we have all heard/read that the Bush Administration was warned about 9/11 prior to it happening) who did the warning.  He travels regularly to the Middle East and he knows his stuff.
  On a good note - he says we don't have to worry about being nuked - he says the terrorists who want to destroy America will not use sophisticated weapons - they like suicide as the frontline approach.
  He also says the next level of terrorists will not be coming from abroad, but will be homegrown - having attended our schools and universities - but will have traveled frequently back and forth to the Middle East.  They will know and understand Americans but we won't understand them - we still only have a handful of Arabic and Farsi speaking people in our intelligence networks and we need that to change he said...What can we do?  From an intelligence perspective he says the  U.S. needs to stop relying on satellites and technology for intelligence but follow Israel, Ireland and England's example of human intelligence both from an infiltration perspective as well as trust citizens to help.  We need to engage and educate ourselves as citizens but our government treats us like babies and thinks we can't handle it and will panic.
  He did a test for Congress recently putting an empty briefcase in 5 major spots in 5 US cities and not one person called 911 or sought a policeman to check it out.  In fact, in Chicago - someone tried to steal it!  In Israel an unattended bag or package would be reported in seconds with a citizen shouting "Unattended Bag" and the area cleared slowly, calmly and immediately by the people themselves.
  Unfortunately, we haven't "hurt" enough yet for us to be that concerned....
  He also discussed how many children were in preschool and kindergarten after 9/11 without parents to pick them up and the schools did not have a plan.  Do you have a plan with your kids, schools and families if you cannot reach each other by phone?  If you cannot return to your house?  If you cannot get to your child's school - do they know what to do?  We should all have a plan.
  He said that our government's plan after the next attack is to immediately cut-off EVERYONE's ability to use their telephone, cell phone, blackberry because they don't want terrorists to be able to talk to one another - do you have a plan if you cannot communicate directly with those that you love?
  Again - I recommend his book, "Staying Safe" and I also recommend we heighten each other's attention now for the inevitable....  In fact, this week the Today Show began with a segment that Al Qaeda was resurfacing - the same kind of action on the Pakistani border occurred before 9/11...
  It is scary, but we do not have panic, we just need to be aware....

  Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has not been helpful and we cannot change things until 2008.  However,  remember that when you vote....

  Juval Aviv holds an M.A. in Business from Tel Aviv University and is President and CEO of Interfor, Inc., an international corporate intelligence and investigations firm.
  Juval Aviv is President and CEO of Interfor, Inc.  Based in New York with offices around the world, founded in 1979, Interfor provides foreign and domestic intelligence services to the legal, corporate and financial communities and conducts investigations around the world.
  In addition, Mr. Aviv serves as a special consultant to the U.S. Congress and other policy makers on issues of terrorism, fraud and money laundering.
  A leading authority on terrorist networks, Mr. Aviv served as lead investigator for Pan Am Airways into the Pan Am 103-Lockerbie terrorist bombing. He was featured in the recent film, Munich, as the leader of the Israeli team that tracked down the terrorists who kidnapped the Israeli Olympic team. Interfor's services encompass white-collar crime investigations, asset search and recovery, corporate due diligence, litigation support, fraud investigations, internal compliance investigations, security and vulnerability assessments. Since its inception, Interfors asset investigation services have recovered over $2 billion worldwide for its clients.
  Before founding Interfor, Mr. Aviv served as an officer in the Israel Defense Force (Major, retired) leading an elite Commando/Intelligence Unit, and was later selected by the Israeli Secret Service (Mossad) to participate in a number of intelligence and special operations in many countries in the late 1960s and 1970s. While working as a consultant with El Al, Mr. Aviv surveyed the existing security measures in place and updated El Als security program, making El Al the safest airline in business today.
  Most recently, Mr. Aviv wrote Staying Safe: The Complete Guide to Protecting Yourself, Your Family, and Your Business, (2004,HarperResource).
  He has been a guest on ABC Nightline, FOX News, CNN, BBC Newsnight, ZDF (German National Television) and RAI (Italian National Television) and has been featured in numerous articles in major magazines and newspapers worldwide


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Transcript of President Bush's speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, July 16, 2007

Following is the just-released transcript of the speech by US President George Bush announcing the intention to convene an international conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and proclaiming support for the government of Salem Fayyad and Mahmud Abbas.

For commentary see Bush Push on Israeli Palestinian Peace: New Hope?

This speech is certainly a "significant" Middle East policy event, but like other such significant policy "events," such as the Arab Peace initiative, it may be dwarfed by actual events and forgotten.  Some highlights:

The United states will call an international conference this fall of all "regional" states that support a two state solution.

The United States will support the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad with major incentives including $190,000,000 in aid.

The Fayyad government must provide good government and security for the Palestinians, and the solution must provide security for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The United States will push for a two state solution and calls upon Hamas to recognize Israel and forswear violence and incitement.

Israel must dismantle illegal outposts and freeze settlement activities.

The negotiated solution must be based on borders that provide for a contiguous Palestinian state, and that take into account historical and existing reality.


