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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Right Wing Rabbis and anti-Israel extremists agree: Hang Olmert

For once, there is unanimous agreement on an issue. Attendees at a conference of Rabbis agreed enthusiastically to Rabbi Wolpe's call to hang Israeli leaders, including Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, Haim Ramon and Ehud Barak. Anarchists have a similar idea it seems
In a discussion of the death penalty at the Al-Jazeera Web site, Minsa from Hampstead England wrote, "

. Yeah, right - so go hang Olmert for the terrorist murder of over 1000 innocent Lebanese civilians."

We were in this movie once before. We know how it ends...
Ami Isseroff

Right-wing rabbi calls for PM's death Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Government leaders should be hanged for negotiating with the Palestinians, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe told an audience of rabbis in Tel Aviv, according to a Channel 1 report aired Wednesday night.

"The terrible traitor, [Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, who gives these Nazis weapons, who gives money, who frees their murderous terrorists, this man, like Ariel Sharon, collaborates with the Nazis," Wolpe told a conference of rabbis who oppose transferring parts of the West Bank or Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority.

"[Olmert's punishment], and the punishment of [Vice Premier] Haim Ramon, and the punishment of [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni, and all these people, like [Defense Minister] Ehud Barak, should be to hang from the gallows," Wolpe said to the cheering crowd.

The comment came after news circulated during the conference that one of the terrorists who killed two Israelis in the South Hebron Hills last Friday was a PA security officer.

Among those attending the conference were MK Arye Eldad (National Union/National Religious Party), MK Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism), Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, Kise Rahamin Yeshiva head Rabbi Meir Mazuz, and former MK Elyakim Haeztni, who joined in the accusations that Olmert was responsible for the deaths of the two Israelis last Friday.

Ramon issued a statement condemning the speeches at the conference: "It is regretful and worrying that more than a decade after the murder of a prime minister in Israel, these people haven't learned a thing, and still continue down the path of incitement that endangers the foundations of democracy in Israel," he said.

Also according to Channel 1, an anarchist group recently uploaded pictures onto their Web site depicting Olmert with a picture of a grenade on his head and the words: "He deserves it."

There was no comment from the Prime Minister's Office.


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Continued (Permanent Link)

Is peace good for Israel??

There is much to recommend this thoughtful article, but Halkin speculates in a dangerous way about history:
For it is clear today that even had the Arabs accepted partition, Israel would eventually have had to go to war to break out of its straitjacket. Although not discussed openly, this was something understood by most Zionist leaders in agreeing to partition, which they saw as a crucial but not final step in consolidating Jewish power. Without partition there would have been no Jewish state to develop the institutions of sovereignty, to absorb Jewish refugees and immigrants from Europe and the Arab lands -- and to build an army capable of expanding partition's borders.
If frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their behinds when they jumped. They wouldn't jump, they would fly. Had there been a hypothetical Arab Palestinian state at peace with Israel, there would have been neither a need nor a political opportunity to " break out of its straitjacket." Mutual border adjustments could have improved the borders of the partition, and as it was a plan for "partition with economic union," most of the problems of lack of territory could be solved in the framework of economic cooperation.
Ami Isseroff

January 2008


The Peel Commission report (that was in 1937), the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry's recommendations (1946), the UN partition resolution (1947), the Bernadotte plan (1948), the Lausanne conference (1948-49), Security Council Resolution 242 (1967), the Rogers plan (1970), the Jarring mission (1971), the Camp David "framework for peace" (1978), the Madrid conference (1991), the Oslo declaration of principles (1993), the Palestinian-Israeli interim agreement (1995), the Wye summit (1997), the Camp David summit (2000), the Sharm-el-Sheikh summit (2000), the Taba conference (2001), the Bush road map (2003): if none of these could end the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine, what hope is there for Annapolis?

Indeed there is little. When time after time a problem cannot be resolved, it is reasonable to suspect that it may be unresolvable, at least in the manner in which it is conceived. And yet, we have been told, the problem has now come so tantalizingly close to resolution that all it needs is one more little push.

In the talks between Ehud Barak and Yasir Arafat at Camp David in 2000—so goes this assessment—Israel and the Palestinian Authority, with the active mediation of President Clinton, were a hair's breadth away from an agreement. Almost all the pieces were in place. These included the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; a total Israeli withdrawal from the latter and a near-total one from the former, with several settlement blocs being retained by Israel; territorial compensation for the Palestinians in the form of a land swap; and a re-division of Jerusalem with all of its Arab neighborhoods reverting to Arab rule. Although some issues remained unsettled, including the disposition of the Temple Mount and the future of the families of the 1948 Palestinian refugees, here too the gaps had narrowed to bridgeable proportions. But just then, at the last moment, both sides dug in their heels, the second intifada erupted, and the deal was off. Annapolis represents a second chance to conclude it, one that must not be missed.

Such is today's received wisdom: the road to Israeli-Palestinian peace has been fully laid out and needs only to be paved in a few last sections. All that is lacking is the political courage on the part of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to stick to the "Clinton parameters" laid down at Camp David, plus the Clinton-like involvement of an American President to keep their minds concentrated on the task. If George W. Bush and his administration are prepared to play this role in their final year in office, an end to the conflict is finally in sight.
But it is not. Even if—above all if—a Palestinian state is established along the lines of the Clinton parameters, the conflict will not be over. It will simply downshift for a while into lower gear.

Let us return for a moment to Camp David, whose fourteen days of nonstop activity and all-night negotiating sessions, recurrent deadlines, changing offers and counteroffers, crises, sulks, embraces, cajolings, threats, and arm-twistings were the kind of situation that no statesman rationally seeking to defend his nation's interests should ever allow himself to get into. A Metternich or Bismarck would have shuddered at the thought of making fateful decisions deeply affecting future generations of his countrymen as if he were hammering out a three-year contract in a labor dispute.

Yet even given the concessions wrung from them under such pressure, the two sides were nowhere so close to an agreement as has been alleged. Some of the outstanding issues, such as that of the Temple Mount, might indeed have been settled with more effort; others, like the refugee problem, could probably not have been. And what was agreed upon was only in general terms, leaving numerous details as potential stumbling blocks. There was no true meeting of minds on anything—not on future borders, not on percentages of land to be annexed or swapped, not on the nature of Palestinian demilitarization.

Moreover, even had Barak and Arafat reached an agreement, it would in all likelihood have been impossible to implement. Barak had lost his Knesset majority on the eve of Camp David when a key coalition partner deserted him out of concern that he might make the concessions that he indeed ended up making, and he probably could not have won Knesset approval for those concessions or a governing mandate in new elections. (When elections took place in 2001, he was in fact trounced by Ariel Sharon.) And had Arafat, as Israel insisted to the end, waived the Palestinian refugees' "right of return," something opposed in numerous opinion polls by two-thirds to nine-tenths of the Palestinian public, there might have been a Hamas-led uprising in his lifetime rather than after his death.

Today, the difficulties are only greater. With Gaza in the hands of Hamas and Mahmoud Abbas in shaky control of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority would have to press for Camp David-plus in order to justify itself to the Palestinian public. And should Israel give it that, or simply repeat Barak's offers, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister with the lowest popularity rating in the country's history, would similarly lose his coalition and new elections, too. Turning the Clinton parameters into the Bush parameters is no magic wand for success.



For Israel, this is just as well. Territorially, an agreement based on Camp David would be a bad deal. In the course of the negotiations there, an initial Israeli demand for annexation of 13 percent of the West Bank was whittled down to 5 or 6 percent, so that the settlement blocs originally designed to make Jerusalem and Tel Aviv less militarily vulnerable not only would have failed to do so but would have become extremely vulnerable in their own right. Large towns like Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim were reduced on the map to enclaves, Jewish polyps hanging on thin stalks of access roads running through Palestinian territory. Jerusalem itself was turned into a crazy quilt of Jewish and Arab neighborhoods, between whose two national jurisdictions a driver traversing the city might have to pass a dozen times. Were Israel and the Palestinian Authority ever to cease cooperating fully, let alone regress to hostilities, Israel's capital and biggest city would quite simply be paralyzed.

Making things worse was the land swap, a concept introduced at Camp David by Washington in blatant contravention of its own U.S.-sponsored Security Council Resolution 242, which in 1967 called on Israel to withdraw "from territories" occupied in that year's war, not from those belonging to it beforehand. In accepting the principle that West Bank land acquired by Israel had to be paid for in kind, the Israeli negotiators were endorsing the Arab interpretation of 242—an interpretation holding that, against the explicitly stated intentions of the resolution's American and British framers, "from territories" meant from all territories.

This had its consequences. From an initial American proposal of nine square kilometers of Palestinian land for one square kilometer of Israeli land, the ratio was pared down at Camp David to three-to-one, and later at Taba (so the Palestinians would claim) to one-to-one. Apart from the precedent of Israel's ceding sovereign territory to an Arab state, an act that might come back to haunt it one day, this shrank the annexable portion of the West Bank still further. Consequently, when the post-Annapolis Olmert-Abbas negotiations begin, any demand by Israel to retain all of the land now on its side of the West Bank security fence, built in the years after the failure of Camp David, would be a non-starter.

The Clinton parameters were not much better in other areas. On the issue of Palestinian demilitarization, they called for an international rather than an Israeli force to monitor the Palestinian state's border with Jordan in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons like rockets and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles; as is clear from the example of Lebanon, such a force would be worthless. The Americans also rejected Israel's position that its air force should be granted open skies for maneuvers and reconnaissance above Palestinian territory, recommending instead that "the two sides work out special arrangements for Israeli training and operational needs." It is safe to assume that the Palestinians will construe these needs as minimal.

And then there are the refugees. Instead of stating forthrightly that a Jewish state should not be expected to accept any of them, the Clinton parameters listed "admission to Israel," albeit subject to its "sovereign decision," as one of five possible solutions for the problem. And lest anyone think that such a decision would be strictly Israel's own business, President Clinton also suggested that Israel "indicate" in advance that "some of the refugees could be absorbed." Ehud Olmert will thus have to start his talks with Mahmoud Abbas not with an Israeli refusal to accept any refugees but with a debate over how many must be accepted.

This is Ehud Barak's legacy to Olmert, and it is not a happy one. Normally, if one bargains for a rug in a bazaar and the rug merchant turns down one's final offer, one is not obliged to make that into one's opening offer the next time around. But in the world of Israeli-Arab negotiations, in which Israeli concessions are routinely "pocketed" with no Arab quid pro quo, the logic of the marketplace does not apply. Here Israel's last offer is automatically expected to be its first one whenever bargaining resumes.



The Palestinians have often been faulted, even by observers sympathetic to their cause, for failing to compromise at critical junctures. They are the people, in the endlessly quoted words of Abba Eban, who have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Had they only said yes in 1947, they could have had their state then. In 2000 they missed their chance again. Now, at Annapolis, history has come knocking once more. They would be serial bunglers indeed to slam the door in its face this time, too.

But this is an unfair and condescending judgment. It treats the Palestinians as beggars who have to take what is offered them or stand accused of improvidence. Why, in 1947, should a people that outnumbered the Jewish minority in its midst by two-to-one have agreed to divide its living space, as the UN partition resolution decreed, on a 55-45 basis with the Jews getting the larger share? Why, in 2000, now offered a mere 20 percent of this space, should it not have fought tooth-and-nail over every inch of it? And why, in the negotiations set to take place in 2008, should it be any more conciliatory than it was in 2000?

The answer given us is: so that the Palestinians can finally have their state. But what kind of state would such a mini-Palestine be? It would consist of two detached parcels of land, without an army to defend them, totaling 6,250 square kilometers, the size of Delaware. Its smaller part, the Gaza Strip, would be overcrowded and impoverished; its larger one, the West Bank, would consist of half desert and semi-arid countryside; and neither would be capable of absorbing more than a small fraction of the Palestinian diaspora that dreams of returning to the homeland it believes was stolen from it. Meanwhile, next door, on nearly four-fifths of that homeland, a far more prosperous and powerful Israel would only inspire envy and resentment. What exactly would Palestinians have to rejoice in?

There are of course sovereign states that are even smaller. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has 5,128 square kilometers. Luxembourg has 2,586. Malta has 316. But such countries were not born in ethnic warfare and partition; they do not seethe with grievance and humiliation; they are not supposed to provide a solution for millions of exiles; they are not lived in by a people, grown accustomed to strutting on the world stage, that stands to be diminished by its own independence to a bit role.

