Hamas: Rocket attacks not aimed at Israeli women, children
Local Palestinian media reported that al-Zawahiri's statements appeared on an Islamic website as part of responses he sent to readers' questions.
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Saturday, April 5, 2008
I find this one a bit hard to believe:
Last update - 15:04 05/04/2008
Hamas: Rocket attacks not aimed at Israeli women, children
Gaza - The Islamic Hamas movement on Saturday denied targeting Israeli children and women with rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas doesn't mean to kill children with its rockets," spokesman Ismail Radwan told reporters in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in response to a statement made by al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who said Hamas' random rockets kill women and children in violation of Islamic law.
Radwan added that "the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians may involve some killing of children," accusing the Israeli army of "deliberately killing children, women and destroying houses and mosques."
Local Palestinian media reported that al-Zawahiri's statements appeared on an Islamic website as part of responses he sent to readers' questions.
Considering that Libya and Iran are going to be running this show, there is really not much to be done except take shelter.
Last update - 16:36 04/04/2008
Israel, U.S. to coordinate on boycott of Durban II conference
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel and the U.S. decided a few weeks ago to boycott the Durban II conference scheduled for early 2009 and likely to harshly criticize Israel's human rights record unless they receive firm guarantees that the event will not turn into anti-Israel festival.
The September 2001 conference in Durban, South Africa had been slated to deal with racism and xenophobia, sponsored by South Africa, the UN Human Rights Commission and the UN non-aligned states a body dominated by Arab states.
The conference was attended by official government delegations, as well as non-government organizations who dictated a hard anti-Israel and anti-Semitic line.
The attacks on Israel included accusations of apartheid, that Zionism is racism, and that the Holocaust is not a unique event but similar to other events in history.
Delegates also said Israel was "born in sin," the result of ethnic cleansing of Arabs and that in the present, it is committing genocide against Palestinians.
U.S. and Israel's representatives walked out of the conference in protest at these attacks.
Israel and world Jewish organizations have begun a campaign against the upcoming conference, although it still has no final date or location. In February, the Foreign Ministry held its first coordinating meeting and another will be held next month in Geneva, under the auspices of the UN Watch monitoring group, and will discuss strategies to prevent anti-Semitism and attacks on Israel at the follow-up conference.
So far, Canada has announced plans to boycott the conference and Israel is trying to convince other countries to make their participation conditional on preventing a similar agenda.
Jerusalem estimates that conference organizers will try to blur the real agenda until the last minute to draw in as many UN members as possible. "We are concerned this time too there will be criticism and an anti-Semitic attack," a Foreign Ministry official said. "What can you expect from a conference whose organizers include Cuba, Iran and North Korea."
On Wednesday, many major U.S. newspapers ran an advertisement signed by 25 public figures including former politicians, religious leaders and intellectuals, calling on the government to boycott the conference. Signatories included Nobel Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, former CIA chief James Woolsey and law professor Alan Dershowitz. The signatories called on Rice to announce a boycott of the conference, denouncing it as a platform for anti-Semitism "slated to encourage hatred of Israel and the U.S."
The U.S. decision to boycott the conference came in coordination with Israel. The two countries agreed to publish a joint statement similar to Livni's recent announcement that Israel plans to boycott the conference as long as it serves as a platform for anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment.
A Jerusalem official expressed regret that there appears to be no change in the conference's agenda. "Israel is sorry that the UN secretary general and the UN Human Rights Commission are not doing enough to change the content despite their dissatisfaction.
"This is another example of how a UN-sponsored conference to fight racism and xenophobia is about to become an arena for extreme political Israel-bashing, while ignoring areas in the world where racism, religious persecution and intolerance of foreigners, are rampant."
Israel plans to continue combating the planned conference content together with Jewish groups and the U.S. and Canadian governments.
Suicide bombing solution to marital difficulties - Americans, Egyptians in Mughniya terror cult worshiphttp://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/suicide-bombing-solution-to-marital.html
The American Franklin Lamb's wife was blown to bits by the Hezbollah, but he worships at the tomb of terror mastermind al-Mughniyeh. That man must've have had a very unhappy marriage. This is a MEMRI clip, and comes with a video. Read the book, see the movie.
Sympathizers from Egypt and the US Make a Pilgrimage to Al-Mughniya's Tomb in Lebanon
Following are excerpts from TV reports on pilgrimages to the tomb of 'Imad Mughniya, which aired on Al-Manar TV on February-March 2008:
Aired on March 25, 2008
Reporter: Franklin Lamb, director of "Americans for a Just Peace in the Middle East," has chosen the 40th day to the martyrdom of the commander Hajj 'Imad Mughniya to visit his pure tomb and place a flower wreath on it. Then he strolled around the garden, asking about each martyr, including the martyr Hadi Nasrallah and his comrades. Then he responded to American Charge d'Affaires Michele Sison, who expressed her disgust at Lamb's offer of condolence for Mughniya's martyrdom.
Franklin Lamb: I don't know her. I heard something about her complaint that I respect the resistance. I'm honored to be here. I believe that many Americans share my belief that the Lebanese resistance is our resistance too. Nobody should ask why I am here. The American ambassador should be asked why she isn't here to offer her apology and her respect to all Lebanese, because 85% of the Israeli weapons come [from the U.S.], in order to be used against the Lebanese resistance and the Lebanese people. I am honored to be in this venerable place, which contains the bodies of the resistance fighters. I believe that American public opinion has recently become familiar with the resistance and its background.
Reporter: It is well known that Franklin Lamb's wife was killed in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in the early 1980s, when she happened to be at the embassy, as part of her work in support of human rights in Lebanon. Despite this, he maintained his views and persisted in his support for the just cause of the Lebanese people's resistance. Moreover, he considers his wife to be one of the martyrs of the resistance.
Aired on February 28, 2008
Reporter: Since this is a visit of the prince of the convoy of martyrs, the garden is still teeming with visitors, who have been arriving day and night, from all persuasions and from all areas old and young arrive in order to recite the Fatiha verse over the tomb of the martyr. Since Hajj 'Imad's martyrdom transcends the borders of the homeland, the garden received visitors from Arab countries. At the invitation of the Institute for International Studies, Egyptian Labor Party Secretary-General Magdi Ahmad Hussein came from Egypt to congratulate the father on his sons' martyrdom, and stressed that the martyrs are the models for this nation. The Egyptian delegation and the martyr's father held the following conversation:
Faiz, 'Imad Mughniya's father: All three sons are gone, Allah be praised. If I had more sons, I would sacrifice them too. I am willing to sacrifice more. I'm even willing to sacrifice myself. In any form of Jihad, I am willing to sacrifice myself.
Magdi Ahmad Hussein: He will plead on your behalf in Paradise.
Faiz Mughniya: Allah be praised.
Magdi Ahmad Hussein: You will go to Paradise and meet him there. They will plead on your behalf. The nation owes these sons a great deal. In their graves, they have a greater influence than they had in their lives. They give us inspiration. For every child who comes here this is a school. He learns from this martyr.
A few people are finally waking up to the suffering of Sderot, but Israel could find little support for an extensive invasion of Gaza that would end the rocket fire. Nobody outside Israel seems to have gained empathetic insight. Sderot used to be a local problem. Not is is Israel's problem, but everyone else couldn't care less:
"For Israel, for Israel, for Israel." The rest of the world is still more worried about the people firing the rockets.
New York Times
April 5, 2008
A Town Under Fire Becomes a Symbol for Israel
By ETHAN BRONNER
SDEROT, Israel This long neglected immigrant town a mile from Gaza, pounded by Palestinian rockets for the past seven years, is taking on a new identity, edging into the center of Zionist consciousness as a symbol of the nation's unofficial motto: "Never Again."
Like the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Sderot is now a must-see stop for those who support Israel or are being urged to do so. Several groups have set up offices to arrange visits to a damaged home or a trauma center. Foreign diplomats have been bused here by the government; a United Nations officer says he has brought top officials here five times; Senator John McCain came last month; Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, residents say, cannot be far behind.