Ami Isseroff

For Immediate Release

Office of the Press Secretary July 16, 2007

President Bush Discusses the Middle East

1:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. In recent weeks, debate in our country has rightly focused on the situation in Iraq -- yet Iraq is not the only pivotal matter in the Middle East. More than five years ago, I became the first American President to call for the creation of a Palestinian state. In the Rose Garden, I said that Palestinians should not have to live in poverty and occupation. I said that the Israelis should not have to live in terror and violence. And I laid out a new vision for the future -- two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.


Since then, many changes have come -- some hopeful, some dispiriting. Israel has taken difficult actions, including withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. Palestinians have held free elections, and chosen a president committed to peace. Arab states have put forward a plan that recognizes Israel's place in the Middle East. And all these parties, along with most of the international community, now share the goal of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state -- a level of consensus never before seen on this crucial issue.


The past five years have also brought developments far too familiar in the recent history of the region. Confronted with the prospect of peace, extremists have responded with acts of aggression and terror. In Gaza, Hamas radicals betrayed the Palestinian people with a lawless and violent takeover. By its actions, Hamas has demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is [more] devoted to extremism and murder than to serving the Palestinian people.


This is a moment of clarity for all Palestinians. And now comes a moment of choice. The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark. There is the vision of Hamas, which the world saw in Gaza -- with murderers in black masks, and summary executions, and men thrown to their death from rooftops. By following this path, the Palestinian people would guarantee chaos, and suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance. They would surrender their future to Hamas's foreign sponsors in Syria and Iran. And they would crush the possibility of any -- of a Palestinian state.


There's another option, and that's a hopeful option. It is the vision of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad; it's the vision of their government; it's the vision of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people. To realize this vision, these leaders are striving to build the institutions of a modern democracy. They're working to strengthen the Palestinian security services, so they can confront the terrorists and protect the innocent. They're acting to set up competent ministries that deliver services without corruption. They're taking steps to improve the economy and unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people. And they're ensuring that Palestinian society operates under the rule of law. By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future -- and establish a state of their own.


Only the Palestinians can decide which of these courses to pursue. Yet all responsible nations have a duty to help clarify the way forward. By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, we can help them show the world what a Palestinian state would look like -- and act like. We can help them prove to the world, the region, and Israel that a Palestinian state would be a partner -- not a danger. We can help them make clear to all Palestinians that rejecting violence is the surest path to security and a better life. And we can help them demonstrate to the extremists once and for all that terror will have no place in a Palestinian state.


So in consultation with our partners in the Quartet -- the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations -- the United States is taking a series of steps to strengthen the forces of moderation and peace among the Palestinian people.


First, we are strengthening our financial commitment. Immediately after President Abbas expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government, the United States lifted financial restrictions on the Palestinian Authority that we had imposed. This year, we will provide the Palestinians with more than $190 million in American assistance -- including funds for humanitarian relief in Gaza. To build on this support, I recently authorized the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to join in a program that will help generate $228 million in lending to Palestinian businesses. Today, I announce our intention to make a direct contribution of $80 million to help Palestinians reform their security services -- a vital effort they're undertaking with the guidance of American General Keith Dayton. We will work with Congress and partners around the world to provide additional resources once a plan to build Palestinian institutions is in place. With all of this assistance, we are showing the Palestinian people that a commitment to peace leads to the generous support of the United States.


Second, we're strengthening our political and diplomatic commitment. Again today, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert sat down together to discuss priorities and resolve issues. Secretary Rice and I have strongly supported these meetings, and she has worked with both parties to sketch out a "political horizon" for a Palestinian state. Now we will intensify these efforts, with the goal of increasing the confidence of all parties in a two-state solution. And we will continue to deliver a firm message to Hamas: You must stop Gaza from being a safe haven for attacks against Israel. You must accept the legitimate Palestinian government, permit humanitarian aid in Gaza, and dismantle militias. And you must reject violence, and recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. As I said in the Rose Garden five years ago, a Palestinian state will never be created by terror.


Third, we're strengthening our commitment to helping build the institutions of a Palestinian state. Last month, former Prime Minister -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to take on a new role as Quartet representative. In this post, he will coordinate international efforts to help the Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free society -- including effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law. He will encourage young Palestinians to participate in the political process. And America will strongly support his work to help Palestinian leaders answer their people's desire to live in peace.


All the steps I've outlined are designed to lay the foundation for a successful Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza -- a nation with functioning political institutions and capable security forces, and leaders who reject terror and violence. With the proper foundation, we can soon begin serious negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state.


These negotiations must resolve difficult questions and uphold clear principles. They must ensure that Israel is secure. They must guarantee that a Palestinian state is viable and contiguous. And they must lead to a territorial settlement, with mutually agreed borders reflecting previous lines and current realities, and mutually agreed adjustments. America is prepared to lead discussions to address these issues, but they must be resolved by Palestinians and Israelis, themselves. Resolving these issues would help show Palestinians a clear way forward. And ultimately, it could lead to a final peace in the Middle East -- a permanent end to the conflict, and an agreement on all the issues, including refugees and Jerusalem.


