Ah for the good old days, when the Germans of the Sudetensland had self-determination. The nice Nazis lived and loved - and murdered Jews.
A true tale of love and horror. How many other war criminals are still out there, and how many died, protected by the conspiracy of silence that kept the Bad Arolsen archives closed and allowed wanted criminals to escape?
SS member 'outed' after book claim
By ALLAN HALL
A FORMER member of Hitler's elite SS may have indicted himself as a mass murderer after stepping from the shadows to complain about an elderly woman's wartime memoir.
Erich Steidtmann, 92, was offended to be portrayed as a philanderer who fathered a child out of wedlock in the Second World War and launched a lawsuit in a court in Leipzig saying his "honour had been besmirched" in the book A Perfectly Normal Life.
But in doing so he has revealed himself to be the last known survivor of the SS killing squads which wiped out the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Now the battle is on by the publisher of the memoir, its author and Nazi-hunters to place Steidtmann at the epicentre of one of the worst crimes in history.
The story of Steidtmann, now a pensioner in East Germany, only surfaced because he happened to read a book by Lisl Urban. One of the so-called Sudeten Germans of Czechoslovakia, Mrs Urban worked as a secretary for the Gestapo in occupied Prague.
She described the occupied capital as a "hotbed" of frivolous sexual encounters, one of which she enjoyed with an SS man she nicknamed 'Eike' after her marriage broke down.
Eike was a police officer who, he claimed, was drafted into the fighting arm of the SS. He was sent to Prague from the eastern front for recuperation and in order to document his experiences in tracking down partisans.
"I adored him," said Mrs Urban. The two spent their time in 1942 rowing, dining out and staying in. She soon became pregnant.
However, in the autumn of that year Eike was posted to Warsaw to guard the Jewish ghetto, the Nazi way station for the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec in Poland.
Mrs Urban had hoped they would marry, but she said Eike became acquainted with a Polish woman and spurned her. Nowhere in her book does the former art teacher refer to Eike as Steidtmann, but he recognised himself in her prose.
"I may not be named, but my family and friends would recognise me," he said.
In court papers he alleges that the child Mrs Urban gave birth to is not his, but "a cuckoo's egg". But 'Eike' has outed himself in the process as the right-hand man of the destroyer of the Warsaw Ghetto, Juergen Stroop, who was tasked by Hitler with its extermination after the Jews rose up in January 1943.
Exonerated in a post-war trial in Germany as having had only "minimal involvement" in the crushing of the uprising, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in America is now pressing for him to be retried, claiming the post-war trial in Hamburg did not know of his full role in the crushing of the ghetto.
Joachim Jahns, the book publisher, is trawling through German military archives trying to find more details of Steidtmann's
"It is ironic that he tried to defend his honour as an SS man regarding this woman and her child. No-one would be any the wiser if he kept quiet. Now he could be pursued as a criminal until he dies," he said.
CASE IS A 'PRIORITY'
THE Simon Wiesenthal Centre - named after the legendary death camp survivor who became the world's foremost Nazi hunter - said it was making the Steidtmann case "a priority".
Dr Efraim Zuroff, its director, said: "It is unfortunate that something as serious as this has come out in the form of a book.
"While Mr Steidtmann and his mistress were, or were not, having an affair, tens of thousands of people were being murdered outside.
"What we should be asking ourselves is what went on in the ghetto. We are investigating the Steidtmann case as a priority and, if the evidence supports it, will be demanding a prosecution."
The full article contains 646 words and appears in The Scotsman newspaper.
Last Updated: 16 November 2007 11:56 PM
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 07:16 21/12/2007
Attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria fails
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
An attempt to exchange messages between Israel and Syria in recent months has failed. European diplomatic sources said that the reason for the impasse was the inability to reach an agreed-upon agenda for talks between the two countries. But in off-the-record conversations, several sources close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert say that "the Syrian track still has higher chances of success when compared to the Palestinian track."
In the past few months, Israel approached Syrian President Bashar Assad via a number of friendly states, in an effort to evaluate the possibility of renewing direct contact. The main interlocutor in these exchanges has been Turkey, but Israel also made use of the good services of Germany, which still holds an open line of communications with Damascus.
Following a series of exchanges, the view in Israel is that the seriousness of Syrian intentions is still questionable.
European diplomats updated on some of the exchanges noted that "the bottom line was a negative one."
They pointed out that there was no agreement on an agenda for talks between the two sides, assuming such talks would actually take place.
"The Syrians wanted the talks to revolve only on the Golan [Heights]," the European diplomats said. "But Israel wanted to first talk about other issues that trouble it, such as [Syria's] ties with Iran and the support for Hezbollah and Hamas, and Syria did not agree."
Olmert may be interested in furthering the Annapolis process, but increasingly, senior officials feel that the Syrian track must be given a chance to move forward.
"It is a lot simpler and it is possible to achieve an agreement in a short time," one of Olmert's confidants said. "The only problem is that the Syrians are not sending positive signals."
Another source close to Olmert was more optimistic. "The fact that they [Syria] came to Annapolis and canceled the conference of terrorist groups in Damascus were positive and encouraging signals."
A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said that Olmert "is carrying out an evaluation of the Syrian track and that is still ongoing."
The U.S., however, is strongly opposed to any goodwill gesture toward Damascus.
President George W. Bush told a White House press conference Thursday that his patience with Syrian President Bashar Assad had run out long ago.
"Syria needs to stay out of Lebanon," Bush said when asked whether he would be willing to talk to Assad about stabilizing Lebanon, which is caught up in a political crisis over the election of a new president.
"My patience ran out on President Assad a long time ago," Bush said.
"The reason why is because he houses Hamas, he facilitates Hezbollah, suiciders go from his country into Iraq and he destabilizes Lebanon," the president said.
Earlier this week, during a foreign ministers' meeting at the Paris conference of donor nations for the Palestinian Authority, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attacked Syria for what she said was a missed opportunity at Annapolis.
"Annapolis was a chance we gave Syria and its test were the [presidential] elections in Lebanon. So far, the Syrians have failed completely."
European diplomatic sources said that "Syria is undermining any chance for an accord [in Lebanon] and is pushing Hezbollah and the rest of its allies in Lebanon to raise the bar on their demands."
The same sources said that Assad is interested in giving the impression, whatever the cost may be, "that without him nothing will move in Lebanon," and therefore the assessment is that the crisis there will continue.
Continued (Permanent Link)
has in fact many meanings in the Muslim world. There is Jihad
as an "inner spiritual struggle" and Jihad
as "holy war" and there is no agreement as to which is the "greater Jihad
." There are also differences of opinion as to what constitutes a justifiable reason for Jihad
. For example, should one wage Jihad
only when Islam is threatened? When is Islam is not threatened, but the enemy are pagans? When is Islam is not threatened but the enemy are any non-Muslims, including Jews and Christians. Hassan El Banna, founder of the Muslim brotherhood, claimed it is a duty to wage Jihad
against Jews and Christians. Some nice quotes that Hassan Banna brings, as well as his own words:
On the authority of 'Abd al Khayr bin Thabit, on the authority of his father, on the authority of his grandfather, who said: "A woman came to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) named Umm Khalid, wearing a veil, in order to ask him about a son of hers who had been slain in the way of Allah Almighty....The Prophet of Allah (PBUH) said to her:
'Your son has the reward of two martyrs.' She asked: 'Why?" He said: 'Because he was killed by People of the Book.' (Transmitted by Abu Dawud)
You should yearn for an honourable death and you will gain perfect happiness. May Allah grant myself and yours the honour of martyrdom in His way!
Unless an enemy threatens the Umma - the Muslim nation, Jihad is not ordinarily Fard al Ayn - an obligation incumbent on every individual. But it is Fard Kifaya - a community obligation. And any individual who is called to war must come. As al Banna notes:
And in Al-Mughni of Ibn Qudama of the Hanbali school, who said:
'Jihad is a fard kifayah. If a group of people engage in it, the remainder are released. It becomes a fard 'ayn under three conditions:
If two armies meet and two lines of soldiers confront one another, those present are forbidden to leave the battlefield, and it becomes a fard 'ayn on each one to remain at his station.
If the unbelievers attack a territory, it is a fard 'ayn on its population to fight and repel them.
If the Imam calls a group of people to arms, then they must join his military forces. And he should at least announce Jihad once every year.'
A Jihad a year brings you virgins dear.
Inquiry & Analysis Jihad & Terrorism
December 20, 2007
By Menahem Milson*
The Arabic word jihad has gained wide currency in the media worldwide. Since the 1990s, various countries around the world have seen numerous terrorist attacks perpetrated by Muslims calling themselves "jihad fighters" the most deadly of them being the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.(1) But what exactly is this concept of jihad, which has so much impact on life in the world today? THE MEANING OF THE WORD JIHAD
Let us begin with the meaning of the word jihad as it is understood by the "ordinary" contemporary speaker of Arabic (and also by Muslims who are not Arabs) I refer to the meaning of the word in "common parlance," to use a British legal term, or in what the Jewish sages called "the language of ordinary people." In the language of ordinary people, jihad means war against the enemies of Islam. Since this interpretation often arouses controversy or objection among academic experts, I present here a word-for-word translation of what is said about the concept of jihad in a standard 11th grade textbook used in Jordan and the Palestinian Authority:
"Jihad is the Islamic term equivalent to the word 'war' among other nations. The difference is that jihad is [war] for the sake of noble and exalted goals, and for the sake of Allah
whereas other nations' wars are wars of evil for the sake of occupying land and seizing natural resources, and for other materialistic goals and base aspirations."(2)
It should be noted that the literal meaning of the word jihad is not "war." Jihad is the nominalized form of the verb jahada, which means "to strive," "to exert oneself." The textbook from which the quote is taken presents this etymological information, but what it stresses and what is relevant to this investigation is the accepted meaning of the word in Muslim culture and history, and, of course, its accepted meaning today.(3)
THE PLACE OF JIHAD IN THE MUSLIM WORLD VIEW
To properly understand the place of jihad in the Muslim world view, it is important to keep in mind that Islam has been, from its very beginning, not only a religion but a political community the nation of Islam (ummat al-Islam). Muhammad was not merely a prophet communicating the word of God, but a political leader and military commander. Hence, any victory by the army of a Muslim state over non-Muslims is perceived as a victory for Islam itself. According to Islam, Allah promised the Muslims victory and superiority over all other religions worldwide. Allah validated this message with the Battle of Badr, in Ramadan of 624 CE, in which 300 Muslim warriors under Muhammad's command vanquished the 950-strong army of the Quraysh tribe a military feat which played a crucial role in shaping the Islamic consciousness.(4)
This victory was not an isolated event. Rather, it was the harbinger of an impressive series of victories that led to the rise of a Muslim empire stretching from India to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, the notion of Islamic superiority became engrained in the Muslim religious consciousness. "Islam is superior and cannot be surpassed" this saying, attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, reflects the Muslim sense of superiority, and this self-perception remained unshaken for many centuries, even when the political and military reality no longer supported it.
According to the traditional Muslim outlook, humanity is thus divided into two groups: the followers of Islam who are called "believers," and all non-Muslims, who are called "infidels." It is the duty of the Muslims to propagate the one true faith Islam throughout the world. Should the infidels refuse to embrace Islam, jihad is the means to vanquish them.
Among the infidels, Islam distinguishes between two main groups: idolaters or polytheists (who, in Arabic, are called al-mushrikun those who place others alongside Allah) and the "People of the Book" (ahl al-kitab), that is, Jews and Christians. Islam recognizes that the Jews and Christians have received divine revelation and divine laws (hence "People of the Book"), but maintains that they distorted the word of God and the holy scriptures, and are thus infidels.
The People of the Book are granted special status in Islam, and their fate is different from that of the polytheist infidels. The Muslims are commanded to fight them until they either accept Islam or agree to pay the poll tax (jizya). The basis for dealing with them is laid down in the Koran in the "jizya verse": "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya out of hand, in a state of submission..." (Koran 9:29). By paying jizya, the People of the Book indicate that they submit to Muslim rule and accept the status of protected people, called in Arabic ahl al-dhimma.(5)
Just as humanity is divided into two into believers and infidels the world itself is also divided into the abode of Islam (dar al-Islam), namely the region under Muslim rule, and the abode of war (dar al-harb), referring to all lands not yet under Muslim rule, which must be conquered by the sword, i.e., through jihad.
However, jihad, important though it is, is not regarded as a personal obligation (fard 'ain) incumbent upon each and every Muslim. In this, it differs from the "five pillars of Islam" the declaration of faith (shahada), prayer, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca, and the payment of zakat (alms tax) which are personal obligations of every individual believer. According to the shari'a, jihad is a collective duty (fard kifaya) of the Muslim nation, or community, as a whole. It is the Muslim ruler who decides when and against whom to declare jihad. When a Muslim ruler declares jihad, it becomes a personal obligation for those whom he orders to take part in the war.
There is only one situation in which jihad becomes a personal obligation of each and every Muslim even without an order from the Muslim leadership namely when non-Muslims attack Muslims or invade a Muslim country. Bin Laden and the adherents of extremist Islam claim that this is the situation today: Islam is under attack, both physically and ideologically. The infidels Christians and Jews are invading the lands of Islam: Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, they maintain that waging jihad has become a personal obligation incumbent upon all Muslims, wherever they may be.
Even in the modern era, when the balance of power tipped decisively against the Muslims and in favor of the European states, jihad did not recede from the Muslim consciousness. The notion that any confrontation between Muslims and non-Muslims constitutes jihad was so deeply ingrained in Muslim thought that the Muslim rulers of North Africa in the beginning of the 19th century referred even to the actions of Muslim pirates who used to attack "infidel" ships from ports on the North African coast as "jihad."
Let me enumerate several military conflicts between Muslim and European forces during the 19th century that were defined by the Muslim side as jihad: In 1830, the Algerian leader 'Abd Al-Qadr bin Muhyi Al-Din declared jihad on the French invaders; in the mid 19th century, the Dagestani leader Shamil launched a (partly successful) jihad war against the forces of Czarist Russia; in 1881, the Sudanese Mahdi declared jihad upon the British; in 1912, Sheikh Sayyed Ahmad Al-Sanusi declared jihad against the Italians in Libya; and in 1914, when the Ottoman Empire joined the war alongside Germany and Austria, Sultan Muhammad V declared jihad upon the Entente Powers, though this obviously did not cause all the world's Muslims to join the Ottoman Empire in its war against England, France and Russia.
SELF-SACRIFICE FOR THE SAKE OF ALLAH
Jihad is obviously closely linked to the concept of self-sacrifice in battle for the sake of Allah (shahada). Shahada means "martyrdom,"(6) and any Muslim who is killed in the course of war with non-Muslims is a shahid (martyr), whether he was engaged in active fighting or not. Every Muslim man, woman, or child whose death came about, directly or indirectly, through the actions of the enemies of Islam is a shahid. Actively pursuing jihad and seeking a martyr's death (istishhad) is especially laudable.
Willingness to sacrifice oneself in battle is no small matter, and Koranic verses dealing with war for the sake of Allah (al-jihad fi sabil Allah) reflect the fact that Muhammad's warriors in the early days of Islam were often reluctant to risk their lives, for Allah rebukes them: "You who believe! What (excuse) have you that when it is said to you: 'Go forth [into battle] for the sake of Allah,' you should cling to the earth; are you contented with this world's life instead of the hereafter?... But the goods of this world's life compared with the hereafter is but little" (Koran 9:38). The reward promised to those who sacrifice themselves for Allah is one of the means to overcome the natural fear of death: "Allah hath purchased of the believers their lives and their property; for theirs [in return] is the garden [of Paradise]..." (Koran 9:111). Moreover, the Koran stresses that those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of Allah are not really dead: "Reckon not those who are killed for the sake of Allah as dead; nay, they live [and] are provided sustenance from their Lord" (Koran 3:169).
