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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Israel promises to remove checkpoints - maybe

We heard this one before. Israel has promised to remove checkpoints. Unfortunately, since Salam Fayad admitted that Palestinians are not ready to take over security in the West Bank, it is difficult to see how checkpoints can be removed without severe risk.
It is better not to make promises than to break them.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 18:33 11/08/2007    
By News Agencies

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting early this week that he would release in the coming days a list of "major" West Bank roadblocks that will be removed, top Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday.
Erekat said Olmert gave specific assurances to Abbas in the meeting, which took place in the West Bank town of Jericho. "Olmert told Abbas that by next week, the defense minister will submit a whole list of major checkpoints to be removed in the West Bank, to enable the mobility of the Palestinians," Erekat said.
National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer confirmed Defense Minister Ehud Barak is considering a removal of some roadblocks, but suggested there would not be far-reaching changes. "The safety of Israelis takes precedent," he said.

"We are taking the commitment of the prime minister seriously, and we are waiting to see deeds," Erekat said.
Erekat added that the Palestinians have a commitment from Olmert to pursue a meaningful peace process to realize a two-state solution.
Following the talks, Abbas promised Palestinians on Tuesday that their daily lives would soon improve.
"Many issues which affect the Palestinians in their day-to-day lives will be resolved," Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio in his first public comments on his meeting on Monday with Olmert in the West Bank city of Jericho.
Palestinian officials said at the time that they had received assurances from Olmert that Israel would approve as early as next week the removal of some West Bank checkpoints.
Meanwhile, Palestinian police in the West Bank city of Nablus launched an extensive operation Saturday destroying cars they said lacked correct documentation, and were therefore probably stolen from Israel.

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Russion bases in Syria and Syrian security moves

Farid Ghadry thinks Syria is making a mistake giving Russia bases in the Mediterranean. Maybe, Maybe not.
Of special interest. Ghadry thinks that Syria is taking precautions against the day when the US breaks off negotiations with it:
In preparation for that day, RPS received information that Syria's securities services has opted to insure the safety of its knowledge base, accumulated over the years on the movement of its citizenry and the intelligence the regime relies on for its survival, has been triplicated and moved to the cities of Homs and Latakiya for fear that a strike against the Syrian security apparatus in Damascus may strip it of its most potent weapons. To many, these are actions of a regime fearful for its future and not basking in the glory of its survival as some pundits claim.
Or else, it is preparation for a war with Israel.
Ami Isseroff

Faulty Syrian Calculations
Washington DC, August 11, 2007/RPS Opinion - Farid Ghadry/ -- The Russian Navy is attempting to establish a beachhead in the Mediterranean by striking an agreement with Damascus that along the way partially forgives Syria's debt accumulated during the Soviet era in return for a warm water port in Tartous and Latakiya.
Denials by Damascus have accompanied such claims. In reality though, Syria's isolation and its war against Iraqi democracy is costing Damascus billions. Money it can only find either through more revenues or less expenditures and in this case, Russia, in 2005, was willing to write-off $10billion worth of debt in return for Russian naval presence in Tartous and Latakiya.
Besides the money factor, Assad is dousing himself with gasoline by inviting Russia to play, once again, in the politics of the Middle East that are too reminiscent of the Cold War era. With Syria's national security compromised, Assad has taken a direction that may end-up costing him more than the fear he has of American soldiers stationed in Iraq. But do not tell this to a regime whose faulty calculations have resulted so far in four anti-Syrian/pro-Lebanon UN Resolutions, tensions on its borders with Lebanon and Israel, supporting extremists in Iraq, which resulted in tensions inside Syria as the flooding of Iraqi refugees inadvertently caused inflationary pressure on a Syrian population, under normal circumstances, unable to cope with the Ba'athist policies of depriving it from its rights to a reasonable income. All of these problems are due to miscalculations by Assad, who, by inviting Russia, has dug the hole he is in a little too deep.

Russia will undoubtedly deploy sophisticated air defenses around both Syrian cities that could, according to Assad's calculations, use to protect Syria from a certain future when the Iraq theater comes under scrutiny from a US military not too happy to see its assets come under attacks by Syria and Iran. What Assad is not taking into account is the unreliability of Russia as a partner when and if the US comes calling for pay day. The US knows very well what Russian conditions must be met to disengage from protecting Syrian air space or for that matter the whole Syrian regime if necessary. By playing with the big boys in a game where the stakes are a bit too high for a small country like Syria, Assad has sealed his fate by wedging himself between two giants facing each other in his own backyard. Their fight is his to absorb and their disengagement is for his regime to pay the price for.
As long as Assad remains in a defensive posture and reacting to international pressure, Damascus will continue to swallow painful pills until it no longer can sustain immunity of its corrupt system of government. Its use of the Russian naval base is just another ploy to impose its will on a Lebanon too eager to rid itself of the Assad regime and its humiliating security apparatus.

Meanwhile, discussions between the US and Syria on Iraq's security are on-going. Assad is hedging his bets on a complacent US State Department eager to save Iraq but not to give-up on Lebanon. When the discussions freeze at this juncture six months from now as is expected, the US will have to make the hard choices of dealing with Assad once and for all. Assad knows that too well and it explains his Russian naval play, which is his only insurance policy left against the dismantlement of his terror regime. 
In preparation for that day, RPS received information that Syria's securities services has opted to insure the safety of its knowledge base, accumulated over the years on the movement of its citizenry and the intelligence the regime relies on for its survival, has been triplicated and moved to the cities of Homs and Latakiya for fear that a strike against the Syrian security apparatus in Damascus may strip it of its most potent weapons. To many, these are actions of a regime fearful for its future and not basking in the glory of its survival as some pundits claim.

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Bashar Assad Crusade against Farid Ghadry and Reform Party of Syria

"What is Assad scared of?" asks Farid Ghadry of Reform Party Syria  (Web site is in Arabic).
Assad got up a petition against Gadry. The answer, IMO is that paranoid people and totalitarian regimes are always paranoid, and that it is in the nature of secret police regimes and investigative agencies to pursue the important along with the trivial or the unimportant. There is no way of knowing if Ghadry is important based on the fact that he is persecuted.
Remember that during the McCarthy era, the FBI pursued many harmless groups and inviduals, and generally missed actual Soviet spies. Their file on Albert Einstein was a lot bigger than their file on some actual communists and spies.

Ami Isseroff

Washington DC, August 11, 2007/RPS Blog - Farid Ghadry/ -- Once in a while, we get these uncanny signals from Damascus that have no explanation. Such is the case of the latest attacks on RPS by the Assad regime. While RPS has been called by every name possible (traitor seem to be their favorite), the latest came from one corner we did not expect: The Ghadry clan in Syria.

In a scathing attack on RPS, its people, and yours truly, the Ghadrys of Syria have signed a petition (in Arabic) asking Baschar al-Assad to rescind my Syrian citizenship, and to add to the voracity of their attacks, they promised to file several lawsuits against me in Syria and abroad for high treason. All that because I visited Israel last June.

I must admit that the Assad imagination never ceases to amaze us. The problem with that scenario is that I am in touch with my family inside Syria and many support RPS work. Intimidation and vengeance are Assad's trademarks, so it comes as no surprise that Assad intimidated some members of the Ghadry family to sign such a petition in order to make us look weak inside Syria. But its effect will have the exact opposite as it was brought to my attention by a Syrian I never talked to before who told me that Assad must be really scared of RPS. In another call, one RPS member told me that he does not know anymore whether to laugh or to cry when he sees such troubling signals from a regime supposedly leading a country.

Never, not even during the height of our anti-Assad dissident work since 2003, has RPS received so many calls and emails of support to our visit to Israel. One gentleman from Hama called and said the following verbatim: "RPS is known by 70% of the people of Syria and its name is being mentioned constantly and positively by Syrians after your visit to Israel". Since we have no way of gauging the Syrian street except through what people inside Syria tell us, we will accept this assessment and even consider that the latest unprovoked attack by Assad, through pressuring my own family inside Syria, is testimony to what our supporters in Syria have claimed. If RPS does not represent a danger to the regime, Assad would not bother.

