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Saturday, March 1, 2008

The mother of all mistranslations

The mother of all mistranslations

Friday, 29th February 2008

Ye gods. The BBC has put out this story:

Israel warns of Gaza 'holocaust'

Israeli leaders are warning of an imminent conflagration in Gaza after Palestinian militants aimed rockets at the southern city of Ashkelon. The deputy defence minister said the stepped-up rocket fire would trigger what he called a 'bigger holocaust' in the Hamas-controlled coastal strip.

This reported remark by deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai caused widespread shock and absolute horror. For an Israeli minister to use the word 'holocaust' to describe a limited war of Israeli self-defence, when for Jews of all people the 'Holocaust' means one thing: genocide — and this at a time when the calumny of the 'Jews as Nazis' is rampant around the world, putting Israel and the Jewish people at risk — was simply beyond belief.
It was indeed without any credibility — because Vilnai never said it. It was an appalling mistranslation by Reuters, the source of the BBC story. Vilnai said:
'The more Qassam (rocket) fire intensifies and the rockets reach a longer range, they (the Palestinians) will bring upon themselves a bigger "shoah" because we will use all our might to defend ourselves'.
Reuters translated the Hebrew word 'shoah' as 'holocaust'. But 'shoah' merely means disaster. In Hebrew, the word 'shoah' is never used to mean 'holocaust' or 'genocide' because of the acute historical resonance. The word 'Hashoah' alone means 'the Holocaust' and 'retzach am' means 'genocide'. The well-known Hebrew construction used by Vilnai used merely means 'bringing disaster on themselves'.
As a subsequent Reuter's story reported,
Vilnai's spokesman said: 'Mr. Vilnai was meaning "disaster". He did not mean to make any allusion to the genocide.' Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Arye Mekel, added: 'Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai used the Hebrew phrase that included the term 'shoah' in Hebrew in the sense of a disaster or a catastrophe, and not in the sense of a holocaust.'
But this grotesque mistranslation has given Hamas a propaganda gift which they lost no time exploiting:
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said of Vilnai's comments: 'We are facing new Nazis who want to kill and burn the Palestinian people.'
At a time when the rockets continue to rain down on the southern Negev and Israel is being forced to contemplate stepping up its incursions into Gaza because of the truly genocidal assault upon its citizens by Hamas, such a mistranslation is more than an unfortunate slip. In the present explosive atmosphere, it can lead directly to an enormous escalation of violence by the Palestinians.

It is not enough for Reuters to try to cover its backside in subsequent stories. It must issue an explicit retraction, and so must the BBC. Instantly.

Continued (Permanent Link)

US Imam suspected of aiding Al-Qaeda

This nice fellow was allowed to leave the United States to pursue his career elsewhere. He is still on the loose.
Imam From Va. Mosque Now Thought to Have Aided Al-Qaeda
By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 27, 2008; A03
Even before the 2001 terrorist attacks, American-born imam Anwar al-Aulaqi drew the attention of federal authorities because of his possible connections to al-Qaeda. Their interest grew after 9/11, when it turned out that three of the hijackers had spent time at his mosques in California and Falls Church, but he was allowed to leave the country in 2002.
New information later surfaced about his contacts with extremists while in the United States. Now, U.S. officials are saying for the first time that they believe that Aulaqi worked with al-Qaeda networks in the Persian Gulf after leaving Northern Virginia. In mid-2006, Aulaqi was detained in Yemen at the request of the United States. To the dismay of U.S. authorities, Aulaqi was released in December.
"There is good reason to believe Anwar Aulaqi has been involved in very serious terrorist activities since leaving the United States, including plotting attacks against America and our allies," said a U.S. counterterrorism official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
U.S. authorities were limited in how far they could push Yemen to hold Aulaqi, officials said, because they have no pending legal case against him. The officials said ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts here and abroad prevented them from providing details about Aulaqi's suspected activities.
Aulaqi, 36, was the spiritual leader in 2001 and 2002 of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque in Falls Church, one of the largest in the country. In a taped interview posted this New Year's Eve on a British Web site, Aulaqi said that while in prison in Yemen, he had undergone multiple interrogations by the FBI that included questions about his dealings with the Sept. 11 hijackers.
"I don't know if I was held because of that, or because of the other issues they presented," Aulaqi said without elaborating. He said he would like to travel outside Yemen but would not do so "until the U.S. drops whatever unknown charges it has against me." Aulaqi did not respond to requests for an interview.
In several terrorism cases in Britain and Canada over the past 18 months, investigators found in the private computer files of some suspects transcripts and audio files of lectures by Aulaqi promoting the strategies of a key al-Qaeda military commander, the late Yusef al-Ayeri, a Saudi known as "Swift Sword."
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged in a 2004 terrorism-related trial that a U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity for which Aulaqi served as vice president was a front that sent money to al-Qaeda. Documents filed around the same time in federal court in Alexandria assert that a year after 9/11, Aulaqi returned briefly to Northern Virginia, where he visited a radical Islamic cleric and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for "violent jihad." That cleric, Ali al-Timimi, is now serving a life sentence for inciting followers to fight with the Taliban against Americans.
After leaving the United States in 2002, Aulaqi spent time in Britain, where he developed a following among ultraconservative young Muslims through his lectures and audiotapes. He moved to Yemen, his family's ancestral home, in 2004.
State Department officials said they are barred by privacy law from discussing Aulaqi's detention because he is a U.S. citizen. A senior official of Yemen's embassy in Washington said Aulaqi was arrested over family and tribal matters -- "kidnapping, stuff like that" rather than terrorism. "Nothing has led them to believe he's part of al-Qaeda," he said.
Before his arrest, Aulaqi lectured at an Islamist university in Sanaa run by Sheik Abd-al-Majid al-Zindani, who fought with Osama bin Laden in the Soviet-Afghan war and was designated a terrorist in 2004 by the United States and the United Nations.
U.S. and U.N. authorities accuse Zindani of recruiting for al-Qaeda camps and raising money for weapons for terrorist groups. Students at his university, the United States said, are suspected in terrorist attacks and assassinations; among its attendees before he joined the Taliban was American John Walker Lindh.
Aulaqi's lectures and Internet postings on Islamic principles excoriate the West and speak of Muslims as a besieged people. In one speech apparently made in 2006, he predicted an epic global clash between Muslims and "kufr," or nonbelievers.
"America is in a state of war with Allah," he said, referring to the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. He praised the insurgency in Iraq and "martyrdom operations" in the Palestinian territories. Muslims must choose sides between President Bush and the "mujaheddin," he said. The solution for the Muslim world, he said, "is jihad."
Aulaqi is "a huge inspiration to home-grown terror cells in the U.K. and Europe," said Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism researcher who testified as a government witness in a British bombing conspiracy trial. Kohlmann, an American whose work is funded by the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, a privately funded research group, said: "He is one of the very few respected extremist Salafi clerics who can write and speak in English."
Aulaqi's father, Nasser Aulaqi, a former Yemeni government minister, said Yemeni security police confiscated his son's computer and copies of a lecture series he gave at Zindani's al-Iman University. He said his son lectured four times at the university about six months before his arrest, on the history of Muslims in Spain. "He was not a faculty member," Aulaqi's father said in a telephone interview. "There is no radical things in them."
"My son is not a terrorist," he said. "He never advocated violence against anybody."
Anwar al-Aulaqi was born in New Mexico in 1971 while his father studied for a college degree. He spent part of his childhood in Yemen and returned in 1991 to study engineering at Colorado State University. After graduating, he became a mosque leader, first in Fort Collins, Colo., and then in San Diego.
Tax records show that in 1998 and 1999, while in San Diego, Aulaqi served as vice president of the now-defunct Charitable Society for Social Welfare Inc., the U.S. branch of a Yemeni charity founded by Zindani. Three years ago, federal prosecutors in a New York terrorism-financing case described the charity as "a front organization" that was "used to support al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."
The 9/11 Commission and the joint House-Senate Inquiry into the intelligence failures that allowed the attacks to take place reported that in 1999 the FBI opened a short-lived investigation of Aulaqi when it learned he may have been visited by a "procurement agent" for bin Laden.
Law enforcement sources now say that agent was Ziyad Khaleel, who the government has previously said purchased a satellite phone and batteries for bin Laden in the 1990s. Khaleel was the U.S. fundraiser for Islamic American Relief Agency, a charity the U.S. Treasury has designated a financier of bin Laden and which listed Aulaqi's charity as its Yemeni partner.
The FBI also learned that Aulaqi was visited in early 2000 by a close associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, known as the blind sheik, who was convicted of conspiracy in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and that he had ties to people raising money for the radical Palestinian movement Hamas, according to Congress and the 9/11 Commission report.
But the bureau lacked enough evidence to bring a case, and closed its investigation. Around the same time, two future Sept. 11 hijackers -- Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, fresh from an al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia -- turned up at Aulaqi's San Diego mosque in early 2000.
Witnesses later told the FBI that Aulaqi had a close relationship with the hijackers in San Diego. "Several persons informed the FBI after September 11 that this imam had closed-door meetings in San Diego with al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi and another individual," the Joint House-Senate Inquiry reported. In press interviews at the time, Aulaqi denied having such contacts.
In January 2001, he enrolled in a PhD program at George Washington University and was hired at Dar al-Hijrah, which regularly draws about 3,000 people to Friday prayers.
In April 2001, Hazmi left San Diego and showed up at Aulaqi's new mosque, along with another future hijacker, Hani Hanjour. They were quickly aided in securing an apartment by a Jordanian man they met there -- Eyad al-Rababah.
"Some [FBI] agents suspect that Aulaqi may have tasked Rababah to help Hazmi and Hanjour. We share that suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of Aulaqi's prior relationship with Hazmi," the 9/11 Commission concluded. Further, the phone number for Dar al-Hijrah had been found in the Hamburg apartment of one of the planners of the attacks, Ramzi Binalshibh.
The FBI told the 9/11 Commission and Congress that it did not have reason to detain Aulaqi.
Former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham, who led the congressional panel on Sept. 11, accused the FBI of bungling investigations of Aulaqi before and after 9/11. "Some believe that Aulaqi was the first person since the summit meeting in Malaysia with whom al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi shared their terrorist intentions and plans," Graham wrote in his 2004 book "Intelligence Matters."
After 9/11, Aulaqi publicly condemned the attacks. But in comments published in English on Sept. 17, 2001, on IslamOnline, Aulaqi suggested that Israelis may have been responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that the FBI "went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default."
Weeks after leaving the United States in the spring of 2002, he posted an essay in Arabic titled "Why Muslims Love Death" on the Islam Today Web site, lauding the fervor of Palestinian suicide bombers. Months later he praised them in English at a lecture in a London mosque that was recorded on videotape.
Aulaqi briefly returned to the United States in fall 2002, visiting the Fairfax home of Timimi, spiritual leader of an Islamic center a few miles from Dar al-Hijrah, according to court records.
"Aulaqi attempted to get al Timimi to discuss issues related to the recruitment of young Muslims," according to a court filing by Timimi's attorney, Edward MacMahon, who asserted that those "entreaties were rejected."
Timimi was sentenced in 2005 to life in prison for inciting young Muslims to go to Afghanistan after 9/11 and to wage war against the United States. Eleven of his followers were convicted of charges including weapons violations and aiding a terrorist organization. Some had simulated armed conflict by playing paintball in the Virginia countryside, and some went on to camps in Pakistan run by the group Lashkar-i-Taiba, which trained foreign and local fighters for Muslim militant groups including the Taliban.
Court records show that Aulaqi had been driven to the meeting by one of Timimi's followers, who later testified as a government witness. Another convicted member of the group had Aulaqi's phone number on his cellphone, according to court testimony.
Dar al-Hijrah's spokesman and others in leadership positions at the mosque did not respond to requests for interviews for this article.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, February 29, 2008

Can Israel ignore the Durban II conference?

Pfeffer's conclusion is not mine. Israel ignored the Durban summit last time and, believe it or not, the sky did NOT fall.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 09:45 29/02/2008    
Jerusalem & Babylon / Ignoring Durban summit not an option 
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent  
There is something faintly ridiculous about Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's decision that Israel will not participate in the "Durban 2" Conference, a year from now. This is an event that so far lacks a definite date (merely some amorphous point at the beginning of 2009), a fixed venue (it is not even clear on which continent it will take place), and certainly a settled agenda. Even the conference's name is still under discussion. So what exactly is Israel, and apparently Canada, supposed to be boycotting?
And besides, anyone you ask at the Foreign Ministry, from Livni downward, will quickly assure you that this is not the last word and that Israel has left the door open for improvement and eventual participation. So if this isn't even a real boycott, what is it?
Perhaps it is simply some kind of a post-traumatic reaction to the first Durban conference six and a half years ago? Speak to any Israeli diplomat or Jewish activist who was actually there and you will hear chilling accounts of our small and meager forces, who were totally overwhelmed by a massive propaganda offensive of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hatred. For the Foreign Ministry, there is an additional source of trauma: It was the ministry's equivalent of the Yom Kippur or Second Lebanon War, because it was apparently caught totally unprepared. At least this is the accusation that one constantly hears from survivors of Durban. Whether or not it is justified, this time around, nothing is to be left to chance. 
A year and a half before Durban 2, everyone was already setting up special task forces and working groups: the ministry, the Jewish Agency, the World Jewish Congress and practically every other major Jewish organization. For a change, internal rivalries were set aside and everyone was coordinating with each other. Over the last few months, just like the Iranian bomb and anti-Semitism, Durban has become a convenient target to rally the troops around. The message was clear. This time the Jewish people would be ready.
What a pity that now, there is not going to be any fight. What a waste of a good task force. But not to worry: No one is planning to just stay quietly at home. Now we are going to spend months agonizing over the question of whether Jewish organizations should follow the Israeli government's lead and stay away also, or would it be better for pro-Israel NGOs to go and fight for the cause all the same. Or perhaps the best idea is to organize an alternative conference, like some politicians are already proposing. And who knows, perhaps the UN Human Rights Council will offer some kind of concession and Israel will in the end be tempted to participate. Though we should not hold our breath for that, with Libya as council chairman and Cuba as vice-chair. The two main preparatory meetings have been scheduled for Pesach and Yom Kippur, which does not bode well for openness to Israeli demands.
As tempting as it might be to give the UN the finger and just ignore the whole carnival, that is not really an option. The problem of Israel and the Jewish world is not three hate-filled sessions at some conference center somewhere, it runs a lot deeper than that. Nor is it just a matter of "us and the UN," or the constant complaints of Diaspora Jews about "why Israel can't get its public relations act together." The fact that a major conference on human rights and fighting racism, sponsored by the most important international organization in the world, can turn into a platform dedicated to challenging the legitimacy of the Jewish state and branding Israel as a racist, colonialist leftover means that all the hundreds of advocacy organizations, watchdog groups and research centers dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism have failed dismally.
The reaction to the whole Durban process should be simple. Either we are clear on the fact that delegitimizing Israel's existence and holding it to an impossible double standard is the 21st century's version of ancient anti-Semitism, and therefore it has to be fought tooth and nail, and Israel and the Jews cannot allow any of their ostensible allies to take part in such an event; or we agree that ultimately, this is simply harsh criticism of Israeli policy, and try to deal with it through the normal diplomatic and PR methods. But listen to the pronouncements of Israeli ministers and Jewish Diaspora leaders and you don't get a clear answer: What is Durban 2, exactly?
When a rabbi is attacked on the streets of Kiev, or a swastika is daubed on the walls of a Jewish school in Paris, there is no problem with giving it the headline "another anti-Semitic attack." But can we use that title to describe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats to destroy Israel, when the Jewish community in Iran is still a protected minority, with its own member of parliament even? For most, the answer is instinctively yes, but the fact is that for many others it is not, and the gray area is growing all the time.
Durban will come and go, but this problem will remain. Some people have used the "a-S" word so much, in a Pavlovian fashion, that it has practically lost its meaning. But others have not used it at all, for fear of sounding anachronistic and reactionary, or just unfashionable in post-modern circles - thereby creating an illusion that it has gone away and does not exist anymore. Surely enough thinking and research has gone into the question of what modern anti-Semitism is to produce a clear standard, one above the daily rigmarole of left-right politics. 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Reuters Holocaust Shoah

[Feb. 29] Reuters news service either deliberately or by accident mistranslated remarks by Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. Because it involved the omnipotent word "Holocaust," this  triggered an international news libel against Israel.
Vilnai said:
"As the Qassam rocket fire [on Israeli civilians] intensifies and increases its range, the Palestinians are bringing upon themselves a bigger catastrophe because we will use all our might to defend ourselves."
In Hebrew, he had said, "Yamitu al azmam shoah gdolah yoter." That means, "Will bring upon themselves a greater disaster.  Reuven Alcalay's English Hebrew dictionary lists catastrophe, ruin or destruction among the most frequent meanings of "shoah." It also means "pit" or "abyss."  "Hashoah," with the definite article, means "the Holocaust." That was not what Vilnai said. The phrase is a Hebrew cliche of common officialese. "Holocaust" means the destruction of European Jewry. It literally means a whole animal offered as burnt offering. It cannot be greater or lesser, because in Hebrew at least, Ha Shoah can only refer to that one event.  Genocide of other peoples is generally referred to as "Rezach Am" - a literal translation meaning "murder of a people."  
World Media were quick to accuse Israel of plotting genocide against the Palestinians, without bothering to check the meaning of the phrase with the source.
British newsmedia and Reuters, were particularly energetic:
Another blood libel has been created, and it won't go away so easily. Tom Gross has some more details.

Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinians: Hamas led us to disaster

Israel can win the war of nerves. The truth is, that my heart goes out to these Palestinians who are victims of their own folly in voting for the Hamas.  These are the voices of a people who are already defeated, and who want to change their government:
A., who lives in Gaza, blames Hamas for ruining ties with every country in the world, except two: Syria and Iran. "They led us to disaster, and the price is being paid by the ordinary citizens. We have no dreams of a Palestinian state, Jerusalem or the right of return. All we want is a few hours without the electricity being cut and gasoline for our car."
M., a father of three in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, also blames Hamas for the situation, but admits that he dare not say so in public. "Everyone here is afraid to speak out against them, including those who are not connected with Fatah," he said. "Who knows what they will do to you? Several days ago, a Qassam rocket accidentally hit the home of a large, well-known clan in Beit Hanun. Even they did not come out in protest."
But M. added a caveat: "You need to understand that however angry people are with Hamas, their anger at Israel is greater."
But the residents of Sderot and the surrounding communities must be made of better stuff than the above, and have better leadership if we are to win. They must be convinced not only that Israel is right, but that the Israeli government and every person in Israel stands with them.
Ami Isseroff

 ANALYSIS / Uncompromising Hamas is in trouble
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents
In another few months, when Hamas leaders find time to retrace the steps that led to a large-scale Israel Defense Forces operation in the Gaza Strip, it may be that they will focus on the events of this past week.
The decision to put Ashkelon, and its 120,000 residents, within permanent range of their rockets from Gaza may turn out to have been a mistake on their part. As if it were not enough that the Israeli government is being asked to solve the continuing hardships of Sderot residents, it is now being faced with a much bigger problem in Ashkelon. Its conclusion, even if action is only taken in a month or two, is likely to be that a major military operation is needed in Gaza. Defense Minister Ehud Barak hinted as much Thursday.
A round of increased violence between Israel and Hamas takes place every two or three weeks. And each time, the latest round is more severe than the one preceding it. Last night, it seemed that the escalation was getting out of control. More than 30 rockets were fired at Israel Thursday (and close to 90 in the last two days), among them a Katyusha that scored a direct hit on a home in Ashkelon. Two Israeli civilians were injured in Thursday's barrage. The casualties on the Palestinian side were significantly worse: The air force struck 21 targets in 24 hours. The Palestinians suffered 15 dead, among them three children and a baby.
In talks at the Defense Ministry Thursday, Ehud Barak said that the likelihood of alarge-scale ground offensive "is real and tangible." However, he added, there are "complex considerations" regarding the right time for embarking on such an operation. On Wednesday night, during a tense meeting at Sapir College with leaders of the communities bordering the Gaza Strip, Barak said that a large-scale military response is "closer than you might think."
But before the IDF launches an offensive whose chances of success are being hotly disputed in both the government and the General Staff, there are immediate steps that Israel must take. Thursday night, after putting it off for months, Barak decided to activate the Color Red rocket warning system in Ashkelon. He also held a series of phone calls with the U.S. secretary of state, the foreign ministers of Russia and Britain, Quartet envoy Tony Blair and the head of Egyptian Intelligence, General Omar Suleiman. These calls are meant to lay the international groundwork for a possible Israeli ground offensive.
Hamas, for its part, has adopted an extreme, uncompromising stance. Conversations with its leaders sometimes give rise to the suspicion that they are out of touch with the military reality on the ground, in which their forces are suffering more and more casualties. One Hamas operative went so far as to refer to the prophet Mohammed in order to stress Gaza residents? ability to withstand the pressure. "The Prophet Mohammed managed to survive for three years under siege by the infidels, while eating moldy food, or none at all," he pointed out.
But notwithstanding such bold statements, Hamas is in trouble. This stems not only from the losses it is suffering, but also from a decline in its level of support among the Gazan public. The organization has been criticized in the Strip, inter alia, for the way it distributes humanitarian aid from Arab states, providing food only to its supporters. When four out of every five Gazans live below the poverty line, this is not the kind of behavior that makes Hamas popular, even if residents do not dare express their anger in public or in the media.
A., who lives in Gaza, blames Hamas for ruining ties with every country in the world, except two: Syria and Iran. "They led us to disaster, and the price is being paid by the ordinary citizens. We have no dreams of a Palestinian state, Jerusalem or the right of return. All we want is a few hours without the electricity being cut and gasoline for our car."
M., a father of three in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, also blames Hamas for the situation, but admits that he dare not say so in public. "Everyone here is afraid to speak out against them, including those who are not connected with Fatah," he said. "Who knows what they will do to you? Several days ago, a Qassam rocket accidentally hit the home of a large, well-known clan in Beit Hanun. Even they did not come out in protest."
But M. added a caveat: "You need to understand that however angry people are with Hamas, their anger at Israel is greater."
Thursday, M. decided to take his children out of school soon after it opened. "I want them near me. Who knows what will happen? In the morning, I heard on Israeli radio about someone injured at Sapir College and we already had five dead, and I understood that this would be another day of fighting."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Former diplomat: Assad seeks to restart talks with Israel

 Last update - 06:38 29/02/2008       
Former diplomat: Assad seeks to restart talks with Israel
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
Syrian President Bashir Assad would like to restart peace talks with Israel immediately, according to Alon Liel, former Foreign Ministry director-general, who met with Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustafa, in Washington last week.
Liel, who heads a movement advocating peace between Israel and Syria, said he briefed the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem of his talks.
For two years, until the summer of 2006, the former Israeli official held talks with a Syrian-American businessman, Abe Suleiman, with ties in the top echelons of the Assad regime. The talks were held under Swiss auspices and with the knowledge of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Liel and Suleiman prepared a document on a possible peace agreement which, among other issues, proposed a demilitarized buffer zone on the Golan Heights that would include a "peace park" for tourists.
Liel refused to comment on his visit Thursday, but sources at the Movement for Israel-Syria Peace, said that his visit to the U.S. focused on relations between Washington and Damascus, and included meetings in Congress.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dimona Suicide Bombers Resurrected - No virgins for fellow in the tape

This "resurrection" of dead suicide bombers did not actually take place. But a group issued a video showing the proported bombers, while the actual suicide bombers were a different pair. One of them blew up and the other was shot by police. The pair shown on the videotape escaped to Egypt.
Ynet has a somewhat confused version of the story:
Mystery solved: The two Palestinians who were initially said to have carried out the recent terror attack in the southern town of Dimona are alive and well in an Egyptian prison, Ynet has learned.

The attack, which occurred about three weeks ago, claimed the life of one woman and wounded 10 people. A short time after the bombing, two groups claimed responsibility for the attack: the Popular Front's Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades and the Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
However, a short while later Israeli security officials raised doubts regarding the bombers' identity, after photographs of the Dimona bombing site failed to match the videotape. A day later, Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack and said that the two bombers came from the West Bank town of Hebron.

Following the bombing, question marks persisted regarding the fate of the two men featured in the videotape. The Palestinians wondered whether the two were detained or eliminated by Israel or Egypt, or whether they were still at large and planning to carry out another attack.
However, Ynet has learned that Egyptian authorities informed the Popular Front that the two Gazans are in fact imprisoned in Egypt after they were arrested near the border. The Palestinian source who reported the information refused to say whether Egypt was planning to release the two.
Why does Hamas claim responsibility for a suicide bombing done by PFLP and Fatah?? Is it genuine rivalry, or is the moderate government of the moderate Palestinian authority and the moderate PLO and the moderate Fatah, disclaim responsibility so they can play "Good Palestinian-Bad Palestinian?"
The mother of one of the pair shown in the tape was very proud of all the virgins her son will be getting. He may now have to earn his virgins in the ordinary way.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Unexpected endorsement for Obama, as far as decent folks are concerned

The Obama campaign couldn't pay for an an endorsement this genuine and wonderful.
However, during the same time, Obama cosponsored a Senate resolution opposing Iranian and Syrian involvement in the war, and insisted that Israel should not be pressured into a cease-fire that did not address the threat of Hizbullah's missiles. So even from a Lebanese viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that Obama would be better than Bush on Israel.
But Arabs and Jews agree - a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq would be disastrous for the United States and the Middle East. How can I disagree with this?
Arabs should look further than Obama's second name of Hussein or his family's Muslim roots. They should beware of his lack of experience in a region where even experts often fail to anticipate what comes next.
Ami Isseroff

Wake up Arabs, Obama may be a menace
By Hussain Abdul-Hussain
Commentary by
Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A widespread impression increasingly evident in the Middle East is that the election of the Democratic candidate Barack Obama in the American presidential election will serve the Arabs' best interests. This is false. Any US president will have to tackle three main issues in the region. According to American priorities, these are Iraq, a nuclear Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On Iraq, Obama has so far promoted one idea, popular among Americans, though not necessarily wise: He plans to withdraw US troops from the country according to a predetermined timetable, regardless of realities on the ground. Americans have become exhausted with losing lives and treasure. Many Iraqis place "national honor" above anything else. Yet only a few on either the American or the Iraqi side actually support Obama's rigid withdrawal plan.

In the United States, both supporters of the war and opponents know that a withdrawal from Iraq would harm Iraqis, the region and perhaps the world. American decision-makers, both Republican and Democrat, agree that the US should not "cut and run" and should clean up the Iraqi mess it caused, despite the high cost. As former Secretary of State Colin Powell used to say about countries the US intervened in: You break it, you own it. 

A majority of Iraqis, their elected Parliament and Cabinet also oppose a hasty American withdrawal. Realizing the dangerous consequences of a vacuum, Iraqis don't seem in a hurry to demand an American withdrawal, even if they are not enthusiastic about the US presence in their country.

On Iran, Obama has made it clear that he would reverse the current administration's policies by sending American officials to negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program. But then what?

President George W. Bush's administration, despite its often aggressive foreign policy approach, has so far taken a backseat in dealing with Iran, restricting its pressure to diplomacy and sanctions coordinated with the Europeans, Russia and China. Just as it has been unproductive for the US to go to war alone, it would similarly be counterproductive for it to circumvent its partners through unilateral diplomacy.

If Obama talks to Iran alone, he might well end up handing it leverage to turn the international community against each other. As such, Iran's ayatollahs could inch closer to producing a nuclear weapon, the mere thought of which has so far terrified the Gulf states and their peoples.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Arab rationale favoring Obama's election has it that since Obama has expressed his willingness to engage in peace talks from his first day in office, this signals good times ahead. Where Obama stands on the issue of borders, on Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees is still unknown and probably undetermined, which makes all Palestinian arguments favoring his election as yet unfounded.

These three issues of importance will also affect two other Middle Eastern challenges: the situation in Lebanon and relations with Syria.

Lebanon, by itself, is not usually an issue of interest to the US or its leaders. The country only took on added importance when used as a demonstration of Bush's success in spreading democracy to the Middle East, an idea which is fading away in Washington. From the perspective of the Lebanese government and parliamentary majority, the Bush administration has been highly supportive of Lebanon. But there have been serious shortcomings. Bush's critics argue that his administration's biggest mistake occurred when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stood up to defend extending Israel's war against Hizbullah in July 2006.

However, during the same time, Obama cosponsored a Senate resolution opposing Iranian and Syrian involvement in the war, and insisted that Israel should not be pressured into a cease-fire that did not address the threat of Hizbullah's missiles. So even from a Lebanese viewpoint, there is no reason to believe that Obama would be better than Bush on Israel.

Syria, however, will remain important for the coming administration because of its control over Hizbullah and its meddling in Iraq. Israel is expected to be a driving force in mending Syrian-American relations. According to former Israeli diplomats in Washington, Syrian President Bashar Assad has been more "flexible" in his negotiations with the Israelis than his father and predecessor Hafez ever was.

What stands behind Syrian flexibility is plain. Syria fears international justice through the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In order to scale down or remove the mixed Lebanese-international tribunal that will hear the case, and that is now being set up in The Netherlands, Syria has apparently lowered its conditions for peace with Israel. By doing so, and by offering some cooperation on Iraq, Assad appears to be calculating that such steps will make it much more difficult for the international community to pursue his regime for the Hariri murder.

Obama said that once elected, he would engage Syria. Some of his advisers have already gone to Damascus, most recently Zbigniew Brzezinski. Even though the Syrian regime may soon find itself accused of involvement in the Hariri murder, Obama and his team have not set any preconditions for easing the pressure on Damascus, post-Bush. That is why there is a legitimate fear that if Obama becomes president, the Syrian regime might get a new lease on life, much to the dismay of the many Syrians, but also the Lebanese, who have suffered from its iron grip.

With Iraqis fearing a hasty Obama withdrawal, Palestinians still anxiously waiting to see what concessions a President Obama might compel Israel to offer them, Gulf citizens disturbed about the possibility of a nuclear Iran, the Lebanese fighting to oppose any bargain over the Hariri tribunal, and Syrians wary that their regime might get a new breath of oxygen from Washington, how can Obama's election be in the interest of the Arabs?

Arabs should look further than Obama's second name of Hussein or his family's Muslim roots. They should beware of his lack of experience in a region where even experts often fail to anticipate what comes next.

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a journalist based in Washington. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.


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Israeli Gaza Narrative: Getting killed at Sapir College

This is what it is like for Israelis. What did these students do to deserve this?  
Dying for a degree
Student at rocket-battered Sapir College describes grim reality only 40 minutes from Tel Aviv
Omri Keinan
Published:  02.28.08, 09:59 / Israel Opinion
As someone who is familiar with an entirely different reality, my decision to study at the Sapir College in southern Israel involved great hesitation and family pressure.
On the face of it, Sapir is an amazing college, with the kind of staff and atmosphere that cannot be found in Central Israel. However, below the kibbutz-like surface and the relaxed atmosphere, one can find a shocking and horrifying reality when it comes to student life.

In a country where students have gone on strike because of very small amounts of money, the students of Sapir are living in a mad reality that is not described in any academic literature (and by the way, this reality is only 40 minutes away from Tel Aviv.) I invite you to visit campus, so you can see it for yourself.

What you will find if you come to Sapir is reinforced police presence, red signs that include instructions for cases of emergency, and loudspeakers that on occasion sound a hair-raising alarm that gives us less than 10 seconds to seek cover in the face of incoming rockets.

At Sapir College you will not find students sitting on the grass. They are scared to be left without shelter should rockets land. But you will find great fear here.

Sacrificing our life 
It happens almost every day: A "Color Red" alert, Qassam rockets landing, and all this followed by tears, mass panic, and concerned phone calls from home. It happens to us during classes, it happens during breaks, and it happens during difficult exams.
We have already sustained property damage to the college before, but this time we are dealing with the worst possible scenario – the death of a student. To my regret, despite our army and the reinforced security deployment at school, I do not have the confidence to say that tomorrow's Qassam rocket will not hit me or any one of my friends at the college.