The Koran does not merely promise the martyr a reward in the world to come; a number of Suras in the Koran contain descriptions of the pleasures of Paradise food, drink and beautiful women. The Muslim traditionists and commentators greatly elaborated on these descriptions, providing, for example, details about the physical and spiritual characteristics of the black-eyed virgins of Paradise.(7) Every man who enters Paradise is rewarded with 72 such brides.
The distinction of martyrs, compared to other Muslims, lies primarily in the fact that they are guaranteed the privilege of Paradise: The act of falling in battle for the sake of Allah washes away every violation or sin they have committed during their lives. Moreover, the shahid enters Paradise right away, without enduring the "torments of the grave" ('adhab al-qabr), whereas an ordinary Muslim who does not have the privilege of dying as a martyr must wait for the Day of Judgment, and only then providing he is sufficiently virtuous do the gates of Paradise open before him.
The following excerpts show how pervasive is the belief in the pleasures that await the martyr in the world to come:
Al-Risala, the Hamas mouthpiece, published the last statement of Sa'id Al-Hutari, the terrorist who carried out the June 1, 2001 suicide bombing near the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv. Al-Hutari says: "I shall turn my body into pieces and bombs that will pursue the sons of Zion, blow them up, and burn the remains [of their bodies]." Addressing his parents, he tells them not to weep over his death, saying, "There is nothing greater than to give one's soul for the sake of Allah on Palestinian soil. Mother, utter cries of joy; Father and brothers, hand out sweets. Your son is awaiting his betrothal to the virgins of Paradise."8 Indeed, following the death of a shahid, the family does not erect a "mourners' tent," but holds a celebration similar to a wedding celebration: sweets are served and the mother of the "groom" utters cries of joy.
Reports in the Palestinian press likewise reflect the acceptance of these beliefs as a familiar and established reality. Journalist Nufuz Al-Bakri, for example, reported the death of the shahid Wael 'Awwad as follows: "The mother of Wael 'Awwad, from Dir Al-Balah, never planned to hold a second wedding for her eldest son, after he married his fiancée Miyada on August 10, 2001 in a simple ceremony attended only by the family. But Wael's real wedding day arrived yesterday, when the angels of [Allah] the Merciful married him, along with the [other] martyrs, to the black-eyed [virgins], while all around rose the cries of joy that his mother had dreamt of on the day of his wedding [to his fiancée]."(9)
Hamas official Ashraf Sawaftah told of a ceremony honoring 'Izz Al-Din Al-Masri, who carried out the suicide bombing at the Sbarro pizza parlor in central Jerusalem in August 2001: "His relatives handed out sweets. [They] received their son as a bridegroom who was being married to the black-eyed [virgins], not as one who had been killed and was being laid in the ground."(10)
The uncle of Nassim Abu 'Asi, who died in an attempted terrorist attack, said that whenever Nassim was asked why he was not married, he would always reply, "Why would I relinquish the black-eyed [virgins] to marry a woman of clay [i.e. of flesh and blood]?"(11)
Hamas leader 'Isma'il Abu Shanab once explained to a foreign reporter: "This is part of the Islamic belief. One who dies a martyr's death is rewarded [in Paradise]. If a shahid who died for the sake of Allah dreams of the black-eyed virgin, he receives her."(12)
The children in the Hamas education system are taught, beginning in kindergarten, that martyrs are rewarded with 72 virgins in Paradise. After touring Hamas schools in Gaza, Jack Kelley of the American daily USA Today wrote that, in one of the classes he visited, an 11-year-old was speaking before the class, saying: "I will turn my body into a bomb that will tear the flesh of the Zionists, the sons of apes and pigs
I will tear their bodies into little pieces and cause them more pain than they could have ever imagined." The teacher responded by saying, "May the virgins give you pleasure!" A 16-year-old youth told Kelley that "most boys cannot stop thinking about the virgins of Paradise."(13)
The terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks also believed that the black-eyed virgins were among the rewards awaiting them in Paradise. A letter of instructions found in the vehicle of Nawaf al-Hazmi contained two mentions of the wide-eyed virgins: "...Do not show signs of discomfort of anxiety, be relaxed and happy. Rest assured that you are carrying out an operation that Allah desires and of which He approves. When the time comes, Allah willing, you will enjoy the virgins of Paradise... Know that Paradise has been bedecked with the finest decorations in anticipation of your coming, and that the black-eyed [virgins] are calling to you..."(14)
The chief mufti of the Palestinian Authority police, Sheikh 'Abd Al-Salam Abu Shukheydem, also mentioned the virgins as one of the rewards of the martyr: "From the moment he sheds the first drop of blood, he does not feel the pain of his wounds, and he is forgiven all his sins; he sees his seat in Paradise; he is spared the torment of the grave and the great horror of Judgment Day; he marries the black-eyed [virgins]; he vouches for 70 of his family members; he receives a crown of honor inlaid with a precious stone that is more valuable than this entire world and everything in it."(15) The phrase "he vouches for 70 of his family members" refers to another reward of the martyr, less known than the black-eyed virgins but nevertheless very significant: a shahid is allowed to bring 70 of his relatives into Paradise, by his own choice and recommendation. This exceptional privilege confers prestige on the shahid and special status on his family.
The last statement of Hanadi Jaradat, who carried out the October 2003 suicide bombing at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa, sheds light on the perception of martyrdom in general, but especially on this aspect of the martyr's reward. This document, posted on the website of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, reads as follows:
"The Exalted One [i.e., Allah] said [in the Koran]: 'Reckon not those who are killed for the sake of Allah as dead; nay, they live [and] are provided sustenance from their Lord' [Koran 3:169]. Verily, Allah's words are true.
"My dear family, whom the Master of the World will reward as He promised us all in His Holy Book... Allah promised Paradise to those who persevere in all that He has brought upon them and what a good dwelling Paradise is.
"Therefore, reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of the reward that Allah, may He be praised and exalted, will [grant] you in the hereafter. [My life] is not too great a sacrifice for the sake of the religion of Allah. I have always believed in what is said in the Holy Koran, and I have been yearning for the rivers of Paradise, and I have been yearning to see the glorious light of Allah's face. I have been yearning for all these ever since Allah bestowed guidance upon me
The expression "reckon my sacrifice in anticipation of the reward that Allah... will [grant] you in the hereafter" recurs four times in Jaradat's letter addressing her family, her loved ones, her father, and her mother. This expression referring to the special privileges conferred upon a shahid's family is familiar and clear to any Muslim.
THE CULTURE OF DEATH
On February 16, 2003, an Islamist website posted the contents of an audiocassette of a sermon by Osama bin Laden. The sermon naturally created an uproar in the media. Particular attention was paid to the last sentence, which was especially curious and somewhat alarming. In this sentence, bin Laden quoted a few lines from a poem:
"O Lord, when death arrives, let it not be upon a bier covered with green shrouds,
"Rather, let my grave be in the belly of an eagle, tranquil in the sky, among hovering eagles."
Various commentaries appeared in the media by experts in various fields such as Middle East specialists, intelligence experts, experts on counter-terrorism, and so on who proposed different interpretations. Some suggested that these words hinted at an imminent aerial attack, along the lines of 9/11, with the eagle symbolizing the hijacked airplane flown by suicide terrorists. Others maintained that the eagle symbolized not the attack itself but the target of the attack not the aircraft, but the United States, whose emblem is an eagle. Some termed this sermon "bin Laden's testament" based on an apparent reference to the expressed desire for burial in "the belly of an eagle."
These interpretations, however, are way off the mark. When we at MEMRI translated the sermon in full, it became apparent that bin Laden was referring neither to an American eagle nor to a hijacked airplane. The poet quoted by bin Laden yearns to die a hero's death as a shahid (martyr) on the battlefield and to be consumed by an eagle, which would then bear him up to heaven, where he would reach the throne of Allah. The eighth-century Arab who authored the poem was a member of a fanatical militant sect of Islam.(17)
I have mentioned bin Laden's sermon in order to highlight two central characteristics of modern jihadist Islam. The first is identification with the early generations of Islam, the first hundred years of its Islamic history. It is impossible to understand contemporary extremist Islam if one does not regard it as a religious movement whose members strive to follow the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad and his companions in this early period of Islam. They believe that if they act out of faith and readiness for self-sacrifice, like the Islamic warriors of the Prophet's era, they will prevail over armies superior to them in both numbers and equipment. Early Islam the era of Islam's far-reaching conquests is the exemplary era of Islam and the source of their inspiration.
Another motif that runs through this part of bin Laden's sermon is death for the sake of Allah. This too is a prominent motif in jihadist Islam, which is manifest, for example, in the motto of the Hamas movement: "Allah is our goal, the Messenger our model, the Koran our constitution, jihad our path, and martyrdom for the sake of Allah our aspiration." At an end-of-year ceremony in a Hamas kindergarten in Gaza, the children, dressed in camouflage uniform, enthusiastically chanted this slogan.(18)
Islamic zealots speak boastfully of their "love of death," contrasting themselves with their enemies (in particular the Jews), who love life. In this context, they frequently quote the words spoken by the Muslim military commander Khaled bin Al-Walid to a Persian commander on the eve of the battle between the Muslim and the Persian armies: "I am bringing with me warriors who love death, while you love life."(19)
REACTION TO THE DECLINE OF MUSLIM POWER
The engrained belief in Muslim superiority was seriously shaken during the 19th century, when the Ottoman Empire suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the Russians, and when various Muslim-ruled lands fell under non-Muslim rule: Algeria and Tunisia were conquered by the French, Egypt and Sudan by the British, and the majority of the Balkan countries achieved independence from the Ottomans. In World War I, the Ottoman Empire was totally defeated by Christian powers, and subsequently, in 1924, Turkey's reformist secular leader Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate. To Muslim eyes, it appeared that history had deviated from its predestined course.(20)
It was the disturbing recognition that Muslim power was inferior to that of Europe, the West, or Christendom (however the "other side" is perceived) that shaped the outlook of modern Muslim intellectuals, both extremist and moderate. The question that faced, and that continues to face, Arab intellectuals and political leaders was how the Arab peoples, which constitute the heart of Islam both historically and ideologically, could regain their rightful place in history.
Ideological and political answers to this question are of two kinds. First, there are the answers proposed by the Islamist school of thought. The Islamists argued that the decline in Muslim power did not stem from any flaw in Islam, but rather from the fact that the Muslims had abandoned Islam. Their maxim was: "There is no fault in Islam; the flaw lies with the Muslims." According to them, when Muslims return to the original, pure Islam, all the ills of Muslim society will disappear, and the Muslim nation, led by the Arabs under the banner of Islam, will be in a position to fulfill its historical mission. They call to return to the Islam of the early generations, known in Arabic as al-salaf. This stream is therefore called "Salafi Islam." The Salafi stream is represented in the Arab world by two movements: The first is Wahhabism, founded by Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (17031792) in the middle of the 18th century, which is the dominant school of Islam in Saudi Arabia; the second is the Muslim Brotherhood, established in 1928 in Alexandria, Egypt, which today has branches in other Arab countries as well.
Answers of a different kind were proposed by the nationalist school of thought.(21) The concept of nationalism took root in the Arab world in general, and in Egypt in particular, in two different forms: local nationalism, defined by country, and pan-Arab nationalism, based on the unity of language and culture throughout the Arab world. In the contest between local, single-state nationalism and pan-Arab nationalism, the latter had a much stronger appeal, due to the close connection between Arab identity and Islam. The proponents of pan-Arabism believed that the unification of all Arabs would enable the Arab countries to regain their rightful place in history. The influence of pan-Arabism grew after World War II and peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser's Arab Socialism and the Ba'th movement were both based on the concept of pan-Arab nationalism as the foundation of the Arabs' collective identity. The ideological and political differences between the nationalists on the one hand and the Salafists on the other (both the Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood) were vast.
Salafism both that of the Wahhabis and that of the Muslim Brotherhood derives its inspiration from the works of 14th-century scholar Ibn Taymiyya, who called to purge Islam of all impurities, stressing the centrality of jihad as a personal obligation of each and every Muslim in times when Islam is under threat. According to Ibn Taymiyya, a Muslim ruler who commits grave sins or applies alien laws (i.e., non-Islamic laws) is no better than an apostate (murtadd) and should be put to death. Hence, war against such rulers is a religious duty, namely jihad.(22)
The 1967 Six-Day War, bringing with it the collapse of the Nasserite vision, was a cataclysmic event for the Arabs: an utter defeat, which naturally had religious significance. As far as the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists were concerned, the collapse of the Arab armies, although distressing, was understandable and even justified. In their eyes, it was the Arabs' punishment for having abandoned Islam, and it offered an opportunity for repentance and rectification. For the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamists, the 1967 military debacle even more than the defeat of 1948 proved the worthlessness of secular Arab nationalism, Nasserist and Ba'athist alike. The slogan "Islam is the solution" was now being proclaimed with greater force. But the way towards implementing this slogan in practice had not yet been found. The Islamists had great difficulty in living up to their own ideals when it came to jihad against the infidels inside and outside the Muslim world. It took unique historical circumstances to bring about the return of jihad.
THE RETURN OF JIHAD
The takeover of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Tehran and the taking of American hostages by Iranian students on November 4, 1979 was greeted throughout the Muslim world as a victory of Islam over the infidels. Iranian students had managed to humiliate the great American superpower and had thereby confirmed the Islamist belief that, by acting fearlessly in the name of Islam, Muslims could defeat the infidels. The fact that this was a victory by Shi'ites, a minority group in the Islamic world, did not detract from the sense of achievement among Muslims in general. In the grand division of the world into two camps believers and infidels there was a near-universal Muslim solidarity with Khomeini's Iran.
For the Saudi regime, however, the prestige earned by the Islamic Revolution in Iran posed a problem. After all, it is the House of Saud, the Defender of the Two Holy Places (i.e., Mecca and Medina), that should rightfully be the guardian of the true Islam that is, Sunni Islam in accordance with the Wahhabi doctrine. In their view, it was they who deserved to lead the Islamic awakening not the heretical Shi'ite Ayatollah Khomeini, whom they considered not much better than an infidel. The religious aura of the House of Saud was a political asset in the pan-Arab and international arena, and even more so within its own kingdom. In order to preserve its religious status, it had to win the struggle for primacy as the champions of Islam throughout the world. Therefore, in response to the challenge posed by the Iranian Revolution, the Saudis took a dual course of action: They embarked upon jihad against the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and they launched a far-reaching operation for the propagation of Islam.
To achieve the latter goal, they invested billions of dollars through Islamic charities in order to build mosques and religious seminaries (madrasas) throughout the world. Obviously, these madrasas and mosques were venues for Wahhabism, disseminating the doctrine of Ibn Taymiyya. The propagation of Wahhabi Islam worldwide served an internal purpose as well, countering charges of moral laxity directed against the Saudi regime. It would not be an exaggeration to say that, beginning in 1979, there has been a process of "Wahhabization" throughout the world. Although this process cannot be quantified, its effects are evident in far-flung Muslim communities, from Manchester to San Diego, from Shanghai to Oslo.
The 1989 Soviet debacle in Afghanistan was a great victory for Islamism. A decade after Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran, Sunni Islam triumphed over the infidel Communist power. The U.S. believed at the time that they had effectively manipulated Islam to deal a blow to the Soviets, but for the Islamists this was only a single battle in the global drama that would unfold until the ultimate victory of Islam, which would include the defeat of the U.S.
A series of terrorist operations during the 1990s signaled the direction and goals of the Islamists: jihad against the "infidel power" the U.S.(23)
On February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden and four of his aides, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, issued their "Declaration of Jihad against the Crusaders and the Jews," which was a declaration of all-out holy war against the U.S. and its allies. The unique significance of this declaration lay in the fact that bin Laden and his associates had pronounced this jihad to be the personal obligation of each and every Muslim throughout the world. They based their decision on the teachings of medieval Muslim authorities, primarily Ibn Taymiyya, maintaining that the circumstances, which the declaration describes, warranted this unusual decision. The declaration stated: ""Killing the Americans and their allies both civilians and military personnel is a religious duty for every individual Muslim who can do this, in any country in which he can do this."