It is said that the Palestinians should take their example from the Jews, who in 1947 agreed to a state that fell far short of their aspirations, too. And indeed if one looks at the 1947 partition map, the Jewish state born from it would have been a cripple, three unconnected limbs of Mandate Palestine separated by Arab corridors and minus Jerusalem and half the Galilee. It is impossible to envision such an Israel having continued to exist for long—nor did it, for in the fighting that broke out after Arab rejection of partition, it enlarged itself by half, joined its severed parts, and carved out a link to Jerusalem, whose Jewish half became its capital.

Precisely this, however, is why any comparison of the current situation of the Palestinians with that of the Jews in 1947 is ironically double-edged. For it is clear today that even had the Arabs accepted partition, Israel would eventually have had to go to war to break out of its straitjacket. Although not discussed openly, this was something understood by most Zionist leaders in agreeing to partition, which they saw as a crucial but not final step in consolidating Jewish power. Without partition there would have been no Jewish state to develop the institutions of sovereignty, to absorb Jewish refugees and immigrants from Europe and the Arab lands—and to build an army capable of expanding partition's borders.

When one asks, therefore, why the Palestinians have not done what the Jews did, one is really asking why they did not accept statehood at Camp David in 2000 with a public commitment to peace and a private determination to pursue irredentist policies. This is a good question, part of the answer to which may indeed be their psychological inability to set aside their wounded pride and sense of the injustice done them for the sake of long-term goals. Yet there is more to it than that, for it can be plausibly argued that it is their very adherence to these goals that best explains their behavior.

The Palestinians, after all, know that statehood will never enable them to defeat Israel on the battlefield by themselves; even were they not demilitarized, they can never possess the economic means to match Israel's military might. What prospect they have of destroying Israel, or of weakening it to the point where additional territory could be wrested from it, would depend on one of two options. The first of these, championed by Hamas, is to resist the temptation of Palestinian independence and preserve the status quo until Israeli-Palestinian disentanglement becomes impossible and a bi-national state emerges whose Arab population with its higher birthrate inevitably becomes a majority.

The second option, preferred by the Palestinian "moderates," is to choose statehood, however degrading its terms, while seeking to undermine Israel from within and keeping other Arab countries embroiled with it so that they remain military allies. These two ambitions would be related, for the more a growing and disgruntled Arab minority in Israel protests its second-class status, and the more Israel is accused of denying Palestinian refugees their "right of return," the more the Arab world will go on nourishing hostile feelings toward it. If Israel does not fall by itself, a tiny Palestinian state could then still count on provoking a decisive war into which its Arab neighbors could be dragged when the right time came.



On the face of it, the Palestinians' insistence on their "right of return" to homes lost 60 years ago in Israel is absurd. It would be absurd quite apart from the fact that no such right was ever demanded on behalf of far larger refugee populations in the 20th century, such as the millions of Greeks thrown out of Turkey in 1921-22, the similar numbers of Germans evicted from Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1945, or the tens of millions of Muslims and Hindus who fled India and Pakistan in 1948. It is also absurd for the simple reason that most of these homes no longer exist and those that do cannot be returned to.

The majority of Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948 were rural; nearly all of their villages were razed to the ground long ago to make room for Jewish settlements and Jewish agriculture. Of those who were city dwellers, some lived in houses and neighborhoods that are still standing; yet for the last half-century these have been inhabited by Israelis who are their legal owners and cannot be made to surrender them. Where in Israel would the families of refugees go if their "right of return" were recognized? The poorer would end up in Israeli Arab slums hardly more congenial than the "refugee camps" they reside in now. The wealthier would find that their present homes in Amman or Damascus are grander than anything they could afford in Haifa or Jaffa. None would be returning to family property, and all would be choosing to live in a Jewish state whose customs are alien and where they might be discriminated against in various ways. How could this, rather than financial compensation or resettlement elsewhere, be the preferred option of most Palestinians?

And in fact it is not. The same polls that show a large majority of Palestinians vehemently supporting the "right of return" to Israel, a country that few of them have ever been in, report that not many are interested in "returning" there themselves. As in the old Jewish joke that a Zionist is a Jew who gives money to a second Jew in order to send a third Jew to Palestine, the average Palestinian would like another Palestinian to exercise the "right of return" for him.

But this is no reason for Israel to give ground on the refugee issue in the false belief that it is a purely symbolic one. In a diaspora of many millions, there will always be poor and unemployed Palestinians sufficiently attracted by Israel's need for cheap labor to move there, and there will always be a Palestinian establishment to encourage them. If Ehud Olmert offers "symbolically" to accept 10,000 Palestinian refugees annually for five years, Mahmoud Abbas will ask for 50,000; if a compromise is reached, the Palestinians will fight to have it worded in such a way that it can be challenged later. There will always be pretexts for claiming that Israel has not honored the "right of return" as it promised to.

There will always be pretexts, too, for claiming that Israel is a systemically "racist" society that must be made to surrender its Jewish identity. It is already clear that a long-term campaign along these lines, in close collaboration with a Palestinian state, is the future strategy of Israel's own Arab leadership. It will not be bought off by half-measures. If Israel gives greater equality to its Arab citizens, it will be told to repeal the Law of Return that gives every Jew the right to immigrate and settle in the country; if it repeals the Law of Return, it will face a demand for Israeli Arab political autonomy; if it grants political autonomy, heavily populated Arab areas will vote for Anschluss with the state of Palestine. Occupying only a small part of the country that Palestinians will still consider rightfully their own, this state will find Palestinian irredentism an overpowering temptation.

This is why, though political commentators may have trouble understanding it, the stubbornness of Palestinian "moderates" on the refugee issue, and their refusal to recognize the Jewish character of Israel, are not bargaining chips they can be expected to give up. They are strategic positions. From the Palestinians' point of view, despite all the suffering caused by the Israeli occupation, there is no hurry. If they achieve a state on their own terms, well and good. If not, so much the better. One way or another, time is on their side.



The hard fact is that British Mandate Palestine never was, and is not today, big enough to accommodate both a Jewish and an Arab state. The "two-state" solution never could succeed and never will.

To assert as much is not to propose an "undivided land of Israel" stretching from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Change "land of Israel" to "Palestine," and you have the solution of Hamas. A Jewish state entertaining any such idea would be engaged in a romantic form of suicide.

Israel will have to withdraw, for the sake of its own survival, from most of the West Bank. It should not do so, however, as part of a settlement establishing a Palestinian state that can only be a permanent danger to it. On the contrary: it should withdraw on its own and in such a way that a Palestinian state will not come into being. Pulling back to the security fence while holding on to all of Jerusalem, without which no Palestinian state is possible, would be the best way of accomplishing this. As I have argued before in these pages, Israel has only one responsibility toward the Palestinians of the West Bank: either to give them full equality as Israeli citizens or to give them full freedom without Israeli occupation or control. It does not owe them a state and has no interest in their having one.

What, then, would happen to them? As I have also argued, left to their own devices the West Bankers would sooner or later join up again with Jordan, a country of 90,000 square kilometers with which they were united between 1949 and 1967. Over half of Jordan's nearly 5.5 million inhabitants are already of Palestinian origin. Physically and culturally, the western part of Jordan is a mirror-image replica of the West Bank. Palestinians have always felt at home in it, more than in any other part of the Arab world.

It is said in objection to this that King Abdullah and the Jordanian ruling class, whose Bedouin origins are not Palestinian, fear an eventual Palestinian takeover, do not therefore want the West Bank with its large and politically unruly Palestinian population, and cannot be forced to re-absorb it against their will. This is true. But the Jordanian ruling class has even more to fear from Islamic fundamentalists than it does from Palestinians, who are well integrated in Jordanian society, and the chaotic West Bank reality that would be left behind by an Israeli withdrawal may make Jordan or Hamas the only two alternatives. In such a case, it is not difficult to imagine Abdullah, with the agreement of Israel and moderate Palestinian elements, sending his army into the West Bank to take control of it. This would be in the Jordanian—as well as in the American and European—interest, not as a favor to Israel.

As for the Gazans, they can be left to stew in the juices of Hamas for as long as it takes for them either to revolt or for Israel to move in militarily and throw Hamas out. In the end, a Jordanian solution would be best for them, too. Transferred to Jordanian sovereignty with a corridor through Israel, Gaza would give Jordan a seaport on the Mediterranean, which would be an economic boon for both parties.

Needless to say, such a scenario has its own potential perils. If the Hashemite regime in Amman ever fell to Palestinian or Islamic radicals, Israel would find itself in a serious situation. On the whole, however, it is safe to say that Palestinian irredentism would be better contained within a Jordanian framework. As citizens of a large and potentially prosperous country like Jordan, the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza would not feel cooped up in a miniature polity in which their opportunities were limited and their frustrations were great. Israel would no longer be the envied big neighbor next door. The grief and anger for what was lost in 1948 would be easier to manage. They might even, with the passage of time, be gotten over entirely.



Will the Olmert-Abbas negotiations fail like all their predecessors? Let us hope so.

Indeed, it is not entirely clear who wants them to succeed. The U.S. State Department and Condoleezza Rice, certainly. Likewise, one presumes, the 49 governments that sent foreign ministers or delegates to the Annapolis meeting. And of course, Israel's eternally hopeful president Shimon Peres, who constructively predicted that Annapolis's failure would be a "catastrophe." And editorial writers and political commentators all over the world who echoed him. But Ehud Olmert? Mahmoud Abbas? President Bush?

Olmert, it might be recalled, is the politician who was elected eighteen months ago on a platform calling for the implementation of Ariel Sharon's unilateral withdrawal plan, which he had strongly backed and which he inherited when Sharon had his stroke. It is not entirely clear what has happened since then to change his mind. Perhaps Hamas's seizure of power in Gaza and the continuing rocket and mortar attacks from there; perhaps Israel's botched war against Hizballah; perhaps the moderate tones of Abbas. And perhaps Olmert, knowing that the time for a West Bank unilateral withdrawal is not ripe, believes that one last round of failed talks with the Palestinians is needed to ripen it.

Abbas, too, may be playing a cagy game. If talks with Olmert are to succeed, they will demand concessions from him that he can hardly afford to make; but if they do not take place at all, his position at the head of the Palestinian Authority is supernumerary. Dragging talks on for as long as possible while alternately ascribing a glimmer of hope to them and blaming Israel for their lack of progress may be his best bet.

And George W. Bush? On the one hand, the President did all he could to make Annapolis a gala occasion and committed himself to following up on it. On the other hand, his pointed remarks in his Annapolis address about Israel's being "a homeland for the Jewish people" indicate that he is perfectly aware of the crucial importance of such a definition, which the Palestinians have repeatedly refused to accept. Perhaps he believes they will reconsider. Perhaps he believes they will not. He has spent his first seven years in the White House as the greatest friend Israel has ever had there. One tends to think that that is how he will leave it.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-Muslim Muslim Pentagon Muslim expert sacked

 Inside the Ring

January 4, 2008
By Bill Gertz - Coughlin sacked

Stephen Coughlin, the Pentagon specialist on Islamic law and Islamist extremism, has been fired from his position on the military's Joint Staff. The action followed a report in this space last week revealing opposition to his work for the military by pro-Muslim officials within the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England.

Mr. Coughlin was notified this week that his contract with the Joint Staff will end in March, effectively halting the career of one of the U.S. government's most important figures in analyzing the nature of extremism and ultimately preparing to wage ideological war against it.

He had run afoul of a key aide to Mr. England, Hasham Islam, who confronted Mr. Coughlin during a meeting several weeks ago when Mr. Islam sought to have Mr. Coughlin soften his views on Islamist extremism.

Mr. Coughlin was accused directly by Mr. Islam of being a Christian zealot or extremist "with a pen," according to defense officials. Mr. Coughlin appears to have become one of the first casualties in the war of ideas with Islamism.

The officials said Mr. Coughlin was let go because he had become "too hot" or controversial within the Pentagon.

Misguided Pentagon officials, including Mr. Islam and Mr. England, have initiated an aggressive "outreach" program to U.S. Muslim groups that critics say is lending credibility to what has been identified as a budding support network for Islamist extremists, including front groups for the radical Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr. Coughlin wrote a memorandum several months ago based on documents made public in a federal trial in Dallas that revealed a covert plan by the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian-origin Islamist extremist group, to subvert the United States using front groups. Members of one of the identified front groups, the Islamic Society of North America, has been hosted by Mr. England at the Pentagon.

After word of the confrontation between Mr. Coughlin and Mr. Islam was made public, support for Mr. Coughlin skyrocketed among those in and out of government who feared the worst, namely that pro-Muslim officials in the Pentagon were after Mr. Coughlin's scalp, and that his departure would be a major setback for the Pentagon's struggling efforts to develop a war of ideas against extremism. Blogs lit up with hundreds of postings, some suggesting that Mr. England's office is "penetrated" by the enemy in the war on terrorism.