Israelis and their supporters are lining up to volunteer. Money is pouring in for bomb shelters, social services and an Orthodox religious seminary.
"For years, the government and others thought of Sderot not as a national problem but a local one," Mayor Eli Moyal said, just before the ribbon-cutting for an elegant first aid and ambulance center built with money donated largely by American Jews. "They now understand that if Sderot falls, Israel falls."
The sense that Sderot is actually Israel's front line in its battle for legitimacy and self-respect has gained real currency, just as in the Arab world the suffering of Gazans has taken on a special significance. For Israelis, the conviction of Sderot's importance began growing with the huge increase in rocket fire since the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and after the 2006 war with Hezbollah, which sent thousands of rockets into northern Israel.
With both Hamas and Hezbollah gaining strength on Israel's borders and developing rockets with longer ranges, Sderot, its advocates say, is a bitter sample of what more prosperous and distant parts of Israel may face if the threat here is ignored. And to a growing number across the political spectrum, it has inspired a collective rescue operation.
"In Tel Aviv, you have great cafes, nice clothes and you live an illusion as if everything is all right," reflected Ilanit Swissa, a theater director and one of about a dozen liberal intellectuals setting up camp in Sderot who moved here a few months ago to work with high school actors. "But it is not true. Here I feel like I am contributing something. We are at war and you feel it here."
Surrounded by orange groves and wheat fields, guarded above by a military blimp that sets off an alert with each rocket launched from Gaza, Sderot has been a tough place to live. There have been days when more than 50 rockets have landed in or near the town, bringing panic, destruction and occasionally death to a town of 20,000 that is heavily populated with Israeli minority groups Moroccans, refugees from Central Asia and Ethiopians. Panic is widespread. Businesses have closed. Three thousand residents have left.
Residents have grown accustomed to though hardly comfortable with the constant sound of a townwide alert known as "Code Red," produced when the blimp detects an incoming rocket. Once the alarm has gone off, there is 20 seconds to get to a shelter before the rocket hits. Given such a short warning, kindergartners are kept inside all day rather than risk their failing to move quickly.
Hundreds of rockets are on grim display in the courtyard of the police station. The town itself, while typical of many its size in Israel, is now pockmarked with rocket holes and shelters and has developed a fierce black humor about its predicament, with sculptures made of rockets in a number of places.
A sense of pride in Sderot's gritty refusal to yield and an interest in finding ways to protect and enhance the town have spread rapidly. World WIZO, a Zionist women's group, found that Sderot campaigns elicit visceral support from donors.
"We printed T-shirts saying 'Sderot Needs You.' In one day, we raised $1 million," said Helena Glaser, the group's president, as she toured Sderot.
The other day, David W. Lentz of Livingston, N.J. was pounding the pavement here with fellow Israel advocates, looking for ways their community could help.
That same afternoon, a busload of Jewish fund-raisers were inspecting new care centers they had sponsored, passing some of the dozens of bomb shelters, some of them donated by evangelical Christians; a rabbi was going over plans for a $5 million seminary, financed mostly from abroad.
For people who live and work here, all the attention, especially from wealthy outsiders, can seem overwhelming. Several said they were unable to get anything done.
"It has gotten out of hand," said Dror Marsha, the director of the local volunteer center. "It has become a trend a good trend but I can't handle it. We have 1,000 volunteers a month now." Two years ago, he said, the number was 200.
Among the projects donated by evangelical groups are some of the nearly 80 small shelters and bus stops that double as shelters as well as a set of "resilience centers" to coordinate social services. Run by the Israel Trauma Coalition, a project of the UJA-Federation of New York, the resilience centers send social workers on house calls, provide training for single parents and offer workshops for the elderly and new immigrants.
Apart from the donations and support from the outside, another big change in Sderot in the past year has been economic, and the surprising reason for that is the Israeli evacuation of Gaza. Until 2005, there was an industrial park just inside Gaza of companies jointly owned by Israelis and Palestinians. With the withdrawal, the companies relocated to Sderot and employed locals, bringing the city's unemployment rate from a crushing 20 percent in the late 1990s to a near national low of 3.5 percent, according to Shalom Halevy, a municipal spokesman.
Still, 30 percent of Sderot's population show symptoms of stress, five times as many as in similar populations in Israel, according to studies carried out by Marc Gelkopf of Haifa University. Many families sleep in one room together for fear of missing an alarm.
As much as Sderot is a symbol, it is also a kind of Rorschach test a screen onto which various political factions project their hopes and fears. For the right, it is evidence that only force will stop the rockets; for the left it is evidence that force is not the answer and that the rockets cannot be stopped without a new approach.
One attempt at a new approach involves a group in Sderot that has started holding discussions with Palestinians in Gaza via speakerphone. The group, Another Voice, is urging a cease-fire. There is also a new blog, a discussion between a resident of Sderot and one of Gaza, both anonymous.
But for Rabbi David Fendel, who has run a 500-student yeshiva here for years, the rockets are proof that withdrawing Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza was foolish. He has raised millions of dollars to build a new yeshiva. The point of his project is to make a statement to those who wish Israel ill.
"The Palestinians are trying to turn this into a ghost town," he said as he stepped through the construction site of his school. "We're not going to let them. We're going to make it a dynamic center of Zionism, Torah and building."
The building here is a bit unusual the new yeshiva study hall will have 1,500 tons of concrete in its ceiling as protection against the crude homemade rockets known as Qassams and other rockets that assault the city on a nearly daily basis from Gaza.
Rabbi Fendel recognizes that there is plenty of work ahead. He is marrying off his eldest of seven children in the coming weeks. But even though his son and future daughter-in-law will live here at the yeshiva, the wedding will not be here because so many guests are afraid to come.
Avi Farhan, who was a settler in the Sinai before it was returned to Egypt and then in Gaza before the Israelis withdrew, said he agreed with Rabbi Fendel that the withdrawal was a mistake. Standing on a bluff near his new apartment, he can see what remains of his former Gaza settlement, now a staging ground for rocket fire.
"From my old house, they can now shell my new house," he said ruefully.
This from Shmuel Rosner:
Government trying to block witness in AIPAC trial
Back in mid March, it was reported that "Two former directors of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) are expected to testify for the defense in the controversial trial of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are charged with unlawful receipt and transmission of classified information". href="http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2008/03/former_isoo_directors_to_testi.html" target=_blank _base_target="_top">The Secrecy News blog labeled this readiness of the two to testify for the defense "a blow to Justice Department prosecutors". The ISOO - Information Security Oversight Office - is the agency charged with oversight of the entire documents classification system
But will he realy testify?
Well, not so fast. The prosecutors are now trying to prevent one of the former government official, J. William Leonard, from testifying in this case.
"The applicable ethics laws prohibit Mr. Leonard from serving as an expert witness for the defense in this matter", agrue the prosecutors. "Employees of the executive branch are permanently restricted from making any communication or appearance in any United States court on behalf of any other person, on any matter in which the United States is a party or has a direct and substantial interest~ in which the employee participated personally and substantially as such officer or employee and which involved a specific party or parties at the time of such participation."
The legal document declares that "The United States, by its Undersigned counsel, respectfully submits this Opposition to Defendants' Motion for an Order Authorizing the Expert Witness Testimony of recently retired and now special government employee J. William Leonard".
And it argues that "The defendants' motion provides no basis, grounds or authority for this Court to issue an extraordinary Order essentially granting Mr. Leonard an exception to the applicable ethics laws".
This will be yet another interesting legal battle between the government and the defense, as "The fact that" the two officials were ready to terstify for the defense "is a startling indication that the prosecution's case has strayed far beyond any consensus view regarding the proper protection of classified information" - as the Secrecy News opined a month ago.
This is the second group of
12 Palestinian prisoners wanted by Israel break out of Nablus jail
By The Associated Press
A group of 12 Palestinian prisoners wanted by Israel claimed Friday that they have escaped from a prison in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The twelve militants, all members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, fled after masked wardens at the Jneid prison began to beat them with clubs following a fight that broke out among the detainees, the goup's leader Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh said by telephone.