Islamist jihad has two goals, both global. One of these is to wage war against the main infidel power, the U.S., and all of its allies. Israel and the Jews are singled out in bin Laden's jihad declaration as allies of America. It presents the 1991 Gulf War as an operation by "the Crusader-Zionist alliance." It further states that one of the goals of the U.S. in its campaigns in the Middle East is "to help the tiny Jewish state and to distract attention from the fact that it is occupying Jerusalem and murdering Muslims."
The other goal is to topple the evil regimes in the Muslim countries, because their leaders are only outwardly Muslim. It is thus a religious obligation to fight them, depose them, and establish a truly Islamic regime in their place. The ultimate goal of jihad is to impose Islam on the entire world as the only true religion. This fundamental stance of Islam is manifested in bin Laden's call on the American people to embrace Islam, thereby putting an end to the war in Iraq.(24) Bin Laden reminds the Americans that "the biggest and most irreversible error one can commit in this world is to die without surrendering oneself to Allah, namely, to die without embracing Islam."
Osama bin Laden's declaration of jihad is not an isolated document. Similar calls and even stronger ones are made regularly in Friday sermons that are broadcast live on Arab television across the Arab and Muslim world, and even in the West. These sermons include exhortations to slaughter Jews and Americans because "Allah has commanded the killing of the infidels."(25) From the Islamist perspective, Muslims are in a no-holds-barred war of jihad.
The phenomenon of jihad, and the idea of self-sacrifice in battle for the sake of Allah (shahada), which is closely linked to it, are not easy to comprehend. In some liberal circles in the West, Islamic terror in Europe is often claimed to be the consequence of economic and social factors, such as the frustration, unemployment, and economic hardships suffered by second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants in Europe.
This explanation, based on concepts familiar to the secular Westerner, appears to make sense and is therefore readily accepted. Indeed, many liberal-minded researchers and commentators, who see 'the West' as historically guilty vis-à-vis the Third World, are not prepared to accept an explanation linking terrorist activities with jihad and religious extremism, which they construe as disparagement of Islam. Therefore, they prefer explanations that deny or at least blur the connection between suicide terrorist attacks and the Muslim identity of their perpetrators. The problem with such an approach is that, when we look at the profiles of Islamic terrorists in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere, we see that they do not belong to the population evoked by this explanation, namely those suffering from unemployment and economic deprivation. Neither the perpetrators of the Madrid train bombing on March 11, 2004 nor the 19 Al-Qaeda members responsible for the September 11th attacks were uneducated, unemployed young men. Without recognizing that the Islamist belief system is at the root of all these terrorist acts, we cannot possibly understand the nature of these acts or the motives of their perpetrators.
MUSLIM PROTEST AGAINST JIHADIST ISLAM
In the preceding sections I have described the phenomenon of modern jihad and its early Islamic roots. It is now necessary to present the limits of its power and influence.
Islamist terrorism has won sympathy in the Muslim world, but the Islamist call for universal jihad has had only limited success. The extremist Islamic organizations are all clandestine, and the Arab regimes, in the interest of self-preservation, fight them in various ways including some attempts to delegitimize them from the Islamic religious point of view. The Egyptian and Saudi Arabian media publish abundant information about the struggle of officially ordained clerics against extremist Islamic groups. Bin Laden's call for all-encompassing jihad has thus clearly failed to move the entire Muslim world. In fact, even some of the extremist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt do not subscribe to the idea of global jihad waged here and now, and against all infidels, within and without.(26) On October 1, 2007, Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-'Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudi youth from engaging in jihad abroad. The fatwa stated that setting forth to wage jihad without authorization by the ruler is a serious transgression, and that young Saudis who do so are being misled by dubious elements from both the East and the West who are exploiting them in order to accomplish their own aims, and who are actually causing serious damage to Saudi Arabia, to Islam, and to the Muslims.(27) This fatwa is a clear example of the ideological struggle led by the Saudi authorities and a group of Wahhabi religious scholars against the jihadist propaganda.
In addition to the authorities' struggle against this propaganda, there is an ongoing ideological struggle by the educated circles against extremism in Islam in general, and against jihad with its culture of death in particular. Muslim thinkers and writers who strive for social and cultural reform in their countries are calling to abandon the jihad ideology and to desist from fostering hatred of other religions and cultures. Some of these reformist writers have a clearly secular worldview, such as Syrian philosopher Sadiq Al-'Azam, or Arab-American psychiatrist and author Wafa Sultan. Most of the active reformist thinkers, however, do not follow an openly secular doctrine but call for adjustments to Islam to fit it to modern life.
The Jordanian-born historian Dr. Shaker Al-Nabulsi, who resides in the U.S.; the Saudi director-general of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor-in-chief of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed; the Egyptian intellectual Sayyed Al-Qimni; Professor of Psychology at Al-Zaytouna University in Tunis Iqbal Al-Gharbi; Tunisian poet and civil rights activist Basit bin Hassan; Ahmad Al-Baghdadi, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kuwait; Syrian journalist Nidhal Na'isa; former dean of Islamic Law at Qatar University Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari; and Egyptian playwright 'Ali Salem are only some of the figures prominent in the ideological struggle against the jihadist culture.(28)
This ideological struggle whether it is fought by the official clerics or by writers and other independent circles is no simple matter, because jihad is a religious duty, and the reverence for the martyrs of jihad (the shuhada of Islam's first generation al-salaf al-salih) is shared by all Muslims. This makes the ideological struggle against the Islamists, who evoke the authority of "the pious forefathers," all the more difficult. Arab regimes face an inherent ideological contradiction: On the one hand, their security forces battle the jihadist organizations, while on the other, state-funded schools and mosques continue to disseminate the idea of jihad for the sake of Allah. The conflict within Islam over the issue of jihad is essentially a conflict over the path that Muslim societies should follow either hostile isolation and war vis-à-vis everything non-Muslim, or integration into the modern world.
*Menahem Milson is professor emeritus of Arabic Literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and MEMRI's academic advisor.
(1) Some of the other attacks were the February 26, 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center; the March 1995 assassination of the American diplomats in Pakistan; the bombing at the Saudi military base in Riyadh in November 1995; the June 1996 bombing at the American barracks in the Saudi town of Dhahran; the double bombing of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Al-Salam in August 1998; the attack on the U.S.S. Cole near Aden in October 2000; the March 2004 Madrid bombings; the July 2005 bombings in London; and the deadly bombings in Bali tourist resorts in 2002 and 2005.
(2) Al-Thaqafa Al-Islamiyya (Islamic Education), Ministry of Education, Palestinian Authority, Ramallah, 2003, p. 208.
(3) Jihad can refer not only to actual war, but also to the struggle between good and evil within an individual's soul. This metaphorical understanding of jihad was developed by the Sufis, the Muslim mystics, in the ninth century CE, based on a hadith (oral tradition) of the Prophet Muhammad. On the basis of this hadith, spiritual jihad was termed "the Greater Jihad" (al-jihad al-akbar), while jihad on the battlefront was termed "the Lesser Jihad" (al-jihad al-asghar). However, this understanding of jihad did not supersede the original, historical understanding of the term to mean war against the infidels as a duty incumbent upon every Muslim.
(4) In Muslim tradition, Ramadan is not only a month of fasting but a month of victory. In the October 1973 war, the codename of the Egyptian-Syrian offensive, which began on the tenth day of Ramadan in the Muslim year of 1393, was "Operation Badr," after the victorious battle of Badr. The war itself is called the Ramadan War (harb ramadhan) in Arabic.
(5) It should be noted that there is a significant discrepancy between Muslim law and what most Muslim leaders did in practice. The far-ranging Muslim conquests brought large populations of different religions not only Jews and Christians under Muslim rule, and all were granted the status of dhimmi. The Muslim scholars found pretexts to allow this, thus granting religious justification for what was essentially a practical necessity.
(6) For the sake of accuracy, it should be noted that the word shahada has three meanings: a) "testimony" or "bearing witness"; b) the Islamic pronouncement of faith; c) self-sacrifice in battle for the sake of Allah, that is, martyrdom, also known as "the greater shahada."
(7) In the Koran, they are called hur 'ayn. Islamic scholars and commentators have discussed this expression at length, and it is generally agreed that the virgins have wide, black eyes.
(8) Al-Risala (PA), July 7, 2001.
(9) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), October 4, 2001.
(10) Al-Risala (PA), August 16, 2001.
(11) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), September 11, 2001.
(12) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), September 17, 2001.
(13) USA Today, June 26, 2001.
(14) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 30, 2007.
(15) Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), September 17, 1999.
(17) See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 476, March 5, 2003, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP47603, "Bin Laden's Sermon for the Feast of the Sacrifice." The poet quoted is Al-Tirimmah ibn Al-Hakim Al-Ta'i (660743 CE).
(18) See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1468, "Graduation Ceremony at the Islamic Association in Gaza on Hamas TV," May 31, 2007, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1468.htm.
(19) This historical incident appears in numerous medieval Muslim sources. The version given here is taken from the chronicle by Jarir Al-Tabari (d. 923), from the chapter describing the events of the 12th year following the hijra.
(20) The decline of the Ottoman Empire was a protracted process, which began long before it reached the awareness of the Ottoman elites. Admittedly, as early as the beginning of the 18th century, as a result of the 1699 Karlovitz agreement, the Ottomans could not avoid the realization that the balance of power between the Muslims and the Christian world had shifted against them and that a reform in the system was therefore necessary. However, the sense of crisis did not become widespread among the Muslim elites until the turn of the 19th century.
(21) It is significant that the concept of nationalism as a foundation for collective identity came to Islam from the Western culture.
(22) Though all Salafis regard ibn Taymiyya as a religious authority and source of inspiration, not all of them interpret the duty of jihad in the same way. The largest differences concern their perception of intra-Muslim jihad, i.e. jihad against Muslim leaders.
(23) See Endnote 1.
(24) See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1709, "Osama Bin Laden's Video Message to the American People," September 11, 2007, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP170907.
(25) See MEMRI Special Report No. 25, 'Contemporary Islamist Ideology Authorizing Genocidal Murder," January 27, 2004, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sr&ID=SR2504
(26) Pressure on the part of the Egyptian authorities has caused most of the members of the Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya movement to abandon their claim that it is every Muslim's obligation to fight any government that is outwardly Muslim but that fails to apply Muslim religious law.
(27) The mufti's speech was published in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), in Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), and in Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) on October 2, 2007.
(28) Ample material on reformist opponents to jihad can be found on MEMRI websites www.memri.org and www.memritv.org.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent, non-profit organization that translates and analyzes the media of the Middle East. Copies of articles and documents cited, as well as background information, are available on request.
MEMRI holds copyrights on all translations. Materials may only be used with proper attribution.
Source of Jihad
Continued (Permanent Link)
Pipes could add that about half the budget of the moderate Palestinian authority - the money that the moderate government of the moderate Mahmoud Abbas, is spent in the notsomoderate Gaza strip.
Something to think about.
Lavishing funds on Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to achieve peace has been a mainstay of Western, including Israeli, policy since Hamas seized Gaza in June. But this open spigot has counterproductive results and urgently must be stopped.
Some background: Paul Morro of the Congressional Research Service reports that, in 2006, the European Union and its member states gave $815 million to the Palestinian Authority, while the United States sent it $468 million. When other donors are included, the total receipts come to about $1.5 billion.
The windfall keeps growing. President George W. Bush requested a $410 million supplement in October, beyond a $77 million donation earlier in the year. The State Department justifies this lordly sum on the grounds that it "supports a critical and immediate need to support a new Palestinian Authority (PA) government that both the US and Israel view as a true ally for peace." At a recent hearing, Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, endorsed the supplemental donation.
Not content with spending taxpayer money, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice launched a "U.S.-Palestinian Public Private Partnership" on Dec. 3, involving financial heavyweights such as Sandy Weill and Lester Crown, to fund, as Rice put it, "projects that reach young Palestinians directly, that prepare them for responsibilities of citizenship and leadership can have an enormous, positive impact."
One report suggests the European Union has funneled nearly $2.5 billion to the Palestinians this year.
Looking ahead, Abbas announced a goal to collect pledges of $5.8 billion in aid for a three-year period, 2008-10, at the "Donors' Conference for the Palestinian Authority" attended by over 90 states on Monday in Paris. (Using the best population estimate of 1.35 million Palestinians on the West Bank, this comes to a staggering amount of money: per capita, over $1,400 per year, or about what an Egyptian earns annually.)
Endorsed by the Israeli government, Abbas won pledges for an astonishing $7.4 billion (or over $1,800 per capita per year) at the donors' conference.
WELL, IT'S a bargain if it works, right? A few billion to end a dangerous, century-old conflict - it's actually a steal.
But innovative research by Steven Stotsky, a research analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) finds that an influx of money to the Palestinians has had the opposite effect historically. Relying on World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and other official statistics, Stotsky compares two figures since 1999: budgetary support aid provided annually to the Palestinian Authority and the number of Palestinian homicides annually (including both criminal and terrorist activities, and both Israeli and Palestinian victims). Graphed together, the two figures show an uncanny echo: In brief, each $1.25 million or so of budgetary support aid translates into a death within the year. As Stotsky notes, "These statistics do not mean that foreign aid causes violence; but they do raise questions about the effectiveness of using foreign donations to promote moderation and combat terrorism."
The Palestinian record fits a broader pattern, as noted by Jean-Paul Azam and Alexandra Delacroix in a 2005 article, "Aid and the Delegated Fight Against Terrorism." They found "a pretty robust empirical result showing that the supply of terrorist activity by any country is positively correlated with the amount of foreign aid received by that country" - i.e., the more foreign aid, the more terrorism.
IF THESE studies run exactly counter to the conventional supposition that poverty, unemployment, repression, "occupation," and malaise drive Palestinians to lethal violence, they do confirm my long-standing argument about Palestinian exhilaration being the problem. The better funded Palestinians are, the stronger they become, and the more inspired to take up arms.
A topsy-turvy understanding of war economics has prevailed in Israel since the Oslo negotiations began in 1993. Rather than deprive their Palestinian enemies of resources, Israelis have been following Shimon Peres's mystical musings, and especially his 1993 tome, The New Middle East, to empower them economically. As I wrote in 2001, this "is tantamount to sending the enemy resources while fighting is still under way - not a hugely bright idea."
Rather than further funding Palestinian bellicosity, Western states, starting with Israel, should cut off all funds to the Palestinian Authority.
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Negotiations with Hamas should be considered if the group makes a genuine offer to end terror activity, stop smugglings and discuss the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio on Friday.
But of course, Hamas is not going to stop smuggling or release Schalit, so there doesn't seem to be much to the "truce" rumors.
Negotiations with Hamas should be considered if the group makes a genuine offer to end terror activity, stop smugglings and discuss the release of abducted soldier Gilad Schalit, National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio on Friday.
Ben-Eliezer added that in his experience, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not reject any offer outright.
Meanwhile, security sources quoted by Army Radio said Israel would not be able to ignore Hamas's offer of a ceasefire if it proved able to halt Kassam attacks. The sources added that no negotiations were taking place at the moment.
The Prime Minister's Office denied late Thursday night that Israel was considering a Hamas ceasefire proposal, Israel radio reported.
Earlier, defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said that Israel was considering a ceasefire, whereby Hamas would stop the rocket fire from Gaza in exchange for a halt in IDF operations in the Strip. They said Hamas gave assurances it could impose the truce on the militant groups that are firing the rockets - Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees.
There was no immediate comment from the Egyptian government.
Meanwhile, Hamas admitted that it had fired three Kassam rockets at an IDF post on the Gaza border.
It marks the first time in five months the group has fired a rocket, although Israel estimates that it has assisted other groups in their attacks.
Also Thursday, the Palestinian Pal Press agency quoted "informed Arab sources" as saying that Hamas's Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal pushed Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to call a Channel 2 reporter during which the Hamas leader reportedly offered Israel a "hudna."