So what is Assad scared of? Is he sacred because RPS represents moderate Sunni Muslims in the country yet respects all minorities and all religions? Or is he sacred because its leadership and its supporters are Syrians who have never stolen money from the people of Syria and never been involved in any corrupt act? Or is he scared because RPS never used violence against the people of Syria? Or is he scared because we demonstrated our belief in transparency when we visited Israel openly and not secretly as is the habit of Arab leaders or his own people at the UN who pursue Israeli diplomats to men's toilets to talk to them? Or is he scared because we are supported by a west, tired of seeing Muslims commit self-suicide, because of our message of moderation and peace? Or is he troubled by the success of our trip to Israel and his intelligence services cannot break through the Israelis with their usual messages of extortion? An Israeli high official told me, when I was in Israel, that he has information that Assad was sh***ing in his pants because of RPS visit.

Syrians expect a regime change in Syria to be replaced by a true democratic system of government. They want the freedom to make peace with Israel and the freedom to help their country come out of the dark tunnel Assad has led the whole country into. Syrians want to have good relations with Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, the United States and the EU. Syrians want respectful politicians serving them and be accountable to their needs and future. It is not about the popularity of RPS or Baschar al-Assad attacks on dissidents but it is about the freedom and dignity of the Syrian people, which have been hijacked by a corrupt and violent family running the country as a fiefdom.
Finally, our message to Assad is the following: "Unless this regime breaks its cycle of oppression against Syrians and violence against its neighbors, RPS will always carry the banner of human rights and freedom until this regime falls".

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Surefire political and human rights integrity test

Are you read for this? This is a test that is guaranteed to tell the hypocrites from the real believers in human rights.
Suppose there was the following headline:
Bush government arrests four anti-War Democrats
FBI agents arrested four anti-war Democrats  late Friday in Washington D.C. for "violating the law," according to the government, sparking a protest from relatives of those arrested.

Some 150 woman and children took to the streets, storming the justice department, demanding their relatives be freed. Witnesses said the protesters were beaten with sticks. Ten were evacuated to a local clinic for treatment, medical officials said.

The arrests mark the first time the Bush administration acknowledged it had arrested people because of their anti-war stance. In the past, the Bush administration had claimed to only arrest individuals for specific crimes such as terrorist activity.
What is your opinion of these arrests in Washington? Please write down your answer - no cheating.
1- Justified because of the national emergency.
2- Unjustified, but understandable given the provocations of the opposition.
3- Unjustified infringement on civil liberties.
4 - Outrage that is the result of Zionist machinations and neocon fanaticism.
Now here is the real headline.
Hamas forces arrested four Fatah members late Friday in the northern Gaza Strip for "violating the law," Hamas said, sparking a protest from relatives of those arrested.

Some 150 woman and children took to the streets, storming Hamas headquarters in the town of Beit Hanoun, demanding their relatives be freed. Witnesses said the protesters were beaten with sticks. Ten were evacuated to a local clinic for treatment, medical officials said.

The arrests mark the first time since Hamas's bloody takeover of the Gaza Strip that it acknowledged it had arrested Fatah members because of their affiliation. In the past, Hamas had claimed to only arrest individuals for specific crimes.
What is your opinion of these arrests in Gaza? Please write down your answer - no cheating.
1- Justified because of the national emergency.
2- Unjustified, but understandable given the provocations of the opposition.
3- Unjustified infringement on civil liberties.
4 - Outrage that is the result of Islamist fanaicism and Syrian machinations.
Compare your answers. Are they the same in both cases? Subtract the value of the first answer from the second and square it. Subtract the result from 10.
EG 4-1 = 3; Squared = 9; Subract from 10 = 1
1-3= -2 Squared = 4 Subtract from 10 = 6.
2-3 = -1 Squared = 1 Subtract from 10 = 9.
1-1= 0. Squared = 0; subtract from 10 = 10.
10 - You are perfectly consistent in your views.
  9 - You tend to make "allowances" for one side or the other.
  6-  You probably read Counterpunch or Frontpage magazine.
  1-  Are you a Guantanamo detainee, living in a cave in Afghanistan or a friend of Dick Cheney?
Ami Isseroff

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Another Zionist Crime: Palestinian wounds ten in gun attack

This one is too good to pass up.
Ten people were wounded, three moderately and seven lightly, during a shooting attack Friday morning in Jerusalem's Old City.

The assailant, who has yet to be identified, was shot and killed by a security guard.

The attack took place near the Old City's Ateret Cohanim yeshiva in the Christian Quarter.

The assailant was walking with a friend on Hanotsrim Street near Jaffa Gate, when he attacked a security guard, managing to take his gun. He then shot the guard, moderately wounding him in his shoulder.

The attacker then fled the scene, running down Avtimos Street. Another guard ran after the man, and nine bystanders were wounded, four from ricochets, in the ensuing gunfight. Five people were wounded by the attacker's gunfire, according to Israel Radio.
Everyone can judge the case on its merits. Here is the Palestinian reaction:
Mustafa Al Barghouthi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian national
initiative, condemned the killing, saying "
This incident just confirms the
enormity of Israeli crimes perpetrated against the Palestinians
So you see, the crimes of the Zionists are exposed. When you shoot at Zionists, they shoot back. Jews are not allowed to do that.

Ami Isseroff

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Polls: most Israelis support IDF over settlers

A guide to the perplexed regarding these interesting poll results:
The significance of whatever recommendations will be made by the Winograd committee is indeterminate. They do not have the legally binding power to call for resignation of officials, though several officers have retired following or in anticipation of the release of the interim findings. Amir Peres's political career certainly didn't benefit from the Winograd committee either. Because they lack power of enforcement, the committee decided they don't have to issue warning letters. However, a negative finding against Ehud Olmert and others could raise public pressure for them to resign. Therefore, the committee has been asked to issue warnings, as is done by real national investigative committees.
The issue of rabbi's orders versus IDF orders arose because orthodox right wing soldiers said they would refuse to evacuate settlers from houses they had illegally appropriated in Hebron.
The reforms proposed by the Minister of Justice Daniel Friedmann would in effect neutralize the Israeli Supreme court, since any court decision could be overturned by Knesset legislation, whether or no it met basic law, standards of decency or international law where applicable. The opposition to interviews by former justices of the supreme court is determined by political orientation. A retired judge is a private citizen and should have the right to speak out on any issue.
The budget passed for the next year includes across the board cuts in many areas, but also includes heavy subsidies for non-Zionist ultra-orthodox education.
The name of the program "Another Matter" is "Davar Acher" in Hebrew. It is a pun. "Davar Acher" is a euphemism applied to pork by people who keep kosher.
Ami Isseroff
Polls: 65.8% religious soldiers should only listen to IDF commanders
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 9 August  2007

Telephone poll of a representative sample of adult Israelis (including  Arab Israelis) carried out by  Shvakim Panorama for Israel Radio's "Another Matter" program on 8 August 2007.