The escaped prisoners were part of a group of militants who turned themselves in three months ago rather than be detained by Israel.
As part of a deal, the members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, were to serve time in return for an Israeli agreement to eventually take them off the wanted list. The group is responsible for killing more than 1,100 Israelis since 2001.
Abu Ghazaleh said that this time would be different. "We won't return," he said.
It was not immediately clear what specifically the men were wanted for, except for exchanges of fire with Israeli troops during raids on Nablus.
The Palestinian police refused to comment on the breakout.
Israel has cut back slightly on West Bank arrest raids in recent months, as part of a demand by Abbas in the peace talks. In an effort to strengthen Abbas-allied forces in his rivalry with the Islamic Hamas group, Israel allowed the deployment of hundreds of Palestinian police in Nablus in November.
Nablus, a city of 170,000, has long been considered a stronghold for gunmen launching attacks on Israel. The police deployment was considered a test case for attempts to have other Palestinian forces stationed around the West Bank.
Nablus is also a center of support for Hamas, whose takeover of the Gaza Strip in June last year raised questions about the ability of Abbas to control the West Bank, which remained under his control.
Zubeidi: Israel has not honored its commitment
Former Al-Aqsa leader Zakariya Zubeidi this week told Haaretz that Israel had not honored its commitment to pardon the militants who turned themselves in after the agreed-upon three-month period.
"They lied to us, Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The PA promised us that after we spent three months in PA facilities and if we didn't get involved in actions, we would receive a pardon," Zubeidi said. "The three months ended and nothing happened," he added.
"They made a distinction between those who were really in the Al-Aqsa Brigades, whom they screwed, and groups that called themselves by that name, but in fact were working on behalf of the PA," Zubeidi said.
Ben Eliezer joins other Israeli leaders who insist on releasing Omar Barghouti.
Last update - 16:49 05/04/2008
Ben-Eliezer: Current negotiations are just 'pretend'
By Mazal Mualem, Haaretz Correspondent
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday said that if Israel was interested in achieving peace, it had no choice but to free jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti.
"Current negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] are just 'pretend'," Ben-Eliezer said, adding "only the release of Barghouti could change things around."
Asked about the current Palestinian leadership, Ben-Eliezer said "I have great respect for [Mahmoud] Abbas and Salam Fayad, but everything is now in the hands of Hamas. At this rate Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. The only person who could put a stop to that is Barghouti."
The minister then responded to questions regarding Labor Chairman Ehud Barak's leadership, saying Barak lacked necessary support for his political decisions. "Barak changed a lot," Ben-Eliezer said. "He is more interested in listening and receiving advice."
Ben-Eliezer then unleashed an attack on Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, and stated "I am confident the Israeli public does not forget that it was Netanyahu who cut off 90 percent of the population's needs, while taking care only of the top ten percentile."
Friday, April 4, 2008
Christians for Fair Witness Responds To False Accusations on Website Supporting Methodist Divestment
[April 4] A website entitled "Understanding United Methodist Divestment" ("UUMD") recently appeared on the internet identified as a joint effort by (unnamed) "clergy and lay volunteers" from several UMC conferences. It contains pernicious accusations aimed at the state of Israel and serious misrepresentations about Fair Witness.
For example, UUMD accuses Fair Witness of proffering "false information" including "claims that Presbyterians and the UCC were persuaded by [Fair Witness] to reverse their earlier stances on divestment."
"UUMD provides no citation for this allegation and with good reason -- it is untrue," states Sr. Ruth Lautt, Fair Witness National Director. "Fair Witness did not work within the Presbyterian Church on the divestment issue and never claimed to. We were present at the 2007 UCC Synod which adopted a resolution acknowledging that they may have overlooked many aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and obligated the UCC to conduct a balanced study to obtain a deeper understanding. But we never described it as a reversal of divestment, nor did we claim to have 'persuaded' the UCC to do anything."
"Whoever is responsible for this website should have checked facts before leveling false and possibly defamatory accusations at us," adds Sr. Ruth.
Equally disturbing are rampant factual errors such as an allegation that President Clinton and Robert Malley ( incorrectly identified as Clinton's chief negotiator at Camp David) both contradicted Fair Witness' lament that the Palestinians made a grievous error by not accepting the Clinton parameters in 2000/2001. In his book Pres. Clinton said:
It was historic: an Israeli government had said that to get peace, there would be a Palestinian state in roughly 97 percent of the West Bank, counting the swap, and all of Gaza, where Israel also had settlements. The ball was in Arafat's court.
(Bill Clinton, My Life, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004, p. 938).
"Robert Malley explains Yasser Arafat's refusal to accept a peace deal in the context of many factors including Arafat's fear of being trapped by the Israelis and misgauging Barak's negotiating style," explains Rev. Dr. Roy Howard, pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church (USA). "But the UUMD website misuses a quote from Malley in an attempt to make it appear that his narrative contradicts Fair Witness' description of the Clinton parameters. It does not."
Robert Malley notes that "strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer" because the ideas offered at Camp David were "orally conveyed" and "presented as U.S. concepts." (Hussein Agha and Robert Malley Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors August 9, 2001).
Arafat turned down the Camp David offer. Malley quoted President Clinton telling Arafat:
If the Israelis can make compromises and you can't I should go home. You have been here fourteen days and said no to everything.
(Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors).
Months later (in Washington D.C.) the Clinton parameters (more generous than the Camp David proposal) were presented. Barak accepted them, Arafat did not. Rather than cherry pick isolated sentences in the service of distorting history we invite the architects of UUMD to read Mr. Malley's statement which is in agreement with the facts as we (and both President Clinton and his chief negotiator at Camp David, Dennis Ross) have expressed them:
Under the settlement outlined by the President, Palestine would have sovereignty over 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank and it would as well have land belonging to pre-1967 Israel equivalent to another 1 to 3 percent of West Bank territory. . . . In Jerusalem, all that is Arab would be Palestinian, all that is Jewish would be Israeli. Palestine would exercise sovereignty over the Haram and Israel over the Western Wall . . .
(Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors)
Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, California says "calling this conflict complex is not a 'tactic' as the UUMD charges. There is widespread misinformation as a result of the very sort of material that appears on this website."
Rather than addressing each of the myriad misrepresentations on the UUMD website, we invite United Methodists to visit the front page of our website Christians for Fair Witness in the Middle East for further information.
Palestinian Arabs have often claimed that the outbreak of violence in 2000 was not under the control of the Palestinian leadership, and that the Tanzim and Fatah al-Aqsa Brigades and the National and Islamic fronts were breakaway factions. Throughout the violence, Israel was pilloried for failing to cooperate with its "moderate" Palestinian "peace partner. After almos every terror attack, Yasser Arafat issued regrets and insisted that he is against violence. However, Fatah al-Aqsa brigades commander Zakariya Zubeidi has now admitted that Arafat was in charge. Ha'aretz newspaper quotes Zakariya Zubeidi as saying:
The interviewer asks:
And Zubeidi confirms:
So all the aid that was given by the United States and the EU, in effect, was used to support terror and murder.
Visit our Palestine Nakba 1948 .
Syria and Israel are no longer accusing each other of a military buildup, which is good news.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said on Friday that Syrua us ready for an Israeli attack, but has chosen peace as its strategic option. He told a Sudanese news agency that as Western pressure on Syria intensifies, Damascus is readying for the possibility of further contention with the United States and perhaps even wars in the region.
The Al-Hayat daily reported on Friday that Israel and Syria have been exchanging messages of truce and warnings against spurring war in the region.
Israeli Military Intelligence officials announced in a defense briefing on Thursday that Syria has not mobilized its reserve forces, denying earlier press reports. All is quiet on the Syrian front, according to the officials.