According to the report, Mashaal instructed Haniyeh to call the reporter and convey to the Israeli government the message that Hamas was interested in negotiating a ceasefire. Mashaal also reportedly demanded that Haniyeh's forces maintain quiet along the border with Israel.
Israel and Hamas have engaged in dialogue in the past "via indirect tracks," according to the sources quoted by the report. For instance, they said, the two sides had negotiated the departure of pilgrims from amongst the ranks of Hamas to the haj in Saudi Arabia.
"Israel allowed the people through, but rejected a number of other names, including senior Islamic Jihad [activist] al-Hindi, and Majed Harazin, who was assassinated in Gaza two days ago," the sources said.
Responding to Haniyeh's offer Wednesday, Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said in media interviews that Israel had already engaged in contacts with Hamas through mediators on issues such as the efforts to bring home kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, so there was no reason not to do the same to end the rocket attacks.
Gil Hoffman and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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Israel may buy rapid-fire cannon
yaakov katz and jpost.com staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 20, 2007
While a senior Military Intelligence officer said Thursday the IDF was limited in its ability to stop Kassam attacks, The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Defense Ministry is holding high-level talks with the Pentagon on purchasing a rapid-fire cannon to protect strategic installations from the primitive Palestinian rockets.
The system under consideration was developed by leading American defense firm Raytheon and is an offshoot of a model designed to protect against ship-to-ship missiles that is today installed on Israeli missile vessels.
Each land-based system would cost about $15 million. The cannon uses a 20 mm M61A1 Gatling gun firing 3,000 or 4,500 M-246 or M-940 self-destruct rounds per minute.
Called the Phalanx B, or C-Ram, the system was sent to Iraq last year and is used by the Americans to protect the Green Zone in Baghdad and by the British to protect their forces in the country's south.
The C-RAM is a variant of the American Vulcan Phalanx, a 20 mm cannon designed to defend navy ships from missiles, and is controlled by an advanced radar system that detects and locks in on incoming enemy projectiles.
Several weeks ago, a senior delegation of officials from the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Authority visited the US for talks with Pentagon and Raytheon officials.
The officials said that even though the system would require advanced testing, they were confident that the C-RAM would be capable of intercepting Kassam rockets as well as mortar shells, which it has already proven itself capable of doing in Iraq.
According to top officials, while the system would not be effective in protecting a city like Sderot - its radius of operation is only several hundred meters - it could be ideal for protecting strategic installations such as the Ashkelon power plant and the IDF's Zikim Base, frequently targeted by Gazan rocket squads.
"This is a very effective system for protecting strategic installations," Uzi Rubin, a missile expert and a former director of the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency, told the Post. "It covers a radius of up to a kilometer and would be ideal for protecting key installations like power plants and IDF bases."
Rubin said the C-RAM could have been bought by Israel years ago but this had been held up by bureaucracy and difficulty in finding the needed funding.
Also Thursday, IDF Chief Intelligence Officer Brig.-Gen. Yuval Halamish said Israel's ability to counter and to deal with the Kassam threat was almost nonexistent.
Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University called "Electro-Optics on the Future Battlefield," Halamish said that sometimes luck was more of a factor in facing the Kassam than Israel's military capabilities.
"This is a close-to-home threat that has an impact on the home front as well as the national morale," he said. "Our ability to deal with this threat is difficult until being almost impossible in certain places."
Halamish's made his comments as a Kassam rocket detonated next to a school in Sderot. No one was wounded, but 18 people were being treated for shock, including 10 children.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Israeli diplomat: Toppling Hamas needed to forward peace
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 20, 2007
A military incursion into Gaza to remove Hamas is needed if there is to be any real diplomatic process with the Palestinians, a senior Israeli diplomatic official said Thursday.
According to the official, speaking prior to the imminent release of the Foreign Ministry's strategic assessment for 2008, as long as Hamas is in control of Gaza, there will be negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, but no real "diplomatic process."
A diplomatic process requires the ability of both sides to compromise, something that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be unlikely to do as long as Hamas controls Gaza, the official said.
Despite post-Annapolis talk of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians by the end of 2008, the assessment will say that the prospects in the coming year are "bleak."
However, it will also be clear from the document that this is not seen as a static situation, and that a willingness by Israel to show some movement with Syria and to strengthen Abbas by releasing security prisoners and stopping construction in the settlements could positively impact on the overall situation.
The official said a major IDF incursion into Gaza would be "extremely costly," and that the trauma from last year's war in Lebanon was to a large extent preventing this type of operation from being carried out in the Strip now.
The official said both Abbas and Egypt would welcome IDF action, but for obvious reasons would have to condemn it publicly.
Egypt, according to the official, is increasingly viewing Hamas's control of Gaza as a fait accompli, and as a result is hesitant to confront the Islamist organization over arms smuggling.
The assessment in Jerusalem is that Cairo's policy regarding Gaza is increasingly, "If you can't beat them, at least appease them," and that for this reason Egypt is not effectively battling the arms smuggling.
Hamas was currently "testing" Israel, to see how much "it can take," the diplomatic official said.
He also said the IDF's current actions were creating a level of deterrence. When reminded that six Kassam rockets hit Sderot on Thursday morning, despite the army's escalated action, he said that without the actions, that number could have been 20.
The official said there was nothing to signal that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh might be interested in some kind of truce, adding that Hamas had made it clear that it had no intention of stopping its arms buildup via smuggling from Egypt or stopping terrorist attacks elsewhere.
Regarding the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the official said Jerusalem had not yet made a decision regarding the establishment of working groups, something the Palestinians are pushing.
As to Syria, the official said Damascus had made it clear that it didn't want to talk to Israel unless two conditions were first met: Israel saying it is willing to withdraw from the Golan, to the June 4, 1967, lines; and the US being fully involved in the process.
Since neither of those conditions are likely to be met any time soon, the official said there was little chance of any progress on the Syrian track in 2008.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Gov't planning to close most ulpans, privatize Hebrew studies
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 07:42 21/12/2007
www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/937065.htmlThe Immigrant Absorption Ministry intends to close down most ulpans - Hebrew study programs for new immigrants - while laying off hundreds of teachers and helping immigrants learn Hebrew at private schools, senior officials told Haaretz Thursday.
The sweeping reform comes in response to data indicating that the current method has failed, and that most new immigrants - olim - who completed ulpan courses do not speak Hebrew well enough.
In recent years Israel has taken in around 20,000 new immigrants annually, of which 8,000 adults are enrolled at dozens of ulpans (children learn Hebrew in school). Every new immigrant over 18 can elect to study Hebrew at an ulpan and receive 500 class hours taught by Education Ministry teachers - part of the absorption basket of services.
Surveys conducted in recent years by the Immigrant Absorption Ministry found that most olim who complete ulpan studies speak Hebrew at a low or mediocre level, and that less than a third read and write at a reasonable to good level. It turns out that less than 60 percent of olim complete their ulpan studies, compared with 24 percent who never attend ulpan and 17 percent who drop out early on.
The ministry thus set up an inter-ministerial committee a year ago to review the subject. A majority of committee members concluded that upgrading the existing system would not work, and that responsibility for Hebrew instruction for new immigrants should be moved from the Education Ministry to a new state body.
Based on the committee's recommendations, the immigrant absorption minister, Jacob Edery, is weighing the merits of closing most ulpans and enabling olim to learn Hebrew at private facilities to be supervised by the new authority in charge of Hebrew instruction.
"Our goal is to introduce a serious reform and place at new immigrants' disposal the most effective tools for acquiring the language. Teaching methods can be improved substantially," Edery said. He added, however, that "we are not ruling out seeking other alternatives such as issuing a tender for private schools."
The ministry's preferred method is granting vouchers to olim, which they could use to study Hebrew at a supervised private facility.
Teaching methods are not the only problem with ulpans, according to the ministry's director-general, Erez Halfon. "Ulpans are a bad fit with the lifestyles of new immigrants," he said. "Many of them simply don't have the time to attend ulpan in the mornings. They prefer to go to work, sometimes even at two jobs."
Halfon said the ministry is looking into what the other entities that teach Hebrew have to offer. "We will make sure that olim have many more study options and more convenient hours throughout the country, so they can work at the same time," he said.
Among other things, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry is considering making Hebrew lessons mandatory for olim.
"We are thinking of making a certain part of the absorption basket of services conditional, and an immigrant who does not study Hebrew would not be eligible for that part," Halfon said. He added that incentives would be provided for those who meet the criteria.
Shlomit Amichai, director-general of the Education Ministry, told the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee earlier this week that the ministry is in favor of the proposed reform. However, Amichai told Haaretz yesterday that "the subject must be studied in the next two months."
Ulpans employ some 800 Hebrew teachers, who stand to lose their jobs if the reform goes through. The Education Ministry has already slashed the budget for teaching Hebrew to new immigrants from NIS 79 million in 2007 to NIS 41 million next year.
The cutback means that olim will be taught only basic Hebrew, and that professional terminology classes will be dropped from the curriculum for olim with professions, such as doctors and engineers. The current budget is enough to cover courses only until the middle of next year.
Another change the Immigrant Absorption Ministry is promoting is to establish study centers for children of olim, where they would learn Hebrew for several months before being integrated into local schools.
According to director-general Halfon, the Absorption Ministry has found that these children "sit in class and do not understand anything, and do not make friends either. It would be better for them to miss curriculum material for several months and come to their schools when they can speak Hebrew." The Education Ministry opposes this idea.
Continued (Permanent Link)
A Russian sponsored peace conference for Israel is like the Walrus summoning the oyster for a conference about dinner.
"O Oysters, come and walk with us!"
The Walrus did beseech.
"A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each."
The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head--
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.
But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat--
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn't any feet.
Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more--
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.
The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
"But wait a bit," the Oysters cried,
"Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!"
"No hurry!" said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.
"A loaf of bread," the Walrus said,
"Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed--
Now if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed."
"But not on us!" the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
"After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!"
"The night is fine," the Walrus said.
"Do you admire the view?
"It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf--
I've had to ask you twice!"
"It seems a shame," the Walrus said,
"To play them such a trick,
After we've brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!"
The Carpenter said nothing but
"The butter's spread too thick!"
"I weep for you," the Walrus said:
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.
"O Oysters," said the Carpenter,
"You've had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?'
But answer came there none--
And this was scarcely odd, because
They'd eaten every one.
Last update - 11:16 20/12/2007
Israel says it opposes Russian plans for Moscow peace summit
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel said Thursday it is opposed to Russian plans to stage a Middle East peace conference in Moscow within the coming months as a follow-up to the recent Annapolis summit.
In explaining their reservations, government officials in Jerusalem cite the need to focus on bilateral talks with the Palestinians "and not be dragged onto a slippery slope of opening negotiations on other issues like Syria and Lebanon during the present time."
Nonetheless, senior Israeli officials acknowledge that Jerusalem would be compelled to take part in the conference should the event take place.
Using diplomatic backchannels, Israel urged participants of the Quartet's Paris donors conference earlier this week to omit any mention of a Moscow peace summit from the final statement.
The United States, the United Nations, and the European Union acquiesced to Jerusalem's demand, and the matter was not included on the agenda. Government officials say Israel is perturbed by Russia's behavior, chiefly Moscow's delivery of nuclear fuel to the Iranian reactor in Bushehr.
"There are other things that the Russians are doing that we are aren't thrilled with," said an Israeli official. "But, at this point, we have no plans to create a crisis."
Continued (Permanent Link)
What next, animal sacrifice?
Reform try separating sexes in effort to lure men back
A men's Shacharit service on Dec. 13, 2007 was part of the focus on men's spiritual needs at the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial convention in San Diego.
By Sue Fishkoff Published: 12/18/2007
SAN DIEGO (JTA) -- The men's prayer service was the smallest of several morning worship offerings at last week's biennial convention of the Union for Reform Judaism.
About 40 men showed up, some wearing prayer shawls and kipot, others with bare shoulders and heads. A handful of younger participants wore tefillin.
There were no drums, not like the men's service at the last Reform biennial. Instead, worshipers pounded rhythmically on the backs of their chairs as they sang, their deep voices blending in and out of the higher-pitched, more lilting melodies coming from the much larger women's service down the hall.
Lest anyone confuse this robustly male minyan with an Orthodox shul, these men invoked the matriarchs along with the patriarchs, concluding their introduction to the Amidah by describing the Almighty not just as Abraham's shield Related Resources:
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but, in accordance with their movement's egalitarian emphasis, also as Sarah's helper.
The relatively small turnout, as well as the inclusion of the matriarchs, illustrated the sensitive nature of what Reform leaders are trying to do: Bring men back to Reform Judaism without diluting the gains made by women. Sometimes, they say, that means giving men a space of their own, however "un-PC" that idea might sound.
Meeting the needs of boys and men was a major focus of a two-day, pre-biennial Reform symposium on gender differences in Jewish education. Among the speakers was Doug Barden, executive director of the Men of Reform Judaism, formerly known as the North American Federation of Temple Brotherhoods.
"Within the Reform movement we've confused gender stratification with gender differentiation," said Barden, a major proponent of the separate-but-equal approach. "We need to reverse the disaffiliation of men without setting the egalitarian clock back 30 years."
Women are more religiously active in most faiths in this country, and have been for a century. But the gender gap in Jewish life, particularly in the liberal movements, has grown greater in recent years.
Numerous studies reveal that more girls than boys participate in Jewish youth groups and attend summer camps. Women are more active in synagogues, Jewish community centers and federations, and are better represented than men at all levels except the top levels of governance.
All along the line, women are more involved in Jewish life than men, at least in the non-Orthodox world.
While the majority of Reform rabbis are still men, the upcoming crop from the movement's Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is three-quarters female.
The recent symposium is only one of several recent examples of the Reform movement and other segments of the Jewish community attempting to address the gender gap on the participation front.
Most of the attention so far has been given to boys, whose participation in Jewish life is significantly less than girls outside the Orthodox movement.
Moving Traditions, the group that sponsors "Rosh Hodesh: It's a Girl Thing" for Jewish girls in grades 8-12, is engaged in a three-year national research project to assess and meet the needs of Jewish boys.
The group is looking at organizations such as BBYO and the Boy Scouts that successfully draw large numbers of young men.
"We're concerned about boys for themselves and for what they need to become Jewishly-connected men," said Deborah Meyer, the executive director of Moving Traditions.
As part of its effort to address such concerns at the adult level, the Reform movement just published two new books from URJ Press devoted to men's needs and congregational programming ideas, although neither publication received the splashy reception accorded the much larger, more scholarly "The Torah: A Women's Commentary."
In addition, the Men of Reform Judaism just put out "The Men's Seder," a Passover Haggadah for men designed as a response to the women's seder movement.
More than 250 Reform congregations have ordered the book, Barden said, and he expects some will sponsor men's seders this spring. Once the idea takes hold, he plans to take the project to the Conservatives and Reconstructionists.
Focusing on meeting men's specific needs is a "matter of great sensitivity," acknowledges URJ President Rabbi Eric Yoffie.
"Let's face it, men are not streaming into our synagogues," he said in a talk to the same lunchtime crowd Barden addressed. "We have not been able to come up with an approach to gender that makes sense and can move us forward."
But it's something the movement needs to face fast.
"We don't have 10 years to do this, or even five years," Yoffie said. "In the next year or two, we need to find practical ways to attack the problem."
Some are calling women's increased participation in Jewish life the "feminization" of Judaism. But they say it quietly, fearing a backlash.
That backlash comes fast. One woman asked Barden testily after his address to the symposium what he meant by saying "a form of censorship has taken over the movement."
A different kind of pushback is coming from women -- and men -- within the movement who say women's gains are too fragile to be taken for granted and there is no need to "feel sorry" for men, the gender that has controlled Judaism for thousands of years.
William Pollack, a psychology professor at the Harvard medical school and the founding director of the Real Boys educational program, says that's ridiculous.
"There aren't cadres of men wanting to come into Reform Judaism and throw the women out," he insisted.