Should the Winograd Committee send out warning letters to those who may be hurt by their conclusions?
Total: Yes 59.7% No 21.1% Other 19.2%

Should religious soldiers be allowed to follow the instructions of rabbis in addition to the instructions and orders of army commanders?
Total: Only commanders 65.8% Commander and rabbis 27.1% Other 7.0%
Vote National Union/NRP Only commanders 22.3% Both 77.7%
Among religious: Only commanders 33.3% Both 66.7%

From what you heard and read, is the state budget for 2008 a good or bad budget for the economy of the State of Israel?
Total: Good 12.5% Bad 34.4% So-so 28.5% Other 24.7%
Kadima voters: Good 4.4% Bad 30.8% So-so 44.2% Other 20.6%
Likud voters: Good 25.0% Bad 35.9% So-so 19.8% Other 19.2%
Labor voters: Good 21.3% Bad 47.1% So-so 21.3% Other 10.3%

Do you support or oppose the reform proposed by Minister of Justice Daniel Friedmann relating to the supreme court?
Total: Support 29.9% Oppose 36.1%  Other 34.0%
Kadima voters: Support 51.1% Oppose 34.9% Other 14.0%
Likud voters: Support 44.9% Oppose 25.0% Other 30.1%
Labor voters: Support 17.0% Oppose 47.0% Other 36.0%

Do you think that prime minister Olmert supports or objects to the reforms proposed by Minister of Justice Daniel Friedmann?
Total: Supports 34.1% Opposes 25.5% Other 40.4%
Kadima voters: Supports 50.5% Opposes 33.3% Other 16.2%
Likud voters: Supports 24.3% Opposes 45.6% Other 30.1%
Labor voters: Supports 64.0% Opposes 16.0% Other 16.0%

Is it proper for former supreme court justices to provide media interviews favoring Supreme Court President Beinish?
Total: Improper 51.7% Proper 23.2% Other 25.1%
Kadima votes: Improper 41.2% Proper 51.8% Other 7.0%
Likud voters: Improper 80.2% Proper 5.1% Other 14.7%
Labor voters: Improper 47.8% Proper 47.1% Other 5.1%
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Israel's Iron Dome Missile interception system to be launched in 18 months

Is 18 months from now too late for the next war?
By Yuval Azoulay 
Israel's short-range rocket-based missile interception system will become operational in 18 months, officials at Rafael, the national authority for the development of weapons and military technology, told Haaretz yesterday. A future pullout from the West Bank could be hinged on the system's deployment. Yesterday, Haaretz reported that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is insisting on commissioning an operational Iron Dome system as a prerequisite for an Israeli pullout from the West Bank. Barak is insisting on a dependable means of protection for Israeli settlements from the threat of Palestinian ballistic capabilities, like the Qassam rockets which Gaza militants have been firing at the northern Negev for the past five years.

The Iron Dome system will use the Israel Defense Forces' early warning radar system to identify short-range missiles and rockets in flight. In addition to Qassam rockets, Iron Dome is meant to protect against Hezbollah and Syria's Katyusha rockets. After the launch is confirmed, Iron Dome will locate the speeding rocket through a dedicated radar developed by Elta Systems, a group and subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. Once the system acquires the rocket as a target, it will launch a rocket of its own to intercept the hostile missile mid-flight. The Iron Dome intercepting rocket is designed to travel at a much greater speed than the Qassam's 300 meters per second. Additionally, Iron Dome aims to intercept the hostile rocket at the highest altitude possible, for fear it might carry a chemical or biological warhead. High interception would make contamination less concentrated. The entire target acquiring process is performed in less than one second. And so, the system is designed to launch the intercepting rocket approximately one second after the hostile rocket is detected on radar. The cost of a single Iron Dome launch is $30,000 to $40,000. The system will, however, not launch an intercepting rocket if its calibrations indicate the hostile rocket will land in an open, uninhabited area - thereby dramatically reducing costs. Before going ahead with Rafael's Iron Done, the Defense Ministry reviewed 13 other suggestions. Some of the proposed systems were rejected because their development process would have been too lengthy for the defense establishment's needs. Others, like the Israel Military Industries (IMI) Magic Shield proposal, were abandoned because of cost efficiency considerations. 
"The Defense establishment would not afford us the funds required for developing our systems," a senior Israel Military Industries (IMI) official said. The official noted that the IMI's proposed system would have been more expensive to operate than Rafael's Iron Dome.

Meanwhile, the government is considering resuming funding for the advanced laser-based Skyguard missile protection system (Nautilus). Defense establishment officials said that if the system were approved, it too could be operational in 18 months.

The Nautilus project was dropped about a year and a half ago, despite several successful tests and despite repeated rocket attacks from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, but Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has been enlisted to spearhead the effort to resurrect Nautilus by a strong lobby group, including former defense ministry officials.

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OOPS! PNA used money transferred from Israel to pay Hamas by accident

 Was this a mistake? We hope so. The "operational force" that got paid is the Hamas Executive Force.
By Avi Issacharoff 
Despite Israel's objection, the Palestinian Authority's Finance Ministry has recently paid several Hamas operatives' salaries with money Israel transferred to the PA, Palestinian media sources revealed yesterday.

A senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency that 3,500 members of its "operational force" had recently received salaries from June 2006 to June 2007. 
The official, Sabr Khalifa, added that the figure of salary recipients constituted half of the entire force.

The Palestinian Finance Ministry, however, at some point ordered the Bank of Palestine, where the bank deposited the money for the salaries, to withdraw the funds from some of the recipients' accounts. Some Hamas operatives who heard of the payment and arrived to withdraw the money, discovered the salaries had already been withdrawn by the Finance Ministry.

Following Hamas' violent seizure of power in the Gaza Strip last June, Israel transferred Palestinian tax money to the PA to allow PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to pay the public sector its withheld wages. Israel conditioned the move on an explicit stipulation that the money not be paid to Hamas operatives.

Abbas yesterday reiterated his refusal to engage in dialogue with Hamas. In his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubabrak in Alexandria, Abbas termed Hamas' June putsch "detrimental to the formation of a Palestinian state."

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Israel boycott Solidarity: US University Heads protest British Boycott in N.Y Times

Boycott solidarity. We need a lot more of this, don't we?
300 U.S. university heads slam British boycott in NY Times

By Tamara Traubmann

Three hundred U.S. college and university heads signed a petition denouncing the call by Britain's University and College Union to consider a boycott of Israeli educational institutions in May. The UCU move has been criticized by faculty members throughout the world as well as British government institutions.

The New York Times yesterday ran a full-page paid advertisement against the boycott, signed by some 300 college and university presidents. "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!" the ad declared.

The signatories include presidents of leading U.S. universities, including Princeton, Northwestern and MIT. The ad was paid for by the American Jewish Committee.

The signatories were endorsing a statement that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger issued shortly after the UCU resolution was passed:

"As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain's new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

"At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate - as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government's policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.

"Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education."


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Bibles contraband in Saudi Arabia

If you go to Saudi Arabia, don't bring any Christian or Jewish religious symbols. It's a good thing Muslims believe in circumcision. Anyhow remember the Saudi ban on bibles next time someone insists on wearing a hijab to school or work.
The problem with the Hijab wearers is that if they ever get the power, they will ban the bibles and crucifixes and the Jewish stars. Are they really insisting on wearing the Hijab as a matter of freedom of conscience? Do they support freedom of conscience for others? Is the hijab a symbol of religion or a symbol of religious coercion?  
Ami Isseroff
Saudis might take Bibles from tourists
Michael Freund, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 8, 2007

Despite a series of initiatives aimed at generating foreign tourism, the Saudi Arabian government continues to bar Jews and Christians from bringing items such as Bibles, crucifixes and Stars of David into the country and is threatening to confiscate them on sight, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

"A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations," declares the Web site of Saudi Arabian Airlines, the country's national carrier.

After informing would-be visitors that items such as narcotics, firearms and pornography may not be transported into the country, the Web site adds: "Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others."

Contacted by the Post, an employee of Saudi Arabian Airlines in New York, who would only give her name as Gladys, confirmed this rule was in force. "Yes, sir," she said, "that is what we have heard, that it is a problem to bring these things into Saudi Arabia, so you cannot do it."

An official at the Saudi Consulate in New York, who declined to give her name, told the Post that anyone bringing a Bible into the country or wearing a crucifix or Star of David around their neck would run into trouble with Saudi authorities.

"You are not allowed to bring that stuff into the kingdom," the consular official said. "If you do, they will take it away," she warned, adding, "If it is really important to you, then you can try to bring it and just see what happens, but I don't recommend that you do so."

Asked to explain the policy, the official said, "Every country has rules about what can or cannot enter."

Over the summer, the Saudi government-run Supreme Commission for Tourism announced a number of steps, such as issuing group visas to foreigners through tour operators and granting longer entry visas, in the hopes of boosting the number of foreign tourists to 1.5 million annually by 2020.