This contradicts media reports that Syria had deployed three armored divisions, which was considered as likely to have stemmed from concerns in Damascus about an Israeli strike in response to an attack by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah has threatened to attack Israel as revenge for Jerusalem's alleged responsibility in the assassination of
Intelligence officials said, however, that there were signs of "nervousness" and alertness on the Syrian Golan Heights signs that also appeared last spring and continued into the summer. They attributed the Syrian alertness in the sector to widespread training exercises planned by the Israel Defense Forces for the near future.
Israeli military officials believe the Syrian army is continuing to train intensively, as it has since the Second Lebanon War, and that Iran continues to provide arms to both Syria and Hezbollah.
Also Wednesday, Major-General Dan Harel, the Deputy Chief of Staff, warned Wednesday that Israel will respond with a heavy hand against anyone trying to target Israel.
In a further sign that tensions were mounting along the Israel-Syrian border, Defense Minister Ehud Barak canceled a scheduled visit to Germany.
Matti Gil, Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's personal assistant, was lightly to moderately injured on Friday by gunshots fired by Palestinians at the minister's entourage visiting the Nizmit hill in Kibbutz Nir Am in southern Israel. How long can this go on?? How long is Israel going to have to put up with this? Snipers fired at Dichter and his entourage, which included Canadian Zionists. Earlier today, they fired at Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, where sniper fire had killed Carlos Chavez, the Israeli Rachel Corrie.
Published: 04.04.08, 11:17 / Israel News
Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter's personal assistant was lightly to moderately injured Friday by gunshots fired by Palestinians at the minister's entourage visiting the Nizmit hill in Kibbutz Nir Am in southern Israel.
"The army of the nation", a new organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the sniper fire.
A Magen David Adom crew evacuated 30-year-old Matti Gil of Jerusalem, who was injured in the groin, to the Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon.
Minister Dichter lay down on the ground with his entourage and asked everyone to remain calm. Following the incident, he said that "the IDF did an excellent job and immediately fired back at the source of the fire until it stopped. Ambulances were dispatched to the area within minutes."
Dichter left the area for the Barzilai hospital to visit his injured assistant.
The minister was hosting a group of managers from the Canada-Israel Committee (CIC), a pro-Israel lobby group, who visited the observation tower in the Gaza vicinity area in order to examine the threat on Israel, receiving a live demonstration. According to estimates, a Palestinian sniper fired the shots.
The observation tower, which overlooks the northern Gaza Strip from Ashkelon to the al-Bureij and al-Marazi refugee camp in the heart of the Strip, is considered a popular hiking site.
Earlier, Palestinian fired at farmers in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. There were no reports of injuries. Some 30 youths from the Kibbutz Movement arrived at the area Friday morning in order to assist the farmers in their work. Large army forces secured the activity.
The Kibbutz Movement members brought along four tractors and helped in the installation of shoreines.
Roni Sofer, Shmulik Hadad, Ali Waked, Amit Schneider and Meital Yasur-Beit Or contributed to this report
Netherlands and Denmark fund terror glorification, hate language of Palestinian news agency
By Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
A Palestinian news agency that receives financial support from the governments of The Netherlands and Denmark glorifies terrorists, releases news stories using hate language and is a highly politicized, hate-promoting news organization. Paradoxically, Ma'an News claims to be "objective, accurate, balanced" and to "increase Palestinian media credibility,
1- Ma'an Honoring Terrorists and Murderers as Shahids
Ma'an has glorified the recent Palestinian murderer of eight Israeli yeshiva students, the Dimona suicide terrorist, the killers of the two Israeli hikers and the terrorists who attacked a boys' high school with the very highest Islamic status attainable, elevating them to the status of "Shahids" or "Martyrs for Allah." According to the accepted Palestinian interpretation of Islam, there is no higher status that a Muslim can achieve today than that of Shahid. In defining terrorist murderers as "Shahids," Ma'an is by definition sending its readers a straightforward message of honor for the killers, and approval for the many murders. Negative or dishonorable actions could not elevate an individual to Shahid status. (See below for full sources.)
In its English versions of these reports, Ma'an did not honor the terrorists as "Shahids" or use the similar English term "Martyrs."Note, for example, the difference in Ma'an reporting on the murder of the two hikers:
The explanation for this and all other discrepancies between Ma'an's English and Arabic reporting is that this politically-
2 - Suicide Bombers: Ma'an uses term of higher honor: Shahada-Seekers
With regard to suicide terrorists Ma'an goes even further. According to Islam, someone who intentionally seeks Shahada - death for Allah - is greater than someone who achieves Shahada while not actively hoping to die. The Arabic term Istishhadi - Shahada- Seeker- is used by terror organizations to define and add a higher status of honor specifically to suicide terrorists .
Ma'an has followed this lead in its Arabic reporting of the Dimona suicide bombing that killed one Israeli woman and critically injured her husband. Note the apolitical report by Ma'an in English, where the suicide bomber is reported to be just that, "a bomber," followed by the Arabic Ma'an reports that use the term of highest honor, "Shahada-Seekers.
Note also that under similar pictures of the mothers of the bombers, Ma'an uses the objective caption in English: "Mother of suspected bomber," and the honor caption in Arabic: "Mothers of the Shahada-Seekers".
3- Ma'an denies Israel's right to exist- all Israel is "Occupation"
Ma'an uses very politicized hate language to routinely reject Israel's right to exist, and even to deny Israel's existence. For example, when reporting on Israeli Arab doctors who visited Gaza, Ma'an defined them in Arabic as "Palestinian doctors from inside 'Occupied Palestine'," Ma'an's term for Israel. In this case, Ma'an's English language report on this story followed similar hate language:
"Palestinian doctors from 1948 territories [another Ma'an euphemism for Israel] visit Gaza... A delegation of doctors from Palestinian territories occupied since 1948, from outside of the Green Line, visited the Gaza Strip." [February 29, 2008]
In this article to deny Israel's legitimacy on its land, Ma'an went out of its way to use a particularly awkward hate expression. Instead of using the simple, accurate and apolitical wording, "doctors from Israel," Ma'an used 13 cumbersome, politically-
It is also important to note that later in the same article, Ma'an used the term "Israel" as follows: "...crippling siege led by Israel." The difference is striking. When referring to the land or location - Ma'an called Israel "Occupied Palestine." In referring to the government of Israel or criticizing Israeli policy Ma'an used "Israel." (See other examples below.)
Finally, since Israel's very existence is presented by Ma'an as an "Occupation,
See below a list of examples where Ma'an glorifies terrorists and uses hate language.
Last year PMW documented that Ma'an used this politicized hate language after the suicide terror attack in the Israeli city of Eilat. [See PMW Bulletin]
In Arabic, Ma'an had reported that Eilat was "in the south of occupied Palestine," the mother of the terrorist was said to be from the "occupied city of Jaffa", though Jaffa is part of Tel Aviv, and Ma'an had honored the suicide bomber as a Shahid.
We find it surprising and unfortunate that the governments of The Netherlands and Denmark continue to fund this hate journalism without demanding a change. Hate incitement, including denial of Israel's existence and glorifying terror, is universally accepted as a paramount cause of continued Palestinian terror. These governments, together with governments who have blindly funded Palestinian schoolbooks, bear direct moral responsibility for the continued hatred that is being ingrained into future Palestinian generations, and bear a moral responsibility for the terror and its victims.
The following are additional examples of Ma'an using hate language and honoring terrorists.
Ma'an grants Shahid status to all terrorists in recent terror attacks. The following are in addition to examples above.
1. Jerusalem Yeshiva terror attack - 8 students killed:
Ma'an Arabic News:
"8 dead and two Shahids in the Jerusalem Operation. The operatives were from [village of] Jabal Mukbar..." [Ma'an, Arabic news, March 6, 2008]
2. Terror attack in High School in Kfar Ezion:
Ma'an Arabic News:
"Ma'an discloses the identity of the two Shahids from the Ezion operation." [Ma'an, Arabic news, January 24 , 2008]
3. Two hikers ambushed and murdered as they strolled on nature walk
Ma'an Arabic News:
"Two of the operatives died as Shahids, two more were injured and two Israeli soldiers were killed." [Ma'an, Arabic news, December 28, 2007]
Ma'an English News:
"Two Israelis, two Palestinians killed by gunfire near Hebron."