Can you comprehend that this is how students in Israel go about their studies? Do we need to sacrifice our lives for the sake of an academic degree? I am saddened to say this, but Wednesday's reality proved that this question has already claimed its first victim.

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Iran's great victory

IAEA has been rubber-stamping Iranian evasion of nuclear safeguards. But this conclusion is rather obvious:
The conclusion is that if during the coming year - by the end of George Bush's term - the American president does not order a military operation against Iran's nuclear sites, it is doubtful whether it would be possible to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear state. Jerusalem must start getting used to this and prepare for a "new Middle East."
Ami Isseroff
Iran's great victory
By Reuven Pedatzur
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad congratulated his nation earlier this week for its "great victory" following the release of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) report last Friday, and for good reason.
The "great [Iranian] nation's" perseverance enabled the government to do everything to restore Iran's rights in the nuclear energy field, in both national and international arenas, he said.
Ahmadinejad had someone he could count on when, with a broad smile, he called on the United States to apologize to Iran and even compensate it for America's "errors."
IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei played into the Iranians' hands again. Not only did he help their president to celebrate in Tehran, he also gave them another extension on their way to completing their nuclear weapons development.
Once again, as expected, ElBaradei missed the opportunity to unite the international community around the efforts to prevent Iran's nuclearization.
ElBaradei continued to use evasive language in the periodical report on Iran he released at the end of last week. He adamantly refuses to state the obvious. Referring to Iran's simulations and experiments with high-impact explosives and planned ballistic missile warheads, ElBaradei writes that there is no indication linking these activities to "nuclear materials." The IAEA cannot therefore reach a clear decision about the Iranian nuclear program's character, he writes.
In other words, it is clear even to ElBaradei that Iran is concealing, misleading and ignoring the Security Council's resolutions, yet he refrains from stating explicitly that it is developing nuclear arms.
It is clear that the Iranians have no reason or need to develop advanced explosive missile heads unless they intend to equip them with nuclear weapons. It is also obvious that there is no connection between developing energy for peaceful purposes and the Green Salt Project. This allegedly secretive project, which Iran has been working on for years and which the CIA told the IAEA about, consists of an explicit design for nuclear bombs.
Unfortunately ElBaradei's convoluted, problematic report received moral support from the American intelligence community in December, which said among other things that Iran had already abandoned the nuclear weapons component in its development programs in 2003.
It makes no difference that the U.S. director of National Intelligence, J. Michael McConnell, recently admitted he had been wrong in Congress, making it clear that he regretted the way the report had been presented.
McConnell said the intelligence community had erred, and that Iran was advancing on the most complicated part in nuclear production, the bomb, producing fuel based on enriched uranium. Well said, but too late.
Thus, the rear-guard action that the Bush administration is trying to lead now focuses on the attempt to draft a Security Council resolution for another round of sanctions against Iran - a move doomed to fail as the attempts to persuade Iran to back down from its nuclear program failed.
"Time is against us," U.S. Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said this week.
Two previous rounds of sanctions, in December 2006 and last March, failed to bring a change in Iran's nuclear policy. Britain and France have now presented the Security Council with a resolution proposal for additional sanctions, including restricting cargo to and from Iran, imposing a travel ban on Iranians visiting selected countries, confiscating assets of people involved in Iran's nuclear program, and tightening supervision over Iranian financial institutions.
Even if Russia and China do not object, as expected, and the Security Council adopts the proposal, it is doubtful whether this would unduly upset the Iranians.
The conclusion is that if during the coming year - by the end of George Bush's term - the American president does not order a military operation against Iran's nuclear sites, it is doubtful whether it would be possible to prevent Iran from turning into a nuclear state. Jerusalem must start getting used to this and prepare for a "new Middle East."

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Momentum gathering for UN Session on Terror

Last update - 10:55 28/02/2008    
 Ban backs Wiesenthal Center's call for UN session on terror 
By The Associated Press

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon supports a General Assembly special session on suicide terror which he calls an unacceptable political weapon, the UN said on Thursday.
Ban told leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the largest Jewish rights organizations who called for the special session, that he would personally present the initiative to General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
"The time has come to place suicide terror at the top of the international agenda," Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center's founder and dean, said in a statement Wednesday. "This scourge is only going to get worse, and the world must act before it is too late."
Hier led a delegation from the center that met the UN chief on Tuesday to discuss a special session of the UN General Assembly and express serious concern about next year's follow-up to the 2001 UN World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa.
After the December 27 suicide bombing and gun attack that killed former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Wiesenthal Center launched an online petition drive calling for the secretary-general to support a special session on suicide terror.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center's associate dean, said in an interview that the campaign received 6,500 e-mails from 85 countries including Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan calling for a special UN meeting.
With the UN and the world unable to agree on a universally accepted definition of terrorism, Cooper said the center started focusing on suicide terror four years ago in the hope that that's the kind of action that would generate the broadest revulsion around the world.
"One of the major changes," he said, "has been the big response from the Arab world and Muslims."
He said that shouldn't be surprising because today the largest number and percentage of victims of suicide terror are Muslims.
Cooper said a General Assembly special session should be a bully pulpit focusing on the whole chain of suicide terror - from the people who inspire it and support it in any way to the victims and survivors.
He pointed to a conference on terrorism in June hosted by Indonesia, the
world's most populous Muslim nation, that brought together representatives of the main religions, survivors of recent suicide bombings and a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
A key aim of a U.N. session, Cooper said, is getting the world to refocus on the human face, the human dimensions of this tragedy.
It also should put suicide terror at the top of the global agenda as an issue that impacts everyone, especially Arabs and the Muslim world, he said.
"We'd like to have suicide terror declared a crime against humanity," Cooper said.
This would empower governments and victims to go after the support system for suicide terrorists, acting under the rule of law, he said.
As for next year's Durban follow-up conference, Cooper said it must avoid any repetition of the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli stands at the original gathering, and especially at a forum of human rights groups that preceded it, which led to walkouts by the United States and Israel.
He said Canada has already announced it will not participate in next year's follow-up conference, which will also be in Durban, and Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that unless there are major structural changes, Israel will not attend.
"Unless there's a change of focus and structure for Durban II, the next meeting needs to be shunned by as many countries as we can encourage to do so," Cooper said.
Montas said the secretary-general told the delegation that Durban II must galvanize to fight against anti-Semitism.

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Obama to Jews: I have never been a Muslim

Joe Smith, who runs the filling station, has never been a Muslim either. That doesn't mean he should be President, does it?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 11:04 28/02/2008    
 Obama tells Jewish leaders: I have never been a Muslim 
By The Associated Press

 For Barack Obama, it is an ember that he has doused time and again, only to see it flicker anew: links to Islam fanned by false rumors, innuendo and association.
The Democratic presidential front-runner and his campaign reacted strongly this week when a photo of him in Kenyan tribal garb began spreading on the Internet.
And the praise he received Sunday from Minister Louis Farrakhan, leader of the black Muslim group Nation of Islam, prompted pointed questions during Tuesday night's presidential debate and in a private meeting over the weekend with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, Ohio.

During the debate, Obama repeated his denunciation of Farrakhan's views, which have included numerous anti-Semitic comments. And, after being pressed, he rejected Farrakhan's support in the presidential race.
The Democratic candidate says repeatedly that he is a Christian who took the oath of office on a family Bible. Yet on the Internet and on talk radio, and in a campaign introduction for Republican candidate John McCain this week, he often is depicted, falsely, as a Muslim with shadowy ties and his middle name, Hussein, is emphasized.
"If anyone is still puzzled about the facts, in fact I have never been a
Muslim," he told the Jewish leaders in Cleveland, according to a transcript of the private session.
The photo of Obama wearing Kenyan tribal raiment, taken by an Associated Press photographer during his 2006 visit to the country where his father was born, resurfaced on the Internet amid unsubstantiated claims that it was being circulated by members of Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign. Clinton and her aides said they had nothing to do with it. The Obama campaign accused them of shameful, offensive fear-mongering.
On Tuesday McCain denounced the introduction he got in Cincinnati that
criticized Obama in vivid terms. Talk show host Bill Cunningham referred to Obama three times as Barack Hussein Obama and called him a hack, Chicago-style politician during Cunningham's introduction of McCain.
The Obama campaign is closely attuned to the rumors and insinuations.
Information on Obama's Christian faith is prominently available on the Know the facts page of his Web site. The campaign has distributed flyers to churches in states with presidential contests. It encourages supporters to flag any attack that may make its way into cyberspace.
"Our campaign is vigilant in quickly responding to any information about
Senator Obama that surfaces, be it on the Internet, in the media or from our opponents," spokesman Bill Burton said Wednesday.
"If there is confusion - and opportunity for political mischief - it derives at least in part from Obama's rich cultural background. His mother was a white woman from Kansas, his father was Kenyan, and he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country.
"My grandfather, who was Kenyan, converted to Christianity, then converted to Islam," Obama said Sunday. "My father never practiced; he was basically agnostic. So, other than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for four years when I was a child, I have very little connection to the Islamic religion."
Obama has become careful in denouncing the links, lately noting that some
rumors about him also have been insulting to Muslims. Jim Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, said many Arab Americans are drawn to Obama because of his cultural background.
"It is clear he wants to have a broader relationship with the Muslim world," Zogby said. "He has a biography that connects him to the Muslim world."
Obama, though in the presidential limelight now for more than a year, is still introducing himself to voters. An AP-Yahoo poll in January asked people to volunteer the first few words that came to mind about each of the candidates, and 4 percent of the respondents, unprompted, mentioned the word Muslim when describing Obama.
Some of the rumors and allegations about Obama clearly are not true yet still spread, often anonymously:
-A debunked chain e-mail circulating widely on the Internet suggests he is hiding his Islamic roots. It says he was sworn into the Senate on the Quran and turns his back on the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.
He took his Senate oath with his hand on a family Bible, and he says, "Whenever I'm in the United States Senate, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. In fact, no candidate could survive if he publicly spurned the pledge."
-Another false report says he attended a Muslim madrassa school as a child in Jakarta. Obama was born in Hawaii and moved to Indonesia when he was 6 to live with his mother and stepfather. He returned to Hawaii when he was 10 to live with his maternal grandparents.
Interviews last year by The Associated Press at the Catholic elementary school in Jakarta found that it is a public and secular institution and has been open to students of all faiths since before Obama attended in the late 1960s. Said vice principal Akmad Solichin: "Yes, most of our students are Muslim, but there are Christians as well. Everyone's
welcome here."
-Obama also has faced questions about his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he has been a member for 20 years. Trinity calls itself Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian. But it accepts nonblack congregants. The United Church of Christ's president and general minister, the Rev. John H. Thomas, was quoted in a church publication as pointing out that the Rev. Jane Fisler-Hoffman, Illinois Conference Minister, who is white, has been a member of the congregation for years.
-Obama has been asked about Farrakhan's words of praise and Farrakhan's
receipt of an award from Trumpet Newsmagazine, a Trinity church publication last month. Obama told Jewish leaders Sunday: "An award was given to Farrakhan for his work on behalf of ex-offenders completely unrelated to his controversial statements. And I believe that was a mistake and showed a lack of sensitivity to the Jewish community, and I said so."
Farrakhan did not endorse Obama but said Sunday: "This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better."
Asked Tuesday night whether he would accept support from Farrakhan, Obama said: "I live in Chicago. He lives in Chicago. I've been very clear, in terms of me believing that what he has said is reprehensible and inappropriate. And I have consistently distanced myself from him."
Following an exchange with Clinton, he then added: "There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word 'reject' Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word 'denounce,' then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

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"Jewish wars" hold up Christian donations to Jewish Agency

Jewish Agency "democracy" should work according to the dictum "He who has money, calls the tune." - In Hebrew "Ba'al Hame'ah, Ba'al Hade'ah." That seems to be the reasoning behind seating a representative of the IFCJ on the board in line with the donations made by the IFCJ.  Apparently, this has been a general rule in the past. Fair enough, if the main function is raising money.
But the objection is not based on democratic grounds, but rather on the grounds of whose name will go on the donation plaques:
...The main sticking point now is the stipulation in the agreement that the IFCJ would be accorded the status of a funding partner, the same as that of the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod.
The IFCJ demand that on every new project inaugurated by Jewish Agency, their donation will be acknowledged on the signposts and posters, just as the UJC and Keren Hayesod are. But in the last two months, due to pressure from senior board members of the Chicago and New York federations, the agency has not added the IFCJ logo to signposts at new projects, such as the reinforcement of buildings in Sderot, to which IFCJ contributed.
Sholom Aleichem wrote about such Jewish quarrels in the imaginary village of Kasrilevke. This one is for real.
What a shame!
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 10:27 28/02/2008       
U.S. Jews' opposition holds up Jewish Agency deal with Christian group
By Anshel Pfeffer
Opposition from Jewish community federations in the United States is hindering the implementation of an agreement between the Jewish Agency and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, under which the IFCJ was to double its donations to the agency.
According to the agreement, signed two months ago, the IFCJ - a body that promotes Christian support of Israel - is to donate $45 million to agency projects over the next three years. In return, the IFCJ's founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, is to be a voting member of the agency's executive board and budget committee.
The agreement, doubling the IFCJ's former level of donations, has raised objections from the agency's main donors in the U.S., where federation leaders have complained of not having been consulted by the Jewish Agency's chairman before he signed the agreement with the IFCJ.
At first, the main objections were due to reports that a Christian representative would become a member of the agency's board of governors, but it emerged that only Eckstein would serve, representing his Christian Evangelist donors. The main sticking point now is the stipulation in the agreement that the IFCJ would be accorded the status of a funding partner, the same as that of the United Jewish Communities and Keren Hayesod.
The IFCJ demand that on every new project inaugurated by Jewish Agency, their donation will be acknowledged on the signposts and posters, just as the UJC and Keren Hayesod are. But in the last two months, due to pressure from senior board members of the Chicago and New York federations, the agency has not added the IFCJ logo to signposts at new projects, such as the reinforcement of buildings in Sderot, to which IFCJ contributed.

