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Saturday, March 15, 2008

African 'Palestinians'


By Susan Beckerleg, translated by Salah Al Zaroo



This project was made possible by a Nuffield Foundation, Social Science Award, administered by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

I wish to thank my colleagues working on European Union Avicenne Initiative Projects for their advice and support, in particular Salah Al Zaroo and Gillian Hundt. My husband Abudi Kibwana Sizi assisted during two visits to the Palestine. In the Nagab and Gaza many people helped to put me in touch with colleagues, neighbours and friends of African descent. They include Ibrahim Abu Jaffar, Adnan El Sanne, Fatme Kassim, and Shahada Ebbweini.
Last but not least, I wish to thank all the people of African descent who talked with me in Jeruslaem, Gaza and the Nagab. They are not named so that their privacy can be maintained.



This report summarises the findings of a project has addressed a neglected and sensitive area of research about the history of Palestine. The history of the region has been turbulent and has involved the settlement of peoples from Asia, Africa and Europe. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have had little time or inclination to study their origins prior to settlement in Palestine. Indeed, such studies could be counter-productive as they might pander to Israeli views that Palestinians are migrants to the region. In recent years, much international attention has focused on the Ethiopian Jews and their position within Israeli society. However, although peoples of African origin other than the Ethiopian Jews have been in Palestine for far longer, there are virtually no accounts of how they arrived in the region or their position and role within Middle Eastern society.

Interviews with black (sumr) Palestinians were conducted in Gaza, the Nagab and Jerusalem between September 1995 and January 1998. Contact, through introductions, was sought and people were interviewed informally in their homes in either English or Arabic. At the start of the project the 'peace process' under the Oslo Accords was in its early stages and many Palestinians were optimistic. However, as the political situation worsened it became more difficult to talk to people about the highly sensitive and political issues of ethnic origin, the legacy of slavery and their current status as Palestinian or Israeli citizens.

This study was made possible by the kind co-operation of Palestinians living in Jerusalem, Gaza and the Nagab. People of African descent told me what they knew of their parents and grandparents and their lives in Palestine. Some older people I spoke to Jerusalem had been born in Africa, while others in the Nagab and Gaza told me what they knew of how their ancestors came to Palestine. For many other people the link with Africa had been lost and all but forgotten. In London I searched libraries for historical accounts of the links between Africa and Palestine. I did not find much. This shortage of historical documentation makes the accounts of the people I spoke to all the more important.



Palestine lies at the crossroads of Africa, Asia and Europe. For thousands of years spices have passed along trade routes through Palestine. Ambergris and frankincense were brought from Somalia and Ethiopia. As well as trade, war, colonisation and pilgrimage all ensured that the peoples and cultures of north-eastern Africa and Arabia mingled.

In the seventh century there were Africans living in Arabia, and Mohammed's trusted companion, Bilal was an Ethiopian freed slave. Many, but not all, the Africans in Arabia were slaves. It is often forgotten that there were slaves from many parts of the world in the Middle East. For example Circassian people from the Asia Minor to the north were prized as slaves. Black male slaves were often soldiers or government administrators and some achieved high rank. Black women worked as household slaves or were the concubines of wealthy high status men. The children born to concubines were not slaves, and some with fathers of high rank became leaders.

With the spread of Islam and the conversion of Africans in Africa, more and more black people participated in the Haj. However there were also migrations from Araba to Africa and later back to Arabia to perform the Haj. The Palestinian historian Arif El-Arif reports that some people trace the historical roots of contemporary Africans in Jerusalem back to Arabia:

'The origins of the African community go back to pure Arabic roots. The majority of the members are derived from the Arab Muslim tribe called Al Salamat. This tribe was living in Jeddah, Hijaz (now in Saudi Arabia), and then migrated to Chad and Sudan and other African countries. However, members of the tribe kept up contact with Hijaz, especially Mecca and Medina for the Haj, and after the pilgrimage they went to Jerusalem to continue their worship in al Aqsa mosque, the place of the nocturnal journey of the prophet Mohammed to the Seven Heavens. So some of these visitors loved Jerusalem and stayed in it.' (Arif el-Arif, address given in Jerusalem in 1971)




European writers and travellers tell a different story and report that slaves of African origin guarded the Haram As-Sharif in Jerusalem. According to these accounts Africans were deployed by Mamluke and then Ottoman rulers to guard the holy places of Islam. Similar guards also existed in Mecca and Medina. Although they were slaves, they were respected, trusted and sometimes quite powerful.

The following information on the history of African Palestinians in Jerusalem is taken from their own account entitled 'The Palestinian Africans in Jerusalem: Between their Miserable Reality and Hopes for the Future'.

The Africans living in Jerusalem are proud of their historic role as guardians of the Islamic holy places since the time of the Mamluk in the thirteenth century. They occupy the Mamluk buildings on either side of Al'a Ad-Deen Street leading to Al Aqsa mosque. On one side are the Al'a Ad-Deen Busari buildings, completed in 1267 and named after the Mamluke founder of the quarter. On the other side are the Al Mansouri buildings which were completed in 1282. Originally the two Ribat were hostels for pilgrims worshipping at Al Asqa Mosque.

During the Ottoman period the Ribats were occupied by Africans who worked as guards of the mosque and waqf properties. Because of their honesty these Africans held keys to the gates of the mosque and were responsible for preventing non-Muslims from entering the mosque area. Towards the end of the Ottoman era the Ribats were converted into prisons: Ribat Ad-Deen bacame Habs Ad -Dam, while Ribat Mansouri became Habs Ar-Ribat. This situation continued until 1914.

After the British took over Palestine in 1918 the prisons were closed and responsibility for the buildings was returned to the waqf authorities who used the buildings for temporary housing for the poor, including Africans. When Imam Hussein, Al Mufti, who led the struggle against the British and Jews until 1948, took charge of the waqf in Jerusalem he rented the two Ribats to the Africans at a nominal rate. Some of the Africans continued their traditions and worked as bodyguards to the Mufti himself. The descendants of the Africans still live in the two Ribat, today.

In 1971 the care of the tomb of the founder of the quarter, Al'a Ad-Deen Al Busari, restored by the African community, was entrusted to them in a ceremony led by the ex-mayor of Jerusalem and historian, Arif el-Arif. In his speech he stated that:

'Members of the African community were devoted guards of Al Aqsa mosque. The African community is steadfast in Jerusalem and they did not leave even in crisis situations.'


During interviews with members of the African community in Jerusalem I learnt of the recent history of Palestinians of African origin. Their written account, mentioned above, 'The African Palestinians in Jerusalem', provided more details.

Most contemporary members of the African community came to Jerusalem as pilgrims and workers under the British Mandate of Palestine (1917-1948). They came mostly from Senegal, Chad, Nigeria and Sudan. They regard themselves as Palestinian and played an active role in the Intifada. Some of the Africans arrived as part of the Egyptian led 'Salvation Army' which aimed to liberate the Palestinian areas held by Jews in 1948. After the defeat of that army and its retreat to Egypt many Africans returned to their original countries, while others preferred to stay in Palestine.

El Haj Jeddeh, who was born in Chad but traces his family origins to Jeddah in the Hijaz, is the Mukhtar of the African community and some other Arabs living in the vicinity. He has served under the British, the Jordanians and now the Israelis. In addition, he also takes care of the tomb of Al'a Ad-Deen Busari and acts as a spiritual leader to his community.

Men who came from Africa to Jerusalem during this century married local women, many of whom were of African descent themselves. Ties with Jericho, where many black Palestinians live, are particularly strong. Others married Palestinian women who have no ties with Africa.

In their account of their history 'The Palestinian Africans in Jerusalem' they explain how when Israel occupied the West Bank many Africans were forced to become refugees in surrounding countries' leading to a 25% reduction of the numbers of African Palestinians living in Jerusalem. African Palestinians were particularly active during the Intifada and many confrontations with Israeli troops took place. One day the Israelis arrested all males aged between 10 and 45 years and insulted them telling them 'you are Africans, you have nothing to do with Palestine'.



Although Africans have been in Palestine for centuries, most people know little about this migration. For centuries, under the Ottoman Empire and before, slaves were brought from Africa. Some older people today remember stories told by their parents or grandparents of how they came to be in Palestine. Therefore it is possible to discover something of the later history of slavery. Several people mentioned that they had heard that there was a big slave market in Egypt and one 'white' Bedouin told me that his grandfather had been a slave trader who travelled regularly to Egypt. Most people with any idea of where their ancestors came from mention Sudan or Ethiopia. Sometimes they know the name of the town. Indeed, it is probable that many Africans came from these countries as they are near to Palestine. However, one woman I spoke to pointed out that 'we just say Sudan because we do not know and because the name means 'place of black people. It could just as easily have been Congo!' According to history books, slave traders and owners used to make a distinction between Ethiopians (Habash) and other Africans such as the Zanj from the East African Coast. In their racist way of thinking, they considered the Ethiopians to be superior to the other Africans.

In Gaza I spoke to people of Bedouin origin who had been living in the Nagab prior to 1948. In the Nagab I spoke with Bedouin of African descent who had stayed in the area after 1948. In Gaza, I also encountered black people of the Al Rubayn ashira who were settled Bedouin living around the area of Jaffa, before being driven from their villages as refugees in 1948. They said that they were unconnected to the Nagab Bedouin. Their name derived from Nabi Rubooyn who thousands of years ago used a well near their home area.

These people of Bedouin origin currently resident in Gaza and the Nagab recall being told by their elders how children were kidnapped or bought in slave markets and brought, sometimes carried in the camel saddle-bags, to live with important Bedouin families. This occurred in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The children were often the only Africans living with the family. They looked after animals, grew wheat and barley and performed household tasks. People told me that the Bedouin did not use the girls as concubines, although in the West Bank they did 'marry' female slaves. Only big wealthy families owned and traded in slaves. Black people were scattered throughout Palestine living with white families who 'owned' them. However, some families needed slaves to help in self- defence when they were weak in number. It is possible that within the twentieth century adults were also brought from Africa and sold as slaves. One elderly man reported that in his youth he had come across African men who were strong, bore tribal scars on their faces and spoke little Arabic.

One 'white' Bedouin man told me that slaves used to be branded like animals, but that there were no papers concerning ownership or origins. In the family unit, there were sometimes also other slaves who were white, or low status dependants, such as hamran. But one man told me that a white slave would never have answered to a black slave.

Some African children were educated along with the other, free, children of the family. Once the children grew up their masters arranged for them to be married. They never married white people, even if they were also slaves. As there were not many Africans around, marriage often meant that girls moved away from the master's family. People also reported that, upon becoming adults, slaves could choose to take their chances with freedom or to remain attached to a family who would arrange marriage. This probably only occurred towards the end of the institution of slavery, during the British period, when it had already begun to fade away.

In the Nagab the Bedouin had a three tier social and political system. Sheikhs were drawn from the Samran, the original Bedouin. Attached to them as clients were the Hamran, families who were originally felaheen, but required protection and/or land from Samran families. The Abed, the slaves, were on the bottom tier and did not have the same rights or status as free people.

Slaves did not count in blood feuds between families. Several people told me that if a black man killed a white man, the death of that black man would not count. Payment (sulha) could be made in money or by the giving of a slave of a certain height. If a black man kills a white, the family of the deceased may kill the 'owners' of the black man. Recently, in Rahat in the Nagab, a black boy eloped with a white girl. They were discovered and the girl killed by her family. However, the boy survived and subsequently married a black girl.

Under the old system slaves could not sit in the shig at the same level as their masters. In some places this is still observed, with the role of the black people being to serve tea and coffee to the white people. One man told me that there were some shig that he would not go to because they would ask him who he 'belonged to'. But in other shig this no longer happens and black and whites sit happily together. In one shig in Gaza, the black sheikh presides, while white people take responsibility for serving tea and coffee.


Slavery appears to have been an active institution under Ottoman rule. The British Mandate of Palestine was established in 1917. Slaves were not given release papers and there appears that the British made little formal effort to end the system of slavery in Palestine. Rather, as economic and social conditions changed, the institution faded away in some areas, but still operated other areas until the 1950s.

The groups of black people living in the Nagab and as refugees in Gaza today are the descendants of slaves of the Bedouin. As the peoples of Gaza and the Nagab have only been separated by frequently closed borders since 1948 (when Israel was established and the majority of the Nagab Bedouin became refugees in Gaza and Jordan), the various communities retain kin ties.

Prior to 1948 a political and social system of tribal affiliation operated in the Nagab. There were four gabail: the Gdarat, the Azazme, the Turabeen and the Dlam. Of these, the Tarabeen probably had the most black slaves. Each Gabila was sub-divided in ashira or hamula, and these were, in turn, divided into extended families ('ayla). Within each 'ayla were individual families (asira).

Jama'an Abu Jurmi, of the Tarabeen, was a powerful black Sheikh to whom all black people could turn. However, during the war of 1948 the hamula of Abu Jurmi was dispersed and is now in Sinai, or possibly Jordan or Gaza.

Many black people in the Nagab are now affiliated to the Abu Bilal. There is some confusion amongst many Bedouin as to the origins of the Abu Bilal: some people say that the Israelis invented the Abu Bilal to represent all black Bedouin, and named the hamula after Bilal, the Ethiopian companion of the Prophet Mohammed, because he was black. However, the son of the current Sheikh of the Abu Bilal tells a different story. Five or six generations ago a child, Bilal, was stolen from Africa and taken to Sinai. The boy became a slave of the family who purchased him, and although his own family found him and asked him to come home, he was used to his new life and refused. He married and had descendants, and up to now, the Abu Bilal have land in Sinai. However, the descendants moved to the Nagab.

Bilal's grandson, Sulemain was very clever and a natural leader. During and after the war of 1948 he was appointed as a Sheikh by the Israelis and negotiated with the Israeli Military Authority and many poor people, both black and white, asked him to speak on their behalf. This was a time when all Bedouin had to be affiliated with a Sheikh in order to get rations and travel permits. After 1950 Sheikhs, such as Sulemian, were formally appointed by the Israelis. In 1952, when a census was carried out, many black people registered as Abu Bilal, despite the fact that they had been attached to other families.

For example, one elderly man told me how he took the opportunity of registering as a member of Abu Bilal as a means of disassociating himself from the descendants of his grandfather's masters who had anyway lost their land. He explained: 'Sulemain Abu Bilal was a very clever and strong man, although he could not read and write. Many went to join him. Before 1948 Abu Bilal was a family. Bilal was a slave living in Sinai.' The elderly man told me that he and his family had lived a nomadic existence in the West Bank with the Abu Bilal for about 10 years. That way of life ended with the war of 1967.

In some areas slavery as a way of life appears to have continued into the 1950s. One black (sumr) man who came to Palestine as a migrant worker from Egypt and was caught up in the war of 1948 recalls life for black people attached to the Al Huzail. He had been working in the orchards near Rishon with black people of the Abu Barakat. When war broke out they fled back to their home area of the Al Huzail where Rahat has now been constructed. When the Egyptian man arrived there he found black people growing wheat for Al Huzail. They were given food and, if they requested it for a special purpose, money. Slaves and masters lived separately in black tents. There was no intermarriage and no concubinage. The Egyptian man slept in the Sheikh's shig and worked as a shepherd, but received no wages. The Sheikh arranged his marriage to a white girl from Gaza. However, after 1952 under the Israelis, when the census was taken, slavery as an institution faded away.

After 1948 the most of the Nagab Bedouin lost their land and those who had not left the area to become refugees in Gaza and Jordan, were confined to a small military zone around Beersheba. Many Bedouin, including black families appear to have moved around working in the orchards to the north around Rishon, Rehovot and 'Atir or labouring or herding animals in the West Bank. One family, now resident in Rahat told me that they had moved nine times between 1956 and 1958. After the 1967 war it became much harder to move around.

In the late 1960s the Israelis started developing planned settlements to house the Nagab Bedouin. Currently, about half the Nagab Bedouin live in these towns, while the other half have resisted moving and remain in shanty settlements or in emcampments. Many black families moved into the planned towns, the biggest of which is Rahat. Of about 30,000 people who live in Rahat, about a third are black (sumr) and are concentrated in three areas of the town. Many, but not all, of these families are registered as Abu Bilal.


Everybody I spoke to stressed that they had been told that in the past marriage between black and white slaves was not permitted. In addition, there seemed to be no evidence that slave owners took black women as concubines. Rather black slaves were married to other black slaves belonging to other families. Nevertheless, not all blacks were slaves and most people of African origin living in Palestine have some white ancestry. Family histories reveal intermarriage for several generations, at least, between people of African origin and other Palestinians.

In the twentieth century, particularly after 1948, there were changes. Black men of slave descent married white women from fellahen backgrounds from the West Bank, Gaza or Galilee, but never Bedouin women. Rarely a white Bedouin man might marry a black Bedouin woman. Hence, most people who are considered black are of mixed descent. The male line is all-important in reckoning descent. I met one man of black African appearance in Gaza. His family had come from the Nagab after 1948. However, he claimed that technically he was white, because his father's father had been white. Conversely, I met a man of white appearance in Rahat, who was black because his father was black, although his mother was white.

Black Bedouin also continued to marry other black Bedouin, usually within the ashira, thereby conforming to the cultural preference in Arab society to marry relatives. One man told me that cousin marriage is becoming more common among black Bedouin. However, after 1956 it became relatively easy for black Nagab Bedouin men to arrange marriages with white fellahen women. One result was that left some women without husbands. Therefore black Bedouin have recently started marrying between ashira, for example between Abu Rqaiq and Abu Bilal.

Although the African Palestinians of Jeruslaem are a separate community from the black Bedouin, some intermarriage occurs. For example, one of the wives of a man of I met in Jerusalem was from a family of Nagab Bedouin originally from Beersheba, but now living in a refugee camp in Bethlehem.
However, many of the Jerusalem community have intermarried with families from Jericho, some of whom are clearly of African origin, although few people seem to know when or how Africans came to Jericho. Several people told me that Jericho suited black people because the weather was hot!


As the Bedouin of African descent have been geographically dispersed and caught up as individuals and families in the enormous political changes affecting the region, there has been little opportunity to develop a sense of identity as Africans. Some are Israeli or Jordanian citizens while others are registered as Palestinian refugees and hold UNRWA papers. Others were dispersed to Lebanon and Tunisia and have achieved military rank in the PLO. Many families are dispersed and may not be able to meet often separated as they are by frequently closed borders.

