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Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Anti-Zionism industry is on a roll

Three quarters of million dollars for a book advance. The anti-"Zionism" industry is on a roll. Few books about serious subjects have been this popular - Mein Kampf was one. Mearsheimer and Walt's book was #58 in the Amazon rankings last time I looked.
Ami Isseroff

By Michael Gerson
Friday, September 21, 2007; A19

Last year, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago published a paper accusing the "Israel Lobby" of having "unmatched power" and managing to "manipulate the American political system" into actions that undermine U.S. interests.

Supporters praised these scholars for "prying the lid off a debate that has been bottled up for decades" -- perhaps since Charles Lindbergh let down his side of the argument in the 1940s. Another reviewer commends them for "saying the unsayable." In this case, the unsayable was punished with a book advance of three-quarters of a million dollars and turned into 350 pages called "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy."

Accusations of disproportionate Jewish influence are as old as the pharaohs. The novelty here is the endorsement of respected, mainstream academics -- though both characterizations are increasingly disputed. Scholars, not columnists, will make those determinations. But I do have firsthand knowledge concerning two of Walt and Mearsheimer's accusations.

First, they have argued that the "Israeli government and pro-Israel groups" have shaped President Bush's "grand scheme for reordering the Middle East."

In fact, Israeli officials have been consistently skeptical about the main policy innovation of the Bush era: the democracy agenda. One senior Bush administration official recently told me, "The Israelis are generally convinced that Arab cultures are particularly resistant to democracy; that democracy is likely to lead to victories by the Muslim Brotherhood."

A friend recalls visiting a prominent Israeli general in 2003 and making the case for democracy promotion. "What is the alternative?" the American asked. "Propping up the next generation of Mubaraks, Assads and the House of Saud for the next 25 years?" The general responded: "Why not?"

President Bush's emphasis on democracy has been driven not by outside pressure but by a strategic insight. He is convinced that the status quo of tyranny, stagnation and extremism in the Middle East is not sustainable -- that the rage and ideologies it produces will cause increasing carnage in the world. The eventual solution to this problem, in his view, is the proliferation of hopeful, representative societies in the Middle East.

This argument is debatable. But it is at least as likely as Walt and Mearsheimer's naive belief that "the U.S. has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel" -- the equivalent of arguing that Britain had a Nazi problem in the 1930s because it was so closely allied with Czechoslovakia.

Second, these scholars contend that the influence within the Bush administration of the Israel lobby has been magnified by its "junior partner," the Christian Zionists. In theological terms, they are talking about premillennial dispensationalists -- people who believe that the success of the state of Israel is a welcome sign of the end times.

The views of dispensationalists are broadly disputed by serious, conservative Protestant scholars. I don't share those views. I can't imagine that the president or the secretary of state shares them -- but I would not know for sure because I never once heard such views advocated or mentioned in five years of policy discussions I participated in at the White House.

There is a temptation in some academic circles to search for that mysterious key that will unlock our whole understanding of American foreign policy. George Bush is captive to the Israelis, or maybe Dick Cheney is captive to the Saudi Arabians. The real problem is the Israeli lobby on the grassy knoll, or dispensationalists covering up the Da Vinci code.

But all this is a conspiracy against the obvious. Perhaps many Americans actually prefer Israel's flawed democracy to the aging autocrats and corrupt monarchies of the region. Perhaps they root for a reliable ally that is surrounded by nations still committed to its destruction. Perhaps many Americans recall that the Jews, just six decades ago, lost one-third of their number to genocide and believe that this persecuted people deserves a secure home and sanctuary. Perhaps Americans understand that anti-Semitism was the greatest source of evil in the 20th century and is not dead in this one.

Walt and Mearsheimer are careful to say they are not anti-Semitic or conspiracy-minded. But their main inference -- that Israel, the Israel lobby and Jewish neoconservatives called the shots for Bush, Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld -- is not only rubbish, it is dangerous rubbish. As "mainstream" scholars, Walt and Mearsheimer cannot avoid the historical pedigree of this kind of charge. Every generation has seen accusations that Jews have dual loyalties, promote war and secretly control political structures.

These academics may not follow their claims all the way to anti-Semitism. But this is the way it begins. This is the way it always begins.

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Dean: Hitler would get to speak at Columbia

Watch the video here too:

Of course we'd invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean


Apparently 60 Minutes is going to let Ahmadinejad speak directly to the American people.... In the meantime, as we await the arrival of the world's foremost Holocaust denier, a few words to meditate on from a then-future, now former president of Columbia University: [Eisenhower - A.I.]

The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so over powering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to "propaganda."

Note what Coatsworth says about there being no shortage of willing media outlets. Hard to argue with that.

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Sex, Lies, Fascism and clitoridectomy

Some people will do anything to get attention and smear the "opposition" as they see it. For much of the Zionist right, the real enemy is not Ahmadinejad in Iran, or Haniyeh in Gaza, but rather other Jews and Zionists who do not think as they do. In their war against these others, any weapon and any tactics are OK.

Israpundit, ( posted an article by Steven Plaut. citing Israel National News ( . It regales us with a canard that insists that Education Minister Yuli Tami supports clitoridectomy - female circumcision. Israpundit includes this intelligent and mannerly comment,


{Leftist bitch]


Mismatched parentheses are in the original.

The Israbluff/Steven Plaut wisdom and the Israel National News enlightenment are based on an article Tamir wrote in 1996. What Tamir actually wrote in her article was:

Clitoridectomy is obviously a deplorable practice. It is, among other things, an extremely painful, traumatizing mutilation of young girls that leaves them permanently disfigured and deprived of sexual enjoyment. We should express no sympathy toward those who practice it, and support those who struggle to end it.

That doesn't look like Tamir supports clitoridectomy, does it? For the benefit of Steven Plaut, who has difficulties with the English language, we should perhaps explain that "deplorable, painful, traumatizing" are not words of praise. "Bitch" is not the only word that can be used to express disapproval. Get a dictionary, Steven Plaut.
But Israel National News, Israpundit and Plaut don't care much about facts, if they can have an occassion to attack a "leftist bitch."
Let's see what Tamir wrote again:
We should express no sympathy toward those who practice it, and support those who struggle to end it.
What part of that don't you understand, Steven Plaut, Israpundit and Israel National News?? Apparently you understood none of it. You wrote:
She is a great fan of clitoridectomy.
As Tamir points out:
My purpose, however, is not to justify clitoridectomy, but to expose the roots of the deep hostility to it -- to reveal the smug, unjustified self-satisfaction lurking behind the current condemnation of clitoridectomy. Referring to clitoridectomy, and emphasizing the distance of the practice from our own conventions, allows us to condemn them for what they do to their women, support the struggle of their women against their primitive, inhuman culture, and remain silent on the status of women in our society.
I won't call names. You can figure out your own names for these people. Next time you read anything in Israel National News, anything by Steven Plaut, or anything in Israpundit, remember the relation between what they write and the actual facts.
Ami Isseroff

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Israel says no to Hamas cease fire bid

According to Israel Radio, JTA and other sources Israel rejected a Hamas cease-fire offer.
Hamas, which claims to control the Gaza strip, contacted Israel through a third party after receiving assurances from other terrorist groups that they too would keeot to a cease-fire, according to an Israel Radio report on Friday. Israel turned down the offer, saying it will not negotiate with Hamas until it recognizes Israel and disavows terrorism. Actually, Israel had been negotiating with Hamas about the release of Gilad Shalit, the soldier kidnapped in June of 2006.

Israel declared Hamas - controlled Gaza to be an enemy entity this week after a Qassam rocket landed in an IDF base, wounding over 60 soldiers.
The value of the cease fire would be dubious anyhow, since attacks by "fringe groups" could be disavowed in the time honored fashion. Why doesn't Israel make return of Gilad Shalit a condition of the cease fire?

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Iran has a new long range missile

Iran has unveiled a new long-range missile among an array of armaments displayed in an annual military parade commemorating the country's 1980-88 war with Iraq.
The missile, known as the Ghadr - meaning power - has a 1,800km range, officials say, putting US military bases in the Gulf within range.

Experts say the missile appears to be an upgrade of Iran's existing long-range missile, the Shahab-3, which has a 1,300km range, according to Tehran.
Addressing the parade, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, said: "Iran is an influential power in the region and the world should know that this power has always served peace, stability, brotherhood and justice.
"Brotherhooad and Justice" indeed. Below is an example of Iranian justice - four men hanged because they are homosexuals.


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Spy case? Israeli arrested in Lebanon

The purpose of Sharon's visits to Lebanon is anyone's guess. If he is really a spy, he was playing easy to get, using legal passports under his own name.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 12:00 22/09/2007    
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

An Israeli citizen has been arrested in Lebanon, local media reported on Saturday. The reports suggest that the man was arrested due to frequent visits to the country using a foreign passport.
According to Lebanese publication Al-Akhbar Wa-Sapir, Daniel Sharon was arrested on Thursday following an investigation into the murder of a Lebanese citizen. During the murder investigation it had emerged that the German-Israeli dual citizen had visited Lebanon 11 times over the last two years. Sharon denied allegations he was on an espionage mission.
According to reports, Lebanese police was investigating a murder of a man found dead in his home. The victim had been shot with a gun belonging to a security worker who had been his roommate. The roommate was summoned for questioning, and maintained that he had lost his gun.

The roommate also said that during the time of the murder, he had been with his German friend who lives at the Four Points Sheraton hotel in Beirut. A hotel employee told the police that Sharon had paid him a sum of money in exchange for not writing his full name on any documents.
During questioning, it emerged that Sharon is well versed regarding Lebanon, speaks good Arabic and uses idioms. According to reports, Sharon learned to speak Arabic in the United Arab Emirates and his teacher had been a Bahraini citizen. The Lebanese media reported that Sharon kept his cool during questioning and denied accusations that he was a spy.
The media also reported that Sharon had visited Lebanon 11 times since 2005, once immediately prior to the Second Lebanon War with Israel last summer. His last visit was four days prior to his arrest, and he was scheduled to leave on the day of his arrest.
It later emerged that Sharon had his security worker friend on trips abroad on several occasions, and in exchange the man helped Sharon within Lebanon.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Ahmed Yousef: If you don't like genocidal racism, you'll get something bad instead

Hamas is a bulwark in the face of radical and militant ideas and trends. Policies whose aim is the isolation or marginalization of Hamas will not only fail but will also set the stage for the spread of extremist thinking in occupied Palestine. Allowing Hamas to participate in the Palestinian political process will encourage the growth and development of pragmatic ideas and instruments of political action. It will also allow tolerance and respect for pluralism and diversity to strike root in Palestinian political culture. The West should ask itself whether it wants the moderation and realism of Hamas or the dogmatism of radical groups that subscribe to the clash of civilizations theory.
There are people who will take this seriously. People who are not familiar with the Hamas Charter which promises to wipe out Israel. People who are unaware of what is going on in Gaza - the Islamization, torture, arrests and religious coercion. That is the "pluralistic" society that Hamas offers the Palestinians.
"If you don't like hell, we have something worse in store."
Ami Isseroff 

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The Middle East's Gathering Storm

"Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it." But those who study history are also condemned to repeat it apparently. Despite the clear warning signals, it is not likely that effective action will be taken to stop Iran. This is because, as in the case of Hitler,  the risks and the cost will appear to be too great until it is far too late. In retrospect of course, what should have been done may be perfectly clear. Insurance is always too expensive until after the accident happens. Storm windows are always too much of a chore to install until after the storm comes.
Ami Isseroff

The Middle East's Gathering Storm


Posted 9/20/2007

War On Terror: Iran, on the path toward nuclear weapons, says it's drawn up plans to bomb Israel. Syria, meanwhile, is working with Iran to arm missiles with chemical warheads. Will the world heed these danger signs?

In "The Gathering Storm," his history of World War II, Winston Churchill recalls how President Roosevelt once asked for suggestions about what the war should be called. "The Unnecessary War," Britain's wartime prime minister replied. "There never was a war more easy to stop than that which has just wrecked what was left of the world from the previous struggle."

The world today is seeing the gathering of forces that, if allowed to coalesce, could unnecessarily and avoidably leave multitudes dead.

In Iran, for instance:

• Deputy air force commander, Gen. Mohammad Alavi, announced that "we have drawn up a plan to strike back at Israel with our bombers" in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran, such as an attempt to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities.

• Having announced that it has reached the key threshold of 3,000 centrifuges, Iran may now be able to make enough nuclear material in a year to construct an atomic bomb.

• Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran's Islamofascist regime and a holocaust denier who says he wants Israel wiped off the map, apparently will not be allowed by New York City to visit the Ground Zero area during his trip to the United Nations next week.

Like his other acts and statements, Ahmadinejad's request seems designed to provoke outrage from Americans. Is his apocalyptic Shiite belief in the coming of a 12th imam to fight a war against the antichrist behind his repeated "asking for it" from the West?

• Iran will fire 600 Shihab-3 missiles at targets throughout Israel in the event of an attack on either Iran or Syria, according to the Jerusalem Post.

• Former President Jimmy Carter says we shouldn't take the Iran threats seriously. "I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel," he said.

Many of Churchill's critics said the same about Nazi Germany in the 1930s. But apocalyptic fanatics have been known to be suicidal, and Carter, of course, has been wrong about Iran before.

As for Syria:

• The recent raid in northeastern Syria by Israeli F-15s may have been directed against a factory where North Korean nuclear material was stored (see editorial below).

• The State Department official in charge of nuclear nonproliferation policy last week publicly confirmed the presence of North Koreans in Syria and said he "wouldn't exclude" a possible connection to disgraced Pakistan nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan's supply network.

• The Israeli raid came three days after a ship with North Korean cargo docked in Syria. Israel thinks it carried nuclear materials.

• Jane's Defence Weekly reports that among the dozens apparently killed in the blast two months ago at a secret Syrian military installation were Iranian engineers who were helping the Syrians develop chemical weapons.

The publication quoted Syrian defense sources who said the explosion happened during tests to equip a Scud C missile with mustard gas, a violation of international law.

Too often, the relative peace and prosperity that the civilized world enjoys encourages complacency. The real ways for free countries to prevent a large-scale war are: 1) Be prepared to fight a war by building and maintaining adequate defenses, and 2) Recognize and eliminate obvious threats before war becomes inevitable.

Iran, Syria and North Korea are almost certainly working together on weapons of mass destruction. These terrorist states will either use them themselves or give them to Hamas, Hezbollah or even al-Qaida to use.

Churchill also expressed the "earnest hope that pondering upon the past may give guidance in days to come." History is guiding us to act against the gathering storm in the Mideast — before it's too late.


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The end of the Al-Dura controversy?