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Avi Dichter: Israel policy not stopping Gaza Rockets

Read between the lines:
On a tour of the Qassam-battered town of Sderot on Thursday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter rejected calls to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and urged the government to reconsider its policy against the intensifying rocket attacks.
"Whoever talks about entering and occupying the Gaza Strip, these are populist ideas which I don't connect to, and in my opinion, no intelligent person does either," he told reporters during a press conference at Sapir College, where an Israeli civilian was killed by Qassam fire the day before.
He called on the government to come up with an alternative policy for fighting the rockets, saying: "I recognize everything the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet are doing, but right now they are operating according to an existing policy."
OK, Avi Dichter, tell us what to do instead. If you think we should negotiate with Hamas, then explain what will be achieved. If you have a different plan, tell us what that is. Everyone knows the current policy is not working, and nobody is enthusiastic about invading Gaza. But nobody has a good alternative either.
Ami Isseroff
Dichter: Current government policy will not stop Qassam fire
By Amos Harel and Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
On a tour of the Qassam-battered town of Sderot on Thursday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter rejected calls to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and urged the government to reconsider its policy against the intensifying rocket attacks.
"Whoever talks about entering and occupying the Gaza Strip, these are populist ideas which I don't connect to, and in my opinion, no intelligent person does either," he told reporters during a press conference at Sapir College, where an Israeli civilian was killed by Qassam fire the day before.
He called on the government to come up with an alternative policy for fighting the rockets, saying: "I recognize everything the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet are doing, but right now they are operating according to an existing policy."
"This is not what is going to stop the Qassam fire and this must be brought to the cabinet for discussion," he added.
Just before Dichter's address, a Qassam exploded on the college campus, lightly wounding one of his guards. Dichter was not present at the site at the time of the attack.
Immigration Absorption Minister Jacob Edrey, who accompanied Dichter on his Sderot tour, took a harsher line, saying: "The government will need to contend and make difficult decisions. We are not far from the day in which we will have to go in and reoccupy all of Gaza."
At the end of the press conference, the Red Color alert sounded, and the meeting was concluded in a protected shelter.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Wednesday that Israel is at war with Palestinian militants and vowed the Israel Defense Forces would continue to fight them until security returns to citizens of southern Israel.
The prime minister's comments were made after Israeli civilian was killed when a Qassam rocket struck his car in the parking lot of a college in Sderot.
"We are in a war which sometimes exacts a high cost, and sometimes does not," the prime minister said.
"We will continue fighting in order for the danger to the residents of the south to end. This is a long process, and a painful one, and we haven't any magic formulas to solve this today. We are suffering painful blows, but are returning more painful blows."
Olmert said however that Israel would not change its overall policy in the Gaza Strip. "What is happening today happened a week ago, and is likely to happen in the near future," he said.
"No one in Hamas, neither among the low ranks nor among the senior ranks, will be immune to that war," Olmert threatened.
The prime minister added that the Palestinians are "testing Israel's patience" to its limit.
The prime minister made the comments during a visit to a Nissan factory in Tokyo.
Officials: Response to rockets will be harsh
A senior defense official said Wednesday night that the Israeli response to the rocket fire on Sderot and Ashkelon is expected to be particularly harsh, and that Israel does not intend to let pass Hamas' decision to escalate its offensive measures.
Military sources told Haaretz that in the next few weeks the IDF will complete its preparations for a major ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. However, they added that the final decision on a wide-scale incursion is in the hands of the government, and no decision has been made yet.
Discussion over entering Gaza ratcheted up Wednesday following the death of a 47-year-old Israeli civilian who was killed by a Qassam rocket in Sderot Wednesday.
Hamas fired some 50 rockets at Israel on the worst day of fighting the Gaza Strip border has seen in more than two weeks. Several rockets hit Ashkelon.
Also on Wednesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak went to Sderot to meet with the heads of communities in the area.
Rice: Hamas to blame for Gaza situation
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called for the rocket attacks on Israel to stop and blamed Hamas for the situation in Gaza, speaking after a meeting with Olmert in Tokyo on Wednesday.
Rice is set to visit Israel and the West Bank next week to try to push along U.S.-brokered peace talks complicated by the growing violence.
The secretary of state also voiced concern about Palestinian civilians killed in IDF operations in the Gaza Strip, but stopped short of an explicit call for Israel to exercise restraint.
Asked if she had urged Olmert not to use disproportionate force in responding to rocket attacks from Gaza, Rice told reporters: "I think that's not a good way to address this issue. The issue is that the attacks - rocket attacks need to stop."
She said she had reiterated to Olmert U.S. concerns for the humanitarian situation.
"I am concerned about the humanitarian condition there and innocent people in the Gaza who are being hurt. We have to remember that the Hamas activities there are responsible for what has happened in Gaza ... But, of course, we are concerned about innocent people and we are concerned about the humanitarian situation," she said after the one-hour breakfast meeting.
Sources in Olmert's entourage said that he was briefed by the military secretary on the rocket fire against Sderot and the Israeli civilian killed there. The prime minister was informed that the Hamas was responsible for that attack, and the assessment was that it came in response to the killing of six members of Hamas during IDF operations in the morning.
However, regarding the possibility of an offensive in the Gaza Strip, Olmert said: "I do not recall speaking even once about a ground operation in the Strip."
Earlier, Olmert said that he had not received any concrete offer from Hamas for a cease-fire with Israel.

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Former President of Israel beats rape rap, pleas guilty on sex offences

Likud politician Moshe Katsav was elected President of Israel by the votes of Likud policos and ultraorthodox Jewish MKs who did not like Shimon Peres. Katsav's contribution to the state was that he took up space, which was good enough for these people.
He also tried to carry out the commandment "Be Fruitful and Multiply" with several unwilling women, according to their testimony. He believed in putting himself into his work. It is the job of politicians to love the people whether they like it or not. Katsav took it literally. That's illegal here too. But Katsav got a free pass and will stay out of jail.
Hey folks, we aren't all like this. But it's time to give Israel back to the Zionists.
Ami Isseroff

 Last update - 12:31 28/02/2008       
With plea deal okayed, state files indictment against Katsav
By Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz Correspondent
State prosecutors filed their indictment against former President Moshe Katsav on Thursday to the Jerusalem District court, after the High Court rejected petitions earlier this week calling to cancel the plea bargain reached with Katsav .
On Wednesday, Attorney General Menachem Mazuz announced that he had no intention of delaying the indictment so that an additional hearing can be held by a wider panel of High Court Justices.
The indictment reached in a plea bargain includes only minor sexual offenses - one count of indecent assault involving pressure and one of sexual harassment - and would give Katsav a suspended sentence rather than actual jail time.
The Movement for Quality Government and women rights groups asked Mazuz to reconsider his decision to file the indictment, but were denied their request.
On Wednesday, the state said that they are seeking to charge Katsav with crimes of moral turpitude, which would make him ineligible to receive his presidential pension and benefits.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Muslim leaders want dialog

Muslim letter to Jews
by: JTA and SJ staff 
Muslim leaders have issued an unprecedented appeal to world Jewry for closer relations.
In a letter generated by the Muslim-Jewish study centre at the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, Muslim scholars acknowledged the gap in understanding that exists today between Jews and Muslims, and asked Jewish leaders to help them bridge it.
Sheik Michael Mumisa, a lecturer at the Woolf Institute, described the letter as the first in modern times sent to the Jewish community with the backing of scholars and Muslim leaders.
"The message in this letter conveys to the Jewish community a genuine desire for mutual respect, for dialogue and deeper understanding," he said.
The letter to the world's Jewish community, Mumisa said, is "a call for positive and constructive action that aims to improve Muslim-Jewish relations."
"I really think that this letter is a signal that we are ready to call for dialogue," said Professor Tariq Ramadan. "We need to get beyond 'tolerance' which is saying that 'I put up with you but I would rather you were not here' to a mutual knowledge and a mutual respect."
Signators include Professor Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington.
The letter notes that Judaism and Islam share core doctrinal beliefs, the most important of which is strict monotheism. That theological conjoining should in itself dictate greater communication, the signators urged.
According to the Woolf Institute, the letter's aim, is to show that Muslims are willing to engage in dialogue with the Jewish community about issues other than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"I wholeheartedly welcome this most important initiative on the part of Muslim scholars and representatives," commented Rabbi David Rosen, international president, Religions for Peace and Advisor on Interfaith Relations to the chief rabbinate of Israel.
Rosen added: "The benefits from respectful dialogue and cooperation between the Muslim and Jewish communities can be a blessing not only to the communities themselves, but can have a profound impact on wider even global relations between religions and peoples, contributing to the well being of human society as a whole."

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Qassam rockets kill Israeli civilian; IDF kills Hamas terrorists

Qassam rockets kill, again. See Qassam rockets kill for background.
Israeli killed in massive Qassam barrage on Negev
By News Agencies
At least one person was killed, several were wounded and many were treated for shock Wednesday as least 30 Qassam rockets slammed into the western Negev town of Sderot and surrounding communities.

The 30-year-old student killed in the strike was apparently in a car, parked next to Sapir College on the outskirts of Sderot, which was hit by a Qassam. He suffered lethal shrapnel wounds to the chest.

The rocket barrage occurred hours after an Israel Air Force strike killed five Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip who were apparently planning a large scale terrorist attack against Israel after having been trained in Iran. The Shin Bet security service ventured a guess that the severity of the rocket attack against Israel Wednesday afternoon reflected the central role the dead Hamas men had played in the organization.

Palestinian officials said two more people, including a civilian, were killed in a second IAF airstrike carried out immediately after the Qassam attack against Sderot.

One of the Qassam rockets directly hit a home in Sderot, while another exploded in a factory mess hall shortly after the workers had exited.

Several people suffered shrapnel wounds in the attack, and seven people suffering light injuries and shock were evacuated to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon.

Later, a Qassam rocket exploded near the Ashkelon hospital and several more people suffered from shock. Four rockets struck various sites in Ashkelon.

Hamas' military wing claimed responsiblity for firing the Qassams.

Israel frequently carries out airstrikes and brief ground incursions in Gaza to halt the rocket attacks, and it appeared likely that the deadly rocket barrage would draw a new Israeli reprisal.

Earlier Wednesday, at least six Palestinian militants, most from the extremist Hamas movement, were killed in operations by the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In southern Gaza, an Israel Air Force air strike destroyed a minivan carrying Hamas members, killing five. Hamas said that the dead included a senior engineer involved in the production of the Qassam rockets fired at southern Israel from Gaza on a daily basis, as well the commander of a local rocket-launching squad.

Two other Hamas members were wounded in the airstrike, according to Hamas and Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Gaza Health Ministry.

Minutes after the first explosion, an IAF missile struck another car nearby. Witnesses said the militants in the car had abandoned the vehicle for the white minivan shortly before the strike. There were no casualties in the second attack.

The IDF confirmed the strikes, which it said targeted vehicles transporting militants. Israel is targeting Palestinians responsible for the daily Qassam barrages.

Local residents who knew the men said some of them had undergone training in Syria or Iran and returned home after Hamas breached the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt in defiance of an Israeli blockade of the territory of 1.5 million people.

Abu Ubaida, spokesman of Hamas's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, denied they had traveled outside the Gaza Strip.

Also Wednesday, IDF elite troops operating in the center of the West Bank city of Nablus killed one Palestinian and wounded three others.

The IDF said that the commando patrol spotted a group of five men, one carrying a pistol. The group fled after they were asked to stop by the troops, who then opened fire. Four of the men were wounded, including the man who later died in an Israeli hospital. Another of the group was said to be in critical condition.

In the early hours of Wednesday, a gunman from Islamic Jihad was killed during clashes with IDF troops in central Gaza, the militant organization said. The man's body was taken to hospital in Gaza on Wednesday morning.

The IDF said a militant approached the Gaza-Israel border fence late Tuesday and that soldiers had seen an explosion, likely caused by explosives the militant was carrying.

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Israel Kills Hamas senior terrorists - Video

IDF kills 5 Hamas members in Gaza
(Video) Five Palestinians, including three senior rocket unit commanders, killed after IDF aircraft fires missiles at bus, vehicle carrying members of Hamas' military wing in Gaza; several other people wounded in strike. IDF, Shin Bet confirm attack
Ali Waked YNET Latest Update: 02.27.08, 10:22 / Israel News

video & Source:
Israel Army kills Hamas commanders

VIDEO - Five members of Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, were killed Wednesday morning after an IDF aircraft fired missiles at a bus and another vehicle carrying the group's operatives west of the Gaza town of Khan Younis.

According to local sources, the bus was hit by several missiles as it was approaching a naval force post near Gaza's coast. Several people were wounded in the strike.

Three of the men killed were reportedly senior commanders of the group's rocket unit. Palestinian sources estimated that the bus had been under surveillance since it left the Jabalya area.

IDF: Strikes undermine Hamas' strength

IDF and Shin Bet officials confirmed that two vehicles carrying Hamas men were attacked. According to the Israeli security forces, they had intelligence indicating that the vehicles were carrying members of Hamas' military wing. While both vehicles were hit, it appears that the passengers of the car managed to escape.

Sources in the Israeli army noted that Hamas was responsible for terror activities in the Gaza Strip, including the firing of Qassam rockets, even when its members are not the ones firing the actual rockets.

"These actions, along with the IDF's ground forces' operations in the Strip, will eventually undermine the group's strength," an army official said.

"This is not done in days, but Hamas is certainly suffering ongoing losses. Its motivation is still high, but the message is clear - as long as they continue to carry out attacks against Israeli targets, they continue to be a target for strikes."

Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Gaza reported Tuesday night that an Islamic Jihad member was killed in an IDF strike in the al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Strip.

According to the report, the man, Zaki Abu-Zeid, died after an IDF aircraft fired at a group of lookouts belonging to the al-Quds Brigades, the Islamic Jihad's military wing. Two other group members were injured in the strike.

First Published: 02.27.08, 09:27

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The Sderot Calculus

The Sderot Calculus
February 26, 2008; Page A18
Bret Stephens

The Israeli town of Sderot lies less than a mile from the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of the intifada seven years ago, it has borne the brunt of some 2,500 Kassam rockets fired from Gaza by Palestinian terrorists. Only about a dozen of these Kassams have proved lethal, though earlier this month brothers Osher and Rami Twito were seriously injured by one as they walked down a Sderot street on a Saturday evening. Eight-year-old Osher lost a leg.

It is no stretch to say that life in Sderot has become unendurable. Palestinians and their chorus of supporters -- including the 118 countries of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement, much of Europe, and the panoply of international aid organizations from the World Bank to the United Nations -- typically reply that life in the Gaza Strip is also unendurable, and that Palestinian casualties greatly exceed Israeli ones. But this argument is fatuous: Conditions in Gaza, in so far as they are shaped by Israel, are a function of conditions in Sderot. No Palestinian Kassams (or other forms of terrorism), no Israeli "siege."
The more vexing question, both morally and strategically, is what Israel ought to do about Gaza. The standard answer is that Israel's response to the Kassams ought to be "proportionate." What does that mean? Does the "proportion" apply to the intention of those firing the Kassams -- to wit, indiscriminate terror against civilian populations? In that case, a "proportionate" Israeli response would involve, perhaps, firing 2,500 artillery shells at random against civilian targets in Gaza. Or should proportion apply to the effects of the Kassams -- an exquisitely calibrated, eye-for-eye operation involving the killing of a dozen Palestinians and the deliberate maiming or traumatizing of several hundred more?

Surely this isn't what advocates of proportion have in mind. What they really mean is that Israel ought to respond with moderation. But the criteria for moderation are subjective. Should Israel pick off Hamas leaders who are ordering the rocket attacks? The European Parliament last week passed a resolution denouncing the practice of targeted assassinations. Should Israel adopt purely economic measures to punish Hamas for the Kassams? The same resolution denounced what it called Israel's "collective punishment" of Palestinians. Should Israel seek to dismantle the Kassams through limited military incursions? This, too, has the unpardonable effect of resulting in too many Palestinian casualties, which are said to be "disproportionate" to the number of Israelis injured by the Kassams.

By these lights, Israel's presumptive right to self-defense has no practical application as far as Gaza is concerned. Instead, Israel is counseled to allow goods to flow freely into the Strip, and to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas.

But here another set of considerations intrudes. Hamas was elected democratically and by overwhelming margins in Gaza. It has never once honored a cease-fire with Israel. Following Israel's withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements from the Strip in 2005 there was a six-fold increase in the number of Kassam strikes on Israel.

Hamas has also made no effort to rewrite its 1988 charter, which calls for Israel's destruction. The charter is explicitly anti-Semitic: "The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!" (Article Seven) "In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad." (Article 15) And so on.

It would seem perverse for Israeli taxpayers, including residents of Sderot, to feed the mouth that bites them. It would seem equally perverse for Israel merely to bide its time for an especially unlucky day -- a Kassam hitting a busload of schoolchildren, for instance -- before striking hard at Gaza. But unless Israel is willing to accept the military, political and diplomatic burdens of occupying all or parts of Gaza indefinitely, the effects of a major military incursion could be relatively short-lived. Israel suffered many more casualties before it withdrew from the Strip than it has since.

Perhaps the answer is to wait for a technological fix and, in the meantime, hope for the best. Israel is at work on a missile-defense program called "Iron Dome" that may be effective against Kassams, though the system won't be in place for at least two years. It could also purchase land-based models of the Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, used by the U.S. to defend the Green Zone in Baghdad.

But technology addresses neither the Islamic fanaticism that animates Hamas nor the moral torpor of Western policy makers and commentators who, on balance, find more to blame in Israel's behavior than in Hamas's. Nor, too, would an Iron Dome or the Phalanx absolve the Israeli government from the necessity of punishing those who seek its destruction. Prudence is an important consideration of statesmanship, but self-respect is vital. And no self-respecting nation can allow the situation in Sderot to continue much longer, a point it is in every civilized country's interest to understand.