[Ma'an, English news, December 28, 2007]
4. Suicide Terror attack in Dimona- one woman killed:
Ma'an Arabic News:
"Ma'an - Senior military figure [Abu Al-Walid] of the Al-Aqsa Brigades in Gaza, rejected the suspicion that Israel aroused regarding the identity of the two Shahada-Seekers, who carried out the Dimona action... Pictures of the two Shahada-Seekers etc ..."
Ma'an English News:
"Speaking to Ma'an on Tuesday, Abu Al-Walid reiterated that the bombers were Luay Al-Ghawani and Mousa Arafat" [ English news, February 5, 2008]
Ma'an news releases promote the hate message that Israel has no right to exist, calling Israel "Occupied Palestine" or "territories occupied after 1948," Israel's government the "Occupation Authority" and its soldiers the "Occupation forces." Note also when Israel is mentioned it is often put within quotation marks- a common linguistic method to express non-recognition.
1."The Occupation authorities [editor: replaces 'Israeli authorities'
[Ma'an, Arabic news, February 29, 2008]
2."He said that 72 prisoners have died as Shahids during the al-Aqsa intifada, 58 of them from the West Bank, one from the territories occupied since 1948 [editor: replaces 'Israel'] and 13 from the Gaza Strip..." [Ma'an, Arabic news, February 29, 2008]
3."In a research paper he published on the issue of the number of prisoners of Palestine which has been occupied since 1948 (The "inside" prisoners) [editor: replaces 'Israeli prisoners'], he emphasized that this number is an important number in the equation of the historical and cultural struggle against the Israeli occupier..." [Ma'an, Arabic news, March 15, 2008]
Note in this previous example that instead of just writing the single word "Israel," Ma"an used a very long term: Palestine which has been occupied since 1948. However, Ma"an itself felt the need to further explain its own cumbersome usage by adding in parentheses, ("inside" prisoners) meaning 'Israeli Arab prisoners.' It shows again that Ma"an is willing to burden its readers with linguistic contortions, rather than use simple and accurate language which would indicate recognition of Israel. In this case the language it avoided writing was "Arab prisoners from Israel."
4. "Dr. al-Asta did not compare the outlook... to one who lives in the racist Ghetto in Occupied Palestine..." [Ma'an, Arabic news, February 24, 2008]
5. "A delegation of doctors from Palestinian territories occupied since 1948... visited the Gaza Strip." [Ma'an, Arabic news, March 17, 2008]
6. Discrepancies between English and Arabic reports:
Ma'an Arabic Report:
"The occupation forces" detained 3 residents in Bethlehem and al-Duha". [Ma'an, Arabic news, March 25, 2008]
Ma'an English Report:
"Israeli forces raid Bethlehem and seize 3 Palestinians"
[Ma'an, English news, March 25, 2008]
Ma'an Arabic Report:
"The Israeli occupation army seized the town of Kafin afternoon today, Wednesday...
"Israeli forces stormed the town of Kafin in the West Bank Wednesday...
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Tom Carew's Israel News article on Fitna, the Geert Wilder's movie, cautioned against accepting the premise of the movie at face value and insisting that all Muslims are Jihadist fanatics. Hugh Fitzgerald has attacked Carew:
That's about the mildest part of Fitzgerald's text. Fitzgerald goes on to confute Tom Carew with the likes of Esposito and other publicists for Islamism. The rest of the attack is here. A veritable Donnybrook in the liveliest tradition.
My own comments on Fitna are in Religious hatred: the movie. Carew is right. Regardless of what it says or does not say in the Quran, the main point is that Wilders' movie is a reactionary political statement that is intended to stir up primitive prejudices against all Muslims in Europe. Widlers is entitled to his opinion, and his opinion is not that Jihadism should be fought and prohibited, but that all Muslims should be expelled from Europe. Wilders is preaching a doctrine that is philosophically about as evil as Jihadism, though he doesn't seem to advocate violence. The movie is designed to attract converts to that cause. "Fitna the movie" is not fit for human consumption.
Below is Tom Carew's response.
Comment from Tom Carew re views of Hugh Fitzgerald:
There is not now, and never was in the past, any such fixed entity as **Islam itself**. Neither Islam-as-understood, nor Islam-as-lived.
And I can only wonder whether Hugh Fitzgerald has spent half as much time pondering and evaluating the actual writings of non-toxic Muslims, some of whom I instance, or on the brave role of many current Muslim defenders of freedom, as he has dwelling on a plethora of secondary literature from commentators on the originals, who mostly concentrate on the toxic stream.
Just as Judaism, or its Brooklyn or Israeli versions, are certainly not reducible to, or identifiable with, the toxic ideology of the maverick mass murderer, Dr. Baruch Goldstein, slaughtering 29 worshipers in the Hebron Ibrahimi Mosque on Feb 25, 1994, nor is Christianity reducible to the Inquisition or the Crusades. The Judaism I admire is that of the Warsaw Ghetto Rising in 1943, the Sobibor and Auschwitz Revolts, the Jewish Legion [under Irish Col John Henry Patterson ] in WW I, and the Jewish Brigade in WW II, or the profound philosophy of Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, while the assassin of PM, Lt-Gen Yitzhak Rabin, Yigal Amir, is no reason to reject or dismiss the entire Jewish people or tradition.
The toxic appeasement by many, indeed by most Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops in Nazi Germany, or of Nazi Austrian, Bishop Alois Hudal, or Croatian Ustashe fascist Rev Dr. Krunoslav Dragonovic, both based in Rome and notorious for organising the flight of fugitive Nazi war-criminals to South America, contrasts with the Christian martyrs, like Protestant Pastors Dietrich Bonhoeffer and WW I veteran
Paul Schneider, or Roman Catholic Dean Bernhard Lichtenberg of St Hedwigs Cathedral in Berlin, who died in Dachau Camp, and Jesuit Alfred Delp or Rev Karl Leisner, or with those clergy aiding escaped anti-fascists, persecuted Jews or Allied Prisoners of War [ like Scottish Presbyterian **Tartan Pimpernel** Rev Donald Caskie or executed Catholic Abbe Pierre Carpentier in France, or Irish Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty and 18 more clerics in his network in Rome ]. The voices and courageous witness that have become influential and been rightly honored, have been those of the resisters, not the collaborators, or the craven appeasers.
The Germans I honor include not only Willy Brandt and Bertolt Brecht, but Roman Catholic Col Klaus von Stauffenberg, of the July 1944 Hitler assassination plot, just as the Muslims I admire include Sunni Beduin IDF Lt-Col Abd el-Amin Hajer [ alias Amos Yarkoni ], 1920-1991, commander until 1969 of the Beduin **Shaked** Recon Battalion. In the eternal battle between Qubh [evil] and Sidq [truth], both emerged on the right side, and both put their own lives on the line, and that is all that matters - not their theological understandings, or their forms of worship. When I see which way Hajer's Uzi is pointing or firing, then I know whom I can trust - neither native language or faith is decisive, but ethical commitment.
When rotten trees produce rotten fruit, the fact of some good fruit suggests that not all trees are identical. Nor are all Muslims, or their versions of Islam. Follow the concrete evidence, with Aristotle, not the abstract dogma with Plato. And recall with Karl Popper, that every conjecture is liable to be refuted. There are white blackbirds - what Irish poet Louis MacNeice called **the drunkeness of things being various**.
That easy and lazy [ and utterly un-historical ] **Islam itself** sound-bite represents the lethal traps of Essentialism and of Reification. Plato is dead as is his presumption of some ethereal, ideal, permanent, unalterable realm where **Islam itself**, or *Justice itself**, could reside. Like Literalism, it offers simplicity at the expense of truth.
Islam exists in the minds of Muslims, and Islamic texts, including their Quran, like the Jewish Tanakh or the 4 Christian Gospels, and the hordes of commentaries produced on and from them, are both produced and understood and re-interpreted by living minds, which may evolve or regress, as whole cultures may also do.