Living within such a complex political and daily reality, where ethnic identity and citizenship are so important it is hardly surprising that most black people do not have a developed sense of being of African descent. Those still living in the Nagab spoke of a changing sense of identity from being Bedouin to being Arab and /or Palestinian. Although they were also Israeli citizens, many said that there was little room for them within the Jewish state.

Many Palestinians of African descent are poor and disadvantaged, even compared with other Palestinians. However, some black people (Sumr) have achieved leadership roles. The roles of Al Hajj Jeddeh in Jeruslaem and the Sheikh of the Abu Bilal have already been discussed. In Gaza I also encountered, several people of African/ Nagab Bedouin or Al Rubayn descent who were prominent local leaders. For example, one elderly Bedouin Sheikh hears cases and settles disputes for both black and white people from his shig in Zuwaida. His wife hears cases concerning women. Until closures made movement difficult, the Sheikh returned to Tel Sabaa in the Nagab to hear cases. He said that his family had played an important role in dispute settlement since the days of the British. His work is recognised by the Palestinian Authority and since 1995 he has been registered under the Bedouin Association. Another black local leader, I was told about but did not meet, is the Mukhtar who lives in the Yaramouk area of Gaza who settles disputes within the Al Rubayn community. In addition, many black Palestinians of Bedouin origin, in Gaza and in Jordan, continue the military tradition of people of African descent serving in the armed forces and police.

Over and beyond citizenship and rights, many black people associated with the Bedouin talked about the strong affinity and sense of common roots they felt with black people they encountered or saw on television. Indeed, in the Nagab and Gaza it is common for all black men to refer to each other as khali, or my mother's brother. One woman explained that the term khal indicated respect and affection. If somebody was referred as 'am (father's brother) it was a sign that the speaker wanted something because there were obligations between these categories of kin that did not exist between maternal uncle and nephew. The term is used to address all black people and is recognition of shared ancestry and common roots. People told me that the term is used in relation to the Black Hebrews, who migrated from the USA to live in Dimona as a Jewish group. However, 'khali' would not be used to address Ethiopian Jews, who, although clearly African, were more closely associated with the state of Israel.

Black people in the Nagab, Gaza and Jerusalem refer to themselves as the sumr. This is stark contrast to many other Palestinians who persist in referring to all black people as abed, a term that is synonmous with 'slaves'. In addition, some older black people still use the term 'abed' as a means of self referral, while younger people avoid the term. Indeed, many younger people know little or nothing of their history. One young woman upon hearing from her grandmother tales of slavery was shocked and asked for reassurance that such things only happened centuries ago.

Although some white Palestinians claim that 'abed' is not an abusive name and that any connotations with slavery have been lost, others are embarrassed to even hear the word mentioned. Clearly the issue of the origins, identity and terminology used to describe people of African origin is a highly sensitive one. When I spoke to some white Palestinians they denied that black people were ever slaves in the region, and said that rather they had been soldiers of the Ottoman Empire. When I pointed out that this was not the case, one man almost whispered to me 'we never talk about it'. Yet, white Palestinians by persisting in calling people of African origin 'abed, perpetuate discrimination.

The African Palestinians living in Jerusalem told me that they would fight with anybody who referred to them as 'abed'. They added that this does not often happen as their place within Palestinian society and their role in the struggle is generally acknowledged by the citizens of Jerusalem. They also clearly identify themselves as African and Palestinian. However, they have different problems in establishing their identity, particularly when applying for travel documents. Unlike other Palestinians in the West Bank, the Jordanian government does not recognise the African Palestinians as Jordanian citizens. They cannot obtain Palestinian passports because they live in Jerusalem which is excluded from the Oslo Agreement. As a result, the majority of Africans living in Jerusalem have no passports, and the only option for overseas travel is to obtain Israeli documents. The majority refuse this option.


It is hoped that this document will be of interest to individuals and community groups in the Nagab, Gaza and Jerusalem that it will engender a strengthened sense of identity and community so that they will be encouraged to renew and strengthen contacts between themselves.

If anybody wishes to correct or add to any of the contents of this document please write to:

Dr Susan Beckerleg
Health Promotion Research Unit
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street

E mail :


Continued (Permanent Link)

Motion to distribute Palestinian propaganda in UK Schools

Aren't you UK residents  excited? Very soon, your youngster may be learning about the Zionist-eating Hamas rabbit, and pondering the virtues of blowing himself or herself up in order to liberate Jerusalem. If a UK teachers' union local has its way, Palestinian propaganda will be distributed in UK schools.
Ami Isseroff


Teachers to discuss backing Palestinians

Debbie Andalo
Thursday March 13, 2008

A teachers' union looks set to reignite the row over the boycott of Israel, which divided university lecturers last year and triggered an international storm.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) is due to discuss a motion at its Easter conference that takes a pro-Palestinian stance on the occupation. It calls on its union to buy educational material produced by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign for use by students in schools.

The motion, which marks the 60th anniversary of the "unresolved injustice" of the "banishment of 750,000 Palestinians from their homelands", says that the campaign material "promotes an understanding of the history of this most protracted dispute in the Middle East".

It also wants the union to fund the publication of curriculum learning materials around peace and militarisation.

The motion goes on to urge members to stop promoting in schools career opportunities in the armed forces and to support any teachers who face "victimisation or other professional difficulties" in implementing the policy.

The motion, which comes from NUT members in Croydon, south London, is due to be debated at the conference in Manchester, which starts next Friday (21). It could trigger the same divisions in the union that split the University and College Union (UCU) last year.

The general secretary of the NUT, Steve Sinnott, said this afternoon that the motion was a matter for debate and that no decisions had been taken.

But he said it was important that children had access to a range of different educational materials which expressed a range of opinion.

He said: "You can't use material in schools which is partisan. What the executive is seeking is do is to seek to produce materials for schools but in order to do that we need support from a range of organisations - not just one."

He said the union had raised concerns about an educational fact sheet, produced by the Ministry of Defence, on the war in Iraq which he said was "selective" about the information it presented.

He said: "It was a one-sided position and didn't deal with issues to do with the war's legality or any decisions about the war at the UN.

"What I don't want is for the MoD to be targeting young and vulnerable children... and placing misleading information before them."

The controversial motion, which also calls for the union to reaffirm existing policy to oppose the war in Iraq, comes 10 months after the UCU provoked global condemnation after its national conference decided to take steps towards a vote on introducing an academic boycott of Israeli universities.

The ensuing row dragged on for four months and involved academics from across the world - especially in the US and Israel - sparking criticism from Jewish leaders, university vice-chancellors and the government.

In September last year the union cancelled the schedule of regional meetings organised for members to discuss the "moral implications " of existing links with Israel", which had included invitations to speakers from Palestinian trade unions living under Israeli occupation who had originally urged the union protest.

The union's U-turn followed advice from its lawyers that a boycott call ran the risk of infringing discrimination legislation and was also considered to be outside the aims and objects of the union.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Satisfying the need to dump on Israel

Dumping on Israel is apparently a basic drive of many media persons and "analysts." There is no possible way that any story, however remotely connected to Israel, or however, laudatory, cannot be turned into a condemnation of Israel. If Israel is condemned, then it is proof of Israel's inequity. If Israel is praised, it is the Israel lobby or the neocons at work. If Israeli doctors heal Palestinians, it is due to their guilty conscience. If Israel is poor, it proves that Zionism is a failure and Israel is an unviable client state. If Israel is rich, it proves that Zionism is a doctrine of the fat-cat capitalists.

Conversely, there is no way that a story that shows Arabs or Palestinians or Muslims in a bad light, cannot be spun as Israel's fault. If Hamas dumps Fatah people off roofs in Gaza or slices them up into steaks, it is because they have been made desperate by Israel. If Iran denies the Holocaust, it must be because they are angry at Israel over treatment of Palestinian Arabs. If Fatah steals money from Palestinians, it is because they are supported by the Israeli warmongers, and never mind that they were stealing money in the same way long before the Oslo process.

In this classic sample of media hate literature, Alan Ramsey "deconstructs" a ceremonial Australian tribute to Israel. Ramsey has no compunctions about rewriting history:

She is the daughter of a British colonial police officer who served in British-mandated Palestine in the 1930s, before the United Nations ceded half of it to become a Jewish state in May 1948.

The United Nations actually ceded half of the Jewish National home that was ordered by the Mandate to be a Palestinian Arab state. They did not "cede" half the mandate to Israel.

As Ramsay wrote, "How can you top that lot?" How, indeed?

Ami Isseroff

Blinkers off for the other side of story

Alan Ramsey
March 15, 2008

At 11.58am on Wednesday one half of the Australian Parliament "celebrated" the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel. More than a third of that one-half was absent, whatever their reasons. A number of MPs deliberately excluded themselves. Labor's Kevin Rudd, as the host, did not. He spoke for eight minutes. "Celebrate" was the word Rudd used to begin his remarks. "Congratulations" was the word he used to end them. The Liberals' Brendan Nelson spoke for seven minutes in supporting the Prime Minister. He concluded: "Shabat shalom forever."

Nobody else spoke. The whole affair, carefully orchestrated, carefully bi-partisan, lasted just 15 minutes. The press gallery was almost empty.

So, too, were the two public galleries. About 100 invited guests, each wearing a security pass, filled the first three rows of the Speaker's gallery upstairs and spilled into the fourth. These were the people who, after Rudd's seven-part, 191-word motion had been "put and passed" without a vote, applauded enthusiastically. The only other person who spoke - or attempted to - was a middle-aged woman.

She got to her feet, in the seats behind the VIP guests, and held up a T-shirt, exclaiming, "What about UN resolution 242?", as Rudd had begun speaking. Two attendants moved in quickly. Taking her by the arm, they escorted the woman outside, without fuss. Unlike what is still happening in Israel's military occupation, after 41 years, of the Palestinian people of the West Bank and its siege of the Gaza strip, it was a very civilised eviction.

On this day, in the Australian Parliament, normal legislative business resumed at 12.13pm. The VIP guests upstairs in the Speaker's gallery filed out. Most of the MPs downstairs drifted away to their offices. At 4pm the Israeli ambassador hosted a reception in the Parliament's second-floor Mural Hall for invited guests only. Rudd and Nelson reappeared, as suitably Uriah Heepish as their midday speeches had been.

That night, back on the floor of the House of Representatives, the woman MP who took Tim Fischer's southern NSW seat off the Nationals in 2001 and, in two elections, turned it into safe Liberal territory, did an extremely courageous thing.

Her name is Sussan Penelope Ley.

She is the daughter of a British colonial police officer who served in British-mandated Palestine in the 1930s, before the United Nations ceded half of it to become a Jewish state in May 1948. Born in Nigeria in 1961, Ley spent most of the first 13 years of her life in what was then the Trucial States, later the United Arab Emirates. Her family migrated to Australia in 1974. She has lived here ever since, working as an air traffic controller, a commercial pilot, a shearer's cook, a farmer, and a senior taxation department official. She has a bunch of degrees, three children and is now a member of the Nelson shadow ministry.

What Sussan Ley did in Parliament on Wednesday night was speak for the Palestinian people. She was the only MP who did. In fact, the only MHR of the House's 150, apart from the two leaders, to even raise the issue.

When Rudd and Nelson had spoken at midday I counted 53 Government MPs present, including six ministers, and 39 Coalition MPs. When Ley got the call 7½ hours later, at 7.38pm, to speak on the adjournment, there were five people in the public gallery, four Labor MPs and two Coalition MPs in the chamber, and one journalist in the press gallery. She was the fourth-last speaker before Parliament shut down for the day, after 11 hours, and she was allowed five minutes.

Here is an edited version of what she said:

"Today the Parliament passed a motion honouring Israel's 60 years. My purpose tonight is not to diminish Israel's achievements but to note the interests and legitimate aspirations of the people of Palestine.

"Israel has many friends in this country and in this Parliament. The Palestinians, by comparison, have few. Theirs is not a popular cause. But it is one I support, in part out of knowledge that the victors of World War II, including Australia, wrote a 'homeland' cheque to cover the sins of the holocaust and centuries of anti-Semitism in Europe, but it was the Palestinians who had to cash it.

"Israel has much to celebrate after 60 years. It has built a modern, accomplished and intelligent society, one whose scientific and technological expertise offers a great deal to the world. It has a robust democracy, a free press, a secular state with freedom of faith, and an unfettered opposition, regrettably rare in the Middle East. If there were peace between Israelis and Palestinians, one can only imagine the achievements of these two cultures today.

"Israel's 40-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, its continued expansion of [illegal Israeli] settlements [on Palestinian land] and its refusal to allow the return of expelled refugees have caused deep resentment in the Arab world. Palestinian corruption in government and failure to abandon violence against civilians as a political tool have meant Israel does not feel secure behind secure borders. Sixty years have seen a great deal of bloodshed - Arab, Israeli and others, including 34 US soldiers killed by Israeli forces on the USS Liberty during the 1967 war. I do not find it helpful to engage in a forensic apportionment of blame; each side has legitimate grievances.

"The current blockade of Gaza, confiscation of Palestinian land, and the expansion of settlements must be mentioned in the context of today's motion. Gaza is besieged, contained and on the brink of starvation. Rockets are fired into Israel every day, and Israel has a right to self-defence, but the crushing economic embargo feeds fury and resentment both in Gaza and the West Bank. [A total] 2679 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli [military] forces in the Gaza Strip since September 2000, [while] an Israeli human rights organisation reported 1259 of those were not participating in hostilities when they were killed, and 567 were minors …

"We ought not be naive or simplistic about the challenge faced by the Israelis in moving towards peace with a [popularly elected] counterpart, in Hamas, that is funded and supported by a foreign power [Syria] and which retains an explicit commitment to [terrorism] as a political instrument. But may I remind the House of the example of the Northern Ireland peace process [which succeeded] after a more than 40-year struggle.

"There are signs the Israeli people are developing a renewed hunger for peace. A recent Tel Aviv University poll indicates 64 per cent of Israelis believe the [Israeli] Government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza towards a ceasefire. Military occupation, blockades and hostility against civilians in the name of security will result in [more] violence and terror. We must think what we can do [for] ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to give them some faith in the peace process …

"We are the leaders of our generation. We are accountable for results. If the principal protagonists and the rest of the world community hand Palestine on to the next generation as a twisted mess of grievance, hatred and retribution, then we have failed. The last two generations of leaders have failed to produce peace. Let us renew our efforts."

Unlike earlier in the day, nobody applauded - though I wished I could have. Many Australians, too, had they been present, surely would have wanted to acknowledge such a speech of such honesty and sensibility, about the Israelis as much as it was about the Palestinians. Ley put the grovelling Rudd and Nelson to shame. The truth is there is no real debate in this country about the travesty of what is happening in the Middle East, and there are those in the community who, with their money and influence, do all they can to ensure no such open debate occurs, either in the national Parliament, in the media or anywhere else.

So why was the Rudd Government, in its first four months of office, doing what no Australian government or parliament had done, to acknowledge any of the decades of Israeli statehood since the Six-Day War in 1967 saw the Israeli military occupy the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza and ignore 40 years of mutual violence and barbarity as well as 40 years of United Nations resolutions, to withdraw?

The Howard government did not "honour" Israel's 50th anniversary in 1998, nor the Hawke government the 40th anniversary in 1988, nor the Fraser government the 30th anniversary in 1978. Why the 60th in 2008 the instant a Labor Government comes to power?

When the Labor caucus met on Tuesday, as it does every week the Parliament sits, Sydney's Julia Irwin asked Rudd this very question.

Why? Irwin never takes a backward step in her defence of Palestinian rights, but all she got from Rudd this time was waffle. He did not explicitly respond as to why 60 might be different from earlier decades when the Parliament had done nothing and neither had earlier governments. And no Labor MP supported Irwin in pushing it.

She was a lone voice in the Labor caucus as Sussan Ley was in the Parliament. How's that for political ticker?

Leaders vie to ladle on the gush

When our Prime Minister spoke in the Parliament this week before a select audience of 100 VIP guests, including the Israeli ambassador, he was speaking to a 191-word proposal he had drafted, in consultation with a range of people, which read:

"That the House [of Representatives]

"(1) celebrate and commend the achievements of the state of Israel in the 60 years since its inception;

"(2) remember with pride and honour the important role which Australia played in the establishment of the state of Israel as both a member state of the United Nations and as an influential voice in the introduction of Resolution 181 which facilitated Israel's statehood [in 1948], and as the country which proudly became the first to cast a vote in support of Israel's creation;

"(3) acknowledge the unique relationship which exists between Australia and Israel, a bond highlighted by our commitment to the rights and liberty of our citizens and encouragement of cultural diversity;

"(4) commend the state of Israel's commitment to democracy, the rule of law and pluralism;

"(5) reiterate Australia's commitment to Israel's right to exist and our ongoing support to the peaceful establishment of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue;

"(6) reiterate Australia's commitment to the pursuit of peace and stability throughout the Middle East; and

"(7) on this, the 60th anniversary of independence of the state of Israel, pledge our friendship, commitment and enduring support to the people of Israel as we celebrate this important occasion together."

Make of this splendid piece of mutual back scratching what you will, but know that the supposed virtue of Australia "proudly" becoming "the first to cast a vote in support of Israel's creation" at the United Nations in 1948 is sophistry. We were the first for no other reason than, in voting by alphabetical order, Australia was the first country to vote.

Some excerpts from the speeches of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in support of the bipartisan motion make the point that when politicians seek to trowel on the gush, Australia loses nothing now that Rudd and Nelson have replaced Howard and Beazley.

Rudd: "… The 60 years since the establishment of Israel have been full of challenges and full of trials. Similarly, the process for the emergence of a Palestinian state has come along a tortuous path. There has been too much bloodshed. But over those 60 years there has also been cause for hope.

"We think today of prime minister Menachem Begin standing with Jimmy Carter and Egypt's Anwar Sadat at the White House on March 26, 1979 at the signing of the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty that followed the Camp David accords. Prime minister Begin used both the Hebrew and Arabic words for peace when he urged: 'No more war, no more bloodshed, no more bereavement. Peace unto you. Shalom, salaam, forever.' "

Nelson: "In a region of the world that is characterised more by theocracies and autocracies, the state of Israel is the custodian of the most fragile yet powerful of human emotions, and that is hopeful belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly. There are many things for which Israel stands and which characterise the modern state of Israel, but included among them is the celebration of knowledge for its own sake and knowledge as the driver of economic development and emancipation from human poverty…

"Israel, like all democracies, is far from perfect, but it is, in every sense of the word, on the front line of the struggle for the things that we hold dear, not only as Australians and free people but as human beings. And it is far too frequently on the front line of the struggle against all the things repugnant to universal human ideals …

"Israel is home to many things that are spiritual, but it is home in the end to the human spirit of resilience, of confidence, of determination and of respect for one another, irrespective of political, religious or other affiliations … No Australian who believes in the dignity of man, in freedom and in democratic principles should ever, through neglectful indifference, allow Israel to be a stranger. To do so would be to diminish ourselves and our own true security …"

How can you top that lot?