On March 9, 1916, Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa attacked the border town of Columbus, N.M., killing 18 Americans. President Woodrow Wilson ordered Gen. John J. Pershing and 10,000 soldiers into Mexico for nearly a year to hunt Villa down, in what was explicitly called a "punitive expedition." Pershing never found Villa, making the effort something of a failure. Then again, Villa's raid would be the last significant foreign attack on continental U.S. soil for 85 years, six months and two days.
Source: WSJ

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Racist Durban Conference

Hermon's co-chairman, Prof. Leonard Cole, said that "it's important for Jewish organizations to be there, at least as observers. We shouldn't be leaving this fight."
It is important for Jews to be in Durban - but not inside. It was important for Jews to be at Auschwitz too. We should not have left that fight either, but you have to know when you are outnumbered and the odds are hopeless.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 08:53 27/02/2008       
Jewish groups mull UN racism meet after Israel decides to skip
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Jewish organizations are still at odds on how to deal with the Durban II conference after the government decided that Israel would not participate.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced on Sunday at the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem that Israel would not participate in the United Nations Follow-up Conference on Racism, more popularly known as "Durban II." Livni added the caveat: "Unless it is proven that the conference will not be used as a platform for further anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity."
The first Durban conference in 2001 turned into an anti-Israel festival, and governments in the West have been debating over the last few months how to respond to the follow-up conference next year.
Last month, Canada became the first country to announce it would not participate.
This announcement has been generally praised by most Jewish organizations but has also drawn criticism, both for not going far enough and for leaving the battlefield.
Former minister Natan Sharansky, who founded the Global Forum, said Livni's decision was timely but that it should have been without the caveat.
He said that "it's not enough to not take part in the conference itself, there is a whole process of preparation in the year running up to the conference, where Israel is being attacked, and we must make it quite clear that we oppose that also."
A number of community leaders from the Diaspora, participating at the Jewish Agency board of governors meeting this week, voiced concern that Israel, by withdrawing from the conference, was "deserting the battleground and leaving the stage to Israel bashers."
These leaders preferred not to go on record and to openly support the government's decision.
Amos Hermon, chairman of the Jewish Agency's task force on anti-Semitism, said that "Jewish communities have requested us to coordinate a joint effort to fight Durban II, and we are already making plans to bring thousands of Jews to demonstrate at the conference, wherever it takes place."
Hermon's co-chairman, Prof. Leonard Cole, said that "it's important for Jewish organizations to be there, at least as observers. We shouldn't be leaving this fight."
The president of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, disagreed, saying that "we should learn from what happened at the previous Durban conference. This is not running away, but standing up for our principles. Jewish organizations shouldn't even be there. There are enough ways to fight this, over the Internet and making press conferences in different places around the world."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Give Israel a break

David Harris is quote right. Criticism of Israel is frequently unfair and grossly distorted. It is not constructive criticism. It is aimed at destroying Israel rather than correcting injustices.
But we need to carry the logic all the way to its conclusion. If we are really for peace, as he says, then we have to stop making excuses for policies that don't promote peace. If we are really for human rights, then we have to make sure our policies promote human rights.
I have been to Israel, David Harris. I live here. It is not as bad as any Arab country here, and I will be first to point that out. But that isn't saying much. "We have the best Arab regime in the Middle East," is not much of a recommendation. 
There are too many "exceptions" to the IDF ethical code. We can't go on excusing all of them. There are too many instances of settlers carrying out violent acts against Arabs and going unpunished. There are, for that matter, too many instances of settlers.
The bad guys on the other side are exposing all these faults not because they want to improve our democracy. but because they want to delegitimize and destroy Israel. We much be equally merciless in correcting the problems if we want to ensure the survival of Israel.
We can't expect the other side to be "fair." Mr. Nasrallah and Mr. Meshal and their groupies are not nice people and don't play according to gentlemanly rules. They will use every fault they can find, fair or not fair. But we must give Israel a break. We can't let extremists set the agenda and we can't let them pretend to represent Israel or Zionism.
Ami Isseroff
 Monday Feb 25, 2008
In the Trenches: 'Give me a break, please'
David Harris

Not a day passes that I don't encounter another Israel-directed lecture on the imperative of peace.
Sometimes it comes from diplomats. Or from editorial writers. Or from columnists. Or from scholars. Or from human-rights groups.
Frankly, it makes my blood boil.
First, it assumes that Israel wants peace for itself less than others do.
Second, it displays an arrogance that what may not be immediately apparent to Israel is abundantly obvious to those on the outside sitting in their ministries, offices, ivory towers, or vacation spots.
And third, it reveals a lack of humility insofar as Israel, and Israel alone, will bear the consequences - and they could be calamitous - of any misguided actions.
Strikingly, many of these commentators have never been to Israel, or have visited infrequently, or visit, but only in the company of those who share the same ideological predisposition. For instance, an individual appointed to head up a US-based Arab-Israeli peace group had never set foot in Israel before assuming the position.
I know of no people on earth that has prayed for peace longer than the Jewish people. Turning "swords into plowshares" and "spears into pruning hooks," and visualizing a day when the lion and lamb would lie down - and wake up - together weren't conceived as slogans on Madison Avenue; they're the Jewish people's age-old contribution to civilization.
I know of no nation on earth that yearns for peace more than Israel, no nation, victorious in unsought wars, that has been more generous in yielding to its vanquished foes' terms in pursuit of peace, and no nation that has taken more demonstrated - and tangible - risks for the sake of peace than Israel.
To think otherwise is to assume that Israel would prefer a state of permanent conflict, and that, quite frankly, would be preposterous.
Of course, there are debates within Israel about the best way to arrive at peace. How could it be otherwise? There is no surefire plan for getting from here to there in the topsy-turvy Middle East. Six decades of Israel's existence have amply demonstrated the challenges.
But can any well-intentioned person truly believe that the Jewish people, resettled in the land of their ancestors after centuries of violence, persecution, and stigmatization, would seek anything other than a long-denied tranquility and peaceful coexistence with its neighbors?
Or that survivors of the Shoah who were able to reach the shores of Israel, despite innumerable obstacles, would welcome decade after decade of ever-present conflict and danger?
Or that Israel's residents, whether settled in the country for generations or newcomers fleeing the intolerance of the Arab world or the oppression of Communist regimes, would seek a state of endless war?
Or that Israeli parents would wish to see their children, and then their grandchildren, and then their great-grandchildren go off to war, perhaps never to return?
Or that Israelis would welcome the daily barrage of rocket and mortar attacks raining down on Sderot and creating havoc in the daily lives of those trying to do nothing other than ride the roller coaster of everyday life? Or derive joy from the fact that all the children of this working-class town suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder?
Or that Israelis in the north would eagerly anticipate another barrage of Hizbullah-fired missiles from Lebanon targeted at anyone and everyone?
Or that Israelis would luxuriate in the knowledge that there is risk of a terrorist attack even in the simple act of riding a public bus, dancing in a nightclub, eating in a pizzeria, or attending a university?
Or that Israelis would relish the honor of being among the world's most highly taxed people because of the sustained burden of defense spending to ensure a qualitative edge over the forces of its adversaries?
Or that Israelis would derive pride from being shunted off to the far corners of international airports, where they're surrounded by heavily armed guards, for the simple pleasure of boarding planes destined for Tel Aviv?
Or that Israelis would take their cue from Hamas and Hizbullah leaders who propagate a culture of death and mayhem, when, in reality, Israel and the Jewish people have made an art form of celebrating life and seeking its enhancement?
No, the Israel I know desperately seeks peace. Israel's Declaration of Independence expressed it. The Israeli concessions for the Egyptian and Jordanian peace accords showed it. The withdrawals from Gaza and Southern Lebanon proved it. The efforts by successive Israeli governments to reach a viable two-state settlement with the Palestinians continue to underscore it. The polls consistently demonstrate it.
But those armchair commentators too often fail to grasp Israel's objective challenges in finding trustworthy partners. Instead, they've made a cottage industry out of ignoring, denying, minimizing, rationalizing, contextualizing, or trivializing the obstacles Israel has faced.
It's almost as if Hizbullah's blood-curdling cries to destroy Israel and the Jews, Hamas's aim of replacing all of Israel with an Islamic state, Iran's objective of a world without Israel, Syria's hospitality to all the leading terrorist groups in the region, and the teaching of incitement and contempt in Palestinian textbooks don't count for anything. Instead, they're simply seen as pesky, off-subject debating points by pro-Israel supporters.
We live in a half-cocked world.
For many, it's business as usual with Iran, while its leaders unabashedly call for an incitement to genocide.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, controlled by a reflexively anti-Israel numerical majority, routinely rewrites history by labeling Israel as an aggressor state, while blithely ignoring the threats and attacks it endures for no reason other than its very existence.
The media can't bring itself to call the Hamas and Hizbullah murderers of innocent civilians "terrorists," but instead more gently refers to them as "militants."
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is too often referred to antiseptically as a "cycle of violence," when it's anything but. After all, isn't there a clear moral difference between those who aim to murder and those whose objective it is to stop the murderers?
And the BBC took the rare step of apologizing after one of its reporters, reflecting the same mindset, lumped together in one sentence assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, who sought to rebuild his country, and Imad Mugniyeh, the Hizbullah terrorist mastermind recently killed in Damascus.
Peace has been at the heart of the Jewish journey for more than 3000 years. It has been at the heart of Israel's journey for six decades. We may need lessons in many things, b

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Israel Boycott: Letter to UK Green Party from Denis MacEoin

Jean Evans has sent round a call from ICAN to represent the Israeli case to the UK Green Party, which has just passed a resolution for — guess what? — a boycott of Israel. I voted for the Greens a couple of times some years ago before I decided I was wasting my vote, so I have felt a certain justification in sending the following letter. Even if they aren't very influential, their resolution stands for something in UK politics, so I urge everyone to take a few moments to write in an effort to have this decision reversed.

Please write, email or phone the Green Party at:-
Address - 1a Waterlow Road, London, N19 5NJ
Tel:  020 7272 4474
Fax: 020 7272 6653



Dear Sirs,

I have in the past voted Green, but I am unlikely to do so again. Your call for a boycott of Israel disturbs, just as it would disturb me to hear you had voted to boycott a company manufacturing solar panels. In the case of Israel, I seriously have to ask why this seems to you an ethical or politically wise thing to do. Within its region, Israel stands head and shoulders above its neighbours in several important respects: its regard for human rights, notably the rights of women, homosexuals, and religious minorities; its dedication to democracy in both theory and practice; its promotion of harmony between the two main cultures within it, through equal rights in voting, education, health care, and access to all areas of society for Jews and Arabs alike; and its promotion of science, technology and sound environmental practice. Why would you wan to boycott a country like Israel when you don't boycott countries run by dictators like Egypt, Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or countries that actively practise a form of apartheid by discriminating against their religious minorities like Egypt or Iran, or which have expelled all religious minorities, like Saudi Arabia.

What you propose is preposterous from any half-way liberal perspective. You punish a country that fights for its survival, yet do nothing to rebuke those that grenerate or aid terrorism. You single out Israel from among all other countries, when it is a promoter, not a violater of human rights, democracy, and the freedom of the individual. I make these as assertions, and you are free to disagree, but I think you have to present your evidence. You have to go to Israel and see things at first hand. Do not be misled by what you may see on the surface. If you are offended by the wall, then viwsit it: for 97% of its length, it is a fence. From its first foundation it has saved lives. A lot of lives. Punish the Israelis for building and maintaining a barrier to civilian deaths if you must: just don't boast about it.

If it is wrong for Israel to use its army to fight back against aggressive neighbours, how much more wrong is it for Hamas and its affiliates to fire rockets on a daily basis into civilian areas in Israel. Hamas openly plots the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a totalitarian Islamic state on its ruins. Would you really collude in that? Iran boasts that it will 'exterminate' Israel and its presdient calls Jews 'a filthy virus'. Do you honestly seek to be complicit in that? If so, how do you square it with your consciences? Israel's enemies repeatedly urge that they will finish what Hitler left undone, by which they mean a second Holocaust. Yet you are so morally blind as to lend succour to the idea that Israel is uniquely guilty among nations and its Jewish inhabitants fit for extermination. You may deny that any of that is your aim, and I will believe you. But knowingly or unknowingly, you lend succour to the forces that make such an outcome more likely.

I believe you are better than that, and that you are capable of rising above the mindless stereotyping that characterizes so much left-wing condemnation of Israel today. If we are liberals, you and I, we must remain true to liberal values. Boycotting Israel comes from quite a different part of the political spectrum.

If you seek peace in the Middle East, it will most certainly not come by demonizing or hurting one of the main players. Israel is the only one of the countries of the Middle East that has remained consistent in its desire for peace. Israel wanted a Palestinian state in 1948, and it still wants it. The Palestinians still talk of reclaiming the entire region for themselves, blow hot and cold, and, in the case of Hamas, reject international peace conferences, compromise, and negotiations out of hand. You need to think about all this much more carefully than you have done. I will talk to you, I will arrange for others to talk to you. All I ask is for you to act with justice and some understanding of this complex subject. If you aren't willing to do any of that, you are not fit to stand for government at either the local or national level. I believe you have a role to play, but only if you can play it fairly and honestly.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Denis MacEoin

Denis MacEoin

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Louis Farrakhan: Obama is the 'Hope' of World

Farrakhan Lauds Obama as 'Hope' of World

BY Associated Press
February 25, 2008

CHICAGO - In his first major public address since a cancer crisis, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam said yesterday that a presidential candidate, Senator Obama, is the "hope of the entire world" that America will change for the better.

Minister Farrakhan, 74, addressing an estimated crowd of 20,000 people at the annual Saviours' Day celebration, never outrightly endorsed Mr. Obama but spent most of the nearly two-hour speech praising the Illinois senator.

"This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better," he said. "This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow. If you look at Barack Obama's audiences and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed."

Minister Farrakhan compared Mr. Obama to the religion's founder, Fard Muhammad, who also had a white mother and black father. "A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," he told the crowd.

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An Arab view of Imad Moughnieh

Imad Mughniyeh: Earthly and Heavenly Perspectives


Mshari Al-Zaydi
One of the most compelling things about Imad Mughniyeh's assassination is the nature of the description and image that various parties use to depict him. For Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and their supporters in Lebanon, such as followers of General Aoun, the [Weam] Wahab, [Talal] Arsalan or [Omar] Karami movements, Mughniyeh is a saintly resistance hero and a symbol of martyrdom and jihad.

However for others, especially in the Gulf region and among some Arabs and
 Lebanese, he is a master of plane hijacking, explosions and terrorism. It's true that Iran employed Mughniyeh as an instrument to spread terror and panic but he was also an 'academy' [accomplished mentor] that specialized in generating Shia movements across various states in the same vein as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mehdi Army in Iraq and the Shia terrorist groups in the Gulf region. In this regard, we must also refer to his basic role in the Khobar Towers explosions in Saudi Arabia in 1996.
Hajj Radwan, Mughniyeh's nomme de guerre, or the Shia fox or the Shia Bin Laden, are all names that connote conflict not union. This is why it only seems natural that his assassination would continue this conflict and disunion since he had dedicated his life and services to serve a vision, project, and course that constitute a point of contention and conflict in the Arab region, which has been witnessing a broad and extensive state of transformation in its present and future.

The Arab region is divided between some parties who seek to transform it into a land of strife, war, martyrdom and another Karbala, such as illustrated by some of the slogans raised in the Iranian demonstrations that hailed Lebanon as 'Karbala' following the assassination of Mughniyeh. However, there are also those who want to head in another direction towards progress, developing the economy and catching up with the contemporary world. Such a contradiction may be summarized as: the two cultures [trends] of life and death and it can be used to describe the conflict between these two visions, such as those of Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and Syria on the one hand, and the March 14 Coalition Forces, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the other. The latter culture is one that propagates stability, calm and peace and is against revolutionary trends, suicide operations and weapons.

This is why Hezbollah, Iran and those that orbit in the same circles should not expect the world to praise or commemorate Imad Mughniyeh since his life and efforts – and even his death – reflect the interests of a hostile party, namely Iran and its supporters. My approach is not one that stems from Sunni-Shia sectarianism to which I oppose strongly; rather it emerges from a practical description of reality.
What I am referring to is the audacious manipulation of Khomeini's Iran of all Shia followers around the world with the intention of attaching them to pure Iranian interest under holy slogans about al Hussein's blood and the symbolism of Karbala. Exalted slogans that evoke religious sentiments become provocative and rebellious and ultimately only serve the interests of the Iranian political agenda, and moreover do nothing to quell the rebellious groups that are far from the Iranian territories.