Kevin Wensing, a spokesman for Mr. England, said "no one in the deputy's office had any input into this decision" by the Joint Staff to end Mr. Coughlin's contract. A Joint Staff spokesman had no immediate comment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, January 4, 2008

Jews in USA: Outsiders trying to get in

An old story - Jews as outsiders trying to get in. This movie began playing in ancient Egypt, about 1800 BC probably. In the 19th and 20th century, the drama has been played over and over. It doesn't always have a Hollywood ending. Some of the outsiders who are trying to get in, are very anxious to shed their embarrasing associations with Israel and Judaism.
It says:
Instead, this film, which cost more than $3.2 million to produce, is a fresh, intelligent take on the story of Jews in America, structured around the themes of identity and adaptation: how one small immigrant group fought its way into the American mainstream while managing to hold onto its core traditions.
Did the people who made it to the mainstream all manage to hold on to their core traditions? Sure. Hannukah bushes for example, are an ancient Jewish custom, first mentioned in the book of Hannukah bushes. Marrying non-Jews is also an ancient Jewish tradition, as are rabbinical sermons on the "Shukaynah." Fire sales are another ancient Jewish tradition.
It says:
The Jewish Americans" its lyrical beauty is its technique of having living Jews, famous or not, tell their ancestors' stories. It's a brilliant device that works just as well whether it's an unknown woman talking about her family's colonial-era matriarch or Irving Berlin's daughter offering tidbits from her famous father's songwriting career.
Like, WOW:
My grandfather was Benjamin Seigel. The world knew him as "Bugsy." He is responsible for turning Las Vegas into Las Vegas. He had many brilliant idiosyncrasies and was very handy with a Thompson submachine gun. When he was found to be cheating the mob, he met a tragic end.
Alright, alright, I'm being cynical. You don't have to be Jewish to love the film, but I am sure that with Schmaltz it's loaded already.
Ami Iseeroff
PBS film shows U.S. Jews as outsiders trying to get in

By Sue Fishkoff  Published: 12/30/2007
SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- When I sat down to watch "The Jewish Americans," a six-hour PBS documentary set to air this month, I expected it to begin at Ellis Island.
That's the hackneyed image most often used to sum up American Jewish history: Nothing says American Jewry like an overcrowded boat sailing into New York harbor.
But this film opens differently, with a lonely Jewish peddler trudging through the woods and a voice-over proclaiming, ?Jews were considered outsiders.?
Ellis Island does show up later -- along with the Catskills and the Holocaust -- but in that first quiet image filmmaker David Grubin demonstrates his film will not be the usual chronological review of key moments in American Jewish history.
Instead, this film, which cost more than $3.2 million to produce, is a fresh, intelligent take on the story of Jews in America, structured around the themes of identity and adaptation: how one small immigrant group fought its way into the American mainstream while managing to hold onto its core traditions.
It is, as one on-screen interviewee says, the story of "the outsider pressing his nose up against the window and looking in."
It is also a film aimed at a general audience -- a smart audience, but not necessarily a Jewish one. Grubin told JTA he "tried hard not to do inside baseball."
Jews look good in Grubin's film. He emphasizes Judaism's prophetic tradition as he focuses on American Jewish contributions to abolitionism, civil rights, social justice and other universal causes, showing individual Jews reaching outside their parochial interests to make America a better place.
Jewish warts show up largely as a function of wealth: Jews owned slaves in the antebellum South, Jews were the owners of the Lower East Side sweatshops that oppressed Jewish (and other) workers. It's a slant, but so is the more usual "everyone's-against-us-but-we-got-to-the-top-anyway" conceit at the center of some Jews' account of their own history in this country.
Much of what gives "The Jewish Americans" its lyrical beauty is its technique of having living Jews, famous or not, tell their ancestors' stories. It's a brilliant device that works just as well whether it's an unknown woman talking about her family?s colonial-era matriarch or Irving Berlin?s daughter offering tidbits from her famous father?s songwriting career.
The technique of people telling their ancestors? stories is also a powerful illustration of how the careful transmission of tradition has preserved the Jewish community.
In one particularly poignant vignette, a woman wraps up the story of her great-great-grandmother, who raised nine Jewish children on the Arizona frontier, by pointing to the pearl necklace she is wearing. She notes it once belonged to her ancestor, declaring, "The tradition is transforming again, and here I am."
It's also great fun when Grubin gets famous personalities to move outside their comfort zone, a kind of People magazine titillation for the PBS crowd.
Thus we have Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, usually interviewed defending gay culture, talking about his grandparents on the Lower East Side and his regret that young Jews today will never know that immigrant generation. Michael Tilson Thomas, music director of the San Francisco Symphony, tells the colorful story of his grandfather Boris Tomashevky, star of the early Yiddish theater. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg relates how, in her freshman dormitory at Cornell University, she and the other girls on her corridor realized they were all Jewish, as if the school had put them together "so we wouldn't contaminate" the other students.
Certainly, the thematic structure of this film and the way it dwells at length on key events and individuals that illustrate those themes means that a lot of history gets left out.
The most obvious is the story of how Judaism itself grew and changed in America, a story Grubin says wasn?t his focus; he?s interested in how American Jews interacted with the greater society, not how the community developed internally.
The least successful of the three two-hour episodes is the last, covering the postwar period, and it is still riveting. Sections on the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the struggle for Soviet Jewry, the Jewish contribution to the women?s movement and Jews in the civil rights battle are excellent, particularly the filmmaker?s uncompromising look at how the black-Jewish alliance of the early 1960s broke down.
But short shrift is given to the past two decades, with an awkward focus on the marginal: A meditation service, Matisyahu and "The Hebrew Hammer" don?t quite convey the full richness of Jewish innovation at the dawn of the 21st century. That final blip, however, is a rare misstep in this magnificent tale, beautifully told.
The Jewish Americans, a production of JTN Productions, WETA Washington, DC, and David Grubin Productions, Inc., in association with Thirteen/WNET New York, will be aired on PBS in three parts on Jan. 9, 16 and 23.

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No Olmert, Abbas, Bush Summit during Bush visit

Bush won't convene Olmert, Abbas during visit
Published: 01/04/2008

President Bush will not convene an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit during his visit to the region next week.
Bush, who will be making his first visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority as president on January 9 to 11, was widely expected to hold a three-way meeting with Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas.
But Israel Radio quoted White House sources on Friday as saying that Bush's schedule would not allow a summit.
In an interview with Reuters, Bush said he expected progress during his separate talks with the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian Authority president.
"There will definitely be substantial talks with the Israelis and the Palestinians," he said.

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Is the problem suicide bombing or terror?

Simon Wiesenthal Center is sponsoring a drive to outlaw suicide bombing. Well let's say it is outlawed, and let's say that Osama Bin Laden and company get the UN resolutions and say "By Allah, we have to respect the UN." Did we accomplish anything? Not really, because Bin Laden and company will find ways to kill people without suicide bombing. The victims of 9-11 would be just as dead if the hijacker pilots had managed to save themselves, and Benazir Bhutto would be just as dead if her attacker had shot her and escaped in the crowds.
The problem is terror and the violent hateful teachings that inspire it, not suicide bombing.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:07 04/01/2008    
 Wiesenthal Center calls on UN to formally address suicide attacks  By Reuters
A week after Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack, a Jewish human rights group has taken out a full page ad in the New York Times on Friday demanding that the United Nations formally address suicide bombings.
The ad by the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center features a picture of Bhutto beneath the words "SUICIDE TERROR: What more will it take for the world to act?" and calls on the United Nations for a special session devoted to the issue.
"Unless we put suicide bombing on the top of the international community's agenda, this virulent cancer could engulf us all," it reads. "The looming threat of WMDs in the hands of suicide bombers will dwarf the casualties already suffered in 30 countries."
In the ad, which will also run in the International Herald Tribune, the Simon Wiesenthal Center also calls on the United Nations to declare suicide bombings "crimes against humanity."
Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center's founder and dean, said Bhutto's assassination showed it was time for the United Nations to devote a full special session to ending suicide bombings.
"If we don't put it on the top of the international agenda, the causalities we are seeing now will be nothing compared to what's in store for us in the future," he said by phone. "Thirty or 40 years from now the reports will be: '100,000 people died today in suicide biological attack.'"
Hier noted that the UN has called special sessions to deal with such issues as global warming and AIDS and should do the same for suicide bombings in 2008.
Bhutto's assassination last week, as she left an election rally in Rawalpindi, threw Pakistan into turmoil and left questions about who was behind the gun and suicide bomb attack.

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Moderate Palestinians immoderately criticize Israel

As moderate Palestinians through moderate stones at IDF forces trying to arrest non-moderate Palestinian terrorists, moderate Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad immoderately criticized Israel for mounting a major military sweep in the West Bank, to catch the non-moderate terrorists that the Western back Palestinian security plan left at large.
The master security plan appears to have these components:
Palestinians take credit for Israeli security successes including uncovering a terrorist workshop in the raid that was criticized.
Palestinians give shelter to terrorists who killed Israeli soldiers and obstruct justice.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 14:09 04/01/2008    
 Palestinian PM lambasts Israel over W. Bank raids 
 By Reuters 
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad criticised Israel on Friday for mounting a major military sweep in the West Bank, saying such intervention was ruining a Western-backed internal Palestinian security plan.
Hundreds of Israel Defense Forces troops flooded Nablus on Wednesday, conducting house-to-house searches, detaining at least 6 Palestinians. The move triggered a confrontation with stone-throwing youths in which, hospital officials said, at least 29 people were injured.
"These operations destroy our efforts in the field of security, which started bearing fruits lately in a way that people felt the change," Fayyad said in a statement.
The exercise, which continues, was the biggest since Palestinian police deployed in the West Bank city as part of a bid by President Mahmoud Abbas to build diplomatic ties with Israel by showing he can rein in militants.
Fayyad masterminded the security plan with Western help after the Abbas government lost control of Gaza to Islamist Hamas in June. He said Israel's actions in Nablus and elsewhere had "a tremendous negative impact on efforts being exerted, including at international level, to revive the peace process."
The rebuke looked likely to add to a mood of recrimination which has muddied Israeli-Palestinian peace talks relaunched at an international conference in Annapolis, Marlyland in November.
U.S. President George W. Bush is due to visit the region next week to discuss the points of dispute with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert said on Sunday there would be no easing of Israel's security measures in the West Bank, which include hundreds of roadblocks that impede Palestinian movement, until Abbas's forces prove effective against militants.
Palestinian authorities say the deployment of their police in Nablus and two other West Bank cities, Tulkarm and Bethlehem, has brought calm, with suspects arrested and weapons seized.
Two off-duty IDF soldiers were killed in a West Bank ambush last week which Olmert's office blamed on members of Abbas's security services. The Palestinians denied that charge and said they had made two arrests.

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President Bush likely to return to Israel in May

 Last update - 15:47 04/01/2008       
U.S. President George Bush is likely to visit Israel again in May
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
U.S. President George Bush is likely to visit Israel again later this year, Haaretz has learnt.
Bush is expected to attend an international convention which President Shimon Peres will hold in May to mark Israel's 60th anniversary. Bush was invited a few months ago, but only recently has Washington confirmed his participation.
The event is organized by a special team of The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an independent academic body affiliated to the Jewish Agency. It will deal with diverse issues, from the future of the Jewish people, to geo-politics, technology and environment.
Numerous world leaders and leading scientists will be invited over the next few days.

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Report: Olmert and King of Jordan discussed division of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees

Wouldn't we like to know what they really discussed? It states:
Reportedly, during the meeting, intended to coordinate positions ahead of a visit by US President George W. Bush slated for next week, Abdullah II told Olmert that the latter had to stand up to commitments he made in the past, and begin making public statements regarding the division of Jerusalem.
Is Abdullah applying for the job of speechwriter in the Israeli government? It doesn't pay very well I bet.
Ami Isseroff
'Olmert, Abdullah II discussed division of Jerusalem' Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 4, 2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Jordan's king Abdullah II discussed the division of Israel's capital Jerusalem during a brief visit Olmert held with the monarch Thursday, the London based Al Hayat reported Friday.

Quoting Jordanian sources, the prime minister and the king discussed at length issues relating to a final status settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Apart from the potentiality of ceding parts of Jerusalem, the two also addressed the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Reportedly, during the meeting, intended to coordinate positions ahead of a visit by US President George W. Bush slated for next week, Abdullah II told Olmert that the latter had to stand up to commitments he made in the past, and begin making public statements regarding the division of Jerusalem.

Israel Radio reported earlier that official statements from Jordan said that the monarch wanted to avoid unilateral actions and that Olmert clarified that Israel was not intending to build new settlements.

The meeting, in the southern Jordanian seaside resort of Aqaba, went unreported in the press until it was already underway due to security concerns.