The struggle to understand is never achieved once-for-all in issues of ethics or faith or philosophy, and there is no incremental progress, which can be banked or assumed, as we can have in science. The enduring reality of human freedom simply does not permit any such determinism, in either personal or cultural histories. And the illusion of Historicism, of inevitable progress, has been well demolished by thinkers like Karl Popper, as well as by the experience of 20th century horror, be it genocidal with Hitler, or democidal with Mao and Stalin.
The splendid philosophical trio of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, like the thinking of the late Dr Zaki Badawi in Muslim College, London, or Irshad Manji in Canada, or the earlier Mutazili movement, with
Ibrahim al-Nazzam, Abd al-Jabbar, Wasil Ibn Ata, establish that Islam may be, has been, and is being constructed, and lived, in non-toxic as well as toxic modes. The Mutazilite grounding of the credal in the rational, is the golden thread within Islamic thinking, as is their **Wujub al-Nazar**, the first human duty of reflection.
Their commitment to divine justice, in contrast to the Asharis obsession with divine omnipotence, is a vital response to the eternal question posed in Plato's ** Euthyphro** of whether the good is commanded because good, or good only because commanded, the Divine Command Theory, which crucial decision manifests not only in toxic faith [ be that an Islamic or Christian fundamentalist version ] but also in either arbitrary or rational personal and social ethics. That conflict of Voluntarist versus Rational ethics was continued the Middle Ages with Thomas Aquinas as the champion of Intellect versus the prioritising of Will by John Duns Scotus [ with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche following on that irrationalist kind of vein ].
And the Mutazilites also embody the admirable Quranic dictum [6:164] that each soul earns its own due. Which endorsement of human freedom and personal responsibility is echoed by Jakob Harmensen [ Arminius], 1560-1609, the inspiring opponent of pre-destination within Calvinism.
And furthermore, the creative inter-penetration of emerging understanding and lived experience will also generate a positive dynamic - the contemporary contest in Turkey to entrench or alter secular provisions in its polity shows, as does the life of Kemal Ataturk himself, that a slow evolution is not an impossible dream. But precisely because of the irreducible reality of human freedom, it remains, in all cultures, a reversible and permanently contested achievement.
Just as **Nature** does not pre-determine **Nurture**, so texts do not pre-determine the evolving worlds of Islam-as-understood or Islam-as-lived, and the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto reminds us that there is a life-and-death struggle raging within the Muslim worlds, a struggle that is both ideological and physical, where the outcome in both these spheres, is of absolutely crucial import for all humanity, and where the Muslim enemies of the toxic Jihadi ideology are our front-line in defence of human values and progress, and so both need and deserve our whole-hearted support and unstinted admiration.
And even if some of those enemies of Jihad may not yet have fully transited to a more evolved version of Islam, as we see it, or beyond it, their value is not thereby eliminated - it was not essential for Churchill to first abandon some of his imperialist delusions, nor for even Stalin to become a Gorbachev, before they could function as vital forces in the urgent confrontation with the Nazi threat, by a very broad front of allies.
The best can indeed be the enemy of the good, and evolution, not revolution, must remain the preferred option. You may prefer Wafa Sultan to Irshad Manji, but for now the practical priority is to stand with both, and with armed Beduins in both Jordanian, Israeli or Egyptian uniforms, against our common Jihadi enemy. Humanity in general, and Muslims both need Ijtihad, not Fitna, and the film FITNA serves a different and ultimately self-defeating agenda of exclusion and global demonization.
Jews have an extensive history in China it seems...
The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions Revisited
But acceptance into Chinese society came at the expense of Judaism. Though the Chinese had never exerted any pressure on the Jews, or on any other minorities to convert, the social structure of Chinese society put enormous demands on the Jews and required them to accept and act according to local customs. The Confucian ethical code may have seemed to be compatible with many tenets of the Torah, but it was so inflexible as to accept nothing less than complete compliance. In addition, the rigid administrative system caused further erosion of the Jewish lifestyle. To climb the administrative and social ladder, Jews needed to devote considerable time and effort to the study of the Chinese classics. All this came at the expense of study of the Torah. When the Jews felt that the end was near, they pooled their resources and inscribed their religious beliefs on a stele that was erected in the second year of the Hongzhi period, the equivalent of 1489. This was perhaps the most comprehensive and informative of the inscriptions, but to our disappointment it was long on rituals and short on historical details. This stele can be seen today encased in glass in the Kaifeng Museum of Jewish History. It is five feet tall, about thirty inches wide and about five inches thick, made of dark grey limestone and sits on a base that is about twenty inches high. Some of the Chinese characters are still decipherable; others are so faded that it is hard to read them. This inscription contains about 1800 characters. Its content is divided into three sections, the first telling us about the Chinese version of the biblical story of Abraham and how the religion was born. The second section tells us about the rituals and worship of the Chinese Jews at that time. The third segment recounts the imperial audience that was handed down in oral tradition. Each segment seems to be composed by someone knowledgeable in his field. On the back of this stele is another inscription dated the Chinese equivalent of 1512, consisting of over 1000 characters. This inscription was composed by a Jew or someone who knew about Judaism. He stated that Judaism would not exist without the Torah. This inscription was perhaps the most puzzling to scholars as it appeared to contain no historical indicators and therefore was considered of very limited historical value. But from a Jewish perspective, it provided a wealth of information about the life of the Jews at the time. It constantly compared Judaism with Confucianism, perhaps the first ever attempt to compare the two cultures.
Continued here The Kaifeng Stone Inscriptions Revisited
NGO Monitor has examined European funding of various Palestinian NGO projects. Information about EU funding of such projects is released with great reluctance and is not available to the general public on a routine basis. The projects funded often are unrelated to the funding guidelines or diametrically opposed to them. Under the guise of promoting peace negotiations and democracy, the EU released funds to projects for enhancing Palestinian refugee identity, and funded organizations that promote dissolution of Israel and its replacement by a single state solution.
The Executive Summary of the Report:
Between 2005 and 2007, the European Union has provided tens of million Euros from public funds to numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs), many of which are politically active in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition to providing services, their reports are perceived as providing
expert information to policy makers, journalists and others, and their campaigns have significant political impacts. These activities however, are often inconsistent with the stated objectives of both the NGOs and EU frameworks under which they are funded, including the use of funds ostensibly designated to promote peace for pursuing political objectives which undermine the protection of human rights.
Thiis detailed research documents the degree to which EU-funded political NGOs contribute to the conflict and advance particular political agendas. Many of these EU funded groups participated in the NGO Forum of the 2001 Durban conference, and their reports and campaigns repeatedly refer to Israel as a "colonial entity", and "racist and apartheid state", while promoting boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Some EU-funded NGOs also consistently advocate the Arab or Palestinian narrative of the conflict, erase the context of Palestinian terrorism, falsely accusing Israel of "war crimes" and seek to undermine Israel's Jewish identity. Although EU funding formally goes to projects and not to the NGOs, per se, this distinction is artificial. "Project funding" can be used for general NGO activities and campaigns, travel and publicity to promote the ideologies and interests of offcials. EU logos appear regularly on anti-Israel publications issued by these NGOs, providing the image of legitimacy.
This report also examines the limited transparency and accountability in EU funding for NGOs. Despite the tens of millions of Euros provided by taxpayers, there is no uniform framework or central database for obtaining information regarding which NGOs the European Commission1 funds. Moreover, much of this funding information is unavailable or hidden beneath numerous bureaucratic layers. The various EC offices that do provide some information on NGO funding use different systems to display this data, making comparison and analysis particularly difficult. Although some EC officials cooperated in providing funding information to NGO Monitor, the overall difficultly in obtaining this information reflects the lack of transparency. Other requests for specific funding information went unheeded.
In addition, the official guidelines by which the NGOs are selected to receive public funds are very vague, allowing for a high degree of individual preference and bias on the part of EC personnel. These often anonymous officials and outside experts that decide on the allocation of tens of millions of Euros to highly political NGOs are not subject to any external process of accountability. The absence of specific performance indicators to evaluate the impact of EU-funded NGO projects adds to the accountability deficit.
