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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Unreport: Abbas not going to talk to Hamas, he says

Perhaps the earlier canard has unraveled? Nonetheless, Israel should ensure that any agreements or declarations must include an explicit recognition of the right of Israel to exist as the state of the Jewish people and the right of the Jewish people to self determination. They must further insist that any future negotiations will only be carried out with a government composed of parties that individually and collectively support these principles.
Ami Isseroff

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- staff , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 13, 2007
Palestinian Authority President denied reports on Saturday that he had agreed to begin talks with Hamas following the US-sponsored Middle East summit scheduled to take place in Annapolis in November.
In the report published by the London-based Al Hayat newspaper on Saturday, a Hamas source revealed that Abbas had agreed to hold talks with Hamas in Egypt following the summit.
According to the source, "Many Arab countries tried convincing Abu Mazen [Abbas] to hold talks between [Fatah and Hamas], but every time he requested a postponement. Recently, during a meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Basheer, Abu Mazen agreed to begin the talks after Basheer discussed with him the importance of a dialogue."
The source went on to say that following Abbas's compliance with Basheer's request, the Khartoum government rushed to ask the Egyptians to host the event, because Sudan deems Egypt to be the most capable country to manage the Palestinian issue.
Furthermore, according to the report, representatives from Hamas and Fatah have recently held secret talks in order to "feel out a pulse" for further dialogue. "A few meetings were held between influential people in Hamas and Fatah," said the Hamas source, "but were informal in nature.
"Both sides are trying to clarify the expectations of the other, but the talks are held in secret because making them public could complicate the situation," the Hamas source went on to say, adding that the talks in Egypt would focus on fundamental differences between the sides. Among the issues the sides are currently divided on include the control and structure of Palestinian security services.
But according to MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor), who met with Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in Ramallah on Saturday, the PA president denied the Al Hayat report, and said that he refused to talk with Hamas.
Abbas has previously stated that he would only talk to Hamas if it stepped down from power in the Gaza Strip. During a trip by Abbas to Saudi Arabia in September a PA official told The Jerusalem Post that "President Abbas will stress...his keenness on resuming dialogue with Hamas only after Hamas reverses the situation in the Gaza Strip and apologizes for its military coup."
Israel has repeatedly stated that a precondition for holding talks with Abbas is that he cuts all ties with Hamas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

US Arab client states are sabotaging the peace process

What it's about:
In a strongly worded message to the United States, Israel has complained that the weapons smuggling and entry of militants from Egypt into the Gaza Strip is posing a direct threat to the Annapolis conference actually taking place.

Senior Israeli political figures said Thursday that in talks with their American counterparts, they stressed that the porous border in Sinai "is becoming a strategic problem" and asked them to raise the issue with the Egyptians.

The smuggling of weapons and terrorist experts from Sinai to the Gaza Strip through the Philadelphi Route poses a real threat to the holding of the Annapolis conference," the message read.

The Israelis also expressed their frustration about Egyptian behavior vis-a-vis Hamas, both in terms of the ease of smuggling and also politically, in view of Cairo's calls for Fatah and Hamas to renew negotiations for a unity government.

"Egypt is working against everything we are all trying to achieve," senior Israeli officials told the Americans. "We are organizing a summit to further the diplomatic process under the banner 'strengthening Abu Mazen' [Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas], and they are strengthening Hamas."

Israeli political and defense officials have expressed grave concern about developments along the Philadelphi Route on the border between the Gaza
Strip and Sinai in recent weeks. They are particularly irate at the clandestine entry of dozens of Hamas militants through the border near Rafah, without Egypt's trying to stop them.

Exacerbating these concerns are reports that Islamic Jihad militants have also managed to return to the Gaza Strip from Egypt without any difficulty.

Israeli political sources said Israel has asked Egypt for clarification on both matters, and received excuses and blurred responses.

"The Egyptians are saying they [the militants] entered the Strip through a hole in the fence," an Israeli political source said.

In its message to Washington, Israel emphasized it "views with grave concern the continued strengthening of Hamas through the smuggling of weapons."

Israeli officials told the Americans that "the smuggling is taking place to undermine the general effort to restart the diplomatic process."

One of the scenarios the Israelis presented to the Americans raises the possibility that rockets will be smuggled into the Strip and launched against Israeli urban centers, causing many casualties. This would necessitate a military operation in the Gaza Strip.

"Such a situation could result in the dismantling of the international summit," the Israeli sources said.
...American officials have said they "also recognize the significance of this matter and we will raise it once more."
What is truly alarming, is that not only the Egyptians, but the Saudis and other American clients, have  all been working overtime to legitimize the Hamas. All their calls for Palestinian unity however, have not been met with the tiniest peep of protest by the Americans.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Abbas to talk with Hamas after Annapolis


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- staff , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 13, 2007
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly agreed to hold talks with Hamas after the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis next month. Hamas sources told the London-based Al Hayat that Egypt would host the talks.
According to a Hamas source, "Many Arab countries tried convincing Abu Mazen [Abbas] to hold talks between [Fatah and Hamas], but every time he requested a postponement. Recently, during a meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Basheer, Abu Mazen agreed to begin the talks after Basheer discussed with him the importance of a dialogue."
The source went on to say that following Abbas's compliance with Basheer's request, the Khartoum government rushed to ask the Egyptians to host the event, because Sudan deems Egypt to be the most capable country to manage the Palestinian issue.
Furthermore, according to the report, representatives from Hamas and Fatah have recently held secret talks in order to "feel out a pulse" for further dialogue. "A few meetings were held between influential people in Hamas and Fatah," said the Hamas source, "but were informal in nature.
"Both sides are trying to clarify the expectations of the other, but the talks are held in secret because making them public could complicate the situation," the Hamas source went on to say, adding that the talks in Egypt would focus on fundamental differences between the sides. Among the issues the sides are currently divided on include the control and structure of Palestinian security services.
Abbas has previously stated that he would only talk to Hamas if it stepped down from power in the Gaza Strip. During a trip by Abbas to Saudi Arabia in September a PA official told The Jerusalem Post that "President Abbas will stress...his keenness on resuming dialogue with Hamas only after Hamas reverses the situation in the Gaza Strip and apologizes for its military coup."
Israel has repeatedly stated that a precondition for holding talks with Abbas is that he cuts all ties with Hamas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

The quality of mercy

[Editor's note - the talented journalist Yisrael Segal, who died recently, was at one time a leading light of the ultraorthodox world, which he gave up. His brother is the head of a noted Yeshiva]
The virtue of mercy 
Eyal Gefen

[Translated from Maariv 11/10/2007]
Eyal Gefen finds it difficult to accept the ostracism of the late Yisrael Segal, even after he died. A request for forgivess and words of parting.

I know that the air hammer doesn't stop drilling into our heads with the surrealistic story connected with the tragic death of the auther and journalist, Yisrael Segal. However, though he is written about endlessly,  I am incapable of understanding and accepting the behavior of the ultra-orthodox Jewish world, who are tragically returning us light-years into the past, to the days of the destruction of the soul.
The rabbinical ruling that Segal's ultra-orthodox family must not mourn him (sit shiva for him) because he became non-religious, casts a great deal of darkness on the little effort that everyone makes to live in some sort of understanding, and to advance a bit in the direction of the  light.

I would like to tell anyone who lives his orthodox life in the backmost yards of religion, and makes rulings in any way which might occur to him based on the book of books, that for me, a Jewish-secular fellow - it looks like a farce from a horror movie. I am embarrassed to the depths of my soul by the controversy between Yisrael Segal's brother and Rabbi Eliashiv.
I don't believe that based on a jot or a tittle, they ruled up there in heaven that it is forbidden to mourn someone and to respect the memory of a Jew who died, whether he is Israel or Segal.
It sounds delusional and so inhuman and unmerciful, but mostly it sounds vengeful. And I, who only know know of the Torah that it asks for mercy at every opportunity, listen to the the words of Rabbi Eliashiv and am stricken to the depths of my soul.
He was tortured by apostasy
The late Yisrael Segal, who was one of our more brilliant and insightful logicians, died in great pain. The man who tried, throught his entire life, to clarify his own real identity and ours,  was not afraid to use any means to say unequivocally what he thinks and feels.
The frankness with which he was ready to say his piece is considered exceptionally brave, for it was never gossipy or teasing. It was piercing and assertive and uncompromising.
More than once, his opinion made a lot of sense to me and sketched out not a few solutions, in many varieties of questions of life vis a vis religion and the way of life it offers. More than once he rescued one from this puzzle, which so tortures us and so separates between our religious and secular people.
He was so self-tortured in apostasy, he worked at it and busied himself with it every moment, and demanded complicated explanations from himself. In the last interview with Dov Elboim that I saw, they talked about the excommunicated apostate Spinoza. Yisrael's eyes were filled with tears, he was choking because of the ostracism, the insensitivity of people who were so important in his life.
Yisrael Segal was one of the frankest people, and the truest to themselves. It was a great pleasure to listen to him and to read his articles and books. His words were full of power whenever they touched on the seam that accompanies us, which doesn't know how to be healed, between belief and regular life.
Yisrael Segal has left us, in his death, a book case that will become a monumental example of sense. In this bookcase there are written and spoken words, and these words will soon become a composition of the utmost importance.
Begging Pardon only when it is convenient
Yes, it is true that there was a familial world-war and it is true that arrows flew from his direction and returned no less poisoned from the direction of his brother. But gee whizz, the man died in agony. Where is the least bit of pit that is so often mentioned in the pages of the prayers? To where did the requests and pleadings for mercy from the almight, blessed be he disappear? When are such requests to be made, only when it is convenient?
Moreover, on the day of the funeral, his brother and his household celebrated the fete of Beit Hashoeva. It is weird. Perhaps there is a halachic basis and from the orthodox point of view everything is hunky-dory. But what about a bit of forgiveness??? What about a bit of reconciliation? What about saving the soul of a man even in his lifetime, and certainly in the next reincarnation, which from your (religious) point of view is the only option?
Within each of us, ahead of the Kippah and the Tefillin and the Tzitziot garment, there is some bit of heart. There is some bit of feelings, that distinguishes us from the animals. With the greatest respect and without, heaven forbid, wishing to hurt anyone in any way, I turn to you, good people and ask you: open your eyes. We are human beings who live in a slightly more enlightened century.
Shabat Shalom,

Eyal Gefen


Continued (Permanent Link)

Opposition to peace and decency

 Take note of who is trying to block the peace conference.
Last update - 09:35 13/10/2007
By News agencies
Iran's top cleric urged Muslim countries on Saturday to boycott a U.S.-sponsored international peace conference on Palestinian statehood next month.

Opposition to Israel is one of the cornerstones of belief of Shi'ite Iran, which backs Palestinian and Lebanese Islamic militant groups opposed to peace with Jerusalem.

"When Palestinians consider this conference as deceitful and refuse to participate, how can Muslim countries take part in that?" Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a sermon broadcast live on state media.
"Other (Muslim) countries also should consider it a deceitful conference."

On Friday, Hamas' top leaders in Gaza and Syria warned Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas against falling into "the trap" of an upcoming peace conference with Israel.

Deposed Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, based in Gaza, and Hamas political bureau head Khaled Meshal, based in Syria, also urged Abbas to mend his rift with their Islamic militant faction.

The Hamas leaders made the remarks to supporters on the occasion of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Haniyeh, who was dismissed from office after Hamas overran Gaza in June, criticized Abbas for planning to attend next month's U.S.-sponsored international peace conference, meant to provide support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He cautioned the PA chairman "not to give this occupier legitimacy on our land."

"Don't fall into the trap of the coming conference. Don't make new compromises on Jerusalem, on our sovereignty," Haniyeh urged.

Khaled Meshal echoed the warning in a holiday message on Hamas radio. And he urged Abbas, who set up his own government in the West Bank after Hamas' Gaza takeover, to accept the Islamists' invitations for dialogue.

"Abbas and his allies will find out that they are pursuing nothing but a mirage," Meshal said, referring to the conference.

"They will find out that there can be no solution without dialogue," Meshal added, accusing Israel and the U.S. of taking advantage of the Palestinian rift to try to wrest concessions from Palestinian peace negotiators.