To make this prospect a reality, the Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope -- not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror. The Palestinian government must arrest terrorists, dismantle their infrastructure, and confiscate illegal weapons -- as the road map requires. They must work to stop attacks on Israel, and to free the Israeli soldier held hostage by extremists. And they must enforce the law without corruption, so they can earn the trust of their people, and of the world. Taking these steps will enable the Palestinians to have a state of their own. And there's only way to end the conflict, and nothing less is acceptable.


Israel has a clear path. Prime Minister Olmert must continue to release Palestinian tax revenues to the government of Prime Minster Fayyad. Prime Minister Olmert has also made clear that Israel's future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee -- not in continuing occupation of the West Bank. This is a reality that Prime Minister Sharon recognized, as well. So unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended. At the same time, Israelis should find other practical ways to reduce their footprint without reducing their security -- so they can help President Abbas improve economic and humanitarian conditions. They should be confident that the United States will never abandon its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people.


The international community must rise to the moment, and provide decisive support to responsible Palestinian leaders working for peace. One forum to deliver that support is the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee -- a group chaired by Norway that includes the United States and Japan, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. Today I call for a session of this committee to gather soon, so that the world can back its words in real support for the new Palestinian government.


The world can do more to build the conditions for peace. So I will call together an international meeting this fall of representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. The key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians, and their neighbors in the region. Secretary Rice will chair the meeting. She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state.


Arab states have a pivotal role to play, as well. They should show strong support for President Abbas's government and reject the violent extremism of Hamas. They should use their resources to provide much-needed assistance to the Palestinian people. Nations like Jordan and Egypt, which are natural gateways for Palestinian exports, should open up trade to create opportunities on both sides of the border.


Arab nations should also take an active part in promoting peace negotiations. Re-launching the Arab League initiative was a welcome first step. Now Arab nations should build on this initiative -- by ending the fiction that Israel does not exist, stopping the incitement of hatred in their official media, and sending cabinet-level visitors to Israel. With all these steps, today's Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan.


The conflict in Gaza and the West Bank today is a struggle between extremists and moderates. And these are not the only places where the forces of radicalism and violence threaten freedom and peace. The struggle between extremists and moderates is also playing out in Lebanon -- where Hezbollah and Syria and Iran are trying to destabilize the popularly elected government. The struggle is playing out in Afghanistan -- where the Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to roll back democratic gains. And the struggle is playing out in Iraq -- where al Qaeda, insurgents, and militia are trying to defy the will of nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a free future.


Ceding any of these struggles to extremists would have deadly consequences for the region and the world. So in Gaza and the West Bank and beyond, the international community must stand with the brave men and women who are working for peace.


Recent days have brought a chapter of upheaval and uncertainty in the Middle East. But the story does not have to end that way. After the wave of killing by Hamas last month, a 16-year-old girl in Gaza City told a reporter, "The gunmen want to destroy the culture of our fathers and grandfathers. We will not allow them to do it." She went on, "I'm saying it's enough killing. Enough."


That young woman speaks for millions -- in Gaza, the West Bank, in Israel, in Arab nations, and in every nation. And now the world must answer her call. We must show that in the face of extremism and violence, we stand on the side of tolerance and decency. In the face of chaos and murder, we stand on the side of law and justice. And in the face of terror and cynicism and anger, we stand on the side of peace in the Holy Land.

Thank you.

END 1:26 P.M. EDT

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Bush speech on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: International conference, Support for Abbas