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Collapse of Heftzibah contractor victimizes many - was it due to the occupation or to Peace Now?

In Israel, occupation or no occupation, construction contractors occasionally go bankrupt. When they do, prospective homeowners who had paid substantial sums for unfinished apartments usually suffer. This was the fate of the Clarin company many years ago, and of some others. After the Clarin fiasco, there were supposedly safeguards put in place so that people would be protected if a contractor went bankrupt.
The Heftzibah company went bankrupt recently. Heftzibah was building housing and apartments in many locations, including Kfar Yona, inside Israel, as well as in Modiin Elit and the Har Homa project in Jerusalem, both beyond the green line.
Yariv Oppenheimer   of Peace Now seems to believe that the bankruptcy of Heftzibah is punishment "from on high" for building in the West Bank. But what about the people who bought apartments or houses that are inside Israel?
On the other hand, it is not clear if the dispute regarding the Matityahu-East neighborhood was really the cause of the collapse of Heftzibah, or whether it is just a convenient excuse.
Ami Isseroff

August 07 2007; 01:08PM
Building Bridges: Peace Now caused Heftsiba's downfall?!
Posted by Yariv Oppenheimer  

"The cause of the real crisis is the struggle of Peace Now against us with the support of the courts. Hundreds of completed apartments will not be handed over due to the argument that the land they were built on was purchased illegally." This is how businessman Mordechai Yonah, president of the Heftsiba Group, justified the reasons for the collapse of the company.

It is difficult to know if in fact this collapse was a consequence of the alleged illegal construction Heftsiba conducted in the settlement of Modi'in-Ilit, however, there is no doubt that the heavy price is being paid by thousands of innocent people who have been left with no money and no place to live.
As part of the socio-political stance that beyond the Green Line there is no one to answer to, the Heftsiba Group and other real estate companies started building the Matityahu-East neighborhood in Modi'in-Ilit, in 2004.
The construction project took a questionable path when the state publicly announced that part of the lands of Kfar Bili'in were now state-owned and gave permission to build settlements there. The construction companies and the Modi'in-Ilit Regional Council cooperated and worked on this ambitious project without allowing the actual landowners to appeal the decision. All the approvals and permits needed were obtained hastily and in secret in order to avoid any meaningful objections or discussions on the land ownership.
Furthermore, even the initial project approval for the construction of hundreds of apartments from the Higher Planning Committee, was allegedly obtained outside the bounds of the regional council's jurisdiction and hence was illegal and with no authorization. These alleged violations were committed in order to allow the Heftsiba Group and other construction companies to broaden their projects in the area and instead of building 1,500 apartments, Hefstiba started building and marketing 3,000 apartments, double the amount of the approved plans. The situation was described perfectly well by Gilad Rogel, legal advisor to the Modi'in-Ilit Regional Council, when he said to the council's engineer: "At this very moment, serious construction and planning offenses of colossal proportions are being committed."

After petitions were filed, the High Court of Justice received the complaints of Kfar Bili'in citizens and the Peace Now movement and issued an order to halt all activities related to the project.
We can assume that no company including Heftsiba would have employed such tactics and tricks and allegedly built thousands of apartments illegally, were the project undertaken within Israel's borders. But where territories of the West Bank are concerned, laws are breached, law enforcement is almost non-existent and there seems to be no difficulty in exploiting the Palestinians' weakness to steal their private lands.
In the case of the Matityahu-East neighborhood of Modi'in-Ilit, we are not talking about occupation in the ideological sense or a moral struggle related to Israel's rights on its lands. In this case, we are dealing with a 'commercial occupation' designed to take advantage of the reality on the ground for economic gains. It is at the expense of the Palestinians and it is illegal. The price of this wanton behavior is being paid by hundreds of families who bought these apartments at the hands of the ambitious property agents of Heftsiba, allegedly without the knowledge that this project was built without the proper permits and on private Palestinian lands.

It comes as no surprise that a company like Heftsiba, which did not hesitate to allegedly break the law and cheat the residents of Kfar Bili'in, would cheat its own clients who were left with nothing at the end of the day.

The issue of the Matityahu-East neighborhood in Modi'in-Ilit should serve as a warning to any political or commercial body that seeks to treat the territories as his own, and to ignore the law. Right now, we can only hope that the criminal investigation opened in this case will bring those responsible for this outrageous behavior to justice and that legal proceedings against those involved in the event will be fruitful. Their reckless and vulgar behavior has affected hundreds of innocent families who bought apartments in Matityahu-East and they should be held accountable.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Intifadeh in NYC?

Hey boys and girls - guess what's coming to your town? Be the first on your block to own an Intifada NYC shirt, and matching Jihad vest.

Intifada and Jihad - coming soon in a city near you.

Whose great idea for interfaith relations was this?

Ami Isseroff





New York Post
August 6, 2007
FUROR: The pro-violence shirt (above) is being
defended by Principal Debbie Almontaser.
August 6, 2007 -- Activists with ties to the principal of the city's controversial new Arabic-themed school are hawking T- shirts that glorify Palestinian terror, The Post has learned.

The inflammatory tees boldly declare "Intifada NYC" - apparently a call for a Gaza-style uprising in the Big Apple.

The organization selling the shirts, Arab Women Active in Art and Media, shares office space on Brooklyn's Third Avenue with the Saba Association of American Yemenis.

Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser, principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy - which is scheduled to open in Brooklyn next month - is a board member and spokeswoman for Saba.

Members of AWAAM refused to comment.

But Almontaser downplayed the significance of the T-shirts.

"The word [intifada] basically means 'shaking off.' That is the root word if you look it up in Arabic," she said.

"I understand it is developing a negative connotation due to the uprising in the Palestinian-Israeli areas. I don't believe the intention is to have any of that kind of [violence] in New York City.

"I think it's pretty much an opportunity for girls to express that they are part of New York City society . . . and shaking off oppression."

AWAAM's co-founders, Rama Kased and Mona Eldahry, are also active in the more militant pro-Palestinian group, al-Awda, whose main U.S. office is in California.

That organization, according to the Anti-Defamation League, is an active supporter of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

"The T-shirt is a reflection of a movement that increasingly lauds violence against Israelis instead of rejecting it. That is disturbing," said Oren Segal, a spokesman for the ADL.

Almontaser, a community activist and Muslim, has said the new grade 6-12 public school will be modeled on other dual-language city schools and have no religious component.

But the shirt sales are giving new ammunition to critics who fear Almontaser's school will teach a biased view of Middle Eastern history.

"Intifada is a war. Isn't that what Arafat had?" said Pamela Hall, a Manhattan mom opposed to the academy on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state.

A Department of Education spokeswoman defended Almontaser, saying her link to the T-shirt was tenuous.




NYC Officials Accused of Withholding Information on Arab School
By Fred Lucas Staff Writer
August 06, 2007

( - New York City officials have not been open or candid, critics say, about a controversial public school set to open in Brooklyn next month that will teach Arab language and culture -- the Khalil Gibran International Academy.

A local group, Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition, fears the school will become a Muslim-oriented school that promotes a religious and political agenda to its incoming sixth-grade class.

Administrators have claimed otherwise, but the coalition has received few details about the school's curriculum, faculty, textbooks and students, so its questions are still unanswered.

The suspicions are fueled by
comments made by the school's incoming principal, Debbie Almontaser, as well as by some of her allegedly radical Islamist associations.

She has said, for instance, that U.S. foreign policy is "racist" and that the U.S. "triggered" terrorism by not being a fair mediator in the Middle East.

Further, the advisory board for the school includes three imams (Islamic leaders), as well as Christian and Jewish clergy.

"What's to hide? We know what we see," said Pamela Hall, a New York resident and a spokeswoman for the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition. (A madrassa is a Muslim school). "We see a religious advisory board and a principal with a track record in radical Islam," Hall said.

The group filed a Freedom of Information Act
request with city and state agencies last month for more information on the school.

The school is not religious and will be shut down if it becomes religious, said Joe Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, in several news accounts.