The conference is tentatively set for Annapolis, Maryland, at the end of November, and Israel and the Palestinians hope to present the contours of a final peace accord there.

Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator
Saeb Erekat said on Thursday that U.S. President George W. Bush should not convene his planned Mideast peace conference next month if Israel and the Palestinians have not achieved an agreement in advance

Continued (Permanent Link)

Miraculous resurrection of the Ayatolla Khomeini

According to the Jerusalem Post in an article dated October 12, 2007:

Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, called on all Arab countries planning to attend a US-sponsored Middle East peace conference slated to be held in Annapolis in November, to cancel their participation because it would hurt the Palestinians.

Khomeini on Saturday touched on remarks made Friday by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "not to fall into the trap of the coming conference."

This is nothing short of miraculous if it really happened, since the Ayatollah Khomeini has been quite dead for many years. "Khomeini, Khameinei, all them Iranian names sound the same to us at the Jerusalem Post."

Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

Self hating Jews: Springtime for Coulter and Christians, winter for Jew Liberals and interracial couples

Headline: On CNBC's The Big Idea, Coulter said that "we" Christians "just want Jews to be perfected"

I wasn't going to write about Coulter, because the doings of pop-Fascists and bigots should not be of interest to intelligent folk. But Coulter's remarks are being defended by quite a few people, including self-hating Jews like Dennis Prager it seems. This phenomenon really deserves a bit of attention.

That is not all she said. She said her ideal of the United States is: "It would look like New York City during the [2004] Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like." And she made it clear that she wanted an America without Jews. So, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants a world without Zionism and without America, and Ann Coulter wants an America without Jews. Here is a bit more of the text:  

During the October 8 edition of CNBC's The Big Idea, host Donny Deutsch asked right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: "If you had your way ... and your dreams, which are genuine, came true ... what would this country look like?" Coulter responded, "It would look like New York City during the [2004] Republican National Convention. In fact, that's what I think heaven is going to look like." She described the convention as follows: "People were happy. They're Christian. They're tolerant. They defend America." Deutsch then asked, "It would be better if we were all Christian?" to which Coulter responded, "Yes." Later in the discussion, Deutsch said to her: "[Y]ou said we should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians," and Coulter again replied, "Yes." When pressed by Deutsch regarding whether she wanted to be like "the head of Iran" and "wipe Israel off the Earth," Coulter stated: "No, we just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. ... That's what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws."

After a commercial break, Deutsch said that "Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment," and asked her, "So you don't think that was offensive?" Coulter responded: "No. I'm sorry. It is not intended to be. I don't think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to live up to all the laws. What Christians believe -- this is just a statement of what the New Testament is -- is that that's why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don't believe our testament." Coulter later said: "We consider ourselves perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Christian is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all."

I am sure that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could say, "We consider ourselves (Muslims)  perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Muslim is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all." So both Coulter and Ahmadinejad dump on other religions and ethnic groups for fun and profit.

In American Thinker, Richard Baehr points out:

So to get back to medieval arguments that Judaism has been replaced by Christianity (a replacement theology), and that Christians are the perfected Jews, and that Jews need to become Christians to be perfect, and that America would be better if we were all Christians, ignores the shift in thinking on these issues among Christians in recent decades, especially among Catholics. The Pope has called Jews our "elder brothers". 

Coulter appears to either be unaware of much of modern Christian theology, or just prefers to slap down the non-Christians for  their imperfection. .  While Coulter calls for all to join her  religious ranks, evangelical Christians and Jews have become allies in support of Israel, and shown that clear theological differences between the groups can be respected, and common causes can be advanced.

And of course it offends, which is Coulter's trademark.


Baehr's concern is that Coulter's remarks will make Jews vote for the Democratic party instead of shifting to the Republicans. He needn't be concerned. There are many more anti-Semites and other sorts of bigots than Jews, and they will be all heed the call of the cross ("in hoc signo vinces" - by this sign you shall conquer") and they cannot fail to be attracted by Coulter's dumping on inter-racial couples as well.

But Coulter gets a free pass from some USA neo-conservatives. According to one account, Dennis Prager explained that Ann Coulter was really harmless and well meaning:

Prager said something very smart about this situation during his morning show today. He stated that there was nothing anti-Semitic about wishing that Jews would become Christians. We all wish that people would come around to our points of view on most everything. This is human nature. We all hold our beliefs and values to be ideal and want others to agree and validate our positions. Dennis pointed out that much of the secular Left wants everyone to abandon religion and become part of the secular Left and that no one in the media or on the Left seems to have a problem with this. The secular Left even goes to the level of demeaning and deriding religious people as intellectually inferior and less worldly. Prager mentioned as another example that, although Jews don't proselytize, most Jews want everyone to be ethical monotheists or adhere to a belief in one G-d under a common set of ethical precepts. Basically, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with feeling your views are superior and wanting other people to believe as you do as long as you aren't using violence or being coercive in some way. (Exactly what the Islamists are trying to do).

Also, Prager pointedly remarked that the Left is focusing on this as a 'virulently anti-Semitic' remark while it ignores real anti-Semitism a la Carter, Mearsheimer and Walt, Ahmadinejad, etc. and how dangerous this is for Jews. To focus on an innocuous comment, which is essentially a wish, at the current level of hysteria, minimizes and obfuscates genuine expressions of Jew hatred.


Talk about your self-hating Jews, this guy seems to take the cake. Follow Prager, and you can be the first on your block to be a "perfected Jew."

Yeah, I wish Coulter would convert to Judaism, and become an advocate of whole earth policies and legalized abortion and stem cell research, and failing that, I wish for a world without Ann Coulters too. I confess. But there is a difference.

Coulter's remarks have to be evaluated against the background of a history of nearly 2,000 years of forced conversion of Jews. They stopped feeding Christians to the lions a long time ago (more's the pity in Coulter's case, though the lions would get indigestion) and the Jews weren't part of that scene anyhow. But Jews have been "fed to the lions" quite recently in history. When someone advocates converting Jews or a country without Jews, they are not talking theory only. The Spanish, among others, achieved Coulter's dream in 1492, and in our own time, there was already a fellow who made his country Judenrein. It didn't happen so long ago. The dream country of Ann Coulter was achieved by Adolf Hitler. Berlin in 1939 was a much better model of Coulterland than New York City during the Republican convention.

The fact is folks, that they not only had Jews in New York during the Republican convention, they had "Negros" and Hispanic people and interracial couples. Absolutely awful! I guess the police kept them hidden from all those nice Christian Republicans. Berlin 1939 was much better for Coulter and the Coulterites.

Moreover, Coulter was not just wishing in the abstract. Coulter was actually actively proselytizing, as she said:

COULTER: Yes. Would you like to come to church with me, Donny?

to her Jewish host, Donny Deutsch.

And consider this bit of dialogue:

DEUTSCH: That isn't what I said, but you said I should not -- we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then, or --


DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Well, it's a lot easier. It's kind of a fast track.

DEUTSCH: Really?

COULTER: Yeah. You have to obey.

You have to obey! Got it? How could that NOT be anti-Semitic as well as fascist?? "Obey, Believe, Fight."

It is not just Jews of course: 

You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York, and it's like they have a chip on their shoulder. They're just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would. And --

First they came for the Jews...

By now everybody knows that Ann Coulter is another of those morally deficient morons who make tons of money by insulting people, and she's good at it, the stupid fascist bigoted bitch. Hey this is fun! - even if I don't make much money from it.

The problem with Coulter, Richard Baehr, is not that she will prevent Jews from voting for your favorite political candidate. The problem is that she represents much of neo-conservative ideology as it really is. 

Coulter's success is not just due to the fact that she is obnoxious and evil. Obviously she is evil in the Biblical sense and in every other sense. She makes her money by insulting people for no reason. That's pretty evil in itself, not to mention the causes she advocates such as bigotry and ethnic cleansing. Obviously too, the neo-conservative "Christians" who adore her do so because she is evil. Coulter's success, however, is due in large part to the fact that she expresses what a lot of conservatives -- the Archie Bunkers of the USA---- really think. Otherwise, there is no way to explain the popularity of this hare-brained motor-mouth harridan.

Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are neoconservatives, but I know that the Ann Coulter kind are all going to hell if there is one. Not for not keeping the laws of the Old Testament Bible (Coulter claims she does, but of course she does not - a matter of indifference to me) or believing in whatever theology she believes. They will go to hell for bigotry, advocating stealing from the poor, and trying to force their beliefs on others.

Ami Isseroff



Continued (Permanent Link)

Danger for Israel?

Arab cash is driving the stock market boom, and Arabs are buying stock markets. Can this hurt Israel? Don't bet it is impossible.
Ami Isseroff
 Borse Dubai's stake in Nasdaq could threaten Israel's capital lifeline.

Laura Goldman 10 Oct 07   18:28

In recent weeks, all eyes have been focused on Iran and its President Muhammad Ahmadinejad. We have been ignoring or minimizing the threat that Dubai currently poses to Israel.

The Government of Dubai has announced with little fanfare several business deals that could affect Israeli businesses in the future.

It makes for great newspaper headlines when Netanyahu proclaims about Iran, "It is 1939 all over again." But I am equally concerned that landmark days in Israeli history like February 17, 1982 will stop happening. That is the date that the first Israeli company, Teva, went public on the Nasdaq exchange.

The Nasdaq has announced that it sold 20% of itself to Borse Dubai in a complicated swap involving the OMX Exchange in Sweden. Borse Dubai is a holding company created by the government of Dubai for their holdings in Dubai Financial Market and the Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX).

When the deal was announced, Borse Dubai's chairman, Essa Kazim told the New York Times, "Our primary objective is to build a world class, growth oriented exchange out of Dubai and to become the center for capital markets activities in the emerging markets."

Senators Chuck Schumer and Chris Dodd are the only ones raising red flags. "I believe the acquisition of such a large stake in a US exchange by a foreign government raises some serious questions," wrote Schumer to US Treasury Secretary Paulson.

Believing that protectionism could hinder the US economy, the Bush administration basically supports the deal but will review it for national security implications.

The Dubai deal still needs the approval of The Committee on Foreign Investment in America, an interagency committee led by the Treasury Department. Israelis will remember that this is the same committee that objected to Checkpoint's purchase of Source Fire on national security grounds.

There is growing unease on the part of the American public about the purchase of the cornerstone of capitalism by countries that are not friendly to America or even democratic. "The question here is, are you in a situation in which you have very influential governments becoming very influential in your economy who are pursuing policies that are at odds with your own policies," said Clyde Prestowitz of the Economy Strategy Institute to Voice of America.

The website was in favor of the allowing the deal to be completed but called for greater transparency from the funds themselves and more independence of the funds from their respective governments. Their analyst pointed out that no one even knows the exact amount of assets in these funds.

In some ways, this is a reminiscent of the protests lodged against the Dubai Ports World takeover of 6 US ports. The protests resulted in the cancellation of that deal. After 9/11, the American public quickly understood the effect of the country's ports being operated by a foreign entity. It is harder to comprehend the national security implications of a foreign takeover of a stock exchange.

Where does the Dubai purchase of the Nasdaq leave Israel? The total market capitalization of Israeli companies on the NASDAQ is approximately $50 billion. 90 companies from Israel are listed on this exchange making Israel the number one foreign issuer.

Distracted by Iran, the pro Israel activists have not even offered an analysis of the effect on Israel of the Dubai purchase of the Nasdaq.

To many, Dubai appears to be a moderate Arab state. Yet, Dubai does not recognize the right of Israel to exist. The website, says, "Please note that Israelis and travelers whose passports bear Israeli stamps will be denied a visa." Anyone, Jew or Christian who visits Israel, will not be able to enter Dubai.

They participate in the Arab boycott of Israel. The website of the Jebel Ali Free Zone of the Emirates states that certificate of origin is required for imported goods. The website clearly expresses the purpose of this certificate of origin. "This is used by customs to confirm the country of origin and equally needs to be seen by the office which ensures any trade boycotts are enforced."

Michael Freud has previously reported on his telephone conversation with a member of the Boycott office of the Customs Department of Dubai, Muhammad Rashid Adin, "Yes, of course, the boycott is still in place and is still enforced. If a product contained even some components that were made in Israel, and you wanted to import it to Dubai, it would be a problem."