Continued (Permanent Link)

ABCs of Aymmetric warfare

Barry Rubin's article is actually explaining the ABCs of asymmetric warfare as practiced by Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and Company. But we can't really blame them for doing what it takes to win. The question is, what are we doing that helps them? Are we helping to spread fear? Are we making it easier than it should be for them to make their human rights violations charges?

Ami Isseroff


The Region: Fear and gullibility as weapons

Barry Rubin

Radical forces in the Middle East have rewritten the international rulebook in a way designed so they can't lose. That is, there is no easy response to their behavior and strategies. Even more worrisome is the widespread failure in the West even to realize this is happening.

Hamas and Hizbullah fire from among civilians and use civilian homes for military purposes; Syria or Iran deploy disinformation; radical regimes pretend moderation, and there are plenty of suckers to take the bait.

Extremism makes many believe that kind words and concessions can transform them; intransigence produces the response that if they won't give up, we must do so.

HERE ARE some new rules in which "we" represents such disparate forces as Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Iraqi insurgents, al-Qaida, Syria, the Taliban and others, including radical Arab nationalists.

These forces are not all alike or allied, but do often follow a parallel set of rules quite different from how international affairs have generally been conducted.

1. We'll never give up. No matter what you do, we will continue fighting. No matter what you offer, we will keep attacking you. Since you can't win, you should give up.

2. We're indifferent to any pressure you put on us. We will turn this pressure against you. Against us, deterrence does not exist; diplomacy does not convince.The carrot cannot buy us off, nor the stick make us yield. There are no solutions that can end the conflict. You cannot win militarily, nor make peace through diplomacy.

3. If you set economic sanctions, we'll say you are starving our people in an act of "collective punishment." Moreover, sanctions will cost you money and generate opposition among those who lose profits.

4. In response to military operations, we'll attack your civilians. Casualties will undermine your internal support. We will try to force you to kill civilians accidentally. We won't care, but will use this to persuade many that you are evil. Thus we will simultaneously murder your civilians and get you condemned as human rights violators.

5. If you try to isolate us we will use your own media and intellectuals against you. At times, we will hint at moderation and make promises of change. We won't do so enough to alienate our own followers, but enough to subvert yours. They will demand you engage us, which means you making concessions for nothing real in exchange.

6. Talking to our own people, we will foment hatred and demonize you. Speaking to the West, we will accuse you of fomenting hatred. We will hypocritically turn against you all the concepts you developed: racism, imperialism, failure to understand the "other," and so on. These concepts, of course, describe what we are doing, but your feelings of guilt, ignorance about us, and indifference to ideology will make you fail to notice that fact.

7. We will claim to be victims and "underdogs." Because you are stronger and more "advanced," that means you are the villains. We are not held responsible for our deeds, or expected to live up to the same standards. There will be no shortage of, to quote Lenin, "useful idiots" in your societies to help echo our propaganda.

8. Since our societies are weak, undemocratic and have few real moderates, you will have to make deals with phoney moderates and dictatorial regimes weakened by corruption and incompetence.

9. Even the less radical regimes, often our immediate adversaries, partly play into our hands. Due to popular pressure - plus their desire to mobilize support and distract attention from their own shortcomings - they trumpet Arab and Islamic solidarity. They denounce the West, blame all problems on Israel and revile America, even as they accept your aid. They glorify interpretations of Islam not too far from ours. They cheer Iraqi insurgents, Hizbullah, and Hamas. They don't struggle against Iran getting nuclear weapons. They lay the basis for our mass support and recruits.

10. There is no diplomatic solution for you, though you yearn to find one. There is no military solution for you, whether you try that or not. You love life, we love death; you are divided, we are united; you want to get back to material satisfaction, we are dedicated revolutionaries.

We will outlast you.

Finally, our greatest weapon is that you truly don't understand all the points made above. You are taught, informed, and often led by people who simply don't comprehend what an alternative, highly ideological, revolutionary world view means.

In effect, we will try, and will often succeed, to turn your "best and brightest" into the worst and dimmest who think you can persuade us, who blame you for the conflicts, or expect that we will alter our course. We will use those mistakes against you.

THE ABOVE analysis seems pessimistic, but is actually the opposite. Most of this strategy's power is based on spreading illusions, depending on gullibility. Much of the rest relies on the enemy's psychological weaknesses.

In a sustained conflict, the radicals' technological and organizational weaknesses, along with their mistaken assessments and unrealistic ideology, will bring inevitable defeat. They will lose even if they never surrender. They can kill people, but not overcome societies determined to grow, prosper, and survive.

The keys to a successful response are steadfastness and understanding. To paraphrase Francis Bacon and Franklin Roosevelt, there is nothing to fear but fear - and gullibility - itself.

The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center at IDC Herzliya and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs. His latest book is The Truth About Syria.



Continued (Permanent Link)

State Department: UN, Muslims fuel rising anti-Semitism

The report tells us what we already know, but it emphasizes some unpleasant facts nobody wants to face:
The report says various U.N. bodies are regularly asked to launch "investigations of what often are sensationalized reports of alleged atrocities and other violations of human rights by Israel."
"The collective effect of unremitting criticism of Israel, coupled with a failure to pay attention to regimes that are demonstrably guilty of grave violations, has the effect of reinforcing the notion that the Jewish state is one of the sources, if not the greatest source, of abuse of the rights of others, and thus intentionally or not encourages anti-Semitism."
The report gives examples of leaders and governments that "fan the flames of anti-Semitic hatred within their own societies and even beyond their borders." It cites Syria, Belarus, Venezuela, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
"Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actively promoted Holocaust denial, Iran's Jewish population faces official discrimination, and the official media outlets regularly produce anti-Semitic propaganda," the report adds.
Is there a chance someone will do something about it?
Ami Isseroff

Report: Anti-Semitism on the rise globally

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report from the U.S. State Department details "an upsurge" across the world of anti-Semitism -- hostility and discrimination toward Jewish people.
A German police officer holds items seized from an extremist group in Goerlitz, Germany, in 2006.
"Today, more than 60 years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just a fact of history, it is a current event," the report says.
The report -- called Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism and given to Congress on Thursday -- is dedicated to the memory of the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, a survivor of the Holocaust, the extermination of 6 million Jews during World War II.
The report details physical acts of anti-Semitism, such as attacks, property damage, and cemetery desecration. It also lists manifestations such as conspiracy theories concerning Jews, Holocaust denial, anti-Zionism and the demonization of Israel.
"Over much of the past decade, U.S. embassies worldwide have noted an increase in anti-Semitic incidents, such as attacks on Jewish people, property, community institutions, and religious facilities," the report says.
The report also deals with efforts to combat the bigotry, described by Gregg J. Rickman, the department's special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, as "one of the oldest forms of malicious intolerance."
The report says violent acts and desecration of Jewish property happen whether there are a lot of Jews or only a few living in the region. Bigoted rhetoric, conspiracy theories regarding Jews, and anti-Semitic propaganda are transmitted over the airwaves and on the Internet.
It says that although Nazism and fascism are rejected by the West "and beyond," blatant forms of anti-Semitism are "embraced and employed by the extreme fringe."

"Traditional forms of anti-Semitism persist and can be found across the globe. Classic anti-Semitic screeds, such as 'The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion' and 'Mein Kampf' remain commonplace.
"Jews continue to be accused of blood libel, dual loyalty, and undue influence on government policy and the media, and the symbols and images associated with age-old forms of anti-Semitism endure."
New forms of anti-Semitism are reflected in rhetoric that compares Israel to the Nazis and attributes "Israel's perceived faults to its Jewish character."
This kind of anti-Semitism, the report says, "is common throughout the Middle East and in Muslim communities in Europe, but it is not confined to these populations."
The report says various U.N. bodies are regularly asked to launch "investigations of what often are sensationalized reports of alleged atrocities and other violations of human rights by Israel."
"The collective effect of unremitting criticism of Israel, coupled with a failure to pay attention to regimes that are demonstrably guilty of grave violations, has the effect of reinforcing the notion that the Jewish state is one of the sources, if not the greatest source, of abuse of the rights of others, and thus intentionally or not encourages anti-Semitism."
The report gives examples of leaders and governments that "fan the flames of anti-Semitic hatred within their own societies and even beyond their borders." It cites Syria, Belarus, Venezuela, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
"Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has actively promoted Holocaust denial, Iran's Jewish population faces official discrimination, and the official media outlets regularly produce anti-Semitic propaganda," the report adds.
It notes "societal anti-Semitism" in places where there have been efforts to fight the problem. Among the countries are Poland, Ukraine, Russia, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
"Recent increases in anti-Semitic incidents have been documented in Argentina, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and beyond," the report said.
The report is a follow-up to the State Department's January 2005 "Report on Global anti-Semitism."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Palestinian Arab twins in Israel under Gaza rocket fire

Ashraf Shafii describes how young, masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses in Beit Lahia. "They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable," says Shafii. "And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back."

Why doesn't he object? "They are armed," says Shafii, "and they shoot at anyone who gets in their way."

The father is holding the first photos of his newborn twins in his hands. He is worried about the rockets being fired at Ashkelon. He says that he would never have believed it possible that he could be indebted to the Israelis for anything. "What a confusing situation," he says.


Palestinian Twins  (born in Israel) Under Rocket Fire from Gaza

By Christoph Schult in Ashkelon 

When a Palestinian woman gave birth to twins in an Israeli hospital she experienced what it is like to be the target of rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
One of the Palestinian twins from the Gaza Strip attended by an
 Getty Images

One of the Palestinian twins from the Gaza Strip attended by an Israeli nurse.
The humming noise in the sky over Beit Lahia grows slowly louder. It sounds as if the buzzing of a hornet were being amplified by loud speakers in a football stadium. Residents of the Gaza Strip call them "Sannana," or the humming ones, the small unmanned drones that the Israelis use to scan the border region for rocket commandos -- and then to liquidate them with precisely targeted missiles.

Ashraf Shafii has climbed onto the roof his house and is looking across strawberry fields toward the border wall. The smoke-belching towers of the power plant in the Israeli city of Ashkelon jut into the sky along the horizon. His wife is over there in Ashkelon today.

Shafii, a 34-year-old lab technician at the Islamic University of Gaza, glances at his six-year-old daughter. "We were so desperate to have more children," he says. For years, he waited in vain for his wife to bear a son. When she turned 30, the couple decided to get fertility treatment.

Iman Shafii finally became pregnant. During an ultrasound examination, doctors discovered four small embryos. The first died in the fifth month of pregnancy and the second died a few weeks later. Shafii was admitted to the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, but the condition of the two remaining embryos became increasingly fragile. "You have to go to Israel," the doctor told her.

Because Israel refuses to engage in any contact with the authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza, patients turn to private brokers who submit their entry applications to the Palestinian Authority of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah. But it can be a lengthy process.

The Shafiis were lucky. Iman was permitted to enter Israel after only 24 hours. She took a taxi to a spot near the Eres border crossing, and then she was pushed in a wheelchair across the last 500 meters of bumpy ground. She reached the Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon just in time. She gave birth on Feb. 25, by Caesarean section, to a girl, Bayan, and to the couple's long-awaited son, Faisal.

 Graphic: Maximum Range of Palestinian RocketsDER SPIEGEL

Graphic: Maximum Range of Palestinian Rockets

Iman Shafii, 32, wearing a headscarf and oval glasses, and speaking in a soft voice, sits on a chair between two incubators. Today is the first day she is permitted to hold her babies in her arms. A nurse brings out the boy first, then the girl. As the tears well up in her eyes, Shafii kisses her children on their foreheads. "If the children had stayed in Gaza, they would not have survived," she says.

Her only impression of Israel has been the one she gets on Palestinian television, which usually shows tanks and soldiers, and celebrates attacks, like the recent shooting inside a Talmud school in Jerusalem, as acts of heroism. But now a doctor wearing a yarmulke walks into the room, says "Shalom" and asks her in English how she is feeling.

Dr. Shmuel Zangen, the director of the hospital's neonatal unit, doesn't care who he treats. "As a doctor, I enjoy the privilege of not having to think about it," he says. "It certainly is odd that we take care of Palestinian children while they shoot at us. It's the sort of thing that only happens in the Middle East."

'Not a Just War'

In the past, Shafii saw the Israelis exclusively as perpetrators, but in Ashkelon she is encountering, for the first time, victims of the acts of terror committed by her own people. One of them is nine-year-old Yossi, who is sitting in a wheelchair. A steel frame holds his left shoulder together. It was fractured by shrapnel from a rocket that landed in the city of Sderot. "The people in Sderot are suffering just as we are in Gaza," she says.

There was a sharp increase in the Palestinian rocket attacks after Israel cleared the Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in September 2005. The Israeli military counted 2,305 hits last year, and there have already been 1,146 in the first two months of this year. Until now, almost all of the missiles have been Qassam rockets, which are made in the Gaza Strip and have a range of about 12 kilometers (seven miles).

But the breaching of the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Egypt by Hamas in January made it possible to bring in Russian and Iranian rockets with longer ranges. This means that cities considered safe in the past are now threatened. One of them is Ashkelon. On the second day after the birth of Bayan and Faisal, a Soviet-made "Grad" rocket landed on the hospital grounds. "I heard it hit, 200 meters away from me," says Shafii. The neonatal unit was moved to a bunker the next day. "The groups that are firing the rockets are not fighting a just war," says the Palestinian mother, adding that they are not abiding by what the Prophet Muhammad said: that wars may only be waged between soldiers, but not against civilians.

The buzzing drone in the sky over Beit Lahia has flown away to the south. The sound of an Israeli missile striking its target can be heard a short time later. Within a few minutes, there are reports that a member of the group Islamic Jihad was killed.

Ashraf Shafii describes how young, masked men repeatedly set up their rocket launchers under the cover of houses in Beit Lahia. "They shoot at Israeli civilians, which is completely unacceptable," says Shafii. "And they put us Palestinian civilians in grave danger, because the Israelis shoot back."

Why doesn't he object? "They are armed," says Shafii, "and they shoot at anyone who gets in their way."

The father is holding the first photos of his newborn twins in his hands. He is worried about the rockets being fired at Ashkelon. He says that he would never have believed it possible that he could be indebted to the Israelis for anything. "What a confusing situation," he says.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


Continued (Permanent Link)

Solving the riddle of Jewish anti-Zionism


Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity (Part One)


Image of eye copyright: 2005, Creative Commons | All Rights Reserved. Graphic design: Laura Anne Shay-Hupé

CONTEMPORARY JEWISH ANTI-ZIONISM is most generously to be interpreted as occupying a position, or a set of positions, within a new Jewish politics. Modern Jewish politics was a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Jewish Question;" contemporary Jewish politics is a response to, and an attempt to address, the "Israel Question." Modern Jewish politics emerged out of ideological divisions within Jewish communities in the mid- to late-19th century. The Holocaust brought this politics to an end. Ideological differences within Jewish communities following the Six Day War then caused a re-emergence of Jewish politics, which had been dormant for about 40 years.

This shift from the "modern" to the "contemporary" has a complex history. Towards the end of the 19th century, there was an upsurge in "collective enthusiasms" within the Jewish world [1], and a break with traditional religious and communal life [2]. The precipitating events were the 1881 pogroms in Russia, taken by many Jews to confirm the failure of the emancipation project. The divisions within Jewish communities caused by this new, and perhaps clearer-eyed, understanding of their predicament grew over succeeding decades. Intra-communal conflict reached maximum intensity in the inter-war period of the 20th century. It was, for example, the Jewish sections of the Communist party in revolutionary Russia that led the fight against Zionism; if it were not for these sections, the liquidation of the Zionist movement would have been a slower process [3].

"The Jewish Question" was several questions, not just one. Are Jews to be defined as a nation or a religion - and then, what version of Judaism, what kind of Jewish nation? How should Jewish history be understood, and what aspects of it speak to contemporary concerns? Where, how, and with whom should Jews live, "here" in the Diaspora, "there" in Palestine - and with what minority / majority rights and status? In what language or languages should they express themselves as Jews? With what broader political movements, if any, should they ally? From what broader ideologies should they take direction? How should antisemitism be combated - by Jewish solidarity or proletarian solidarity [4]? A divided, inventive, and almost always struggling Jewish left took every possible position between the polarities of class and nation, revolution and exodus, Lenin and Weizmann, Moscow and Jerusalem. The most refined reasoning (say, Gershom Scholem's insistence that he was a Zionist, not a Jewish nationalist, or Buber's insistence that he was a Hebrew Humanist, and not a nationalist) [5] often emerged in the most desperate of circumstances. Though modern Jewish politics was not confined to the Left, it was easy to believe otherwise.