"It would be against the Constitution for a public school to teach a religion," Melody Meyer, spokeswoman for the city's Department of Education told Cybercast News Service. "Religion will not be affecting the curriculum."

Even though New York City has Greek, Chinese, and Russian public schools to teach distinct cultures, those cultures aren't as intertwined with a single faith as are Arabs and Islam, said John Matthies, assistant director of Islamist Watch, which has monitored the situation.

He also expressed concerns about the advisory board for the school.

"I don't know why all these religions are on the board. It's evenly divided among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, seemingly to allay concerns," Matthies told Cybercast News Service.

Yet the make-up of the advisory board "absolutely" did not have anything to do with religion, said Meyer.

"The board was chosen because they are people who could speak to the hearts and minds of the community," she said. "They were chosen based on their ability to communicate."

Meyer added that the curriculum and textbooks would be the same as those of other New York City schools.

Meanwhile, the Arab-American Family Support Center, which initially
organized the school, said on its website that the school would include Arabic as a second language and college prep courses in common subjects such as science, math and social studies.

Hall, who described the Stop the Madrassa Community Coalition as a "broad spectrum" of about 50 parents, teachers and other New York City residents, said citizens want to know how the school will be monitored by the city.

They want to ensure it isn't influenced by politics or religion, and the lack of transparency from New York City officials hasn't boosted their confidence.

Hall wants more information on how history will be taught. She further noted that some English-language textbooks have been published that teach the radical Islamist perspective of history.

Meyer said there would be no point of view in history classes: "We have rigorous accountability on public schools that measures student performance and a grade for each school. We have feedback from students and parents should any concern come up. Schools do not operate in isolation."

It was in March, this year, when New York City Department of Education officials announced the establishment of the academy, named for Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese Christian poet.

The school faced near-immediate controversy when parents and teachers at the original site of the school - inside an existing Brooklyn public school - objected to its location. Officials then chose to move the school's proposed location in June to occupy space in another school in Brooklyn and agreeing to invest in construction at the school.

The school will host grades 6-12, but it will include only a sixth grade class the first year and then expand each year as students are promoted. The academy will enroll 60 students at a cost of more than $12,000 per pupil and about five faculty members - all certified teachers, Meyer said.

Some of the contention about the Academy surrounds Almontaser's past
political comments such as, "Fundamentalist Muslims were blamed for the terror attacks ... I have realized that our foreign policy is racist; in the 'war against terror' people of color are the target."

She has also said, "terrorist attacks have been triggered by the way the USA breaks its promises with countries across the world, especially in the Middle East, and the fact that it has not been a fair mediator with its foreign policy."

Almontaser was also given an award by the controversial Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), an organization that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others in Congress have accused of having ties to terrorism.

"In this situation, they are giving a green light to an inexperienced principal who has ties to an Islamic organization," said Hall.

Others contend that Almontaser has reached out to all communities.

"Through joint coalition work in Brooklyn against hate crimes, she has demonstrated her support for the civil liberties of all people," Joel J. Levy of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish anti-discrimination group, said in a
letter last May to The New York Sun.

"She is deeply committed to creating an inclusive learning environment that embraces the unparalleled diversity of New York City," Levy said.

Opponents concede the school will open after Labor Day as planned. But the protests will continue, and the school will be closely watched, said Hall.

"When the school meets, we're not just going to say, 'oh, we lost' and walk away," Hall said. "This is the tip of the iceberg. When the school opens, it will be a harder fight."





Principal designate of Khalil Gibran school aims to indocrinate not educate -Dhabah Almontaser's Islamism in video expose'

July 31, 2007

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at

Principal Of Khalil Gibran International Academy, Dhabah Almontaser Slammed In Expose

By William Mayer and Beila Rabinowitz

July 30, 2007 - San Francisco, CA - - A five minute video [Access Video Here] just released casts grave doubt as to the suitability of Dhabah Almontaser to serve as the principal at the embattled Khalil Gibran International Academy, a proposed Arab-centric public school scheduled to open in September.

The charges directed against Almontaser go to the heart of the debate over the school, which has parents, national security researchers, Middle East experts and advocates of church-state separation uniting in their opposition to the school's opening in Brooklyn.

Almontaser has served in the New York's Department of Education since 911 doing what is essentially dawa work, wearing a hijab so she can act as a "role model for young women throughout the city"- seemingly a clear case of the type of religious proselytizing which is expressly denied in the First Amendment's "establishment clause" - while denying in classroom settings that the September 11 attackers were either Muslim or Arab.

"I don't recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims." - Dhabah Almontaser [source]

Almontaser's public school work mandate to spread what is clearly Islamist revisionism has been granted by New York's multicultural educrats because of the undocumented canard - loudly spread by faux Muslim civil rights groups - that there has been huge increase in anti-Muslim hostility since the September attacks.

The proposal to create a public school pushing an Arabist agenda and carrying out much of its instruction in Arabic highlights the absurdity of rewarding a noisy minority group well versed in using the system against itself, in this case to cravenly recycle the 911 attacks, using them once again against the society which has already been forced to endure them.

This is a calculated logic of rejecting assimilation while imposing elements of Sharia incrementally. It is dialectic in which every instance of Islamic terror can then be used to assert charges of Islamophobia.

In a July 30 article published in USA Today dealing with the encroachment of Sharia - Islamic law - into the public school system, Dr. Daniel Pipes, the director of the Middle East Forum stated:

"The goal of Islamists is the application of Islamic law."

Agreeing with Pipes in this piece was Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center who said:

"What (school officials) are to give Muslim students religious benefits that they do not give any other religion right now." [source]

The degree to which the Islamists are willing to bend reality in furtherance of their goals is demonstrated by Almontaser who has not only denied that the 911 attackers - 15 of whom were Saudis - were either Muslim or Arab, but has asserted that the United States was itself responsible for the September 11 attacks.

In an interview with Amnesty International she stated, "I believe that the terrorist attacks can have been triggered by the way the USA breaks its promises with countries across the world, especially in the Middle East"

Though increased facility with the Arabic language is posited as a laudable reason for supporting KGIA's language program, in that same interview Ms. Almontaser states her opposition to the use of Arabic speaking undercover agents in stopping domestic terrorism plots, saying "a little while ago the FBI infiltrated our community, people speaking Arabic were spying on us, that has lead to new detentions."

Given this predisposition it seems a reasonable proposition to assume that the true goal of people like Ms. Almontaser is to teach Arabic only for its likely use in promoting greater reverence for the Quran.

Underlining Almontaser's non-support of employing Arab speakers in a national security capacity - an area in which there is a real need - she decried the prosecution and conviction of domestic terrorist Shahawar Matin Siraj in a plot to bomb the 34th Street Subway station in New York, allying herself with the prevailing sentiment within Brooklyn's Bay Ridge Muslim community that Siraj was entrapped, a victim of undercover agents speaking Arabic – a process which she characterized as "reeking of FBI tactics."

The new video points to Almontaser wide range of troubling associations, her activity in Islamist organizations and working relationships with people who have ties to terrorism, such as Linda Sarsour, her partner in the Dialogue Project.

Sarsour's association with Almontaser provides an alarming insight into the forces that will drive KGIA if the school becomes a reality in September and poses a serious challenge to those who blindly maintain that KGIA is just another New York City public school, because Linda Sarsour is tied to the terrorist organization Hamas as well as other radical causes. Deepening the concern, the community from which Sarsour operates shares her views as well as her support for Islamism.

In a 2004 piece by Sarmad S. Ali, "Kerry Drew Disenchanted Arabs in Bay Ridge" published in the Columbia Journalism Review, Linda Sarsour matter-of-factly documents her family's ties to Hamas as depicted in the Arab language terrorist newspaper that she is reading while being interviewed:

"As the presidential election grew near, Linda Sarsour sat in her small office at the Arab-American Association in , Brooklyn, looking at the photos of two thickly bearded young Arabs on the front page of an Arabic-language newspaper.