Muhamed al-Dura was a  central figure of the Palestinian violence that began in September 2000. He did not lead any soldiers, and he wasn't a politician. He was a twelve year old child. He was killed  by someone's gunfire. French television cameras filmed al-Dura as he died, sheltered unsuccessfully by his father. An edited version of the  films appeared to show that the Israelis had killed him. Palestinians insisted that Israeli fire killed the boy. An Israeli reconstruction claimed that it was impossible for Israeli fire to have reached him from that angle. Foreign bloggers, including Professor Richard Landes, insisted that the French television films were fabrications - "Pallywood." Al-Dura was important because he became the poster boy of the Intifadah - the symbol that could be used in the demonization of Israel, the little boy whose death could justify dozens of suicide bombings.  
Now at last a court has ruled that French television must show the films: Al-Dura footage to air. It is unlikely in my view that they will prove anything conclusively: films cannot do stop-action of bullets in the air or trace trajectories. If there was any real fakery, it will probably be edited out in such a way that it cannot be proven to have been edited out.
It doesn't make sense that either Israelis or Palestinians would kill this little boy, but it is certain apparently that he died nonetheless, and therefore someone killed him. We can't get to the bottom of this by looking for motive.
In any case, the outcome of the trial will have less effect very likely than proponents of the cause might think.The article quotes the somewhat optimistic Professor Landes:
"Yes, terrible damage has been done," Landes said, adding, however, that the world has become "much more receptive" to acknowledging hoaxes "like Kfar Qanna and Gaza beach,"
In fact, I would venture to say that most of the world believes that  Israel is culpable for the deaths in Kfar Qanna and Gaza Beach on purpose. HRW and similar groups certainly do. I would also say, in fact I know, that the faithful would not be influenced no matter what the outcome. By now, virtually the entire world, including the United Nations and Human Rights Watch, have understood and admitted that the stories of an Israeli massacre in Jenin in 2002, in which hundreds of Palestinians supposedly perished, were a fabrication. About fifty six people died there according to different counts, of whom about 22 were civilians who had either decided of their own free will to stay with the terrorists holed up in Jenin, or who were infirm and trapped in Jenin. That did not prevent Muhamed Bakri from making the film Jenin, Jenin, which fradulently portrays a massacre and  claims that an Israeli tank shelled a hospital. This film became a staple of Palestinian propaganda. Now a group of IDF soldiers are suing Bakri. Groups like other Israel invite us to defend Bakri. Far be it from me to understand what there might be to defend. He told a lie and should pay the consequences. It doesn't matter if the lie agrees or disagrees with the political opinion of X or Y. It is still a lie.
The persistence of belief in a flat earth attests that the will to believe can overcome the most obstinate set of facts.
Ami Isseroff


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Ahmadinejad to speak at Columbia

Columbia University has extended a speaking invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Perhaps the distinguished gentleman will expatiate on the treatment of homosexuals in his country, where four of them were recently hanged. More likely he will speak about the non-occurrence of the Holocaust:
Ahmadinejad, who took office in 2005, railed against U.S. aggression in his speech to the United Nations last year, and then reveled in sparring with critics at the Council on Foreign Relations.

At that event, The New York Times quoted Ahmadinejad as repeatedly questioning evidence of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed by the Nazis
Next guest speaker at Columbia will be Osama Bin Laden, who will give his views on Islam and effective urban renewal.
Ami Isseroff

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Birthright program needs money

The popular Birthright program which brings young Jewish people to Israel is short of cash.

When the initiative to send Jewish young adults on free 10-day trips to Israel was launched in 2000, private philanthropists, the government of Israel and the federation system agreed to share the costs equally. But this year, with the budget for birthright hitting $80.6 million, the federations thus far have contributed only $5.5 million.

In an unprecedented step to cull more money from the UJC system, Bronfman's foundation is setting aside about $1.5 million for local Jewish federations to hire full-time development professionals to raise money for birthright. In addition, the UJC and birthright are discussing the creation of an endowment fund of up to $500 million to fund birthright on a continuous basis.

Bronfman has written a scathing opinion essay deriding the UJC for contributing less than 1 percent of its budget to birthright. He and the other private philanthropists who back birthright say that without more money from the federation system, a program that is widely seen as the most successful Jewish continuity effort cannot keep up with demand.
In 2000, 9,462 Jews between the ages of 18 and 26 took the free trips. This year, nearly 36,000 from around the world, mostly North America, are expected to participate, with thousands more on the waiting list.
Birthright has cost $314 million over the past eight years. Private philanthropists have contributed $147 million and the Israeli government $75 million. The federation system, birthright sources say, has contributed about $43 million. Additional funding comes from other sources, including the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Birthright is not just about Israel. Young people who make the trip are more likely to remain involved in the US Jewish community and will "repay the investment" in the long run.
I have three or four modest suggestions for stretching the money:
- Start a study in Israel program that will be funded by tuition. Students will pay less for university or prep school education than they do in the U.S.
- Start a work/tour program that allows young people, especially those with skills, to visit Israel and do various internships here.
- Take a bit of money at least from those who can afford to pay.
- Screen out saboteurs. The Birthright unplugged group is an anti-Zionist group that swindles Birthright donors and Israeli taxpayers out of their money, sending anti-Zionist agitators to Israel to gather materials for anti-Israel propaganda. There is no earthly reason to subsidize this outrage.
Ami Isseroff

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Divestment news - Good for a change

Can this start a trend?
Thursday, September 20, 2007 - ?2005
LONDON, September 20 (IranMania) - Florida's public employee retirement fund will divest nearly $1 bln and 300 mln invested with 21 companies doing business in Iran or Sudan, an action state officials hope will be imitated across the nation, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The State Board of Administration authorized the divestiture Wednesday.
"You will be telling every one of these companies that from this day forward we won't invest another dollar, Florida's public dollars, in those companies," state Sen. Ted Deutch, the law's sponsor, told the board.
At least six other states have similar bans on investing in companies doing business in Sudan but Florida is the first to pass such a law applying to Iran, Deutch said.
The law bars investing pension money in any company doing business in Sudan or in Iran's energy sector because both countries are on the State Department's list of terror-sponsoring nations.
Iran is suspected of trying to develop nuclear weapons and Sudan for genocide in its Darfur region.
The 21 companies are among 57 the state has listed as off-limits. Florida does not currently have investments with the other 36 companies. Several other companies remain under investigation and could be added later.
Deutch said opponents have argued it would be too difficult to identify companies, possibly hundreds, doing business in the two countries. The number is not nearly so large and Florida already has identified them, he said.
The state relied mainly on research and findings by four outside organizations, the Sudan Divestment Task Force, Institute Shareholder Services, KLD Research & Analytics and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
None of the 57 companies listed are based in the United States. The state's largest investment, $303 mln, is with Royal Dutch Shell PLC, headquartered in London, which operates in Iran but not Sudan.
Shell spokeswoman Darci Sinclair said the company is monitoring Florida's law and similar proposals in other states and Congress to assess their potential affect on the company's operations.
"Royal Dutch Shell does have a presence in Iran (although currently only limited interests) and, like other energy companies, takes a long-term view of its operations," Sinclair said in an e-mail.

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Israeli Deterrence, what deterrence?

 Israeli deterrence was not reinstated in the past year. It is a magnificent, solid, and stable tower and even if it was wearing down at the edges here and there (and inevitably so) this does not undermine it stability or, heaven forbid, pulverize it.
I am glad to hear that, but the news did not get to the Islamic Jihad, who keep firing rockets at Sderot.
Ami Isseroff

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Chutzpa: Carter as an Iran expert

Some of you may be too young to remember that in 1979 the gormless Carter administration allowed the Ayatollah Khomeini to overthrow the regime of the Shah and institute the nightmare known as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which began by allowing student fanatics to take US embassy personnel hostage. Carter is apparently so old, that he forgot, and he has the temerity to offer his opinions about Iran:  Carter: Iran not yet a realistic threat to Israel
Carter said:
"Iran is quite distant from Israel," Said Carter, 83. "I think it would be almost inconceivable that Iran would commit suicide by launching one or two missiles of any kind against the nation of Israel."
Inconceivable, but the Iranian run Hezbollah launched hundreds of rockets against Israel.
Ami Isseroff

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How to decide an election - Democracy Islamo-Syrian style

He is the fourth pro-government Lebanese MP to be blown up as part of the campaign for election of Lebanon's next President. 
The Hezbolla and the Syrians have killed 4, and have 8 more to go before ensuring that the Lebanese elections reflect the will of the Syrian people, as embodied in Bashar Assad:
Alongside one of the busiest roads in Beirut, a booby-trapped car shook the densely populated and mostly Christian neighborhood of Horsh Tabet in Sin al-Fil - killing MP Antoine Ghanem and six others.
Ghanem, 64, was a low-key legislator from the Christian Phalange Party. He was the eighth prominent anti-Syrian figure assassinated since 2005, and the fourth lawmaker from the ruling coalition to be killed, reducing the ruling majority's voting weight in Parliament - with pro-government lawmakers holding 68 of Parliament's 128 seats, compared to the opposition's 59.
"Syria is back and is killing off more of our anti-Syrian politicians!" cried a bloodied Emile Abou Hamad, whose car-rental business near the site of the blast sustained heavy damage, echoing similar angry accusations by pro-government officials.
After a respite of three months since the last assassination - that of another pro-government MP, Walid Eido, - Lebanese tuned into familiar television images of shattered glass, burning cars, and rescue teams recovering mangled corpses.
Security sources estimated that the device contained 20-30 kilograms of TNT and was detonated by remote control as Ghanem's car passed by, wounding 56 people in the process.
Pro-government officials tied the slaying of Ghanem directly to the upcoming parliamentary vote, saying the killing aimed to deprive the ruling coalition of its majority.
Who said Islamist parties can't adapt to democracy?
Ami Isseroff

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Oops - secret is out - Telebibi

Most modern methods of communication:
Telephone, Television, Tell a Bibi.
Ami Isseroff  
Last update - 09:24 20/09/2007    
By Mazal Meulam and Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent and Haaretz Service

The political and defense establishments reacted with fury on Thursday to opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu's apparent confirmation of an Israeli operation in Syria two weeks ago.
In what appears to be the first confirmation by a senior politician of foreign media reports, MK Benjamin Netanyahu told Channel One television that he was party to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's decision to attack Syria, an operation on which Israeli officials have remained uncharacteristically silent.
Army Radio Labor Party secretary-general, Etan Cabel, called Netanyahu's words "an outburst that is severe, stupid and irresponsible."

"Bibi [Netanyahu] is the same Bibi. I haven no idea if it is foolishness, stupidity, the desire to jump on the bandwagon, the desire to be a partner, to steal credit - or something else. It is simply very dangerous. The man simply does not deserve to lead," Cabel told Army Radio.
In an interview with Channel One news anchor Haim Yavin, Netanyahu shocked the Prime Minister's Office when he said that he was briefed on Olmert's decision to carry out an operation in Syria, gave him his backing and congratulated him.
"When the prime minister takes action in important and necessary matters, and generally when the government is doing things for the security of Israel, I give it my endorsement," he said. "I was party to this matter, I must say, from the first minute and I gave it my backing, but it is still too early to discuss this subject."
Yavin then asked Netanyahu, "did you congratulate him [Olmert] on the operation?"
Netanyahu responded, "Personally, yes."
In response to the interview, Sources close to Olmert said that "Bibi's slip of the tongue borders national irresponsibility."
An official said Tuesday that "once again Netanyahu couldn't restrain himself and he ran to tell the guys."
Members of the defense establishment also censured Netanyahu, calling his statement "the highest level of irresponsibility."
The government has remained completely silent on the affair up until now, which has resulted in a slew of speculations by foreign publications.
According to a report in this week's London-based Sunday Times, for example, an Israeli source said the supposed Israel Air Force strike came in the wake of intelligence reports suggesting Syria was been planning a "devastating surprise" for Israel. The report also claimed that Israeli ground forces were involved in the attack on a Syrian installation, which foreign sources described as a nuclear facility.

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What is happening in Gaza?

It is worthwhile considering what is happening in Gaza, and what it means both for those who continue to blame Israel for everything, and for Israeli policies. Gazans are learning a lesson they would never be taught by Israeli bombs. Those who support the rule of the Hamas must also consider what they are supporting.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 21:57 19/09/2007    
By Lorenzo Cremonesi