Continued at  Jewish Anti-Zionism Unravelled: The Morality of Vanity (Part One)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran-Israel war has already begun

by Yossi Klein Halevi
When will Israel and Iran go to war? They already have.
Post Date Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Immediately after the massacre of eight students in a yeshiva library in Jerusalem last week, speculation began within the Israeli security establishment and the media about who had dispatched the lone murderer. Was it Hamas? Hezbollah? Perhaps a new, unknown organization claiming to act on behalf of the "liberation" of the Galilee? In fact, the speculation was pointless. Regardless of the affiliation of the actual perpetrator, the ultimate responsibility for this attack, as for almost all the terror attacks on Israel in recent years, lies with Iran.
The Palestinian struggle is no longer about creating an independent state. It is about being a front-line participant in the Iranian-led jihad to destroy Israel, evolving from a nationalist to a religious war. The thousands of celebrants in Gaza who, following the yeshiva massacre, offered prayers of thanksgiving in the mosques and distributed candies to passersby weren't only indulging in feelings of revenge for Israel's recent military incursion but heralding the coming jihadist victory over the enemies of God. A real solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be reached by dealing with its primary instigator: Iran.
Israel's seventh war began in September 2000, and was launched by Yasser Arafat, who transformed Fatah into a quasi-Islamist movement, nurturing the rhetoric and martyrology of jihad. Arafat no doubt assumed he could manipulate Islamist trappings for nationalist aims. But then he went one step farther: He initiated an alliance with Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. Until then, Iran's only client within the Palestinian national movement had been the Islamic Jihad, the smallest of the Palestinian terrorist factions. According to a former chief of Israeli military intelligence, Arafat promised the Iranians that he would turn Gaza into a second southern Lebanon, and Iran began providing weapons and funds to Arafat's Fatah. But then, in January 2002, Israel intercepted the Karine A, a ship carrying Iranian-supplied Katyusha rockets and mortars and C-4 explosives for use in suicide bombings. Exposed and under international pressure, Arafat severed the connection.
Ironically, Hamas was initially more reluctant than Fatah to enter into an Iranian alliance, precisely because the Sunni Hamas takes religion more seriously than Fatah and was loathe to accept the authority of the Iranian Shiites. But that squeamishness ended three years ago with a formal alliance, orchestrated by the Damascus-based Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, and today Hamas is an integral part of the Iranian war against Israel. Iran has trained hundreds of Hamas operatives--and, according to the former intelligence chief, continues to fund individual members of Fatah's Al Aqsa Brigades. Iran's goal is twofold: to extend its influence in the Arab world, and to transform itself, via proxies, into a frontline confrontation state with Israel.
The jihadist war against Israel has shifted from one front to another--suicide bombings inside Israeli cities until 2004, Katyushas on Haifa in the north in 2006, and now Katyushas on Ashkelon in the south. All are battles in the same war. So far, it is a war without an all-encompassing name, and that linguistic failure reflects a larger Israeli failure to treat this as a unified conflict. We still refer to the suicide bombings of 2000-2004 by the Palestinians' misnomer, "the second intifada"--which falsely implies a popular uprising, like the first intifada, rather the orchestrated slew of terror attacks that it was. Awkwardly, we call the 2006 battle against Hezbollah "the second Lebanon War," a name that places the conflict in the wrong context--the first Lebanon War against Palestinian nationalist terrorism in the early 1980s rather than one more front in the Iranian war against Israel. And now we are calling the daily rocket attacks against southern Israel "the war of the Qassams," even as the Qassams are augmented by the far more deadly Katyushas
In contending with Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel is trying to treat the symptoms, rather than the cause. Not surprisingly, it finds itself repeatedly stymied in efforts to stop the attacks on the home front. All of Israel's options in dealing with Hamas seem unbearable. Allowing rockets to continue to fall on southern towns creates despair among Israelis, who see their nation's sovereignty unraveling. Engaging in limited but costly military operations in Gaza, as Israel did last week, creates international outrage and little lasting security gain. Re-conquering Gaza and its dense refugee camps will result in a devastating number of causalities, both among Israeli soldiers and Palestinian civilians. And even if Israel succeeds in destroying the Hamas infrastructure, Israelis will confront the same dilemmas that forced them to leave Gaza two years ago.  
A ceasefire with Hamas--which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert seems to be implementing even as he denies it--may well be the worst option of all. Hamas will likely use that interim period to turn itself into a second Hezbollah, equipped with Iranian weapons. And when Hamas feels empowered to break the ceasefire and resume its attacks, Israel will face a far more formidable enemy.
To deal effectively with the jihad requires an awareness that Israel is in fact at war with the Iranian regime, which manipulates proxies along Israel's borders, supplying them with weapons and training, and energizing them with the promise of imminent victory.
Understandably, Israel has avoided a confrontation with Iran, which could result in the most devastating war Israel has fought. But as the siege around Israel's borders tightens and as the Iranian nuclear program quickens, that direct confrontation becomes increasingly likely.
According to a just-released strategic assessment by the Israeli intelligence community, 2008 will be the "Year of Iran." The Lebanese government, warns the assessment, could collapse in the coming months, allowing Hezbollah to take power. Meanwhile, Hezbollah and Hamas are considering a coordinated rocket assault on Israeli population centers, almost all of which are within rocket range of either group. And, according to the strategic assessment, sometime within the coming year, or by early 2009 at the latest, Iran will achieve nuclear capability. The threat that emerges from the intelligence assessment may well be the most acute that Israel has ever faced.
Following the yeshiva massacre, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speculated that the gunman was attempting to "derail" the peace process. Brown's implication, widely shared in the West, is that the best way to defeat the jihadists is to create a Palestinian state.
But a viable Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel will not be possible without disconnecting Iran from these groups who are attacking Israel on its behalf. This may require destabilizing the Iranian regime--hopefully through intensified sanctions against its nuclear program, and by military force against its nuclear installations if sanctions fail. Without stopping the momentum of the Iranian-led jihad against Israel, the appeal of Hamas among Palestinians will grow. So long as the international community tries to create a Palestinian state without seriously confronting the jihadists, Iran and its proxies will continue to make peace impossible--not by "derailing" negotiations, but by making those negotiations irrelevant.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor of The New Republic and a senior fellow at the Adelson Center for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

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Israel: 15 rockets should end talk about "cease fire"

Speculation about an Israel-Hamas cease fire might be cooled a bit after the Islamic Jihad fired 15 rockets on Israel.
Firing rockets is what they do.
Last update - 10:07 13/03/2008    
 Islamic Jihad fires 15 rockets at Israel, ending week lull 
By Avi Issacharoff, Yuval Azoulay,
 Mijal Grinberg, and Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondents, and Reuters 
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Thursday claimed it fired at least 15 rockets into the western Negev by early morning, ending a week-long Egyptian-brokered moratorium in what it called an "initial" response to deadly Israeli raids in the West Bank.
A dozen rockets and two mortars were fired late Wednesday and early Thursday, Israeli security forces said. Two rockets struck a warehouse and soccer stadium in the rocket-weary Israeli town of Sderot, but no one was injured. Israeli aircraft struck a loaded rocket launcher early Thursday, but no Palestinian injuries were reported.
The defense establishment expected that the indirect understanding with Hamas over a cease-fire in Gaza would likely collapse Thursday, as Islamic Jihad warned that it was preparing to fire Qassam rockets at the Negev in response to the killings of four of its members on the West Bank on Wednesday.
 Five armed and wanted Palestinians were killed in total by Israeli Police anti-terrorist forces in two separate incidents.
In the first incident Wednesday morning in Kfar Tzaida east of Tulkarem, Salah Karkur, 27, of Islamic Jihad was killed during an attempt to arrest him by a combined operation of the IDF, Border Police and Shin Bet.
The second incident, in which four men were killed, occured in Bethlehem. Muhamad Shahade, one of the most wanted terrorist suspects of Islamic Jihad, was killed when the Israel Police special anti-terrorist unit attempted to arrest him. He was killed along with Imad Kamil and Isa Marzuka.
The fourth gunman killed was Ahmad Al-Balbul, a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, who had been held in detention by the Palestinian Authority for a long period.
The four had been wanted by Israel for eight years for conducting numerous terror attacks, including a series that killed six Israelis at the beginning of the second Intifada.
The gunmen were considered the leadership of Islamic Jihad in the Bethlehem area, and were in direct contact with the Jihad leadership in Syria. They were known to have dispatched car bombs to Jerusalem, and the Shin Bet claims the four were at the head of a network planning more terror attacks. The Shin Bet had not tied them to any specific attack planned in the near future.
Islamic Jihad has previously responded to the death of its members in the West Bank by firing Qassams from Gaza. Israeli sources found it difficult to predict how hard Hamas would try to restrain Jihad on Thursday.
According to Palestinian sources, the commitments made by Hamas to the Egyptian negotiators was only for a week of quiet, which is scheduled to end Friday.
The Shin Bet has already significantly increased the preparedness of the security around Israeli representatives and offices overseas, as well as that of Israeli airlines, mostly as a result of the killing of senior Hezbollah official Imad Mugniyah in Damascus on February 12.
The Shin Bet is afraid of a revenge attack by Hezbollah or Iran. The 40-day mourning period for Mugniyah will end in another 10 days, and Hezbollah has publicly threatened a number of times to perpetrate major attacks on Israeli targets, in response to the killing they credit to Israel. The Northern Command has also increased its readiness in response to Hezbollah threats.
In Wednesday's action, the security forces entered Bethlehem under cover to arrest Shahade. There they found the four in a car, armed with an M-16, pistols and grenades. They were killed after they left a restaurant near the government center in Bethlehem.
Karkur was hiding in a house when the security forces surrounded it. They called on him to leave the house, and after he did not respond to demands to turn himself in, the army used heavy engineering equipment to force him out.
Shots were then fired at the soldiers from inside the house, and explosive devices were also hurled at the forces. Karkur was killed during the exchange of fire. No soldiers were injured.
The IDF said Wednesday that Karkur was found with an Kalashnikov assault rifle, ammunition and explosive devices.
According to village resident Abdel Karim Hammad, whose family lives in the house where Karkur was hiding, Karkur refused to come out, a gunfight erupted, and Karkur was shot and killed. The Israelis then demolished half of the house and arrested Hammad's father for harboring a wanted gunman, he said.
A general strike was declared for Bethlehem on Wednesday after the killings, including schools. In addition, disturbances are expected today in Bethlehem, particularly near areas where the IDF is present.
The Palestinian Authority published a statement denouncing the the Israeli operations, and said it holds Israel responsible for a possible deterioration in the situation.
Ismail Haniyeh, prime minster of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, said Wednesday that any cease-fire with Israel in the Gaza area would be conditional on the cessation of arrests and killings in the West Bank. In a speech in front students at the Islamic University in Gaza, Haniyeh said that Hamas demands that the cease-fire also include the West Bank and not only the Gaza Strip  something Israel rejects completely.
"We will not abandon you, our people in the West Bank," he said. "The violence directed against you is directed against us too."
The Hamas leadership in Damascus also presented the same demands on Wednesday, demanding Israel "end all forms of aggression" in both Gaza and the West Bank.
In so doing, Hamas is toughening its stance about the cease-fire and is now presenting demands that Israel has completely rejected: to end arrests in the West Bank. Hamas has previously claimed the right to retaliate against Israel for its operations in the West Bank.
Islamic Jihad leader Nafez Azzam in Gaza denounced the Israeli raid. "This new crime reflects the true face of the occupation," he said. "Killing still continues while they are talking
about the possibility of bringing calm, but if they think that calm means Palestinian surrender, they are mistaken."
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel's raids in the West Bank showed "it was not interested in calm." Hamas, he said, would hold Israel responsible for the consequences.

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No recession in Israel

Israelis never thought we would see the day when the Shekel was one of the strongest currencies in the world.
Economy showing no signs of slowdown, say treasury chiefs 
By Moti Bassok and Tal Levy 
The world markets may be roiling and Tel Aviv stocks certainly have taken a beating this year, but Israel's economic fundamentals remain as strong as ever, say government officials. "There are no indications of an economic slowdown. The momentum of brisk economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 continued into the first quarter of 2008," stated Yarom Ariav, director-general of the Finance Ministry, at the annual conference of the treasury's accountant-general's office yesterday.
Concerned about the possible repercussions of a global slowdown on Israel, the treasury was cautious when constructing the budget for 2008, Ariav explained. For example, its growth projection for the year is lower than the actual growth achieved in 2007, yet Israel's economic indicators remain strong, he said: Disposable income per capita has increased, for one thing. Exports to the U.S. may suffer, he qualified, but he exhorted the audience to view the near future not with trepidation, but as a period of opportunity. Namely, to penetrate new markets, chiefly Asian ones.
Addressing the audience in his turn, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On urged the business community not to rest on the laurels of the last four years' achievements, but to shore up existing growth drivers and find new ones. Bar-On may have surprised some with his call to his own treasury officials to reexamine their procedures and scale back the red tape hampering private business endeavors. He also promised to pay more attention to the neglected towns outside central Israel, adding that the accountant-general's office had a central role to play in narrowing social gaps.
What are the indicators showing? One reveals that the good times continue to roll. Annualized tax collection jumped by 4% in the last few months. That's shy of the 7% rise that marked the last four years, to be sure. But at worst you could call it "a slowdown of the acceleration," not a slowdown or drop in tax collection.
Tax collection is indicative of the state of the economy. The more people earn, the bigger the bite the state takes, through income tax. And when the public has more money and the standard of living rises, then the public shops and the state gets more money from VAT and sales tax.
In the first half of 2007, tax collection increased by 15%, in annual terms, which makes the current pace of 4% look rather pale. But it isn't. The truth is that in the first half of 2007, the state received nonrecurring income, which renders the comparison unfair. When that nonrecurring income is deducted, tax collection in those six months ran at 7% in annualized terms.
And the present pace of 4% indicates that the economy continues to grow. The state is collecting more tax revenues, it's just all happening a mite more slowly. The treasury's forecast for the year 2008 is 4.2% GDP growth, which is less good than in previous years, but still a nice figure. Nor have tax-collection rates fallen short of forecasts: this year, the state has collected NIS 600 million more than it had anticipated.

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Israel's image is not so bad in some places

Israel is not losing the "image war" everywhere, it seems.
Published: 03/12/2008
Americans rate Israel among the five most favored nations, with the Palestinian Authority and Iran in the bottom five.
Israel is picked fifth after Canada, Britain, Germany and Japan, with a 71 percent favorable rating and a 25 percent unfavorable rating, according to a Gallup Poll taken in mid-February.
Iran is rated last with 8 percent approval; the Palestinian Authority is third to last with a 14 percent approval rating. Between them is North Korea, with a 12 percent rating.
Among subgroups, Republicans were more likely to rate Israel favorably, 84 percent to 64 percent by Democrats, and those aged 18 to 35 were less likely to favor Israel than their elders. That group awards Israel a 65 percent favorable rating, while those aged 35 to 54 give it 74 percent and those older than 55 at 72 percent favorable.
The phone survey of 1,007 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is islamism = Fascism?

Mohamed Sifaoui: "I Consider Islamism to Be Fascism"

Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2008, pp. 13-17
Mohamed Sifaoui was born on July 4, 1967, and spent most of his childhood in Algeria. He holds a master's degree in political science and studied theology for two years at the University of Algiers and for two additional years at Zeitouna University's Institute of Theology in Tunis. In 1994, he began work for the Algerian daily Le Soir and survived a February 11, 1996 bomb attack at Le Soir's headquarters at the Maison de la Presse. In 1999, the French government granted him political asylum after he received death threats both from Algerian Islamists and the military. In Paris, Sifaoui works at the French weekly Marianne. Between October 2002 and January 2003, he infiltrated an Al-Qaeda cell in France in order to research his book, Mes frères assassins: Comment j'ai infiltré une cellule d'Al-Qaïda. (My assassin brothers: How I infiltrated an Al-Qaeda cell).[1]
Sophie Fernandez Debellemanière, a former intern at Le Figaro and The Weekly Standard, interviewed Sifaoui in Paris on September 12, 2007, after meeting him at a 9-11 ceremony on the Champ de Mars.

In Islamism's Cross Hairs

Middle East Quarterly: Did you flee Algeria because of the terrorist attack on Le Soir?
Mohamed Sifaoui: No. Throughout the 1990s, I was determined to stay. I only left in 1999 when I was sentenced to one year in jail for insulting the head of state. I had criticized President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's reconciliation policy because I considered it unfair to grant amnesty to a terrorist without even judging him. The Algerian government talked about peace without ever recognizing there was a war. The terrorists suddenly got themselves released with the same rights as the victims' families. Bouteflika's behavior towards his people was criminal. They wanted to send me to jail at the same time they were releasing criminals.
MEQ: You stayed longer than most. Were people right to leave Algeria?
Sifaoui: The intellectuals and journalists who left Algeria when the murders started in 1992 were right to do so because the risk was real. Survival instinct is natural and legitimate. It would be indecent to judge them because fear is a legitimate human feeling. In this sense, I was the one being unreasonable by risking my life to stay.
MEQ: Why did you stay in Algeria?
Sifaoui: I didn't want to leave the country under pressure, because of the possibility of another terrorist attack. Nor do I believe that I was especially brave to stay. It is not a question of being brave or weak. The only thing that matters is the message and the values that you want to transmit. As a journalist, I felt that I had to stay. We never obtained press freedom in Algeria, but I wanted to struggle to get a small part of it. We made some progress, but then, Islamism took us backward. By staying, I wanted to show that I would not accept submission to Islamist censorship and its diktat.
MEQ: Are you still worried? After all, two bodyguards are supervising this interview.
Sifaoui: No, I am not worried. I have built sort of a shell around me. I keep calm, and I do not panic. Honestly, I prefer not to think about it; otherwise, I would worry too much.
MEQ: Are you proud today to have risked your life for your ideas?
Sifaoui: Yes, because I am lucky enough to be alive. It is a shame that those who died did not leave for safety. I stayed because I felt that I was able to accomplish this act of resistance. Each person resists in his or her own way; each does what he or she feels able to. Among the members of the World War II resistance, some hid other resisters; some hid Jewish families or helped them escape to Switzerland, and some failed only to denounce them. For me, at this time, my resistance to fundamentalism is based on a determination not to concede any ground to the Islamists but to keep on writing and to defy danger everyday.
MEQ: What was your reaction to Al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's appeal on September 20, 2007, "to wipe sons of France and Spain" out of the Maghreb?[2]
Sifaoui: I've been expressing the same warnings about Islamist terrorism for years. Zawahiri's statement doesn't surprise me. Since the GSPC [Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat] pledged its allegiance to Al-Qaeda in September 2006, Algerian terrorists and Al-Qaeda leaders expressed their objective very clearly: Intensify terrorist attacks against the Algerian regime and its institutions, as well as against lay and democratic people, targeting Western and especially French citizens.
MEQ: Do you believe that Zawahiri was referring to the descendants of former colonists in Algeria by using the expression "sons of?" Or was this the result of too literal a translation of the Arabic?
Sifaoui: No! This has nothing to do with any literal translation! Zawahiri is referring to all French and Spanish citizens by saying "sons of." Al-Qaeda's targets are all the French and Spanish citizens in the Maghreb.
MEQ: Less than twenty-four hours after the release of Zawahiri's message, a terrorist attack in Lakhdaria in northern Algeria, fifty miles southeast of Algiers, wounded two French citizens, one Italian, and six Algerians.[3] Is this attack a sign that the European presence in the Maghreb is in jeopardy?
Sifaoui: I would not be so pessimistic, but such a quick reaction indicates how organized and coordinated Al-Qaeda and the GSPC are. It also shows the Algerian regime's incapacity to deal with terrorism.

An Islamist and Fascist Nexus?