If the Arab boycott were extended to the Nasdaq, the Israeli economy would lose an important source of capital. The logical Israeli response would be to turn to the London Stock Exchange (LSE). But we will be blocked there also.

In a related transaction, the Nasdaq sold Borse Dubai a 28% stake in the London Stock Exchange. The government of Qatar has bought through its Qatar Investment Authority a 24% stake in the LSE at the same time. Israeli companies now face the prospect of listing on an exchange that is almost 50% owned by Arabs.

There are presently more than 90 Israeli companies listed on the London Stock Exchange and the Alternative Market (AIM). Israel is the fourth largest foreign issuer there and quickly climbing up the rankings.

The London Stock Exchange has increased its cooperation with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. This has benefited both Israeli companies listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and Israeli institutions. Most likely, expansion of this cooperation will be put on hold in deference to their Arab owners.

If Israeli access to the capital markets is impeded, our hi- tech economy will suffer. For the hi tech sector, the public capital markets have proved the most effective way to raise capital to fund operations and acquisitions and maximize the value of the business. The Israeli government sans capital gains taxes from the hi- tech sector could face budget deficits.

The bad news from Dubai is not finished. The government of Dubai purchased a 7.5% stake in the private equity firm the Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is well known for its ownership of defense contractors. Even it boasts many Jewish partners, like David Rubinstein, The Carlyle Group is equally known for managing the money of the Bin Laden family.

The Government of Dubai's involvement with the Carlyle Group could affect Israel in several ways. The firm has already announced that it is establishing a Middle East Fund to invest in the region that will exclude investment in Israel. "The New York Times" reports that sources close to the fundraising for this fund say that it would be next to impossible to raise money from other Middle East countries if Israel was one of the countries in the Middle East Fund.

The many defense contractors controlled by the Carlyle Group could refuse to use Israeli subcontractors in deference to Abu Dhabi. In 2006, defense exports from Israel totaled $4.4 billion.

Even worse, the government of Dubai could block the IDF from purchasing weapons vital to Israel's defense from these military suppliers. They will also have the direct access to purchase them for their own defense.

We need to mobilize support to block the Government of Dubai's purchases of two of the world's busiest stock exchanges. Israeli companies could list on other exchanges but none of the others approach the capital raising abilities of the Nasdaq and London.

The Nasdaq, in appreciation of the value of Israeli companies on the exchange, currently defrays some of the cost of listing for Israeli companies. The Nasdaq also holds Israeli Company day to introduce Israeli stocks to institutional investors. These programs which help Israeli companies may not be continued under Dubai ownership. This will not affect stellar companies like Teva, but Teva is a unique star in the Israeli business constellation. The spigots of capital will not be turned off right away by Dubai. They are much too clever for that. It will happen gradually and quietly. They will just slowly limit the supply of capital to Israel. The other shareholders/owners will blithely defer to Dubai out of laziness or greed.

Laura Goldman worked on Wall Street for over twenty years for such firms as Merrill Lynch and UBS Warburg. She now runs her own investment advisory, LSG capital, from Tel Aviv. She is an independent commentator, and her views do not necessarily represent those of "Globes".

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on October 10, 2007

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Poll: Likud 28 Labor 23 Kadima 13 seats, no to divided Jerusalem

From this poll it is evident that the Likud has lost the commanding lead they held in previous surveys. Apparently, there were also considerable "undecided." A bare majority support negotiations with Abbas, and a majority (including Arabs) are opposed to dividing Jerusalem.  
Poll: Likud 28 Labor 23 Kadima 13 seats
Dr. Aaron Lerner     Date: 12 October 2007

The following are the results of a Dialog telephone poll of a representative sample of 502 of adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) supervised by Prof. Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University carried out 9 October 2007 and published in Haaretz on 12 October

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates)
Based in the 67% who said who they would vote for. [Apparently 33% were undecided]
Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
28 [12] Likud
23 [19] Labor
13 [29] Kadima
10 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
09 [11] Shas
07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
07 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 [05] Meretz
05 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
02 [07] Retirees Party
11 [10] Arab parties
November 2006 for Haaretz. [Not clear what that means]

Results with previous surveys also indicated

Percent satisfied with performance of minister:
Olmert: Now 15% August 14% July 15%
Livni: Now 40% August 48% July 50%
Barak: Now 33% August 30% July 28%

Percent who say person is "very qualified" or "considerably qualified" for
the role of prime minister:
Olmert: Now 20% August 18%
Livni: Now 28% August 40%
Barak: Now 23% August 36%
Netanyahu: Now 41% August 51%

Should the investigations of Olmert be postponed until he completes his term?
Yes 28% No 64% Don't know 8%

Should a law be enacted in the future that freezes investigations of a prime minister regarding certain things until the end of their term?
Yes 33% No 59% Don't know 8%

To what extent can Olmert concentrate on matters of State while he is under criminal investigation?
Considerably 11% To an extent 36% Barely 49% Don't know  4%

What do you think of the reports that the Winograd Committee will issue its final report without personal recommendations?
Mistake 50% Correct 35% Don't know  15%

If the Winograd Committee publishes the final report without personal recommendations, what will happen to the Government?
23% Continue under Olmert
18% Olmert should resign, be replaced by someone else from Kadima
43% Advance elections
16% Don't know

Do you support the final status talks being carried on between Olmert and Abbas?
Yes 51% No 42% Don't know  7%

Do you support that within the framework of a final agreement that Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem be transferred to the Palestinians and Jewish neighborhoods remain under Israeli sovereignty?
Yes 40% No 50% Don't know 10%

Haaretz 12 October 2007

Continued (Permanent Link)

Nobel prize candidate?

Here is a novel nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. One of our own guys from the 'hood - the Middle East : Bashar Assad.
Ami Isseroff

Nobel Prize for Peace for Assad

Washington DC, October 12, 2007/Reform Syria Blog - RPS Staff/ -- The Middle East awakened this morning to the news from Sweden that Al Gore was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace. Not too many people know about this guy here in Syria but judging from the prize some people may want to learn more about him.

Let us leave Gore for a moment and consider the reasons why the Nobel Committee has not awarded our own great president-for-life the Nobel Prize for peace. After all, he commands a presence not to be discounted. In our belief Assad should have been the candidate and here is why:

  1. He is taller: Assad is taller than Al Gore so he should have scored higher on the Nobel scale. Is it possible that Gore cheated by telling the Nobel committee he is taller than Assad?

  2. He is younger: Assad is younger than Gore. Some may say that youth works against you but in the case of our president, we do not believe he will live too long and therefore the Nobel committee should have awarded him the prize.

  3. He is richer: Too bad that Gore did not live in a country where presidents have access to the tilt like ours does. What's few stolen billions anyway?

  4. He is a doctor: Assad boasts of a degree in shortsightedness from none other than the great UK while Gore is a lawyer educated in Tennessee. This, we admit, may be a toss-up.

  5. He is a president: Indeed. While Assad got 99.62% of the votes and made it to the people's palace, Gore received 48.38% and never made it to the White House.

  6. He has important friends: Gore has friends in Tennessee but Assad has friends in Russia, Iran, Lebanon, and Gaza. When was the last time you heard one of Gore's bearded Muslim friends talk nuclear?

  7. He has power: Assad can manipulate all the bearded men while Gore cannot even manipulate the recount.

  8. He sends important gifts: During Christmas, Gore will send Christmas cards to all his friends but Assad will send real live cars to all the Lebanese politicians and the Iraqi civilians. Never mind that they blow-up, this is a minor detail.

  9. He is well armed: Gore may or may not use a hunting rifle in Tennessee but our own president has thousands of missiles. Now, this may not be too peaceful but then the Nobel Committee gave Arafat a prize.

  10. He commands order: When was the last time you heard of a president who can turn thousands of totally innocent Syrians into suicide bombers? This ability to command should have been taken into account by the Nobel committee.

  11. He is well protected: Gore's enemies are vocal and will do anything to defeat him but Assad's enemies give him one free pass after another. This ability to survive should have been taken into account.

  12. Finally, he is lucky: While Gore seems to run short on luck, our own president seems to be riding a long streak of luck; so hurry and give him the prize before he runs out.

Oh well, maybe TIME Magazine will name him Man of the Year for 2007 for having killed too many innocent people and got away, literally, with genocidal murders.

Copyrights © 2003-2007 - Reform Party of Syria (RPS) except where otherwise noted - all rights reserved.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bipartisan letter: US Pundits recommend selling out Israel, Lebanon, Moderate Palestinians

According to the lesser lights of United States Middle East Policy:
  • We commend the administration for its decision to invite Syria to the conference; it should be followed by genuine engagement.
  • A breakthrough on this track could profoundly alter the regional landscape. At a minimum, the conference should launch Israeli-Syrian talks under international auspices.
  • As to Hamas, we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys.
  • The remainder of the points in this letter concerning US policy regarding the approaching summit meeting is reasonable, though probably unimplementable. The nature of diplomatic bombs is that the explosive part is always packed in a lot of bumph to cushion it.
    The invitation to Syria was pro-forma. Syria could not accept, because Syria is not willing to make peace with Israel, and Syria is not willing to pay the price needed for legitimation by the United States: getting out of Lebanon and giving up the murderers of Rafiq Hariri. If the United States does have "genuine engagement" with Syria, it could only be on the basis of betraying the Lebanese people. Surely the signatories of this letter know that.
    As to Hamas, a genuine dialogue with the organization would eclipse the moderate Mahmoud Abbas.  
    The text of the letter is below.
    As I noted elsewhere, the proposals to engage Hamas and Syria are Stabbing the peace process, Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinians in the back.  
    Ami Isseroff


    The following letter on the Middle East peace conference scheduled for Annapolis, Maryland in late November, was addressed by its signatories to President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The statement is a joint initiative of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc., the International Crisis Group, and the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program.


    The Israeli-Palestinian peace conference announced by President Bush and scheduled for November presents a genuine opportunity for progress toward a two-state solution. The Middle East remains mired in its worst crisis in years, and a positive outcome of the conference could play a critical role in stemming the rising tide of instability and violence. Because failure risks devastating consequences in the region and beyond, it is critically important that the conference succeed.


    Bearing in mind the lessons of the last attempt at Camp David seven years ago at dealing with the fundamental political issues that divide the two sides, we believe that in order to be successful, the outcome of the conference must be substantive, inclusive and relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians:


    The international conference should deal with the substance of a permanent peace: Because a comprehensive peace accord is unattainable by November, the conference should focus on the endgame and endorse the contours of a permanent peace, which in turn should be enshrined in a Security Council resolution. Israeli and Palestinian leaders should strive to reach such an agreement. If they cannot, the Quartet (US, EU, Russia and UN Secretary General)-under whose aegis the conference ought to be held- should put forward its own outline, based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Clinton parameters of 2000, the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative and the 2003 Roadmap. It should reflect the following:


    • Two states, based on the lines of June 4, 1967, with minor, reciprocal, and agreed-upon modifications as expressed in a 1:1 land swap;
    • Jerusalem as home to two capitals, with Jewish neighborhoods falling under Israeli sovereignty and Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty;
    • Special arrangements for the Old City, providing each side control of its respective holy places and unimpeded access by each community to them;
    • A solution to the refugee problem that is consistent with the two-state solution, addresses the Palestinian refugees' deep sense of injustice as well as provides them with meaningful financial compensation and resettlement assistance;
    • Security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty.


    The conference should not be a one-time affair. It should set in motion credible and sustained permanent status negotiations under international supervision and with a timetable for their completion, so that both a two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative's full potential (normal, peaceful relations between Israel and all Arab states) can be realized.


    The international conference should be inclusive:


    • In order to enhance Israel's confidence in the process, Arab states that currently do not enjoy diplomatic relations with Israel should attend the conference.
    • We commend the administration for its decision to invite Syria to the conference; it should be followed by genuine engagement.
    • A breakthrough on this track could profoundly alter the regional landscape. At a minimum, the conference should launch Israeli-Syrian talks under international auspices.
    • As to Hamas, we believe that a genuine dialogue with the organization is far preferable to its isolation; it could be conducted, for example, by the UN and Quartet Middle East envoys.