These conclusions are illustrated in detailed analysis of EU funding frameworks and processes, including EIDHR, PfP, and ECHO. Case studies of recipients -- Adalah, the Euro- Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the Applidd Research Institute-Jerusalem (ARIJ) and Christian Aid -- explore the divergence between their activities and official EU guidelines.
The report concludes with recommendations on steps to improve the transparency and accountability of European Union funding for NGOs. These include creating a searchable database of NGO recipients with a standard format for viewing detailed funding information. We also recommend measures to evaluate biases and external factors which effect decision-making on NGO funding requests.
The need for transparency in NGO funding is particularly salient in the context of the preparations for the "Durban follow-up" conference scheduled by the United Nations for 2009. To avoid a repetition of the disastrous 2001 experience, particularly in the NGO Forum, the EC should adopt and implement clear guidelines precluding EU funded NGOs from participating in activities that promote conflict, including calls for the destruction of a state or its national identity; support for divestment, boycotts and sanctions against Israel; advocacy of a "one state solution", meaning the destruction of Israel, and other rhetoric which inflames hostilities.
The full report in PDF is here.
If you support US withdrawal from Iraq, think about this:
Last update - 10:38 03/04/2008
By News Agencies
Al-Qaida's second-in-command on Wednesday vowed to attack Jews both within and outside Israel, and predicted that a United States withdrawal from Iraq would cause Islamic militant power to grow and threaten Jerusalem.
"I expect the Jihadi influence to spread after the Americans' exit from Iraq, and to move towards Jerusalem," Ayman Al-Zawahri said in response to questions compiled by Islamist Web sites.
"We promise our Muslim brothers that we will do our utmost to strike Jews in Israel and abroad with help and guidance from God," he said to those asking when attacks on Israel would take place.
Last week, the Al-Qaida leader called on Muslims to strike Israeli, Jewish and American interests in revenge for Israel's ground incursion in the Gaza Strip in early March.
Al-Zawahri on Wednesday also said that Osama bin Laden was well and reports he was sick were false.
"Sheikh Osama bin Laden is in good health," the militant leader said. "The ill-intentioned always try to circulate false reports about him being sick."
The audio message, which was accompanied by a 46-page English transcript, was the first installment of answers to a raft of online questions and focused mainly on future al-Qaida efforts elsewhere in the region, particularly Egypt.
Al-Zawahri, who, like Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan or Pakistan, also denounced the United Nations.
"The United Nations is an enemy of Islam and Muslims," he said. He defended attacks on UN offices in an apparent reference to twin bomb attacks on UN buildings in Algiers which killed 41 people in December and the 2003 bombing of a UN building in Baghdad which killed 22.
In response to criticism Wednesday about the organization's notoriously brutal tactics, Al-Zawahri maintained that Al-Qaida does not kill innocents.
"We haven't killed the innocents, not in Baghdad nor in Morocco, nor in Algeria, nor anywhere else," he said according to the English transcript which, like the audio message, appeared on Web sites linked to the group.
He also predicted the end of the Saudi state, which is swimming against the tide of history and the government of his native Egypt, which he called "a corrupt, rotten regime [that] cannot possibly continue."
Many of the questions he chose to answer focused on restarting the jihad in Egypt, which Zawahri himself helped begin and was crushed by the government in the 1990s.
"The days will reveal to you what you didn't know, and news will come to you from those who didn't have it," he said quoting an old Arabic proverb, about when the jihad would begin again in Egypt, and counseled patience.
Egypt's plainclothes State Security officers and uniformed police were declared permissible to kill in the struggle for Egypt and he hinted that he had supporters in the Egyptian army, like the man who assassinated former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.
"The Egyptian army which produced Khalid al-Islambouli ... continues to be full of those whose hearts boil with jealousy for Islam and Muslims and who long for the opportunity to remove the corrupt gang which rules Egypt," he said.
Though the tape could not be independently verified, the message bore the logo of Al-Qaida's media arm, al-Sahab, and appeared on Web sites linked to the organization.
There has to be something wrong with this system!
Palestinian who murdered Israeli Border Guard officer in 2000 sentenced to
55 years in prison. Convict dismisses notion he will carry out full term,
says he will undoubtedly be released in prisoner exchange, then continue
Efrat Weiss YNET 04.02.08, 19:34 / Israel News
The Salem Military Court in Samaria sentenced on Wednesday Na'al Yassin, a Palestinian police officer who murdered Border Guard Officer Yossi Tabijah in September of 2000, to a life term and an additional 30 years, to be served consecutively.
According to the indictment, on September 29, 2000 the convict participated in a patrol arranged together with the Border Guard. The two patrol vehicles, belonging to the Border Guard and the Palestinian police, parked next to the West Bank city of Qalqilya, at which point Yassin exited the
Palestinian vehicle and began to shoot at the Israeli car, crying "Allah Akbar." As a result Tabijah was killed and another officer was wounded.
A representative from the prosecution described the shooting as "an atrocity that no words can describe." He added that the defendant "is an animal who hates life. In addition to Tabija he attempted to murder his patrol colleagues without hesitation and in cold blood. He shot whole cartridges at the vehicles and even changed magazines numerous times in order to continue shooting."
The representative also mentioned that during some of the hearings, the defendant claimed he would continue to kill after he is released from jail during prisoner exchanges. "His ambitions can be summed up in one sentence: Kill, kill, kill, as many innocent people as possible," he concluded.
On Wednesday the convict declared that he does not recognize Israel's right to exist. "Israel killed 4,000 of our people and we have killed 1,000 of hers. If you want peace, go back to Europe."
Yassin was also convicted of other numerous crimes, such as manslaughter, conspiracy to commit murder, and possession of weapons.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
It is not certain what the Arab peace initiative is, or how Israel could meet the terms of this initiative, so why really, are the Arabs surprised that no progress has been made in implementing it, and what is the point of withdrawing such a wonderful and meaningless propaganda device?
Beware Of Tampering With The Arab Peace Initiative
By Tariq Alhomayed
In Asharq Alawsat (Pan Arab), Opinion
April 2, 2008
In its closing statement, the Damascus Summit called for the re-assessment of the peace strategy with Israel, furthermore setting the coming May as the latest deadline. This formula appears to be the middle ground in terms of the demands that were proposed during the summit with regards to the reconsideration of the Arab Peace Initiative.
Doesn't "reassessing the peace strategy" if that may be deemed a diplomatic expression imply that the other option is war? And which among the Arab states is ready to declare war on Israel today?
The problem with this rhetoric is that it raises the expectations of Arab public opinion however; it is not accompanied by any real action. Moreover, it grants Israel an opportunity it already wants; which is that the concerned parties cancel their initiative and spare Israel international embarrassment.
Another point of equal importance is: Are some parties in the Arab world aware, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan that the cancellation or disruption of the peace initiative is greater and more dangerous then the justifications put forward?
Tampering with the Arab initiative would be the equivalent opening up a Pandora's Box. Following the nullification of the Arab initiative, as a response to Israel's apathy or hostility, it would open the door for Egypt to demand to void its peace agreement with Israel, which would mean a war between Egypt and Israel. This matter has been raised in all the crises that have provoked Arab public opinion.
Consequently, Jordan will also demand to cancel its peace agreement with Israel, which would also mean war between Jordan and Israel. And the same applies to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in fact, it is what Hamas specifically demands; Hamas which is backed by Syria and Iran. Therefore, the final outcome will be the prevalence of chaos that will result in changing the status quo of the entire region.
And it would not just end there; in the perpetuation of chaos with the intention of exploiting it, we will find that the situation will reach of the point of demanding the revision of the Lebanese Taif Agreement. The indicators for that exist and have been proposed.
The problem with the Arab world lies in the moderate states' reluctance to confront the instigators of crises at a time when greedy states do not hesitate to stir up chaos so as to dominate the region and push things to the limit. That way they can reshuffle their cards and cash in on the new centers of power that have entered the games in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine.