MEQ: Would you use the term Islamo-fascism to describe this threat?
Sifaoui: I certainly am one of the first Muslims to consider Islamism to be fascism. This is not a subjective decision but rather a serious, academic argument. Fascism and Islamism are comparable in many aspects: Fascism, without evoking all its particularities, bears similarities to trends also present in Islamism. I am, of course, making a reference to their will to exterminate the Jews. On this point, the Islamists may go even further in their doctrine than the Nazis did, considering that the end of the world could only occur when there are no Jews left on earth. In the three monotheist religions, apocalypse, end of the world, and doomsday exist and are liturgical events invested with a high degree of spirituality. Hence, the Islamists interpret the end of the world in a very special way. Whereas it is written nowhere in the Qur'an, exegetes describe the end of the world as the day when even the trees and rocks will be able to talk and tell the Muslims: "Come here, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him." And this would go on, until there would not be any Jew left on earth. This ideology is pure fascism.
MEQ: Are there other similarities?
Sifaoui: The will to exterminate or do harm to homosexuals is another similarity between Nazism and Islamism. The Islamists, also, say that they are the best community in the world, a superior race thanks to their beliefs. They use political means to arrive at this erroneous exegesis. I do not fear to call it fascism. And there are many more similarities between fascism and Islamism.

Islamism vs. Moderate Islam

MEQ: Do you believe it is possible to criticize Islamism without being called a racist?
Sifaoui: Absolutely, I would say that one must criticize Islamism. When I am criticizing Nazism, I am not being anti-German.
MEQ: When did you feel for the first time that you had to criticize Islamism?
Sifaoui: I have always felt that it was a moral duty.
MEQ: Do you believe that moderate Islam exists?
Sifaoui: Of course, it does. If the majority of Muslims were not moderate, Islamists would have destroyed the Western world a long time ago. Despite its technological lead, its nuclear power, and all its armies, the Western world would never be able to face an Islamist world entirely convinced by the terrorist cause. One billion people supporting Al-Qaeda would reduce the rest of the world to ashes. Islam contains violent texts that need not be applicable today. Islam is a religion of moderation. I know because I studied theology for four years.
Perhaps 20 percent of Muslims on the planet must be totally reeducated. We have to fight them politically, ideologically, and also militarily. Western societies do not fight them well; whenever they try to do so, they end up strengthening them.
One proof that moderate Islam exists is the huge number of sympathy messages that I received from Muslim people when my investigative story on Al-Qaeda Salafist networks, J'ai infiltré une cellule islamiste, was broadcast on French television M6.


MEQ: Given the Islamists' vision of apocalypse, do you believe that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would fear reprisal should Iran attack Israel? Should Western analysts rely on Iran's rationality?
Sifaoui: Too many Western analysts look at any adversary through a Western lens. Western analysts believe that Al-Qaeda is as rational as the Basque separatist group ETA [Euskadi Ta Askatasuna] or the Irish Republican Army. My personal history, culture, and investigative journalism work allow me to understand what Westerners cannot see: Iran will attack Israel as soon as it can.
MEQ: Doesn't Iran take into account the eventuality of its own destruction?
Sifaoui: No, it does not. Martyrdom is exalted in Iran. Iranians view annihilation positively. The Islamists' main purpose is to create the conditions for the West to believe that chaos is possible. The argument that says that Iran will not attack Israel because of immediate and massive retaliation from Israel and the United States is absolutely wrong. The Islamists would welcome such retaliation in order to cement coalitions among Muslim peoples and to encourage riots in the Arab street. U.S. military action, or even its prospect, coincides with Islamists' interests. That is the reason why I was against the war in Iraq.
MEQ: Can you explain?
Sifaoui: Between October 2002 and January 2003, I spent four months infiltrating an Al-Qaeda terrorist cell in France. Two months before the launching of the Iraq war, when I was in the midst of the group, one of the Islamists said, "Now we are going to pray for George Bush to attack Iraq." I was surprised and acted as if I were stupid: "Really? Why do you want America to kill our brothers?" The most clever and elevated in Al-Qaeda's hierarchy, Amara Saïfi [the GSPC's emir in London] whispered to me, "All over the world, our brothers are now praying for George Bush to attack Iraq. War between the Muslim world and the Western world is bound to happen. Unfortunately, Muslims are too divided. Far too many of them do not pray regularly and neglect religion and jihad. In order to unify and mobilize all these people, we have to continue what we initiated on 9-11. We attacked America to make her retort everywhere in the Muslim world, in order to create a real war between Muslims and the West, and especially Israel."
MEQ: That's incredible.
Sifaoui: Another of the group added, "Once Iraq is at war, many of our brothers will go there to fight jihad. George Bush will have answered our prayers by suppressing our enemy Saddam Hussein and unifying the Muslims in jihad. Then as Westerners do not know how to fight attrition wars, we know that they will inevitably get stuck. We will wait until they leave in order to establish an Islamist state in Iraq. This war will be a pretext to launch terrorist attacks in Europe as well."
Unfortunately, you can see their theory is valid. They predicted exactly what is happening.
[1] Paris: Le Cherche-midi Editeur, 2003.
[2] Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Special Dispatch Series, no. 1721, Sept. 21, 2007; "Warden Message," Embassy of the United States of America, Algiers, Algeria, Sept. 24, 2007; Andrew Black, "Recasting Jihad in the Maghreb," Terrorism Monitor, Oct. 25, 2007.
[3] "Warden Message," Sept. 24, 2007.

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INSS on Gaza Ceasfire

This analysis refers only to rocket fire from Gaza, but any arrangement must also stop the inflow of arms and materiel to the Gaza strip.

Shlomo Brom
The recent escalation of the military confrontation in the Gaza Strip dramatizes the need to consider alternative strategies in the face of the Gaza challenge, and to choose a strategy that can offer the best chance of achieving the desired objectives.

Israel's specific aim regarding the Gaza Strip is to stop the rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli populated areas. However, achieving the goal in the short term does not necessarily guarantee maintaining the achievement in the long term. Therefore, a better definition of the goal is to generate a long term stable situation in which rockets are not launched and there are no other threats from the Gaza Strip. 
An analysis of the possibility of achieving this objective must take into account that after the Hamas takeover, the Israeli government made a strategic decision to try to weaken the Hamas government in Gaza and thereby attempt to effect its replacement, hoping to strengthen the Palestinian partner represented in the West Bank by Mahmoud Abbas and the Fayyad government. The two objectives are liable to clash with one another.
The Current Strategy

For now, Israel is not trying to stop the rocket fire with a military strategy that strips Hamas of its ability to fire rockets, rather with a strategy that demands a steady cost from Hamas. This entails Israel's escalating the situation every time Hamas escalates it, with the goal of conveying to Hamas that at each stage, the price it pays is greater than the benefit it reaps. The assumption is that in so doing, a positive deterrent balance will be created for Israel that will cause Hamas to stop the attacks.
The chances of this strategy achieving the desired goal are limited, as deterrence exists when the alternative of inaction is preferred by the party that one seeks to deter from acting. The problem is that from Hamas' point of view, the alternative to inaction offered by Israel is worse than the continued confrontation with Israel, despite the cost. Israel's fundamental policy is to weaken Hamas as much as possible with the help of its Western allies, and to strengthen the opposition to Hamas within the Palestinian political arena – i.e., Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah – in the hope that this allows the Palestinian partner preferred by Israel to retake control of the Palestinian territories. Israel has offered Hamas the option of surrendering quietly – to stop the violence and impose this ceasefire on the other organizations operating in Gaza, and to allow the coalition opposing Hamas to maintain its siege until it is destroyed as an effective political force in the Palestinian arena. Alternatively, Hamas can surrender its ideology and its political positions overnight, and then it will be allowed to survive as a political element. Hamas, as an extant political movement, cannot accept these proposals. These alternatives are worse for it than maintaining the current military situation in which it suffers blows and losses and is under siege, yet in accordance with the Hizbollah model demonstrates vitality and survivability by proving its ability to continue attacking Israeli population centers with rockets and thereby ensuring its political survival.
Israel's inability to achieve its objectives in the present course compels Israel to choose between two other strategies that constitute the only alternatives given the current situation in the Gaza Strip. The first alternative is to physically prevent Hamas from launching rockets by taking over the areas from which the rockets are being launched, dismantling the infrastructures of Hamas and the other organizations, and occupying the areas over the long term. The second alternative is to try to reach understandings with Hamas over a ceasefire, and to create a stable situation that is acceptable to both sides.
The First Alternative: Taking Over the Launch Sites

The main problem with the first alternative is that it entails reoccupying the Gaza Strip and remaining there for a long time. The Gaza Strip is a small area. The current rocket ranges already necessitate controlling most of the Strip in order to prevent entirely the launching of rockets against Israeli targets. For example, Grad rockets can reach Ashkelon when fired from the southern part of Gaza City. If Israel wants to prevent the launch of rockets against Ashkelon it has to occupy nearly the entire northern third of the Strip, and even that would provide only a temporary solution as at some stage, longer range rockets will be smuggled into Gaza. This situation can be prevented only by taking over the south of the Strip as well and finding a way to prevent arms smuggling through tunnels. If assurances are also sought for the settlements in the areas closer to Gaza, which can be attacked with self-manufactured short range rockets, almost the whole of the Strip must be occupied.

One of the proposals for an exit strategy should Israel reoccupy all or most of the Gaza Strip is transferring control to an international/Arab party that would maintain a trusteeship in the Strip. The aim of this trusteeship would be to ensure that calm is maintained in the Strip, establish Palestinian institutions, and prepare these institutions for the reality of an independent state. This proposal ignores the fact that after the reoccupation of the Gaza Strip, the area will still be saturated both with weapons and members of the various organizations who are motivated to maintain the struggle against the occupying army. It will be similar to the situation in Iraq after the rapid occupation by the US military. In other words, this would entail intensive counter-insurgency operations until the Strip could be calmed and reach a state similar to that which exists in the West Bank. It is hard to believe that any international party would be willing to enter the Gaza Strip and relieve Israel of this role. Even in the optimistic scenario in which Israel achieves relative calm after a number of years, there is no guarantee that an international/Arab party will be found that will agree to assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip.
The Second Alternative: Ceasefire

The second alternative is based on the assumption that both sides share a basic interest in stability, though for different reasons. It appeals to Israel because there is no attractive military way of guaranteeing an end to the rocket fire, and the current situation both denies part of its population a normal life and prevents implementation of the preferred policy with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Hamas is interested in stability as the current state of affairs prevents the consolidation of its control of Gaza, exacerbates the siege it is under, and causes it severe damage. Each of the two sides also has concerns over a ceasefire. Israel is anxious that a ceasefire would allow Hamas to recover from the attacks it has sustained; build up its military capability; increase its stock of rockets and enhance their performance; and renew the fighting when it is convenient for Hamas. Israel is also concerned that a ceasefire with Hamas violates its basic policy, as it would confer legitimacy on Hamas, weaken the standing of Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah, allow Hamas to bolster its political standing, and in time enable it to take over the West Bank as well. For its part, Hamas is concerned that despite the calm, sanctions against it and the siege on the Gaza Strip would be maintained while it does not have the means to cope with them.  In such a situation Abbas could advance negotiations with Israel and improve his political status, with Hamas looking on helplessly. It seems that Hamas clearly understands that a situation that is perceived as waiving the weapon of resistance to Israel can harm its image as an organization that takes responsibility for most of the struggle against Israel for the benefit of the Palestinian cause, an image that is one of its main assets in the internal Palestinian struggle with Fatah. Such a situation can also be interpreted as the start of a process of recognition of Israel, without Israel providing a commensurate reward.

A relatively stable ceasefire is achievable if the terms of the ceasefire provide a solution to some of the basic concerns of each side. From Israel's point of view a ceasefire should have several key elements. First, it must apply to all the parties in the Gaza Strip and not be binding on only one of the active organizations in Gaza, as this understanding is reached with the government that controls Gaza and seeks to achieve total dominance. Hamas will have to commit itself to enforcing the ceasefire and imposing it on the other armed groups in Gaza, if necessary by force. The second important element for Israel is the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For Israel a ceasefire should only apply to the Gaza Strip, while the day to day preventive measures of the security forces in the West Bank continue. Israel cannot relax this demand as long as there is no other responsible party with the ability to prevent the rebuilding of the terror infrastructure in the West Bank. The third important element is an arrangement that will prevent exploitation of the calm for massive smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip. It is hard to believe that Hamas will voluntarily agree to stop the smuggling as it contradicts a very basic interest – readiness to renew fighting if the ceasefire is revoked. The answer to this concern should be found in arrangements that involve Egypt and international parties. Talks about a ceasefire offer an opportunity to reexamine the arrangements along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, and to achieve more reliable and effective arrangements, including the possibility of stationing an international force along this line and reinforcing the Egyptian forces deployed near the border. Finally, Israel also has an interest that the arrangements connected to the ceasefire will not lead to full normalization with Hamas and the Gaza Strip as long as Israel upholds its decision to weaken Hamas and strengthen its rivals.

Hamas' principal interest is to create a situation in which it can consolidate its rule in Gaza, maintain order there, and show the Palestinian public that it performs better than the Fatah governments that preceded it. Therefore it cannot accept a stable and full ceasefire without arrangements in place that will allow the resumption of normal life in Gaza, including regular economic activity. This requires effective arrangements relating to the operation of transit points to Egypt and Israel. This does not mean that Israel and the Quartet have to waive all the sanctions imposed on Hamas; it means that the absolute minimum requirement for normal living conditions and regular economic activity should be defined. Anything beyond that should be contingent on a change in Hamas' positions so that the arrangements do not strengthen Hamas too much, and they create an incentive to change its stances. It is worthwhile examining whether Hamas is willing to accept ceasefire conditions that Israel can accept, in return for the proposed situation that would allow it, from its point of view, to finally realize its political success and exercise control. At the same time, steps designed to improve life in the West Bank and reinforce the standing of Abbas and the Fayyad government should be bolstered, so as not to tip the balance between Fatah and Hamas in Hamas' favor.

An answer to some of the respective reservations can also be found in the way that understandings on a ceasefire are reached. In public discourse in Israel the issue is framed as whether or not to talk to Hamas, which makes the main question one of mutual recognition. However, this is not the main issue in the present situation, where both sides, for their own internal political dynamics, are not interested in mutual recognition. Past experience shows that it is possible to reach understandings of the kind in question through mediators and without direct contact between the sides, while bypassing the question and appearance of mutual recognition.

Another idea raised recently is not to reach understandings about a ceasefire, rather to generate a ceasefire per se by Israel's stopping its military operations in Gaza. The assumption is that given Hamas' basic interest in a ceasefire, it too will stop its operations. This idea has a number of shortcomings. First, in such a situation it is likely that Hamas itself will stop its activities, but it is doubtful whether it will enforce this among the other organizations. The result is that low intensity firing will continue, creating a situation that while best for Hamas is of questionable value for Israel. Second, such a ceasefire is more fragile as the rules of the game are not clear, and ultimately such a ceasefire cannot be used to reinforce the border guard along the Egyptian border. The only advantage it seemingly offers is that the relative calm is achieved without dialogue – even indirect – with Hamas, and could not be construed as recognition of Hamas.

Israel and Hamas could reach understandings on a ceasefire with the mediating efforts of third parties if it includes conditions that satisfy the basic needs of both sides, and it is worthwhile examining this possibility. However, one must realize that any ceasefire, if it is not used to forge a different political reality, will not endure. A decision to consider seriously the possibility of achieving a ceasefire with Hamas must be complemented by a thorough examination of Israel's political strategy. This means questioning whether the current strategy can be implemented, and whether a ceasefire is an opportunity to start a process of dialogue with Hamas designed to bring about a change in Hamas' positions, which will bring it closer to the Palestinian consensus regarding a two state solution.

Such a process will require deliberation of other questions. A major issue is whether it is possible to carry out the process without the creation of a Palestinian national dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, as Israel cannot engage in a dialogue with Hamas without its partners in Fatah. Other issues are how to calibrate the sanctions against Hamas to allow rewards for partial and gradual changes in positions, and how to allow for the inclusion of the concept of the hudna – a long term ceasefire – in this proces

Continued (Permanent Link)

The kafkaesque trial of Bangladesh dissident Sallah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury continues

Despite promises, Bangladesh authothorities have not stopped the "judicial" process against freedom fighter journalist Salahuddin Shoaib Choudhoury, who angered them because of his opposition to Islamist extremism and his support for Israel. Lacking evidence, the government has dragged the process out for several years with endless continuations and a never-ending supply of new court dates.
Ami Isseroff

Memo to Bangladeshi Metropolitan Session Judge Mohammad Momin Ullah:
  By Judi McLeod  Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Memo to Mohammed Momin Ullah, Metropolitan Session Judge, Dhaka, Bangladesh: "We know.  Canada Free Press (CFP) knows that the charges brought up against Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury by the previous Islamist alliance government in Bangladesh, come up in your court, tomorrow."

And publications with much more international influence than CFP know that a lone journalist who forecast the rise of radical Islam in Bangladesh will stand in your court just when world attention is focused on other matters.

Choudhury, who stands charged with treason, sedition and blasphemy, has friends in the United States of America, including Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Professor Richard Benkin, who were promised by then-Bangladeshi Ambassador to Washington Shamsher M. Chowdhury that self-described "Muslim Zionist" Shoaib Choudhury would have all charges dropped against him.

Courageous Choudhury has Canadian friends in his corner, notably including the Honourable Irwin Cotler (MP Mount Royal), a world-renowned humanitarian and civil-rights scholar, and one of the best and brightest legal minds in the English-speaking world, who now stands as Choudhury's counsel.

With American attention on disgraced Eliot Spitzer and the fierce fight between Democrat presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Choudhury faces a trial whose penalties include only execution or imprisonment.

These are the words on the official document demanding Choudhury's March 12th court appearance:

     "The State Prosecution has brought allegation (s) against you, Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury stating that, being the editor and owner of Blitz newspaper, you sent an article titled, `Hello Tel Aviv' to USA Today newspaper published from Washington.  Furthermore, in 2003, while attempting to travel to Israel to attend a conference titled `Education towards Culture of Peace', organized between 1st December to 3rd December 2003, you appeared at the Zia International Airport on the 29th November 2003 and the Immigration police arrested you and found the copy of the speech you prepared to deliver in the conference.  In that speech, you have made offensive comments on (the) Muslim world, Islam and Muslims in Bangladesh and commented about (the) existence of al Qaeda and other Islamist militant groups, by which you have tarnished the image of Bangladesh in the outside world.  Furthermore, you have made (a) conspiracy of spreading anti-state news through that speech and you by sending that speech to (the) outside world, you have played (an) offensive role to Bangladesh's security, public discipline and adverse
role towards Bangladesh's relations with the outside world.  In you (sic) report, you have mentioned about guerilla training in the
Bangladeshi madrassas, by which you have influenced the religious sentiments and made imaginary stories abroad about jihadist training in favor of Laden (sic), Arafat and Saddam, by which you have put Bangladesh's foreign relations to threat and through this you have caused offense under Penal Code section 505 (A), 295 (A) and 120 (B).