"Most men are not anti-egalitarian," he asserted. "They're just confused."
That confusion -- or loneliness, as many put it -- is at the heart of these new Reform efforts. They're not aimed at beefing up numbers, although that would be nice, Reform leaders admit.
These new initiatives, from the books to the men's groups to the separate-gender worship services, are aimed at something deeper: admitting that men have spiritual needs that are not being met by their Jewish communities.
"It never occurred to me there were 'men's spiritual issues,' " said Art Grand, who has since organized a men's group at Temple Or Rishon in Orangevale, Calif.
Grand describes how the group's members help each other through divorce, job change, death and anything else that affects their lives.
"We all want the same thing -- a connection to God, a sense that our lives are holy," he said. "But some were afraid to use those words."
Other men in the session talked about their loneliness, the difficulty of making friends and how rarely their sons ask them for advice.
"I think we go to poker games and play on softball leagues and help our buddies move because we hope we'll have an 'I-thou' moment," surmised Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Judea in Tarzana, Calif., editor of "The Still Small Voice," a collection of Reform men's essays just published by the URJ Press.
One of the experiments being tried, however tentatively, is separating the sexes, a technique used by several of the more successful boys' groups. If women have healing circles and Rosh Hodesh groups, why shouldn't there also be men's services, father-son retreats and other all-male gatherings?
Barden calls these "a safe space" for men to talk with other men.
Not everyone supports that idea. Iris Petroff, the program director at the Temple Society of Concord in Syracuse, N.Y., teaches confirmation classes at her synagogue.
"The kids come out as real friends," she said. "Losing that by separating the genders would be really hard."
Steven Cohen, a professor of Jewish social studies at Hebrew Union College in New York, questions the wisdom of the Reform movement focusing on men's spiritual needs.
Presenting an August study he co-authored for the Florence G. Heller/JCC Association Research Center, Cohen noted that men in the liberal Jewish movements become more involved in Jewish life after they marry in every area except spirituality. Jewish women in the study reported significantly greater spiritual experiences than either their single or married male counterparts.
So why, Cohen asks, should the Reform movement focus on closing the widest gender gap? Why not, he suggests, focus on those areas of involvement that men are "naturally drawn to," such as political activism, sports or social justice work?
He warns that spiritual initiatives aimed at men will "only appeal to a small market." Others disagree.
"To believe that men are not interested in spirituality is problematic to me," Barden said. "Given the right space, they are."
Participants at the men's worship service last week confirmed Barden's viewpoint, giving it a resounding thumbs up.
"It was enjoyable," said Marc Colton of Temple Beth Am in Parsippany, N.J. "The deep voices give it a different feel, a different dimension."
Haim Ainsworth of Congregation Kol Ami in Hollywood, Calif., agreed.
"Certainly I would not want this to become the norm for Reform practice," he said, "but I think it's always good to have options. There are differences in the way genders relate spiritually."
Watching the service, Rabbi Sue Ann Wasserman, URJ's worship director, admitted she feels torn.
"It is hard, from a feminist perspective, as someone having fought so hard for equality," she says. "But they have to be able to articulate and express what it means to be a Jewish man today. And if the women's movement has inspired them to do that, how fabulous is that?"
Continued (Permanent Link)
As there are various fanciful works on the Web portraying the idyllic life of Jews in Arab countries, it seems to me that this timeline prepared by Point of No Return, is most useful in understanding the actual position and history of the Jews in Iraq in the twentieth century. The claim that the troubles of the Jews in Iraq were caused by Zionist activity doesn't seem to be born out.
Misinformation about how and why the Jews of Iraq were forced to leave abounds on the Internet. A favoured myth is that Jews and Arabs lived in harmony until the creation of Israel. Another is that 'the Zionists' set off bombs to scare the Jews into leaving in 1950. This timeline extracted from The Jews of Iraq: a forgotten case of ethnic cleansing by Carole Basri clearly shows, however, that persecution and insecurity dogged the Jews as early as the 1930s.
1918,19 and 20: Fearful of local Muslim rule, Jews petition the Civil Commissioner for Baghdad for British citizenship, but are refused it.
1932: Iraq declares minority rights would be protected, but declines to appoint observer to supervise minority guarantees. Some 600 Assyrians massacred in 1933.
1932: German Charge d'affaires, Fritz Grobba, publishes instalments of Mein Kampf in Arabic daily newspaper. Radio Berlin begins Arabic broadcasts.
1934 - 36: 600 Jewish clerks dismissed from government
1934: regulation introduced requiring Jews to deposit £50 to travel abroad.
1935: state secondary schools impose quotas on Jewish students. Hebrew and Jewish history instruction forbidden. Only the Bible can be read without translation.
1936: government-licensed Jewish businesses must have a Muslim partner.
1939: Iraqi public school system begins to follow a Nazi education model.
1936: Three Jews murdered in Baghdad, one in Basra. Bomb thrown into synagogue on Yom Kippur.
1936 - 39: despite the Chief Rabbi officially dissociating himself from Zionism and a condemnation of Zionism signed by 33 Iraqi Jewish leaders, seven murders of Jews and six bombings take place.
1941: In the interregnum following a pro-Nazi coup, 179 Jews are killed and 911 houses looted in the Farhoud pogrom.
1947: Iraqi Foreign minister threatens expulsion of Jews as part of coordinated Arab League plan if Partition of Palestine goes ahead.
1948: state of emergency declared; 310 Jews court-martialed.
1948: Jews receiving letters from Palestine accused of Zionism.
September 1948: Shafik Ades, Iraq's richest Jew, hanged.
May 1948 - Dec 1949: 800 - 1,500 Jews dismissed from public service. Jewish banks lose their foreign exchange trading licences. Restrictions on high school and university students.
Jewish community 'donates' 113,000 dinars to war effort against Israel. Fines collected from Iraqi Jews: $80 million. Travel ban on Jews and on buying and selling property. Retroactive tax on Jews. Property of all Jews who had emigrated since 1933 confiscated. Government ceases to service Jewish areas. Property of Jewish prisoners impounded. Jewish newspapers shut down
Feb and March 1949: 100 Jews tried for connections to Zionism.
March 1950: Iraqi Parliament Ordinance permits Jewish emigration upon forfeiture of citizenship. Some 120,000 Jews register to leave.
March 1951: Law no. 5 deprives all stateless Iraqi Jews of their property.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Ebrahim Nabavi, Iranian Satirist :
Soon, a number of issues and problems between Iran and the US will be resolved. Inflation will go down. The price of real estate will drop as much as 20%. The decline in the value of the dollar will result in the reduction of the prices of foreign goods. The ongoing wave of resignations among the members of the cabinet will slow down. Moreover, for the next two weeks, Tehran's air pollution, the number of the arrests of women on the streets, and the number of arrests of students on campuses will all decrease.
In brief, Ahmadinejad is going on a two-week pilgrimage to Mecca.
We wish him a rapid departure and a delayed return.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Why are they complaining? They wanted "martyrdom," so they got it.
Last update - 17:23 18/12/2007
Barak tells U.S. envoy Israel is bracing for militants' retaliation
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
Defense Minister Ehud Barak Tuesday told retired general Jim Jones, the recently appointed U.S. envoy to the Middle East, that Israel must brace for the possibility of retaliatory attacks following a series of IDF raids that killed at least 13 Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants.
During their meeting at the Defense Ministry, which also included IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenzi and other senior defense officials, Barak mapped out Israel's security priorities, voicing hope that the IDF would continue its "successful operations" in the Gaza Strip.
"We must be prepared for possible retaliation from the other side." Barak added.
The dead in the attacks included at least two senior commanders of Islamic Jihad's armed wing, prompting the group to threaten to unleash a wave of suicide attacks within Israel.
Earlier in the day, Vice Premier Haim Ramon told Army Radio that "I can tell you that targeted killings in the West Bank have led to a drastic drop in terror attacks ... and in the Gaza Strip it certainly reduces the number of rockets fired into Israel."
Jones is to serve as a mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians regarding implementation of the first stage of the road map peace plan. He will also be in charge of formulating a strategic plan to stabilize the security situation in the Palestinian Authority.
Political officials said Monday that the purpose of Jones' 24-hour visit to Israel was to familiarize himself with the situation while explaining to the Israeli side exactly what his position entails.
Jones later held talks with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem and was scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni later Tuesday and to see Barak again over dinner. He was not expected to make any public statements.
He was named to his post last month by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to advise her on security aspects of the new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
That announcement came one day after Israeli and Palestinian leaders, meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, agreed to restart long frozen peace talks. Rice said providing security would be a key to their success.
Continued (Permanent Link)
By Ted Belman, Israpundit
Post Annapolis, the Palestinian Authority made it crystal clear that it will never recognize Israel as a "Jewish state". Furthermore, it made it crystal clear that it will not compromise on Jerusalem making it a capital offense to do so. Yet negotiations continue. Either Olmert doesn't believe the PA or what is more likely, he will still cut a deal where Israel is denied that recognition and will divide Jerusalem according to Arab demands.
Do not think for a moment that these entrenched Arab positions are negotiable. They aren't and never have been.
Ever since Theodor Herzl wrote The Jewish State in 1896, the Arabs, with one exception, have opposed it.
Bat Ye'or wrote in her monumental study, The Dhimmi,
In the historical Arab context, Israel represents the successful national liberation of a dhimmi civilization. On a territory formerly Arabized by the jihad and the dhimma, a pre-Islamic language, culture, topographical geography (biblical towns), and national institutions have been restored to life. This reversed the process of centuries in which the cultural, social and political structures of the indigenous Jewish population of Palestine were destroyed. In 1974, Abu Iyad, second-in-command to Arafat in the Fatah hierarchy, announced: "We intend to struggle so that our Palestinian homeland does not become a new Andalusia." The comparison of Andalusia to Palestine was not fortuitous since both countries were Arabized, and then de-Arabized by a pre-Arabic culture.
Once a region has been conquered for Islam, it is always Islamic and must be re-conquered from the infidel, regardless of the passage of time.
This is the core of the conflict. Palestine "must be re-conquered from the infidel, regardless of the passage of time". Thus Israel must be destroyed.
In pursuance of this goal, the Arabs rejected the Partition Plan and the creation of Israel, they went to war numerous times to destroy Israel, they rejected Res 242 and shortly thereafter they decided at the Khartoum Conference to have "no recognition, no negotiations, no peace" with Israel.
In 1968, the Arab states founded the PLO with a Charter that specifically calls for "the liquidation of the Zionist presence."
Shortly thereafter, the PLO was taken over by Arafat's Nazi trained Fatah, whose Charter was and is similar. Its goals,
Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.
Article (13) Establishing an independent democratic state with complete sovereignty on all Palestinian lands, and Jerusalem is its capital city, and protecting the citizens' legal and equal rights without any racial or religious discrimination.
Nothing could be clearer. It refers to "all Palestinian lands".
Then in 1975 with Soviet support the UN General Assembly passed the infamous resolution (3379), "Zionism is Racism", by a vote of 75 to 32 with 35 abstentions with the operative words,
DETERMINES that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.
Though the US, lead by the great Ambassador Patrick Moynihan, vehemently objected, a month later it did not veto a proposal to seat the PLO as observers in the UN Security Council. No non-state had ever been accorded such recognition.
According to the website Anti-Zionism,
The Cold War Soviet Union doctrine of Zionology was sponsored by the Department of propaganda of the Communist Party and by the KGB. It stated that Zionism was a form of Racism and Similar to Nazism. As communism was against Racism, and Zionism was largely formed under strong leftist and socialist influences this presented some difficulties for the Soviet Union. They solved this by misrepresenting Zionism, and focussing on its links with America. Much anti-Zionist propaganda was produced by the Soviet Union, much of it was antisemitic and in cases Nazi propaganda and old Tsarist antisemitic material was reproduced. The UN also started producing anti-Zionist propaganda. Using resolution 3379 as a moral basis, UN educational publications spread anti-Zionist dogma throughout the world.
In 1991, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the UN General Assembly revoked resolution 3379, admitting it had been mistaken to label Zionism as racism. The motion to revoke 3379 ( General Assembly Resolution 4686) is one of the shortest in history and passed with 111 for and only 25 against.
Nevertheless, this odious charge persists like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
In the negotiations prior to the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Fatah Charter became an obstacle. Arafat agreed to amend it. This was a precondition. Yet no such amendment was effected necessitating this letter from Arafat to President Clinton in 1998.
In the mutual recognition letters between myself and the late Prime Minister Itzhaq Rabbin of September 9/10, 1993, the PLO committed to recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security, to accept UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and to a peaceful resolution of the conflict between the two sides. The PLO also agreed to secure the necessary changes in the Palestinian Covenant to reflect these commitments.
Accordingly, the P.N.C. was held in Gaza city between 22-25 of April 1996, and in an extraordinary session decided that the "Palestine National Charter is hereby amended by cancelling the articles that are contrary to the letters exchanged between the P.L.O and the Government of Israel on 9/10 September 1993″.
Yet the Charter is still not amended.
More recently Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl, penned an essay, Anti-Zionism is Racism in which he wrote, "anti-Zionism is a form of racism more dangerous than classical anti-Semitism". Could be.
In the run up to Annapolis, House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) introduced H.Res.758 jointly with Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). This resolution calls on PA and Mahmoud Abbas, also chairman of his Fatah Party, to officially renounce ten articles in the Fatah Constitution that call for Israel's destruction and acts of terrorism against the Jews.
The Council of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a statement to the effect that if Abbas is serious about making peace with Israel, he must officially and publicly amend the Fatah charter as a "confidence-building measure which would help to create a better environment to achieve progress in the peace talks."
While AIPAC supports the Blunt resolution, it also supports increasing aid to the PA without regard to the Charter. Having it both ways I guess. Doesn't it know, you can't suck and blow at the same time.
The Donor's Conference in Paris pledged $7.4 billion to the PA for the next three years. No one demanded that the Charter be amended, that terror stop or that there be accountability for the funds. And everyone knows that Fatah is about to reconcile with Hamas on Hamas' terms.
And what are those terms?
First of all, the Hamas Charter is virulently anti-Semitic and uncompromising in its goal of ridding Palestine of the Jews. It declares that
"all Palestine is Islamic trust land, can never be surrendered to non-Muslims and is an integral part of Muslim world."
"[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion;"
On Dec 7th, Ismail Haniyeh speaking for Hamas said "We will never recognise the usurper Zionist government and will continue our jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem,"
Everyone is determined to ignore this, or worse, to live with it.
At Annapolis, Bush said
"The United States will help Palestinian leaders build these free institutions. And the United States will keep its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people."
Yet Tony Blair, who recently visited Israel, refused to answer a question directed at him about PLO/PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas' recently reiterated refusal to recognize Israel as a JEWISH state. This cannot be ignored by Israel, yet it is.
Normally this refusal on the part of the PA should be a deal breaker but negotiations continue. The same goes for Jerusalem. This is very ominous.
But the bottom line is that the Arabs want Palestine to replace Israel. This goal is reiterated by all boycott movements, by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Muslim Student Association (MSA), by Iran when it calls for Israel to be "wiped off the map", by the PA which publishes books with maps showing Palestine in place of Israel, by Hamas and by many UN agencies and NGO's.
And they are not alone. The idea of a Jewish state is considered by the Jewish left as an anachronism, retrograd and even racist.
The endorsement of the two-state solution is a sham for western consumption. The demand for a "just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194″, otherwise known as the right of return, vitiates any recognition of the two-state solution because it effectively is intended to destroy the state of Israel.
The enemies of Israel recently coined two new terms, "Zion-Cons" and "Zionofascism". You can imagine why.
The war on Zionism continues. Ted Belman
Continued (Permanent Link)
To restore faith in the peace process we must not only build the foundations for the future, we must improve the economic and security reality in the present.
Address by Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni
to the Paris Donors Conference
17 December 2007
His Excellency the President of France Nicholas Sarkozy, Foreign Minister Kouchner, President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, distinguished co-chairs, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Just a few weeks ago, in Annapolis, Maryland, in the initiative of President Bush and Secretary Rice, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was re-launched and today we meet to re-energize efforts to advance the Palestinian reform agenda.