A day earlier, Abdullah II met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


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Israeli Silence about Egyptian perfidy

Scared of the old man?
Israel's leaders silent as Egypt ignores agreement, lets Hamas pilgrims into Gaza
Roni Sofer YNET Published: 01.04.08, 00:12 / Israel Opinion

Minutes before Egyptian police officers opened the gates and let Hamas pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia back into the Gaza Strip, Amos Gilad's phone rang. On the other end was an acquaintance from Cairo. Major General (Res.) Gilad from the Defense Ministry has some good connections in the Egyptian capital. We are opening the gates, the Egyptian caller informed the stunned Gilad.

Only three weeks ago, Gilad traveled to Cairo to warn our Egyptian allies that the pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia include some Hamas men, including some terrorists who headed for training in Iran. He also warned that they will be bringing back plenty of money, aimed at greasing the wheels of the terror machine. Yet what the Egyptians heard in one ear immediately came out of the other ear.

Olmert, Livni, and Barak were stunned. The Egyptians made a move that could have only one meaning: Completely ignoring all the understandings reached with Israel. It is one thing to ignore past understandings, reached on the eve of the isengagement, regarding their responsibility for the border with Gaza. This time around they disregarded a fresh agreement from last week, reached when President Mubarak met Defense Minister Barak.

One of the people who was there when the news arrived later said he felt like Cairo was showing contempt to Israel; that it was disregarding basic rules of conduct between states, not to mention states that have a peace agreement and understandings on cooperation in the war against Islamic terrorism.

Nobody said a word

However, the feelings of Israeli leaders are one thing, and their actions are an entirely different thing. The "Mubarak effect", that is, the inexplicable paralysis vis-a-vis the Middle East's elder statesman, worked its magic again. Haunted by fears of the man who recently dispatched his foreign minister to blast our own foreign minister, our leaders chose to say nothing.

After they saw what the old man did to the woman who dared claim that Cairo is not doing its share to stop the smuggling on the Philadelphi Route, Israel's leadership went silent. Nobody said a word. Even Lieberman and Dichter, who are among the most prominent critics of Egypt when it comes to its conduct on the Gaza border, remained silent.

A day late, Jerusalem issued a weak official statement about viewing the latest developments with concern and severity, as they "undermine the war on terror and the efforts to bring about calm and advance the peace process." And who was the undersigned? Neither Olmert, nor any of his deputies, and certainly not Livni or any other cabinet member.

Nobody wanted to handle this hot potato, which Egypt hurled into Israeli territory. The Mubarak effect, no doubt, worked its magic.

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A Jewish State -- Gerald Steinberg

A Jewish State

By Gerald Steinberg

One hundred and ten years ago (1897), during the first World Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, Theodore Herzl "founded the Jewish state," as he wrote in his diary. His words and the actions of the Zionist movement to restore Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel after 2,000 years in exile, and to transform the Jewish people into a nation like all the others, electrified the Diaspora. 

Forty years later, on November 29 1947, more than two thirds of members of the United Nations agreed. They voted to approve the plan to create two states – one for the Jews, and one for the Arabs. But the Arabs refused, launching a campaign of terror, followed in May 1948 by a full scale invasion. And after they were defeated, they adopted a political strategy by exploiting the plight of the refugees and inventing the "right of return" mythology, (aided by the United Nations) as a means of seeking to reverse the outcome.

Sixty years have passed, and this rejectionism remains in place. At times, its expression has been muted for tactical reasons, particularly following Arab military defeats, in order to allow time for recovery and planning for the next assault on Israel. After the 1967 war, the language shifted to condemnations of settlements and "occupation", but the goal did not change, as restated by the Arab leaders meeting in Khartoum.  In 1993, Yassir Arafat and his PLO movement seemed to accept Israel's legitimacy by appearing in public with Prime Minister Rabin and signing letters of mutual recognition. But Arafat's intention was entirely different, and he clung to the 1947 policies by repeating the language of rejectionism, and avoiding changes in the refugee myths.

The Arab and Moslem rejectionists cultivated allies among intellectuals, radical academics, journalists, political leaders and activists, and
antisemites, particularly in Britain and Europe, but also in North America and elsewhere. The 1975 United Nations resolution declaring "Zionism is racism" was one expression of this rejectionism, and it was repeated in the NGO Forum of the UN's 2001 Durban conference, which included "respected groups" such as Human Rights Watch. This goal is also behind the boycotts of Israeli universities, publicity on the BBC and elsewhere for the "one state solution" (meaning the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state), "apartheid week" activities at universities, and the barrage of false claims of "war crimes", human rights violations, and "collective punishment".  

Such campaigns are central to the obsessive efforts to deny the Jewish people the right to national self-determination. For some leaders of the Anglican Church in the UK, Catholic theologians, and others, this objective reflects antisemitism, in the form of replacement theology, which views the Exile of the Jewish people is a form of divine punishment. For them, the return of the Jews to the world stage, and sovereign equality with the Christian nations of Europe is unacceptable, regardless of boundaries, policies and other details. Others reflect the "Lawrence of Arabia syndrome", patronizing the Arabs as compensation for the sins of colonialism, particularly under the British. The efforts of both groups have intensified as they understood that Israel is not simply going to fade away in a few years, as many had expected.

In response, Israelis have started to demand explicit public and unambiguous acceptance as a Jewish state, reflecting Jewish culture, holidays, language, etc., just as France is French, Italy is Italian, Iran is Islamic, etc. Fourteen years after the exuberance of Oslo, with the renewal of peace talks at the Annapolis meeting, Prime Minister Olmert put the recognition of the right of the Jews to sovereign equality squarely on the table. Unless the Palestinians, the Saudi leadership, Bashar Assad's regime in Syria, and others who claim to be interested in peace end their campaigns to delegitimize Israel, the conflict will continue.  Similarly, as long as the demonization continues in the United Nations, and has strong support in the UK and Europe, these governments cannot be considered to be serious partners in peace efforts.
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is chairman of the Political Studies department at Bar Ilan University, and Executive Director of NGO Monitor.
Published in the
Canadian Jewish News, 20 December 2007 

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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Civilian deaths in Gaza, whose fault ?

This from IDF SPOX regarding the deaths of several civilians in Gaza today:
January 3rd, 2008

Regarding the incident earlier today in which civilians got hurt, the IDF Spokesperson wishes to clarify:

Armed gunmen entrenched themselves in a house near IDF forces that were operating against terror threats in the southern Gaza Strip. The gunmen fired heavily at the forces, from within the house, using several anti-tank missiles and small-arms. The forces responded with tank fire towards the sources of fire, killing two armed gunmen and apparently two Palestinian women who were with the gunmen in the house at the time. The IDF wishes to clarify that the responsibility for the death of the Palestinian women lies with the gunmen, who operated intentionally from a civilian environment.

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Livni: Our job is to bring the facts to the heart of the international debate

Livni got it right mostly. But she said:

You on the campuses are fighting on an additional front - the front of Israeli hasbara - explaining Israel's positions. I know it's not easy to defend our values when the discrepancy between who we are and how we are represented in many places in the world is so great.

No, Tzippi Livni. That is not solely the battle of American students or Hasbara volunteers. Bring the facts to the heart of the international debate should be be the job of the Israel foreign ministry, first and foremost, and they are not doing it very well.

Ami Isseroff

Remarks by FM Tzipi Livni to American Jewish student leaders from the Israel
on Campus Coalition (ICC)

2 Jan 2008
Our job is to bring the facts to the heart of the international debate - not as an excuse, but in order to provide a complete picture of the complexity of the situation that Israel must deal with and the threats we are facing.


Each and every one of us is fighting simultaneously on three fronts:

First - we are fighting for Israel's existence. This is a war against terrorism, as well as a struggle for Israel's existence as a national home for the Jewish people, against the ongoing process of delegitimization.

Second - we are fighting antisemitism, which is rearing its ugly head.

And third - the war of the free world against the extremists. This front is here as well as on the campuses.

You on the campuses are fighting on an additional front - the front of Israeli hasbara - explaining Israel's positions. I know it's not easy to defend our values when the discrepancy between who we are and how we are represented in many places in the world is so great.

The international community often makes decisions based on images rather than history, justice or facts. There are leaders who know exactly what must be done, but are swayed by public opinion in their countries and allow their decisions to be compromised. These compromises harm our values, but, more importantly, they harm their own values. We are prepared to be criticized and judged on the steps Israel takes - as long as we are judged according to the scale of values and principles that the international community follows itself.

The hasbara front must be based on facts. The world as recently been asking, and sometimes criticizing, Israel about construction in the settlements. How many people in the world are aware that two Israelis were murdered over the weekend by men connected to the Palestinian security services? Our job is to bring the facts to the heart of the international debate - not as an excuse, but in order to provide a complete picture of the complexity of the situation that Israel must deal with and the threats we are facing, when failure to take action against terrorism means a painful toll in human lives.

The struggle we are engaged in is a struggle of moderates versus extremists. Most of the challenges confronting Israel are challenges faced by the entire free world. The regional conflict is not the source of this dichotomy, nor the values for which Israel is fighting and which are shared by the free world. The fight against terror, against dangerous regimes that strive to acquire weapons of mass destruction, such as Iran, the fight against the spread of hatred and incitement - Israel stands on the frontlines of this fight. The international community must uphold the principles and values for which we are fighting, in the face of those who would exploit them in order to hurt all of us.

This is not a story of David and Goliath. Our values teach us not to use all of the power at our disposal. Civilians are hurt on both sides, but the chasmal difference between us is that the Israeli soldier would never deliberately harm an innocent civilian and would never receive an order to do so. Terrorism, in contrast, looks for the queue at a discotheque, or a pizzeria or a bus stop in order to harm as many civilians as possible. Talking in one breath about victims on both sides implies an equation, as it were, between them which does not exist. We expect world leaders to acknowledge the facts and to judge Israel as they would judge themselves.

We are willing to accept legitimate criticism, but not antisemitism disguised as legitimate criticism, arising from a double standard applied to Israel compared to what is done in other countries.

We entered a diplomatic process for the sake of Israel's supreme goal - to preserve itself as a democratic Jewish state, the national home of the Jewish people living securely in the land of Israel. In order to maintain that supreme goal, we recognize the need to provide a response to Palestinian national aspirations - in an independent state of their own that will provide a complete answer to the national aspirations of all Palestinians.

This process exists only if it is premised on the understanding that Israel's security is as much a Palestinian interest as it is an Israeli one, inasmuch as this issue will have consequences for every future arrangement between us on the road to establishing a Palestinian state. We will insist that another terrorist state does not arise here - and this is a clear international interest. We expect the international community to back Israel as it combats terrorism and incitement while moving forward in the diplomatic process.


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Jews in Portugal - after 500 years

Last update - 11:09 03/01/2008    
 After 500 years in hiding, Jews bring prosperity to Iberian town 
By Rachel Nolan, The Forward 