      Promoting a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza would be a good starting point.


    The international conference should produce results relevant to the daily lives of Israelis and Palestinians: Too often in the past, progress has been stymied by the gap between lofty political statements and dire realities on the ground. The conference therefore should also result in agreement on concrete steps to improve living conditions and security, including a mutual and comprehensive cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza, an exchange of prisoners, prevention of weapons smuggling, cracking down on militias, greater Palestinian freedom of movement, the removal of unjustified checkpoints, dismantling of Israeli outposts, and other tangible measures to accelerate the process of ending the occupation.


    Of utmost importance, if the conference is to have any credibility, it must coincide with a freeze in Israeli settlement expansion. It is impossible to conduct a serious discussion on ending the occupation while settlement construction proceeds apace. Efforts also should focus on alleviating the situation in Gaza and allowing the resumption of its economic life.


    These three elements are closely interconnected; one cannot occur in the absence of the others. Unless the conference yields substantive results on permanent status, neither side will have the motivation or public support to take difficult steps on the ground. If Syria or Hamas are ostracized, prospects that they will play a spoiler role increase dramatically. This could take the shape of escalating violence from the West Bank or from Gaza, either of which would overwhelm any political achievement, increase the political cost of compromises for both sides and negate Israel's willingness or capacity to relax security restrictions. By the same token, a comprehensive cease-fire or prisoner exchange is not possible without Hamas's cooperation. And unless both sides see concrete improvements in their lives, political agreements are likely to be dismissed as mere rhetoric, further undercutting support for a two-state solution.


    The fact that the parties and the international community appear-after a long, costly seven-year hiatus-to be thinking of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is welcome news. Because the stakes are so important, it is crucial to get it right. That means having the ambition as well as the courage to chart new ground and take bold steps.


    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter Lee H. Hamilton, former Congressman and Co-chair of the Iraq Study Group Carla Hills, former U.S. Trade Representative under President George H.W. Bush Nancy Kassebaum-Baker, former Senator Thomas R. Pickering, former Under-Secretary of State Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor to President Gerald Ford and President George H.W. Bush Theodore C. Sorensen, former Special Counsel and Adviser to President John F. Kennedy Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Two Iraqi children arrive in Israel for emergency heart surgery

    From Israel's Save a Child's Heat organization.
    [October 10th, 2007 Tel Aviv, Israel] Two Iraqi children are set to arrive in Israel today for emergency heart surgery.  Both children were screened by Israeli doctors during a one-day cardiology clinic set up for 40 Iraqi children in Jordan, organized by Israeli-based organization, Save A Child's Heart on October 9th, 2007. 
    Israeli doctors immediately referred a 5 month old girl and an 11 year old boy from Iraq for emergency medical treatment in Israel due to the severity of their heart conditions, which if not treated, would leave them at risk of dying at any moment.
    40 Iraqi children, accompanied by their parents, made the journey from Iraq to Jordan where they were screened by a SACH medical team, including, Dr. Akiva Tamir, Head of Pediatric Cardiology, Dr. Alona Raucher-Sternfeld, Pediatric Cardiologist and Dr. Sion Houri, Director of Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, based at the Wolfson Medical Center in Israel.  General Electric equipped the team with a state of the art, portable echocardiogram machine which greatly assisted with the diagnosis of children.
    Logistical support for the mission was provided by the Christian group, Shevet Achim and medical facilities were offered by the Red Crescent Hospital in Amman.  
    Since January 2007, SACH has operated on 18 Iraqi children.  To date, a total of 35 children from Iraq have been treated by the organization at the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.  Iraqi children who arrive in Israel with their family, reside at the SACH Children's Home in Azur. 
    Save A Child's Heart provides life-saving heart surgeries for children from developing countries regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or gender. Since its inception in 1996, SACH has treated over 1700 children from 28 countries around the world including; Ethiopia, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Moldova, Vietnam and China.  Close to half of the total number of children treated at SACH are Palestinian or from Arab countries including Jordan and Iraq.  Follow up care and comprehensive medical training are also an integral part of SACH's core mission and activities.  

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Jews patting themselves on the back

    The Jews (some of them anyhow) may get a dislocated shoulder from trying to pat themselves on the back. Is that wise?

    Ami Isseroff


    Jewish power dominates at 'Vanity Fair'

    nathan burstein , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 11, 2007

    It's a list of "the world's most powerful people," 100 of the bankers and media moguls, publishers and image makers who shape the lives of billions. It's an exclusive, insular club, one whose influence stretches around the globe but is concentrated strategically in the highest corridors of power.

    More than half its members, at least by one count, are Jewish.

    It's a list, in other words, that would have made earlier generations of Jews jump out of their skins, calling attention, as it does, to their disproportionate influence in finance and the media. Making matters worse, in the eyes of many, would no doubt be the identity of the group behind the list - not a pack of fringe anti-Semites but one of the most mainstream, glamorous publications on the newsstands.

    Yet the list doesn't appear to have generated concern so far, instead drawing expressions of satisfaction and pride from the lone Jewish commentator who's responded in writing.

    Published between ads for Chanel and Prada, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, it's the 2007 version of "The Vanity Fair 100," the glossy American magazine's annual October ranking of the planet's most important people. Populated by a Cohen and a Rothschild, a Bloomberg and a Perelman, the list would seem to conform to all the traditional stereotypes about areas of Jewish overrepresentation.

    Joseph Aaron, the editor of The Chicago Jewish News, thinks it's a list his readers should "feel very, very good about."

    "Talk about us being accepted into this society, talk about us having power in this society," Aaron wrote this week, in apparent reference to Jewish life in the United States. "Talk about anti-Semitism being a thing of the past, talk about Jews no longer needing to be afraid to be visible and influential."

    Printed over 15 pages before an interview with Nicole Kidman, the rankings - described on the magazine's cover as the membership of "The New Establishment" - are less than scientific, accompanied by a paragraph-long introduction that neither defines power nor describes the methodology behind the list.

    Topping the rankings for the second year in a row is gentile media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who's followed in second place by Steve Jobs, the non-Jewish co-founder of Apple and Pixar.

    Highest among the Jewish entries are Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-listed at #3, down one from 2006. The article reported that the 34-year-old Brin and his wife "wore swimsuits as they stood under the huppa." (Page, whose mother is Jewish, was described in the spring 2006 edition of B'nai B'rith Magazine as "raised more in the mold of his father... whose religion was technology.")

    With Americans making up the vast majority of the list, the Vanity Fair 100 is also notable for some absences. Just nine of those included are women, and only two - TV host Oprah Winfrey and rapper Jay-Z - are of African ancestry.

    It's the magazine's readers, however, and not Vanity Fair itself, who are keeping track of New Establishment members' gender, race and ethnicity. Though the writers often include telling details about their subjects - such as that the original last name of #89, comedian Jon Stewart, was Leibowitz - it's up to amateur demographers to track their origins.

    The approach hasn't attracted much attention this year, but set off a Hollywood firestorm in 1994 when a reporter for England's Spectator used that year's New Establishment as inspiration for his own article, in which critics accused him of perpetrating harmful stereotypes about Jewish control of the movie industry. (The writer, William Cash, argued that the piece was partly meant to call attention to the contrast between the traditional, white Protestant "establishment," and the disproportionally Jewish new version.) Considerations of background don't figure in the Vanity Fair "Establishment," but neither, it seems, do traditional definitions of "power" as political.

    Besides New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at #9, up 25 places from a year ago, just two elected officials - former US president Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore - appear on the list. Ranked at #6 and #19, respectively, the latter two are cited for their work after leaving office, not for the power they exerted through politics.

    The magazine's limited definition of power, then, constitutes areas in which Jews have long excelled, often by necessity, says Ruth Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard University.

    In her most recent book, Jews and Power, Wisse accounts "for the achievement of Jews through the centuries," describing it, she says, "as a consequence of their having to develop their powers of adaptation to an extraordinary degree."

    But while they've excelled disproportionately in areas such as business and medicine, they've often also limited themselves - or been limited to - fields not connected to the public exercise of power.

    With the Vanity Fair rankings' focus on leaders outside the public sphere, they may coincidentally mirror traditional Jewish patterns of achievement - and a traditional Jewish aversion to political power.

    For Aaron, the list shows how "vital" Jews have become in American life. The Vanity Fair rankings, he writes, "[tell] you so much about the place of Jews in this country, about the amazing people Jews are."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Brilliant deduction, Holmes!

    In an assessment offered recently to the government leadership, Military Intelligence expressed doubts about the likelihood of success at the regional peace summit scheduled for late November in Annapolis, Maryland.
    "Why Holmes, how clever and perceptive of you!"
    "Elementary, my dear Watson."
    Ami Isseroff

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Assad: Air strike, what air strike?

    Given the sort of absurdities below, what is the point of continued Israeli and American silence ?
    Ami Isseroff
    Last update - 14:01 11/10/2007    
    By The Associated Press
    Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published Thursday that Israel is trying to cover up the failure of an Israel Air Force strike on his country early last month.
    IAF jets raided a target in northeastern Syria on Sept. 6, which Assad has described as an unused military building while Israeli officials have maintained an unprecedented wall of silence over the affair, though there have been reports - denied by Syria - that the target was a nascent nuclear facility being built with North Korean help.
    Assad, in the interview, said Israel's silence reflected the failure of Israeli or U.S. intelligence.  

    "They are trying to cover up their failure by shrouding it with mystery," he said.
    Assad also all but ruled out his country's participation in a U.S.-sponsored international peace conference on the Middle East, suggesting in an interview published Thursday that the meeting has no chance for success.
    His comments come amid deep skepticism over the conference among Arab governments, which have expressed doubts the planned gathering in November will tackle the main issues of the conflict with Israel. Top allies Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have not said whether they will attend.
    Arab League chief Amr Moussa predicted the conference would be a failure and said the United States was only hoping for a photo-op between Saudi and Israeli officials rather than real progress.
    For its part, IDF Military Intelligence has expressed doubts about the likelihood of success at the regional peace summit, saying the Palestinians would like to make immediate gains at the summit, but in return will postpone or fail to carry out their commitments.
    In an interview with two Tunisian newspapers, Syria's Assad made his most
    concrete statement yet casting doubt on his country's participation.
    "Syria has not received an invitation to the conference, and even if it did, it will not take part in a conference that lacks the chances of success," Assad said.
    The Bush administration has said it will invite adversary Syria to the
    conference. But Assad had said earlier that his country would not attend the meeting if it did not address Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria during the 1967 Mideast war.
    In Thursday's interview, Assad said the conference should have serious and clear goals and should include all peace tracks including the Golan issue.
    "The Syrian track is essential and the Golan issue is number one," he told the Ach-Chourouk and Le Quotidien newspapers.
    The United States has kept quiet on the most basic details about the meeting, including precise dates, the guest list and the location - though it is expected to be in Annapolis, Maryland. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be on the spot to fill in the blanks during a preparatory trip to the Middle East that is schedule to start this weekend.
    In the Saudi capital Riyadh, the head of the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council Abdul-Rahman Attiyah called Thursday for joint Arab-Palestinian action to set the conditions for the success the conference. He also expressed skepticism that the meeting would be successful because Israel does not want peace.
    Moussa warned of a likely failure of the conference during an international economic forum Wednesday night in Cairo.
    "All what they [the Americans] want, as some say, is that the [Saudi Foreign Minister] Saud al-Faisal shake hands with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, that the two take pictures. This is a joke, it's not serious," Moussa said.
    "Prince Saud al-Faisal will not do that ... it has been decided," he said.
    In the interview, Assad acknowledged that relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt were not as they should be but said his country was open to any initiatives to improve ties.
    Damascus' relations with longtime U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan have been cool, partly over what they see as Syria's role in promoting the interests of its ally Iran in the Arab world.
    He warned against any U.S. military action against Iran, saying it would be foolish and detrimental to the region and to the world. He did not elaborate.
    Assad also confirmed that Turkey was trying to mediate between his country and Israel.
    "We have told them [the Turks] that our stance toward peace does not change... All we want is a clear declaration by Israeli officials of their desire for peace and returning land to Syria," he said.
    "We also want guarantees that the full territory would return," he added.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peace with Justice for al-Andalus!