"The allegations were read before the accused and he claimed to be innocent (not guilty) and prayed for justice."

In his response to Metropolitan Session Judge Md. Momin Ullah, Choudhury wrote, "it is well known to the international community and even to the Bangladeshi government that there are guerilla trainings in various Madrassas in the country.

"The previous government captured a few hundred such elements from various Madrassas belonging to an Islamist terrorist group named JMB. The kingpins of this group were accorded the death penalty by Bangladeshi courts and were subsequently hanged.

"But I am facing the charges of forecasting the existence of such elements in Bangladeshi Madrassas.  Why?

"I have never sent any article titled `Hello Tel Aviv', nor was it ever printed in any US or international newspaper.  This is a bogus and imaginary allegation brought against me by the government.  The prosecution does not have any evidence of such allegation."

Choudhury asks "How many more years will I have to suffer from these false and ridiculous charges?

"I am continuing to spend money and energy in this case since 2003.  Is it justice to let an innocent journalist suffer for years, just because he forecasted the rise of radical Islam and confronted it?"

Choudhury, who was beaten, imprisoned, denied medication for glaucoma, forbidden to attend his mother's funeral, had his office bombed and his children followed to school, has spent hundreds of hours preparing forand attending court sessions which the government promised to drop.

"People keep asking me what is it that the Bangladeshi government wants," says Choudhury.

"They want to appease the Islamists by continuing the case and even by convicting me.  Many of the top policymakers of the governments are angry with me because I am a Zionist and I continue to defend Jews and Christians as well as combating radical Islam.  They are also angry with me because I demand relations between Israel and Muslim nations."

Choudhury fully understands the possibilities of a horrific fate tomorrow before the Bangladeshi court with international attention
turned elsewhere.

"Please pray for me on March 12," he asked friends living in the free world on the eve of his court appearance.

But even though Bangladeshi Islamists have continued the harassment of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury at will, they at least cannot count on the privilege of finishing the job off under cover of darkness.

CFP and others, who know, await the outcome.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peres lauds warming ties with France

This is a far cry from the days of Chirac. Perhaps the bad old days of French antagonism to Israel that began in 1967 are truly over.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 06:38 12/03/2008       
At state dinner with Sarkozy, Peres sees 'unparalleled' French-Israel relationship
By Adar Primor, Haaretz Correspondent
PARIS - Who was not present at the festive dinner French President Nicolas Sarkozy gave for President Shimon Peres? Some thought that Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, stole the show when she displayed her "pregnant belly." But Peres, being Peres, did not pass up the opportunity to give a historic perspective to his visit.
In his keynote speech, which he worked on for weeks, Peres cited Rashi, the medieval French Jewish commentator on the Bible who "rescued hundreds of ancient French words from oblivion"; Napoleon, who declared in Jaffa that the time had come for the Jewish people to take its place among the nations; and Chateaubriand, who described the Jews as a tiny nation that had miraculously escaped assimilation and finally been resurrected in its ancient homeland. And also Leon Blum, Andre Malraux, Francois Mitterand and even Jacques Chirac, the first French president to publicly acknowledge France's responsibility for the crimes of the Vichy regime.
Of course, Peres himself was also not absent from the speech. He apologized to his listeners for his frequent use of the word "I," saying it stemmed from the fact that he is one of the few people left who still can tell the "great story" of Israel's birth from personal experience. He described how, a year before the War of Independence, David Ben-Gurion showed him the list of weapons in Israel's possession: "Not a single plane. Not a single piece of artillery that actually fired. Not a single tank that rolled properly."
Then, following the establishment of the state, he recalled the massive flow of Soviet arms to Arab states, Israel's vain appeals for help to the United States and Britain and, finally, the salvation that came from France. "I will never forget my first steps on French soil," Peres said. "It's hard to describe the warmth, the solidarity and the support, a la francaise, that I received in every corner of this land."
But though his speech dwelt at length on the past, he also devoted a few sentences to the present - and, as befits a visionary, a fair amount of time to the future.
Earlier, in a conversation with Haaretz, Peres said the friendship between Israel and France "had no parallel" in human history. He said he did not see his visit as the "closing of a circle," but as a chance to say thank you for the past, and to open a new chapter of cooperation in facing the challenges of the present and future - first and foremost, Iran's nuclear program and terrorism.
Asked whether his comment on the eve of his visit, that Israel would not act alone against the Iranian threat, had been coordinated with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he replied: "If we act alone, we'll remain alone. [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is the whole world's problem; it should not be reduced to Israel's [problem]. There is no issue here of coordinating statements, but of coordinating policy."
Regarding Sarkozy's plan for a "Mediterranean Union," which has been criticized as a hasty initiative unveiled without first consulting his colleagues in the European Union, Peres said: "The idea that the European Union should serve as a model for the Mediterranean region is daring and interesting. Following 1,000 years of war and bloodshed, an economic merger came along that succeeded in overcoming Europe's political wounds. Sarkozy is a groundbreaking leader. He operates like a whirlwind: He doesn't dally, he leaps. The fact that he is unpopular should not affect his mode of behavior, because if leaders acted according to the polls, they would all have to be conservative and do nothing."
He added that he is convinced Sarkozy will overcome opposition to his plan within the EU.
Despite his courageous display of friendship during your visit, Sarkozy and his Foreign Ministry have not hid their unhappiness over the operation in Gaza and Israel's "destructive settlement policy."
"The events in Gaza and Jerusalem [Palestinian terror attacks] do not grant Israel any breaks on the settlements. But in any case, [Israel's] policy is that no new settlements will be built. Ultimately, the French policy on this matter is based on the principles laid down by the Quartet, which Israel also signed."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel kills terrorist, Islamic Jihad vows revenge

 Last update - 11:35 12/03/2008       
Jihad vows 'deep retaliation' after militant killed in W. Bank raid
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
The Islamic Jihad militant group on Wednesday threatened to retaliate "deep inside the Zionist entity" after Israel Defense Forces troops killed one of its members early Wednesday near the West Bank city of Tul Karm.
The militant, who has been on the defense establishment's wanted list, was killed in an exchange of fire that erupted during an arrest operation in the area.
Troops surrounded a house in the village of Saida and demanded that its
occupants come out, according to resident Abdel Karim Hammad, whose family lives in the house.
Saleh Karkur, 27, a wanted Islamic Jihad gunman who was staying with the family, refused to come out, a gunfight erupted, and Karkur was shot and killed, Hammad said.
The Israelis then demolished half of the house and arrested Hammad's father for harboring a wanted militant, he said.
Palestinian medics said they took the man's body from the scene.
The IDF confirmed an operation in the village but would not
immediately provide details.
Explosives and weapons were found on the militant's body at the end of the battle, according to Israel Radio. There were no injuries among the soldiers.
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel's raids in the West Bank showed "it was not interested in calm". Hamas, he said, would hold Israel responsible for the consequences.
Reservists fire at Israeli Arab car thief
Meanwhile, IDF reserves soldiers Wednesday morning opened fire on an Israeli Arab man driving a stolen car in the Yatir Forest south of Hebron.
The reservists said they had ordered the man to stop, at which point he sped up, prompting troops to open fire.
The driver was lightly wounded and taken for medical treatment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel embargo on Al-Jazeera because of incitement to terror

 Last update - 12:14 12/03/2008       
Israel to boycott Al-Jazeera TV over alleged incitement to terror
By Haaretz Service
Israel will impose an official embargo of Al-Jazeera television in the coming days, over what it has called the Qatar-based station's unfair portrayal of the Israel Defense Forces' operation in the Gaza Strip.
"The Foreign Ministry has held discussions on the matter, and decided to embargo the station," Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahabe told Army Radio, adding: "These reports are untrustworthy and they hurt us, and they arouse people to terrorist activities."
The Foreign Ministry plans send an official letter to Qatar requesting it investigate the matter, according to the radio. Israeli officials have until now desisted to meet with station representatives and its senior reporters have not been permitted to enter government offices in Jerusalem.
Israel claims that the television station has incited the Palestinian public with its reports and cooperated with Hamas over the latest period of military escalation in the Gaza Strip, the radio said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement has also spoken out against the station. One of its leaders, Mohammed Dahlan, has of late organized a law suit against it for its alleged support for Hamas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Australian parliament honors Israeli democracy

A too-rare and very welcome tribute to Israel from Australia. It is very gratifying, and in stark contrast to the vituperation dished out by extremists in many parts of the world. But this sort of ceremonial encomium, so egregious in the case of Israel, is what any country should be able to expect on an important anniversary. Too bad there are so few countries like Australia.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 11:46 12/03/2008    
The Australian Parliament on Wednesday congratulated Israel on 60 years of statehood, describing it as a "robust democracy" and a "custodian of freedom" in a region abounding in autocracies and theocracies.
The bipartisan motion in Parliament was interrupted by a protester in the public gallery who shouted, "What about the UN resolution?" before being hustled out of the chamber.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd reaffirmed Australia's commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, noting that the United Nations had recommended independent Jewish and Arab states 60 years ago.

"We firmly believe the establishment of an independent and economically viable Palestinian state must remain a key objective of the Israeli peace process," Rudd said. "This is important for the future, ... just as our objective must be for Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized boundaries."
Rudd praised Israel for its "robust democracy" and said it represented a "cause for hope."
Opposition Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson said that in a region "characterized more by theocracies or autocracies, Israel and the state of Israel is the custodian of the most fragile and yet most powerful of human emotions - that is hopeful belief in the freedom of man, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly."
Nelson, who seconded the motion, said "no Australian who believes in the dignity of man, of freedom and democratic principles, should ever allow, through neglectful indifference, to allow Israel to be a stranger. To do so would be to diminish ourselves and our own security."
There was a small group of protesters outside Parliament House in Canberra and large advertisements placed in national newspapers condemning the motion.
The signatories to the advertisement, which included members of the Labor Party and heads of unions that helped finance its campaigning in the November election that saw Rudd triumph, condemned what they said was a "celebration of the triumph of racism and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the al-Nakba (Catastrophe) of 1948."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rumored Hamas-Israel deal: Fatah to guard Gaza; Barak opposed.

This is yet another Israel-Hamas deal rumor. If it is true, it could be a solution, provided that there are adequate safeguards to prevent importation of arms. 
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is rumored to be opposed to the deal, supposedly because of personal opposition to Mahmoud Abbas. Barak has a few reasons to be unhappy with Abbas. Abbas was involved in the Munich massacres. Barak played a part in killing some of those who were more directly involved. In 2000, Abbas was among those who helped torpedo the Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that Barak, then Prime Minister, was trying to negotiate. Abbas insisted on right of return, and denial of any Israeli rights in East Jerusalem, as well as full return to the borders of the 1948 armistice. Barak must be very unhappy that Abbas is now a peace partner, who will give a better deal to a different government. There are, however, good reasons to be suspicious of this deal, as the border arrangements might not ensure Israeli security, and the record of the Fatah in stopping terror attacks is abysmal.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 09:38 12/03/2008    
A deal being formulated between Israel, Egypt and Hamas involves deploying Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' troops at the crossings with the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources told Haaretz Tuesday.
According to the sources, Israel and Hamas have agreed to the Egyptian proposal to deploy Palestinian Authority Presidential Guard members along the Karni, Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings, where cargo is transferred between Israel and Gaza, as well as at the Erez crossing, a passageway for people and goods.
Guard members will be deployed also at the Rafah crossing, which connects Sinai, Egypt with the Strip.

Hamas forces will be positioned nearby and will essentially control the movement of Palestinian civilians in and out of Gaza.
This agreement is in keeping with the 2005 crossings agreement, between the U.S., Israel and the PA, which called for placing the crossings under forces loyal to Abbas.
The Palestinian sources said that Hamas leaders are due to meet with Egyptian mediators within the next two days. The Egyptians will convey Israel's views on the Egyptian proposal, and Hamas is to state whether it agrees to a temporary cease-fire.
The current round of violence ended after Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders met with Egyptian officials last week.
The PA also has agreed to the Egyptian proposal. It is expected to present any agreement as a success, because this would mean Hamas has failed to break the siege on Gaza. It has controlled the coastal strip since overthrowing Fatah there last June.
Meanwhile, Damascus-based Hamas leader Mohammed Nasser released the group's conditions for a cease-fire with Israel Tuesday. Nasser says Hamas is demanding Israel completely cease "all acts of aggression" in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
By this demand, Hamas is toughening its stance regarding the cease-fire in the works, and is posing a demand that Israel steadfastly has refused to accept so far. Israel rejects any deal that would bar it from arresting suspected militants in the West Bank.
Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in the Strip, confirmed in a telephone conversation with Haaretz on Tuesday that the radical Islamic group is demanding Israel stop making arrests in the West Bank in exchange for a cease-fire deal.
Nasser also added that Hamas is ready for a temporary cease-fire with Israel, on the condition that it occurs simultaneously and applies to both sides.
Abbas said Monday during a meeting with Jordanian journalists that "a senior figure in the Israeli government is undermining the negotiations for internal reasons and because of personal hostility to me." He was in Jordan to meet with King Abdullah.
A Jordanian journalist who published the story noted that Abbas was referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Abbas also said that any agreement on Palestinian refugees' right of return would be implemented over the course of at least a decade after the signing of a peace deal.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Egypt FM: Cairo can forge truce between Israel and Gaza militants

Last update - 21:40 11/03/2008    
 Egypt FM: Cairo can forge truce between Israel and Gaza militants 
By Avi Issacharoff , Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies 
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Tuesday he was hopeful that his country would be able to forge a truce between Israel and Gaza militants, thus bringing recent violence to a complete halt.
"The situation is still very difficult and we are hopeful that Egypt would manage in the near future to have a kind of arrangement between the Israelis and Palestinians whereby the firing of missiles will come to an end and the intrusions of the Israeli army will be stopped," Aboul Gheit said.
Both Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers have denied talk of having reached an official cease-fire.
Referring to an understanding between the sides, Aboul Gheit said: "An agreement could include an exchange of prisoners and a lifting of restrictions at Gaza's Israeli-controlled crossings."
The foreign minister added: "If we would not manage to allow that situation to come to an end, then the situation will worsen again and that is not good for the people of Israel or the Palestinians."
In recent weeks, increased rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip into Israel sparked a series of Israel Defense Forces raids that killed more than 120 Palestinians. Last week, an Israeli Arab terrorist gunned down students at a Jerusalem yeshiva, killing eight.
Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman on Thursday offered Palestinian factions an Israeli commitment it will cease its military operations against militants in Gaza if the factions made a commitment to halt the rocket fire from the Strip into Israel, the London-based Arabic language newspaper Al-Hayat reported Saturday.
Meanwhile, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck southern Ashkelon on Tuesday, ending a four-day lull in violence that began directly following the terrorist attack at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem last Thursday.
No damage or injuries were reported.
The rocket hit south Ashkelon only a few hours after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert toured the rocket-plagued city, warning that there is no way of assuring that the rocket fire on the city would not resume in the future.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) took responsibility for the rocket attack. But Israel held Hamas responsible.
"Hamas controls Gaza and they are responsible for every missile fired from Gaza into Israel. We have no illusions as to the extreme and hateful agenda of Hamas," said government spokesman Mark Regev.
Olmert said during his visit that the rocket fire on Ashkelon could not be seen as an isolated incident, adding that the situation in Ashkelon could not be compared to Sderot.
Abbas to Jordanian reporters: Barak is sabotaging peace process
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Jordanian reporters in Amman Tuesday that "a top Israeli official is sabotaging the peace talks with Israel over internal matters and due to a personal hostility toward me."
One of the Jordanian reporters who broke the story said that Abbas was referring to Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Abbas added that talks with Israel regarding the Palestinian refugees' right of return will go on for 10 more years at least.
On Monday, Abbas contradicted Barak's earlier statement and said that a ceasefire agreement had been reached between Israel and Hamas. Abbas' statement came only a few hours after both Barak and Olmert said that no such cease fire had been agreed upon.
Abbas also said Monday that Hamas leaders wanted to reach a ceasefire because they feared for their lives.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri denied Abbas' claims on Tuesday, saying that "these remarks are nothing but lies aimed at damaging Hamas' image."
"Hamas leaders seek martyrdom and would never bargain over the blood of their people like others do," Abu Zuhri said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli leftist Fahima consoles family of J'lem yeshiva terrorist

Last update - 22:19 11/03/2008    
 Israeli leftist Fahima consoles family of J'lem yeshiva terrorist
 By Haaretz Service 

Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima, previously convicted of aiding Palestinian militants, paid a consolation visit to the family of the terrorist who gunned down students at a Jerusalem yeshiva last Thursday, killing eight.
"I was with the family and I have no doubt that the State of Israel's security forces are mainly just inflaming [the situation], and causing the killing of citizens - like those yeshiva students, because of the many years-long policy of occupation," Fahima told Israel Radio.
Eight yeshiva students between the ages of 15 and 26 were killed in the attack at the Mercaz Harav seminary, and nine others were wounded.
According to Fahima, "I would be happy to visit the families of the murdered [yeshiva students], but if I arrive there they would kill me. I belong to an ethical, humane place."
Fahima demanded that Israel immediately turn the terrorist's body over to his family. "Give them their body right now. There is no issue here of siding with the act or not," she said.
The activist said she does not fear responses in Israel to her visit, noting that "also when I stood as a human shield - they branded me a traitor."
Fahima plead guilty in December 2005 to maintaining contacts with a foreign agent with the intention of harming state security, and was sentenced to three years in prison.
She was specifically convicted of aiding Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades militants, including the group's leader in Jenin Zakariya Zubeidi, and was released from Neve Tirzah Prison in January 2007.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Islamists leave Israel no choice

The Australian

Islamists leave Israel no choice

Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | March 08, 2008

THE attack yesterday in Jerusalem on a Jewish religious school in which eight civilians died disclosed important political trends.

It showed once more the depths of the divisions within the Palestinian leadership.