Division among the Arabs has reached unprecedented depths; compliments and rehashed words about the interests, dreams and objectives of the Arab nation are useless, as are the tours and statements issued by Amr Moussa [Secretary-General of the League of Arab States].

So, which Arabs are we referring to? Are they the Arabs of Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, or the Arabs of Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Is it the procession of Arab martyrs, bomb devices, the media of martyrdom and the war on America and "death to the United States"? Or is it about the Arabs for globalization, education and sustainable development? Are we referring to the Arabs of Dubai or those of the southern neighborhood [Lebanon]?

We are all suffering a chronic state of division and differences. Regardless of our position towards his personality or history, when Walid Jumblatt speaks about the impossibility of coexisting with the culture of Hezbollah, he touches upon an open wound – notwithstanding the anger that it evokes among Nasrallah's supporters and the Syrian 'orphans' in Lebanon.

All it takes is tuning into Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated to Hezbollah, to gauge your feelings and reactions. You will find yourself bombarded by scenes of martyrs, death, explosions and songs of praise for suicide bombers and other media tools that are only dedicated to one purpose: to glorify the dead and persuade the living to seek the same end so that they may share the same fate as the archetypal martyr: al Hussein. And it goes on and on…

But if you happen to change the channel to any other, even if it were the Disney Channel you would suddenly feel as if you had just exited a stifling steam room to an open space with fresh air and scenes of life; a place where death does not reign.

The culture of Hezbollah that Walid Jumblatt refers to is a death culture – even if some turbaned members of the party try to convey otherwise. Only a few days ago, Hezbollah affiliates appeared on Al-Manar saying that the party's martyrs are the ones responsible for spreading life since the afterlife is eternal!
Notwithstanding their words, the truth is quite different. Based on this transcendental culture that claims to be founded upon divine vindication and heavenly purity; this culture that governs Hezbollah is an exception on every level and is quite different from the rest of the misguided groups that are far removed from the light of faith and religion.

Among these exceptional characteristics is the lack of any real dependence on the state and nation since Hezbollah seeks a deeper aim; that is, Islamic unity under the symbol of the Supreme Guide, bless his holy secret. The party believes that borders are nothing but mud barriers and that we are all just martyrdom projects that will only exist until Judgment Day and the advent of the Awaited Mahdi [the Savior among Shia Muslims].

Indeed, this is the mobilizing culture that drives vital youth to become reduced to nothing but guns and bombs that heed the direction of Sayyed Nasrallah or follow the orders of Hajj Radwan. And this is exactly what happens to their Sunni counterparts who have been recruited as the soldiers of Al-Qaeda and other Islamic movements that adopt the Salafist Jihadist approaches – they are the sons of heavens not of this world.

A friend of Imad Mughniyeh's mother told Asharq Al-Awsat (18 February 2008) that even thought they had succeeded in killing Imad, hundreds who adopt the same approach would emerge. And although she may have exaggerated the figure, her prediction rings true. The ceaseless spawning of similar candidates is a defect and shortcoming and certainly not a reason to praise and rejoice. How could we, or even Hezbollah and their affiliates, be proud and praise this abundance of suicide bombers and their mentors?!

The defect, originally, is a defect in culture and mindset. Even if Hezbollah were to liberate the Shebaa farms and free the prisoners held in Israeli prisons, it would still not mean that it would shift into becoming a civil party with a civil ideology and a civil vision. The party will not stop generating individuals who are obsessed with death and martyrdom since its very structure is built upon 'resistance', as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the 'understanding' General Michel Aoun in their second meeting. And yet, the very thing that makes Nasrallah proud of the nature and essence of his party is precisely what concerns and alarms us about it.

But this time Hezbollah's leader and the Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jaafari have raised the ceiling of their demands and the party's arms and ideology have now become entangled with Israel. As such, the aim behind Hezbollah's armament, and therefore its culture and exceptional nature, is to annihilate Israel!

This is why after the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh; Nasrallah came out to say that his blood would wipe out Israel. A few days later General Jaafari offered his condolences and support to Mughniyeh's supporters and said that Hezbollah would eliminate the Israeli virus "soon" according to Asharq Al-Awsat as reported by the Iranian Fars News Agency (FNA).

Thus, Hezbollah's arms and culture will always exist until Israel no longer exists, which is an impossible objective – just as Hezbollah's stipulations are in the Lebanese arena. It is a laborious task not just for the party but for the entire Lebanese state, let alone Syria, which is a major state and which could not succeed in eliminating Israel.

"Imad Mughniyeh's blood means the annihilation of Israel…soon!"

It is true what the great Arab poet Abul Alaa Al-Maari said:

These words are fully loaded with meaning

They mean that we have no brains!

A Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism as well as Saudi affairs. Mshari is Asharq Al-Awsat's opinion page Editor, where he also contributes a weekly column. Has worked for the local Saudi press occupying several posts at Al -Madina newspaper amongst others. He has been a guest on numerous news and current affairs programs as an expert on Islamic extremism.


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Riot in Tehran over modesty police brutality

Iranians protest Modesty Police actions
Revolutionary Guard, police forces clash with Iranian citizens in Tehran after they try to arrest a young woman for supposedly breaking Islamic dress code rules
Dudi Cohen Published:  02.25.08, 09:53 / Israel News 
Clashes erupted between Iranian citizens, Revolutionary Guard forces and the Iranian Chastity Police in Tehran on Saturday, after police forces attempted to arrest a young woman they deemed "inappropriately dressed".
The young woman reportedly resisted arrest, at which point the security forces attempted to forcibly get her in their car and began beating her.
The sight of the bloody-faced woman prompted a bystander to come to her aid, but he was beaten by the security forces as well. Dozens of Iranians who were present at the scene began rioting and setting dumpsters on fire.
The event was captured on numerous cell-phone cameras and quickly found its way to YouTube. The video clearly shows the crowds calling against the Iranian regime, shouting out "police state" and "no more Islamic regime." The crowed reportedly called out against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as well.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Chastity Police's efforts to enforce the Islamic dress code on Iranian women have been even more rigorous lately, as thousands of women have been detained, questioned and arrested for failing to uphold the dress code.
Ten people were arrested during Saturday's clash.

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Most new immigrants in Jerusalem from western countries

Most new olim in Jerusalem from western countries
Some 68% of immigrants in capital came from France, North America, Immigration Absorption Ministry statistics reveal. Majority of these olim define themselves as religious
Yael Branovsky
Published:  02.25.08, 08:20 / Israel Jewish Scene
Some 68% of the new immigrants who arrived in Jerusalem in the last four years came from western countries, data presented by the Immigration Absorption Ministry revealed Sunday evening.
In recent years, the capital has become an attraction for olim from France and North America, who also had a significant effect on the real estate market in Jerusalem. In the last two years, about half of the apartments in upscale neighborhoods in the capital were purchased by French and North American immigrants.
 According to the ministry's statistics, most of these new olim define themselves as religious. Some 25% of the immigrants from France define themselves as haredim, 65% as religious and about 10% as observant or secular.
 Among those who emigrated from North America, 17% define themselves as haredim, 72% as religious, and 11% as secular.

'France no longer felt like home'
Miriam and Philippe Gondin made aliyah from France last July and settled in Jerusalem. The two have since managed to find employment, Philippe as a teacher in a school for children with special needs, and Miriam as coordinator for the French community in the city.
In a conversation with Ynet, the couple said that they had decided to immigrate due to the rising anti-Semitism in France and the growing feeling that they no longer belonged in the country.
 "It was difficult at first, also in terms of the language, but we're not sorry, because thanks to the relatives who are here and our friends in the community, we have found our place… we only wish that our children become assimilated as well and turn into genuine Israelis," they said.

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Nader in the Race: Springtime for McCain, Winter for Obama & Clinton

Republicans must be cheering over this. Ralph Nader got his reputation by exposing the unsafe Chevrolet Corvair. He is now the Corvair of American politics. He will, of course, steal votes from Barak Obama, as his message sounds about the same.
  Ralph Nader announces third-party run for president
73-year-old consumer advocate pledges to 'shift power from the few to the many' in third presidential bid. Clinton, Obama dismiss his run as 'passing fancy' but in a tight race he may once again steal much-need votes from Democrats
Associated Press Published:  02.24.08, 22:22 / Israel News 
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Sunday he will run for president as a third-party candidate, criticizing the top White House contenders as too close to big business and pledging to repeat a bid that will ''shift the power from the few to the many.''

Nader also ran as a third-party candidate in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. He is still loathed by many Democrats who call him a spoiler and claim his candidacy in 2000 cost the party the election by siphoning votes away from Al Gore in a razor-thin contest in Florida. Nader vociferously disputes the spoiler claim, saying only Democrats are to blame for losing the race to George W. Bush.
Nader, 73, said most people are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties due to a prolonged Iraq war and a shaky economy. He also blamed tax and other corporate-friendly policies under the Bush administration that he said have left many lower- and middle-class people in debt.
''You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized and disrespected,'' he said. ''You go from Iraq, to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts.''
''In that context, I have decided to run for president,'' Nader told NBC television's ''Meet the Press.''
Nader also criticized Republican candidate John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for failing to support extending the Medicare health insurance program to all Americans or cracking down on Pentagon waste and a ''bloated military budget. He blamed that on corporate lobbyists and special interests, which he said dominate Washington DC, and pledged in his third-party campaign to accept donations only from individuals.
''The issue is do they have the moral courage, do they have the fortitude to stand up to corporate powers and get things done for the American people,'' Nader said. ''We have to shift the power from the few to the many.''
Nader also ran as a third-party candidate in 2000 and 2004, and many Democrats still accuse him of costing Al Gore the 2000 election that was decided by a few hundred votes in Florida.

Obama spoke dismissively of Nader at a news conference in Ohio, referring to him as a perennial presidential campaigner.

''He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush and eight years later I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about,'' Obama said.

Clinton called Nader's announcement a ''passing fancy'' and said she hoped his candidacy would not hurt the Democratic nominee.

''Obviously, it's not helpful to whomever our Democratic nominee is. But it's a free country,'' she told reporters as she flew to Rhode Island for campaign events.
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, speaking shortly before Nader's announcement, said Nader's past runs have shown that he usually pulls votes from the Democrat. ''So naturally, Republicans would welcome his entry into the race,'' the former Arkansas governor said on CNN.

Nader vociferously disputes the spoiler claim, saying only Democrats are to blame for losing the 2000 race to George W. Bush. He said Sunday there could be no chance of him tipping the election to Republicans because the electorate will not vote for a ''pro-war John McCain.''

''If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form,'' Nader said.

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Israel will probably boycott racist "anti-racism" conference

The article is not written carefully. Compare:
Israel will boycott the United Nations "Durban II" conference on human rights, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Sunday in Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.
Therefore I wish to make clear that Israel will not participate and will not grant legitimacy to the UN conference on racism unless there is proof that the conference will not become a platform for more anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity."
Ami Isseroff

 Last update - 08:30 25/02/2008       
Israel to boycott UN conference on human rights and racism
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel will boycott the United Nations "Durban II" conference on human rights, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Sunday in Jerusalem at the annual meeting of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.
The decision followed an assessment by the Foreign Ministry, and other Western governments, that it will be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into a festival of anti-Israeli attacks.
South Africa hosted the first Durban conference in the summer of 2001 under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was titled "The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," but most of the discussions revolved around Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
The United States and Israel responded by lowering the level of their diplomatic representation and eventually quit the conference, which culminated in a resolution equating Zionism and racism.
That conference also provided a framework for a global convention of non-governmental organizations, which became a platform for delegitimizing Israel.
For the past few months, a coalition of Israeli and global Jewish organizations, together with government representatives, tried to prepare a joint policy for the follow-up conference, which is scheduled to take place in early 2009 at a still undecided venue. Among other things, there were talks with the foreign ministries of other countries and pressure on NGOs to guarantee that no anti-Semitic resolutions would be passed.
However, it became clear there is little chance of effecting a change, among other reasons because the UN Human Rights Commission is chaired by Libya.
Livni said Sunday that Israel had intended to try and influence the discussion "from within," by taking an active role in international forums "and cooperating with those leaders and countries that don't have a hidden agenda, and who truly want to promote human rights. But that policy is sometimes misinterpreted, and there are mistakes one must not repeat. Therefore I wish to make clear that Israel will not participate and will not grant legitimacy to the UN conference on racism unless there is proof that the conference will not become a platform for more anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activity."
Livni called on the international community to boycott the conference, or else risk "legitimizing hatred, extremism and anti-Semitism under the guise of combating racism."

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Samantha Power - not as bad as you thought

Samantha Power is not the ZOA's idea of an "Israel supporter" but then again, neither was David Ben Gurion.  She wrote a courageous book on genocide, and was lambasted for it by the anti-Zionist fringe - because she didn't list Israel as a perpetrator of genocide. Imagine, someone wrote a whole book about genocide and war crimes, and didn't even mention Israel!
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 09:21 25/02/2008       
Obama`s top adviser says does not believe in imposing a peace settlement
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
Samantha Power says attacks on her are aimed at undermining U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
WASHINGTON D.C. - The knock at the door of her hotel room on Friday halts the conversation for a moment. No big deal, just to check whether Samantha Power drank from the minibar. Is she that troubled? Power responds with a brief laugh. The minibar remains sealed. That does not mean that the attacks do not bother her. In the course of the 50-minute conversation she leaves no stone unturned.
Knowing precisely what was written about her, what was quoted, she tries to refute, explain. Most of the things that were written are "misleading," she states. They are "a mark of desperation" on the part of those who do not want Senator Barack Obama as America's next president, "And fear that is where he is now headed."
The attacks on Obama in connection with Israel come in waves. There was the Zbigniew Brzezinski wave, against the former adviser to Jimmy Carter and current Obama supporter. Then came the Rob Malley wave, against the former adviser to Bill Clinton and current Obama supporter. Now the name of the game is Samantha Power. Not that the others have been forgotten; they'll be back, but you need a little variety. And Power, in contrast to Brzezinski and Malley, plays a key role in Obama's campaign. As one of his closest advisers, she is a far more significant target.
She knows it's not personal: "They attack me to hurt Barack," she says, referring to the candidate by his first name, as she will do throughout the interview. She's not showing off; they really are close. Malley doesn't speak with Obama in person. Power has many hours of conversation with him.
She came to New York to launch her book, fresh off the press, about Sergio Vieira de Mello, a Brazilian diplomat with the United Nations who spent years tackling various humanitarian crises, until he was killed in Iraq in 2003. She opens the conversation with a reference to this book, which her critics now quote. De Mello was in Lebanon in 1982 when Israel started the Lebanon War, and didn't like what he saw. She quotes him, among other things, calling the Israelis "bastards." She says the book depicts its subject's thoughts, not her own. But "the book is now used to attack me." For example, because of the following paragraph: "The Security Council were not prepared to deal with the gnarly issues that had sparked the Israelis' invasion in the first place: dispossessed Palestinians and Israeli insecurity."
Power would like to go through like this, item by item, and repel every attack. There isn't enough space to cover all of these attacks, and all the defenses. In recent weeks, a young and talented writer named Noah Pollack, who writes for the right-wing magazine Commentary, has delved deeply into Power's statements on record. Among other things, he found the following things she said, in a 2002 interview, about what should be done to stop the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: "[It will] mean sacrificing - or investing, I think, more than sacrificing - billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel's military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence."
In that same interview, Power said that the situation will "require external intervention." Pollack very reasonably interpreted this as an expression of support for a "ground invasion of Israel and the Palestinian territories." Otherwise, he wrote, what did she mean when she spoke of "a mammoth protection force"?
Power herself recognizes that the statement is problematic. "Even I don't understand it," she says. And also: "This makes no sense to me." And furthermore: "The quote seems so weird." She thinks that she made this statement in the context of discussing the deployment of international peacekeepers. But this was a very long time ago, circumstances were different, and it's hard for her to reconstruct exactly what she meant. Anyway, what she she said five years ago is less important that what she wants to say now: She absolutely does not believe in "imposing a settlement." Israelis and Arabs "will negotiate their own peace."
In any case, she stresses, this is not exactly her field. Power is the Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Her reputation stems largely from her excellent previous book, "A Problem from Hell," which documents the world's indifference to genocide, from the Armenians to Rwandans. It earned her a Pulitzer Prize and made her an extremely popular speaker among Jewish communities in America, which are very active in areas that are her bread and butter, such as stopping the killing in Darfur, Sudan.
Power is somewhat frustrated by the need to address every snippet of past statements. After all, the candidate himself, Obama, has expressed clear positions on nearly every matter relating to the Middle East. Like others among Obama's supporters and campaign staff, she thinks that a problem with Obama's critics is that they tend to ignore completely what he himself says. As though his words are merely of secondary importance, and what reflects his true opinion are all sorts of past quotes from close and not-so-close aides.
But the truth is that critics have also turned the spotlight on current quotes from Power, for instance from a recent column she wrote for Time Magazine, in which she complains that "the Bush Administration attempts to gin up international outrage by making a claim of imminent danger, only to be met with international eye rolling when the claim is disproved." Once again Power's critics maintained: She believes that Iran is not dangerous, and accepts as fact the pathetic National Intelligence Estimate.
But she doesn't understand what all the fuss is about: She doesn't claim that the NIE is correct, but rather that the international community is using it to fend off Bush on the Iranian issue. And lest there be any doubt: "I do not underestimate the threat that is Iran." Her objective - Obama's objective - is "to neutralize Iran."
Iran is one of the items troubling Israel supporters who scrutinize Obama's positions. The former Israeli ambassador to Washington, Danny Ayalon, demanded that the candidate explain what he means to gain by meeting Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Power volunteers to do so. "Do people have the right to be worried? Of course," she says. Just so long as they portray accurately what we say.
With regard to Iran: "Reasonable people can agree or disagree on the issue of meeting with Ahmadinejad," but here's what she thinks: The chance of persuading Ahmadinejad may not be great, but it is worth examining, and a meeting "will increase the chance for mobilizing international sanctions, because the world will be reminded that Ahmadinejad is the problem," not America as many now believe.
And it's fine by her that not everyone agrees with that approach, but she is not willing to put up with distortion of her positions, or those of the candidate. Mainly, she says, she finds "sickening the claims that raise the suspicion that there is some anti-Semitic undertones to our views."
In the interest of brevity, here, in a nutshell, are several more of Power's positions: Immediate and intensified involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It has to be resolved first of all for the benefit of the parties involved, but also to preevent "cynical Arab leaders" from exploiting the conflict as a tool for justifying their policies.
She thinks that the talks between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are being held "in good faith."
Asked who is to blame for there being no agreement yet, Power says there is no point expanding on that, but emphasizes that "I've never blamed Israel for the failed talks" (at Camp David). But precisely how should these talks be handled, and what should the goal be? She's no expert on that, she says, and suggests calling Dan (Shapiro), the campaign's adviser on the Middle East, or Dennis (Ross), who also advises Obama (advises - but is not an adviser).