    It is clear that the Spanish occupiers will need to recognize the legitimate rights of the oppressed Muslim peoples, allow the return of refugees and full compensation. A state of al-Andalus with its capital in Seville will be the foundation of a just peace.

    Ami Isseroff

    Jerusalem Issue Brief

    Institute for Contemporary Affairs

    founded jointly at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

    with the Wechsler Family Foundation

    Vol. 7, No. 16 11 October 2007

    Al-Qaeda: The Next Goal Is to Liberate Spain from the Infidels

    Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan Dahoah-Halevi

    • Large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule from 711
      until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they called
      al-Andalus, and the memory of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly
      part of the discourse in radical Islam.

    • Osama bin Laden has written: "We request of Allah...that the [Islamic]
      nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique
      flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus." Bin
      Laden's mentor, Abdullah Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to
      wage jihad in order to recover lost Islamic territories applies to Andalusia.

    • Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has
      written that while Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and
      from Greece - it is now in the process of returning.

    • A children's magazine published by Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the
      Muslim Brotherhood, called on Palestinian children to restore the city of
      Seville to Islamic rule as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.

    Al-Qaeda Recalls Islamic Rule in Spain

    Historically, large parts of the Iberian Peninsula were under Islamic rule
    from 711 until 1492, with the final eviction of the Moors from what they
    called al-Andalus. Despite the passage of over five hundred years, the memory
    of Islamic rule in Spain has become increasingly part of the discourse in
    radical Islamic circles.

    Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy of Osama bin Laden in the al-Qaeda leadership, in
    a new tape publicized on 20 September 2007, referred to the global aspirations
    of the Islamic Revolution:

    O, our Muslim nation in the Maghreb [North Africa], zone of deployment for
    battle and jihad! The return of Andalus [today's Spain] to Muslim hands is a
    duty for the [Islamic] nation in general and for you in particular. You will
    not be able to achieve this except by purifying the Islamic Maghreb of the
    French and the Spanish who have once again returned, after your fathers and
    grandfathers had expelled them unsparingly in the way of Allah.

    Earlier, in December 2006, al-Zawahiri made a passing reference to "Spain's
    occupation of Ceuta and Melilla," two small enclaves on the North African
    coast that are under Spanish sovereignty.

    This is not the first time al-Qaeda leaders have referred to the Iberian
    Peninsula as occupied Muslim territory to which the commandment of jihad
    applies until it is liberated and Islamic rule is imposed there. On 29
    September 1994, Osama bin Laden wrote to Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, the Grand
    Mufti of Saudi Arabia: "All in all, we request of Allah...that the [Islamic]
    nation should regain its honor and prestige, should raise again the unique
    flag of Allah on all stolen Islamic land, from Palestine to Andalus, as well
    as Islamic lands that were lost because of the treachery of leaders and the
    helplessness of the Muslims."1

    This view is deeply embedded in the thinking of those Islamist leaders who
    served as an ideological wellspring for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden's mentor, Abdullah
    Azzam, established that the Islamic obligation to wage jihad in order to
    recover lost Islamic territories applies to al-Andalus.2

    Sheikh Safar al-Hawali, who was one of the most powerful Islamist preachers
    in Saudi Arabia, wrote a letter to President George W. Bush on October 15,
    2001 - after the 9/11 attacks - in which he explained: "Imagine Mr. President,
    we still weep over Andalusia and remember what Ferdinand and Isabella did
    there to our religion, culture and honor! We dream of regaining it."3

    It should not be surprising that these repeated references in jihadist
    circles to al-Andalus have had an impact on how new al-Qaeda affiliates have
    defined their long-term goals. These groups do not work in a vacuum; the Saudi
    Gazette reported in March 2005 that there are four million descendents of
    refugees from Muslim Spain currently living in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
    In Morocco, the fall of Granada and al-Andalus is commemorated by many of
    these descendents.4

    The theme of al-Andalus appears among jihadi organizations in a variety of
    ways. In a January 2007 speech, Abu Musab Abdul Wadud, the commander of the
    Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC), addressed Algerian
    Muslims as the grandchildren of Tariq bin Ziyad, who crossed the Straits of
    Gibraltar in 711 with an Islamic army and conquered most of the Iberian
    Peninsula.5 GSPC cells have been known to have operated across Spain in the
    last number of years.

    More recently, in June 2007, Islamist websites announced the establishment
    of "Ansar al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara, Land of the Veiled Ones."6 The
    organization promised to win back al-Andalus, as well as declaring war on the
    current North African regimes: "Our raids will not encompass just the Muslim
    Sahara, but will go beyond it....Al-Andalus is before our eyes, and with
    Allah's help we will take back the Land of Islam and what was plundered from
    our forefathers, no matter how long this takes."7

    One website announcing the formation of the group featured a map showing
    "The Great Islamic Caliphate" which it sought to advance, stretching from
    Spain across North Africa and the Middle East to India and Western China.

    The Muslim Brotherhood Views Spain as Part of the Islamic Homeland

    This view is also held by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose doctrine calls on
    the Muslims of the world to rise up and unite in the struggle to liberate
    parts of the "Islamic homeland" that have fallen into the hands of the
    "infidels," "enemies of Allah," and "enemies of humanity." Sheikh Yusuf
    Qaradawi, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, has written that while
    Islam was twice evicted from Europe - from al-Andalus and from Greece - it is
    now in the process of returning.8

    The fall of Andalus is mentioned in the speeches of Muslim Brotherhood
    leader Muhammad Mahdi Akef in one breath with the loss of Palestine, Iraq, and
    Afghanistan.9 Akef believes Islamic goals should be achieved through jihad and
    armed struggle against any foreign rule that occupies Islamic land. In a
    letter of 26 August 2004, Akef sets forth this strategy in detail under the
    heading, "Liberating Parts of the Homeland Is an Obligation under Islamic

    [One must develop] the culture of resistance in dealing with the invasion
    [of Muslim territory], and this is a culture of the occupied and oppressed
    peoples, for whom Allah has permitted jihad and resistance as a means of
    achieving liberation....The culture of resistance to occupation and invasion
    exists on all levels: intellectual, military and economic. The experience in
    Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan has proved to everyone that resistance is not
    an imaginary strategy, a false option or impossible. It is a feasible option
    when the will of the members of the nation is united, they reinforce each
    other, and coordinate their words, weapons and faith to confront the occupier,
    whether it comes with weapo ns or bombards us with its ideas, its values or
    its invalid morality. 10

    It should come as no surprise that two years ago a Hamas children's magazine
    called on Palestinian children to restore the city of Seville to Islamic rule
    as well as the rest of what was once Islamic Spain.11 According to its
    charter, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and,
    therefore, reflects the parent organization's viewpoints on global issues,
    like the recovery of al-Andalus.




    2 Gilles Kepel, Jihad: The Trail of Radical Islam (Cambridge: Harvard
    University Press, 2002), p. 222.

    3 Patrick Sookhdeo, Understanding Islamic Terrorism (Wiltshire: Isaac
    Publishing, 2004), p. 159.

    4 "Saudi Daily: Andalusian Muslims Recall Mass Exodus," MEMRI Special
    Dispatch Series, No. 873, March 4, 2005,

    5 "Speech by Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, Commander of the Algerian Salafist
    Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC)," Global Terroralert, January 3, 2007,

    6 "The 'Ansar Al-Islam in the Muslim Sahara' Group Declares Jihad Against
    the North African Regimes and Promises to Take Back Muslim Spain," MEMRI
    Special Dispatch Series, No. 1653, Islamic Websites Monitor No. 118, July 3,

    7 Ibid.





    12 Aaron Hanscom, "A Fatwa in Spain,", September 4,

    * * *

    Lt. Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East
    and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a founder
    of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy
    Planning Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:

    Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director;
    Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered
    Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax.
    972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish
    Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel.
    410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The
    opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of
    Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

    The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Another day, another terrorist

    Does your terrorist lose his flavor in the arrests overnight? Almost every day there is an announcement like the one below: "IDF arrested 10 wanted men in Jenin overnight," "IDF foiled suicide bombing plot in Nablus overnight." Tanzim is not Hamas, but Fatah-affiliated. This group is supposedly controlled by Abu-Mazen, who wants peace. What happens when there is a Palestinian state in Nablus??

    Ami Isseroff


    Jenin: IDF kills senior Tanzim operative planning attack

    ehud zion waldoks, staff and ap , THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 11, 2007

    IDF troops, in cooperation with Border Police, killed a senior Tanzim member in Jenin overnight Wednesday, Army Radio reported on Thursday morning.

    The target, who had been planning to carry out terror attacks in Israel in the near future, pulled a gun on the soldiers, who then shot him.

    However, Palestinian officials said the man killed was a Palestinian policeman driving a wanted terror suspect.

    They named the dead man as Mohammed Abu Tsror, 21, and said the Islamic Jihad operative with him in the car escaped unharmed despite efforts by undercover soldiers dressed in civilian clothes.

    Meanwhile, a combined force of Golani infantry, tanks and engineering were rooting out terrorist infrastructure along the security fence in Central Gaza starting early Thursday morning.

    So far, the force has shot four armed terror operatives.

    Overnight Wednesday, the IDF targeted and hit a Kassam rocket squad in northern Gaza just after it fired a Kassam, which landed near the security fence.

    No IDF casualties or damage were reported in any of the incidents.

    Troops also arrested 10 terror suspects throughout the West Bank.


    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    No one ever died from talking, or did they?

    In many ways I agree with this article, but the closing is certainly incorrect. Yoel Marcus tells us:
    "No one ever died from talking."
    Ever since a certain meeting in Munich in 1938, it has been quite certain that many people can die from talking.
    Ami Isseroff
    By Yoel Marcus

    If peace breaks out between the Israelis and Palestinians at the Annapolis summit, I'll eat my hat.
    Coincidentally or not, three days after the scheduled opening date, on November 29, it will be 60 years since the UN General Assembly approved the Partition Plan for creating two states in Mandatory Palestine. The Jews greeted the resolution with singing and dancing. The Arabs flatly rejected it, opening fire on two Egged buses the very next day.
    The declaration of statehood on May 14, 1948 kicked off the War of Independence, and the blood spilled since then has smeared every page of the history books. Arab stupidity, intransigence and hatred dragged Israel into the Six-Day War, leading to 40 years of occupation and dominion over the Palestinian people.  Advertisement

    It has taken us a long time to understand that this glorious victory, studied in military academies around the world, was a pyrrhic victory. Today no democratic country rules another people, except Israel. Israel has become a prisoner of its 40-year occupation, turning us into a chronic target of terrorism and censure. We are denounced by both the Islamic world and the enlightened world.
    The Annapolis summit takes us back 60 years, but with one difference. Most of the Palestinians are prepared to divide the country today, but on condition that they don't pay a penny for their idiocy, their ineptitude and their crimes, not to mention the Jewish blood they have spilled. They demand that we turn the clock back, that we pay them restitution, that we agree to their right of return, and so on and so on.
    I don't know what Arab Palestine would have looked like if the Palestinians had accepted the UN Partition Plan in 1947. My guess is that their state would have been bigger, we would have been reasonably good neighbors, and they would be better off than they are today. But the world has changed. Political interests have changed. Imperialism has gone out of style. The Cold War between the superpowers has turned into a struggle against a new enemy: crazed Islamic fundamentalists who have declared global war on the infidels, on the Great Satan, on the Little Satan. All are targets of deadly, indiscriminate terror - terror that is nurturing nuclear claws.
    Who would have believed that after the annihilation of 6 million Jews, a Holocaust-denying Muslim leader would get up in New York and openly declare that his goal is wiping out Israel? Who would have believed that his emissaries and instructors would be infiltrating Israel to help Palestinian extremist organizations complete the job that Hitler didn't finish?
    If there was ever a time when strong leaders were needed to reach an agreement between the two peoples, before a third intifada breaks out, the time is now. The first to realize this was Ariel Sharon, who sent the dream of a Greater Israel into the deep freeze and focused on disengaging from the territories and dividing the land. No one knows what he would have done had he seen how the evacuation of Gush Katif turned out, with Gaza turning from a liberated territory into a Hamas base for attacks on Israeli towns. But it is clear now that unilateral disengagement was a mistake. There is no substitute for an agreement between the parties, and there never will be.
    On the eve of the summit, the problem is the feeble leadership of Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). They look more like two British gentlemen meeting for a drink at the club than tough statesmen who can force the extremists in their camps to accept peace based on mutual concessions and conciliation with the enemy.
    I find it hard to imagine Abu Mazen putting his foot down in Gaza, halting terror, dissolving the terrorist organizations and ending the Qassam rocket fire. I find it hard to imagine Olmert, under a cloud of criminal investigations, getting a quarter of a million Greater Israel groupies to give up the territories and kiss some of their settlements goodbye. In the cabinet, I don't see how Olmert will get around Ehud Barak, who opposes the summit and calls it "hot air," or Tzipi Livni and Avi Dichter, who are riddled with doubt, or Shaul Mofaz, who says that "Jerusalem is not a piece of real estate."
    These guys can't even tie a knot in a cat's tail, Pinhas Sapir used to say about politicians of the Olmert and Abu Mazen ilk. With George W. Bush and Olmert scraping the bottom of the barrel in the public opinion polls, and Abu Mazen lacking his people's support, peace is not going to erupt in Annapolis. But the importance of this summit is that it is held at all. No one ever died from talking.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Where is your foundation/donation money going??