"Who killed Watan?" cried the dozens of youngsters on the stage of the Shawah, the largest theater in Gaza, as they pointed accusing fingers at a group of older actors waving the flags of the Palestinian resistance movements: Fatah, Hamas, Iz a-Din al-Qassam, the Al-Quds Brigade and Islamic Jihad. Their flags symbolize many long years of struggles, hopes, distress and blood. But this time there was nothing formal or festive about them; there were no calls against "the Zionist enemy," none of the usual anti-Israel slogans.
The play, "Watan," was written to grasp the bull by the horns and send a new, revolutionary message. "Enough of always blaming the Israelis for our problems. The time has come for a reckoning, and to condemn those among us who are bringing catastrophe down upon our people," says poet-director Saed Swerky, 37, the author of the play that has set shock waves rippling among Gaza's 1.5 million-plus inhabitants.
Watan, which means "homeland" in Arabic, was a 12-year-old boy who was killed during the Fatah-Hamas clashes that engulfed the Gaza Strip during the second week of June. The play premiered on August 13. Thousands of people sat mesmerized for more than two hours, interrupting the play with their applause during the most dramatic scenes from the civil war: prisoners thrown from the roofs of 15-story buildings; people shot in the knees; militants who used to be on the same side exchanging insults. The show ends in uncertainty. The evidece against the armed men is conclusive, but the curtain comes down before the jury has its say.
"I wanted to make the spectators into judges. At the end of the play, the audience members are given envelopes in which to place their verdicts. Some want to grant clemency based on the usual arguments about the Israeli occupation, but the vast majority cast most of the blame on the Hamas and Fatah members, and says they are criminals and murderers who lack a collective vision. They are the real culprits in Watan's death. Because of them, our homeland has been lost. Someone even proposed executing them in front of the Kaaba in Mecca," Islam's holiest site, says Swerky.
These reactions are a good reflection of the mood in the Gaza Strip, three months after Hamas staged its coup. Since then, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have been separate worlds. This is especially evident right now, as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the veteran Fatah leaders in Ramallah are competing with the Hamas leaders in Gaza to organize the Palestinian pilgrimage to Mecca for the month of Ramadan, and in the growing struggle for control of the electronic media.
The despair prevailing in Gaza can be easily seen in a week's visit. Even people who voted for Hamas in January 2006 evince gloom, and a loss of hope and direction. However, this does not necessarily mean Fatah gaining popularity. "People are simply fed up with politics. Some are even hoping for a return to Israeli occupation, in order to extricate Hamas from the difficulties of running of a government and to bring back an enemy to blame," say sources at Al Ramattan, a Gaza news agency.
Economic collapse
The heart of the problem is the economic crisis. As compared to the West Bank, which continues to receive international aid, conducts trades with Israel and Jordan, and whose 2 million inhabitants' standard of living has not really changed in recent years, Gaza has become a 48- by 8-kilometer prison.
No one in Gaza is starving. No one has died of malnutrition, and food can be bought at the local market, albeit at ridiculous prices. The hospitals and the pharmacies are open, and all essentials are available. However, the international embargo imposed after the establishment of the Hamas government in March 2006, and the military lockdown Israel imposed after Hamas' coup, are turning the economic stagnation into a huge, disturbing problem. Unemployment stands at a 70-percent record high, and the poverty is worsening the hygiene problems.
The strike by approximately 1,000 municipal employees, who have not been paid in months, means no garbage is being collected, and urban centers are filled with clouds of pollution. Citizens occaisionally set the piles of garbage alight, sending up billows of smoke that damage the eyes and the respiratory system.
The problems are evident in a visit to the fields of the Beit Lahia farmers, among the wealthiest in the area. "Up until spring 2006 we grew strawberries, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and more, which we exported via the Israeli Agrexco company to Jordan and to all of Europe. Our monthly profit was more than $500. Now we are happy to get $100. We can sell only locally, and this is a disaster. We are forced to grow less, and the profits are far smaller. We used to earn $15 on a kilogram of strawberries, and now we make only $5," say twins Riad and Mohammad Abu Halima, 26. They have spent hours repairing plastic irrigation pipes damaged during the latest incursion by Israeli tanks. "In the past, we would replace the pipes. Now that is impossible. The border is closed, we can't import them from Israel, and the price is sky high here. We're better off not even cultivating those fields."
The economic collapse is especially evident in the industrial zone. Everything is still, the workshops are shuttered, and there are no signs of life. Trucks and trailers are parked along the road. A few stray dogs lazily cross the empty streets, which were jammed around the clock up until two years ago.
"The paralysis here is total. It is impossible to obtain raw materials, it is impossible to export, and we are strangled," says Tayseer Yousef Abu Ayda, the proprietor of the Ayda Company, a cement plant that used to employ 70 full-time workers and a similar number of temporary workers. In 2000 it produced 500 cubic meters of cement blocks a day; in the second half of 2006, production declined to 160 cubic meters. Now it produces nothing.
"I had to dismiss all of my employees. Occasionally, when there is work, I recruit some 20 people for about $13 a day. The closure imposed by [Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert deprives me of any chance of working. There is no chance of trade with Egypt. For 40 years we have been shackled to the Israeli market," he says.
For merchants, the situation is even worse. Abdel Rachman Jassin, 65, has been the proprietor of Gaza's largest generator shop for nearly 25 years. In the middle of August he was inundated with orders, precisely when the electricity supply cut out for a week. "All I could do was apologize. My Robin and Perkins generators, which were imported from Japan and Britain, are stuck at the Ashdod port. I don't even have spare parts, especially air and fuel filters," he says in frustration. Jassin had to fire his 10 employees right when demand peaked.
The wealthy are not exempt from the distress. Seven years ago Omar Saqqa opened a prestigious electrical appliance chain, as hopes for the establishment of a Palestinian state aroused hopes for economic prosperity.
"If only I hadn't done that. In 2006 my income was 40 percent of what it had been in 2000. And during the past three months, I haven't sold a thing. I don't even have money to buy fuel for the generator. People aren't buying at all, and in any case I don't have anything to sell them. In 2006 I was still getting two truckloads a week from the Ashdod port. The last one arrived on June 6, but since then there has been nothing," he says.
No financial control
The increasing distress of the private-sector workers is well-documented at the Bank of Palestine, the central financial institution in Gaza and the West Bank. It has 14 branches in the Gaza Strip and 15 in the West Bank. "Their troubles derive from the competition between Hamas and Fatah over paying salaries for loyalists in the public sector. But no one is seeing to the private-sector workers.
"There are about 165,000 public servants, 85,000 of whom are in Gaza. We receive the salaries of 75,000 of these workers from Ramallah; the other 10,000 receive their pay directly from Hamas, not through us. We have explicitly told the Hamas leadership: If Europe and the United States accuse us of relations with you, they are liable to boycott us under the anti-terror laws, and within a short time we would have to declare bankruptcy," says bank director Mamon Abushahla.
His remarks illustrate how little financial control Hamas has in Gaza. It has beaten Fatah politically and militarily, but if it tries to get its hands on the salaries of the Fatah loyalists, its support is liable to plummet even further.
All this is causing many resources to go to waste, and a culture of suspicion is developing in Gaza. Abdel Rachman Bseiso was PA foreign ministry director general until he was fired in June by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh because of his loyalty to Abbas. "I regularly receive my monthly $2,000 from Ramallah, as do about 190 other salaried employees who worked with me at the ministry. Only about 20 have stayed with Haniyeh. We are getting money for not doing anything," he says.
The lack of trust and the suspicion are also evident in discussions with Hamas supporters. They are pleased with the implementation of Islamic law at the central prison, which now is taking a year off the sentences of prisoners who learn five suras of the Quran by heart. But the problems are evident in the Fatah supporters' criticism of the "creeping Islamization." At the entrance to Al-Omari, the central mosque in Gaza, built on the remains of an old Byzantine church, Hamas issues diatribes that include a long list of accusations against the "treasonous Fatah heretics." As the poet-director Saed Sweky says, neither faction has learned its lesson: "Our Watan is continuing to die every day," he says.
Lorenzo Cremonesi is a senior writer for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. This article first appeared in the Corriere della Sera weekly magazine.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Transcript: Netanyahu confirms Israel carried out operation in Syria

Actually he confirmed not only that there was an operation, but that it was successful, a point that the Syrians deny.
Transcript: Netanyahu confirms Israel carried out operation in Syria
Dr. Aaron Lerner     19 September 2007

Opposition leader Likud Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday became the first Israeli official to confirm Israel carried out an operation in Syria about two weeks ago.

The following is IMRA's translation of the transcript of  Netanyahu's interview on Israel Television Channel 1 Mabat evening news program this evening:

Anchor Chaim Yavin: With your permission I would like to turn to the north. We haven't heard you praise Olmert for the operation cloaked in secrecy.

Netanyahu:  You don't expect me to say something.

Yavin: Maybe you haven't said a good word about Olmert because the polls are getting favorable to him - perhaps at your expense?

Netanyahu:  Absolutely not.  I think that when the prime minister does things that I see as important as vital, when the Government does things for the security of Israel,  I give the support. I must also say that in this matter I was a partner from the first moment. And I gave support.  But it is too early to discuss this matter and when the time comes to give all the congratulations - and principally I would say to the. . .

Yavin:  Did you congratulate him?

Netanyahu:  Personally?

Yavin: For this operation.

Netanyahu:  Yes.

Yavin:  We won't elaborate.  Because according to foreign reports Israel hit a nuclear facility - everything is cloaked in secrecy - and you are not prepared to detail and say what was in this conversation.

Netanyahu:  No.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Jewish worriers - Open letter to Larry Derfner & Maurice Ostroff about God's Warriors and their correspondence

Dear Larry and Maurice,
I have followed your correspondence regarding the now notorious CNN film as best I could, and tried to make sense of all of it.

Larry Derfner wrote:
But on the subject of the Israeli-Arab conflict, you are, according to my definition, a hardline right-winger. I say that because your view, or at least your stated view, of the conflict is that in 100% of the disputes between Israel and the Arabs, Israel is 100% and the Arabs are 100% wrong.
This is a continuation of the sort of argument you used in your article, is it not? "It is right wing, and therefore it is wrong." Serious analysts don't base arguments on calling names. Leave that to Stalin in the sessions of the Politburo. It doesn't matter if Maurice is an agent of the reactionary kulaks, a right-deviationist, a wrecker of the five year plan or a left deviationist. It doesn't matter if CAMERA is composed of third-temple fanatics or A.N.S.W.E.R. advocates. What matters is the logic of their criticism.
If Maurice is a hardline right-winger, then what might Benjamin Netanyahu be? You don't seem to have much gradation in your scale. Such distinctions are usually the mark of superficial minds that want to substitute labeling for analysis, and to dismiss uncomfortable and inconvenient facts by painting them with the stigma of "wrong opinion" or "not PC." Churchill was a "hard line right winger" but he was right about Nazism, and his opponents were wrong. They got away with discrediting him for many years just by using labels like "war monger."
There are some simple propositions that are central to our problems: Settlements are wrong, terrorism is wrong, and Jihadist fanaticism is a danger to civilization of all types. It is hard to make all three statements without being labeled a leftist self-hating Jew and a traitor by one group, an Islamophobic neocon by the other side, and a Zionist war monger to boot. I happen to hold all three beliefs. I don't know where that puts me on the Larry Derfner political scale, and I don't care either. Until we get all those self-serving fools and fanatics out of the room, we cannot have a real discussion.
Propositions have to be considered independently of who is saying them, and independently of other ideological baggage they might bring with them. You need to learn to stick to the issues, and to teach your readers to think rather than to lob labels at each other like grenades. If Aumann or Haniyeh say that the Sun is shining, then the way to prove if they are right or wrong is to look out the window, rather than arguing about whether they are right-wingers or left-wingers. Forgive me for saying that it is an embarrassing and juvenile sort of argument. It may sell newspapers. You are in business to do that. But it makes heat, and not light.

The gab-fest benefits the film itself, because any publicity is good publicity, and it benefits the organizations who are dumping on the film, and who will get more donations from their loyal followers. It does nothing to advance either truth or the cause of Israel, regardless of whether these are the same or different. No neutral or anti-Israel person is going to be convinced by CAMERA or Honest Reporting, and there is no way to ascertain the facts without seen the film and doing the research. Reading these reviews adds nothing. I know who Osama Bin Laden is and I know what he wants. I don't need Honest Reporting or Christianne Anampour to tell me. By now I suspect that only about three dozen people care about that film. It was just another bit of vacuous entertainment with no more truth value (maybe less) than an episode of The Shield or House, and less entertainment value. Discussing it gives it publicity.

The last time there was a similar dustup it was about Spielberg's film, Munich. Reading the criticism of Jewish organizations, I thought that Spielberg must have joined the PLO or maybe the Hamas. Then I saw the film, which was largely sympathetic to Israel and the Zionist cause, and portrayed humanistic and humanitarian Zionists tortured by the necessity of killing, contrasted with fanatic and one-dimensional Arabs. I have learned not to trust the moral standards and aesthetic and professional judgements of these organizations and to form my own judgement.

That said, any film that shows, at the same time, and as part of the same problem, the Jihadist threat along with Zionist and Christian extremists, is showing a lie. Nobody disputes that Amanpour does that. There is a difference between a movement that is morally wrong and theoretically a problem, and a political movement that is an active problem and a clear and present danger. Anti-abortionist fanatics and third temple builders are not my favorite people, but they haven't yet the power or the announced intention to destroy Western civilization. They are not a danger of the same order of magnitude as Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist extremists. There is no way to make Baruch Goldstein into Osama Bin Laden, or to turn Mr. Hagee into the equivalent of Ahmadinejad. Hagee doesn't run a state. He isn't building an atom bomb, and he hasn't declared the intention to make a world without anyone. Goldstein and his friends and supporters represent a morally reprehensible cause. Fortunately there are not a lot of them, and they have no power. They are not a threat to the United States, Western Civilization or Israel. Not yet. The proposition that Bin Laden has something to do with Israeli settlements is intellectual rubbish. Bin Laden's last message didn't even mention Israel. Some people don't want to admit what the real problem is. There is no reason to assist them in their self-delusion.

Larry wrote:

But the question she raises is, if the settlements are a bad thing (a point of view she supports with factual material), and every U.S. government has spoken against them to some degree, why doesn't the U.S. back up its sentiments with action - by pressuring Israel monetarily and politically to stop building settlements? And her answer is: because of the Israel lobby.

But the question I raise, is what do settlements have to do with Islamist fundamentalism in Afghanistan or the price of hay in China? Just because Bin Laden may say it is an issue, doesn't mean it is so. Bin Laden and his followers are not against settlements in the West Bank. They are against the existence of Israel. Just because Jack Kelley wrote that settlements are due to the activities of religious fanatics, doesn't make it so either. The evil of Jim Crow in the United States did not justify, and was not equivalent to, the evil of Stalinism in the USSR. Some people did equate them. It is clear now that they were as wrong as those who equated Stalin and Hitler and insisted that the US and Britain should stay out of World War II.

In any case, a lot of very unreligious people support those settlements. So what is the point? What is the connection to God's Warriors?

Bin Laden and his friends are also against loose morals in women, such as allowing divorce and parading about without a Hijab. So what? Why should this issue even be raised? Who cares what these people claim they support? Their "issues" are all just excuses for taking power by violent means.

And the other question I raise is, if the Israel Lobby is so all-powerful as you and Mearsheimer and Walt and Amanpour pretend, then why hasn't the US taken an unequivocally pro-Israel stance on so many critical issues for Israel, even when Israel is clearly in the right (that happens too sometimes)? How do they screw us? Let us count the ways:

- Boycott - United States continues to do business with Gulf and other countries that maintain primary boycotts of Israel, and the US keeps making believe it doesn't happen.

- Israel's right to exist - US does business with, and supports, numerous regimes that deny and have denied the right of Israel to exist.

- Refugee problem - the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem and the entire mechanism of UNRWA is possible only because of the support of the United States and its allies. No other group of refugees is treated in the same way as Palestinian refugees. An entire mechanism, funded by generous contributions of US and European taxpayers, has been created solely to perpetuate the conflict and the misery of the refugees. The United States has never lifted a finger to change this reality, never threatened to cut off support to the UN, never tried to cajole allies into changing the status of UNRWA.

- Jerusalem - the United States, despite the efforts of the vaunted Israel lobby, does not recognize even West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Congressional resolutions, promises of Presidential candidates, all avail nothing.

It may not suit either AIPAC nor Mearsheimer and Walt and their friends to admit it, but the effectiveness of the Israel lobby is close to zero. The US government does what it sees fit to do, and then justifies it in terms of support for Israel, or not.

Concerning the legality or illegality of settlements, it is a red herring issue, Maurice. You have to decide whether you want to fight Islamism with clean hands or defend settlements. You cannot have both. By raising this issue, you are playing right into the hands of those who want to equate Israeli actions with those of Osama Bin Laden. The whole settlement issue simply didn't belong in a documentary of that type, and its presence there is bizarre. The Tal lawthat exempts Ultraorthodox Jews from the draft is also wrong, and it is religiously motivated, but that doesn't have much to do with Jihadism either.