Belmonte, Portugal - While most of the towns in central Portugal are suffering through difficult economic times, this small village northeast of Lisbon is enjoying a revival: The past decade has seen the construction of a luxury hotel and a museum, and tourism is booming.
The cause? Jews.
Conversos, to be exact. Belmonte, a town of 3,600, is home to some 300 descendants of Jews who survived the Inquisition by practicing their religion in secret - the only sizable community of these "secret Jews" to remain on the Iberian Peninsula.
 Until the 1990s, the Belmonte conversos kept their history to themselves. But since warily emerging from secrecy, the Jews here have generated a small local economy in one of the most economically depressed regions of Western Europe - one that is benefiting Jew and non-Jew alike.
"We are so happy to have work," said Ana Maria Monteirineho, who, along with fellow Catholic Maria de Coneceição Mendes, found new employment with a sewing collective that opened in 2004 in the town center. One of the collective?s tasks is embroidering "shalom" onto lavender sachets to be sold at the new Jewish Museum. "[The tourists] come for the museum," she said. "They come to see the Jews."
Indeed, companies that specialize in Jewish tourism are noting that Belmonte is an easy sell. For starters, interest in Jewish Portugal in general has been growing. Functioning synagogues in Lisbon and Porto that mostly serve Eastern European immigrants are seeing more visitors. And last year, a Roman Catholic priest in Porto knocked down a false wall to find vestiges of a pre-Inquisition synagogue while renovating his home. But Belmonte is special. It seems to offer more than Lisbon and Toledo, both of which are full of Jewish history but empty of actual Jews, not to mention that a discovery of another community of crypto-Jews is unlikely to happen anywhere else, ever again.
Distinctive Belmonte has attracted international funds, including enough from one French donor to build the small but magnificent synagogue in 1997. And then there is the large Jewish Museum, which has seen more than 14,000 visitors since its opening in 2005. The museum guestbook shows that Portuguese, Israeli and American tourists are the most common, but there have also been visitors from places as far away as Mozambique, Montenegro and Japan.
Abilio Henriques, the 68-year-old elected president of the Jewish community, now spends Sunday afternoons collecting entrance fees and directing visitors into the wood-and-velvet interior of his local synagogue.
"Kippah for men, none for women," Henriques explains as people walk in.
Henriques's aunt, Ana Marão, 72, sews Stars of David on the challah covers and tablecloths that she crochets for a living. "Now, the symbol is fine, but earlier..." Marão said as she drew her hand across her throat.
It was this fear that kept Marão's ancestors from practicing their Judaism. Sephardic Jews are thought to have inhabited Portugal since 10 BCE. The earliest relic of Jewish life in Belmonte is an inscribed granite reliquary dated to 1297 from the town?s first synagogue. But in 1497, King Manuel I ordered Portuguese Jews to convert to Catholicism or flee. Many Jews opted to maintain their religion in secret, leading to such rituals as submerging Sabbath candles in clay jars, according TO local historian David Canelo.
Even after the Inquisition officially ended in 1821, local Jews kept their rites secret.
"It was a matter of tradition," said University of California, Los Angeles?s Eduardo Mayone Dias, professor emeritus, who has written about Belmonte. "That had been their only method of survival. The fear of Inquisition and of outside influence was very real."
This finally began to change in 1994, when a representative from the converso community invited a rabbi from Israel to officially convert a group in Belmonte. They emerged from secrecy partly because of increased openness across Portugal after the 1974 bloodless transition to democracy from António Salazar's dictatorship, and partly because they desired contact with other Jewish communities. In addition, footage of conversos in Belmonte in a French documentary called ?The Last Marranos," released in 1990, heralded the first wave of tourists.
The broader success that the tourists have brought is evident: Where other towns in rural Portugal are plagued with empty lots, Belmonte is ringed with a crop of new houses, and construction is still under way. The streets are clean, and the town park, lined with miniature orange trees, is well groomed.
"People want to come because this is the only really Jewish part of Portugal," said Cristina Brito, director of Lisbon-based Mourisca Tours. Brito's company is one of a number that have sprung up to meet the demand for organized trips to visit Belmonte. One brochure urges visitors to try "Inquisition-defeating sausage," a local recipe in which chicken is substituted for pork.
This is a stark change from 500 years of secrecy, and not all local Jews enjoy being the object of scrutiny. Visitors trying to enter the synagogue during services are often redirected to the museum. Indeed, a number of Jewish families steer clear of both the synagogue and the tourist industry, practicing the way their ancestors did, with women leading ceremonies at home. Belmonte has seen a cycle of rabbis from Israel and Brazil, none of whom stays for more than a few years. Some attribute this to the difficulty of reconciling modern Jewish practices with those of Belmonte, developed in isolation for centuries.
"I am one of the only Jews who invites strangers into my home," said Marão, whose family was among the first to convert. "They are still afraid. I don?t know what of."

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

PA: Palestinian authority foils suicide attack

So where is the tape?? Still, the fact that such an announcement could be made shows tremendous progress from the days when it was obligatory to praise suicide bombers as "martyrs."
Palestinians security forces capture suicide bomber, bomb ingredients, official says
The Associated Press
Published: December 31, 2007

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Palestinian security forces in the West Bank recently arrested a Hamas cell that planned a suicide attack in Israel, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said Monday. A videotape showing a suicide bomber detailing his intentions to blow up an Israeli target was also seized, Malki said at a news conference.
The announcement came a week before U.S. President George W. Bush visits the region to promote peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians are eager to prove they are cracking down on militants which is a central demand of the negotiations.
"We confiscated huge amounts of mercury in Nablus," Malki told reporters. "This mercury is used for explosives and especially in preparing detonators," he said.
Malki refused to elaborate or answer reporters' questions about the incident. He did not show the videotape to reporters or release the name of the alleged bomber. The Israeli military said it had no knowledge of the case.
Hamas has carried out dozens of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of Israelis, though the militant Islamic group hasn't successfully carried out a bombing in Israel in the past two years.
Hamas militants control the Gaza Strip and are bitter rivals of the West Bank government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

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Israeli and Palestinian Arabs prefer Israel

This repeats what we have found over and over. I remember going to Gaza when it was still possible to do so. The Israeli Arab taxi driver pointed at the Erez checkpoint as we were going back and said "By us there is democracy. Over there there is chaos." That was in 1999, long before the currrent mess. Here is a quote:
"I don't want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here," says Ranya Mohammed. "I'll go and live in Israel before I'll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport. I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I'm not ready to give up."
But those who want all those things must be willing to work to build them and fight to defend them. What we have wasn't conjured out of thin air.
Ami Isseroff

Palestinians Who Prefer Israel

by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
January 2, 2008

Palestinians have a hidden history of appreciating Israel that contrasts with their better-known narrative of vilification and irredentism.

The former has been particularly evident of late, especially since Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, floated a trial balloon in October about transferring some Arab-dominated areas of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority. As he rhetorically asked about Israeli actions in 1967, "Was it necessary to annex the Shuafat refugee camp, al-Sawahra, Walajeh, and other villages, and then to state that these are part of Jerusalem? One can ask, I admit, some legitimate questions about this."

In one swoop, this statement transformed pro-Israel statements by Palestinians (for a sampling, see my 2005 article, "The Hell of Israel Is Better than the Paradise of Arafat") from the mostly theoretical into the active and political.

Indeed, Olmert's musings prompted some belligerent responses. As the title of a Globe and Mail news item puts it, "Some Palestinians prefer life in Israel: In East Jerusalem, residents say they would fight a handover to Abbas regime." The article offers the example of Nabil Gheit, who, with two stints in Israeli prisons and posters of "the martyr Saddam Hussein" over the cash register in his store, would be expected to cheer the prospect of parts of eastern Jerusalem coming under PA control.

Not so. As mukhtar of Ras Khamis, near Shuafat, Gheit dreads the PA and says he and others would fight a handover. "If there was a referendum here, no one would vote to join the Palestinian Authority. … There would be another intifada to defend ourselves from the PA."

Two polls released last week, from Keevoon Research, Strategy & Communications and the Arabic-language newspaper As-Sennara, survey representative samples of adult Israeli Arabs on the issue of joining the PA, and they corroborate what Gheit says. Asked, "Would you prefer to be a citizen of Israel or of a new Palestinian state?" 62 percent want to remain Israeli citizens and 14 percent want to join a future Palestinian state. Asked, "Do you support transferring the Triangle [an Arab-dominated area in northern Israel] to the Palestinian Authority?" 78 percent oppose the idea and 18 percent support it.

Ignoring the don't-knows/refused, the ratios of respondents are nearly identical preferring to stay within Israel – 82 percent and 81 percent, respectively. Gheit exaggerates that "no one" wants to live in the PA, but not by much. Thousands of Palestinian residents in Jerusalem who, fearful of the PA, have applied for Israeli citizenship since Olmert's statement further corroborate his point.

Why such affection for the state that Palestinians famously revile the media, in scholarship, classrooms, mosques, and international bodies, that they terrorize on a daily basis? Best to let them explain their motivations in direct quotations.

·         Financial considerations: "I don't want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here," says Ranya Mohammed. "I'll go and live in Israel before I'll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport. I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I'm not ready to give up."

·         Law and order: Gazans, note Israeli-Arab journalists Faiz Abbas and Muhammad Awwad, now "miss the Israelis, since Israel is more merciful than [the Palestinian gunmen] who do not even know why they are fighting and killing one another. It's like organized crime."

·         Raising children: "I want to live in peace and to raise my children in an orderly school," says Jamil Sanduqa. "I don't want to raise my child on throwing stones, or on Hamas."

·         A more predictable future: "I want to keep living here with my wife and child without having to worry about our future. That's why I want Israeli citizenship. I don't know what the future holds," says Samar Qassam, 33.

Others raise concerns about corruption, human rights, and even self-esteem ("When the Jews talk about swapping me, it's as though they are denying my right to be a person").

These earnest views do not repudiate the vicious anti-Zionism that reigns in the Middle East, but they reveal that four-fifths of those Palestinians who know Israel at first-hand understand the attractions of a decent life in a decent country, a fact with important and positive implications.


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After Annapolis: What Chance for Agreement with Abbas and the PLO?