    Think about this:

    "The further the foundations get from the founding donor, the more likely it is that they will move away from the wishes of the founding donor," Tobin said. "The founding donor might care a lot about Jewish causes, but his grandchildren or spouse or children might not."

    Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Family Foundation, one of the foundations studied, said he knows of one foundation whose benefactor wanted his foundation to spend all of its money in Israel.

    Two generations after he died, none of the trustees are Jewish and the foundation spends all of its money in Israel -- on causes relating to Israeli Arabs.

    "It is a well-known and sad fact of philanthropy that donor intent cannot be managed from the grave," Solomon said.

    And of course, "Jewish causes" can also cover a variety of sins.
    Ami Isseroff
    In 2004 and 2005, the largest 56 American foundations started by Jews sent 21 percent of their allocations to Jewish causes -- more than to any sector. (Source: Institute for Jewish and Community Research)
    By Jacob Berkman
    Published: 10/09/2007

    NEW YORK (JTA) -- The country's largest Jewish foundations give about a fifth of their funds to Jewish causes -- and that number could fall, according to the researchers behind a report released this week.

    The study conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research was based on a review of the 2004 and 2005 tax returns of the 56 largest American foundations started by Jews.

    According to the study, which was released Tuesday, at least eight of the largest 100 foundations in the country were started by Jews.

    Of the $1.2 billion doled out by the foundations reviewed in the study, 21 percent went to Jewish causes, including 7 percent to causes in Israel.

    Though that may appear to be a small slice of the philanthropic pie, Jewish interests were still the largest recipients of these foundations' money, followed by higher education at 17 percent, health-related causes at 16 percent, and arts and culture interests at 14 percent.

    "It is what you would expect from a really integrated Jewish community," said Gary Tobin, co-author of the study and president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. "They are giving money in an integrated way."

    The report revealed few surprises, but it could hold a serious warning for the future.

    Tobin said the 21 percent given to Jewish causes could fall drastically as control of the foundations is passed to the next generation of directors, who may place less of a priority on Jewish causes.

    In recent decades, foundations have become a much more important funding source for Jewish organizations and institutions. They now give more money annually to Jewish communal causes than the entire network of local Jewish federations collects from smaller donors each year.

    Most of the foundations studied were started in the past 25 years, and still have benefactors who are alive and care somewhat about Jewish causes, Tobin said.

    Twenty-five of the foundations distributed at least a quarter of their assets to Jewish causes.

    "The further the foundations get from the founding donor, the more likely it is that they will move away from the wishes of the founding donor," Tobin said. "The founding donor might care a lot about Jewish causes, but his grandchildren or spouse or children might not."

    Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Family Foundation, one of the foundations studied, said he knows of one foundation whose benefactor wanted his foundation to spend all of its money in Israel.

    Two generations after he died, none of the trustees are Jewish and the foundation spends all of its money in Israel -- on causes relating to Israeli Arabs.

    "It is a well-known and sad fact of philanthropy that donor intent cannot be managed from the grave," Solomon said.

    Some foundations have mechanisms in place to maintain the Jewish nature of their giving. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, for instance, has in its by-laws that 25 percent of its assets must be paid out to Jewish causes, according to its treasurer, Barry Schloss.

    Tobin said that for those who are currently endowing foundations, the report should serve as a a warning to be explicit about how they want their money spent.

    "Or better yet," he added, "to give their money away while they are alive."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Tuesday, October 9, 2007

    Israeli Immigrants: But you wouldn't want your daughter to marry one, would you?

    The headline of this article is 'Israelis want Law of Return unchanged' but  one cannot be sure that that is really true.
    What it actually says:
    Of those questioned, 81 percent said Israel should maintain the original wording of the Law of Return, which states that anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent, as well as spouses of the aforementioned, are entitled to citizenship.

    Only 15% of respondents said it was time for Israel to create new criteria for citizenship based on characteristics such as professional training and family status.
    Well OK, but if they had asked, "should anyone who feels Jewish and is ready to serve in the army be allowed to become a citizen?," they might have gotten a different reply. Today, non-Jews may become citizens at the discretion of the Ministry of the Interior. There are no objective criteria.
    The following is interesting, because it indicates what I think is a strong trend in Judaism, both in Israel and abroad:
    On the issue of who is a Jew, 55.8% said they believed Israel should more readily embrace those not considered Jewish according to halacha. The same number said that even if a new immigrant were not considered Jewish halachicly, he or she should still be allowed to marry a Jew in Israel; 36% said mixed marriages should not be allowed.
    The following is amusing:
    Despite that, only 22.5% said they would prefer a president born in Israel...
    This question must've been composed by someone who thinks like an American. Of Israeli presidents, only Yitzhak Navon and Ezer Weizman were born in mandatory Palestine. The rest were born abroad - Russia, Iran and Ireland. And this one is even odder:
    ...and 74.5% claimed that their future son- or daughter-in-law's country of origin was not important.
    Now you wouldn't want your daughter to marry some immigrant like David Ben-Gurion or Menachem Begin, would you?? And can you imagine the disgrace if your son married a foreigner like Golda Meir
    Ami Isseroff

          Ruth Eglash , THE JERUSALEM POST  Oct. 9, 2007


    The majority of Israelis have no desire to change the Law of Return, and more than half believe that Israel should do more to accept and integrate those not considered halachicly Jewish, according to a survey published this week by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

    The study - conducted ahead of the ministry's first-ever conference examining immigrant absorption and aliya, which will be held next Tuesday and Wednesday in Ashdod - quizzed a representative sample of 516 veteran Jewish Israelis on their views vis-à-vis olim.

    Of those questioned, 81 percent said Israel should maintain the original wording of the Law of Return, which states that anyone with at least one Jewish parent or grandparent, as well as spouses of the aforementioned, are entitled to citizenship.

    Only 15% of respondents said it was time for Israel to create new criteria for citizenship based on characteristics such as professional training and family status.

    On the issue of who is a Jew, 55.8% said they believed Israel should more readily embrace those not considered Jewish according to halacha. The same number said that even if a new immigrant were not considered Jewish halachicly, he or she should still be allowed to marry a Jew in Israel; 36% said mixed marriages should not be allowed.

    "The success of immigration to Israel depends more on absorption into Israeli society than anything else," commented Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski, who in the past has called for Orthodox Judaism to be more accepting of some 275,000 Former Soviet Union immigrants who came to Israel under the Law of
    Return but who are not Jews according to halacha.

    Bielski also said that the study raised some tough questions about the public image of new immigrants, especially because the study showed that 63% of those questioned admitted prejudice exists against new olim.

    Despite that, only 22.5% said they would prefer a president born in Israel, and 74.5% claimed that their future son- or daughter-in-law's country of origin was not important.

    Furthermore, 56% believed the country needed to invest more resources to ensure more successful immigrant absorption, and the majority said they believed aliya was essential to keeping Israel strong and fixing the demographic imbalance with the local Arab population.

    "This study shows us that the Israeli public loves the idea of aliya but does not love the olim," said Immigrant Absorption Minister Ya'acov Edri. "It is the duty of all governments to continue investing its resources and making aliya a top priority."

    Next week's Aliya and Absorption Conference in Ashdod has been organized jointly by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency, the Ashdod municipality and Bar Ilan University. More than 200 professionals in the field of immigration are expected to participate, as is Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Bad news reporting from the Middle East

    This article makes a familiar point that bears repeating over and over and over.

    Reporting the (bad) news
    JERUSALEM -- Who ca
    n blame Europeans for hating Israel? In Britain, the University and College Union has just announced it has to cancel plans to boycott all Israeli academics and promote Palestinian views because the boycott, surprise of surprises, would break anti-discrimination laws.
    The British government, as well as academics around the world, criticized as immoral, inappropriate and counter-productive the one-sided approach to the complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But who can blame Europeans for trying, really? After all, when you look at the news, it is clear that Israel is a country run by vicious and malevolent thugs.
    Placid Netherlands?
    News coverage from Israel in the European press is often little more than a parody of honest journalism. Israelis have complained about this for decades, but more evidence of what you might call atrocities against journalism surface every day in European court rooms and in the work of scholars.

    To highlight at least one of the techniques used by European -- and some American -- news organizations, one Israeli has launched his own news parody. ''Bad News from the Netherlands,'' run by Manfred Gerstenfeld, reports on the Netherlands focusing exclusively on negative news. By the time you run through the clippings -- all real news stories -- the usually placid Netherlands sounds like the abode of the devil himself: Dutch soldiers suspected of torturing prisoners and killing civilians; soldiers beating an immigrant to death; Dutch politicians guilty of incitement against foreigners. The list goes on, with items pouring into Gerstenfeld inbox every day from his fans in the Netherlands and from the Dutch newspapers he reads.

    His point? You can make any country look bad by the way you report about it. Focusing on the negative is one way to do this, failing to show context and willingly distorting facts or falling for hoaxes from one side of a conflict is another.

    Journalists here insist they do the best they can to explain a complicated situation. But often you see the bias without having to look very far. A few weeks ago, Israeli forces uncovered a plot to send a suicide bomber to kill civilians in Tel Aviv during the Yom Kippur holiday. On satellite television I saw all about the incursions into Palestinian territory. Lost in the images of mayhem and devastation was the fact that a real plot to murder Israelis was, in fact, stopped. The suicide belt was found in an apartment only a few miles from my hotel.

    Many times Israel does deserve a harsh spotlight. The country and its leaders make grave mistakes for which they should be held accountable. But, like anyone else, anywhere else, they deserve the full story be told before the guilty party is declared. Without that, how are passionate European activists supposed to know which side they should boycott?

    Frida Ghitis writes on global affairs.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Peace prospects

    Is the Arab world ready for peace with Israel?
    Egypt festival launches barrage against Israeli film
    By AFP First Published: October 8, 2007

    Read it and draw your own conclusions. These are the "benefits" of Israeli peace with Egypt.
    Ami Isseroff
    CAIRO: An Egyptian film festival has rejected an Israeli production and threatened to boycott any Arab movie fest that breaks a taboo on admitting films from the Jewish state.

    Organizers of the Cairo International Film Festival, which opens next month, have loudly opposed an application by Eran Kolirin's "The Band's Visit," a fictional tale of an Egyptian police band that gets stranded in Israel.

    The director has said his movie, which won praise at the Munich and Cannes film festivals, sends a strong pro-peace message.

    But Soheir Abdel Kader, the festival's vice president, told AFP, "It is out of the question that an Israeli film plays here."

    The Israelis applied for a place at this year's 31st edition of the Egyptian festival - whose motto ironically is "to advance understanding through the language of art between all the peoples of the world" - through the event's representatives in Germany.

    "They will no longer be on our contact list, we didn't even answer their email," said Abdel Kader. "They should have known we are against the showing of an Israeli film."