Ami Isseroff
Posted at Israel News

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Continued (Permanent Link)

The Threat of al Qaeda and its Allies in Lebanon

One would have expected a more sophisticated analysis of al-Qaeda in Lebanon from the Besa center. The main point about al-Qaeda in Lebanon is not that they are there,  but that they are there apparently at the behest of the Syrians and to some extent the Hezbollah. The "other main point" is that their challenge to Lebanese authority was met with vigor and decisiveness, and put the Lebanese army on the map as a force for the central government and legitimacy in Lebanon. This "analysis" missed both those points.
It is hard to imagine that anyone gets into Lebanon if the Syrians do not want them in Lebanon. The connection of Fatah al-Islam to Syria is pretty well established. Similarly, only a child could imagine that al-Qaeda could be operating in southern Lebanon without cooperation of the Hezbollah and the Syrians.
It remains to be seen if the Syrians can control the genie they unleashed. On the other hand, the prompt and decisive action of the Lebanese army, on a scale and with a cruelty that Israel could never be allowed, may discourage such attempts in the future. The following statement is certainly silly, if not worse:
The fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al Islam poses a serious threat to the fragile stability of the Lebanese political structure.
No - the challenge to Lebanese army posed a serious threat, that's true enough The decisive liquidation of Fatah al Islam and the fact that Hezbollah and Syria had no choice but to acquiesce in it, is about the only good news there has been for the Lebanese government and its legitimacy in a long time. It is proof that the Lebanese government can function.
Ami Isseroff


Executive Summary: Not only do radical Shi'ites threaten the stability of the fragile Lebanese political system, but al Qaeda-backed Sunnis pose a significant threat. The recent fighting between the Lebanese army and the al Qaeda-affiliated Fatah al Islam organization in Nahr al Bared in north Lebanon, and the attacks against UNIFIL forces in south Lebanon, reflect the challenges of radical jihadi Sunni Islam on the stability of the country and the region. The Lebanese government's ability to face the challenge of al Qaeda appears limited, with the degree of its success largely dependant on international support and the consent of local power brokers such as Hizballah and the Palestinians.


Al Qaeda-affiliated organizations emerged in Lebanon after the end of the jihad (holy war) against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The radical Sunni Islamic organizations in Lebanon were affiliated with the Salafi Jihadist School, and were involved in terror activities against Western targets in Lebanon and in inter-Lebanese power struggles.

The occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces in 2003 gave al Qaeda and other "global jihad" organizations the opportunity to infiltrate Iraq and start a holy war against these coalition forces. Abu Musa'ab al Zarqawi, the al Qaeda commander in Iraq, extended the operational capabilities of his organization to other countries in the region using their territory for building infrastructures, as transit for mujahidin (Islamic fighters) on their way to Iraq and as theaters or targets for terror attacks.

Lebanon was one of the countries that al Qaeda used to recruit volunteers, to conduct terror attacks against Western targets in Lebanon and to operate from their state against Israel. The war between Israel and the Hizballah in summer 2006 gave al Qaeda the opportunity to offer support to Hizballah and to express its solidarity with the people of Lebanon. When the war was over, al Qaeda became a key hardline actor  against the agreement between Lebanon (Hizballah) and Israel.

On the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al Zawaheiri, called on the Lebanese to reject the UN Resolution 1701 that brought an end to the month long war between Israel and Hizballah. Zawaheiri said the Lebanese should not "bow to Western pressure" and called on them to organize a "popular holy war against Israel and the West. The greatest catastrophe in Resolution 1701," he said, "is that it recognizes the state of Israel and isolates the mujahidin in Palestine from the Muslims of Lebanon."

Since the 2003 war in Iraq and the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, Syria has adopted a policy of indirect support for the jihadi insurgency in Iraq and Lebanon, as a part of an initiative to destabilize the "new orders" in both states.

This article analyzes the growing threat of al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in the Lebanese theater: the confrontation between Fatah al Islam and the Lebanese army; the attacks against UNIFIL in south Lebanon and the rocket attacks against Israel. The allies of al Qaeda are operating simultaneously to destabilize the internal fragile political system of Lebanon and the implementation of UN Resolution 1701 by hitting UNIFIL and Israeli targets. Their intent is to escalate the conflict between Israel and Lebanon.

Fatah al Islam vs. the Lebanese Army

Fatah al Islam is considered by some Lebanese security officials to be a radical Palestinian group with links to al Qaeda; an organization with similar tactics and doctrine. The organization is far from being an ordinary armed Palestinian militia. Only part of its members are Palestinians and the rest originate from other Muslim countries, some of them jihadi veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The leader of the group is Shaker al Abassi, a Palestinan with links to al Qaeda. Abassi has spent three years in a Syrian jail on charges of smuggling weapons and ammunition to Jordan. He was sentenced to death in Jordan for involvement in the killing of the US diplomat Laurance Foley in 2002. Abassi was suspected of having links with Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who stood behind the Foley assassination.

The fighting between Fatah al Islam and the Lebanese army started on May 20, 2007, when police surrounded a militant occupied apartment in Tripoli as part of efforts to track down suspects in a bank robbery. The militants resisted arrest by police, sparking a gun battle that spread to surrounding streets.

The battle moved from the streets of Tripoli to the Palestinian Nahr al Bared refugee camp, the stronghold of Fatah al Islam militants. During the first weeks of the confrontation, the Lebanese army did not enter the camp because of the virtual extra-territorial status that Palestinian camps in Lebanon enjoyed since the Cairo agreement.

However, later the Lebanese army brought reinforcements and held the Nahr al Bared camp under siege. Most of the Palestinians managed to flee the camp but a few thousand of its 40,000 inhabitants remained.

The refusal of Fatah al Islam fighters to surrender forced the Lebanese army to enter the camp and to fight the militants within the built up area, with limited success. After heavy helicopter and artillery bombardment on Fatah al Islam positions, they asked for a ceasefire to evacuate the families of its combatants. On August 25, 2007, 25 women and 38 children, including al Abbasi's wife and son were evacuated from the Nahr al Bared camp, but shortly after that both sides renewed the fighting. It ended, however, on September 2, 2007 with the occupation of the camp by the Lebanese army. More than 222 people, including 163 Lebanese troops, were killed during the standoff, but al Abbasi fled the camp that same night.

The fighting between the Fatah al Islam and the Lebanese army is the country's worst internal violence since the 1975-90 Civil War, and constitutes a most significant challenge to the legitimacy of the Lebanese government.  

The Attacks Against UNIFIL in South Lebanon

On June 24, 2007, six UNIFIL soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb as their vehicle passed by in the Marjayoun-Al Khiam valley in south Lebanon. No one claimed responsibility for the attack but Lebanese security sources linked it to al Qaeda-affiliated organizations, such as the Fatah al Islam.

In an audio message on July 15, 2007, Ayman al Zawaheiri praised the June 24 attack as "a response against those invading Crusader forces who were occupying a beloved part of the land of Islam." That same day, another UNIFIL vehicle was slightly damaged by an explosive device in the area of the Qasmiyeh Bridge in south Lebanon. Again, no one claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears al Qaeda-related.

Rocket Attacks Against Israel

On December 27, 2005, seven "Grad" 107 mm rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel. Two of them fell in the town of Kiryat Shmona, causing minor damage and the rest fell in open areas. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility.
On June 16, 2007, three Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon landed near the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. A fourth rocket failed to fire and was dismantled by the Lebanese army. The launch sites were near the town of Marjayoun in south Lebanon. Hizballah quickly denied responsibility for the attack and Lebanese sources claimed that al Qaeda-affiliated radical Palestinians carried out the attack.

Al Qaeda and its allies often don't claim responsibility for terror attacks immediately (even after the Sept 11 attacks), but they leave fingerprints that identify the attacks with the organization. Lebanese and other Middle Eastern security sources believe that both the attacks against UNIFIL and Israel are part of a long-standing initiative of al Qaeda and its allies to fight the infidels on the soil of Lebanon and to open a new frontier against Israel.


The Lebanese arena constitutes a relatively comfortable operating space for radical Islamic organizations affiliated with al Qaeda. The weakness of the central government, the religious and political diversity, and the attempts of outsiders to meddle in Lebanese affairs all come together to create the restless simmering pot which is Lebanon.

The fighting between the Lebanese army and Fatah al Islam poses a serious threat to the fragile stability of the Lebanese political structure. The Lebanese government has received pledges of support - military, financial and political - from the US, France, the Arab League and from mainstream Palestinian movements who fear that the actions of Fatah al Islam will damage their cause. The results of the current confrontation between the Lebanese government and Fatah al Islam will have significant impact on the internal political structure of Lebanon and the stability of the region.

The Israel-Hizballah War in Lebanon (July-August 2006) followed by UN Resolution 1701 has created a new situation in Lebanon. Hizballah has lost part of its control over the southern part of Lebanon with the deployment of the Lebanese army and the UN forces in the South. In contrast with Hizballah's acquiescence to the decisions of the Lebanese government and the UN resolution, al Qaeda and its allies are not committed to the ceasefire agreement with Israel. Zawaheiri has called the Lebanese to organize a "jihad" against Israel and the West, and condemned the UN peacekeepers in Lebanon as enemies of Islam.

For al Qaeda and its supporters in Lebanon, the new environment in the country is a "window of opportunity" to expand their influence and activities against Israel, the UN forces and Western targets in Lebanon. The developments in Lebanon have attracted jihadi elements who are determined to carry their jihad into Lebanon and Syria, ever closer to their prime goal – Israel. The Lebanese government attempts to eliminate al Qaeda's infrastructure and that of its subsidiaries in Lebanon for two main reasons;

1. Fear of the consolidation of radical Islamic elements who would then threaten the stability of the country.
2. The imperative to take steps demonstrating "decisive" activity against terrorism is especially relevant following the American war in Iraq and the pressure of the United States on Syria that led to the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon.

The entrance of a new radical player into the sensitive and complex area of south Lebanon is enormously disruptive for all sides, and there is a common interest in arresting this development. The success of the Fatah al Islam combatants in confronting the Lebanese army in Nahr al Bared for more than four months will encourage other al Qaeda-affiliated organizations in Lebanon to promote their jihad within the Lebanese theater and against Israel.

The Lebanese government's ability to face the challenge of al Qaeda appears limited, with its success in doing so dependent on international support and the consent of local power brokers such as the Hizballah and the Palestinians, mainly in south Lebanon.

The author holds a Ph.D. from Bar-Ilan University and is a senior research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzeliya. He was the former director of the IDF History Department.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iranian war noises

Some peaceful and encouraging words from Iran. This is how a war starts. Textbook example. Every challenge raises the stakes, and every defense system encourages counter measures. Every mistake about the intention and capabilities of the enemy, is an invitation to disaster. It works for all sides.
Ami Isseroff
Iran Plans Retaliatory Air Strikes on Israel
News numbre: 860628046117:09 | 2007-09-19

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- A senior Iranian air force commander said his troops have prepared operational plans to retaliate against Israel's  possible air strikes on the Islamic Republic.

"Israel's rhetoric about air strike (on Iran) is just psychological warfare, because this regime does not have the power to launch air strikes on Iran. Israel is not capable of posing a serious threat to Iran because it does not have the actual power and capabilities needed," Air force lieutenant commander for operations General Mohammad Alavi told FNA here on Wednesday.

He reminded that Israel is within the range of Iranian missiles while "we can also attack them by our fighter planes and respond to their possible air strikes," although Israel is unlikely to launch a strike on Iran.

The General warned that the Iranian air force is not boasting, and said, "Such a plan is not just a hollow threat and we do everything on the basis of correct and precise planning and we have gained the needed readiness. Thus, Israel should give up foolishness."

He further dismissed enemies' propaganda about blitzkriegs on specific Iranian targets, and said, "We have gained the required preparedness to confront different plans and strategies and we do not allow their fighters to launch such easy attacks on our country as they allege."

The senior commander assured that enemy air force will lose average 30% of its fighters during any possible blitzkrieg on Iran.

He said that Iranian air force has distributed its RADAR sites according to a special pattern that it can pick up any belligerent move on the screen immediately.

"A majority of our blind points have been covered and all flying objects are under our control. Our air defense plans are also of variety and use such special tactics that have placed us in a unique position," he continued.

The General said that all the country's borders are controlled by Iranian RADAR systems and other electronic equipment 24-hour a day, adding that alien troops in the region are well informed of the said capabilities of the Iranian army.

He said Iran monitors all activities round the clock and would provide immediate response to any air intrusions.

The General further dismissed some recent reports that Iran is not equipped with the needed capabilities to counter Cruise Missiles, and said, "We have gained the required preparedness to confront these missiles, we have studied their performance and volume and range of fire and we have the needed systems to confront them."

"Children of the army are ready to respond to any enemy attack, irrespective  of the number of missiles and fighters used by the enemy," he continued.

Continued (Permanent Link)

You don't say: Gaza is enemy territory

Israel's security cabinet has declared the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity", opening the way for cuts in fuel and other vital supplies to the territory.
The office of Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said his security cabinet approved the "enemy entity" classification and there would be "limitations on imports to the Gaza Strip and a reduction in the supply of fuel and electricity".

Well I guess if you have a "government" across the street that has vowed repeatedly to destroy your state, declares that negotiations are a waste of time, insists on a holy war, and keeps lobbing rockets at you, you might be a bit sore too. Those do not seem to be very peaceful gestures.
The reaction of the Hamas is tragicomic:
Hamas issued a statement in response, saying that the security cabinet's announcement on Tuesday amounted to a "declaration of war".
Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said: "It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people.

"They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference," Barhoum said, referring to the US-sponsored meeting expected to be held in two months.
"Humiliating formulas" refers to recognition of the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, and abandonment of the genocidal program to wipe out the Jewish people.
Hamas and their friends reacted by lobbing more rockets at Israel. The formal declaration gives Israel the right to do things like curtailing imports to Gaza, and even stopping electricity. Among the "rights" claimed by the Hamas is the right to have Israeli electricity to operate the lathes that make the rockets.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab States: Peace with Israel will not help USA in Iraq, Iran

A pet theory of the US State Department is that solving the Israeli - Palestininian conflict will magically solve the Israeli-Arab conflict, and that solving both will even more magically solve all the problems of the Middle East, make Wahhabi Sheikhs fall in love with democracy and reduce the price of oil to about 25 cents a barrel. Bikinis will replace Hijabs in Iran, the Persian Gulf will turn into grade A crude oil, the lion will lie down the lamb, and a little assistant undersecretary of state for Middle East Affairs shall lead them.
The upcoming summit conference on the Middle East was designed according to those percepts: the United States would show "progress" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arabs in turn would help the United States extricate itself from Iraq. The particular idea that the Jews are at fault for the problems of the United States in Iraq was due to the Iraq Study Group report, where it was injected as a last minute afterthought by Ray Close.
There is no longer any need for agents of the World Zionist Conspiracy, A.K.A. "Israel Lobby" to explain that this idea is a fantasy. The idea was just shot down by the Arabs.  According to an AFP article:  
Pro-Western Gulf Arab states do not want the Middle East peace conference called by Washington to be aimed at helping get it out of "the Iraqi impasse," the oil-rich bloc's chief said on Tuesday.

Gulf Cooperation Council member states "welcome any attempt to reach a just and comprehensive solution of the Palestinian issue and settle the Arab-Israeli conflict," Abdulrahman al-Attiyah said in remarks released at
GCC headquarters in Riyadh.