The paper carried fervent slogans calling on young people to become martyrs in the conflict with Israel.

Sarsour, a 24-year-old Palestinian-American, sighed. One of the men, she said, was a cousin who has been in Israeli jails for 25 years. The other man, she said, was a family friend serving a 99-year prison sentence in Israel. Her brother-in-law, she said, is also serving a 12-year sentence, accused of being an activist in the Hamas, the religious militant group, though, she said, he was secular in his beliefs."[source]

She continued, as if the deportation proceedings against her Palestinian husband whose brother was a jailed Hamas member had no wider implications.

"Despite those concerns, she said, she was more worried these days about her own future in America, She said she had been questioned by U.S. authorities, and her Palestinian husband, after seven years in America, faced deportation proceedings…"

The Arab American Family Support Center [AAFSC] is the main partnering organization of the KGIA and is run by Islamist Lena Alhusseini a self proclaimed "Palestinian" who has lived in Saudi Arabia. Among her professional associates are Johari Abdul Malik the outreach coordinator of Dar Al Hijrah mosqe in Virginia called "the most dangerous mosque in America" by investigative journalist Paul Sperry.

Another affiliate of KGIA and AAFSC is Sayid Sayeed the former president of the Wahhabist funded Islamic Society of North America [ISNA].

ISNA was recently named as an unidicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas funding terror prosecution. Three AAFSC board members Assad Jebbara, Samar Khalaf and Christine Moore Vassalos are active members of the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. The ADC is funded by Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal whose contribution to the 9/11 victims fund was rejected by then New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after Talal blamed the September 11 attacks on the United States' policy in the Middle East, especially its support of Israel.

Almontaser has been recognized and rewarded for her activism by what is perhaps the lead Islamist group in the United States. At a 2005 fundraiser, Ms. Dhabah Almontaser was honored and given an award by the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR].

CAIR is a Saudi-funded Hamas front group which was, along with ISNA, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror fundraising prosecution which is currently underway in Texas. Her co-awardee at this event was Ghazi Khankan, the former director of CAIR New York who once during a political rally shouted to the crowd, "I bring you salaams and greetings from the Mujahideen of CAIR."

Everything about Dhabah Almontaser suggests that as head of the Khalil Gibran International Academy she will use that institution to promote an extremist ideology.

Under her leadership students will be taught a revisionist version of history which minimizes or denies the contributions of Western thought and the foundational position within it of Judeo/Christian ethics and replaces it with the view that Arabs and Islam have been the primary movers of cultural and scientific innovation.

With Almontaser at the helm, students at KGIA will be inculcated into a culture of victimhood and suspicion that will serve to further alienate them from the larger surrounding society, possibly making them susceptible to the calls to terrorist violence that already exist in this community, as demonstrated by the numerous and successful federal terror prosecutions which have taken place there involving local residents and mosques.

We therefore call upon New York education chancellor Joel Klein to, as a first step in dealing with the rising public concern over KGIA, immediately remove Ms. Almontaser as its principal.

Her extremist views and troubling associations make her unfit for such a position of leadership.

Continued (Permanent Link)

No Palestinian state - yet

Another Ha'aretz canard seems to have bitten the dust. Haaretz had published a report about a supposed plan for a Palestinian state, which would get "100%" of the area of the territory conquered by Israel in 1967 through land swaps, including swapping of towns of Israeli Arabs.
For better or for worse, it is apparently not true:
PM, Peres deny report of 'Palestinian state plan'

JPost staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 7, 2007

The offices of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres vigorously denied a report in Tuesday's left-leaning Ha'aretz newspaper alleging that they crafted a plan to establish a Palestinian state on the equivalent of 100 percent of the land in the West Bank.

"We are not aware of any such plan described in the article," Olmert's office said in the most strongly worded denial the office has ever issued. "It is not being considered or discussed. We are amazed by the false report, which was published without asking for a response or checking whether it was true."According to the plan, Israel would maintain settlement blocs totaling 5% of the West Bank and compensate the Palestinians with land inside pre-1967 Israel from blocs of Arab communities, with the residents' acquiescence. The paper said Peres presented the plan to Olmert after he became president.

Olmert said at a Kadima event two weeks ago that he would welcome Peres's involvement in diplomatic issues, but Peres's associates said the plan published fits more with the ideology of Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

A similar plan is the diplomatic platform of Lieberman's Israel Beiteinu party. But even he distanced himself from the report in a statement released Tuesday.

"I welcome the acceptance of my idea of population exchanges, because there is no other solution," Lieberman said. "The solution must include all of the settlement blocs and leave Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty. But there is no sense in talking about a Palestinian state until the PA proves itself capable of overcoming terror in Judea and Samaria."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Another Gaza Al-Qaeda group: Jaish al-Umma (Army of the Nation)

Jerusalem Issue Brief
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
with the Wechsler Family Foundation
Vol. 7, No. 12   7 August 2007