US President Bush delivered a major speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this evening. The speech supposedly initiates a new push for Israeli-Palestinian and regional peace. Some of the main points:
The United states will call an international conference this fall, of all regional states who support a two state solution.
The United States will support the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad with major incentives including $190,000,000 in aid.
The Fayyad government must provide good government and security for the Palestinians, and the soluton must provide security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The United States will push for a two state solution and calls upon Hamas to recognize Israel and foreswear violence and incitement.
Israel must dismantle illegal outposts and freeze settlement activities.
The negotiated solution must be based on borders that provide for a contiguous Palestinian state, and that take into account historical and existing reality.
"The vision of President [Mahmoud] Abbas and Prime Minister [Salam] Fayad is the vision of a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people," he continued. "By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and future and establish a state of their own."
"All responsible nations have the duty to help clarify the way forward by supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayad."
Both PM Olmert and President Abbas welcomed the speech.
Unfortunately, there is abig shortage of responsible nations in the Middle East. The speech is being viewed by skeptics as a "last ditch effort" to salvage the two state vision of the Bush administration, but it reflects a deeper problem. Mr. Bush is caught between Iraq and a hard place. US failure in Iraq, which becomes ever more evident with each daily SNAFU of the Iraqi government and each guerilla attack, successively erodes the ability of the US to influence Middle East states regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace. At the same time, pressure from those same states -- particularly Saudi Arabia, is mounting for a solution to the Palestinian problem, which Bush must deliver in order to get support for continued US intervention in Iraq.
The peace initiative has several fatal weakpoints. Peace cannot be made in the Middle East by ignoring reality. Hamas is reality. They are a big, bad reality. They control the Gaza strip, and a large portion of the Arab Palestinian population. They will certainly not cooperate in this effort, because peace in the Middle East would put them out of business. Their business is genocide. Likewise, the Syrian and Iranian backers of Hamas are not interested in this peace effort or any peace effort, which is why they back Hamas and Islamic Jihad. In particular, they are not interested in the success of an American-backed peace effort, because it is American-backed. The inevitable, unlooked for and unwanted result of this peace effort must therefore be a dramatic escalation in terror attacks, similar to escalations that accompanied all previous peace efforts. It may even help to catalyze the threatened war between Israel and Syria. Unless the United States has a plan for neutralizing the Hamas, Syria and Iran, this peace effort is very likely doomed.
The second major weakness is the Palestinain government headed by Mahmoud Abbas. It is hard to believe that the Fateh organization, which failed to reform itself in all the years of the Oslo process, will suddenly become a force for progress, rectitude and good government. Salem Fayyad has a good reputation, but he is one man. The performance of Fateh security forces in Gaza, where they were routed by tiny Hamas forces, does not suggest that any amount of training is going to turn the Fateh into winners again.
The third weakness is the Olmert government, which shows every sign that it is not interested in peace or war, but rather in staying in power. This government that has been doing everything possible to stay afloat, that has done little to reform the IDF or itself, cannot be expected to take risks for peace.
The fourth weakness is the Bush government and the "quartet." The Bush government forced Israel to allow the PNA to hold those disastrous elections in which Hamas took power, against the provisions of the Oslo accord, and the Bush government and the quartet all but abrogated responsibility for the consequences. Despite all the verbiage about peace and isolation of the Hamas, Qassam rockets continued to rain down incessantly on Sderot, while the quartet and the US and the "international community" did nothing at all. The political consequence in Israel is that "disengagement," "concessions," and "peace," have become dirty words.
Ehud Olmert is well aware that even the smallest act of terror will be ascribed to any further peace moves made by his government. Under obvious pressure, Israel has agreed to release 250 Fateh prisoners, and is allowing absorption of "wanted men" into the Palestinian security forces. We can hope that these moves will gradually catalyze the start of a real peace process, but hoping is not enough. Even if all these ex-terrorists become loyal servants of law and order, and even if the Israeli government makes a good and honest peace offer, there is still the Hamas to be reckoned with in Gaza. The PNA wants to start discussing a final settlement, but the PNA can't really offer anything in return, as they do not control the Gaza strip and the Hamas.
Ami Isseroff

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Continued (Permanent Link)

"Liberal" Anti-Zionism revisited

When Alvin Rosenfeld dared to speak out against critics who deny the right of Israel to exist, the New York Times rushed to the defense of these "Liberals," virtually equating the word "Liberal" with anti-Zionist. Some water has flowed under the dam since then. It is a bit easier to evaluate the "progressive" nature of some of this rhetoric and its originators, who have not been deterred from the anti-Israel fight by the ascent of the Hamas in Gaza, and who support the genocidal Hamas as the "democratically elected government" of the Palestinians. Ynet interviewed Rosenfeld recently. He discusses the controversy below.
Ami Isseroff
Alvin Rosenfeld

Anti-Zionism by 'progressive' Jews

Ynetnews interviews Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, author of controversial article that noted growing trend of rhetoric resembling 'anti-Zionist hate speech employed by the worst anti-Semites' among progressive Jewish academics

Noa Levanon

Were you surprised by the controversy surrounding your article, "'Progressive' Jewish thought and the new anti-Semitism ? What do you think caused it?

The New York Times ran a story about my article entitled "Essay Linking Liberal Jews to Anti-Semitism Sparks a Furor." It was really after this article that the furor began.

The article linked anti-Semitism with "liberal Jews", a term I had not used. That disturbed a lot of people, for perhaps 85 to 90 percent of Jews in America think of themselves as liberals.

Additionally, the AJC was erroneously labeled a "conservative advocacy group," which it is not. So, unfortunately, the article played into the current culture wars in the United States between right and left, liberal and conservative opinion.

In an explanatory article that you wrote for The New Republic, you emphasized the fact that your choice of the word "progressive" was self-chosen by the individuals whose work you examined. Could you define some generalized characteristics of the term, and what distinguishes it from liberalism, in your opinion?

The terms "liberal" and "liberalism" have fallen casualty to the culture wars, so some now use "progressive." In some sense, "progressive" is a more radical version of "liberal." But, in many cases, it's merely an honorific adopted by people who want to be on the "right-thinking side of things".


For some, to be counted as a member of the progressive camp, anti-Zionism is a necessary part of the equation - as well as anti-capitalism, anti-globalization, anti-Americanism, etc. It's part of a whole ideological package.


In many respects, I regard myself as a liberal, especially on domestic US issues such as healthcare and public education. But, when it comes to foreign policy, if being a liberal means being anti-Zionist, I'd quickly count myself out.


Some so-called "progressives" are pro-Israel, but the momentum right now is not with them. Instead, many who see themselves in this camp have become so radical as to routinely accuse Israel of rampant racism, ethnic cleansing, even genocide. They are angry and bitter in their denunciations of Israel.