He said he hoped the proposed conference will address core issues and will "not be aimed at linking movement in the Middle East peace process to developments in Iraq in a bid to attract Arab states to a conference whose real goal is to help (the US) get out of the Iraqi impasse."

Attiyah did not elaborate on his suggestion that Gulf monarchies, which have close ties with the United States, fear Washington might use the conference to ease its difficulties in war-torn Iraq, where the continuing insurgency is fueling mounting domestic criticism.
Arab states are not going to be helpful in confronting Iranian nuclear ambitions and mayhem in Iraq either, apparently:
Attiyah also reiterated that Gulf Arab states favour a negotiated settlement to the standoff between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme.

"GCC states don't want to see any brotherly or friendly country subjected to sanctions," he said in a reference to Iran.

They also support "opting for the language of peaceful dialogue to resolve all the problems liable to affect international security and stability," Attiyah added.
One might hope, though probably in vain, that these positions will demolish once and for all the idea that U.S. problems in the Middle East are due to Israel and the Israel lobby, and the even stranger idea that the reactionary and short sighted "pro-Western" regimes of the Gulf states are capable of being, or interested in being, strategic assets except in the sense of providing oil for the highest price the market will bear. The addiction of the United States -- and of the industrialized world-- to oil has caused a dangerous  blind spot concerning the activities of Gulf States rulers in financing radical Madrassahs and fomenting radical Islamism. They are willing to have radical Islamist regimes and to support terror anywhere, as long as it is not in their own country. Likewise, the Sunni Arabs seem reconciled to living under the hegemony of nuclear Iran. Or else, they are playing the old Middle East game of saying what must be said for public consumption, and hoping that the West or Israel will be wise enough to ignore their propaganda and do their dirty work for them. It is not such a far-fetched idea after all. Israel got rid of the threat of the radical Grand Mufti Hajj Amin Al Husseini Grand Mufti Hajj  for them, Israel got rid of the threat of pan-Arabism for them, and Israel got rid of the Iraqi nuclear reactor. The US has spent billions every year to protect their Sheikhdoms, spent several hundred billions to get rid of Saddam Hussein for them, after first spending hundreds of billions to make Kuwait safe for Sheikhocracy. And in return for all this, almost none of the Arab states have really lifted a finger to support U.S. policy and certainly not to control Palestinian terror or advance a constructive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is more than words.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Syria and the peace conference

From his point of view, he is right. It is very hard to make peace with enemies, and much easier to make peace with friends. But face it, it won't be a party without Mr. Assad, and it would be better to have him inside the tent, pissing out, then the other way round.
As for PM Olmert, it seems he has nothing against speaking with Syria:
"I have a lot of respect for the Syrian leader and for Syria's conduct. They have internal problems, but we have no reason to rule out dialogue with Syria," Olmert said in a briefing for Russian-language media outlets in Israel.
"As I've said in the past, we want to make peace with everyone," Olmert continued. "If the conditions ripen, we are ready to make peace with Syria, with no preconditions and no ultimate demands."
The US is not clear about what it wants:
Since U.S. President W. George Bush's administration announced several months ago that it intends to hold the summit, Washington has not clarified its position on whether Syria should attend as well. Several officials were recently quoted as saying that the summit will be attended by countries that can "contribute" to the peace process.
Syria is certainly one of the countries that could contribute to the peace process, given that they are a major part of the war process. A major advantage of Syrian attendance at the conference is that the almost inevitable failure can then be blamed on Syria.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Iran and the Holocaust: Habib's list

Iran is a complex country it seems. On the one hand, the President denies the Holocaust. On the other, a TV mini-series shows an Iranian diplomat helping Jews to escape the Holocaust. The reactions are interesting too.
"I have watched the series from the beginning," said Sedigheh Karandish, a housewife and mother of two. "It's pulling me in to see what these two people do at the end. Hopefully, it will be a happy ending."
Think about it.
Ami Isseroff
Iran TV series sympathetic to Jews
Viewers riveted by show that depicts Holocaust, rarely mentioned in Iran
The Associated Press
Updated: 4:45 p.m. ET Sept. 16, 2007

TEHRAN, Iran - It is Iran's version of "Schindler's List," a miniseries that tells the tale of an Iranian diplomat in Paris who helps Jews escape the Holocaust — and viewers across the country are riveted.

That's surprising enough in a country where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has questioned whether the Holocaust even took place. What's more surprising is that government media produced the series, and is airing it on state-run television.

The Holocaust is rarely mentioned in state media in Iran, school textbooks don't discuss it and Iranians have little information about it.

Yet the series titled "Zero Degree Turn" is clearly sympathetic to the Jews' plight during World War II. It shows men, women and children with yellow stars on their clothes being taken forcibly out of their homes and loaded into trucks by Nazi soldiers.

"Where are they taking them?" the horrified hero, a young Iranian diplomat who works at the Iranian Embassy in Paris, asks someone in a crowd of onlookers.

"The Fascists are taking the Jews to the concentration camps," the man says. The hero, named Habib Parsa, then begins giving Iranian passports to Jews to allow them to flee occupied France to then-Palestine.

Based on a true story
Though the Habib character is fictional, it is based on a true story of diplomats in the Iranian Embassy in Paris in the 1940s who gave out about 500 Iranian passports for Jews to use to escape.

The show's appearance now may reflect an attempt by Iran's leadership to moderate its image as anti-Semitic and to underline a distinction that Iranian officials often make — that their conflict is with Israel, not with the Jewish people.

About 25,000 Jews live in Iran, the largest Jewish community in the Middle East after Israel. They have one representative in parliament, which is run mostly by Islamic clerics.

The series could not have aired without being condoned by Iran's clerical leadership. The state broadcaster is under the control of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khomenei, who has final say in all matters inside Iran.

Moderate conservatives have been gaining ground in Iran, where there is increasing discontent with the ruling hardliners over rising tensions with the West, a worsening economy and price hikes in basic commodities.

The government even allowed the series to break another taboo in Iran: For the first time, many actresses appear without the state-mandated Islamic dress code. The producers wanted to realistically portray 1940s Paris, and thus avoided the headscarves and head-to-foot robes that all women must normally wear on Iranian TV.

Ahmadinejad sparked widespread outrage in 2005 when he made comments casting doubt on the Holocaust and saying the state of Israel should be "wiped from the map." His government organized a conference of Holocaust deniers and skeptics from around the world in December.

But the series has won support even from hardliners. Some argue that it links the Holocaust with Israel's creation, thus boosting an argument by Ahmadinejad that if the Nazi killing of Jews did take place, the Palestinians who then lived in Palestine should not have had to pay the price for it by the creation of Israel after the war.

"The series differentiates between Jews and Zionism. The ground for forming Israel is prepared when Hitler's army puts pressure on activist Jews. In this sense, it considers Nazism parallel to Zionism," the hard-line newspaper Keyhan said.

However, if the series does aim to make that point, it has not done so overtly.

Gaining understanding
State media have said the series, which began in April, is popular. It has been a revelation for some Iranians and has pulled them away from more popular satellite channels, which are banned but which many watch anyway on illegal dishes. The fare on state TV is usually dry.

"Once, I wept when I learned through the film what a dreadful destiny the small nation had during the world war in the heart of so-called civilized Europe," said Mahboubeh Rahamati, a Tehran bank teller.

Kazem Gharibi said he watches the series every Monday on a TV in his grocery store.

"Through this film, I understood that Jews had a hard time in the war — helpless and desperate, as we were when Iraq imposed war on us," he said, referring to the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The series began with a love story between Habib, the embassy employee, and a French Jew, Sara Stroke, in the early 1940s. Viewers say the love story pulls them in as much as the history.

After Paris is occupied by the Nazis, Habib decides to forge Iranian passports for many French Jews to save them from the Holocaust — starting with Sara and her family. The German government accepts his embassy's claim that the passport holders are from an Iranian tribe and lets them leave France.

Habib is imprisoned by the Nazis for espionage after his forgeries are discovered. He then is released and returns to Tehran, where he is jailed again for forging passports.

Eight episodes remain in the series, and viewers drawn by the love story are on edge as they await the finish.

"I have watched the series from the beginning," said Sedigheh Karandish, a housewife and mother of two. "It's pulling me in to see what these two people do at the end. Hopefully, it will be a happy ending."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Let the Sane of Saudi Arabia Unite.

Let the Sane of Saudi Arabia Unite. 

By  Tarek Heggy

A little over two hundred and fifty years ago, in 1744 to be precise, an alliance was forged between Mohamed ibn-Saud and Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab, whereby the former agreed to rule according to the doctrine preached by the latter. A succinct statement made by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab shortly after the deal was struck expresses the essence of his doctrine, which is known as Wahhabism: "Blood, blood, destruction, destruction." These four simple words summarize what was and what continues to be the message of Wahhabism. The partnership between the two men led to the first incarnation of the Saudi-Wahhabi state. Anyone who, like me, has read the nineteen books written by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab will realize that he belongs more to the realm of proselytism than to that of Islamic jurisprudence. The first Saudi state lasted from 1744 until 1819, when Ibrahim Pasha, Mohamed Ali's eldest son, led a military expedition which destroyed the state, razed its capital, Al-Dir'iyah, to the ground and captured its prince, Abdullah ibn-Saud, sending him first to Cairo then on to the capital of the Ottoman state where he was executed.

The first Saudi state banned what it considered to be heretical practices, including the building of tombs, music, singing, dancing and any other manifestation of un-Islamic conduct. Members of other faiths were hated and despised as 'unclean'. Such was the hatred of foreigners that European consultants brought in by King Abdul Aziz at the beginning of the twentieth century were spat upon by the Ikhwan, members of an ultra-orthodox offshoot of the original Wahhabi movement. The presence of non-Muslims on the sacred ground of the Arabian Peninsula was seen as a desecration, as was any hint of modernity even when it came to such trivial matters as the shape of beards and mustaches. To the theologians of the first Saudi-Wahhabi state the only rightful interpretation of Islam lay in the Hanbalite school of law [founded by Ahmed ibn-Hanbal and further elaborated by his two main disciples, ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym al-Juzeya] even though it is by far the weakest of the four Sunni schools of law [the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafite and Hanbalite]. To this day, Saudi jurists remain committed to the version of Islam propounded by ibn-Hanbal, ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym Al-Juzeya, even though they rank far lower in stature than such towering Islamic jurists as Abu Hanifa Al-No'man, Malik Ibn Anas, Jaafar Al-Sadiq and Ibn Rushd [the second teacher after the first, Aristotle].

Where jurists like Abu Hanifa and Ibn Rushd relied on the tools of rationality and deductive reasoning, compilation was the hallmark of the Hanbalite School, which allowed no scope for reason or independent thinking but insisted on a dogmatic interpretation of holy texts. Thus while Abu Hanifa relied on istihsan [using few traditions and extracting from the Qur'an by reasoning the rulings which fitted his ideas] and Ibn Rushd on ta'weel [deductive reasoning], Ibn Hanbal insisted on a literal interpretation of holy texts. This led him to accept over ten thousand of the Prophet's Hadith as apostolic precept. It also bred a climate which favoured unquestioning adherence to tradition over the use of critical faculties, creating generations of followers and imitators and leading Islamic societies to the point at which they find themselves today: sidelined from History, science and the march of human progress. The Hanbalite School has turned the Muslim mentality into a passive recipient of answers instead of one that asks questions, let alone one that engages in critical thinking, the main engine of human progress.

Following Ibrahim Pasha's defeat of the first Saudi-Wahhabi state, the Saudis, with their Wahhabi partners, entered into an alliance with the al-Rashid family, who ruled the eastern region of the Arabian Peninsula from their capital Ha'il. The alliance between the al-Rashids and what can be called the second Saudi state continued until the al-Rashids turned on the al-Saud family and sent them into exile in Kuwait in 1891.

In 1901, the young scion of the Saudi family, Abdul Aziz son of Abdul Rahman son of Faisal al-Saud, born in 1875 and endowed with the quality of leadership, seized Riyadh in a nighttime raid. From 1902 until 1925 he waged a campaign to assert his dominion over the Arabian Peninsula and, after seizing Mecca then Medina in 1925, proclaimed himself the ruler of Najd and other provinces now known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Actually, the name only came into use seven years after Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud became Sultan of Najd and King of Hijaz in 1925.

In the course of a historical journey that has no parallel in history, the actions, policies, words and deeds of Abdul Aziz between 1902 and 1925 not only confirmed his exceptional leadership qualities but bespoke a profound understanding of the nature of power, both in absolute terms and as exercised by the Great Powers, whether the Ottoman Empire, the British Empire or the empire that was to emerge later, the American Empire. Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud played his role with great skill, using all his acumen to achieve the goal he had set himself during the years of exile in Kuwait as the guest of the al-Sabbah family in general and of the ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Mubarak al-Sabbah, in particular.

Long before the Americans used the Islamists during the Cold War to help them defeat the Soviet Empire [notably after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979], Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud used Islamists to consolidate his power. In 1912, he incepted and financed a movement known as the Ikhwan, a forerunner of the Islamists/jihadists deployed by the Americans against the Soviets in Afghanistan. The symbiotic relationship between Abdul Aziz and the Ikhwan ended in 1930 with a ferocious battle between the erstwhile allies when the Saudis, led by King Abdul Aziz, crushed the Ikhwan, led by Faisal al-Dawish. The Ikhwan's religious views were so extreme that they considered any sign of modernity or progress the work of the Devil. As their alliance with Ibn Saud coincided with a period of great scientific advances, they had plenty of abominations to contend with: the telegraph, cars, telephones then radios were all regarded as sinful and anyone who did not resist them as a heretic. Such was the fanaticism of this lunatic fringe that one of its members advanced on the Sultan [Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud] with a pair of scissors and proceeded to shorten Ibn Saud's robes in full view of his entourage, thereby driving home the message that the principles of Wahhabism were stronger than the authority of the Saudis. Apparently short robes are a basic tent of Wahhabism and failure to observe this essential requirement of orthodoxy is heresy!

Abdul Aziz, first as prince, then sultan then king, used the Ikhwan when he needed them to further expand his suzerainty. For like all those who welcome death as a passport to paradise, they were fearless fighters. The problem was that they were equally fearless in standing up to Abdul Aziz whenever they considered him to have deviated from the true path. During the years of their increasingly uneasy alliance [from 1912 until he succeeded in asserting his dominion over most of the Arabian peninsula in 1925], fierce clashes often broke out between them. For example, they lashed out at him when he stopped riding camels and took to riding cars, publicly berating him when "he left Riyadh in 1925 on the back of a camel and returned in a Cadillac!" This was the last straw for the sultan, who could not countenance any challenge to his authority as the undisputed leader of most of the Arabian Peninsula. He barely had time to bask in the glow of his hard-won victory over the Hashemites and the expansion of his dominion over lands previously under their control before the Ikhwan forced his hand. The final showdown came in a battle between Abdul Aziz and the Ikhwan. They were routed and their leader, Faisal al-Dawish, was captured and imprisoned, dying in captivity a few years later.