"The Army of the Nation" - Another
Al-Qaeda Affiliate in the Gaza Strip
Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi
The declared policy of Hamas to provide sanctuary to any jihadi fighter invites additional terrorist groups associated with al-Qaeda to plant themselves in the Gaza Strip.
According to Dr. Zakaria Zain al-Din, chairman of Hamas' largest charity organization, the extremist views of al-Qaeda are spreading among the senior leadership of Hamas. Expressions of this were evident in the adoption of the radical world view of al-Qaeda that accuses other Muslims of being "infidels" and permits their being killed. Radical religious rulings permitted the killing of Fatah operatives.
Abu Ashur, the right-hand man of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) leader Mumtaz Durmush, confessed that their organization received funds and instructions from al-Qaeda outside of the Gaza Strip. Jaish al-Islam was responsible for the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in March 2007. Leading the cell that abducted Johnston was Khattab al-Maqdasi, a Palestinian who in the past had fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A video clip by another group, Jaish al-Umma (Army of the Nation), is dedicated to the Shiite and Iranian threat to Palestinian society; it argues that Iran has converted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) into a Shiite branch through which it intends to advance the spread of Shiism.
Hamas is trying to improve its image in the eyes of the West, arguing that it is succeeding in restoring public order in Gaza. In the West - and even in Israel - there are voices calling for a dialogue with Hamas. Providing legitimacy to Hamas as an acceptable political partner - without any preconditions regarding its renunciation of terrorism - is essentially a "green light" to Hamas to continue to provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda affiliates in Gaza.
Al-Qaeda Is Next Door
The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has already warned of the buildup of the al-Qaeda organization under the sponsorship of the Hamas movement, which seized power in the Gaza Strip in a military coup in June 2007. In a July 9, 2007, interview on Italy's RAI TV, Abbas stated: "Thanks to the support of Hamas, al-Qaeda is entering Gaza. It is Hamas that is protecting al-Qaeda, and through its bloody behavior Hamas has become very close to al-Qaeda. That is why Gaza is in danger and needs help."1
Senior Hamas officials repeatedly deny reports that al-Qaeda has built up a presence in the Gaza Strip. Despite the official denials, the heads of Hamas are concerned with al-Qaeda's penetration of Gaza and the influence of its world view on their organization and its activists. The seriousness with which Hamas views the situation may be seen from a seminar held by Hamas on March 30, 2007. Dr. Zakaria Zain al-Din, chairman of al-Mujma' al-Islami (Hamas' largest charity organization), who summarized the discussions in a document on the website of the Muslim Brotherhood, stressed that the extremist views of al-Qaeda are spreading among the senior leadership of Hamas. He added that expressions of this were evident in t he publication of radical religious rulings permitting the killing of Fatah operatives, the opposition of Hamas members to "balanced" positions taken by the Hamas movement, and the adoption of the radical world view of al-Qaeda that accuses other Muslims of being "infidels" and permits their being killed.2
The Army of Islam
As Abbas pointed out and as seen in the Hamas document, al-Qaeda is indeed present in the Gaza Strip and is establishing itself there. One of its affiliates carries the name Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam). It was established chiefly by splinter groups from the Popular Resistance Committees and from Hamas, and sought connections with al-Qaeda. In an interview with the Ilaf website on July 17, 2007, Abu Ashur, the right-hand man of Jaish al-Islam leader Mumtaz Durmush, confessed that their organization received funds and instructions from al-Qaeda outside of the Gaza Strip. He added that when they were formed, they were reinforced by "the Afghans" - Arabs who had combat experience in Afghanistan.< /SPAN>
Jaish al-Islam cooperated with Hamas in a number of terrorist attacks, the most notable of which was the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit (June 2006). Jaish al-Islam, alone, was responsible for the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston (March 2007). Leading the cell that abducted Johnston was Khattab al-Maqdasi, a Palestinian who in the past had fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.3 Hamas, as the governing body in the Gaza Strip, pressured Jaish al-Islam to let Johnston go by means of an agreement which recognized it as a legitimate organization in the Palestinian system and by the supply of funds and ammunition from Hamas. The buildup of Jaish al-Islam and its tie s to al-Qaeda have been detailed in a previous analysis ("The Growing Al-Qaeda Presence in the Hamas-Controlled Gaza Strip" - May 2007).4
The Army of the Nation
The declared policy of Hamas to provide sanctuary to any jihadi fighter invites additional terrorist groups associated with al-Qaeda to plant themselves in the Gaza Strip.5 In July, a video clip appeared on websites identifying with al-Qaeda that documented military exercises by a new group, Jaish al-Umma (the Army of the Nation), which was presented as yet another al-Qaeda branch. In the video clip at least twenty-one operatives can be identified, dressed in black with their faces covered. They are exercising in sandy Gaza terrain, apparently in the area of the Israeli settlements that were withdrawn in August 2005 in the context of the Gaza disengagement.
The maneuvers included marching in formation, crawling under barbed wire, jumping through flames, sniper fire, and use of rocket-propelled grenades (RPG). The area where this transpired appeared to be a regular training facility and the performance of the al-Qaeda recruits was high. The exercises were conducted in broad daylight and it does not seem that there was any effort to hide these activities from Hamas. The leader of the group, whose face was covered, wore civilian clothing and a hat resembling the head covering of the late leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which has become a symbol in Gaza for identifying with al-Qaeda.6
In the video clip, Jaish al-Umma launches three rockets in the direction of Israel that are similar to the Kassam rocket but are labeled "al-Qaeda-2." Another video of Jaish al-Umma is dedicated to the Shiite and Iranian threat to Palestinian society; it argues that Iran has converted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) into a Shiite branch through which it intends to advance the spread of Shiism.
A senior PIJ leader, Abdullah al-Shami, is singled out as a Shiite leader along with Hisham Salem, Omar Shalah, Dr. Abdul Aziz Oudeh, Nafiz Azzam, and Muhammad al-Bayoumi. The video also identifies PIJ charities as instruments for the spread of Shiism. The announcer warns the Palestinian people of the danger of Shiism and reminds viewers that the first connection between Iran and Hizbullah, on the one hand, and PIJ, on the other hand, transpired in 1992 when Israel deported its leadership to Lebanon. He explained that PIJ Shiite activism became more open during the Second Intifada when the organization could exploit the chaos in the Palestinian Authority.
On the official website of Jaish al-Umma (, its ideology and objectives are as follows:
Jaish al-Umma is part of the Islamic trend seeking to enforce Islamic rule over the world and liberate the land of Palestine.
Jihad is the means for awakening the Islamic nation and to free the holy sites.
Renewal of jihad is necessary for countering the "Western Crusader Plan."
The Islamic nation is one people which must be unified without divisions, nations, or ethnic groups.
Apply Shariah (Islamic Law) and reestablish the caliphate.
Palestine is the most important Islamic issue and Palestinian jihad fighters are the cutting edge of the jihadist plan to liberate the Islamic nation.
Appreciation for other jihadist groups. The organizing principle - differences in the chosen course of action should not serve as a basis for conflict, but rather a source of synergy on the way to the establishment of the Islamic caliphate.
Al-Qaeda is improving its position and getting closer physically to Israel. Its method of operation is based on giving "terrorism franchises" to local operators in order to achieve a quick build-up of operational infrastructures in different places in the world. Israel is not the only state affected by this new sanctuary for radical Islam; Egyptian security revealed in mid-July that a head of al-Qaeda in Egypt fled Egyptian territory, obtaining refuge in the Gaza Strip.7
Different al-Qaeda affiliates find Islamic regimes to be an ideal hothouse in which their organizations can develop and grow. The Hamas movement is trying to improve its image in the eyes of the West, arguing that it is succeeding in enforcing the law and restoring public order in the Gaza Strip. It publicized, as an example, the freeing of Alan Johnston. In the West - and even in Israel - there are voices calling for a dialogue with Hamas. Providing legitimacy to Hamas as an acceptable political partner - without any preconditions regarding its renunciation of terrorism - is essentially a "green light" to Hamas to continue to provide sanctuary for al-Qaeda affiliates in the Gaza Strip.
*    *    *
1 See:
2 See:
3 Marie Colvin, "Al-Qaeda Veteran Led Johnston Kidnap Gang" The Sunday Times, July 8, 2007
4 See:  and 
5 al-Hayat (London), July 19, 2007.
6 Material on Jaish al-Umma appearing in this article is based on the organization's official website,, which was removed from the Internet by the U.S.-based server after it was notified who it was hosting.
7 AFP, July 15, 2007, Khaleej Times.
*    *   *
Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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Continued (Permanent Link)

The US Saudi Arms Deal


August 7, 2007 No. 27

The Saudi Arms Deal

Yiftah Shapir

On the eve of the departure to the Middle East of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the Bush Administration announced its intention to expand substantially its military assistance to the region. The proposed plan includes the sale of up to $20 billion of weaponry to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

The Administration also plans to balance this arms sale with an expanded package of security assistance to Israel worth about $30 billion over the coming decade. Aid to Israel thus far has been growing every year, in accordance with an agreement reached in 1996, and will amount to $2.4 billion in FY 2008. Thus, the new package represents an increased of about 25%. Simultaneously, the Administration announced that it will extend military assistance to Egypt for another decade at the current level of $1.3 billion per annum.

Unlike Israel and Egypt, which receive their weaponry in the form of grants, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will pay for their equipment. The arms sale to Saudi Arabia has been in the works in Washington for several months but the only item specifically mentioned has been JDAM bombs – GPS-guided bombs of the type used by the Israeli Air Force in the second Lebanon war. However, JDAMs are relatively inexpensive weapons; the price tag for several thousand would only amount to a few million dollars. Thus far, American spokesmen have refused to provide details on the rest of the package. Sales are apparently planned, not only to Saudi Arabia but also to the other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman – but there is as yet no firm information. Nevertheless, the $20 billion price being mentioned seems to refer only to sales to Saudi Arabia, for what senior Pentagon officials implied are air defense systems, anti-missile defenses, radar systems, early warning aircraft, and naval vessels.

For Saudi Arabia, the United States has never been the sole arms supplier. In addition to American equipment, the Royal Saudi Air Force operates British Tornado aircraft and the Saudi Navy relies largely on French-built vessels. Last year, Saudi Arabia also signed a huge deal with Britain for 72 Typhoon advanced combat aircraft.

The main purpose of the Administration is to use the arms sales to strengthen the commitment of the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, to America's grand strategy in the region. The Administration wants Saudi Arabia to support its policy in Iraq and especially to refrain from supporting extremist Sunni Islamist organizations – throughout the world and particularly in Iraq. At the same time, military assistance to the Gulf states sends a strong signal to Iran by emphasizing American commitment to the security of those states. The criticism voiced in Tehran following the Administration's announcement indicates that this signal was clearly understood.