In their work, we often see an extreme version of rhetorical inflation, which sometimes goes so far as to link Israel with history's worst regimes, such as Nazi Germany or apartheid South Africa. Some of their pronouncements resemble anti-Zionist hate speech employed by the worst anti-Semites.


How do you think the anti-Zionism of some progressive Jews relates to their Jewish identity?


It varies a good deal. For some, being anti-Israel defines their core Jewish identity. They feel the need to negate Israel in order to validate a newly affirmed Diaspora identity, similar to the rejection of the Diaspora in Israel, especially during the nation's early years.


Some of those in the leadership of the British effort for an academic boycott of Israel are Jews, including Israelis or ex-Israelis living in Great Britain. They dislike Israel intensely. Some also claim to be acting in accord with prophetic teachings and what they see as a higher Jewish ideal. They find their Jewish affirmations in opposition to the Jewish state.


Also, you find people who don't want any Jewish connection at all. Many Jewish academics who think of themselves as Marxists, for example, refuse to be associated with religious or national identities, either Judaism or Israel.


Within the political sphere, Marxism is by and large a spent force, but Marxist ideas and loyalties hang on in universities and sometimes express themselves in fierce opposition to or outright rejection of Israel.


Moving from margins to mainstream

In line with these adversarial postures, Prof Rosenfeld alluded to a movement of extreme anti-Zionist thinking into the mainstream, noting that books by some of Israel's foremost Jewish detractors have been picked up by major publishing houses.


One example, which he cited in his original article, was British academic Jacqueline Rose's book, "The Question of Zion", published by Princeton University Press.


"What was disturbing about this," he said, "is that the book is full of egregious factual errors, as well as badly distorted by ideological bias.


"Rose claims Adolf Hitler and Theodore Herzl attended an opera by Wagner on the same night in Paris, which supposedly inspired both of their ideas, although Hitler did not come to Paris until 1940, long after Herzl had died. Rose also calls Israel to task for the 'razing' of Jenin, which never happened.


"The fact that such a book carries the Princeton University stamp may show a troubling movement of radical anti-Zionist ideas from the margins into the mainstream. And Rose's book is hardly alone.


"Norman Finkelstein's most recent tirade against Israel was published by the University of California Press, and Jimmy Carter's best-selling tarring of Israel with the apartheid brush came out with Simon & Schuster.


"These are seriously flawed, deeply tendentious books, but they carry the imprimatur of some of America's most highly respected publishing houses. That's worrisome."


Can any legal recourse be taken, in light of such blatant factual errors?


I've been accused of advocating censorship, even of wanting to bring us back to the age of McCarthyism, but none of that is true.


Here, simply put, is what I believe: biased, erroneous, and irrational criticism must be met by all of the power of lucid argument and rational criticism. Any writer who publishes his or her ideas is subject to the latter.


What I and others are attempting to do is expose the poverty of some of these malicious ideas, including those that unfairly attack Israel and its supporters. But in the realm of public opinion, short of committing outright defamation, I don't think legal recourse can or should be taken.


So, is that the way you believe we should combat the globalization and evolution, as you called it in your article, of anti-Semitism?


Let's separate between anti-Semitic acts and anti-Semitic utterances. The first are illegal, so if one is caught firebombing a synagogue or physically accosting Jews, those people are liable for prosecution.


Anti-Semitic books, articles, and the like are something else altogether, especially in the United States where free speech is constitutionally protected.


If writers really think Israel resembles apartheid South Africa or Nazi Germany, there is no question of throwing the legal book at them. However, those are scurrilous accusations, and they need to be exposed as such.


It's not easy, for we are involved today in a war of ideas, and there are some very bad ideas out there, many of them directed against Israel. It's imperative to combat them with good ideas. We need more people to step forward and show the errors in that kind of thinking.


Intellectually and politically, it's an intense war and will not quickly fade, and there are Jews on both sides. Hearing Israeli voices on the anti-Zionist side is especially troubling. Avraham Burg, for example, can now be cited by Israel's enemies as validating some of their most damning charges.


If a state can validly be compared to Nazi Germany — and Burg apparently makes such comparisons in his new book - its existence should be called into question.


I don't think Israel can be legitimately compared to the Third Reich or apartheid South Africa. But when some Israelis make these analogies, it becomes harder for those of us on the outside to contest them.


There have been parallel rises in violence on the streets and intellectual aggression against Jews. How much are these two trends related? If progressives ceased their verbal attacks on Israel, would you expect there to be less physical violence from anti-Semites?


It's best to look at this matter country by country. Within Europe, the most vociferous anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, on the street, in the public media, and in academia, are found in England and France.


Do I think anti-Semitic violence would disappear in those countries entirely, in the absence of anti-Zionist rhetoric? No.


But anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist utterances help to underwrite or abet anti-Semitic violence. Such hate speech provides a kind of license to street thugs to hit out at Jews, they feel freer to behave aggressively if they know public opinion in the countries in which they reside regularly condemns the Jewish state in the harshest of terms. It makes it easier for them to then target local Jews and Jewish institutions.