This can hardly be understood as serious analysis, but it is worthy of perusal.
Ami Isseroff
Jerusalem Issue Brief
Vol. 7, No. 26    1 January 2008
After Annapolis: What Chance for Agreement with Abbas and the PLO?
Efraim Karsh
·        In reality, there is no fundamental difference between the ultimate goals of Hamas and the PLO vis-à-vis Israel: Neither accepts the Jewish state's right to exist and both are committed to its eventual destruction. The only difference between the two groups lies in their preferred strategies for the attainment of this goal. 
·        Whereas Hamas concentrates exclusively on "armed struggle," the PLO has adopted since the early 1990s a more subtle strategy, combining intricate political and diplomatic maneuvering with sustained terror attacks. In the candid words of Farouq Qaddoumi, the PLO's perpetual foreign minister: "We were never different from Hamas. Hamas is a national movement. Strategically, there is no difference between us."
·        Such attitudes are commonplace among supposed moderates, notably Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Arafat's successor and perhaps the foremost symbol of supposed Palestinian moderation. For all their drastically different personalities and political style, Arafat and Abu Mazen are warp and woof of the same fabric: dogmatic PLO veterans who have never eschewed their commitment to Israel's destruction an d who have viewed the "peace process" as the continuation of their lifetime war by other means. 
·        By categorically refusing to recognize Israel's Jewishness, the Palestinian leadership has effectively rejected the two-state solution, based, in the words of the UN partition resolution of November 29, 1948, on the creation of "independent Arab and Jewish States" in Palestine. 
·        In his Annapolis address, Abbas insisted that "the plight of Palestinian refugees...must be accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194." Yet Resolution 194 (passed on December 11, 1948) puts the return of Palestinian refugees on a par with the "resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees" in other countries; indeed, that provision made the resolution anathema to the Ar ab states, which opposed it vehemently and voted unanimously against it because the measure was seen, correctly, as establishing no absolute "right of return." 
·        To deny the depth of the PLO's commitment to Israel's destruction is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased through Israeli concessions is to play into its hands. Only when Palestinians reconcile themselves to the existence of the Jewish state and eschew their genocidal hopes will the inhabitants of the Holy Land, and the rest of the world, b e able to look forward to a future less burdened by Arafats and their gory dreams.
The PLO Vision of Palestine in Place of Israel
In August 1968, shortly before seizing control of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Yasir Arafat urged "the transfer of all resistance bases" into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, conquered by Israel during the June 1967 war, so as to launch a sustained terrorist campaign that would undermine Israel's way of life by "preventing immigration and encouraging emigration...destroying tourism...weakening the Israeli economy and diverting the greater part of it to security requirements...[and] creating and maintaining an atmosphere of strain and anxiety that will force the Zionists to realize that it is impossible for them to live in Israel."
Forty years later, with salvos of Gaza-fired missiles raining down on Israeli towns and villages on a daily basis, Arafat's words seem prophetic. Yet his plan for victory would have remained a chimera had it not been for the Rabin government, which in 1993 invited the PLO, a group formally committed to Israel's destruction by virtue of its covenant, to establish a firm political and military presence on its doorstep.
More than this, Israel was prepared to arm thousands of (hopefully reformed) terrorists, who would be incorporated into newly established police and security forces charged with asserting the PLO's authority throughout the territories. In the words of the prominent Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini, Israel was willingly introducing into its midst a "Trojan Horse" designed to promote the PLO's strategic goal of "Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea" - that is, a Palestine in place of Israel.
In line with this thinking, from the moment of his arrival in Gaza in July 1994 to lay the ground for Palestinian statehood at peace with its Israeli neighbor, Arafat engaged in an intricate exercise in duplicity, speaking the language of peace to Israeli and Western audiences while building up an extensive terrorist infrastructure and backing anti-Israel terror attacks. By the time of his death in November 2004, Arafat had transformed the territories transferred to PLO control - the Gaza Strip and the West Bank's populated areas - into an effective terrorist state and had launched a vicious terror war (euphemized as the al-Aqsa intifada after the Jerusalem mosque) that plunged Israel into one of the greatest traumas in its history.
No Difference in Goals of Hamas and Fatah
One might have hoped that, eleven years and thousands of deaths after the launch of the Oslo process, the international community would pay closer attention to what the Palestinian leadership was actually saying (in Arabic) and doing. Yet such was the extent of the peace delusion that the European Union's policy chief, Javier Solana, could state upon Arafat's death that "the best tribute to President Arafat's memory will be to intensify our efforts to establish a peaceful and viable state of Palestine." When this widespread illusion of a new and more peaceful Palestinian political era failed to materialize, a handy scapegoat was found in the form of the Hamas Islamist group, which in January 2006 won a landslide victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections and replaced the PLO at the helm of the Palestinian A uthority (PA), established in May 1994 as the effective government of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza.
In reality, of course, there is no fundamental difference between the ultimate goals of Hamas and the PLO vis-à-vis Israel: Neither accepts the Jewish state's right to exist and both are committed to its eventual destruction. The only difference between the two groups lies in their preferred strategies for the attainment of this goal. Whereas Hamas concentrates exclusively on "armed struggle," as its murderous terror campaign is conveniently euphemized, the PLO has adopted since the early 1990s a more subtle strategy, combining intricate political and diplomatic maneuvering with sustained terror attacks (mainly under the auspices of Tanzim, the military arm of Fatah, the PLO's largest constituent group and Arafat's alma mater ). In the candid words of Farouq Qaddoumi, the PLO's perpetual foreign minister: "We were never different from Hamas. Hamas is a national movement. Strategically, there is no difference between us."
Such attitudes are by no means confined to "hard-line" elements within the PLO but are a commonplace among supposed moderates, notably Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Arafat's successor and perhaps the foremost symbol of supposed Palestinian moderation. For all their drastically different personalities and political style, Arafat and Abu Mazen are warp and woof of the same fabric: dogmatic PLO veterans who have never eschewed their commitment to Israel's destruction and who have viewed the "peace process" as the continuation of their lifetime war by other means.
In one way, indeed, Abbas is more extreme than many of his peers. While they revert to standard talk of Israel's illegitimacy, he devoted years of his life to giving ideological firepower to the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish indictment. In a doctoral dissertation written at a Soviet university, an expanded version of which was subsequently published in book form, Abbas endeavored to prove the existence of a close ideological and political association between Zionism and Nazism. Among other things, he argued that fewer than a million Jews had been killed in the Holocaust, and that the Zionist movement was a partner to their slaughter.
In the wake of the failed Camp David summit of July 2000 and the launch of Arafat's war of terror two months later, Abbas went to great lengths to explain why the "right of return" - the standard Arab euphemism for Israel's destruction - was a non-negotiable prerequisite for any Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Those who were disposed to regard these words as lip service by a lackluster apparatchik deferring to the omnipotent and hopelessly intransigent Arafat were to be bitterly disillusioned. In an address to a special session of the Palestinian parliament shortly after Arafat's death, Abbas swore to "follow in the path of the late leader Yasir Arafat toward fulfilling his dream...until the right of return for our people is achieved and the tragedy of the refugees is ended."
Six months later, in a televised speech on the occasion of Israel's Independence Day, Abbas described the proclamation of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, as an unprecedented crime of history and vowed his unwavering refusal to ever "accept this injustice." "On that day, a crime was committed against a people, who were uprooted from their land and whose existence was destroyed and who were forced to flee to all areas of the world," he said. "The refugees have a full right to fulfill the right of return. We strongly object to the possibility they would become citizens of the countries they live in."
Arabs Rejected UN Resolution 194 on Refugees
Against this backdrop, it is hardly surprising that the Annapolis summit not only proved little more than a photo opportunity but also underscored the pervasiveness of Palestinian recalcitrance. For one thing, by categorically refusing to recognize Israel's Jewishness (or for that matter its very existence as a Jewish state), the Palestinian leadership - from Abbas, to Ahmad Qurei (negotiator of the 1993 Oslo Accords), to Saeb Erekat, to the "moderate" prime minister Salam Fayad - has effectively rejected the two-state solution, based, in the words of the UN partition resolution of November 29, 1948, on the creation of "independent Arab and Jewish States" in Palestine. For another thing, despite the lip service paid to the two-state solution in his Ann apolis address, Abbas insisted that "the plight of Palestinian refugees...must be addressed holistically - that is, in its political, human, and individual dimensions in accordance with UNGA Resolution 194."
Yet far from recommending the return of the Palestinian refugees as the only viable solution, Resolution 194 (passed on December 11, 1948) puts this particular option on a par with the "resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees" in other countries; indeed, that provision made the resolution anathema to the Arab states, which opposed it vehemently and voted unanimously against it. Equating return and resettlement as possible solutions to the refugee problem; linking resolution of this issue to the achievement of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace; placing on the Arab states some of the burden for resolving it; and above all establishing no absolute "right of return," the measure was seen, correctly, as rather less than useful for Arab purposes. This, however, did not prevent Arabs an d Palestinians from transforming the resolution into the cornerstone of an utterly spurious legal claim to a "right of return," which in their internal discourse is invariably equated with the destruction of Israel through demographic subversion.
And therein, no doubt, lies the crux of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. For to refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist, sixty years after the assertion of this right by the international community, and to insist on the full implementation of the "right of return," at a time when Israel has long agreed to the creation of a Palestinian state roughly along the pre-1967 lines, indicates that, in the Palestinian perception, peace is not a matter of adjusting borders and territory but rather a euphemism for the annihilation of the Jewish state.
The Israeli government and the international community will be dangerously deluding themselves in continuing to view Abbas' adamant refusal to fight terrorism as a reflection of political weakness (as they did with Arafat in the early Oslo years) and his avowed commitment to "the right of return" as a bargaining chip or lip service. To deny the depth of the PLO's commitment to Israel's destruction is the height of folly, and to imagine that it can be appeased through Israeli concessions is to play into its hands. Only when Palestinians reconcile themselves to the existence of the Jewish state and eschew their genocidal hopes will the inhabitants of the Holy Land, and the rest of the world, be able to look forward to a future less burdened by Arafats and their gory dreams.
*     *     *
Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean Studies at King's College, University of London, and a member of the Board of International Experts of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center. His most recent book is Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).
This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:
Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated to providing a forum for Israeli policy discussion and debate.


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Ha'aretz signals it would agree to lull in fighting with Hamas

Ha'aretz tells us:
Hamas has signaled to Israel, through various interlocutors, that it would agree to a tahdiye (a lull) in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, even though there is still no agreement within the radical Islamist group about such option.
If there is no agreement within the group, then how can they be ready? What are they read for? Would the "lull" include an end to arms smuggling? Would it prevent Israel from acting in the West Bank?
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 10:04 01/01/2008       
Hamas signals it would agree to lull in fighting with Israel
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies
Hamas has signaled to Israel, through various interlocutors, that it would agree to a tahdiye (a lull) in the fighting in the Gaza Strip, even though there is still no agreement within the radical Islamist group about such option.
On Monday, the 43rd anniversary of the establishment of Fatah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas to cede control over the Gaza Strip and return to reconciliation talks and early elections.
On the occasion of the Fatah anniversary, internecine fighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, killing at least six and injuring dozens of others.
In an effort to bring an end to the IDF attacks that have targeted militants involved in the launching of Qassam rockets against Israel, Hamas has raised the possibility of reaching a tahdiye, a lull in the fighting, in exchange for an end to Israeli attacks.
Hamas is trying to reach agreement with other radical groups in the Gaza Strip, in order to halt the rocket and mortar attacks against Israel.
However, within Hamas itself, there is opposition to any form of compromise with Israel, Haaretz has learned from spokesmen of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.
In a conversation with Haaretz, Taher al-Nunu, spokesman for the administration, Hamas has wanted a tahdiye for some time which would include a stop of Israeli offensive operations, in return for an end to Palestinian attacks, including rocket barrages.
Al-Nunu explained that the closing down of the crossing points by Israel following the Hamas takeover of the Strip in June, has caused great suffering to the population, but did not say that lifting the siege would be one of the conditions for a lull in the fighting.
However, a source close to former PA prime minister and Hamas leader in the Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, "the tahdiye must include an opening of the border crossings for the passage of goods and people, and the lifting of the economic embargo on the Strip."
The same source explained that "tahdiye is different from a hudna (a cease-fire). The meaning is that tahdiye will be of short duration, only a few months, and not a hudna which may be a temporary solution, but can be the start of a longer diplomatic framework. There is no new policy of the organization or the government, but there is no point in an end to the assassinations policy [the IDF targeting of militants] if the siege will continue and the crossings remain closed."
The Hamas movement's spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, told Haaretz that any lull in the fighting must be comprehensive.
"If Israel ceases all forms of aggression, including arrests, assassinations, invasions, and also opens the crossings and lifts the siege on the Strip, Hamas will consider favorably taking steps on behalf of the Palestinian people, in the form of a tahdiye."
But Hamas is not only experiencing difficulties formulating a common position within the organization, but is also finding that talks with Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees are also proving inconclusive due to differences of opinion among factions within those groups.
On Monday, Abbas called on Hamas to agree to early elections, cede control of the Gaza Strip and hold reconciliation talks with Fatah.
The address made in Ramallah on the 43rd anniversary of the creation of Fatah, was followed with renewed fighting between Fatah and Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip. In the latest round of fighting, at least six Palestinians died and scores were injured.
Medical officials said one of the dead was a Hamas police officer, another was a teenager and a third was a Fatah supporter. About 30 people were wounded, they said.
These were the first fatalities in Fatah-Hamas fighting since November 11, when Hamas forces opened fire on a huge Fatah rally, killing eight and wounding about 85
"I renew the option of early elections... and I pledge that I will do my best to ensure this election will be the product of a deep and brotherly understanding," Abbas said.
"I urge all, Fatah and Hamas movements and all other Palestinian factions, to study this alternative and not to rush, as usual, to reject it".
He also called on Hamas "to open a new page in relations within our Palestinian home," in a conciliatory tone.
Hamas spokesman Barhoum said that while the group was ready for dialogue with Fatah, it would not accept Abbas' demand to first give up control of the Strip.
"Abbas is betting on the American-Zionist project and not on dialogue with Hamas," Barhoum told a news conference in Gaza. "We renew our readiness and willingness to restore dialogue with Fatah without conditions."
Monday's violence broke out after Fatah loyalists defied a Hamas ban on public gatherings in the Gaza Strip.
Fireworks lit the skies of Gaza after nightfall, and Fatah backers fired rifles in the air all over Gaza.
Clashes occured in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, in Rafah, on the Sinai border, and in Gaza City. Among the dead, medics said two were Hamas police officers, one was a Fatah backer. Another was a child and an elderly man. At least 70 people were injured.

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Christian agency for Israel??

At what point do we draw the line in ecumenism?
Last update - 06:23 01/01/2008    
 Jewish Agency, interfaith group deal angers U.S. Jewish leaders 
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent 
An agreement on increased cooperation between the Jewish Agency and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has upset many American Jewish leaders.
The agreement was signed two weeks ago by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski and IFCJ President Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. IFCJ will give the agency NIS 180 million over three years, to be used for its immigration and absorption programs. In exchange, Eckstein, who already sits on the agency's Board of Governors, will become a full executive member, with voting rights.
The agreement has infuriated the heads of major U.S. Jewish federations, which provide about two-thirds of the agency's budget. They charge that it will give evangelical Christians, whose donations finance IFCJ, a say in the agency's management.

American Jewish leaders have not yet drafted a formal protest. However, they conveyed their objections to agency officials informally, and, as a result, the formal signing ceremony that had been scheduled for this week has been postponed.
An agency spokesman denied that federation leaders are exerting pressure against the deal.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Five killed in Gaza internecine violence

Last update - 23:10 31/12/2007    
 Five killed as violence erupts at Fatah rally in Gaza Strip 
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Five Palestinians were killed after nightfall on Monday as anniversary celebrations for the Fatah movement turned violent in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis.
Medical officials said one of the dead was a Hamas police officer, another was a teenager and a third was a Fatah supporter. About 30 people were wounded, they said.
Fatah marks the anniversary of its founding on January 1, but Hamas banned Fatah marches. All over Gaza, Fatah backers fired rifles in the air and set off fireworks.