Today's meeting is testament to the support for the bilateral process and to the understanding of the need to create the foundations for the future Palestinian State that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security. Those gathered here share a common vision of a peaceful future. But, at the same time, we understand that to restore faith in the peace process we must not only build the foundations for the future, we must improve the economic and security reality in the present.
I am here because the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian state that respects law and order and fulfills the legitimate national aspirations of its people is not just a Palestinian dream - it is also an Israeli interest. But I also know that the road before us will not be easy.
On the political front, we have launched negotiations in order to bridge the gaps between us and reach a peace agreement. I believe that there are those on the Palestinian side and in the Arab world that understand, like Israel, both the importance of the hour and the imperative of compromise. This is the obligation of the two parties alone. As Israelis and Palestinians, we must share ownership of this process and share responsibility for its resolution.
As the head of the Israeli negotiating team, I enter the room with a sense of great responsibility and with the hope to reach an agreement, and we are determined to do so. But there is another gap whose closure is no less important, and for which your help is critical. It is the gap between the vision and reality. No dialogue or understanding about the future can take hold, unless it is matched by real changes on the ground. Elaborating a common vision of a peaceful future, and changing reality so that we can reach that future, are mutually reinforcing.
This is the principle that lies at the heart of the Annapolis understandings and it is the principle that should guide this gathering. Its adoption was not self-evident.
Under the Roadmap, fundamental reform and the renunciation of terror are a precondition for political dialogue. And the logic of this principle remains valid. But we have agreed with our Palestinian partners that our peoples deserve a more concrete vision of peace, while understanding that true peace can never be achieved unless we create the conditions on the ground for it to take root.
On this basis, we have chosen to launch peace negotiations even at this stage - provided that implementation of the future peace agreement will be subject to the changes that the Roadmap requires. Our decision to launch this dual process, of negotiation alongside Roadmap implementation, offers new hope for peace, but we must acknowledge that it also involves potential complications.
It may seem easier to negotiate a peace treaty when the difficulties we face on the ground are behind us. Changing the reality on the ground takes more than a political decision. It requires constant effort in the face of daily difficulties, and it can lead to frustration on both sides. The temptation to engage in mutual accusations or to find reasons for halting our dialogue will appear, at times, difficult to resist. But ultimately it is self-defeating. Together, we must find the courage to rise above this - and together we must convince our peoples of the promise of peace and the need to confront its challenges.
This does not mean, of course, that we can ignore the obstacles before us. We must address them, but we cannot be held hostage by them. The situation created by Hamas's takeover of Gaza which brings daily terror to Israeli families and daily hardship to Palestinians, while Gilad Shalit remains captive, weighs heavily on us. Lawlessness, incitement, weapons smuggling and terror have not ended. All of this could be an excuse for inaction. But while the obstacles posed by present reality may be great, our joint determination not to surrender to that reality must be greater.
It is in this context that today's meeting is of such importance. It is in this spirit also that we welcome the Palestinian reform plan as a serious effort to build the basis for a responsible Palestinian state that the Palestinian people so deserve and that peace so needs.
This is neither the time nor the forum to address the plan in detail, or to refer to those political and other elements that are subject to direct Israeli-Palestinian discussions. I hope and believe that, with your assistance, these efforts can help produce effective, transparent and accountable Palestinian governance, security forces that fight terrorism comprehensively, bring law and order and ensure the principle of "one authority, one gun," and educational institutions that end incitement and prepare the next generation for co-existence and economic progress.
I hope also that, while ensuring the humanitarian welfare, we can work to rid Gaza of terror, and restore it to the control of the legitimate Palestinian government so that reform and economic development can be possible there as well.
We all have a responsibility to help bring these changes about, Israel included. And, despite the difficulties, we are ready to do so and are committed to meet our Roadmap obligations, including in relations to the settlement activities. Waiting on the sidelines, hoping for change to come, is not an option for an Israeli leader. We must act to bring change, together with our Palestinian colleagues. We welcome the renewed efforts, determination and leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad in this crucial endeavor.
The states and institutions gathered here also have a vital role to play. Your assistance is greatly needed, as is your insistence on mechanisms that ensure that all economic support is properly used, so that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.
To my Arab colleagues I would like to say that your attendance at Annapolis was of critical importance, but your attendance here is perhaps even more so.
Palestinians and Israelis, and their leaders, need to know that they are not alone in the risks they take or the challenges they work to overcome. The region as a whole must be with them, taking practical measures to progress together with them - step by step - towards a genuine and lasting peace.
Israel needs and wants a prosperous and peaceful neighbor and we will act in cooperation with the Palestinian government to achieve these goals. In this spirit we are committed to continuing the regular transfer of tax and customs revenues collected on behalf of the PA to a Palestinian government committed to the three Quartet principles.
We have agreed with the Palestinian Authority to renew the dialogue in the Joint Economic Committee (JEC), which represents the most high-level bilateral forum for addressing economic issues. And I am pleased to announce that agreement has been reached, in principle, on the terms of reference for the EUCOPPS mission to help train and prepare the Palestinian police force, and we hope to sign an agreement on this issue in the coming days.
These steps supplement other measures that Israel has taken to assist in Palestinian development, including:
Ongoing co-operation with Quartet's special envoy Tony Blair, especially in relation to quick impact projects and other capacity building initiatives;
Enhancing the working relationship with the Palestinian government at all levels including welfare, health, agriculture and tourism;
Boosting cooperation between the business sectors of both parties and the wider region; and
Training Palestinian customs officials, accountants, pension fund directors, doctors, nurses, teachers and farmers for work in a functioning state.
These measures are just the beginning, and there is much more that Israel needs to do. Our status in this forum is a special one. We are not here as a donor state, but our influence on this process is clear, as is the dramatic influence of this process on us - for better or for worse.
For us, this is about day-to-day actions. For us, the words access and movement must be translated to practice. Each day we must examine how best to advance peace and security and, at the end, it comes down to the details, checkpoint by checkpoint, step by step for a better future.
I have said before that for peace to succeed Israeli security must be a Palestinian interest, just as a Palestinian state is an Israeli interest. I believe that President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad are our partners in this understanding, and today, we need you - the members of the international community - to share it too. We need you to know that Palestinian welfare and Israeli security are not competing interests they are interconnected ones.
Israel is committed to the building of a viable Palestinian state. We want the obstacles to Palestinian economy and daily life to be removed. We have no desire to control Palestinian lives. We do not want the image of Israel in the Palestinian mind to be a soldier at a checkpoint. But we know that making every effort to improve quality of life, also means making every effort to end the threat to life posed by terror and violence.
To end this conflict, the era of zero-sum logic must also end. Economic advancement and personal security must be advanced together. Each are deserving of your passion and your commitment. And I believe that, with your help, we can build on the success of Annapolis and today's donors' meeting, to make the fulfillment of both a reality.
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The IDF is doing excellent work. The question is whether this will really stop the Qassam firings.
10 Islamic Jihad men reported dead in W. Bank, Gaza ops
jpost.com and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 17, 2007
Ten Islamic Jihad operatives were killed overnight Monday and early Tuesday as the IDF stepped up its operations against terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
In the latest reported attack - yet to be confirmed by the army - soldiers killed a senior commander in the group's Al-Quds Brigades during a gunfight in Kabatiya early Tuesday morning. Tarek Abu-Ra'ali was the group's commander in Jenin.
Also Tuesday morning, the air force carried out an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip, killing three Islamic Jihad members, Palestinians reported.
Overnight Monday, five of the group's members were killed in two separate IAF strikes, sparking a barrage of 12 Kassam rockets and mortar shells into the western Negev. The attacks came several hours after the alert level in Gaza belt towns was raised in fear of an escalation in attacks in retaliation for the IDF operations. No Israelis were wounded in the attacks.
In an e-mail sent to reporters, Islamic Jihad said it would retaliate for its losses with suicide attacks inside Israel, threatening "a wave of martyrdom operations."
Monday night's airstrikes came hours after Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised residents of Sderot that the IDF would step up its operations to stop Kassam rocket attacks. IAF aircraft blasted two cars in Gaza City after nightfall, killing the five Islamic Jihad terrorists, including a senior commander and a master rocket maker.
The target of the first airstrike was Majed Harazin, a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist in charge of rocket squads that have been firing at Israel, the IDF said.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Khaled el-Batch confirmed that Harazin was killed in the first attack. He was a top Islamic Jihad commander for both the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinians said, and he rarely traveled in vehicles for fear of an Israeli air strike. He was on Israel's wanted list for nine years, they said.
Another terrorist was killed and a third critically wounded in the air strike, hospital officials said.
Gunfire erupted throughout Gaza after Harazin's death was announced by Islamic Jihad over loudspeakers from mosques. An Islamic Jihad official called his death a serious blow to the group.
Islamic Jihad supporters gathered around the morgue and pledged revenge. "The blood of our comrades will be the fuel for the rockets that will bring death and destruction to the Zionists," another Islamic Jihad spokesman, Abu Hamza, told The Associated Press.
In the second airstrike, shortly before midnight, the military said its aircraft targeted a cell that was about to fire rockets at Israel. Undercover agents took part in the attack, the military said, and the leader of the cell was killed. Two other terrorists also died.
Both Israel and Islamic Jihad identified the leader as Karim al-Dahdouh, known as a master rocket maker.
Hamas radio said the car was filled with explosives and warned people to stay away, but people crowded around the burning vehicle. Witnesses said the initial blast was followed by smaller explosions after the car was hit while slowing down near a mosque.
The Islamic Jihad terror group is responsible for most of the Kassam attacks on Israel and was behind the rocket bombardment on Sunday during which a two-year-old infant was wounded in Kibbutz Zikim.
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
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Your tax money at work: Egypt helps Hamas, USA subsidizes Egypt.
Israel sends US videos of Egypt helping Hamas
YAAKOV KATZ, HERB KEINON and HILARY LEILA KRIEGER , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec.
Israel is sending video tapes showing Egyptian policemen assisting Palestinian terrorists along the Egypt-Gaza border to the United States Congress as part of an effort to influence the legislative body into clamping pressure on Cairo to stop weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The video footage - which shows Egyptian security forces assisting Hamas terrorists cross illegally into Gaza - is being transferred to Congress through diplomatic channels and is intended for senior congressmen and senators who can have an effect on the House foreign aid appropriations process. Israel believes this can be an effective way of pressuring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak into clamping down on Hamas smuggling activities.
The House and Senate agreed late Sunday on a 2008 foreign aid bill that would hold back $100 million in military aid for Egypt, out of a $1.3 billion allocation, unless US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice certifies that concerns about smuggling weapons into Gaza and human rights abuses have been addressed. It is the first time that Egyptian military aid, supplied since the Camp David Accords, would potentially be restricted.
However, the newly agreed bill weakens language in an earlier House bill, which would have held back $200m. without certification. In addition, it added a provision allowing the restriction to be waived - and the aid to flow as usual - if Rice deems that holding back the aid to Egypt would endanger US national security interests.
Ideally, Israel would hope to see as much as $1b. in US aid being conditioned on a far more robust Egyptian antiterrorism effort at the Gaza border, but it recognizes that this is highly improbable.
Officials in Washington could not confirm that the Israeli videotapes had been received, but assessments were that damning video footage of Egyptian Border Police involvement in the Gaza smuggling industry would badly damage Egypt's already tarnished image. That, however, might not be enough to force any change in aid arrangements, which face opposition by Egypt, a key US ally and some congressmen who worry reducing aid will damage the strategic US-Egypt-Israel relationship, among other concerns.
A delegation of American military engineers recently toured the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi Corridor and was shown a number of tunnels that the Egyptians tried to portray as being too small to smuggle weapons through. The delegation was not convinced by the Egyptians and demanded that Cairo take more decisive action against the smuggling industry.
According to recent assessments, since Hamas's takeover of Gaza in June, the terrorist group has smuggled into Gaza 100 tons of explosives, millions of bullets, hundreds of antitank missiles and even a small number of Katyusha rockets.
The new version of the 2008 foreign aid bill is likely to be approved by Congress in the coming days. However, US President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the measure for various reasons, including its language on familyplanning. The bill also contains $2.4b. in military aid to Israel and several sources of funds for Palestinians, including money for economic assistance and UNWRA. Congress showed some willingness to buck the administration's request of funds for the Palestinian Authority, reducing a $150m. direct funding request to $100m., according to Congressional staff.
If Bush vetoes the bill, funding would presumably be maintained at 2007 levels for the time being. In that case, any restriction on Egyptian military aid would be a moot point in the immediate future.
Israel, according to sources familiar with Israeli efforts to get Egypt to take more action along the border, has "definitely become more aggressive" on the issue in recent weeks.
Israeli government officials explained that stepped-up Israeli action vis-a-vis the Americans on the smuggling issue coincides with a feeling in Jerusalem that Egypt is trying to "get closer" to Hamas.
The assessment in Jerusalem is that this stems from the proximity of Hamas to Egypt and from the fact that Hamas, rather than losing its grip on Gaza, is actually consolidating its control. Egypt sees it as in its interest, according to this thinking, to ensure smooth relations with Hamas, something an active fight against arms smuggling could do.
Likewise, the official said, Egypt is interested in seeing Hamas come back under the Palestinian Authority umbrella, and is playing a middleman role in trying to bring this about. An active campaign against the smuggling could interfere with that ability.
"The Egyptians don't want to push too hard against Hamas, so they don't start pushing back," one official said.
The official said that Egypt "does not want to get its hands too dirty" andwould rather the Palestinians themselves deal with the arms-smuggling issue. One reason Cairo is interested in Hamas' re-incorporation into the PA is the belief that this could lower the level of violence. According to this thinking, a lower level of violence will lead to less arms smuggling, and as a result less will be asked of Egypt.
Israel, by contrast, has made plain to PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the new Annapolis diplomatic process will be terminated if internal Palestinian negotiations on reincorporating Hamas into the PA are even attempted, much less concluded.
Last week, Israel filed an official complaint with Cairo after Egypt unilaterally opened the Rafah Crossing and allowed Palestinians who claimed to be traveling to Mecca for the hajj pilgrimage to leave the Gaza Strip.
Israel has received intelligence indicating that among the 1,700 pilgrims are a significant number of Palestinian terrorists who apparently traveled to Iran and Lebanon for training. In recent years, hundreds of Hamas terrorists have traveled abroad to Iran and Lebanon for military training.
In response to the increasing number of violations, the Foreign Ministry filed a harsh complaint with Cairo and senior defense officials, including Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Security Branch, were scheduled to travel to Egypt for talks about the recent events.
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The headline doesn't correspond to reality. Funds are not being held up, since:
if the Defense Ministry wants to continue the system's development and begin production to keep to the two-year deadline, it will need to allocate at least an additional $80 million by the end of the month.
It isn't the end of the month, so nothing is being held up - yet.
Defense Minister withholding funding for Kassam protection
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 18, 2007
While Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised residents of Sderot on Monday to do everything possible to stop Kassam rocket attacks, The Jerusalem Post has learned that the Defense Ministry has yet to transfer funding needed to begin production of a rocket defense system currently under development by the Rafael Armament Development Authority.
Rafael's Iron Dome system was chosen in February by then-defense minister Amir Peretz as Israel's anti-Katyusha and Kassam rocket defense system. The system is designed to be capable of intercepting Kassam and Katyusha rockets with a small kinetic missile interceptor and is scheduled to be operational for deployment outside the Gaza Strip and along the northern border within two years. Its development is valued at $300 million.
According to sources close to the project, the $40 million given to Rafael for initial development has run out, and if the Defense Ministry wants to continue the system's development and begin production to keep to the two-year deadline, it will need to allocate at least an additional $80 million by the end of the month.
Upon taking office, and despite the fact that Rafael was already in advanced development stages, Barak decided to reopen the tender and to meet with all of the companies whose offers were previously rejected by a team of academics and technological experts from the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Authority (MAFAT).