So the more we can dampen down rhetorical abuse directed against Jews, the better the chances of containing violence against them.


Alvin Rosenfeld is a professor of English and the director of the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University.


He has authored the books 'Imagining Hitler' and 'Double-Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature', as well as editing several books, including 'Confronting the Holocaust: The Impact of Elie Weisel' and 'Thinking about the Holocaust after half a century'.


Continued (Permanent Link)

History returning home: The tablet with Siloam Inscription may be 'lent' to Jerusalem

Seven hundred years before the common era, according to the Old Testament, the Jewish king Hezekiah had a tunnel built to divert the water supply of Jerusalem. The diversion of the water sources is described in the books of Kings and Chronicles:
2 KINGS 20:20 And the rest of the acts of Hezekiah, and all his might, and how he made a pool, and a conduit, and brought water into the city, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?
2 Chronicles 32:2-4  And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib was come, and that he was purposed to fight against Jerusalem, He took counsel with his princes and his mighty men to stop the waters of the fountains which were without the city: and they did help him. So there was gathered much people together, who stopped all the fountains, and the brook that ran through the midst of the land, saying, Why should the kings of Assyria come, and find much water?
2 Chronicles 32:30 This same Hezekiah also stopped the upper watercourse of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.
 Palestinian Arabs and their apologists, including Nadia al Hajj,  insist that the biblical accounts of Jewish rule in Jerusalem are fabrications.
But Hezekiah's  tunnel exists, and an inscription was found, in ancient Hebrew, at the place where the hewers of stone met, nearly three millennia ago. The inscription, somewhat damaged, states:
 .. the tunnel ... and this is the story [the thing - "dvar"] of the tunnel while ... the axes were against each other and while three cubits [were left] to cut? ...the voice of a man ... called to his fellow, for there was a through-passage ["Zedah"] in the rock, from the right ... and on the day of the tunnel [being finished] the hewers struck [literally "hit"] each man towards his fellow, ax against [literally: "on"] ax, and the water went from the source to the pool for two hundred and a thousand cubits. and one hundred (?) cubits was the height over the head of the stone hewers.
For many years, the incription has been in a museum in Istanbul. According to the office of Jerusalem Mayor Lupolianski, it may  now be 'lent' to the city of Jerusalem:
Following a meeting between mayor Lupolianski and Turkish ambassador to Israel, Mr. Namik Tan, it was agreed to look into the option of lending the tablet with Siloam inscription to the city of Jerusalem.

The 2,700-year-old tablet, which is now presented in the Archeology Museum in Istanbul, holds a great historical and cultural significance to the Jewish people. It contains testimonies from the days of the first temple and describes the construction of the tunnel by king Hezekiah. The tunnel was dug in order to maintain water supply to besieged Jerusalem. The tablet was discovered in 1880 by the British and taken by the Ottoman rulers when they left the region in 1917, after world War 1.

These days there have been indications that Turkey sees Lupolianski's request in a positive light. Therefore, the tablet might be returned to Jerusalem as a gesture of goodwill and as a sign of friendship between the 2

The municipality sees it as a great archeological and cultural achievement.

Throughout the years, attempts have been made in order to bring the tablet back to its natural environment -Jerusalem .However, back then these attempts did not succeed.

The mayor, on his part has, agreed to promote a plan to build a monument to commemorate the Turkish soldiers who died on Israeli land/here during World War one.

Gidi Schmerling,
Municipality's spokesman
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Abolish the Apartheid Genocidal Regime; End the Occupation!

Alan Dershowitz at his best:  End the Occupation! he writes. The occupation is the occupation of Darfur, where native Africans are being pushed out by Arab colonialist settlers, through intimidation, murder and rape. Dershowitz writes:
Arab governments actively support the genocidal Sudanese regime, which thus far has murdered 400,000 civilians and displaced 2.5 million.  Jimmy Carter, who has mendaciously said that what Israel is doing is even worse than genocidal Rwanda and Apartheid South Africa, has said little about Darfur in comparison to his daily tirades against Israel. Carter, the Neville Chamberlain of today's war between tyrannical, terrorist regimes and democracies, calls for "balance" in our approach to genocidal regimes and their victims. The United Nations does little about real genocides because it is preoccupied with Israel's imperfections.
The real victims of this obsessive focus on Israel to the exclusion of major human rights violators are neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians. The real victims are Black Africans and others whose dreadful plights are being ignored or downplayed in the name of some bizarre notion of political correctness.
By any standard of justice, human rights, international law and basic common sense, what the Sudanese government is doing in Darfur is incomparably worse than anything the Israelis have ever been accused of. Indeed, there is absolutely no comparison. Even to mention them in the same condemnatory breath is an obscenity. The relatively small number of Palestinian civilians killed by the Israeli military have been the accidental victims of self-defense action, whereas the Darfur genocide has been deliberate and unprovoked. 
Quite strangely, nobody is doing a thing about it. Louise Arbour, whose UN Human Rights apparatus has issued a stream of condemnations of Israel exclusively, should be made to explain why her office has done nothing about Darfur. Nothing at all! Arbour is trying to disociate herself from the HRC, though it is her responsibility. But she could act independently of the HRC, and so could the UN Secretary General. But they have done nothing. In effect, it is not totally unfair to say that the UN has become the agent of Arab imperialism.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