    A solid "anti-normalization" front exists in Egypt's cultural circles which reject collaboration or contact with Israeli artists or intellectuals, despite a peace deal signed between Egypt and Israel in 1979.

    The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to fuel anger in Egyptians who believe the US-sponsored peace deal changed Egypt's role from regional heavyweight to mediator whose decision-making power is largely defined by Washington.

    Three members of the festival committee did watch a preview of the "The Band's Visit" but did so in their personal capacity, not as officials of the film fest which runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 7.

    The film delves into unlikely cross-cultural relations when an Alexandrian police band invited to perform in Israel gets lost in the Negev desert after their hosts fail to pick them up.

    The musicians end up staying at a local cafe, and the initial, begrudging interaction between the Egyptians and the Israelis eventually develops into a warm exchange.

    The film was also well received in its native Israel and is being considered for two prizes by the European Film Academy.

    "We regret to hear that the film has not been accepted [in Egypt] for political reasons without consideration for its artistic merit," Israeli embassy spokesman Benny Sharoni told AFP.

    The Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said the movie had been expected to be shown at the Abu Dhabi film festival this month. But the paper said this infuriated the Egyptians and the showing was quickly cancelled after the Egyptian Actors Union threatened to boycott the Emirati festival if "The Band's Visit" was aired.

    "It is clear that we will not participate in any Arab film festival if an Israeli film is shown," Ashraf Zaki, union secretary general, told AFP.

    The weekly Rose Al-Youssef magazine, meanwhile, ran an article under the headline

    "The Israeli squad was ready to attack the Arab festivals," charging that the bid to show the Israeli film at the Egyptian festival was part of what it called a well-orchestrated conspiracy to ignite a crisis within the local cultural scene.

    The magazine said some in Egyptian artistic circles believed Culture Minister Farouk Hosni was ready to intervene in favor of Kolirin's film, as a way to polish his image as candidate for the post of chief of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (Unesco), though the ministry denied this.

    The refusal to screen "The Band's Visit" is the latest episode in long-standing objections to normalizing cultural ties with Israel.

    In August, Zaki launched a virulent attack against rising star Amr Waked for agreeing to perform alongside an Israeli actor and threatened to block him from working in Egypt.

    Waked is to star as the late Iraqi president Saddam Hussein' son-in-law in "Between Two Rivers," a television film currently in development, on the life of the late dictator played by Israeli actor Yigal Naor.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Sunday, October 7, 2007

    November peace summit - Little expectations and big bad surprise

    INSS offers this realistic and astute analysis of the summit prospects from an Israeli point of view. It is probably representative of Israeli government thinking. It will not satisfy the Americans or the Palestinians, and the people who hold these views are probably in for a rude surprise.
    Ami Isseroff

    No. 8                                                                      October 8, 2007
    Looking Ahead to the "November Meeting"    
    Negotiations with the Palestinians: An Inevitable Failure or a Chance for Change?
    Amir Kulick
    Over the last few weeks Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) have conducted political discussions meant to culminate in a joint declaration according to the Israeli approach, or in an agreement on principles according to the Palestinian approach. Underlying this process are first and foremost Olmert's and Abu Mazen's shared interests. Both leaders feel the need to demonstrate some progress in the international meeting scheduled to take place in the US in November. At the same time, the current negotiations are also a result of the sense of political distress felt by both leaders. Olmert – in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, publication of the interim report of the Winograd Commission, and the withdrawal of the convergence plan – must generate a new political agenda and demonstrate to the Israeli public some achievements. Abu Mazen – against a backdrop of Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip, and in view of the difficult domestic political situation in the Palestinian Authority – also feels the need to offer his constituency some tangible results.

    The fact that both Olmert and Abu Mazen are seen as weak political leaders has led various commentators to doubt the seriousness and chances of success of the talks. However, the flood of pessimistic analyses – as accurate as they may be – should not prevent consideration of positive developments that may produce a joint document and a successful international meeting. These developments include:

    1.       Another important phase of progress before a final settlement. The current negotiations with the Palestinians should be viewed in a wider context and with the understanding that these talks form part of an ongoing political process. For some time leaders of both sides have avoided addressing the truly problematic issues – refugees, Jerusalem, borders. These were left in the Oslo accords for discussion of the final settlement. Understandings between Olmert and Abu Mazen may lay the groundwork for solving these issues with principles that serve as accepted guidelines for the respective sides' future negotiating teams.

    2.       Keeping the idea of a compromise solution reached by negotiations on the public agenda. Particularly in view of the strengthening of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian Authority, and the widespread disappointment in Israel regarding the possibility of reaching an agreed solution, the principal importance of the negotiations lies in the very renewal of political contacts. This leaves the option of an agreed solution based on the principle of two states for two nations in both the Israeli and the Palestinian public consciousnesses.

    3.       Creating a different dynamic in the internal Palestinian arena. Agreement on a joint document and progress with the political process it represents will force the Hamas movement to respond to developments in order to retain its relevance in the Palestinian arena. Clearly such a response may include attempts to stall the process through terrorist attacks. Alternatively, its response may include a willingness to show flexibility and to take some role in a future settlement.

    4.       Increased commitment from Arab states to contribute to the achievement of a permanent settlement. One of the main stumbling blocks of the Camp David talks in 2000 was the Palestinians' concern over making decisions on issues that they felt needed a pan-Arab consensus (such as the issue of Jerusalem). Reaching an agreement that would demonstrate significant progress would probably lead to Arab states joining the meeting in Washington and their involvement on some level during the process.

    5.       Reinforcing the moderate forces in the region. Convening an international meeting, followed by renewal of contacts for the achievement of a permanent settlement, will present an alternative to the extremist regional coalition headed by Iran. Thus instead of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by use of force, an alternative compromise solution would be offered. Such a development would bolster the moderate states in the region and rally them around the process.

    Alongside all the above, it is clear that failure of the process would pose several considerable risks:
    1.       More damage to the consensus on the two states for two nations solution. Failure of the negotiations could be perceived by the Palestinian public and the Israeli public as further evidence of the inability to solve the conflict by agreed compromise. Among Israelis, such a situation may increase calls for the implementation of unilateral steps while boosting calls for Israel to strengthen its hold in the occupied territories. Among the Palestinian public, failure of the talks could strengthen the parties within Hamas that oppose any compromise with "the Zionist entity."

    2.       Further damage to the standing of Abu Mazen and the Palestinian secular nationalist political stream. The nationalist stream led by Abu Mazen and Fatah lost much of its standing after the violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas. Failure of the current talks would provide an additional boost to the Islamic movement in the territories and would further weaken the Palestinian Authority and its institutions.

    3.       Cancellation or failure of the international meeting and a blow to US prestige. Failure by Olmert and Abu Mazen to reach agreement on a joint document is liable to lead to the cancellation of the meeting itself. Without a significant achievement in the talks between the sides it is reasonable to assume that the meeting will be cancelled or, alternatively, would serve as nothing more than a photo opportunity. This in turn would further undermine the United States' regional standing, lead to further weakening of the diplomatic effort in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, and throw contacts between the sides into ongoing stagnation. In the pan-Arab arena, cancellation or failure of the meeting would be detrimental to the willingness of moderate Arab states such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia to take part in a future political process.

    Thus, in the current situation, whereby the initial contacts and the actual holding of the international meeting are in doubt, the political process is highly fragile and liable to fail. Failure to achieve an agreed document, a large scale terrorist attack by Hamas, a large number of casualties caused by a Qassam rocket, or even a lack of willingness on the part of Arab states to attend the peace conference may all lead to the failure of the contacts and realization of the dangers inherent in such failure. On the other hand, the very cost of such failure may serve as an incentive to all the sides involved to make an effort to ensure the success of the process. This is particularly so when the personal prestige of the Israeli prime minister, Palestinian president, and senior members of the US administration are at stake. Assuming this is the situation, several measures can be suggested that may increase the chances of success of the current talks. Some of these measures are contingent on the Israeli government and can be realized immediately, while some are more complex and depend on the Palestinian leadership with the help of the international community:

    1.       Significant reform of the PA's institutions - In order to implement a permanent agreement, if and when achieved, the Palestinian side must carry out wide ranging reforms in the field of security – such as unifying the security apparatuses – and, in the civilian field, such as reducing the size of the public sector and establishing a social security network. The goal of such reforms must be to turn the PA into a functioning political system capable of realizing its sovereignty in given territory. Without such political changes, any agreement, if and when reached, will be devoid of any practical meaning.

    2.       Substantial change in West Bank daily life. Such a step is essential for mustering the support of the Palestinian public for the process and for boosting the standing of the nationalist movement in the territories. There are several areas where considerable changes may be generated with relative ease:

    a.                   Economics – alongside the grandiose plans to build an economic future for the Palestinians, to set up "a corridor of peace" in the Jericho area, to improve water and electricity infrastructures in towns, and so on, it should be remembered that the area of the West Bank is very small. Thus, one can generate significant economic changes by means of relatively simple measures that do not necessitate long term plans: increasing the number of people employed in Israel, providing relief on imports and exports of merchandise, and implementing other measures would bring rapid and substantial change to the lives of the residents of the West Bank.

    b.                   Freedom of movement – most of the checkpoints in Judea and Samaria were set up during the first years of the Intifada and were designed to provide a response to the threat of suicide bombers. Over time they lost much of their relevance. The IDF's newly gained operational freedom in Palestinian towns following Operation Defensive Shield and the intelligence superiority developed by Israel enable Israel to thwart terrorist attacks more precisely in their initial stages and within the Palestinian towns themselves. As a result, the checkpoints mainly prevent the economic recovery of the West Bank while exacerbating the frustration of the Palestinian population.[1] According to media sources the Ministry of Defense has for some years had a plan for reducing the number of check posts by 45 percent "without harming the security of Israel's citizens."[2]

    3.       Maintaining the democratic process in the territories – this process is important to allow the development of political forces alongside Fatah. These may offer an additional moderate political alternative, and may even encourage the Fatah movement to carry out significant organizational reforms. Indeed, in view of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, even as part of a democratic process, one could argue that continuing the process involves the risk of a similar development in the West Bank. Further Israeli and Palestinian activity against the Hamas movement's infrastructure in the West Bank and ruling out candidates who do not play the game by democratic rules may also provide a solution for this potential danger.

    4.       Generating a framework and a diplomatic agenda for maintaining the process – in order for the political process to stay alive after the peace conference, all sides –Israeli, Palestinian and American – should prepare a framework in advance for maintaining contacts and formulating a political agenda that will sustain the diplomatic momentum after the November meeting.

    In conclusion, at this stage renewed political contacts between Israel and the Palestinians are clearly only at an early stage, and the entire process has numerous weaknesses. There is a great chance that it will fail. The analysis above suggests that the sides have to do their utmost to agree on a joint statement that will comprise a basis for renewal of negotiations immediately after the international meeting. The start of a real political process under a regional umbrella is the most positive result one can expect from the current contacts. Therefore, the international meeting – if it succeeds – should be viewed only as the beginning of a process, and not as its end.

    [1] I would like to thank Brig. Gen. (res.) Ilan Paz for drawing my attention to this matter.
    [2] Haaretz, September 4, 2007.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Understanding Al-Qaeda - a battle between Muslims

    The conclusion to be derived from thesis presented in The Two Faces of Al Qaeda is fairly straightforward. The war of Al-Qaida is at present primarily a war between Muslims, not a war of Muslims against the west. Bin-Laden wants power in Saudi Arabia and the Arab and Muslim world first and foremost. Perhaps at a later stage this power would be used against the West. The aim of the terror attacks is not to destroy the West, but to mobilize support for extremism in the Muslim world.
    It follows that criticism of Jihadist extremism is not "islamophobia," and that well meaning people who try to ignore or euphemize Islamism are not helping moderate Muslims in any way: quite the contrary.
    Ami Isseroff
    Chronicle of Higher Education
    September 21, 2007

    The Two Faces of Al Qaeda


    When the September 11 attacks occurred, I was in Fresno, Calif., researching my M.A. thesis on the Battle of Yarmuk, one of the first yet little-known battles between Christendom and Islam, waged in 636 A.D. That battle, in which the Arab invaders were outmatched and yet still triumphed, would have immense historical repercussions. A mere four years later, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and all the land between, would become Islamic. A century later, all the land between southern France and India would be added to the House of Islam.