But the question is whether the Saudi state, successful though it may have been when it came to defeating its enemies [from the Hashemite al-Rashids to Faisal al-Dawish], has been equally successful in ridding itself of the fanatical, not to say downright psychotic, ideas propounded by the Ikhwan of Najd, who militate against the use of cars, telegrams and radios and for the shortening of robes, the shaving of mustaches and the growing of beards. The truth is that the Saudi state, whether in its first, second or third incarnations, has never been free of the pernicious effects of the doctrine preached by the Ikhwan.

Today the Saudi state resists the education of women, frowns on television broadcasts, bans women drivers and considers music and singing sinful. The underlying logic behind these anomalies is not very different from that which informed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of Islam, the takeover of the masjid al-haram [the sacred mosque which is home to the Ka'ba] at the beginning of the fifteenth century of the Hejira calendar. All attest to the continued influence of Ikhwani ideas in the Kingdom, as do the ban on teaching music and philosophy in Saudi schools and the refusal to appoint women to the Shura Council or in cabinet posts. There is also the spate of fatwas inspired by this madness, like the fatwa in which Ibn al-Baz concludes that the earth is not round and the one proscribing the sending of flowers to the sick! To stop the madness, the Saudi establishment must take a firm stand preferably accompanied by a psychological campaign.

Having said that, however, we must in all fairness distinguish between Wahhabism, its Ikhwan offshoot and the Saudi family. The truth is that not one of the nineteen books written by Mohamed ibn-Abdul Wahab calls for any of the excesses required by the Ikhwan. Also, even though the Saudi family entered into an alliance with the Wahhabis at a certain political stage and with the Ikhwan at another, it does not necessarily share their views.

As a student of Saudi history of the last three centuries, I believe the House of Saud has reached a watershed in its relationship with both the Wahhabi school and the remnants of the Ikhwan. I think that when it transpired that most of the criminals of 9/11 were Saudi nationals, the Saudi family realized it was time for a showdown with the Wahhabis and the Ikhwan [the Nejdi, not the Egyptian, variety]. There is, after all, a historical precedent on which to draw, namely, the stand taken by the father of their oldest prince, King Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud, who took on the Ikhwan in the nineteen thirties, despite the undeniable role they played in his triumphant career, defeating their army led by Faisal al-Dawish.

The House of Saud, which is not ideologically implicated in the ideas of Wahhabism and the Ikhwan, is today called upon to do the following:

Stand up to extremist elements in the country like their father did eight decades ago.

Remove Wahhabi and Ikhwan zealots from influential positions in the institution of education.

Remove Wahhabi and Ikhwan zealots from influential positions in the Ministry of Wakf, [religious endowments] Da'wa [the call to Islam] and Hajj.

Abolish the system of state-sponsored religious vigilantes like the motawa'een and the al-amr bel ma'rouf wal nahy 'an al-monkar who patrol the streets and mete out instant punishment for any perceived violation of strict Islamic practices, in total contradiction with the concept of the modern state.

Reduce the huge budget allocated by the Kingdom to the religious establishment [nearly three billion US dollars] and reallocate it to the fields of education and health [after all, those sporting short robes, shaven mustaches and untrimmed beards can contribute nothing of value to a modern state – the only role they are qualified to play is a destructive one].

Encourage moderate professors of Islamic jurisprudence to set a timetable for introducing their students to Hanafi, Maliki and Shafite sources in place of the Hanbalite sources now exclusively in use so that in time the people of Saudi Arabia reach a stage of religious maturity in which they recognize that the doctrine of Wahhabism is not the only, or even the major, model of Islam. Indeed, as I have already pointed out, ibn-Hanbal, ibn-Taymiyah and ibn-Qaiym Al-Juzeya were minor figures in the pantheon of Islamic jurists. 

Launch an offensive against the Ikhwani obduracy on such issues as the appointment of women ministers, the inclusion of women in the Shura Council, allowing women to drive, allowing male teachers to teach female students and female teachers to teach male students, in order to promote a climate favourable to enlightenment and progress in place of the current reactionary climate that has no equivalent on earth.

Given that hundreds of the Islamic centers established by Saudi Arabia throughout the world have become a breeding ground for fanaticism and extremism and crucibles for violence, blood lust and terrorism, an alternative plan must be laid down to transform them into community service centers rather than allow them to continue disseminating obscurantist ideas that spawn a mentality of violence which has distorted the image of Islam in the eyes of the world over the last few decades.

The opinions expressed in this article are motivated not by enmity for Saudi Arabia but by concern for its future. For I firmly believe that unless the descendants of the great King Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud follow the example he set with his stand against the Ikhwan of Najd and their leader, Faisal al-Dawish, eighty years ago, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is headed for a highly detrimental confrontation with advanced societies. I also believe that the collapse of the Saudi regime, whether in favour of the extremists or of the trend calling for the country's partition and division would represent a great strategic danger to all the countries of the Gulf and the Middle East.
As reform in Egypt is a thousand times better than its takeover by any of a number of alternatives, so too is reform in Saudi Arabia a thousand times better than its takeover by alternatives that could plunge the entire region into unprecedented chaos. Maintaining the stability of Saudi Arabia and all its neighbours is imperative. But I believe guaranteeing stability is impossible absent a historical operation like the one undertaken by King Abdul Aziz ibn-Saud against the extremists between 1925 and 1930. The question is whether the sane elements in Saudi Arabia will follow a course similar to the one taken by their famous forbear eighty years ago or whether they will continue to coexist with the modern-day disciples of Faisal al-Dawish until the ship sinks with everyone on board.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Will we know the truth about Muhamad Al-Dura?

The shooting of Muhamad Al-Dura, supposedly perpetrated by the IDF, helped to fan the flames of the nascent Intifadah. Some Israelis and others have claimed that the "shooting" was staged by Palestinian cameramen. Their claims receive increased credibility because of the stubborn refusal of France Television 2 to publicize the unedited footage of the shooting.
Seven years too late, the IDF is demanding to see the footage. Better late than never.
Ami Isseroff
Jerusalem Post
IDF demands uncut al-Dura tape
by Caroline Glick, Sept. 17, 2007
The IDF has abandoned its official silence in a seven-year-old case that has been characterized as a "blood libel" against the IDF and the State of Israel.

On September 10, the deputy commander of the IDF's Spokesman's Office, Col. Shlomi Am-Shalom, submitted a letter to the France 2 television network's permanent correspondent in Israel, Charles Enderlin, regarding Enderlin's story from September 30, 2000, in which he televised 55 seconds of edited footage from the Netzarim junction in the central Gaza Strip purporting to show IDF forces shooting and killing 12-year-old
Muhammad al-Dura.

After its exclusive broadcast that day, France 2 offered the edited film free of charge to all media outlets. The footage, and the story of the purported IDF killing of al-Dura, was quickly rebroadcast around the world.

Within days, al-Dura became a symbol of the Palestinian war against Israel. His name has been repeatedly invoked by terrorists and their supporters as a justification for killing Israelis, Jews and their Western supporters.

In his letter, Am-Shalom asked for the entire unedited 27-minute film that was shot by France 2's Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu-Rahma that day, as well as the footage filmed by Abu-Rahma on October 1, 2000.
Am-Shalom requested that the broadcast-quality films be sent to his office no later than September 15. France 2 has yet to hand over the requested film.

The IDF's move came against the backdrop of French media watchdog Philippe Karsenty's legal battle with France 2 regarding the network's coverage of the al-Dura affair.

Last year, France 2 and Enderlin sued Karsenty, who runs the Internet media watchdog Web site Media Ratings, for defamation for a letter he sent out in 2004 accusing France 2 of staging the al-Dura story.

Karsenty also called for the resignations of Enderlin and of France 2's news director, Arlette Chabot, for their roles in promulgating the alleged hoax.

In October 2006 a French court decided in favor of France 2 and Enderlin, and against Karsenty.

The court acknowledged that Karsenty had submitted significant evidence indicating that the event had been staged. Still, in ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the judges said Karsenty's accusations lacked credibility because, they claimed incorrectly, he had based his accusations on a single source.

The court also stressed that "no Israeli authority, neither the army - which is nonetheless most affected, nor the Justice [Ministry] has ever accorded the slightest credit to [Karsenty's] allegations" regarding the authenticity of the France 2 report.

In his letter to Enderlin, Am-Shalom disputes the judges' assertion. "It is my duty to note," he wrote, "[that their claim] does not correspond to repeated attempts made by the IDF to receive the filmed materials, and with the conclusions of the IDF's committee of inquiry [into the purported shooting] that were widely publicized in the international and French media."

Am-Shalom discussed at length the findings of the IDF's probe into the incident. That inquiry was ordered by then-OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia.

Citing Samia, Am-Shalom wrote, "The general has made clear that from an analysis of all the data from the scene, including the location of the IDF position, the trajectory of the bullets, the location of the father [Jamal al-Dura] and the son behind an obstacle, the cadence of the bullet fire, the angle at which the bullets penetrated the wall behind the father and his son, and the hours of the events, we can rule out with the greatest certainty the possibility that the gunfire that apparently harmed the boy and his father was fired by IDF soldiers, who were at the time located only inside their fixed position [at the junction]."

Am-Shalom further notes that "Gen. Samia emphasized to me that all his attempts to receive the filmed material for the purpose of his inquiry were rejected."

The IDF is in urgent need of the footage, Am-Shalom said, because "it has been asked to comment on the ruling [against Karsenty] from October 19, 2006, on this issue, which is scheduled to be discussed in a French appellate court on September 19."

"Since we are cognizant of the fact that there have been attempts to stage media events, and since doubt has been raised along these lines regarding the story under discussion, we asked to receive the aforementioned materials in order to conclude this episode and to get to the truth," Am-Shalom said.

In the past, the IDF shied away from taking a strong public position on the al-Dura affair. At the time of the incident, then-chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz and then-prime minister and defense minister Ehud Barak did not openly support Samia's inquiry or its findings.

As late as June 23, 2006, then-IDF Spokesperson Brig.-Gen. Miri Regev told Haaretz, "I cannot determine whether the IDF is or is not responsible for the killing of al-Dura."

In the aftermath of Karsenty's civil trial last year, the IDF came under considerable criticism both in Israel and from Jewish groups abroad for its silence on the issue.

While the IDF maintained official silence, independent probes by various foreign media organizations and Internet activists over the past several years have called the veracity of the France 2 report into serious question.

Those investigations demonstrated that purported IDF "attacks" against Palestinian civilians were being openly staged by Palestinian cameramen and locals at the Netzarim junction throughout the day of the alleged shooting of al-Dura.

Am-Shalom sent copies of his letter to Samia, incoming IDF Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel, the France 2 representative in Israel, the president of the network in France, and Philippe Karsenty.

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Marching forward to disaster: The Israeli-Palestinian Conference in November

Apparently, nobody including the US and Israeli governments and the pundits of INSS Insight, understand what sort of damage may be done if (when) the November Middle East conference fails.
Ami Isseroff

INSS Insight

September 17, 2007 No. 30

The Israeli-Palestinian Conference in November

Shlomo Brom

President Bush's initiative to convene an international meeting in November on the Israeli-Palestinian track has given a new boost to the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. This follows the dynamic created by Hamas' takeover of the Gaza Strip in June this year. The key question now is whether these stimuli can pull the cart of Israeli-Palestinian relations out of the bog in which it has been stuck since the end of 2000.

Hamas' takeover of Gaza made possible a renewed dialogue between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas because it led to the breakup of the Palestinian national unity government that had been boycotted by Israel. It also prompted the adoption of a policy aimed at building up the Fatah government in the West Bank and strangling the Hamas government in Gaza. The operating assumption behind that policy is that if the Fatah administration becomes a success story and the Hamas administration turns out to be a failure, the Palestinian public will abandon Hamas and renew its support for Fatah, which has recognized Israel and been its traditional interlocutor. In dealing with Israel, the Palestinian side has consistently argued that, alongside measures to improve the quality of life, the best way to improve Fatah's public image is to create a political horizon. That argument implies that Fatah's clearest advantage over Hamas is its ability to secure a political agreement that satisfies the basic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Announcement of the Washington meeting, which was upgraded in the international and Israeli media to the status of "conference," created a target date for concrete results in pre-meeting negotiations, because since the failure of the Camp David meeting in 2000, there is great apprehension about building up expectations that end in huge disappointment. As a result, the dialogue between the two sides has been accelerated and now involves periodic meetings between Olmert and Abbas as well as contacts carried out by Minister Haim Ramon aimed at reaching some understandings that will provide the basis for agreement between the two leaders.

Both sides will have to overcome serious obstacles in order to reach the desired agreement. The main obstacle is the lack of Israeli confidence in the Palestinian ability to implement any agreement at all. Consequently, the agreement now under discussion is not meant to be implemented in the immediate future. Indeed, it is difficult for Israel to take on clear obligations in the context of an agreement which it doubts will ever be implemented. Secondly, the lingering trauma of Camp David has left Israel reluctant to enter into what it suspects would be another adventure in permanent status negotiations that will fail and produce only negative consequences. Israel therefore prefers a process built on partial agreements. The third obstacle is the domestic situation on both sides, which results in each side having an interest in a different type of agreement.

The Palestinians want as detailed an agreement as possible that addresses all the sensitive issues, including Jerusalem and the refugees. But on the Israeli side, a weak and divided government produces fear that if the Prime Minister agrees to what will be seen as concessions on these sensitive issues, his coalition will crumble because two parties, Shas and Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beitenu, will walk out. For these reasons, the Israeli side prefers as general an agreement as possible. The brief period left until the November meeting makes it difficult to bridge the gap between the two sides; a solution is being sought in the form of an agreement on principles that is not meant to be implemented but that will lay out the guidelines according to which a detailed, permanent agreement will be negotiated and formulated later. Following a couple of earlier meetings, Olmert and Abbas agreed on 10 September to appoint negotiating teams to work out these guidelines.

However, matters are further complicated by exogenous factors. The policy of cultivating Fatah in the West Bank while pressuring Hamas in Gaza creates a strong Hamas interest in sabotaging the Olmert-Abbas dialogue. One way to do so is to portray Abbas as a servant of Israel and the United States who concedes to them on issues of vital Palestinian interest. Another is to resort to violence, because it will be very difficult to conduct effective negotiations in an atmosphere of rising violence. Indeed, there has recently been a noticeable rise in violence in the Gaza Strip and Hamas has also tried to launch attacks from the West Bank. Several successful attacks and the ensuing Israeli responses could well make any agreement impossible.

The success of the November meeting/conference will depend not only on the two sides' ability to produce a common position paper but also on the identity of the other participants, because the meeting represents an effort to encourage states supporting the Arab peace initiative to play a more active part in promoting Israeli-Palestinian agreement. However, Saudi Arabia – which helped formulate the initiative – has thus far avoided any commitment to participate. Saudi Arabia shuns any direct, public contact with Israel and leaves that "dirty work" to Egypt and Jordan, states that already have peace treaties with Israel, so Saudi participation in the meeting would constitute a deviation from this policy and show readiness to take a more visible role.