American Jews: The Pity of it all

In Ha'aretz, Shmuel Rosner   published a very interesting reaction of an anonymous American Jew to the proposition that Israel is the center of Jewish life. To my silly mind, this proposition must be self evident to every person who studies Jewish religion and Jewish culture, and it has been true for 3,000 years. In the farthest reaches of China and Africa, wherever they were, orthodox Jews prayed toward Jerusalem, and vowed, "Next Year in Jerusalem." A millennium ago, a Jewish poet wrote, "My heart is in the East and I am at the ends of the West." The common language of all the Jewish people, East and West, was always Hebrew, the holidays celebrated by Jews were mostly related to the land, and the shared history of the Jewish people always began with the land and ended with return to the land. "The land" has always been only one place for Jews - it is here, in Israel, not in beautiful California, or fabulous Florida or Florence Italy nor even in majestic London or cosmopolitan New York. Jews means "people of Israel." And when, in the 19th century, many Jews stopped being religious, they nonetheless came to realize that they could not be French or Russian or German precisely like their neighbors, but rather that they had something in common with religious Jews: Israel.
This innocent, straightforward proposition meets the fiercest sort of opposition from some Jews. Here is author Aaron Hamburger: "Israel is not a pillar of our religious belief." I wonder what that religious belief could possibly be. If Hamburger is a Hindu or a Muslim, Israel and the relation of the Jews to Israel might not be part of his religious belief. If he is a religious Jew, or belongs to any one of many Protestant denominations, then Israel is necessarily central to his religious belief, even if he is an anti-Zionist who believes that Israel can only be established when the Messiah comes, or a Christian of the replacement theology persuasion who believes that the Church replaced the Jews  in God's promises.
A former American Jewish functionary, Steve Hoffman,  asserted apparently, that he is still not prepared to view Israel as the center of the Jewish people. There are two centers, Israel and the U.S. he claims. Indeed. When Hoffman goes to synagogue, no doubt they pray, "For from America will come forth the Torah, and the word of the LORD from Washington D.C." 
Places like Vilna, Lodz and Satu-Mare were also once "centers" of some of the Jewish people. Most of the Jews of those places, if they didn't leave, became ashes.  In ancient times, there were centers in Iraq too. Some of your sons may be fighting Jihadists in those places now. There are no Jews there, and few Jews remember or know where those places were.  Nobody but fools thought that they could compete in Jewish cultural centrality with Zion and Israel, even when there was nothing here but barchash flies and malaria. No Jews prayed to be "Next Year in Vilna," though perhaps many Israelis wish for next year in Cupertino or Miami.  
One of Rosner's readers, a great philosopher named Jack, who would not give his last name, wrote:
If Israel, god forbid, disappears (and we all know, deep down, that this is not some distant unimaginable possibility) suddenly American Jews will find themselves wandering in empty space. On the other hand, if the center is here, we have nothing to worry about. America is strong and so are we.
"America is strong and so are we," quoth he.  Jews are two percent of the population of the United States. In every generation, anti-Zionists repeat the same shibboleths as though they were original "wisdom."  Here is another quote, which that reader should consider:
We are not immigrants -- we were born here -- and so we cannot claim any other home: either we are Americans or we have no homeland. Whoever disputes my claim to this my American fatherland disputes my right to my own thoughts, my feelings, my language -- the very air I breathe. Therefore, I must defend myself against him as I would against a murderer.
I am sure that reader, Jack, would agree with the above. However, I cheated. I changed the quote a bit. Here is the real quote:
We are not immigrants -- we were born here -- and so we cannot claim any other home: either we are Germans or we have no homeland. Whoever disputes my claim to this my German fatherland disputes my right to my own thoughts, my feelings, my language -- the very air I breathe. Therefore, I must defend myself against him as I would against a murderer. (Gabriel Riesser, German Revolutionary National Assembly, 1849, Quoted in Amos Elon, The Pity of it All)
Jack is so sure of himself. He will no doubt insist that the comparison is absurd. After all, nothing could happen to American Jews. They are strong, as he says. I am sure that all American Jews agree, and I too would not be so brash as to predict a bad end for the Jews of America. After all, the Holocaust happened only once in Germany, and the expulsion from Spain, well that happened only once too. And the pogroms in Russia, they happened a few times. Of course, history does not repeat itself, necessarily. But I would not be so brash as to predict a good end either. We all know that every Jewish Diaspora in history has been threatened at one time or another, and the most brilliant Jewish Diaspora communities, in Spain, in Germany and in Poland, all met with disaster. It is possible that history has suddenly changed its course, and that what was true for 2,000 years is no longer true. The Sun might also fail to rise tomorrow. It is possible. But it is impossible to be certain that the Sun will not rise, and it is tempting fate to believe that Jews are absolutely safe in any Diaspora. Now you are all angry at me, a doctrinaire Zionist and crazy Israeli, for saying these things, I know.
But actually, Mr. Jack is not so sure of himself after all. Perhaps the tiniest sliver of a doubt exists in his mind, for he wrote:
"...Any connection to Israel only weakens us, and causes trouble. "
Really Mr. Jack! What sort of trouble could be caused by a connection to Israel? Don't the Irish march proudly each year in their St. Patrick's day parade? Would Americans have it any other way? Would America be the same America without St Patrick's day? Aren't you as proud to be Jewish as Kennedy is to be Irish? Aren't all Americans supposed to be proud of their roots? Is there, perhaps, something different about Jews? It is impossible? Here's what Mr. Jack says:
Supporting Israel weakens our position in America and opens the door to accusations regarding loyalty etc. So both from our own selfish psychological point of view AND from the point of view of the society around us, it's much better for us to be on our own, without any special connection to Israel.
Such an original thesis! This man's mother must think he is a genius. But I'll tell you what Jack - Ireland was neutral in World War II. I doubt if it entered anyone's mind that Americans of Irish descent were Nazi spies. Irish were fighting Britain, an ally of the United States at one time, and yet the issue of double loyalty never really came up. And don't forget that America fought Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, but there were no pogroms of Italians and Germans - only Japanese. But you don't look Japanese, I bet, so there is no problem.
So why are you worried? Jews are no different from other Americans, isn't that so Jack? Or maybe you don't really believe that.
Jack probably never heard of the anti-Zionist Jew, Edwin Montagu, a member of the British cabinet in 1917, who opposed the Balfour declaration for precisely those reasons.  He was certain that the creation of a national home for the Jews would be an impetus to European anti-Semitism. There was plenty of European anti-Semitism to be sure, but it was not caused by the Balfour declaration.
Jack, nobody is forcing you to be Jewish. If you want to repudiate your heritage, it is your business. It is America after all. But I know that Jack is a Jew. He will remain a Jew. A Jew of the old kind, not the kind we want to create in Israel. This is how I know. He wrote:
Imagine: all the money and hours wasted on Israel by Jewish Americans is suddenly available for Jewish schools, Jewish community centers, Jewish outreach, Jewish renewal, and all the other great project that will make us ? not just Jews but rather Jewish Americans ? stronger and more vital. What a wonderful dream." 
Ah, Now we understand what is bothering you Jack. It is a typical Jewish complaint. As the anti-Semites say:
"Money. All you people ever think about is money."
That is what is bothering you Yankel, your pocket.  In the end, all you are thinking about is money. Keep your money, Mister. You cannot buy your part in what we are building here with your money, if your heart does not go with your money. Keep your money and be damned.
I wonder what American Jews could teach in such schools, devoid of Israel, and what they would do in such community centers,  and how it would be related to Judaism. They could not teach the Tanach (Old Testament) , which is mostly about God's promise of Israel to the Jewish people, and about the fulfillment of that promise, and the history of the Jews in the land of Israel. The whole book is set in the Middle East. America is not mentioned even once as far as anyone knows.
They could not teach the prayers, which vow, "Next Year in Jerusalem." They could not teach Hebrew, the language of the ancient Israelites.  They could not teach about Passover, a holiday not only of release from bondage, but of return to Israel. They could not teach the children to celebrate Hannukah, the holiday that celebrates liberation of Jerusalem. They could not teach about Tu Bishvat, the holiday of Israeli trees and fruits. Forget Tish'a Be'av too - it mourns the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. They would be left with Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah and Purim.   Perhaps they could teach Yiddish and help kids develop a taste for bagels and lox. Would they then be accused of double loyalty to Germany?  How would that education be "vital?" Of what would their Judaism consist?
Ami Isseroff