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Hamas mass march is a win-win for them

Hamas has engineered another win-win situation for itself.  
Last update - 04:33 25/02/2008       
ANALYSIS: Mass Gaza march puts Hamas in a win-win situation
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel's concern about a possible scenario involving Hamas marching masses of civilians to the fence separating the Gaza Strip from the western Negev is not based on a vague hunch. It is founded on intimate knowledge of the intentions of the Islamist organization's Gaza leadership, and it requires thorough and detailed preparations on the part of the Israel Defense Forces.
Over the past few days, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and senior army officers have spent hours deliberating the possible scenarios. Additional troops have been deployed around the Strip, and the units on the ground have been given clear directives not to allow Palestinians to enter Israeli territory under any circumstances.
Officials in the defense establishment believe Hamas views the prospect of marching civilians over the fence as a win-win situation. If some of the thousands of people Hamas brings to the border manage to penetrate Israel despite the IDF troops in the area, then it will have once again broken the ring of economic isolation around Gaza.
If the IDF halts the marchers' advance with violent means, killing demonstrators, then Hamas will have demonstrated Israeli brutality toward the masses struggling to carve out a living in Gaza.
But there is an Achilles heel in Hamas' plans to bring down the Gaza wall as it breached the wall separating Gaza from Egypt late last month: Hamas no longer has the element of surprise. Israel is already enforcing sterile buffer zones near the fence, especially in areas near Israeli settlements. Which is to say the IDF shoots anyone who attempts to approach the fence in those areas.
This means Hamas will he a hard time assembling masses of people without being detected by the IDF. Israeli visual surveillance is bound to detect gatherings of people when they are still kilometers from the fence. But to call the masses out in the first place, Hamas will have to use the media in the Strip, which Israel monitors all the time.
Stormy days are cause for concern in the army. When visibility is limited, border-post observations are less effective. The flip side of this is that foul weather is expected to weaken the determination of the Palestinian masses.
The forces around the Strip have been on a state of alert since last Thursday for fear of mass marches. Observations along the border have been beefed up, and aerial surveillance means have been employed. The troops on the ground have received crowd dispersal gear.
Currently, the IDF has identified four stretches along the border it considers especially sensitive. The first area is around the Erez Crossing - especially sensitive because of its proximity to Netiv Ha'asara and Yad Mordechai. The second area is the Karni Crossing area, close to Nahal Oz. The third is the Kissufim Crossing near Kibbutz Kissufim and the fourth is the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
But the IDF has also carved up the area inside the Gaza Strip, at least on the army's maps. The army intends to prevent the marchers from advancing on the fence when they are still inside the Strip, using various means for crows dispersal according to a ring system: The closer the marchers get to the fence, the harsher the response.
The army plans to fire at open areas near the demonstrators with artillery that the Artillery Corps has been moving to the area over the past couple of days. If the marchers continue and cross into the next ring, they will face tear gas. If they persist, snipers could be ordered to aim for the marchers' legs as they approach the fence.
In fact, the IDF has already had to contend with mass marches on strategic points by civilian population. It happened in 2000 in the Security Zone in Lebanon, and it ended badly for Israel. It happened outside Taybeh, around an outpost manned by soldiers from the South Lebanon Army. It was the eve of the Israeli pullout when preparations for the move were well underway.
The SLA troops, in the absence of support and clear orders from the IDF and faced with hundreds of Shi'ite civilians whom Hezbollah had marched to the base, abandoned the site. In so doing, they triggered the hurried retreat by the IDF, which took place over three days, some three weeks before deadline.
For Colonel (res.) Noam Ben Tzvi, the affair is still an open wound, he says. Ben Tzvi was the only brigade commander in the Security Zone's western sector. His headquarters was in Bint Jbail. "Had the IDF insisted on blocking that march, it could have been prevented. But no order was given," he says. "We were unprepared for that situation. I hope the orders are clearer now."
He adds: "I wouldn't rule out selective use of live ammunition, as a last resort. The alternative is having them attempt a massacre of civilians in one of our towns near the border."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Collective Punishment and Newspeak

February 24, 2008

Collective Punishment and Newspeak

By Michael I. Krauss
Activists and some UN Security Council members argue that Israel's restrictions on fuel deliveries to Gaza constitutes collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The argument is nonsense.

On May 17, 1942, SS Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich was killed near the village of Lidice, Czechoslovakia  by a bomb thrown by Free Czech agents trained in England.  The killing of Heydrich, the commander ("Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia") of invading forces, was clearly legal under international law. 

In response, the Gestapo and the SS killed over 1000 people suspected of being involved in the plot.  In addition, 3000 Jews were deported from the ghetto at Terezin (Theresienstadt, created by Heydrich) for immediate extermination.  In Berlin 152 Jews were ordered executed on the day of Heydrich's death.  Finally, on June 10, 1942 Lidice was ordered destroyed.  All 172 Czech men and boys over 16 were shot.  80 women were deported to Ravensbruch concentration camp, where almost all died.  90 young children who looked Aryan were distributed to German families, while others were shipped to Gneisenau concentration camp for extermination.  The village itself was then razed and its name removed from German maps.

The massacre at Lidice, along with other Nazi atrocities such as the killing of the entire population (642) of Oradour-sur-Glane, France two years to the day after Lidice (to punish the village for Resistance activities) and the horrific massacres of Serbian civilians by SS Prinz Eugen  division troops for supporting the resistance movements, continued a sad German tradition [in the First World War, Germans had executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity].

These atrocities were fresh in the minds of international diplomats after the end of the War.  Article 33 of the Fourth (1949) Geneva Conventions enshrined collective punishment as a war crime, emphasizing individual responsibility:

Article 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. Pillage is prohibited. Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.

Article 52 of the Convention's Additional Protocol I (adopted in 1977) similarly states that "Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals." 

The doctrine of collective punishment has died hard, despite the Fourth Convention's clear insistence on individual responsibility. Arab states expelled the majority of their Jewish populations in reprisal for Israel's successful self-defense in the War of Independence.  Britain arguably used collective punishment against villages where Communist rebels had been concealed in Malaya in 1951, and again to suppress the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in 1952.  Hafez El-Assad of Syria notoriously destroyed half of the conservative Sunni city of Hama (massacring 20,000 men, women and children) as collective punishment for a Muslim Brotherhood uprising against his Alawi regime in 1982. 

The Israeli Government's reduction of fuel and electricity exports to the Gaza Strip has recently been termed a modern instance of collective punishment that violates Israel's obligations under the laws of war. In a lawsuit filed by Israeli and Palestinian civil rights groups before Israel's Supreme Court, these organizations asked the Supreme Court to make Israel end fuel restrictions that caused power blackouts in the Gaza Strip. The activists argued, as did representatives of many members of the Security Council in their special meeting on the Middle East on January 22, 2008, that the restrictions constitute collective punishment of Gaza's 1.5 million people and violate the Fourth Geneva Convention.

But this claim is nonsense, and makes a mockery of international law. This is so for the following reasons:

It conflates failure to aid with active criminal harm.  Acts of war are launched daily against Israel from Hamas-run Gaza.  Bombs are lobbed against Israeli cities (especially Sderot), resulting in official government rejoicing when an Israeli civilian is killed or maimed.  Hamas denies Israel's right to exist, and has masterminded countless acts of war against military and civilian targets in Israel. 

The Jewish state has the uncontested right to defend itself against such acts of war.  The bar on collective punishment forbids the imposition of criminal or military penalties (imprisonment, death, etc) on some people for crimes committed by other individuals.  But ceasing trade with a country is not  inflicting a criminal or military penalty against that country's citizens, not least because those citizens have no entitlement to objects of trade that they have not yet purchased.  If Canada tolerated and celebrated car-bombings of Buffalo from Fort Erie, Ontario, the United States could cease exporting cars to Canada - such cessation of trade was never contemplated as collective punishment, because it is not a military or a criminal sanction. The United States quite legally froze trade with Iran after that country committed an act of War against the USA following the 1979 Revolution. 

Even prevention of access of goods coming from third parties is not collective punishment: the U.S. blockade of Cuba after they installed nuclear missiles directed at the United States was not a collective punishment of the Cuban people, it was a non-violent act of war in self-defense. In any case, Israel has made no effort to prevent Gaza from receiving electricity from Egypt; it has merely declined to furnish this assistance itself.  Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions clearly does not outlaw such acts.  The current misuse of the term in the Security Council would have exactly that effect.

The electricity withheld from sale was a military tool. Article 52 of the 1977 Amendment to the Geneva Convention explicitly countenances attacks on legitimate military objectives, which are "those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage." As Israel has pointed out, its (minor) reduction in electricity sold means that "Hamas will have to decide whether to provide electricity to hospitals or weapons lathes."  Diesel will be allowed in to fuel ambulances, sewage pumps, generators and garbage trucks, but gasoline will be restricted.  According to estimates, Israel still exports approximately US$500 million worth of goods and services into the Gaza Strip each year.

The claim is Newspeak.   The charge of collective punishment is appropriately leveled against one side in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute; but that side is not Israel.  As Joseph Klein recently pointed out in a Front Page Magazine article, the innocent Israeli women and children slaughtered while going about their daily lives in homes, schools, on buses and at shopping malls are not warriors against the Palestinian people. They are in large number the victims of the Hamas' measures of collective punishment against Jews -- intimidation and terrorism, which violate their most basic of human rights - life itself.  Indeed, Israel has targeted the perpetrators of these atrocities individually, entirely in conformity with its international obligations.  When Israel kills such targets, precisely the people who have individually committed acts of war against Israel, it highlights the difference between legal force and collective punishment. 

Michael I. Krauss is Professor of Law, George Mason University

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel braces for "spontaneous" organized Palestinian march

Relax. They aren't supposed to cross the border.  In Ha'aretzlish, a language close to English, it says:
An official Hamas source maintained that the mass flow towards the border - which will comprise Palestinian women and children - would be spontaneous and was not based concrete plan.
Nothing like planning for spontaneous mayhem - something like the Goths invading Rome. They didn't plan it, it just happened "spontaneously."
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 23:39 24/02/2008       
Israel: Hamas to blame if civilians hurt in Gaza border march
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay , Haaretz Correspondent
Israel warned Hamas on Sunday evening that the organization would be responsible for any consequences of a planned march along the Gaza Strip's border Monday, saying any harm to civilians would be Hamas' fault.
Some 40,000 Palestinians are expected to march along the Gaza Strip's border in protest of Israel's economic embargo on the coastal territory.
"Israel will defend its territory and will stop any infiltration attempt into its sovereign borders," Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in a joint statement sent to all Israeli embassies and missions.
"Hamas is behind activities that place the civilian population on the front lines," the statement added.
The Israel Police will heighten security across the country on Monday, as intelligence officials warned that tens of thousands of Gazans were planning to form a human chain from Rafah to the Erez border crossing as early as 10 A.M. on Monday.
The Israel Defense Forces has already beefed up troops along the border, in preparation for the march, expected after gasoline ran out in Gaza over the weekend.
A large number of police forces will be deployed to join the IDF in the southern district, in case the protest gets out of hand.
The head of the Palestinian Popular Anti-Siege Committee protest, Jamal al-Khudary, said: "We do not have intentions of approaching the fence, either in the north or the south. We hope all the participants will abide by the instructions and we will try to prevent any violations."
He also said the protesters would not try to confront IDF troops.
An official Hamas source maintained that the mass flow towards the border - which will comprise Palestinian women and children - would be spontaneous and was not based concrete plan.
However, he added that the next time Gaza residents decide to rally the economic embargo, the protest would be held only on the border with Israel, and not the border with Egypt.
A security source in Jerusalem said the army was preparing for "all scenarios" ahead of Monday's protest.
"Obviously, if gunmen start shooting at the fence we will have to respond in kind and we are absolutely unwilling to countenance a situation where the fence is breached like it was at Rafah," the source said.
IDF troops on the border have been issued special open fire orders in order to stop even a small number of protesters from crossing the fence, and the army has demarked especially sensitive areas.
If necessary, IDF artillery will fire warning shots at open areas, and should the protestors continue their advance, troops will employ riot dispersal methods.
As a last resort, snipers will open fire at protestors legs. The orders were approved by senior General Staff officers as well as Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
The IDF also said that all Gaza crossings would be closed Monday, including to foreign nationals and journalists.
The gasoline shortage was the result of limitations imposed by Israel on imports into the Strip, excluding fuel for emergency vehicles. Diesel fuel is also said to be in short supply.
Israel's concerns are based on the breach of the Gaza-Egyptian border a month ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed across Rafah into Egypt after Hamas blew up the wall there.
Israel believes Hamas is now planning a new action, directed at Israel, to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and draw global attention to the plight of Gaza's impoverished residents.
Two Qassams fired from Gaza, one strikes western Negev
Palestinian militants in Gaza on Sunday fired two Qassam rockets at southern Israel, Army Radio reported.
One of the rockets struck an open field in the western Negev and the other landed in Palestinian territory. No injuries or damages were reported in either incident.
Also on Sunday, IDF forces uncovered five tunnels used for weapons smuggling during an operation in Dahaniyeh, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, three Palestinians were killed Saturday afternoon in an Israel Air Forces strike on Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. Sources in the Strip said the dead were civilians. The IDF said the three had been observed attempting to launch a mortar shell at Israel.
Two armed Palestinians were also killed in other incidents in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas declared Saturday as an international day of protest against the siege. Anti-Israel rallies were held in a number of Arab and European countries. Thousands of Palestinians attended the main demonstration in Gaza City, marching to the United Nations headquarters. The IDF deployed a number of battalions near the fence in the northern Strip to prepare for possible Palestinian attempts to breach the border.
The IDF Gaza Brigade has been conducting exercises simulating mass civilian marches, outfitting the soldiers with riot-control gear. The army is concerned that Palestinians may try to take over crossings on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, and that Hamas intends to march them into a Jewish community near Gaza.
Military sources cite the "Hezbollah precedent": The sign that the buffer zone in southern Lebanon was collapsing on the eve of the IDF's withdrawal in May 2000 came when the Southern Lebanese Army abandoned the Taybeh post and hundreds of unarmed Lebanese civilians marched on it.
Meanwhile, Gaza residents Saturday told Haaretz that their cars are "stuck" and they are using taxis or wagons hitched to donkeys. "At most of the gas stations you can't find diesel either," Imad, a Gaza resident, said.
Security officials told Haaretz they are meeting their pledge to the Supreme Court to transfer fuel for emergency vehicles, approximately 75,000 liters a week.
A delegation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members met over the weekend with representatives of Egyptian intelligence in El Arish to discuss opening the Rafah border crossing. This was their third meeting in the past 10 days. News agencies reported that the Egyptians told the Palestinians that they will thwart any more attempts to rush the border.
A Hamas spokesman in the Strip, Ayman Taha, said that the parties had reached an understanding regarding the expected release today of 105 Palestinians arrested by the Egyptians in Sinai. Those arrested were apparently mainly armed activists.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel and Europe are reaching out to each other