Given the difficulties in reaching pre-meeting agreement and the problematic question of the attendees, it is not surprising that both Israel and the United States are now trying to lower expectations. Their efforts have already had some success: immediately after Bush's announcement, the media tended to inflate its importance; the Israeli media, at least, have more recently begun to downplay the significance of the event.

Even if the November meeting produces no real achievement, it will probably not have the same dramatic aftermath as did the failure of Camp David, simply because expectations are so much lower. Still, failure this time would seriously undermine the policy of building up Fatah and wearing down Hamas. The chances of that policy succeeding are in any case not high given the tendency of the Palestinian public to blame the problems in Gaza on Hamas' enemies rather than on Hamas itself. But failure in Washington would also allow Hamas to demonstrate clearly that its political rival is incapable of delivering the agreement that the Palestinians desire.


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No coercion in matters of faith - not quite

"No coercion in matters of faith??"
Dispatches investigates the violence and intimidation facing Muslims who convert to Christianity in Britain. Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett meets former Muslims who now live under the threat of reprisals from their former communities. Many are still living in fear. He interviews a family who have been driven out of their home and a convert whose brother was beaten close to death.

The investigation uncovers a network of churches supporting converts from Islam who have to worship under a veil of secrecy. It is estimated there are as many as 3,000 Muslims who have converted to Christianity living in Britain.

Converting to another religion for a Muslim is not just considered a taboo act by some believers. Certain Islamic texts demand converts - also known as apostates - be punished severely for deserting their faith. In several Islamic states, the death penalty is imposed. Here in Britain, Dispatches discovers a form of mob justice is taking place on our streets. A concerned Christian bishop tells Dispatches that it may not be long before a British convert is killed, and implores Muslim leaders to take action.

Dispatches discovers the situation for converts from Islam in Britain is a tinderbox waiting to explode. Increasingly asylum seekers from Islamic countries are exploring different faiths in Britain while a new strand of evangelical Christianity is targeting Britain's Muslims for conversion.

With radical British Islamic groups calling for apostates to be executed if they achieved their goal of a worldwide Islamic state, it's a potentially dangerous cocktail that has been exacerbated by the silence of both Muslim and Christian leaders on the subject.

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Israeli education program helps urban American students realize their learning potential

Doing Tikkun Olam from Israel
New partnership between Jerusalem-based International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP) and the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA) will transform the urban educational system from one that oftentimes leads children with hopeless futures into a future of promise.

(By Batsheva Pomerantz    Israel 21C )

When underachieving fourth graders in Bridgeport, Connecticut recently spent three days undergoing a battery of educational tests, they not only had fun but they perceived themselves in a totally new and positive way. One of the students, Tyheem, wrote in appreciation: "...thanks for everything. You made my brain strong."

 These students of African American and Hispanic background were part of a pilot project using a novel Israeli-developed system of cognitive assessment developed by the Jerusalem-based International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (ICELP)

The testing preceded the recently signed partnership between the ICELP and the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NUA). Plans are underway to start implementing the partnership in 20 US cities in the near future.

 The innovative cognitive theories to properly assess children's learning capabilities were developed by the ICELP's founder and co-director Prof. Reuven Feuerstein, and will be applied to NUA's educator programs and aid their successful record of closing the achievement gap in urban school districts nationwide.


The new partnership will address the need for improved student achievement, especially for children of color, and will include a special concern for underserved and underperforming African American males in the US.

 Nationally, African American students are identified as educationally mentally retarded twice as often as their white peers; and African Americans are identified as emotionally/behaviorally disordered one and a half times as often as their white peers. The actual number of these "BD" (Behavioral Disorder) diagnoses has increased by 500% between 1974 and 1998.


"What began as research to identify the most powerful program to reduce the underachievement of African American males has blossomed into a partnership that I truly believe has the ability to transform the urban educational system from one that oftentimes leads children with hopeless futures into a future of promise," says NUA president Dr. Eric Cooper. "It is unfortunate that misdiagnosis of special education status has been used to place a significant number of children of color into programs that doom them to a life of low expectations and low achievement."


Recently, a US delegation led by Cooper joined Feuerstein and staff members at a signing ceremony at the Knesset's Education Committee headed by MK Rabbi Michael Melchior


"The partnership between ICELP and NUA is based on science, belief and charity," explains Israel Prize recipient Feuerstein. "Too often we give up on children who are labeled with learning disabilities, but my work has found that using more creative techniques to teach these children will lead them to the same successes that life offers the other children in the classroom. Poverty is not destiny and we can reverse major depression in a child's cognitive development and realize impressive results. The benefits to all of society cannot be overstated."


Misdiagnosing children is a disturbing trend. "Poor prior classroom instruction, cultural differences, or inconsistencies in policy implementation may be the culprits, but these diagnoses are all, at some level, subjective and not based on biologically verifiable conditions. The consequence is that these students are being stigmatized and permanently labeled, consigned to learning environments that do not tap their true capabilities. In many districts, these students are not only isolated in different classrooms, but in different schools," Cooper added.


The NUA's work is focused on learning and teaching. The national network of mentors who provide professional development are highly skilled and exemplary professionals in the field of education. The strategies and systemic applications of proven, scientifically based learning practices have helped districts realize the goal that education is the nation's best hope for civil rights for all children. Tapping into ICELP's expertise was a natural avenue for the NUA, whose CEO Dr. Yvette Jackson had learned about Feuerstein's work.


ICELP has developed and executed programs to improve thinking and learning skills, all based on Feuerstein's theories of Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM) and Mediated Learning Experience, for over four decades. Today, with a staff of more than 160, ICELP targets diverse populations including children with special needs, communication or emotional disorders; the blind; culturally different and deprived populations; high-functioning individuals; the brain-injured; and the aged.


ICELP works with disabled children throughout the world, and also supervises authorized training centers in 25 countries. ICELP has recently contracted with the South African government and with Rwandan authorities to help adults and children end decades of low expectations that have plagued the African continent.


The SCM theory views the human organism as open, adaptive and amenable for change. The aim of this approach is to modify the individual, emphasizing autonomous and self-regulated change. Intelligence is viewed as a propensity of the organism to modify itself when confronted with the need to do so. Intelligence is defined as a changeable state rather than an immutable trait.


Anat Cagan traveled with ICELP staff member Leah Yosef to conduct the pilot sessions in Bridgeport and Albany, New York. As director of the ICELP's Instrumental Enrichment programs in Israel, Cagan is responsible for implementing this program which has been successfully used all over the world as a tool for the enhancement of learning potential and cognitive functioning of children and adults. Instrumental Enrichment has been applied in special or regular schools, industrial companies and military colleges. Cagan also lectures on thinking and decision-making skills, adjustment and coping behavior.


The diagnosis consists of a battery of six to eight tests which are not culturally-biased. These include abstract thinking, analogies, and qualitative thinking. "The children were tested over a course of three days, although we often conduct tests also in one day," Cagan told ISRAEL21c. "The first stage is the pre-test. At the next stage we teach the children based on how they answered the first battery of tests. We teach them terms and learning strategies. The final stage is the post-test. What interests me is the gap/difference between the results of both tests. The larger the gap - the greater the student's potential. The large gap shows that when he's taught in the proper way, he is able to advance. The teachers were amazed by the achievements of their students, by their level and the method."


As fourth grader Rahcief so perceptively worded his experience: "I learned a lot of ways to figure out patterns and shapes. One way I learned how to figure out paterans (sic) is, try to figure it out up and down then go left to right. I also learned that even if you know the answer get more information and details to see if your answer is right. Thank you for teaching me more stuff. I will always remember you."

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Another Israeli Neo-Nazi

Another Israeli Neo-Nazi;
Police in northern town of Migdal Haemek arrest teenager suspected of spraying swastikas on cars, walls
Sharon Roffe-Sofir Published:  09.17.07, 12:59 / Israel Jewish Scene

A 17-year-old teenager was arrested on Sunday by police in the northern town of Migdal Haemek over suspicions he sprayed swastikas in the town, the police confirmed Monday.

The teenager was arrested after a neighbor caught him spraying a swastika on his car. 
Police asked the court to extend his remand for further questioning.
Suppose it is just a kid who wants attention??
Ami Isseroff

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Abbas does not like Israeli terms

Earlier, we reported that Ehud Elmert declared that whatever was negotiated between Palestinians and Israelis was just a declaration, not an agreement. It is not clear what the difference is, but Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian authority, thinks he knows, and does not like it.
But on the other hand, what can Abbas offer Israel? He certainly doesn't control Gaza, and probably doesn't control much else. How can he issue anything more than a declaration?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 05:16 17/09/2007    
By Avi Isacharoff, Aluf Benn and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies

Palestinian authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will not attend Washington's regional peace summit in November unless Israel agrees to a reach an agreement with the Palestinians there, Abbas' associates told Haaretz Sunday, adding the summit could "prove dangerous". With U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expected to arrive in Jerusalem Monday, the Saudis also submitted some preconditions for their attendance.
The Palestinian sources were reacting to Olmert's statement that afternoon that Israel and the Palestinians will not present an Agreement of Principles on final status issues at the summit, but issue a joint declaration instead. "We are formulating a joint declaration to headline the regional meeting, should it take place," Olmert told ministers from his party, Kadima, in Jerusalem.
"If Olmert says there'll just be a declaration, it's not worth going to this meeting in Washington," said Nimr Hamad, an adviser to Abbas. In an unusual move, the chairman's office issued a press release reacting to Olmert's statement.
In the statement, Abbas' office did not refer to the possibility that Abbas would not attend. The statement did read, however, that the Palestinian Authority was seeking a structural agreement, and that a declaration of intentions would not suffice.
Call for timetable
The statement called for a timetable and mechanisms responsible for the implementation of stages of the permanent agreement, including collateral for implementation. The statement also said that all issues of the permanent agreement - including jurisdiction on holy places, permanent borders and the question of Palestinian refugees - must be addressed in the agreement.
"We can live without the summit, but if does take place and fail by producing nothing more than a joint statement, then it could prove to be a danger for the whole region," one of Abbas' senior advisers told Haaretz. "We must not attend such a summit. We're not demanding the resolution of the entire problem by then, but we are demanding a significant breakthrough from the meeting."
In his daily briefing for reporters in Jeddah, Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud al-Faisal echoed the Palestinian demands. "If this conference will not discuss serious topics aimed to resolve the conflict, put Arab initiative as a key objective, set an agenda that details issues as required and oblige Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories, this conference will not have any objective and will turn into protracted negotiations."
Western diplomats who recently visited Saudi Arabia told Haaretz that in their conversations with Saudi officials, they received the impressions that Saudi Arabia will not attend the summit. The sources say the Saudis regard a declaration of intentions as insufficient justification for their attendance.
Commenting on the internal dispute within the Palestinian Authority between Fatah and its rival organization Hamas, al-Faisal said the Kingdom remains committed to the Mecca Agreement between the parties.
"The terms of the Mecca initiative are clear and agreed upon by the Palestinian parties," he said. "If there is a desire for reconciliation, they have to refer to the terms of Mecca Agreement and implement them. The Kingdom will not provide any alternative initiative to Mecca Agreement.
The Kingdom also hopes for a resolution to the crisis in Lebanon and is cautiously optimistic about developments, al-Faisal said.


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Kouchner: World must prepare for war with Iran

He said it, not I.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 22:37 16/09/2007    
By News Agencies

The world must "must prepare for the worst" - including the possibility of war - in light of the Iranian nuclear crisis, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Sunday.
"We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst, sir, is war," Kouchner said in an interview on LCI television and RTL radio.
Kouchner's comments follow a similarly hawkish statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said last month in his first major foreign policy speech since taking office that a diplomatic push by the world's powers was the only alternative to "an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran."

France has said repeatedly it wants the United Nations Security Council to pass tougher sanctions against Iran over its failure to dispel fears that it is secretly pursuing nuclear weapons.
"We do not want to signal anything other than 'peace is in your interest, and in ours too,'" Kouchner said.
Asked whether he believed U.S. President George W. Bush would launch air strikes against Iran before the end of his term of office, he said: "Honestly, I don't think we've reached that stage, not at all. At least I hope so."
Kouchner also said Sunday that France had advised its large companies not to respond to tenders in Iran and repeated a call for greater pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.
The French foreign minister said the companies that had been contacted were free to decide what to do.
"We have already asked a certain number of our large companies to not respond to tenders, and it is a way of signalling that we are serious," Kouchner said.
"We are not banning French companies from submitting. We have advised them not to. These are private companies. But I think that it has been heard and we are not the only ones to have done this."
Iranian minister: Russian nuclear fuel ready to ship to Iran
Enriched uranium fuel is ready to be shipped from Russia to Iran's first nuclear power plant, state television on Sunday quoted Iran's foreign minister as saying.
The announcement comes after talks in Moscow between minister Manouchehr Mottaki and Russian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko to address delays in completing the US$1 billion (720 million) joint Iranian-Russian Bushehr power plant.
Nuclear fuel for this power plant, inspected and sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency, is ready, the broadcast quoted Mottaki as saying late on Saturday. We do see the trend of cooperation between Iran and Russia moving ahead for the Bushehr power plant.
The project, Iran's first nuclear power plant, has been beset by repeated delays due to payment problems on the Iranian side, according to the Russians. Tehran, however, maintains it is because Moscow has been caving into Western pressure to halt the project.
The United States maintains that Iran's nuclear power program is a cover for developing weapons and has called for further sanctions, while Tehran denies the charges and insists it just wants to master the technology to meet future power needs under the provisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
While Russia has continued to oppose a U.S. push for tougher sanctions against Tehran, Russian officials have shown growing irritation with Iran's refusal to freeze its own uranium enrichment effort. Moscow appears to be using its control over the Bushehr project to press Iran for concessions on its nuclear program.
A European diplomat last month said that Moscow had warned Tehran it would not deliver fuel to the plant unless Tehran lifts the veil of secrecy on suspicious past atomic activities. The IAEA has since reported increased cooperation from the Iranians over its program.
Russian officials say the plant cannot open until six months after fuel is delivered.
Enriched to a low degree, uranium is used as a reactor fuel; higher enrichment creates material for a nuclear warhead.
In a separate report, state television said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had offered his country's nuclear experience to Saudi Arabia.