These were the first fatalities in Fatah-Hamas fighting since November 11, when Hamas forces opened fire on a huge Fatah rally, killing eight and wounding about 85.
Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Hamas Islamists on Monday to agree to early elections and to open a "new page" by ceding control of the Gaza Strip and holding reconciliation talks with his Fatah faction.
Reviving talk of early Palestinian elections for the first time in several months, Abbas said in a speech to mark the anniversary of the founding of Fatah that any vote should be held in agreement with his Hamas rivals.
"I renew the option of early elections ... and I pledge that I will do my best to ensure this election will be the product of a deep and brotherly understanding," Abbas said.
"I urge all, Fatah and Hamas movements and all other Palestinian factions, to study this alternative and not to rush, as usual, to reject it."
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, prompting Abbas to sack a Hamas-led unity government and appoint a Fatah-backed administration in the West Bank. The rift helped pave the way for U.S.-backed talks with Israel.
Abbas said after Hamas's Gaza takeover he wanted to call early elections. But it has been several months since he talked publicly about holding a ballot although his aides have raised the possibility of snap parliamentary and presidential polls.
Hamas, which won a Palestinian parliamentary vote in 2006, opposes holding elections before they are due in 2010, saying it would be unconstitutional.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum rejected Abbas' speech."It is full of incitement and words calling for divisions," he said. "There is no new initiative or practical step in this speech that can pave the road to start an immediate dialogue."
Barhoum said earlier Monday that the Islamist group was ready for dialogue with Fatah but would not accept Abbas's demand it first give up control of the coastal enclave.
"Abbas is betting on the American-Zionist project and not on dialogue with Hamas," Barhoum told a news conference in Gaza. "We renew our readiness and willingness to restore dialogue with Fatah without conditions."
PA minister: Abbas' forces foil Hamas suicide attack plot
Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas have arrested Hamas militants who were plotting a suicide bombing, the Palestinian foreign and information minister said on Monday.
Riyad al-Malki told a news conference Palestinian security forces had arrested members of the Islamist group, but did not say whether the attack was planned for Israel or the West Bank or how many people had been arrested.
The announcement came a day after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ruled out
relaxing Israel's grip on the West Bank until the Palestinians rein in militants.
Israel frequently says it has thwarted suicide bombings but it is rare for the Palestinians to make such an announcement.
Malki declined to say when the arrests took place but said security forces found a confessional video recorded by the would-be bombers. He also said officers had found mercury, which could be used to make explosive devices, in Nablus.
Hamas spokesman Barhoum declined to comment on whether its members were arrested, but said: "We support any act of resistance against the Israeli occupation but we will not be surprised if the government ... fabricates charges to pursue their arrest campaign against Hamas and other factions of resistance."
Abbas's government has deployed hundreds of security officers in West Bank towns in recent weeks as part of a Western-backed drive to crack down on gunmen and gangsters.
Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces said they had not heard about any attacks that had been prevented by Abbas's forces.
Also Monday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket and 14 mortar shells at the western Negev.
Gaza journalists warned not to cover Fatah anniversary events
Several Gaza journalists received anonymous overnight phone calls warning them not to cover upcoming events planned by the Fatah movement, fueling fears that the territory's Islamic Hamas rulers were trying to quash coverage of their rivals.
Reporters for at least five local and foreign news outlets received calls late Sunday and early Monday warning them to stay away from events planned by Fatah to celebrate the 43rd anniversary of the veteran Palestinian movement's establishment.
The reporters asked that their names be withheld because they feared retribution from Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June after routing Fatah fighters loyal to the moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
A Fatah rally scheduled for Tuesday has been banned by Hamas, which repeatedly has cracked down on Fatah activists and harassed journalists covering pro-Fatah events since the Gaza takeover.
In an official statement, the Hamas-run interior ministry in Gaza said it supported freedom of the press and blamed Fatah for the calls, saying Fatah leaders in the West Bank were trying to embarrass the Islamic group.
Ibrahim Abu Al-Naja, one of Gaza's most prominent remaining Fatah leaders, said the movement would not hold a major rally Tuesday, and would make do with smaller gestures like setting off fireworks and lighting candles in the windows of pro-Fatah homes.
Some 70 Fatah activists were arrested or went underground over the past few days, Fatah officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared arrest. Hamas denied those charges, saying no political arrests had been made.
Hamas police raided Fatah's central office in Gaza City and seized posters, flags and computer hard disks, Fatah leader Ahmad Hillas said at a press conference Monday.
"I want to say clearly and honestly: No one, no power will prevent us or stop us from commemorating this anniversary," Hillas said.

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No rapes in IDF: World outrage at Zionist Racism

A report claiming that Israeli soldiers do not rape Palestinian Arab women as part of a sinister racist Zionist plot (see Help! Rape!) has stirred the outrage of world media. Human rights organizations and Palestinian groups greeted the latest evidence of Zionist racism with justifiable rage. Major reactions:
The UN Human Rights Committee, on the initiative of Special Raporteur John Dugard, passed three resolutions condemning Israel for gross Human Rights violations. Commented Dugard, "There is no avoiding the facts. The study showed an appalling and brutal lack of rape on the part of the IDF. Those people are inhuman. When will the world wake up to the depths of Zionist depravity?"
Jewish activist Ben Murrain said, "I am ashamed to be a Jew. This is not the Judaism I know. I was taught to rape everyone."
Rabbi Michael Lerner, spiritual leader of Tikkun, lamented, "This is Judaism? Where is compassion for the other? Where is Tikkun Olam? Where is Ahavas Hazulat? Where is the Shukeenah? The insensitivity of Israeli soldiers to the charms of Palestinian Arab women shows how the occupation has dehumanized those Israelis and distanced them from the humanistic values of Judaism.  
By a vote of 143 to 3 (USA, Israel, Micronesia) with 6 abstentions, the UN General Assembly passed a Saudi Arabian initaited resolution condemning Zionism as racism and appointed a committee to monitor the incidence of rape in the IDF and ensure that as many Palestinian Arab women are raped as Israeli Jews. Saudi spokesman Abdul Wahabi Salafi noted, "In our country, we know how to treat women. According to reports, not only does the IDF not rape women, but the Zionist dog judges don't order beatings for raped women either. We are also investigating reports that the racist Zionist regime doesn't allow wife beating. This is an abridgement of Muslim freedom of religion. We will submit a separate resolution about that human rights violation."
Jews against Zionism spokesman Mendel Parashivizhid, back from kissing Mamoud Ahmadinejad, commented, "Typical of those racist Zionists. Not like us true tora Jews - the Netureh Karteh.  We'll rape anyone."
Queers for Palestine commented, "The Zionist racist report didn't even mention rape of men. Apparently, the evil IOF don't do that at all. It is despicable."
Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) demanded a special commission to investigate the heinous crime of non-rape of Palestinian women by the IOF (Israel Occupation Forces).
Amnesty International declared that failure to rape Palestinian women had caused an acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav was quick to distance himself from the behavior of the IDF. "I had nothing to do with this disgraceful behavior. During my tenure in public service I was always an equal opportunity rapist," stated Katsav.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, "This dehumanizing behavior is exactly like the humiliation my people suffered for years under Jim Crow laws."
Activist Jeff Halper noted, "This is yet another illustration of Zionist apartheid in action."
The British union of steamfitters, hod carriers, journalists and sex deviants voted to boycott Israel for its racist policy of not raping Palestinian women. Noted one member, "It's outrageous. The Jew bastards said they respect Palestinian women as mothers."
A Belgian court convicted IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi in absentia, on a charge of high war crimes stemming from failure to order the rape of three Palestinian women in 2006. If Ashkenazi ever visits Belgium, he could be arrested and incarcerated for this crime.
In a press release, HRW head Kenneth Roth stated, "It is intolerable that Israeli soldiers continue to not rape Palestinian Arab women with impunity. More than any other army, the IDF is guilty of not raping or mistreating civilians. Israel continues to ignore all world norms of military conduct."
New Profile activist Dorothy Naor commented, "We call on all Israeli soldiers to refuse service until the occupation army starts raping Palestinian women. How can they ignore the human needs of Palestinian women? We demand the right to equal rape for Palestinian women."  
In Ha'aretz newspaper, Akiva Eldar commented, "Once again it has been shown that while the government may want peace and friendly relations, the military is sabotaging government policy. While the government is promoting closer relations with Palestinians, the Army has been teaching its soldiers to stay away from them."
Machsom watch volunteers commented, "We have been complaining about this humiliating behavior at checkpoints for years. Time after time, luscious female Palestine suicide bombers flaunt their charms at IDF soldiers, but the callous IDF soldiers ignore them. There is no excuse. We will not remain silent. This is truly dehumanizing."
Christian Peace Teams Hebron condemned the IDF policy. A CPT spokesperson noted that non-rape of Palestinian women is typical of Jewish exclusivism. She further noted and denounced the existence of the pernicious  Ethical Code of the IDF. "The only code anyone needs is the teachings of Jesus Christ. If IDF followed Jesus this wouldn't be happening. He said 'Love they neighbor as thyself.'"
In Al-Ahram, Khaled Amayreh condemned the failure of the Zionist occupation forces to succumb to the charms of Palestinian women. "The Jewish Talmud and the Chesronot Shas teach the evil Jews that goyim are subhuman," charged Amayreh. Amayreh's story got top billing in the Egyptian supported government paper. The US State Department asked congress to double the US aid subsidy to Egypt.
[Note - Except for the actual study and its conclusions, (see Help! Rape! )  duly approved by the Hebrew university, this report is a satire. No actual human rights activists were involved in creating this report except yours truly.]

Continued (Permanent Link)

INSS on Suicide bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan

INSS - December 31, 2007 No. 41

The Assault of Suicide-Bombers in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Yoram Schweitzer

During the past year, al-Qaeda and the Taliban have apparently decided to shift the focus of their suicide actions to the Pakistan-Afghanistan theater. That does not mean that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have abandoned the use of suicide terror in other places, and they continue to carry out suicide attacks elsewhere, especially in Iraq and recently even in Algeria.

Still, the resort to this mode of action in Pakistan and Afghanistan is clearly on the rise. The murder of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto by a suicide assassin represents the peak – probably only temporarily – of the assault going on in Pakistan for over a year. The previous attempt to kill Bhutto, about two months ago, was also carried out by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up near the convoy taking her from the airport following her return to Pakistan after eight years in exile. They failed in their primary mission but did kill about 150 other people. Another suicide bomber also blew himself up inside a mosque during Eid al-Adha and killed about fifty people. These attacks are a clear manifestation of the severe deterioration in security that Pakistan is experiencing. They also reflect the total rejection of any self-restraint by al-Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no reservations about mass murder even of other Muslims in places of worship during holidays, when any acts of war or bloodshed are strictly forbidden.

Pakistan, which played a central role in building up the Taliban and indirectly helped al-Qaeda, was itself spared any suicide attacks until 2002, apart from one such bombing in 1995 at the Egyptian consulate in Karachi. And between 2002 and 2006, there were several such attacks each year, some directed against foreigners but most stemming from confessional conflict and directed against the Shi'ite minority. However, in 2007, and especially in the second half of the year, there was a sharp rise in the number of suicide attacks. These were mostly directed against the security forces and other government targets. Thus far, there have been about 50 attacks, resulting in hundreds of casualties. One explanation for this huge escalation is apparently the decision by al-Qaeda and the Taliban to force Pervez Musharraf out of power by attacking him directly or at least destabilizing his regime, because they see him as a collaborator with their enemies in the west, especially the United States. The direct confrontation with Musharraf came to a head in July 2007, following the Pakistani army's assault of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, where Islamic extremists were holed up. That attack led to the deaths of dozens of radicals, including Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who ran the mosque along with his brother Abdul Aziz. In a videotape released after the incident, Usama bin Laden labeled Musharraf an apostate collaborator with the enemies of Islam and called for his liquidation. And in one of his latest videotapes, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, demanded the liquidation of Bhutto. His demand was met, even if it turns out that al-Qaeda was not directly involved, and it can be assumed that bin Laden's appeal will also prompt continuing attempts to answer it.

Along with the assault in Pakistan, there has also been an upsurge in the use of suicide-bombers by the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and local jihadi groups in Afghanistan. During the ten years of struggle against the Soviet occupation (1979-1989) and even until 2001, Afghanistan did not experience a single suicide bombing. Only in September 2001, two days before the 9/11 attacks, did al-Qaeda send two assassins to liquidate Massoud Shah, the head of the Northern Alliance and Taliban's most dangerous enemy. From then until 2004, there were sporadic suicide attacks averaging about five each year. But since then, the phenomenon has expanded and reached a peak in 2006-2007, when there were about 120 attacks each year, causing hundred of casualties. More than anything else, the current coordinated suicide assault in Pakistan and Afghanistan signifies the revival of al-Qaeda and the Taliban after they were forced to give up their bases of power and flee to the Afghan-Pakistan border area as a result of the war on terror launched by the international coalition of forces in late October 2001.

It is noteworthy that in most other Middle East countries – apart from Iraq – security forces have learned to deploy more effectively against suicide bombings carried out by al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria – notwithstanding the two recent bombings in Algiers – have foiled most bombing attempts and the networks that prepared have been neutralized.