Two other reasons lie behind the latest American initiative. One concerns the American response to renewed indications of Russian desire to influence developments in the Middle East. Evidence of that emerged in recent months in reports of large Russian arms deal with Syria and Iran and of a possible return of the Russian Navy to the Mediterranean, based on access to Syrian port facilities in Tartus and Ladhakia. The second is directly connected to the global arms market: the U.S. Administration is providing open support for American defense industries in the face of fierce competition by other large suppliers. In the Gulf region, this primarily means competition with British, French and, to a lesser extent, Russian manufacturers. In the particular case of Saudi Arabia, it may even involve a hope of getting the Typhoon deal canceled.

Implications for Israel

Israeli spokesmen were quick to react against the Saudi arms deal even when it only involved the JDAMs and they warned that the supply of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia would violate America's promise to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge and would constitute a strategic threat to Israel. Two senior Israeli officials went to Washington to lay out Israel's claims before the Administration. They made two central points. The first was that while Saudi Arabia currently might not constitute a threat to Israel, its regime is not stable and could be replaced by an extreme anti-Israel successor. If that were to happen, the precision weaponry would give it a significant advantage which Israel could not counter. The second point was that simply violating the principle of preserving Israel's qualitative edge would damage its deterrent, which rests to a considerable extent on that American promise.

In fact, Israel's apprehensions appear to be overblown, notwithstanding the fact that the prevailing ideology in Saudi Arabia has been exceedingly hostile to Israel since it came into existence. Apart from sending symbolic representatives in past wars, the Saudis have never actually acted against Israel. And in array of serious threats to Saudi basic interests, Israel hardly figures at all. Moreover, the Saudi interest in preserving good relations with the West and ensuring the flow of oil actually requires tranquility on the Israeli front. Even a different regime, no matter how radical it might be, would find it difficult to ignore these realities.

Israeli objections to previous Saudi arms deals have also been raised and rejected – because of America's special interest in its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Again on this occasion, in the face of Administration determination, excessively virulent Israel opposition would only have produced anger in Washington. So on this occasion, Israel chose instead to temper its response. In return, it will now receive an upgraded security assistance package of its own.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Syrian Russian Navy bases in the Mediterranean

It was only a matter of time before great powers resumed the great game in the Middle East, as the geopolitical facts do not change. The importance of the news that the Russian Navy wiill operate from Syria should not underestimate. For about 150 years at least, Russia has been trying to get an unsupervised outlet to the Mediterranean, generally denied them by the Turks. So the Russian bases, if developed can represent a real triumph for Russia, as well as a menace to US, European and Israeli interests.
This is certainly an unwelcome development.
Ami Isseroff
Russian Navy to operate from Syria
Aryeh Egozi, Alex Fishman YNET Published: 08.06.07, 09:07 / Israel News

For the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia plans to re-operate the Tartus and Latakia ports in Syria as permanent bases for the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean basin, according to recent western media reports.

Rumors on the growing Russian activity in the Mediterranean began spreading following a statement by Russian Navy commander, Admiral Vladimir Masorin, as he visited the Russian Navy base in the Sebastopol port in Ukraine.

"Being present in the Mediterranean is very important for our Navy in the Black Sea," the admiral said.

The Qatar-based television network al-Jazeera quoted a senior Russian Defense Ministry official over the weekend, who declared that Russia must be permanently present in the Mediterranean again.

According to the reports, Syria plans to let Russia use its ports as part of the large arms deal signed between the two countries in the past year.

The breakthrough which led to the arms deal was made possible after the two parties resolved their financial differences.

Over the years, Syria had accumulated a huge debt of approximately $11 billion to Russia. The Russians recently conceded more than 70% of the debt. The remaining debt will be returned by Syria partly in cash and partly through permanent port services to the Russian Navy ships in Latkia and Tartus.

Israeli security officials estimated that the renewed Russian activity in these bases, which were active throughout the Cold War, was related to the renewed tensions between Russia and the United States, mainly in light of the American plan to station antimissile missile systems in Europe - a plan Moscow views as a threat to its security.

"The bases will allow Russia to protect its interests in the region," the sources estimated.

While US naval forces are permanently present in the Mediterranean, Russian Navy ships have so far settled for exercises and friendly visits to different countries in the region.

Since the Soviet Union's disintegration the Russian Navy has been experiencing a crisis, but in the past two years efforts have been made to rehabilitate the warships and the submarines.

The Russian Navy is known to massively operate spy ships.

Israeli officials estimated on Sunday that a renewed base in Syria will help the Russians carry out spy missions also against Israel, particularly electronic spying aimed at observing new weapon systems and the flow of information in channels used by the army and the defense establishment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

No compulsion in religion: Fatah: Hamas forced Christian professor to convert to Islam

This is somewhat to be expected, and yet nonetheless disheartening.
Fatah: Hamas forced Christian professor to convert to Islam
Khaled Abu Toameh, THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 5, 2007

Fatah officials in Ramallah claimed over the weekend that Professor Sana al-Sayegh, who teaches at Palestine University in Gaza City, was kidnapped by Hamas militiamen who forced her to convert to Islam against her will.

The officials said the president of the university, Dr. Zaher Khail, had assisted Hamas in kidnapping the professor.

They added that senior officials in the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh played a major role in forcing her to convert to Islam.

"She was forced to convert to Islam against her will," the Fatah officials said. "She was kidnapped and held for two weeks during which time she was not allowed to contact her family." Sayegh is the dean of the Science and Technology Faculty at Palestine University. She has represented the university at numerous conferences around the world over the past few years and is considered one of the most prominent experts in her field.

According to the Fatah officials, she went missing in late June. When her family's attempts to find her failed, they sought the help of Haniyeh's office.

Two weeks later the family was summoned to a meeting with some of Haniyeh's aides, who were accompanied by the professor.

At the meeting, which was held at the home of Hamas official Rafik Makki, the family was told that the professor had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.

When the professor's stunned mother asked her if this was true, she nodded her head, murmuring: "Yes, God has guided me through the right path." The mother later claimed that her daughter made the statement under threats from Hamas gunmen who were in the room.

The Hamas officials are also reported to have shown the family a document signed by the professor indicating that she had converted to Islam and married a man named Izz al-Arab Awur.

But the family claims that the man told them that he never married the professor.

Several attempts by the family to arrange a meeting with Haniyeh to find out the truth failed. At one point, said a relative, they found the professor's car parked outside Haniyeh's office.

"When we told them that we wanted to see her, we were ordered to leave immediately," he recounted. "We were told that we could take her car and go away. But we told them that we didn't come to get the car, but Professor al-Sayegh." Leaders of the tiny Christian minority in Gaza City who requested a meeting with Haniyeh to solve the problem were also turned down.

Some 3,000 Christians live in the Gaza Strip. Following the Hamas takeover of the Strip, many of them have expressed their desire to leave.

The board of directors of Palestine University confirmed Sunday that Sayegh had converted to Islam, but denied that the university was linked to the case in any way. "We won't allow anyone to exploit our name in political disputes," it said in a statement, referring to the Hamas-Fatah power struggle. "The case of Professor al-Sayegh is a personal one and does not reflect the policy of the university."

Hamas officials strongly denied that they had forced the professor to convert to Islam and accused Fatah of spreading lies designed to undermine Hamas's credibility. The officials said that Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar met with Sayegh, who told him that she had converted out of her own will to marry her colleague, Awur.

Ala Aklouk, a senior Muslim cleric in Gaza City who was entrusted by the
Haniyeh government to look into the case, said the professor converted to
Islam of her free will. "She was too afraid to inform her family that she
had converted to Islam," he said. "So she asked me and other officials to inform her family. She also made it clear that she had no intention to return home unless all her family members converted to Islam." Aklouk claimed that the professor did not convert because she wanted to marry a Muslim man, but because she "really believed in Islam." "If you sit with her, you will feel as if you are sitting with a devout Muslim woman and not a Christian," he said. "She abandoned a good and easy life for the sake of Islam. She challenged everyone and did what she was supposed to do - become a devout Muslim."

Hanan Matar, a female activist working for the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said she met with the professor over the weekend and heard from her that her decision to convert to Islam was not related to her marriage to a Muslim man. She said the professor was wearing the hijab and "behaved like any religious Muslim woman would."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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