The Palestinian Authority, under its President Mahmoud Abbas, condemned the attack.

On the other hand, Hamas, the Palestinian leadership in the Gaza Strip, praised the attack and Gazan civilians danced in the streets with joy.

And the Israeli public understood once more that there is no proximate chance of peace in their long-running dispute with the Palestinians.

George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice have their reasons for continuing to pretend that there might be a peace agreement this year, but if they really believe this, which is unlikely, they could do more harm than good to the region.

The Gazan reaction to the Jerusalem attack also illustrates why, probably later this year, it is almost inevitable that there will be a huge Israeli operation in Gaza. Many people will die. The suffering will be acute.

Yet it is almost as if this is exactly what Hamas wants. It is impossible otherwise to explain its actions.

Once more the Middle East is set to pivot this year. There are a range of churning dynamics, some of vast strategic consequence, others more tactical improvisations, all happening at once. For the moment, Gaza is their centre, or at least it is possible to understand much of what is happening by focusing on Gaza. In 2006, in relatively free elections, Hamas, which is a branch of the extremist Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, won elections among the Palestinians. It did not secure a majority of the vote but it legitimately won.

Subsequently, in a ferocious, bloody and extremely cruel civil war among the Palestinians, Fatah, loyal to Abbas, consolidated itself in the West Bank while Hamas consolidated its rule in Gaza.

Hamas is less corrupt and more efficient than Fatah but it is a ferocious terrorist organisation. In recent months it has shown how willing it is to sacrifice its own people in order to pursue its war against Israel.

However, it is wrong to imagine that Hamas is in any sense a mad group. Its strategy is rational. It is also difficult for the Western mind to grasp because of two elements: its genuinely religious foundation, and its willingness to inflict any suffering not only on its enemies, but on its own people.

Over recent months terrorists have fired mainly Qassam rockets from Gaza into Israel almost on a daily basis. It is true that they have killed few people. But they have terrorised the citizens of the small Israeli city of Sderot and the nearby kibbutzes and farms. Further, Hamas and other terrorist groups have smuggled weapons and people across the border from Egypt. When recently this border was smashed by Palestinian civilians and left open for several days, before the Egyptians closed it down again, much more such smuggling went on.

Gaza's terrorists have slowly been improving the range, explosive power and precision of their rockets. But now they also have a number of Grad rockets, and indeed some others, some of them apparently of Iranian manufacture, to fire at Israel.

Some of these have hit the Israeli city of Ashkelon, with more than 100,000 people.

This has necessitated an Israeli response. Israel tries to suppress the rocket fire by taking out Hamas and other terrorist leaders, and by destroying from the air Qassam factories and launching points. Although Israel tries not to hit civilians, inevitably some Gazan civilians are hit and killed in these actions.

Further, Israel has imposed a limited economic blockade on Gaza, for which it has been widely criticised. However, it is inconceivable that any nation would allow endless rocket attacks on its civilians without trying to stop them. If the Gaza terrorists could do this with impunity, it would inspire other terrorists to do the same. Hezbollah, intensely rebuilding its capacities in southern Lebanon, could begin launching rockets again from there. Similarly, Israeli security forces have found and destroyed some rocket-making ventures in the West Bank. While the rockets from Gaza have been a tactical rather than strategic threat to Israel, rockets fired simultaneously from Gaza, southern Lebanon and the West Bank would completely paralyse Israel. Therefore Israel ultimately cannot allow the rocket attacks to go on, especially as they increase in lethality and range. There is a marvellous irony in much of the international community demanding that the power station in Ashkelon supply electricity to the rocket factories in Gaza which are trying to destroy it.

Without the rocket firings there would be no economic blockade of Gaza and no Israeli air campaign. Life in Gaza would be infinitely better. Why doesn't Hamas embrace this much better life for its citizens, which would certainly not require it to give up its goal of running an independent Palestinian state?

There are four interlocking, plausible answers: it wants to damage Israel internationally, radicalise other Palestinians, ensure Israel's policy of disengagement from the Palestinians fails, and serve Hamas's Iranian and Syrian sponsors. Consider each of the four.

On Monday night, the ABC's Lateline program ran a report on the suffering of civilians in Gaza, an absolutely legitimate subject. Among the heart-rending footage there was an interview with a Gazan civilian who understandably complained bitterly about Israel's actions. But the ABC reporter didn't ask the absolutely obvious question: Do you wish your leaders would stop firing missiles into Israel, which make inevitable both the economic blockade and the Israeli military response? The ABC, as usual, was following more or less exactly the terrorists' preferred script for the Western media. Islamist terrorists have always been centrally concerned with the Western media and their understanding of its story presentation dynamics is acute, as this episode demonstrates.
Hamas gets to shift all blame to Israel.

Second, Hamas is trying to radicalise more Palestinian opinion. Palestinian politics has evolved from nationalism to religious extremism as the rise of Hamas demonstrates.

Palestinian opinion is not only divided between Hamas and Fatah, a division the Israelis are trying to exploit by making life better in the West Bank and more miserable in Gaza, to give Palestinians an incentive to return to secularism and negotiations with Israel rather than nihilist, suicidal terrorism. But Hamas and Fatah are both internally divided as well. Hamas is much stronger even on the West Bank than most commentators allow. Some in Fatah want to try to reclaim credibility by renewed armed conflict with Israel. This would plunge their people once more into terrible suffering but would allow them to compete with Hamas in the dynamics of zealotry.

Third, Hamas is determined to prevent the Israeli policy of disengagement from the Palestinian territories from succeeding. Thirty months ago, then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon pulled out of Gaza, evacuating all the Jewish settlements. Sharon then founded a party, Kadima, on the basis of disengagement.

The Palestinians would be behind their borders and could run whatever sort of society they liked, provided they didn't attack Israel. But the religious extremist leadership of groups like Hamas does not believe that Israel has any right to exist under any circumstances. This is enshrined in Hamas's charter and in all its propaganda. Therefore they want to ensure that no matter what happens, Israel still bears moral and political responsibility for the Palestinian population.

Eventually, Palestinians believe they might triumph by demographics alone. The Palestinian birthrate is much higher than the Israeli birthrate and ultimately it might become impossible for the Israeli state to provide for its own security with an unreconciled Palestinian population. This is a multi-generational strategy and if it is the strategy of some Hamas leaders, it means they really want the opposite of what the international community claims to want from Israel.

Israel is always told to retreat to the 1967 borders. The two places where it has done this - southern Lebanon and Gaza - have been disasters for Israel and have not produced peace. The 1967 borders only work for Israel if its neighbours don't make war on Israel any more. There is no indication at all that either Hamas or Hezbollah, or indeed Iran, which soon enough will possess nuclear weapons, is on a trajectory towards accepting Israel's right to exist.

And finally, Hamas may well be operating in very close concert with its sponsors, Iran and Syria. There is tremendous Sunni Arab concern about the growing power of Iran, evident not least in the bloody political vacuum in Lebanon.

A crisis in Gaza forces the forthcoming Arab summit to focus on the Palestinians, rather than Syria's murderous campaign to prevent the emergence of a democratic Lebanon.

After the situation in Lebanon becomes clearer, a huge Israeli operation in Gaza, to take control of the Gaza-Egypt border and to set up new intelligence mechanisms within Gaza, all to prevent the increase in rocket firings, is perhaps all but inevitable.

Peace is as distant as ever.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Khaled Mesh'al orders Hamas to deny role in Jerusalem terror attack

Mash'al To Hamas: Don't Take Responsibility For Jerusalem Seminary Attack

A senior Palestinian official close to Hamas said that Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mash'al had ordered the movements' leaders not to take responsibility for last week's Jerusalem seminary attack for fear of a harsh response by Israel.

Mash'al also ordered Hamas leaders to take maximum cautionary measures so as not to permit a retaliatory attack by Israel.

Source: Al-Jarida, Kuwait, March 10, 2008

Posted at: 2008-03-10

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas Victory: "Did We Win?"

Cartoon In Jordanian Paper: "Did We Win?"

Source: Al-Arab Al-Yawm, Jordan, March 8, 2008


Continued (Permanent Link)

AJC: Give Durban a chance

The news is:
The "Durban 2" anti-racism conference can still be salvaged, despite recent decisions by Israel and Canada to boycott the gathering, according to David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
...Harris told Haaretz that "we can't afford to declare 'Durban 2' lost without more focus on diplomacy, especially toward the European Union countries and others influenced by them."
Following Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's announcement two weeks ago that Israel would not participate in the United Nation's follow-up Conference against Racism, unless it was made clear that the event would not become a platform for Israel-bashing, there has been a great deal of indecision among international Jewish organizations as to how to deal with "Durban 2."
The first Durban Conference, in 2001, quickly descended into a festival of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity, causing the withdrawal of Israel and the United States from the parley. Over the last few months there has been a great deal of discussion between Israel, western governments, the Jewish Agency and other Jewish organizations on how to prepare for the follow-up conference, slated to take place some time in early 2009.
The fact that the conference is to be organized by the UN Human Rights Council, chaired by Libya, with Cuba as vice-chair, and that its two preparatory meetings are scheduled for Pesach and Yom Kippur, gave little reassurance that the next conference, whose venue has yet to be decided, will be any different from 2001.
A month ago, Canada announced it wasn't going to participate in next year's event, and Israel followed suit soon after.
The AJC's Harris said that it is still "important to focus the attention of world leaders that if this will be a replay of the first Durban Conference, it will undermine the international fight against racism and embarrass the United Nations."
He pointed to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's statement of three weeks ago that France will also not participate in the conference if it is "a repetition of the excesses and abuses of 2001."
Harris and the Israeli government were really saying the same thing, but one is saying the cup is half full, and the other is saying the cup is half empty. Clearly, nobody should be attending the conference if it is going to racist (half empty) and clearly, while there is any chance of preventing another racist debacle, we need to focus on trying to salvage the conference. A good anti-racism conference would be a much greater victory for Israel than a partial boycott of a bad one.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

There is hope for anti-Zionist Jews

Weinstock: Trotskyist to 'Mizrahi' historian

Nathan Weinstock is not the man he once was. The iconoclastic Trotskyist of the 1970s has had a change of heart about Israel and the Jews, claiming to have ordered all unsold copies of his controversial book, Zionism: false Messiah, to be destroyed. As explained in his Histoires de chiens: la dhimmitude et le conflict israelo-palestinien, he now believes that anti-Jewish racism, viewing Jews as inferior dhimmis, is a key factor driving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Now Weinstock, perhaps under the gentle guidance of his Moroccan-Jewish wife, Micheline, has produced a new book on the Jews in Arab countries, 'Une si longue presence'. Here is the transcript in English of an interview he gave to Information juive (February 2008).

Why do you think that the exodus of nearly all the Jews from Arab countries has been shrouded in silence?

Nathan Weinstock:
Several reasons. First, the Jews themselves were embarrassed (it is not something to be proud of, to be 'cleansed' like so much dirt). They wanted to draw a line over their past. And until recently, many Ashkenazim showed a certain contempt of all things Sephardi. Secondly, they felt 'cornered' by the prevailing, simplistic, politically-correct notion of colonialism. The exodus of the Jews from Arab lands was perceived by progressives as a 'settling of scores' with the effects of colonialism. Add to this the unwritten law that only the West can embody evil. Everything coming from the Third Word must necessarily escape criticism. The exiled Jews would therefore be ill-advised to muddy the waters of the simplistic ideology of the onward march to progress. Sympathy with the Palestinians has only reinforced this tendency.

The conditions in the countries you examine in your book are not comparable. What, if anything, do they have in common?

There is a huge range, geographical as well as chronological. Jews and Muslims lived together over 14 centuries and over three continents. You cannot generalise. On the other hand, one could venture to suggest that the Jewish condition under Islam was one of subjugation as a dhimmi. Humiliation is inherent in being 'protected': this does not exclude periods when Jews thrived under benevolent rulers. But even eminent Jews had an inferior status. For instance, during the Algerian Regency, Christian slaves were last in the pecking order to drink from the public fountains. But they had precedence over the native Jews. The Jew was worth symbolically less than a slave.

Has dhimmitude played a major role in causing the exodus?

I would put it differently. Let's say that anything relating to Jews in the Arab-Muslim world is tainted by their subjugated status. The Arab world finds it extremely difficult fully to recognise religious or national difference. The plight of Copts or Christians in Iraq provide striking examples, to say nothing of the tragedy in Sudan. It was to escape dhimmitude and benefit from (albeit limited) civic equality with Muslim colonial subjects, that the Jews looked to the West. This placed them in an existential impasse, torn between democratic western values and the nationalist Arab awakening that willingly exploited an imported antisemitism and claimed to be founded on Islam. Even the Algerian FLN shunned its original Jewish comrades-in-arms.

Despite (dhimmi) status, there was in certain Arab countries a great symbiosis between Jews and Muslims.

I have been struck and moved by signs of cultural interpenetration which went well beyond tolerating Jewish difference. When Muslim neighbours brought bread and butter during the Maimouna, they too were celebrating the end of Passover. It was not simply an acceptance of the Other's presence, but of mutual relations steeped in respect. In Tunisia, the notables went to the synagogue on Shavuoth to hear Saadia Gaon's commentary on the Ten Commandments in classical arabic. The Geniza of Old Cairo also reveals that Jewish families lived in close proximity with Muslim families in the same building, for instance. There were business partnerships where the Muslim replaced his Jewish associate on Shabbat. Many Jewish merchants in medieval Tunisia preferred to have their business disputes settled by Muslim, rather than Jewish courts. One must jettison all preconceived ideas.

How do explain that UNESCO allowed the Alexandria library (proudly, you say) to exhibit The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as one of the founding texts of the monotheistic religions?

One must not bury one's head in the sand. All international institutions where Muslims are strongly represented suffer from the gangrene of the Jewish conspiracy theory. This is the legacy of Hitler (which the Arab world supported at the time) and of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. The paranoid vision of the Protocols impregnates the Hamas charter, the Ba'athist regime in Syria, Iran and the radical Islamist movements, insidiously contaminating most of the Arab-Muslim world and its acritical leftist admirers.

The Jewish community of Iraq numbered up to 130,000. In 1917, 80,000 of Baghdad's 200,000 inhabitants were Jews. You write that if there was one Jewish community in the Arab world which could legitimately hope to find its place in national life in symbiosis with the surrounding population, it was the Jews of Iraq. Why?

Of all the Jewish communities of Arab lands, that of Iraq was undoubtedly the most deeply integrated. Thanks to the Jews, local literature blossomed, Jewish musicians played traditional music, local Jewish communist activists played a key role against British rule. In the truly Jewish city that was Baghdad, there was reason to believe that the local Jews - who had their reservations about Zionism, even after the terrible Farhoud pogrom of 1941 - would define the contours of harmonious coexistence with the Muslim majority. Nothing of the sort occurred. With hindsight one could say that Kurdish participation in the Armenian genocide and the terrible massacres of the Assyro-Chaldean Christians, as well as the Farhoud itself, were portents of the expulsion of the Jews and the dreadful massacres of the Kurds to come, and in our times, the bloodbath in the name of religion or politics which continues to ravage the country.

What would you say was the situation of the Jews of Iran?
All the reports about the Jews of Iran cannot help but remind one of Eastern Europe in the blackest days of Stalinism. The community's leaders use eulogistical cliches to affirm how happy a Jew is under the regime of the Ayatollahs in the presence of the regime's henchmen, but one senses an anxiety about the future bubbling up. And unlike the Sunni branch of Islam, Sh'ism has also had an obsessive fear of Jewish 'uncleanliness'. The atmosphere is full of menace while this regime persists.

As far as the Jewish community of Morocco is concerned, you are left with a sense of huge loss.

As it happens, my wife and I have a great number of friends and acquaintances of Moroccan Jewish origin. While many Ashkenazim struggle with their identity, I am attracted to the ease with which Jews of Moroccan origin handle and transmit their traditions in spite of their uprooting. Theirs was an exodus which has remained touchingly faithful to its roots and upheld the richness of its culture, but the Moroccan nation has suffered an enormous loss as a result. I wish (the Jews) could build bridges with the Arab-Muslim world of which they were such an integral part.

You believe the Jews of Turkey have survived due to their discretion. Was this not the case in other Islamic countries?

Yes, it's even been the key to their survival. As my friend Jacques Hassoun (who died before his time) wrote about Egypt, "they had to learn to sing less loudly in the synagogues". Although dhimmitude has been formally abrogated, it still haunts the Arab-Muslim cultural sphere and requires the Jew (and indeed the Christian) to 'know their place'. On the streets in Turkey you will note that Jewish community buildings all fly the national flag - as if to affirm their 'Turkishness', to escape being stigmatised and vaunt the secular values of Ataturk. In Turkey, a number of factors have ensured that a substantial Jewish community has survived. However, under the surface, as it were, many community leaders are worried.

What conclusions do you draw from this piece of historical research?

I would say that wonderful examples of Judeo-Arab cultural interchange should give us hope for the future. Alas, the future remains heavily mortgaged to the Israel-Palestine conflict. I am encouraged to see the rise of several young iconoclastic Arab thinkers in the Maghreb. They are not afraid to question the sacred myths of their culture. Israel is not the only country to give rise to a new generation of historians. There is a glimmer of hope for the future.

Continued (Permanent Link)

"Zionist" Yeshiva students beat Israeli minister

Tamir 'deeply saddened' by mob behavior during visit to yeshiva

Education minister verbally abused, kicked and spat on by protesters angry with gov't policy in front of Mercaz Harav seminary, site of Thursday's terror attack
Roni Sofer Published:  03.10.08, 01:14 / Israel News 
"The physical pain I'm feeling now is insignificant; it is the mental anguish that hurts me more," Education Minister Yuli Tamir said just hours after being attacked outside the Mercaz Harav rabbinical seminary in Jerusalem, the site of Thursday's deadly terror attack that left eight Israelis dead.
During her visit to the yeshiva on Sunday Tamir spoke to the students, some of whom told her that they felt the government was not doing enough to fight terror.
Upon leaving the seminary Tamir was verbally attacked by dozens of youths who called out "murderer," "get out of here" and "the Left is to blame for everything." She was also kicked in the back twice.
"I came to console the students and see the scene of the attack for myself. In a matter of seconds we found ourselves surrounded by dozens of rioters who kicked me and spat at me," Tamir recounted. "It reminded me of darker days."
The education minister was eventually whisked away by police officers and security guards.
"I am deeply saddened that people cannot differentiate between a condolence visit and a political one," Tamir said. Earlier the minister told Ynet that "this reminded me of the days before (former Prime Minister Yitzhak) Rabin's murder. It's unfortunate that that there is a public which cannot put limits form itself. I only came to pay my respects to the murdered, not to engage in politics."
Meanwhile it was reported that the seminary has responded negatively to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's request to pay a condolence visit of his own, but sources in the PM's Office are still hopeful.
"It is no secret that there is an ideological rift between Olmert and the yeshiva," a source in the PM's Office said, "but Olmert also said during today's cabinet meeting that no political rift can take away from the respect that he has for the Mercaz Harav yeshiva, the flagship of Religious Zionism. Despite everything, we will further examine the possibility of visiting the yeshiva and decide.
A source close to the yeshiva's directors said they were "not enthused" over the idea of hosting Olmert due to the fact that they believe he is working to divide Jerusalem and "is not fighting terror."
However, the source added that an official decision on the matter has yet to be announced.