It may well be that the security forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan were surprised by the extent and intensity of the suicide attacks and that they are still at the stage of developing appropriate responses to the challenges they face. Given the cumulative experience of other states facing similar threats, it is possible that they, too, will find a way to reduce significantly the dimensions of the problem by cooperating with others and learning from their experience.

The relative success of other security forces in limiting the activities of suicide-bombers does not allow them to rest of their laurels. Even if al-Qaeda and its partners have turned their attention and resources to the Pakistan-Afghanistan theater, other states in the Middle East, the Gulf and Europe will very probably again become targets in the future. That intention is expressed in Zawahiri's videotapes, and recently even by bin Laden himself. Indeed, al-Qaeda's current distress in Iraq may well prompt its leaders to capitalize on the investment they have made in their campaign there and redirect their forces, including new recruits from among the "graduates" of Iraq, to the next missions of the global jihad around the world. As a result, al-Qaeda and its affiliates may soon shift their operational center of gravity to other old-new arenas. As in the past, their activity will almost certainly focus on suicide-bombings, not just as an effective modus operandi and trademark but primarily as proof of their dedication to the "path of God.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Collateral Damage down in IAF attacks

Actual figures from a table in the Hebrew version show:
Percent civilians among Palestinians killed in targeted killing:
2003 - 50%, 2005 3.5%, 2006 - 10%, 2007- 2-3%]
Of course, these figures don't include casualties due to artillery fire in Gaza most likely. One thing they probably do reflect is that people in Gaza might have learned not to stay too close to terrorist leaders. It is not healthy. On the other hand, it is not possible to prevent the insane rush of people to an automobile which has been hit. If it subsequently explodes (not unlikely considering the likely cargo) there may be many civilian casualties despite every precaution.
Instead of complimenting IDF on doing what no other army has succeeded in doing - including the Americans, Ha'aretz complains about why it was not done earlier.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 08:40 30/12/2007    
 Pinpointed IAF attacks in Gaza more precise, hurt fewer civilians
 By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent

 Among those who attended last week's pilots' graduation at the Israel Air Force base in Hatzerim was Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin. Why would a busy man like Diskin take the trouble of going to a military ceremony at a distant base in the Negev? The answer has to do with the tight cooperation between the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces, particularly the air force, as reflected in fighting in the territories.
The Shin Bet and the IAF (in some cases the IDF Southern Command is also involved) are responsible for the most lethal part of combating terror organizations in the Gaza Strip: the assassinations from the air, for which Israel coined the euphemism "pinpointed thwarting." This past month alone, at least 40 armed terrorists were killed in IDF air attacks.
Lately, the thwartings have indeed become more worthy of the title "pinpointed." In all the attacks of recent weeks, only gunmen were hurt, as confirmed by Palestinians. The rate of civilians hurt in these attacks in 2007 was 2-3 percent. The IDF has come a long way since the dark days of 2002-2003, when half the casualties in air assaults on the Gaza Strip were innocent bystanders.
The attacks fall into three main categories: targeting specific known terrorists; targeting Qassam rocket-launching cells en-route or in action; and punitive bombardments of Hamas outposts, in response to rocket or mortar fire into Israel. Since Israel began air assaults on the Gaza Strip, in late 2000, the first two types of attacks killed more than 100 Palestinian civilians.
In their quest to hit terrorists, who operate in the midst of civilian populations, the IAF attacked even when the terrorists were in densely populated areas. There were always safety rules, but these were "bent" at times in view of the target's importance. The result was mass killing of civilians.
The best-known case involved the liquidation of a senior Hamas man, Salah Shehadeh. Besides Shehadeh and one of his aides, the one-ton bomb the IAF dropped on the Gaza house he was staying in also killed his wife, daughter and 13 civilians. That affair led to the infamous statement by then-IAF chief (and later IDF chief of staff) Dan Halutz about "a ding to the plane," in reference to the impact of civilian casualties.
The army's public responses in the Shehadeh affair and other incidents combined obtuseness with self-righteousness. Senior officers claimed there is simply no other way. The attacks are necessary, they said, and it's impossible to reduce the number of "noncombatants" who wind up getting hurt.
Turns out it is possible. Reducing the number of civilian casualties in the attacks on Gaza was one of the first tasks Halutz's heir as IAF chief, Eliezer Shkedi, marked out for himself. The data improved commensurately. From a 1:1 ratio between killed terrorists and civilians in 2003 to a 1:28 ratio in late 2005. Several IAF mishaps in 2006 lowered the ratio to 1:10, but the current ratio is at its lowest ever  more than 1:30.
The IAF warns, however, against expecting zero collateral damage. All it would take is for a missile to veer off-course by a few meters because of a technical malfunction and civilians would be killed. And another thing: When tensions escalate, such as under massive Qassam fire from the Gaza Strip, the IDF is more active and also takes more risks, leading to more civilian casualties among the Palestinians.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Osama: Al Qaeda coming to Israel

According to Palestinian sources, the Al-Qaeda affiliated Fatah al Islam is already active in the Gaza strip. Therefore, Bin-Laden's threat cannot be dismissed as empty bluster.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 12:15 30/12/2007    
 Bin Laden vows in Web audiotape he will 'expand jihad in Palestine' 
By The Associated Press 
Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden made an unusally sharp threat of attacks against Israel in a new audiotape posted on the Web on Saturday.
"I would like to assure our people in Palestine that we will expand our jihad there," he said. "We intend to liberate Palestine, the whole of Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the sea," he continued, threatening "blood for blood, destruction for destruction."
Bin Laden and other Al-Qaida leaders frequently vow to liberate Jerusalem and Palestine in their messages. But the latest comments were a more direct language than bin Laden usually uses. Israel has warned of growing Al-Qaida activity in Palestinian territory, but the terror network is not believed to have taken a strong direct role there so far.

"We will not recognize even one inch for Jews in the land of Palestine as other Muslim leaders have," bin Laden said.
Most of the 56-minute tape dealt with Iraq, in the latest attempt by Al-Qaida to keep its supporters and other insurgents in Iraq unified behind it at a time when the U.S. military claims to have Al-Qaida's Iraq branch on the run.
In the tape, Bin Laden warned Iraq's Sunni Arabs against joining tribal councils fighting Al-Qaida or participating in any unity government.
A number of Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq's western Anbar province have formed a coalition fighting Al-Qaida-linked insurgents that U.S. officials credit for deeply reducing violence in the province. The U.S. military has been working to form similar Awakening Councils in other areas of Iraq.
In the audiotape, bin Laden denounced Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the former leader of the Anbar Awakening Council, who was killed in a September bombing claimed by Al-Qaida.
"The most evil of the traitors are those who trade away their religion for the sake of their mortal life," bin Laden said.
Bin Laden said U.S. and Iraqi officials are seeking to set up a national unity government joining the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
"Our duty is to foil these dangerous schemes, which try to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state in Iraq, which would be a wall of resistance against American schemes to divide Iraq," he said.
The authenticity of the tape could not be independently confirmed. But the voice resembled that of bin Laden. The tape was posted on an Islamic militant Web site where Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, issues the group's messages.
The tape was the fifth message released by bin Laden this year, a flurry of activity after he went more than a year without issuing any tapes. The messages began with a September 8 video that showed bin Laden for the first time in nearly three years. The other messages this year have been audiotapes.
In an October tape, bin Laden sought to patch up splits between Iraqi insurgent factions, urging them to unite with the Islamic State of Iraq - the insurgent coalition led by Al-Qaida. He took a conciliatory stance, chiding even al-Qaida's followers for being too extremist in their positions toward other insurgents.
Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri took a sharper tone in a December 16 video, branding as traitors those who work with the anti-Qaida tribal councils and calling for Sunnis to purge anyone cooperating with the Americans.

Continued (Permanent Link)

What really happened in Bethlehem this Christmas?

This AP account doesn't look even faintly reminiscent of the "Jews crucifying Christ" scenario painted by Kevin Woodward, does it?? ( see Hark the Wall Street Journal Sings, Jews are doing terrible things! BEP! BEP!)
Last update - 11:41 25/12/2007    
Tourists crowd Bethlehem for Christmas festivities 
By Associated Press  
Gloom was banished from Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem for the first time in years on Monday as Christian pilgrims from all over the world flocked here to celebrate Jesus' birth in an atmosphere of renewed tranquility.
After Israeli-Palestinian fighting erupted in 2000, nearly all of the people milling around Manger Square in the center of this biblical town on Christmas had been local Palestinians. But this year, city hotels were packed with tourists. Tiago Martins, 28, from Curitiba, Brazil, said he was visiting Jesus' traditional birthplace for the first time after new peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians reassured him he'd be safe.
The idea that it's a Christian city makes me more calm, and I think going to the West Bank is more comfortable since Annapolis," Martins said, referring to the Mideast peace conference held in the U.S. last month. He spoke as he prepared to cross into Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
Priests and monks, tourists, Palestinian families and Palestinian police mingled in Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity, the site where tradition holds Christ was born. Vendors hawked beads, inflatable Santas, roasted peanuts and Turkish coffee, as city residents watched the festivities from balconies and rooftops. A four-story tree, strung with white lights, hung with red and gold globes and topped with a yellow star, towered outside the church.
Children and teenagers strolling through the square wore red-and-white Santa Claus hats, and on occasion, full Santa regalia. Balloons bobbed from vendors' stands and strings children clutched in their hands.
Palestinian scouts, some wearing kilts and berets adorned with pompons, marched through the streets playing drums and bagpipes.
In Manager Square, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas greeted visitors with a message of hope that his peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will bring about an independent Palestinian state in the coming year.
"We hope that this year will be the year of independence for the Palestinian people. God willing, this will be the year of security and stability and economic prosperity for the Palestinians," he said.
Meanwhile, the call to prayer that flowed forth from mosque loudspeakers filled the air in a reminder of the Holy Land's prominence for the major monotheistic religions.
"If you can't be with family, it's good to be here where it all went down," said David Collen, 23, of Hickman, Nebraska, who is studying Middle Eastern studies at Tel Aviv University in Israel.
Police presence was heavy, and before celebrants started flowing in, bomb squads walked through the streets sweeping cars and buildings for explosives. In the square, police carried rifles and batons.
Tourism, the economic lifeline in this city of 30,000, has been battered by Israeli-Palestinian clashes, the complex of towering concrete walls and fences Israel is building to separate itself from West Bank Palestinians, and infighting among rival Palestinian factions.
But this year, with the lull in fighting and resumption of peacemaking, Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh predicted about 65,000 tourists would visit - four times the number who trickled into town for Christmas 2005.
This year is much better than the last seven years for tourism, said shopkeeper Jacques Aman, whose wooden handicrafts shop offered crosses, rosaries and nativity scenes. The atmosphere is better in general. There is relative calm, from the security standpoint.
Still, unmistakable signs of the conflict that has killed more than 4,400 Palestinians and 1,100 Israelis in the past seven years made it clear that peace was not yet at hand.
Concrete walls measuring about 8 meters (25 feet high) enclose Bethlehem on three sides - part of the separation barrier Israel says it's building to keep out attackers from the West Bank.
Aman, the shopkeeper, said the barrier continues to hurt business. And Palestinian officials allege that the enclosure, which dips into the West Bank, is a thinly veiled land grab.
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Roman Catholic Church's highest official in the Holy Land, could only reach Bethlehem after passing through a massive steel gate in the barrier. Israeli mounted policemen escorted Sabbah, in his flowing magenta robe, to the gate, and border police clanged it shut behind him.
Inside Bethlehem, Sabbah delivered a politically charged appeal for peace and love in the Holy Land - and independence for the Palestinian people.
"The Holy Land is a land of war and conflict, and a land of humiliation of one people at the hand of another, said Sabbah, the first Palestinian to hold his position. God wanted this land to be a land for all - Jews, Christians and Muslims, he said. Every state that is established in this land, be it Israeli or Palestinian, must understand the sweeping nature of this Holy Land, in order to be able to host whoever lives here."
In the impoverished Gaza Strip, festivities in the tiny Christian community of 3,000 were decidedly muted.
Once, Christmas had been marked by a decorated tree in Gaza City's main square, colored lights strung across the plaza and Christmas carols ringing out from loudspeakers. But this cheer evaporated with the outbreak of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in late 2000.
The grimness only deepened this year with the assassination of a prominent Christian activist, Rami Ayyad, after Islamic Hamas militants overran the coastal strip in June.
There were few outward signs of celebration, and an austere midnight mass was planned at the city's only Roman Catholic church.
Hamas has denied involvement in Ayyad's killing and vowed to find those responsible for his slaying.
Early Monday, hundreds of Gaza Christians lined up at the passenger crossing into Israel, hoping to cross over to the West Bank to celebrate in Bethlehem. Many who hoped to leave said they wouldn't return.
Israel said it would allow in 400 Christmas celebrants from Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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