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas unveils new fanatic mascot

On Hamas Al-Aqsa TV, kids can now enjoy Nahoul the Bee , who replaces Farfour, the Jihadist rodent Mickey Mouse ripoff, as MEMRI tells us: 
Following the "martyrdom" of Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV's Mickey Mouse-like character Farfour at the hands of an Israeli soldier  on the Pioneers of Tomorrow children's show, the show introduced a new character, Nahoul the Bee, who vowed to continue in Farfour's path of "Islam, heroism, martyrdom, and the mujahideen."
The following are excerpts from the Pioneers of Tomorrow show featuring Nahoul the Bee, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on July 13, 2007. (Click to View
Saraa, child host: Who are you, and where did you come from?
Nahoul the Bee: I am Nahoul.
Saraa: Nahoul who?
Nahoul: I'm Nahoul, Farfour's cousin.
Saraa: What do you want?
Nahoul: I want to continue the path of my cousin Farfour.
Saraa: How do you want to do this?
Nahoul: I want to be in every episode with you on the Pioneers of Tomorrow show, just like Farfour. I want to continue in the path of Farfour – the path of Islam, of heroism, of martyrdom, and of the mujahideen. Me and my friends will follow in the footsteps of Farfour. We will take revenge upon the enemies of Allah, the killer of the prophets and of the innocent children, until we liberate Al-Aqsa from their impurity. We place our trust in Allah.
Saraa: Welcome, Nahoul...

"There is no God but Allah. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are the prophets of Allah."
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

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