This is long overdue....
Israel begins overhaul of EU relations

Amir Mizroch , THE JERUSALEM POST  Feb. 24, 2008
The Foreign Ministry has begun a strategic overhaul of relations with the EU and its member nations, increasingly "plugging into" EU institutions and, in turn, allowing Europe to play a greater role in Israeli diplomatic and economic processes, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
So central has Europe become to Israel's well-being, diplomatic officials have told the Post, that the Foreign Ministry believes it is time to reassess the Jewish state's traditional reliance on "two pillars" for Israeli survival: a strong IDF and an unbreakable alliance with America. Given the growing importance of the European Union in world events, and in the Middle East particularly, the officials said, a third pillar has become necessary: deepening ties to Europe.
"Increasingly, Europe is involved in everything that touches us: trade, the Palestinians, Iran, UNIFIL in Lebanon," said a senior Israeli diplomatic source. "They are in the [Middle East] Quartet, and central in many other areas. Developing a strong relationship with Europe is becoming the third pillar safeguarding Israel's survival."
Jerusalem's new strategy is to enhance cooperation with Europe in a variety of fields and to demonstrate that Israel can help with some of the EU's many interests in the region. To that end, Israel has in the past few weeks sent a detailed proposal to the European Union for negotiations on "significant" Israeli involvement with Europe in nine fields, including finance, education, environment, youth development, law enforcement, security cooperation and scientific research collaboration.
The plan comes on top of existing Israel-EU cooperation forums such as the Barcelona Process (established in 1995 to foster dialogue among EU member-states and countries on the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean), the European Neighborhood Policy (which aims to offer deeper political relationships and economic integration between EU members and their immediate neighbors), the Galileo space program, and bilateral ties.
The EU is studying the new Israeli proposal and has promised to give Israel a preliminary answer by mid-March. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is expected to meet with her European counterparts in June to try to finalize an agreement on the enhanced partnerships, the Post has learned.
Jerusalem is also seeking to deepen contact with Europe's growing Muslim communities - a source of hostility to Israel, but also, the Foreign Ministry believes, a potential bridge to better Jewish-Islamic relations and understanding. "Europe is becoming more and more Muslim, and we have identified a need to reach out to these populations," the diplomatic official said.
Israeli officials cite a change in relations with Europe following the 9/11 attacks, which "opened European eyes to the threats emanating from this region. They realized they had vital interests in this region, which is essentially their backyard."
Traditionally, Israel has relied overwhelmingly on its alliance with the US on questions of security and diplomacy, and officials stressed that the centrality of this relationship had not changed. Traditionally, too, Israel had been wary of over-involving Europe in fundamental survival issues. The relative marginalization of the EU, for instance, is emblemized by the fact that no serving Israeli prime minister has ever visited EU headquarters in Brussels on a formal diplomatic mission. "It's just never worked out," the diplomatic source said.
The reliance on Washington, indeed, has always been a strategic imperative, and has only grown more manifest as Israel and the Palestinians try to advance on the Annapolis-road map path to a permanent accord. Currently, as first reported by the Post, America, Israel and the Palestinians are working to formulate a plan under which NATO peacekeepers could be deployed in the West Bank if an agreement is reached and an Israeli withdrawal cannot otherwise be facilitated because of the inadequacy of the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus.
But Europe's role would be vital here, too: With NATO forces already deployed in areas such as Kosovo and Afghanistan, and with the bulk of US armed forces concentrated in Iraq, Europe would likely be asked to fill the ranks should a NATO-West Bank deployment materialize.
European troops are already deployed in the post-Second Lebanon War beefed-up UNIFIL force in southern Lebanon and have no immediate plans to end their mission. Last week, Spain dismissed a report in the Post in which Israeli defense officials expressed concern over Spain's commitment to UNIFIL ahead of the Spanish elections, pointing to the precedent of the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq following the Madrid train bombings in 2004 and the subsequent change of government there. Nevertheless, there remains a widespread sense within the Israeli diplomatic establishment that UNIFIL's strength and commitment would not withstand a serious challenge from Hizbullah.
Europe is also playing a role in efforts to bolster the PA's security capabilities. Alongside US Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton's military advisers, who are playing the primary training role, 33 Canadian and European police advisers have recently started training their Palestinian counterparts in the West Bank.
This new batch of advisers follows the European border monitors who were deployed at the Rafah crossing between Sinai and Gaza, but who retired to an Ashkelon hotel after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. The monitors' mandate has not officially been repealed and they could be recalled to duty should Hamas allow their deployment in a deal between the PA and the Quartet. Their withdrawal when the situation deteriorated, however, underlined Israel's concerns about placing its security in the hands of international forces.
Jerusalem also believes stronger ties with Europe are important in mobilizing economic and diplomatic pressure on Teheran to thwart its nuclear drive. European politicians, especially those in Germany, Austria and Italy, were having a hard time convincing their businessmen and industrialists to sever or downgrade their economic ties with Teheran, the diplomatic source said, and Israel was consistently monitoring these efforts and pushing for their intensification.
"Many in those countries are still doing business with Iran, as evidenced by the latest OMV deal. Despite this, we are seeing some successes," the source said, adding that lobbying European politicians to pressure their industrialists to sanction Iran was "Israel's daily work." France and Britain were leading the diplomatic campaign against Iran, the official added. OMV is a large Austrian oil company, partially state-owned, which has entered into a $32 billion oil-rights deal with Iran.
Part of Israel's strategy to strengthen relations with Europe involves de-linking those ties from the vicissitudes of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Israeli-European ties have tended to fluctuate parallel to progress, or the lack thereof, in negotiations with the Palestinians.
"The Europeans are, in general, not pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli; they are pro-peace process. Progress with the Palestinians has meant better relations with Europe," the Israeli diplomatic source said.
Finally, Israeli officials are upbeat about the prospects for economic and environmental reforms here should the country reach agreement on deepened cooperation with European agencies. "Important reform programs tied to increased global access are easier to sell than homegrown reforms, which are always mired in local political considerations," the source said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Doing something about Gaza

 Last update - 02:50 22/02/2008       
Who is pressuring Gaza?
By Haaretz Editorial
Two news reports, that complemented one another, on the deteriorating situation in the Gaza Strip were published yesterday. Haaretz reported there is growing international criticism - in Europe, Russia, the United Nations and even in the American administration - of Israel's policy toward the Gaza Strip. Al-Hayat reported that during a recent visit to Turkey, Defense Minister Ehud Barak considered the possibility of establishing a multinational force to oversee the situation in the Gaza Strip.
These are two sides of the same coin. The situation on the two sides of the Gaza fence is unbearable, and a move to alter this situation using force may have unacceptable results. Israel can no longer explain to itself that it has to become reconciled to the shooting of rockets and mortars against its communities. A responsible government is required, at the end of the day, to be accountable to its citizens who are under attack. Its justifications for the failings, however reasonable they may be, may result in its rejection.
The government, which finds itself stuck between the possibility of sustaining bloody attacks on the residents of the western Negev, and the possibility of a large-scale military operation, which will be costly and will last a long time, is searching for a middle road, in the form of ground and air attacks against Qassam rocket crews, militants and armed Palestinians threatening to attack Israel or endangering IDF forces. Another stage, which failed, was pressure on the civilian-economic front: harming the welfare of the residents of the Gaza Strip, which is already quite fragile. This poses the problem of collective punishment, which is both immoral and ineffective. The Hamas response - breaching the wall separating Rafah and Egypt - only complicated the relationship between Jerusalem and Cairo, and increased the likelihood of terrorism spilling into the Negev through Sinai.
It may be exaggerated to describe the attitude of the international community as "pressure." The expression of concern by low and mid-level officials, in whispers through cables, is still not pressure. So long as there is no president in the White House who threatens to suspend military aid to Israel, or avoids vetoing a Security Council resolution unfavorable to Israel, it is too much to talk about pressure being applied on Israel.
But behind the words there are also no actions, and while the concern is genuine and justified, it is necessary that it influence the Israeli decision makers, both in terms of reasoning and feelings.
To this is added the multinational force idea. Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi have sent out a clear message in recent weeks: they are not excited about a large-scale operation in southern and northern Gaza, but the operation is nearing because the Qassam terror is not coming to an end.
The duration of the operation will depend on the political and security arrangements that will be reached at its completion - the transferring of responsibility for the territory from which the IDF will withdraw following the completion of its mission. The UN and NATO will not send units to the Philadelphi Route. Moderate Muslim countries, who are not hostile to Israel - such as Turkey, Jordan, Malaysia and Qatar - are good candidates for such a force.
The idea will not be enthusiastically welcomed by all; but whoever wants to avoid the need for such international intervention, the need for an IDF offensive, and the suffering of the Palestinian population - must pressure Hamas to put an end to the shooting that is causing all this.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF getting ready for Gazans to storm border

Time to ask: Is this policy working?
Last update - 03:17 24/02/2008       
IDF braces for mass march on Gaza border
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Yuval Azoulay
Gasoline ran out in Gaza over the weekend in the wake of Israeli limits on its import except for emergency vehicles. Diesel fuel is also said to be in short supply.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces beefed up troops along the border with Gaza, fearing thousands of Palestinians may march on the border in protest Israel's economic sanctions.
Israel fears that crowds of Palestinians might rush the border, and that large numbers of casualties will result from the army's attempts to stop them.
The concerns are based on the breaching of the Gaza-Egyptian border a month ago, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians streamed across Rafah into Egypt after Hamas blew up the wall there. Israel believes Hamas is now planning a new action, directed at Israel, to break the siege on the Gaza Strip and draw global attention to the plight of Gaza's Palestinians.
Meanwhile, three Palestinians were killed Satutday afternoon in an Israel Air Forces strike on Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. Sources in the Strip said the dead were civilians. The IDF said the three had been observed attempting to launch a mortar at Israel.
Two armed Palestinians were killed in other incidents in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas declared Saturday as an international day of protest against the siege. Anti-Israel rallies were held in a number of Arab and European countries. Thousands of Palestinians attended the main demonstration in Gaza City, marching on the United Nations headquarters. The IDF deployed a number of battalions near the fence in the northern Strip to prepare for possible Palestinian attempts to breach the border.
The IDF Gaza Brigade has been conducting exercises simulating mass civilian marches, outfitting the soldiers with riot-control gear. The army is concerned that Palestinians may try to take over crossings on the Israel-Gaza Strip border, and that Hamas intends to march them into a Jewish community near Gaza.
Military sources cite the "Hezbollah precedent": The sign that the buffer zone in southern Lebanon was collapsing on the eve of the IDF's withdrawal in May 2000 came when the Southern Lebanese Army abandoned the Taybeh post and hundreds of unarmed Lebanese civilians marched on it.
Meanwhile, Gaza residents Saturday told Haaretz that their cars are "stuck" and they are using taxis or wagons hitched to donkeys. "At most of the gas stations you can't find diesel either," Imad, a Gaza resident, said.
Security officials told Haaretz they are meeting their pledge to the Supreme Court to transfer fuel for emergency vehicles, approximately 75,000 liters a week.
A delegation of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members met over the weekend with representatives of Egyptian intelligence in El Arish to discuss opening the Rafah border crossing. This was their third meeting in the past 10 days. News agencies reported that the Egyptians told the Palestinians that they will thwart any more attempts to rush the border.
A Hamas spokesman in the Strip, Ayman Taha, said that the parties had reached an understanding regarding the expected release today of 105 Palestinians arrested by the Egyptians in Sinai. Those arrested were apparently mainly armed activists.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran is lying - so what else is new?

Last update - 09:53 24/02/2008    
 ANALYSIS: Iran's delay tactics include denying, lying, refusing  By Yossi Melman 

Iranian delay tactics continue. They make a pretense of cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). They show them this or that document. They respond truthfully to this or that question and go back to their malevolent ways. They deny. They lie. They refuse to respond, or they claim that the material they are shown is fabricated. Thus Iran's evasive tactics have persisted for five years, all with the goal of playing for time. It seeks to deflect pressures and to please at least some governments, particularly Russia and China, considered the weak links in the international effort of the major powers, to expose the Iranian deceit and impose more sanctions.
The new IAEA report - 15 reports have already been written about Iran's nuclear project - like its predecessors, finds it hard to decide where Iran is headed; whether its nuclear plans are really for peaceful purposes as it claims, or in order to develop a nuclear weapon, as the United States, the European Union and Israel claim, and as at least some of the findings attest, in the present report as well.
To what end did Iran secretly purchase Polonium 210, if not to manufacture a nuclear warhead? Why did Iran experiment with particularly high-powered explosives if not to test its capability in the chain reaction? Why did it purchase thousands of magnets abroad and not report them? Why was it found to possess blueprints for the manufacture of a nuclear warhead ? Why is Iran engaging in uranium enrichment, if not to have full control over the fuel cycle so as to manufacture highly enriched uranium itself? All this is in addition to many other discoveries made possible only by precise intelligence that anonymous intelligence agencies troubled to pass on to the IAEA so it could verify it with Iran.
Not every part of the report is so bleak, however. The inspectors also found that Iran is having trouble operating the centrifuges in the unranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. Israeli and U.S. officials are mad at IAEA chief Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, who time after time has been willing to fall into the Iranian trap. But the truth is that he has few options. The organization is a reflection of the international community. Its formulations - combining diplomatic and technical language - must satisfy the contrasting interests of the West, Russia and China, and the bloc of non-aligned countries, while being professionally faithful to what its inspectors discover.
The IAEA has no independent intelligence capabilities. It has no powers of coercion; the cooperation of IAEA members is voluntary. Thus, its reports read like intelligence reports, with their "on the one hand..." and "on the other hand..." They contain everything. Both soft censure of Iran as well as praise.
The anger should be directed at the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, with their veto powers. They are finding it difficult to reach consensus because of numerous conflicts of interest. Russia and China refuse to impose on Iran meaningful sanctions that might persuade its hard-line leadership into concluding that the benefits of working to acquire nuclear weapons are outweighed by economic losses. But that is not happening and it will not happen. Russia and China will continue to conduct a different and even adversarial foreign policy toward the U.S. and the EU. In any case, why should complaints be directed against Moscow and Beijing if U.S. intelligence, in its enormous stupidity two months ago, gave Iran a "character reference" when it determined that Iran had frozen its military nuclear plans in 2003.
In the absence of international consensus, Iran will continue to mock and play for time. Israel's intelligence assessment has not changed. Within one and a half to two years Iran will have a nuclear weapon, unless it is stopped. In other words, the new report contains little that is new. It only moves up the deadline by which the Israeli leadership must decide whether to attack Iran's nuclear sites.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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