    The next time I came across any reference to this pivotal battle was four years later, as I was translating the words of Osama bin Laden. Surprisingly, an event that seemed so distant, almost irrelevant, to the West was to bin Laden a source not only of pride but of instruction. For him it was not mere history but an inspiring example of outnumbered and underequipped mujahedin who, through faith-inspired courage, managed to defeat the Western empire of Byzantium. When the Arab and Afghan mujahedin, including bin Laden's nascent Al Qaeda - outnumbered and underequipped - defeated the Soviet invaders, history was repeating itself.

    Yet why would this band, so reminiscent of their seventh-century forebears, attack the United States, its onetime ally against the Soviets, and in such a horrific manner? What was its motivation?

    Finding answers seemed easy enough. From the start, the Internet -- unregulated, uncensored, unfettered -- has been Al Qaeda's primary mouthpiece. Then, as now, whenever Al Qaeda has wanted to communicate with the West, it has posted videotaped messages, some complete with English subtitles.

    After the events of 9/11, my increased interest in Arabic language and history led me to enroll in Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Before and during my studies at Georgetown, I avidly read any and all posted Al Qaeda messages. The group's motivation seemed clear enough: retaliation. According to its widely disseminated statements, the West in general, and the United States in particular, had been -- overtly and covertly -- oppressing and exploiting the Islamic world. The accusations included: unqualified U.S. support for Israel at the expense of Palestinians; deaths of Iraqi children due to U.N. sanctions; U.S. support for dictatorial regimes in the Muslim world; and, most recently, Western occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. Every single message directed to the West by Al Qaeda includes most of these core grievances, culminating with the statement that it is the Islamic world's duty to defend itself. "After all this, does the prey not have the right, when bound and dragged to its slaughter, to escape? Does it not have the right, while being slaughtered, to lash out with its paw?" bin Laden asks.

    An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Even the 9/11 strikes are explained as acts of reprisal. After describing the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, where several high-rise apartment buildings were leveled, reportedly leaving some 18,000 Arabs dead, bin Laden, in a 2004 message directed at Americans, said: "As I looked upon those crumpling towers in Lebanon, I was struck by the idea of punishing the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America -- giving them a taste of their own medicine and deterring them from murdering our women and children."

    Soon after relocating to Washington in order to attend Georgetown, I landed an internship, which later evolved into a full-time position, at the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, where thousands of new books, serials, and microfilms arrive yearly from the Arab world.

    Numerous Arabic books dealing with Al Qaeda passed through my hands in this privileged position. A good number contained not only excerpts or quotes by Al Qaeda but entire treatises written by its members. Surprisingly, I came to discover that most of these had never been translated into English. Most significantly, however, the documents struck me as markedly different from the messages directed to the West, in both tone and (especially) content.

    It soon became clear why these particular documents had not been directed to the West. They were theological treatises, revolving around what Islam commands Muslims to do vis-à-vis non-Muslims. The documents rarely made mention of all those things -- Zionism, Bush's "Crusade," malnourished Iraqi children -- that formed the core of Al Qaeda's messages to the West. Instead, they were filled with countless Koranic verses, hadiths (traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad), and the consensus and verdicts of Islam's most authoritative voices. The temporal and emotive language directed at the West was exchanged for the eternal language of Islam when directed at Muslims. Or, put another way, the language of "reciprocity" was exchanged for that of intolerant religious fanaticism. There was, in fact, scant mention of the words "West," "U.S.," or "Israel." All of those were encompassed by that one Arabic-Islamic word, "kufr" -- "infidelity" -- the regrettable state of being non-Muslim that must always be fought through "tongue and teeth."

    Consider the following excerpt -- one of many -- which renders Al Qaeda's reciprocal-treatment argument moot. Soon after 9/11, an influential group of Saudis wrote an open letter to the United States saying, "The heart of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is justice, kindness, and charity." Bin Laden wrote in response:

    As to the relationship between Muslims and infidels, this is summarized by the Most High's Word: "We renounce you. Enmity and hate shall forever reign between us -- till you believe in Allah alone." So there is an enmity, evidenced by fierce hostility from the heart. And this fierce hostility -- that is, battle-- ceases only if the infidel submits to the authority of Islam, or if his blood is forbidden from being shed, or if Muslims are at that point in time weak and incapable. But if the hate at any time extinguishes from the heart, this is great apostasy! Allah Almighty's Word to his Prophet recounts in summation the true relationship: "O Prophet! Wage war against the infidels and hypocrites and be ruthless. Their abode is hell -- an evil fate!" Such, then, is the basis and foundation of the relationship between the infidel and the Muslim. Battle, animosity, and hatred -- directed from the Muslim to the infidel - is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them.

    Bin Laden goes so far as to say that the West's purported hostility toward Islam is wholly predicated on Islam's innate hostility toward the rest of the world, contradicting his own propaganda: "The West is hostile to us on account of ... offensive jihad."

    In an article titled "I was a fanatic ... I know their thinking" published by the Daily Mail soon after the London and Glasgow terrorist plots, Hassan Butt, a former jihadist, helps explain the Islamist dichotomy between the propaganda of reciprocity and the theology of eternal hostility toward the infidel: "When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network ... I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings, and 7/7 was Western foreign policy."

    One is reminded of the captured video showing bin Laden laughing and gesticulating soon after the 9/11 strikes, boasting that many of the hijackers weren't even aware that they were on a suicide mission. Butt continues:

    By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed this "Blair's bombs" line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology. ... As with previous terror attacks, people are again saying that violence carried out by Muslims is all to do with foreign policy. For example, on Saturday on Radio 4's Today program, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: "What all our intelligence shows about the opinions of disaffected young Muslims is the main driving force is not Afghanistan, it is mainly Iraq."

    Whatever position one takes as to why Al Qaeda has declared war on America, one thing is clear: We must begin to come to terms with all of Al Qaeda's rhetoric, not just what is aimed specifically at Western readers. We must particularly come to better appreciate the theological aspects that underpin radical Islam. As Butt puts it:

    The main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Muslim institutions in Britain just don't want to talk about theology. They refuse to broach the difficult and often complex truth that Islam can be interpreted as condoning violence against the unbeliever -- and instead repeat the mantra that Islam is peace and hope that all of this debate will go away.

    When news of The Al Qaeda Reader leaked to the press in 2005, some on the left questioned whether the book would be a pseudoscholarly attempt to demonize Muslims. Others on the right worried that unfiltered exposure to the radical beliefs and propaganda of bin Laden and his cohorts might unintentionally lead to more converts or sympathizers.

    My reply is simply this: Whatever one's position in regard to the "war on terror," understanding the ideas of our enemy is both a practical necessity in wartime and a fundamental liberal value. It is my hope that both sides in this bitter debate will profit from a deeper acquaintance with these works. In any case, it simply will not do to dismiss Al Qaeda as an irrational movement without ideas.

    Raymond Ibrahim is editor and translator of The Al Qaeda Reader, recently published by Broadway Books. All translations in this article are from the book.
    Section: The Chronicle Review
    Volume 54, Issue 4, Page B13

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Haim Ramon: Jerusalem and the Summit

    Well yes, of course it will be discussed. The question is, what will be said?!
    Ramon stated:
    "Whoever thinks the subject of discussions will be limited to the structure of Palestinian institutions is deluded. Israel has an interest to get recognition of all of Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods, and to hand over control of Arab neighborhoods to the Palestinians. When we speak of a diplomatic horizon, these are the subjects we are referring to," Ramon said.
    All that is pretty clear. The question is, who is silly enough to think that this conference is about Palestinian institutions? It is not about Palestinian institutions. It is not about recipes for gefilte fish either. From the Arab point of view, it is a sort of dinner party. Israel is to be the main course. From the US point of view, it is peace conference that will let it get on with the war in Iraq in peace. From the Israeli point of view, it is not clear what it is - perhaps it is thought to be about Palestinian institution building, or exchanging recipes for Humus and gefilte fish. It is scary if people in the Israel government don't know what this conference is about.
    Ehud Olmert is quoted as follows:

    While the international conference is designed to promote peacemaking, "it will in no way replace direct negotiations with the Palestinians," Olmert said.

    Olmert went on to say that "whoever doesn't agree to talks with Abbas will tomorrow find himself facing Hamas and a terrorist regime in the West Bank."

    But whoever does agree to talks with Abbas will probably also find himself facing Hamas and a terrorist regime in the West Bank, because Abbas doesn't have control of Palestinian society. The reasons for talking to Abbas are much more complex, and what is said to Abbas will also determine what we will face in the West Bank.
    Ami Isseroff

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    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Palestinian Christian 'activist' killed - by Palestinians

    An "activist" is generally someone who plants bombs in Middle East newsspeak, but this activist was director of the Teacher's Bookshop, Gaza's only Christian bookstore, which is run by the Bible Society of Gaza Baptist church. Health Ministry officials confirmed his death.
    Ayyad had been missing since Saturday evening. Over the years he had received repeated death threats from unidentified people displeased with his missionary work. He was found stabbed to death in a street in Gaza City early Sunday.
    The associated press article adds gratuitously and incorrectly, that Muslim-Christian relations have not deteriorated since the Hamas takeover in June. Apparently, this means that the Muslims burn churches and murder "activists," and the Christians smile and say "I can't complain."

    Ami Isseroff 

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    Zionism versus Orthodox religion

    Headline: Break the fundamentalist stranglehold
    What it is about - a controversy that is as old as Zionism itself and has not been resolved in modern Israel: reconciling the birth of a modern nation-state with the traditions of orthodox religion. In Europe, this problems was resolved for Christian society by the reformation and the emergence of secular states. Israel and the Jewish people have not yet completely undergone their reformation. This has urgent practical implications as well as profound theoretical ones, as Maurice Stroun and Avshalom Vilan note:
    The modern Orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization is reportedly mulling issuing its own kashrut certificates. This comes in the wake of the Chief Rabbinate's decision to give municipal chief rabbis the option of not honoring the symbolic heter mechira practice this shmita year - a sabbatical during which, according to the Bible, all Jewish-owned fields in the Land of Israel are to lie fallow.
    This compromise, the fiction of selling the land, was the outcome of the very first practical confrontation between settlers in the land in the last century, the Bilu, and the Orthodox extremists. The Bilu were observant Jews, but they would not allow themselves to starve to death.
    And, as the authors note:
    There are 300,000 people living in Israel who are eligible to become Jewish. The majority of them will no doubt be as irreligious as most veteran Israelis. In this, they will behave like most of the Jews around the world, who celebrate Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pessah while leading largely secular lifestyles.

    Throughout Jewish history, there have always been various sects such as the Essenes, Pharisees and Sadducees. Today we have secular, Reform, Conservatives and Orthodox. The presence within the Jewish religion of 300,000 aspiring Jews is of fundamental importance for the future of Israel.

    Enabling a 5-percent increase in the Jewish population in Israel is not something to be neglected because of Orthodox diktat, especially as, to the fundamentalists, what is important is not strengthening the Zionist state, but the share of their own sect in relation to all the Jewish people in this country.
    So it is not an obscure ideological struggle at all, but one that can affect the existence of the state and of the Jewish people. And to be sure, it is NOT solely a fight between secular and orthodox Jews:
    The modern Orthodox Tzohar rabbinic organization is reportedly mulling issuing its own kashrut certificates. This comes in the wake of the Chief Rabbinate's decision to give municipal chief rabbis the option of not honoring the symbolic heter mechira practice this shmita year - a sabbatical during which, according to the Bible, all Jewish-owned fields in the Land of Israel are to lie fallow.
    The choice is not between religion and unbelief, but between fanaticism for its own sake and sanity. There is no way forward with the current religious establishment, because they are not interested in the welfare of the Jewish people or Israel, but only in stubbornly trying to hold on to the position of preeminence in Jewish life that the rabbinate held among Diaspora Jews.
    Ami Isseroff

    Continued (Permanent Link)

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