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Before Yom Kippur war, Mossad Chief didn't tell Golda Meir of War threat

Tis the season for ugly revelations about the Yom Kippur War. Now they tell us...
Last update - 09:28 17/09/2007    
By Amir Oren, Haaretz Correspondent

Mossad chief Zvi Zamir erred when he did not inform then prime minister Golda Meir of the warning he received from Israel's agent in Cairo of the pending Egyptian-Syrian attack in October 1973, according to a chapter of the Agranat Committee's report that was recently released for publication.
Established to investigate the failure to identify the surprise joint attack on Israel, the committee concluded that Zamir made an error when, on September 30, 1973, he informed Military Intelligence - but not Meir or defense minister Moshe Dayan directly - of the warning of a pending attack the following day, on October 1, which did not materialize.
The section of the Agranat Committee's report that was kept confidential is now available to the public at the Israel Defense Forces archive. The chapter, which deals with intelligence, was censored in 1995, when the committee's report was released to the public.

In its final recommendations, the Agranat Committee called for the dismissal of the Military Intelligence chief at the time, Major General Eli Zeira. However, the classified section also included criticism of Zamir's conduct and decision making. Nevertheless, the committee praised the work of the Mossad and of Zamir, in particular.
The committee concluded that Zamir's explanation concerning his conduct on the eve of the war, after he had received a warning from Ashraf Marwan (the son-in-law of Egypt's president Gamal Abdel Nasser), "is not acceptable to us."
On the night between October 4 and 5, 1973, at 2:30 A.M., a message was received by the Mossad, suggesting that war was about to begin.
Zamir told the committee that the warning included no specific date of an offensive. "If we knew the date, there is no doubt that I would not have waited a moment ... It was not clear to me whether it was October 6, or perhaps October 12."
According to the committee's report, Zamir's order to inform the prime minister's military secretary, Major General Israel Lior, of this development "was too vague and lacked what was necessary to ensure that the information brought before Meir was nothing but routine. The correct judgment would have been for Zamir, even before dealing with the matter that morning, to have personally communicated with the prime minister and verbally informed her as much as possible about the message he received ...
"In assessing the situation there is an element of intuition, and the likelihood should not be excluded that this direct message ... would have affected the views that the prime minister has created for herself about the 24 hours prior to receiving the final warning in the morning of Yom Kippur," the report says.
Meir had told the committee that she read a great deal of intelligence reports and had asked Zamir to send her all the material he considered important - but did not specify the kind of material she wanted to see.
Zamir said that he could not send her all the information available because Meir would not have been able to handle the volume. He assumed that the prime minister received materials disseminated by Military Intelligence, or those which he sent to them. He also noted that some of the sources which she wanted to see herself were automatically sent to her.
The delay in passing the September 30 warning to Meir was explained by Zamir as being caused by the need to check authenticity. During the assessment on October 2, more information was received, in which the source insisted that Israel would be attacked, and added that the operation would begin as an exercise and develop into an offensive.
This message was also not conveyed to Meir. During discussions at the Mossad the next day, Zamir said that the source "may be confusing an exercise and war," and did not attribute "first-rank importance" to the information.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Palestinian group opposes suicide attacks

The following is a condemnation of suicide bombings. With certain changes that are inevitable considering the source, it could have been prepared by any Zionist organization. As such, it would certainly have been derided and condemned or at least ignored by the apologists and advocates of Palestinian terror, ranging from the "compassion" crowrd and JVP to Al-Awda and the "We are all Hezbollah" crowd. These would all insist that it is Zionist propaganda, and that the suicide bombings are the legitimate tool of the weak against the strong, or as one British professor explained, they are acts of altruism.
But this paper was not not prepared by the Elders of Zion, the ZOA, AIPAC, Standwithus or the Israeli government. It is not the work of any Zionist group. It was prepared by the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group! It very regrettable that this paper is five or six years late, and that PHRMG and other groups were virtually silent or apologetic when suicide bombers were doing their major work in Israel, in  2001 and 2002. Suicide attacks are few and far between today, because of the high rate of success of the Israeli security forces in catching and preventing tham, because of the security fence, and because it at last dawned on at least some Palestinians that suicide bombings were not a good way to win public support. What turned the American and British public against Palestinian suicide bombings was not moral outrage and concern for human rights. The British especially had nothing much against suicide bombings in Israel, and the "militants" who perpetrated them. It was the suicide bombings in Britain that for some reason made them unpopular there. Those were not perpetrated by militants at all, according to British media, but rather by "terrorists.
It is praiseworthy nonetheless that at least one Palestinian organization has belatedly taken a stand against suicide bombings.
Ami Isseroff
Following is a small excerpt from the paper:


SUICIDE ATTACKS - A Case for an End to an Egregious Means…
"… and make not your own hands contribute to (your)

Holy Qur'an, Surah Al-Baqara,[2:19

Bassem Eid, Director; Tyler B. Evans, MPH (Researcher/Editor)
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG)
P.O. Box 19918
Jerusalem 91198, Via Israel


This paper outlines the background, the need, and the recommendations that the PHRMG has made to bring an end to the merciless practice of suicide attacks (SAs). The goal of this project is to draw attention to its practice, its harms, the reasons for its popularity, and to promote dialogue of this issue amongst the Palestinian community in order to bring an end to such an egregious means.

The PHRMG strongly condemns SAs, and it is the position of this paper to argue against the needless killing of civilians on both sides of the political divide. This paper explores the motivations behind undertaking such actions, the legal context in which these crimes are committed, the responsibilities of the Palestinian legal system in upholding HR, and the role that humanitarian organizations can play in eliminating public support for this callous practice.

Researching the SA phenomenon is imperative as there is little accurate information available concerning the real motivations behind carrying out a SA. This is a topic that typically evokes emotional - rather than objective responses. The subject of SAs is controversial because it is difficult within the religious community to come to a consensus as to whether or not SAs are in violation of Islamic scriptures.

It is also a challenging subject when discussing this subject in the political context. There are arguments on both sides as to whether it is an effective tool in the arsenal against occupation. Many Palestinians, who in practice may disagree with SAs, rarely vocally oppose its occurrence, thereby allowing this practice to persist with impunity. Despite the myriad difficulties in conducting research of this nature, we feel that this topic cannot be ignored when evaluating the HR situation in Palestine. Therefore, an organized effort must be made to educate the public about the social, emotional, and legal ramifications of undertaking such actions.

The practice of SAs is a violation of international law, and the Palestinian government must be held responsible for upholding the principles of HR. According to international humanitarian law (IHL), the guidelines are salient - the killing of civilians is illegal. However, the situation gains complexity when trying to decide what actually constitutes a "civilian". The presence of Israel as a military state further obfuscates this theoretical simplicity.

Analyzing the causes that drive young Palestinian men and women to commit SAs is a daunting task. Notwithstanding this difficulty, this paper attempts to delineate the basic profile of SAers. Several contextual factors are discussed - including the historical background and motivational factors. Moreover, the opinions of Palestinian and Israeli professionals will add to the overall analysis.

The purpose behind defining both the rationale and motivations behind SAs is twofold. First, to hopefully reduce the number of further attacks. It is hoped that this task may be addressed by publicly confronting such motivations and subsequently dispelling them. Second, is to prevent false labeling of SAers with specious psychological definitions that prove effective only in leading the media, the public, and government officials astray. Therefore, PHRMG asks that Palestinian professionals in particular take note of our research and become more outspoken against the practice of SAs. Indeed, the Palestinian voice is often missing or inaccurate on such sensitive matters.

This paper conclusively eliminates numerous specious correlations and stereotypes surrounding SAers - including that of being psychologically disturbed, mentally incompetent, poverty-stricken, and driven by religious fervor. We have shown that an insightful analysis portrays the average SAer as a rational actor living in an irrational world, and thus susceptible to modification. Indeed, SAers appear to be driven by strong nationalistic zeal, systematic oppression by a population whose culture is significantly different from their own, an ensuing feeling of helplessness and despair, a devout hatred for a neighboring tangibly occupying force, and a false assurance by organizations as well as a manipulation of religious scriptures to more easily guide such individuals towards imminent self-destruction.

We have also conclusively demonstrated that Islam - and its underlying ethos - is not inherently responsible for SAs. Islam is a religion and culture that promotes peace and understanding. Unfortunately, it is the work of manipulative theologists with significant influence who often obscure the benign messages enshrined in the Qur'an.

The matter of public support has also been addressed. SAs, quite simply, would naturally cease to exist if they materialized in a vacuum. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It is largely the fault of both political and religious leaders who continue to advocate its utility as well as the media's known bias and social construction that this epidemic persists. While some leaders and media journalists have altered their path on this subject - a majority still either blatantly supports the use of SAs or sends mixed messages, which simply complicates the complex. The PHRMG, therefore, calls upon both its political and religious leaders and media representatives to bring this matter into center stage and seriously educate the population on the ramifications of such a futile and egregious means.



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Spain award to Yad Vashem: A small victory for truth

Spain is conferring an awad on Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust museum. This is a landmark for many reasons. Spain has not been known for its friendly relations with Israel or the Jewish people in the past, and its people usually score highest in anti-Semitism scales which ask questions such as "Do you agree that Jews talk about the Holocaust too much. " 
Another aspect of this award, is that for some reason, Holocaust denial and Holocaust minimization have moved from being the exclusive preoccupation of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, and have been integrated into anti-Zionist rhetoric, not only in the Arab world, but among Jewish anti-Zionists. Recognition of Yad Vashem is recognition that "our version" has merit. In your face, Norman Finkelstein.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 14:04 16/09/2007    
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Jewish World Correspondent

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum and memorial, is to receive this year's Prince of Asturias Award for Concord given by the Spanish royal family. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was of many world leaders who proposed and endorsed Yad Vashem to receive the award.
This year additional recipients of the award's eight categories include Israeli author Amoz Oz, former US Vice President Al Gore and Bob Dylan.
The Concord prize is awarded each year to a "person, persons or institution whose work has made an exemplary and outstanding contribution to mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence amongst men, to the struggle against injustice, poverty, disease or ignorance, to the defence of freedom, or whose work has widened the horizons of knowledge or has been outstanding in protecting and preserving mankind's heritage."
 Last year, it was awarded to UNICEF.
The jury said Yad Vashem received the award for being a a living memoir of a great historic tragedy, for its tenacious work fostering the memory for present and future generations, and for overcoming hate, racism and bigotry."
The prize of 50,000 euros will be awarded next month at Oviedo in Spain.
Among the long list of statesmen and public figures endorsing Yad Vashem are President Shimon Peres, Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos and U.S. presidential candidate Senator Hilary Clinton.
Merkel wrote in her endorsement of Yad Vashem for the prize that "it is a place against oblivion that returns to the victims of the crime against humanity, the Shoah, their names. Yad Vashem is also a place for hope. The hope for reconciling and understanding, for tolerance and humanity, for peace and good coexistence."
In a statement thanking the Prince of Asturias Foundation for the award, Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said that the award "recognizes that the memory of the Holocaust, the systematic murder of the Jews that took place in the heart of Europe, has profound significance for the coexistence of the family of nations, today, and through the ages."
"As the generation of the witnesses to these horrors dwindles, Yad Vashem will continue to transform their memory into building blocks for a better world, one characterized by tolerance and mutual respect amongst all peoples," Shalev added.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert downplays reports on agreement with Abbas

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert downplayed on Sunday media reports that he had reached an "agreement of principles" with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of the November peace conference.

Olmert said however that he and Abbas might issue a "joint declaration" at the US-sponsored conference.

"We are discussing a joint declaration that we hope will be the centerpiece of the international peace conference in Washington in November," Olmert said during a meeting with ministers of his Kadima party.

"I read media reports suggesting that we have reached an agreement of principles and that we only need to polish it. When we reach a declaration I will inform the government as I do not plan to keep it secret. There is a difference between an agreement of principles and a declaration," he said.
That's much better. For a while there, they had me scared. I was afraid there would be peace, and then the Middle East would not be interesting, and the undertakers would have less work. The lion would lie down with the lamb and a little child would lead them. But there is no agreement, just a joint declaration.
 By the way, what is the difference?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria: A tale of a ship and altered databases

A tale of a ship and altered databases. You will like this.
Ami Isseroff
Records on North Korean ship docked in Syria were altered
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 09:30 16/09/2007

Online databases tracking a ship reportedly flying a North Korean flag that docked in Syria have changed their records following a report in The Washington Post linking the alleged Israeli air strike in Syria to a North Korean shipment.

Ronen Solomon, who searches information in the public domain for companies, told Haaretz he found references to a ship called Al Hamad on three different Web sites after the initial reports of the Israeli raid in Syria on September 6. These included the official sites of Syria's Tartous Port and the Egyptian Transportation Ministry.

Two of the three sites said the ship was flying a North Korean flag, and the third site reported it was flying a South Korean flag.

Haaretz confirmed Solomon's report.

Saturday, the Washington Post published an article citing an American Mideast expert, who said a shipment that arrived in Syria three days before the alleged Israel Air Forces strike was labeled as cement, but that Israel believed it carried nuclear equipment.

Following the Washington Post report, Solomon returned to the three sites, and discovered that all mentions of the North Korean flag on Al Hamad had been deleted, and that the ship's flag was now registered as 'unknown.'

The official site of Syria's Tartous Port,, had reported that Al Hamad, flying a North Korean flag and carrying cement, entered the port on September 3. Solomon stressed that several North Korean ships docked at Tartous during August.

Syria said IAF planes entered its airspace on September 5.

According to the site, the ship had passed through Tripoli port in Lebanon, Solomon said.

He then found a site,, that said Al Hamad was registered as a 1,700-ton ship intended for general cargo and flying a North Korean flag. The ship had been built in 1965 and had had several owners, according to the site.

In addition, Solomon found on the Web site of Egypt's Transportation Ministry,, a record that Al Hamad had docked in Damietta Port Said in the Nile Delta about a month earlier, on July 28. However, this site registered the ship as flying a South Korean flag.

Haaretz was able to access the Tartous Port Internet site until Saturday afternoon, after which it went offline for several hours.

Al Hamed vessel visited Tartous monthly with "cement"
Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA   16 September 2007

Following up on a report in today's Haaretz that identified the vessel Al Hamed  as having visited the Syrian port of Tartous on 3 September, a search for the vessel using the cache option of Google finds that the same vessel also visited that port at the end of June and July also listing cement as the commodity it was carrying.

#1  First report:

This URL
Tartous port news
up date at /1:30/o'clock
   Ship-traffic at Tartous port on Sunday 8/7/2007
   In the port there are /52/ vessels out of them
   /22/ vessels are being operated and discharging and
   /30/ ones arriving .
   Second :
    Arrived vessels (0) vessels ready for berthing:
vessel ALHAMED
Port Triboli/Lebanon
ready for berthing not ready
arrival  30/6/07
commodity cement
weight 1700

#2 Second Report
this URL

waiting ships by date: Wednesday 2007-08-08

vessel  ALHAMED
port  ---
arrival date  2007-07-30
commodity  cement
weight  0
ready  no

#3 Third report (using the translation option from Arabic to English)
This URL

Vessels arriving on Tuesday 2007-09-04

Readiness No
Weight   2600
The type of goods Cement
Arrival date 2007-09-03
Agency Marine
Port Tripoli / Lebanon
The name of the ship ALHAMED

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

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