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What is a Neo-Jew?

If you are curious about what a Neo-Jew might be, you won't find out here. But I suspect that  the this meaningless neo-logism, which somehow seems so successful, will eventually have a meaning attached to it, and a philosophy spun around it.

Ami Isseroff


"What's a Neo-Jew?" asks a bemused David T, over on Harry's Place. I have to admit that I don't have a clear answer, but - given that it appears in Jennifer Loewenstein's stream of hate on Counterpunch - I think we can all conclude that it's not meant as a compliment.

David makes an observation that bears repeating: irrespective of its leftist branding, Counterpunch is a far-right journal. Antisemites like Gilad Atzmon, Michael Neumann and Jeffrey St. Clair regularly publish there. Their take on Zionism and Israel is less of the old-fashioned, Jewish Marxist "Zionism is a diversion from the class struggle" line, and more in tune with the "Zionism controls the banks, the media and the US government" theme espoused by Ahmadinejad and David Duke.

Continued at: Counterpunching the "Neo-Jews"


Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and Its Aftermath - VP #562

The Jerusalem Viewpoints series is published by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs,

 founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation at the Jerusalem Centerfor Public Affairs.

Jerusalem Viewpoints

No. 562     Adar II - Nisan 5768  /  March-April 2008

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran and Its Aftermath:

 A Roundtable of Israeli Experts

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, former Head of IDF Military Intelligence;Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former Head of Research and Assessment; IDF Military Intelligence; Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former Head of Research and Assessment, IDF Military Intelligence

·      The opening sentence of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007 stated: "We judge with high confidence that in Fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." This conclusion put the U.S. intelligence community at odds with Israel, which believes that Iran only engaged in a temporary halt in 2003, and since that time the Iranian nuclear weapo ns program had been resumed.

·      Israel is not alone in disagreeing with the conclusion of the NIE. Already in December, just after the NIE's release, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported London's response with the headline: "Britain: Iran 'Hoodwinked' CIA Over Nuclear Plans," stating that Britain's intelligence chiefs had "grave doubts that Iran...mothballed its nuclear weapons program."

·      It was in the context of the Western detection of their nuclear program and the Iraq War that led Iran to halt its nuclear program across the board in 2003, with the exception of their surface-to-surface missile program. But prior to that freeze, Iran had been developing a military nuclear capability under a broad civilian cover for fifteen years.

·      The Iranian ballistic missile program is part of the Iranian nuclear weapons program;  Iran does not have a civilian space program and it is doubtful that it would develop ballistic missiles with a range of thousands of kilometers in order to carry conventional warheads alone. 

·      Between 2003 and 2005, the Iranians refrained from any nuclear activity under the influence of the impression created by America's pre-emptive policies in the region, which served as the main instrument that enabled the Europeans to force Iran to postpone uranium conversion and enrichment. But when the Iranians realized in 2005 that there was no actual threat behind their fears of U.S. pre-emption, the y decided to start conversion and then enrichment. As a result, the Iranians already have prepared enough uranium hexafluoride gas (UF6) for more than ten atomic bombs.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror:

The NIE - More Confusion than Clarity

The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of November 2007, entitled Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, has created more confusion than clarity. To many observers who heard news reports when it was first released, it appeared that the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that there was no longer any nuclear threat from Iran. That impression was fostered by the opening sentence of the report: "We judge with high confidence that in Fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program." Moving beyond the NIE's first sentence, however, there are other conclusions that seem to suggest the very opposite.


It might be suggested that the seemingly contradictory statements in the NIE are due to the fact that it is a product of sixteen different agencies that belong to the US intelligence community.1 But this would be too simple an explanation. There must have been a consensus of those drafting the report that caused them to lead with the idea that in 2003 Iran was no longer developing nuclear weapons. This conclusion put the U.S. intelligence community at odds with Israel, whose Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, stated openly that Iran only engaged in a temporary halt in 2003, and since that time the Iranian nuclear weapons program had been resumed.


It was not the first time that the U.S. and Israel disagreed over their assessments about Iran. In 1995, I was the head of the Research and Assessment Division of IDF Military Intelligence and we found the first signs that the Iranians were going nuclear. In those days, we thought the most important action that we could take was to brief our counterparts in Washington and convince them that this was a danger soon to be faced by the entire Free World. It was not easy to convince them that this subject should be on the table. We sought to do so at a meeting in Washington where a very well-known ambassador represented the U.S. side and I tried to convince the Americans that the Iranians had indeed decided to go nuclear.


At the end of our discussions, the U.S. side gave us the impression that they were thinking to themselves: "After we Americans finish off Iraq as an enemy of the State of Israel, then you Israelis are going to build a new threat because you cannot live without such a threat." During my more than four years as the head of the Assessment Division, this was one of my great failures. It took American experts another two years, until 1997, for the American intelligence community to understand that the Iranians were going nuclear.


Today, Israel is not alone in disagreeing with the conclusion of the NIE. Already in December, just after the NIE's release, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported London's response with the headline: "Britain: Iran 'Hoodwinked' CIA Over Nuclear Plans," stating that Britain's intelligence chiefs had "grave doubts that Iran...mothballed its nuclear weapons program."2 French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel also went out of their way to state that Iran still remained a danger and pressure had to be kept up over its nuclear program.3 Even officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who were traditional ly more forgiving about Iranian behavior than the U.S., expressed doubts about the NIE right after it was released. One official stated: "We don't buy the American analysis 100 percent. We are not that generous with Iran."4


While we are dealing only with the public version of the NIE, we understand that there is no fundamental difference between this version and the unpublished version. For this reason, it is very important that the NIE be carefully analyzed. There is no argument about the civilian side: Iranian enrichment efforts continue. But what we need to focus upon are Iran's purely military capabilities. We believe that this report of the U.S. intelligence community was a huge mistake from both a methodological and professional point of view. I would not have permitted such a report to be issued by Israeli Military Intelligence while containing such holes in its arguments.


It is noteworthy how Admiral Mike McConnell, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, tried to correct the impression created by the NIE in his remarks to the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2008: "The only thing they've halted was nuclear weapons design, which is probably the least significant part of the program."5 For a detailed look at the NIE, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, who served as head of Israeli Military Intelligence from 2001 to 2006, offers his own insights into the evolution of the Iranian nuclear program.



Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash:


No Evidence that Iran Did Not Renew Nuclear Weaponization Work


In August 2002, Iran understood that the Western countries - U.S., the EU-3 ( France, Germany, and the United Kingdom), and Israel - had obtained hard information that Iran was conducting a clandestine nuclear weapons program. Shortly thereafter, in March 2003, the regional environment quickly became dominated by the outbreak of the Iraq War and the downfall of Saddam Hussein. By July 2003, the Iranians opened negotiations with the EU-3, which sought to halt the Iranian nuclear program . At the end of the same year, Qaddafi stopped Libya's nuclear military plans.


It was in the context of the Western detection of their nuclear program and the Iraq War that led Iran to halt its nuclear program across the board in 2003, with the exception of their surface-to-surface missile program. But prior to that freeze, Iran was developing a military nuclear capability under a broad civilian cover. The participants were the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and the Iranian Ministry of Defense (MOD).


A nuclear weapons program is comprised of three key elements:

1)      A delivery system, requiring the development of surface-to-surface missiles.

2)      The accumulation of fissile material through uranium enrichment and plutonium production.

3)      Weaponization - preparing a warhead from the fissile material and fitting it into a missile.

Several of these elements in the Iranian nuclear program were in fact soon resumed.


At the beginning of 2003, the Iranians were concentrating all their efforts on the centrifuge program at their facility in Natanz, where they had managed to build a cascade with 164 centrifuges. Today, they have reached a capacity of 3,000 centrifuges. If parts of the nuclear weapons program were restarted, there is every reason to believe that all parts were reactivated as well. Indeed, Iran's development of surface-to-surface missiles had never ceased, even when uranium enrichment had been temporarily halted.


At the same time, the Iranians were busy with procurement activities, with a focus on obtaining all the materials and components needed for uranium enrichment. At the beginning of 2004, we know that Iran was attempting to procure fast high voltage switches suitable for a nuclear weapons system. The Iranian Ministry of Defense was also supervising the mining of uranium in southeast Iran.


According to information provided by the Iranian opposition, Lavizan was one of the sites that dealt with Iran's weaponization program, and the IAEA requested to visit Lavizan in September-October 2003. By March 2004, the Lavizan facility had disappeared; it had been dismantled. When Iran renewed its nuclear enrichment program in January 2005, there is no evidence that they did not renew the work of the weaponization group at the same time.


Editor's note: In February 2008, the Iranian opposition charged that Iran had erected a new command and control center: code-named Lavizan-2. In addition, they identified yet another facility at Khojir, where they claimed the production of nuclear warheads was being undertaken.6



Developing the Missiles to Deliver a Nuclear Payload


Together with developing a nuclear weapon, Iran has been developing an appropriate long-range delivery system. Its Shihab 3 missile can carry a warhead of approximately 700 kilograms over a distance of 1,300-1,500 kilometers. These missiles are under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, not the Iranian military. The Revolutionary Guard reports to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and it is not under the authority of President Ahmadinejad. Iranian missile exercises showed that the missiles are aimed at both Tel Aviv and Riyadh.


Iran is continuing to develop even longer-range missiles with a range of 3,500-5,000 kilometers that could reach all of Europe (perhaps with the exception of Portugal), while those with a range of 6,000-10,000 kilometers could reach the east coast of the U.S. The original missile technology was delivered to the Iranians by North Korea, and the Iranians have made substantial efforts to improve their range. As we know, the Iranian ballistic missile program is part of the Iranian nuclear weapons program;  Iran does not have a civilian space program and it is doubtful that it would develop ballistic missiles with a range of thousands of kilometers in order to carry conventional warheads alone. 



European Reaction to the Iranian Missile Threat


As Director of IDF Military Intelligence, I briefed leaders in Europe about Iran's nuclear military plans and met personally with decision-makers in Italy, France, the UK, and other European countries over a period of six months. Most of the European leaders understood the data about Iran's nuclear plans, but their response was not encouraging.


The Europeans said they did not understand why Israel was trying to scare them with a nuclear military threat since they had lived with such a threat during the Cold War. They were also of the opinion that, in the end, if Iran did achieve a nuclear military capability, the U.S. and Israel would solve the problem, and I believe this remains their attitude today.



What Does the NIE Say?


The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate summary report says that in 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program, but the NIE's headline finding is written in such a way that guarantees that its other conclusions will be misunderstood.


  • In Paragraph C, the NIE summary states that Iran made significant progress in 2007 installing centrifuges at Natanz. Based upon this finding, Israeli military intelligence estimates that late 2009 is the earliest possible date that Iran will be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon.


  • Paragraph D of the NIE says that Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons if a decision is made to do so. Thus, Iran's continuing civilian uranium enrichment program could produce enough fissile materials by the end of 2009 or 2010.


  • Paragraph F of the NIE notes: We assess that Iran probably would use covert facilities rather than its declared nuclear sites for the production of highly enriched uranium for a weapon.


  • Finally, Paragraph H of the NIE states: We assess that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to produce nuclear weapons if it decides to do so.


All of this means that the Iranians will have enough fissile material no later than 2010 and that if they decide to build a nuclear military plant, no one can promise that we or the Americans will know about it, if they indeed actually did halt their nuclear weapons program in 2003. It would be a mistake to conclude that Iranian nuclear weapons ambitions have been halted on the basis of reading the first sentence of the NIE alone.


In my view, any distinction between Iranian military and civilian nuclear programs is artificial. The enrichment of uranium, critical to both civilian and military uses, is continuing. Once they have enough enriched uranium, they will be 3-6 months away from building a nuclear bomb if they decide to do so.



Pressure on Iran Dissipates after the NIE


After the NIE report was released, the declaration that Tehran had halted its nuclear weapons program was reported by all of the world's major media without any contradicting information. Soon thereafter, Russia and Iran reached agreement on a schedule to complete the plutonium-based nuclear facility in Bushehr.


This was followed by an announcement that China and Iran had signed a $2.3 billion economic agreement related to energy that had been on hold for more than half a year. Prior to this, China had come to join the economic pressure on Iran. In addition, Ahmadinejad formally visited Riyadh, and a new Egyptian-Iranian relationship began to develop for the first time since Sadat's assassination.


The NIE has clearly weakened international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, and it closes off any military option for the Bush administration. The NIE has sent a signal to Tehran that the danger of external sanctions has ended. Furthermore, the NIE has weakened Turkey and the moderate Sunni countries in the region that were seeking to build a coalition against Iran. So, ironically, the NIE opens the way for Iran to achieve its military nuclear ambitions without any interference.

Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser:


The NIE: A Very Poor Intelligence Product


The main problem with the NIE is the phrasing of its message. It's a very poor intelligence product because it is not only a matter of what you say but also how you say it and what you don't say.

One of the major issues that arise from the report is its admission that the Iranians had a nuclear weaponization project for fifteen years, from the end of the 1980s until 2003. How far did the Iranians go in those fifteen years? How many obstacles do they still face? By saying that if the Iranians have the ability to enrich uranium, they can have a bomb within a very short period of time, the NIE actually alludes to the idea that the Iranians have already gone a very long way in the context of weaponization. So why doesn't the NIE say so explicitly? The first thing an intelligence organization has to know is to ask the right questions, but this question is not asked, nor is it answered.

Furthermore, it is a totally wrong approach to make this differentiation between the military and the civilian parts of the Iranian nuclear program. It's all one program. Part of it can be justified by civilian needs, so the Iranians do it under civilian cover. Part of it cannot be justified by civilian needs, but it is all part of the same program, and the part of the program that is designated to develop the fissile material is ongoing.

Between 2003 and 2005, the Iranians refrained from any nuclear activity. They were under the influence of the impression created by America's pre-emptive policies in the region in Iraq and Afghanistan, which served as the main instrument that enabled the Europeans to force Iran to make a deal and to postpone uranium conversion and enrichment. But when the Iranians realized in 2005 that there was no actual threat behind their fears of U.S. pre-emption, they decided to take the risk and start conversion and then enrichment.

In other words, once the U.S. appeared to be entangled in Iraq, a situation to which the Iranians themselves made no small contribution, Tehran could return to vigorously advancing its nuclear program. The fact is that Iran has moved forward with conversion. As a result, the Iranians already have prepared, through the conversion process, enough uranium hexaflouride gas (UF6) for more than ten atomic bombs.

Iran has moved forward with enrichment too. There is a debate in the NIE report over where exactly the Iranians are in their enrichment R&D. Some claim that maybe they have not yet reached the point where they can really perform enrichment in a robust way and not worry about failing. But there's no doubt that they have spent at least two years on R&D.

If we believe the NIE judgment about their technical capabilities, then the Iranians are not far away from the point where they will have the ability to produce an ample supply of enriched uranium in order to make a bomb. Bearing in mind that they probably have everything else they need to proceed, the Iranians will be able to do whatever is still needed to finish their weaponization activities without being worried about a military move. Only such a military move can really stop them right now. So we see the harsh repercussions of the very poor work that the American intelligence agencies have done.


*     *     *




1. Mark Mazzetti, "U.S. Says Iran Ended Atomic Arms Work," New York Times, December 3, 2007,

2. Tim Shipman, Philip Sherwell and Carolynne Wheeler, " Britain; Iran 'Hoodwinked' CIA Over Nuclear Plans," Daily Telegraph, December 10, 2007,

3. Katrin Bennhold, "Despite Report, France and Germany Keep Pressure on Iran," New York Times, December 7, 2007,

4. Elaine Sciolino, "Monitoring Agency Praises U.S. Report, But Keeps Wary Eye on Iran," New York Times, December 5, 2007,

5. Demetri Sevastopulo, "Intelligence Official Revives Iran Doubts," Financial Times, February 6, 2008,

6. David Brunnstrom, "Iranian Dissidents Urge Immediate Nuclear Checks," Reuters, February 20, 2008,


*     *     *


Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash served as Director of IDF Military Intelligence from 2001 to 2006. He previously served as Head of the Technology and Logistics Division, and as Deputy Head of the IDF Planning Division.


Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, Program Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Centerfor Public Affairs and Vice President of the Lander Institute in Jerusalem, is former commander of the IDF's National Defense Collegeand the IDF Staff and Command College. He is also the former head of the Research and Assessment Division of Military Intelligence, with special responsibility for preparing the National Intelligence Assessment. In addition, he served as the military secretary of the Minister of Defense.


Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser served in a number of senior roles in the IDF, most recently as head of the Research and Assessment Division of Military Intelligence. Previously, he was the senior intelligence officer of the IDF Central Command.

The Jerusalem Letter and Jerusalem Viewpoints are published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-5619281, Fax. 972-2-5619112, Internet: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, , Baltimore, MD USA, Tel. (410) 664-5222; Fax. (410) 664-1228. © Copyright. All rights reserved. ISSN: 0792-7304.

The opinions expressed by the authors of Jerusalem Viewpoints do not necessarily reflect those of the Jerusalem Centerfor Public Affairs.

Continued (Permanent Link)

What happened in Gaza? - The Atallah family as an example.

How did Israel come to kill all those innocent Arab civilians in Gaza?
 An example is provided by the case of the Atallah family. At least two  members of this family, belonged to the the Izzedin El Qassam terrorist group, though not necessarily in the same housold, and they  were mourned by the Hamas. But the others were "civilians." Unfortunately, they chose to build a Qassam rocket assembly plant in their home, according to Elder of Zion. The question, he asks, is why Israeli representatives were so slow in getting this story out??

Continued (Permanent Link)

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