Officials involved in the project and from the Defense Ministry called Barak's decision "strange" and politically-motivated.
"With rockets landing daily in Sderot and public pressure mounting, Barak needs to appear as if he is doing something," a senior defense official said in an attempt to explain the decision to reopen the tender.
One of the systems Barak has asked to review again is the Skyguard, a large and bulky chemical laser system that is under development by Northrop Grumman in the US. Other proposals included those made by Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), Israel Military Industries (IMI) and Lockheed Martin. Despite the new review, defense officials said that Barak was likely to stick to the MAFAT committee decision to develop the Iron Dome. The officials were, however, critical of the decision to hold the review to begin with.
"This is a waste of time," one official involved in the project said. "The committee of experts already made their decision. They are not going to suddenly change it."
Barak's office refused to comment to the report.
Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu said it was "unacceptable that missiles are raining on Israeli cities and the government does nothing.""The government has to make a decision to change this intolerable situation," Netanyahu said. "They would have our full support if they do."
Likud chair Gideon Sa'ar called upon Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to hold her next meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Sderot, "so the government won't be so disconnected from reality."
Meanwhile Monday, Barak told a Labor faction meeting that he would find a solution to the continuing Kassam rocket fire plaguing communities in the western Negev.
"We are working day and night with operations by land and air, and it won't take a day. Just as we found a solution on other issues, we will find a solution to the Kassams," Barak said, adding that after touring Sderot earlier in the day, he "feels the pain" of the residents.
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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Here is one reason not investigated by the Winograd commission:
From an article by Meyrav Wurmser
During the 2006 Lebanon war... leaders of the religious national settlement movement, rabbis, and thousands of settlers, sent word to their sons in the military telling them to disobey military orders that would take them to war.
Is it possible to believe that this campaign had no effect on morale or performance in the fighting? Does it explain the strange lack of motivation and incompetence displayed by officers in the war? Was Israel stabbed in the back by the right? Here is an admission in so many words that it was.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 11:31 17/12/2007
U.S. weighs plan to help Egypt block arms smuggling to Gaza
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The United States is examining the possibility of helping Egypt build a physical barrier to foil the weapons-smuggling tunnels that run from Sinai to Gaza.
The Americans plan to send a delegation of officers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and engineers from the Department of Defense to Sinai in the near future to conduct an initial feasibility study and discuss the issue with the Egyptians.
The recommendation to send the delegation came from two senior administration officials who visited Israel and Egypt a few weeks ago to investigate Israel's claim that the Egyptians were not doing enough to stop weapons-smuggling into Gaza. The two, Robert Danin of the State Department and Mark Kimmitt of the Defense Department, went to Sinai to examine Egypt's handling of the problem first-hand.
In their report, the two proposed several possible solutions to the problem. The first was to give the Egyptians sophisticated tunnel-detection and demolition equipment that would aid them in locating and destroying the smuggling channels. The second was to dig a deep canal the entire length of the Gaza-Egypt border, filled with water, thereby making it much harder to tunnel under the line. The third was to create an obstacle along the border comprised of piles driven deep into the earth.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had also proposed the canal idea to the Egyptians about six months ago. Her idea was for a joint venture between Israel, Egypt, the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority.
Prior to Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, when Israel controlled the Gaza-Egypt border, the Israel Defense Forces also used various methods to try and shut down the tunnels. One involved building a 10-meter-deep wall along part of the border.
The army also deployed engineering units with specialized equipment along the border to detect and destroy the tunnels; five soldiers from this unit were killed in May 2004 when an antitank missile hit their armored jeep.
The IDF also considered destroying hundreds of houses in the border town of Rafah in order to make room for a canal on the Gazan side of the border, but Israeli legal officials concluded that such widespread house demolitions would be a violation of international law.
The army also considered installing special sensors - "geophones" - that could detect movement in the earth and thereby identify tunnel digging.
Danin and Kimmitt also recommended setting up a trilateral security commission, composed of Israeli, Egyptian and American representatives, that would deal with all the issues related to the Gaza-Egypt border - weapons smuggling, border crossings by terrorists, border control and so forth. Israel, however, opposes such a commission.
"The Egyptians aren't doing enough against the tunnels, and the responsibility is theirs," explained a government source. "A trilateral commission would create a situation in which Israel was also responsible."
Israeli officials believe that while understanding of the problem caused by weapons smuggling is growing inside the U.S. administration, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her aides support the Egyptian position - which is that Israel must agree to amend the 1978 peace treaty, so as to allow more Egyptian soldiers to be stationed along the border. Egypt wants to double its current force of 750 soldiers, to 1,500, but Israel opposes this.
Egyptian defense sources told Agence France-Presse on Sunday that they had uncovered two weapons-smuggling tunnels that had apparently been used in the past, but did not find any weapons in them. The report said that Egyptian forces are destroying the tunnels, but did not mention any arrests having been made.
On a related issue, Israel lodged a protest with the U.S. last week, over what it termed Egyptian and Saudi aid to Hamas in allowing Palestinian pilgrims to leave Gaza to participate in the hajj to Mecca. Senior Foreign Ministry officials met with one of Rice's deputies, David Welch, and told him that Israel does not understand why the Egyptians enabled the pilgrims to leave, which helped Hamas and weakened PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Livni, who is currently in Paris to attend a conference of donor nations to the PA, is expected to raise this issue in her meeting Monday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
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Is this going to happen, or is it going to get snarled in red tape?
U.S. real estate mogul plans new medical school, college town near Safed
By Tamara Traubmann, Haaretz Correspondent
American real estate mogul Bob Stark is heading an investor group that plans to invest $3-4 billion in a new university town in the Safed area that will include a medical school likely to be affiliated with Bar-Ilan University.
The town is slated as well to have housing, shopping centers and cultural institutions, Stark told Haaretz Sunday. The medical school is to be funded by a donation of some $500 million, to be provided by Stark and others, which would make such a project the first instance in Israeli academia of a donation being made as part of a business enterprise.
The Council for Higher Education decided in July on the establishment of a new medical school, Israel's fifth, in light of an anticipated shortage of doctors in Israel by 2015. A committee appointed by the council is supposed to decide which university will host the medical school; Haifa University is the only one other than Bar-Ilan that does not currently have one. The deans of the existing medical schools have expressed their opposition to the opening of a new one, which they say would be wasteful, since it is possible to increase the number of medical students at existing institutions.
When asked whether his donation in contingent on Bar-Ilan's being chosen for the medical school, Stark said he did not want to get into the issue, but added that all the signs were pointing to Bar-Ilan being the university that should and will be chosen.
Bar-Ilan president Prof. Moshe Kaveh told Haaretz Sunday that the establishment of a medical school depends on a "dramatic upgrade" of Galilee hospitals to bring them up to the level of university hospitals, so that future doctors can train at them. An estimated $500 million in donations is required to improve the hospitals and build the medical school, a medical research center and student dormitories. The money will be supplied by donors recruited by Kaveh and Stark, the president and chief executive officer of the Ohio-based real-estate developer Stark Enterprises, and an observant Jew.
The 3,400-dunam university town is slated to include residential buildings for faculty, cultural institutions, two shopping centers and a hesder yeshiva, which combines military service with Torah study. The creation of the town is necessary in order to attract high-level faculty, Kaveh said.
Bar-Ilan officials said Stark and the other investors involved in the project represent a new brand of donors, who combine philanthropy with financial investment. Kaveh explained the interaction, saying: "A large portion of the profits will go toward making the cultural and medical institutions in the city productive. Certain entrepreneurs will also get returns. This is a financial investment that repays itself, and the first profits will go toward philanthropic goals, in order to help the city develop." The donation to the medical school, said Kaveh, is "pure philanthropy."
Bar-Ilan officials said that despite Stark's contribution, the medical school will be independent and will enjoy full academic and administrative freedom. The school will be public, and its operating costs are expected to be funded by the government.
However, even though the higher education council has decided to establish a new medical school, government funding is not yet guaranteed. A council official said it was clear that the school could not be established under the council's current budget, which he said is not sufficient to meet the needs of existing institutions.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 09:44 17/12/2007
Israeli research among '50 most significant scientific breakthroughs in 2007'
By Ofri Ilani, Haaretz Correspondent
A groundbreaking discovery in the field of artificial intelligence, conducted by two Tel Aviv University academics, and Israeli research into treating Parkinson's disease, have been selected as among the past year's greatest advancements in science by a top U.S. periodical.
Scientific American magazine placed Professor Eshel Ben-Jacob and Dr. Itay Baruchi's creation of a type of organic memory chip on its list of the year's 50 most significant scientific discoveries.
In their research, the Israeli academics used nerve cells taken from rodents, and managed to create a simple method that simulates how information or memories are stored in humans and animals. Scientists hope that their work could lead to the development of computers that will be able to think creatively. Another Tel Aviv University researcher, Professor Beka Solomon, was also listed by Scientific American for her research in treating Parkinson's disease. "Computers that exist today are passive," Ben-Jacob explained. "You run a program and everything goes according to what is already input. In contrast, when a person undertakes a task you know he is going to use his personal judgment in accordance to circumstances that may develop."
For their research, Ben-Jacob and Baruchi mixed millions of neurons - nerve cells from the brain stems of rats - and created a type of "brain in a Petri dish." They then cast the fluid neurons evenly over an array of electrodes so that they could record their electrical signatures and the interaction of the neurons.
Neurons communicate with one another by electrically charged pulses. Each cell receives signals from many other neurons and reacts by creating their own. To the researchers' surprise, the communication between the neurons was not random, but adhered to specific structures that repeated themselves. Chemical stimulation caused certain electrical reactions, and this repeated itself.
"This dish has millions of neurons that can be imagined as millions of people each sending each other SMS messages," Ben-Jacob said. "Each person is connected to 100,000 others; each second he is sending a message to 100,000 people and receiving messages from 100,000 people. When we applied a certain chemical, neurons began to send messages in specific routes; independent correlation and synchronization between the cells developed. We can make the cells communicate in certain patterns that we control, and that is, in essence, memory."
What is the memory that the rodents' cells store? According to Ben-Jacob, the simple lab-created memories are not specific like those of humans. "The system does not remember 'father' or 'mother,' it is not a concrete memory. But here we have a module of inter-cell communication that can be used to create a module that carries meaning." Ben-Jacob's and Baruchi's findings have already improved scientists understanding of how the thought process occurs and memories are stored in the brain. They hope that in a relatively short time, their neurons system will be used in other experiments, such as checking how medications affect the brain.
In the distant future, they hope to achieve much more ambitious and far-reaching goals: Connecting between a regular computer and a network of neurons, creating a biological computer. Such a computer will be entirely different from today's static computers. It will identify senses, interact with its surroundings and even make independent decisions. In effect, the computer will have an autonomous brain with which it will function harmoniously.
"The dream is to create a system that on the one hand you can control, and on the other will still surprise, it will know how to improve itself and do things you had not programmed it in advance," Ben-Jacob said. "These hybrid computers won't look like laptops, but will be made-up of chips with different capabilities from computers" Ben-Jacob stressed Baruchi's importance to the research. "It's his project," he said. "Itay took a chance, chose a revolutionary subject and researched it while having to work for a living. Nowhere in the world are there such students."
Continued (Permanent Link)
What is the real reason for this break? How much money do these Yeshivot get from the Israeli government?
Last update - 07:22 17/12/2007
Top yeshivas sever ties with Jewish Agency program MASA
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz Correspondent
Three top yeshivas have decided to sever ties with the Jewish Agency sponsored program, MASA, and several other Orthodox schools are considering following suit, Haaretz has learned.
MASA, which enables Diaspora Jewish youth to spend time in Israel within the framework of a wide range of programs, is jointly sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Prime Minister's Office.
Yeshiva representatives, speaking on condition of anonymity, cite MASA's failure to respect their religious sensitivities in mandatory events, as well as an abundance of paperwork that they said made the partnership no longer tenable.
"While we respect the efforts of your organization toward bringing youth of the Diaspora to Israel, after evaluating the present requirements and grants of the MASA program we feel that we are unable to renew the relationship between MASA and our yeshivot for the 5769 academic year," read the letter addressed to MASA officials, a copy of which was obtained by Haaretz. The signatories on the letter included rabbis and administrators from Yeshivat Kerem B'Yavne, Yeshivat Har Etzion and Yeshivat Sha'alvim.
MASA holds a mega-event for its estimated 9,000 participants, ¬ about 35 percent of whom are Orthodox, about once a year. However, yeshiva officials said these events weren't geared toward a religious audience. "We felt they weren't respectful of our needs," an official at one yeshiva said of decision.
The official also cited changes in the way that MASA funds participants as a reason for the decision. All MASA participants from North America now receive a $2,000 scholarship, regardless of financial need, unlike in years past when grants were need-based. The result, yeshiva officials say, is that even needy students aren't receiving the sufficient scholarship funds they would require.
MASA officials, in response, said they never received a letter from the yeshiva heads describing their desire to leave the program. They further denied having overlooked religious participants' sensitivities. "MASA is a pluralistic project that respectfully treats the broad array of opinions and movements within Judaism. These are the measures we employ toward the Orthodox public: in every MASA event, we make sure to allocate special spots in the designated hall to separate between men and women. In every MASA event, mehadrin food is ordered specially."
A MASA spokesperson also said that changes to the scholarship program nevertheless ensure that "every participant can get a scholarship that will cover most of his/her costs, just like in the past."
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This is not the best timing, and is bound to cause trouble...
Last update - 07:59 17/12/2007
Cabinet okays renewing controversial Temple Mount Mugrabi excavation
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) has been instructed by the cabinet to continue its work at the Mugrabi walkway near the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The cabinet recently instructed the IAA to complete the work "as soon as possible, with full transparency and with the cooperation of the relevant bodies."
Excavations at the site, a walkway leading to the Mugrabi Gate at the Temple Mount, were halted in June after they raised an international protest. At the end of September, following a report in Haaretz that the Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem Affairs had approved the continuation of the work, Science, Culture and Sport Minister Ghaleb Majadele appealed the decision to the cabinet secretariat and it was frozen. Two weeks ago, Majadele acceded to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request to withdraw his appeal.
On November 29, the cabinet approved the Ministerial Committee for Jerusalem Affairs decision, instructing the IAA to "remove any finding that is not archaeological, and provide a solution to elements of conservation, esthetics, security, safety and possible social impairments." The latter element was a reference to homeless individuals who have taken shelter in structures at the site that have no archaeological value.
The cabinet decided to allocate NIS 3.5 million for the completion of archaeological and conservation work. The director-general of the Prime Minister's Office was charged with locating this money, as well as the funds for construction of a permanent bridge at the site, at an estimated cost of NIS 14 million. The budgetary source will be located as soon as the plans are approved by the Jerusalem Regional Planning Commission.
Following the decision of the ministerial committee in September, the prime minister's bureau told Haaretz that it saw no problem in renewing the work, and that if it had been stopped over the previous months it was due to planning problems and did not reflect a political decision.
Majadele told Haaretz Sunday night that he had been assured that no activity would be carried out at the site as long as the regional planning commission had not approved the changes. According to Majadele, when he checked with the IAA he was told that no expert work needed to be carried out at this stage.
"If political elements want to use the IAA as an umbrella, the minister's eye is watching and he will not allow any work to be done that invites friction and disturbances during this period of diplomatic negotiations. I am glad that the prime minister supports the policy of creating understanding and tranquility in order to protect the holy places," Majadele said.
The phrase "removing any find that is not archaeological" refers to all Palestinian finds and most of those of the Ottoman period. The Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman recently published a report stating that a team of Turkish experts who had examined the excavations at the Mughrabi walkway recommended that Israel stop work immediately.
The team's report said that Israel was attempting to disrupt Jerusalem's history by stressing the Jewish aspect of Jerusalem, and that the excavations were part of a plan to destroy cultural elements from the Islamic period in Jerusalem. The report also stated that "the large amount of soil extraction shown to our mission along the Wailing Wall give the impression that this is an intervention of great scale and depth and that this intervention goes beyond scientific purpose."
Attorney Danny Zeidman, legal counsel to the Ir Amim association, which appealed the ministerial committee's decision to the attorney general, said Sunday that an internal contradiction existed between the cabinet decision's call for "transparency" and "coordination" and decisions of an operative nature.
"How can money be allocated for construction at the Mugrabi Gate and the work be ordered completed as soon as possible, when we don't know what is to be built at the site, since the plan has not yet been approved?"
Zeidman said he was surprised that the cabinet was ordering the IAA - an autonomous expert body - how to operate. He said it showed the extent to which archaeology had been politicized, since he claimed a large amount of the IAA's income and almost all its Jerusalem digs were being financed by settler associations in East Jerusalem.
Continued (Permanent Link)
"I'll be eager to implement all our commitments under the road map, and I expect the Israeli side to do the same, comprehensively, and without excuses, by us or by them," Abbas told some 90 donor countries and international organizations gathered in Paris. "I expect them to stop all settlement activities, without exceptions."
Great. We can therefore expect that there will be no more terrorists in the West Bank, no illegal weapons, and no anti-Israel propaganda. Comprehensively and without exception, right?
Last update - 11:48 17/12/2007
Abbas calls on Israel to freeze West Bank settlements 'without exception'
By Avi Issacharoff and Assaf Uni, Haaretz Correspondents
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday called on Israel to freeze
West Bank settlements without excuses, using the high-profile platform of an international donors conference to deliver his appeal.
"I'll be eager to implement all our commitments under the road map, and I expect the Israeli side to do the same, comprehensively, and without excuses, by us or by them," Abbas told some 90 donor countries and international organizations gathered in Paris. "I expect them to stop all settlement activities, without exceptions."
Delegations are expected to offer around $5.6 billion on Monday to help lift the Palestinian economy and underpin the renewed Middle East peace talks.
At the start of the conference, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged fast international support toward creating a Palestinian state in opening a conference of world donors, calling this a turning point in Middle East peace efforts.
"What we must do now is work together before the end of 2008 for the creation of an independent, democratic, viable Palestinian state, Sarkozy said in a speech to representatives at the conference.
The one-day meeting is the financial sequel to the launch last month of the first peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in seven years. The talks are aimed at achieving an agreement on Palestinian statehood by the end of 2008.
"To turn this dream into reality we have organized this conference in Paris," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Europe 1 radio earlier Monday, before the summit began.
"It is not just a question of money. It is a donors conference but also a political conference," he added.
Kouchner also urged ordinary Palestinians to turn their backs on extremism and support Abbas.
"We need to show moderate Palestinians that democracy is the only solution to live in peace," he said.
The European Union will pledge $650 million in aid to the Palestinians for 2008, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said Monday.
Ferrero-Waldner couldn't say yet how much the EU - a key donor to the Palestinians - would contribute in 2009 and 2010 but said it would be a high level.
Meanwhile, Japan on Monday said it would pledge $120 million to the Palestinians, Israel Radio reported.
The Palestinian Authority has received donations totaling about $10 billion from the international community since 1993.
The foreign ministers of all the Arab states other than those of Yemen, Iraq and Syria - which are apparently not planning to provide the Palestinians with financial assistance at present - will be participating.
While the meeting will focus on plans to boost the Palestinian economy, envoys from dozens of countries are expected also to discuss outstanding contentious issues.
Delegates to the conference are also likely to issue a statement calling on Israel to remove roadblocks in the West Bank, European diplomatic sources said over the weekend.
Representatives from the Arab states taking part in the conference are expected to criticize Israel sharply over the issues of roadblocks, the closure of border crossings into Gaza, and the planned construction in the disputed East Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa.
"We need a clear-cut Israeli decision concerning this issue," said Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the dispute was "ever more reason that it's time to get an agreement" and appealed to both sides not to "consider every bump in the road to be a barrier."
"There is an assumption here that there is not going to be turbulence in this process. There is. I don't care how much you talk to people before, I don't care how much work you do. There will be turbulence," Rice told reporters as she flew to Paris.
Int'l donors to PA to urge Israel to remove W. Bank roadblocks
An Israeli diplomatic official said Sunday that Israel is prepared to remove West Bank roadblocks. "There is Israeli willingness to remove roadblocks, and the subject was also raised while the PA's economic plan was being formulated, in coordination with Defense Minister Ehud Barak," the official said.
At the same time, members of the Israeli delegation noted that the country's security needs must be taken into consideration. The government is also expected to be open to continuing to transfer tax revenues, collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, to the Palestinian government.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who will be addressing the conference, told reporters in Paris on Sunday that Har Homa construction was not a new undertaking and that it was important to progress toward the shared Israeli-Palestinian goal rather than getting caught up in mutual accusations.
Livni also said Israel is a full partner in the process that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The foreign minister is scheduled to meet Monday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In the days preceding the conference, Palestinian spokesmen and the World Bank emphasized their demand that Israeli roadblocks be removed to allow people and goods to move more freely within the West Bank.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad said freedom of movement was necessary for his economic plan to succeed, and he and Abbas are due to call on Israel to remove the blockade from the Gaza Strip as part of an effort to revive the Palestinian economy there.
Fayad's plan calls for some 70 percent of the requested financial aid to go toward the Palestinian Authority's ongoing expenses, such as salaries and welfare payments, with the rest going toward development projects, including industrial parks and factories in the West Bank and Gaza.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is slated to make the first speech at the conference, which is due to begin at 10:30 A.M. Israel time. He will be followed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is expected to call for active international involvement in the region. Abbas has revised the speech previously outlined in Haaretz and is slated to make an explicit reference to Israel's announcement following last month's Annapolis conference that it would be building some 300 new housing units in Har Homa.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 10:56 17/12/2007
Russia sends first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran power plant
By News Agencies
Russia has made its first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran's Bushehr
plant, which is at the center of the international tensions over Tehran's nuclear program, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Iran contends the nuclear power plant operation in Bushehr is strictly for civilian purposes, but many critics suspect Tehran intends to use the plant as part of an alleged effort to develop nuclear weapons.
Russia's foreign ministry said Monday it had received written assurances from Iran that the nuclear fuel delivered to Bushehr will not be used for any other purpose.
A senior Iranian official said on Monday said that Iran will not halt uranium enrichment even with delivery of fuel from Russia, adding he could not yet confirm Iran had received the fuel.
"There is no talk of halting enrichment. Nothing is related to freezing enrichment. The delivery (of fuel) is not in the framework of the [UN] resolutions or the framework of talks," the senior official said.
Asked if Iran would halt enrichment under any condition, he said, "No, not at all."
Construction at Bushehr had been frequently delayed. Officials said the delays were due to payment disputes, but many observers suggested Russia was also unhappy with Iran's obstinate resistance to international pressure to make its nuclear program more open and to ensure the international community that it was not developing nuclear arms.
Last week, Russia announced that its construction disputes with Iran had been resolved.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Can Jumes (Haim Oron's nickname) or Ran Cohen reverse the ailing fortunes of Israel's left-Zionist party?
Meretz Chairman MK Yossi Beilin on Sunday announced that he was withdrawing his candidacy from the party's leadership elections and throwing his support to MK Haim Oron.
Party sources said over the weekend that the chairman, who is lagging behind in the polls, has decided to pull his candidacy after Oron announced he would run in the elections, effectively eliminating Beilin's chances.
Meretz officials welcomed Beilin's announcement, although one of Beilin's would-be successors, Ran Cohen, attacked the outgoing chairman's endorsement of Oron.
"[The Oron endorsement] is an attempt to preserve the same leadership which is responsible for Meretz's failure and its retreat into a niche party," Cohen, who will square off against Oron and Zehava Gal-On in party primaries on March 18, said.
"It is against this failure that I present my candidacy with the goal of returning Meretz to public relevance and to turn it into an open, widened party," Cohen said.
"Beilin is a person with skills and positive attributes to his credit who displayed responsibility in his decision not to run for leadership of Meretz," Gal-On said. "As a result, Meretz can now change direction and return to being a bold, relevant, and influential party."
Oron said that he "greatly values, respects, and hails Beilin's move and places importance in his support. His announcement placed principle before political battles, and is thus worthy of much appreciation."
Beilin left the Labor Party in 2003 and joined Meretz, then led by Yossi Sarid. After Sarid's resignation in 2005, Beilin ran against MK Ran Cohen and won the party chairmanship.
Beilin capitalized on the 2003 Geneva peace initiative, in which he was a key player, but failed to consolidate his leadership within the party. He has often been criticized by fellow party members for making decisions without proper consultation.
In the 2006 elections, under Beilin's leadership, Meretz won just five seats in the Knesset, one of the worst results the party has achieved since its launch in the 1980s.
Beilin told a news conference Sunday that he telephoned Oron to inform him of his decision.
"I want to say to you that in no way did I come to Meretz with the intention of becoming party head," Beilin said. "The defeat in the 2003 elections created a new situation in which the chairman, Yossi Sarid, resigned. If Oron would have declared his candidacy, there's no doubt I would have supported it. He decided not to run, and I won the post."
As party chairman, Beilin inherited what he views as a faction in disarray and managed to overcome most of the problems which plagued Meretz.
"I took over a party that was in an uneasy state," Beilin said. "A party that went from 12 Knesset seats to six in a span of seven years; a party that was in the midst of serious financial difficulties following the 2003 municipal elections. This was a situation that bordered on bankruptcy. I'm pleased that we succeeded in overcoming most of the problems that we were faced with."
Beilin noted in his remarks that the central dilemma which confronted Meretz in recent years is the question of its relevance.
"Despite its impressive ideological achievements in areas which it has been in the lead all these years - human rights, peace, and religion and state - the fact that many people are speaking 'Meretzish' did not translate into great success in elections," Beilin said. "Our problem in the 2003 elections was the election of Amir Peretz as chairman of the Labor Party. Voting for Meretz was more Meretz than Meretz. The way in which we managed things brought us five parliament seats - this is a drop but not as bad a drop as the doomsayers predicted."
"Oron's candidacy had me contemplating," Beilin said. "The announcement came in the middle of a re-election campaign and it surprised me. I have a long-standing principle - I don't run against long-time political comrades.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 15:53 16/12/2007
Qassam strikes Negev home; baby lightly hurt
By Mijal Grinberg, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Palestinian militants fired a Qassam rocket that hit a home near the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon on Sunday, lightly hurting a baby and causing its mother and a number of bystanders to suffer from shock.
Magen David Adom emergency service ambulances treated on the spot those hurt in the attack.
The rocket landed in Kibbutz Zikim, a communal farm not far from the Gaza-Israel border and the town of Ashkelon, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
A series of Palestinian rocket attacks hit Israel over the weekend, including one which struck a factory in the western Negev Friday. This came after the cabinet declared a "special situation" in Sderot and in other communities bordering the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing barrage.
Earlier Sunday, Israel Defense Forces arrested 25 Hamas members, including a member of Parliament, in overnight raids in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian officials said.
Those arrested included lawmaker Ahmad al-Haj Ali, as well as a former deputy cabinet minister and two city council representatives, all Hamas members, Palestinian security officials said.
The IDF said troops made overnight arrests in an operation targeting Hamas operatives in Nablus.
Hamas, a militant Islamic movement with ties to Syria and Iran, has largely been driven underground in the West Bank since it took over the Gaza Strip in June, defeating the forces of the rival Fatah movement.
Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader and the Palestinian president, has ruled the West Bank since then and his moderate government has been moving ahead with peace talks with Israel and cracking down on Hamas.
The Israeli arrests came two days after Abbas' security forces carried out a similar sweep targeting Hamas supporters in Nablus. Hamas put the number of detainees at 26.
The raid also came in wake of a pro-Hamas rally in Gaza on Saturday that drew about 250,000 people and was a major show of force for the Islamic group.
Israel arrested dozens of Hamas lawmakers in the summer of 2006, after Hamas forces captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit and killed two others in a cross-border raid near Gaza.
Talks on a prisoner swap have stalled and Shalit remains in captivity.
Ahmad Bahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said Sunday that the lawmaker's arrest overnight brought the number of Hamas parliamentarians held by Israel to 46.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Last update - 14:54 16/12/2007
Israel agrees to let 900 Gazans enter en route to Hajj in Mecca
By The Associated Press
Israel agreed to let about 900 Gaza pilgrims travel through Israeli territory en route to a Muslim pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.
Israeli officials said the passage through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing was under way at midday, but couldn't specify how many Gazans had actually crossed.
Hussein El Sheikh, head of the civil affairs department in the government of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the 900 pilgrims would be let through Erez by Monday morning, if not earlier.
The pilgrimage to the Saudi holy city of Mecca, known as the hajj, is an obligation every able-bodied Muslim is expected to carry out once in a lifetime. But the Islamic Hamas group's takeover of Gaza in June has encumbered the visits because both Israel and Egypt have all but sealed their borders with the territory to passenger traffic.
Several weeks ago, Egypt opened its border to hundreds of Gaza pilgrims - the first time Gazans were permitted to enter Egyptian territory since the Hamas takeover.
The pilgrims traveling on Sunday were to drive in a convoy through Israel to the West Bank town of Jericho, and from there to Jordan, where they were to board flights to Saudi Arabia, El Sheikh said.
The Israeli approval was given at the last minute. The pilgrimage, or hajj, ends on Tuesday with the beginning of the four-day Eid al-Adha feast.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Study: West Bank pollution threatening Israeli groundwater
By Zafrir Rinat Haaretz 116 December 2007
For several years now, a white river has run through the Hebron Hills. The color comes from pollution - waste from a sawmill near Hebron. And according to a recent Israeli-Palestinian study, pollution from this river and others like it is threatening the groundwater inside Israel, and is impeding attempts to rehabilitate Israel's rivers.
Israel has tried to deal with the problem by collecting and purifying the waste at the Green Line, the boundary between Israel and the West Bank. But that is insufficient, because much pollution enters the groundwater in the West Bank and spreads to Israel underground.
The two-year study was conducted by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research at Ben-Gurion University and the Palestinian Water and Environmental Development
Organization. It focused on the Alexander River, which runs from Nablus to the Mediterranean north of Netanya, and the Basor River, which runs from near Hebron to the Gaza Strip. Major investments have been made in
rehabilitating both rivers in recent years, including by establishing waste treatment plants along them.
However, the study found, the Basor is now full of both municipal waste and toxins emitted by the stone- and leather-working industries around Hebron. It estimated that anywhere from 45 to 90 percent of the pollution seeps into the ground before the river reaches the Israeli treatment plant, thereby endangering the groundwater. Moreover, some of this underground waste then reenters the river downstream of the treatment plant.
The study found that faulty sewage systems in Israel also pollute the river.
While the Alexander River has improved substantially, the study said, it still is being polluted by municipal waste and the olive oil industries around Nablus and Tul Karm, as well as various sources within Israel, such as fertilizer and insecticides from nearby farms. In this case, too, about half of the pollution on the Palestinian side seeps into the groundwater before reaching the Green Line.
Amos Brandeis, chief planner of the project to rehabilitate the Alexander, noted that the German government plans to build waste treatment plants for Nablus and Tul Karm, but they will not be operational for several years. He also noted that the amount of municipal waste on the Palestinian side has grown, due to population growth and because many more houses have been connected to the sewage system in recent years - and this system flows directly into the river, rather than to a treatment plant.
Hydrologists Lior Assaf and Hila Ackerman of the Arava Institute said that more could also be done on the Israeli side - for instance, said Assaf, "planting buffer zones of vegetation along the river banks, which would help prevent pollution from entering the river."
Professor Alon Tal of the Blaustein Institute, in his summary of the research, noted that Israelis and Palestinians had managed to work together to reduce pollution despite the political tensions. "Nevertheless, what has been done to date is only the first stage," he wrote.
Labels: Israel-2, Palestinians, Peace, Water
Continued (Permanent Link)
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