The moderate states' hesitation when it comes to confrontation is understandable considering the heavy price to be paid; however the question remains: Is there another solution?
Nullifying or disrupting the Arab initiative is a new trap set for the moderate Arab states; instead of trying to unify the Palestinian ranks and striving to resolve the Lebanese presidential crisis, we find them immersed in a game of one-upmanship over the reassessment of the Arab initiative.
What is strange is the Arabs are being asked to reconsider the Arab peace initiative, which was proposed in 2002 on the grounds that it has amounted to nothing, whereas no one dares to demand that Syria reconsider its ceasefire agreement with Israel over the Golan Heights when the agreement was signed over 30 years ago . And in those years the Golan has still not been liberated!
Syria is acting as if it is convinced that Israel is preparing to attack the Hezbollah or Syria. Israel senses that Hezbollah and Syria are up to something. A sure sign that spring has come to the Middle East. Syria denied reports that it is calling up reserves, but accused Israel of preparing for war. Israel denies it has been doing anything. A war against Hezbollah would be very problematic in view of the enlarged UNIFIL forces as well as the presence of the Lebanese army in the south. But what happens if Hezbollah kidnap more soldiers?
Barak postpones German trip over mounting tension in North
Yaakov Katz, Jpost.com staff and Yaniv Berman , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 2,
Due to the increase in tensions in the north as well as in the Gaza Strip, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, The Jerusalem Post has learned, has decided to cancel a planned trip to Germany next week.
During the trip, officials said, Barak was scheduled to meet with German intelligence chiefs to discuss Iran's nuclear program as well as efforts in Berlin to mediate between Hizbullah and Israel regarding the two abducted IDF reservists - Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
Barak, who was to be accompanied by MOD IDr.-Gen. Pinhas Buchris, was also scheduled to meet with heads of parliamentary committees as well as pay a visit to the dock where Germany is building two Israeli submarines.
If Israel is attacked by Syria or Hizbullah the IDF's response will be "painful", Deputy Chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. Dan Harel said Wednesday amid media reports that Syria was making maneuvers with its military forces along the Lebanese border and was calling up reserves ahead of a potential conflict with Israel.
"I do not see a reason for unordinary tension [along the border]," Harel said during a press conference in Tel Aviv. "Neither side has an interest in a military conflict. Anyone who wants to hurt Israel should remember that we are the strongest country in the region and the response will be painful."
Earlier Wednesday, Syria had denied a report according to which it has concentrated forces along the Lebanese border and summoned reserve forces in preparation of a possible Israeli assault against it.
"The report, which was published in [the London-based daily] Al-Quds al-Arabi is totally false," Col. (ret.) Ahmad Munir Muhammad, a member of the Syrian parliament's National Security Committee, told The Media Line.
"Syria is not concentrating forces and is not summoning its reserves. President [Bashar Al-Assad's] message is clear: we are for a just and comprehensive peace and for the implementation of the United Nations' resolutions," added Muhammad.
According to Muhammad, there are indications that Israel is preparing a military assault against Syria with American backing. The purpose behind such an attack, said Muhammad, would be to divert the pressure of public opinion from the "American crisis in Iraq and the crises within Israel." Muhammad also said there was no need for Syria to concentrate troops along the Lebanese border.
"The national Lebanese resistance movement [Hizbullah] has proven that it can thwart an Israeli attack on its own," he said.
Muhammad also said Syria might change its military strategy to using middle-range missiles. He said Syria would use them to protect its land, but would not initiate an attack on its own.
Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported early Wednesday that Damascus was preparing for a large-scale Israeli attack on Syria and Hizbullah. According to the report, the Syrian army has been maneuvering its forces and drafting some of its
reserve forces in preparation for such a contingency.
The paper claimed that Damascus has also raised the alert level along its borders, and has positioned three armored divisions, nine infantry brigades and special forces near its border with Lebanon's Bekaa valley, fearing an Israeli infiltration there. This, it stated, would be a strategic spot for Israeli ground forces to strike, as it is both a Hizbullah stronghold and places troops in close range of the Syrian capital.
Syria viewed recent comments by IDF officials as preparation of the groundwork to justify an Israeli assault, the report continued. It was not stated which remarks were being referred to.
Meanwhile, sources in Syria said the nation's interior ministry would this weekend announce the results of its investigation into the death of Hizbullah terror-chief Imad Mughniyeh. The report was likely to lay the blame for the assassination on Mossad as well as certain Arab sources.
The paper added that Hizbullah would refrain from exacting revenge on Israel for Mughniyeh's killing at this time, so as not to give it "an excuse" to attack.
In related news, the paper reported that leaders of Palestinian terror groups were employing additional cautionary measures following Mughniyeh's assassination, with one official telling the paper that "If Israel managed to get to Mughniyeh - leaders of Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others will be an easy target."
The Media Line News Agency contributed to this report
Send your sympathy to the parents of Rachel Corrie, one of many thousands of victims of the Israeli-Arab conflict, who was killed in 2003 by accident. Ask them please not to allow anyone to use her death in order to spread hatred and cause more and more deaths.
To the parents of Rachel Corrie,
I am sorry for your loss. In 2003, your daughter Rachel became one of the many victims of the struggle between Jews and Arabs in the land of Israel, AKA (between 1917 and 1947) as "Palestine." I am sure that you love your daughter as much as every one of the bereaved parents and relatives of victims of the conflict loved their children. Your daughter was killed, apparently by accident, by a civilian bulldozer driver. I wish that Israel would open a full investigation of the matter and issue an apology, even if the death was purely accidental. As an Israeli, I apologize, but I can only do so as an individual.
But the other victims of the conflict are as dear to their parents and loved ones as Rachel was to you. Here for example, are Rachel Thaler (left) age 15, killed in a suicide attack on a pizzeria, and by her side is Rachel is Rachel Levi, age 19, killed in a suicide attack while waiting for a bus.
There is also Carlos Chavez. I call him "the other Rachel Corrie." He is the Rachel Corrie nobody will remember. He was a volunteer, like Rachel. He was harming nobody. He was working on a kibbutz near the Gaza border. He came all the way from his home in Ecuador to do that. He was murdered intentionally by Palestinian Arab terrorists, not accidentally.
Continued here: Condolences for Rachel Corrie
Meshal did not say anywhere that he is ready to make peace with Israel or to accept Israel's existence. He is willing to conclude a "lull" and "reluctantly" accept a Palestinian Arab state, as a base for destroying Israel.
Last update - 11:55 02/04/2008
Meshal: Hamas backs Palestinian state in '67 borders
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
Hamas supports the united Palestinian position calling for the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and the right of return for refugees, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam.
In a special interview with Wednesday's edition of the paper, Meshal said the Palestinian position had received a vote of consensus during the national accords of 2006 and that this position is considered acceptable to the Arab world at large.
Meshal was asked about the claims by Israel and the United States that Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel. He said Hamas has committed itself to a political plan, which it follows, and called on the Americans, the Europeans and other international entities to conduct themselves in accordance with this political truth, and to judge Hamas based on its political plan, not based on what people may imagine.
Meshal was also asked about Israel's claims that he is no longer in charge of Hamas and that he lost control to Ahmed al-Ja'abari, the head of the group's military wing in the Gaza Strip. Meshal responded by saying Israel's views are like the stock market: sometimes Khaled Meshal is responsible for Hamas and sometimes he has lost control.
"I laugh, since they do not know Hamas or its decision-making processes," he said.
The Hamas leader also said there had been several Israeli attempts to contact him, but he turned them down.
He explained in the interview that Hamas is interested in a tahadiyeh, a complete cease-fire in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but that Israel is willing to agree to such a deal only in the Strip. He said secret contacts are underway with the Europeans, but that the Americans are applying pressure in an effort to keep these contacts from broadening.
Regarding the prisoner exchange deal for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Meshal said that it is not linked to the tahadiyeh but that negotiations are not progressing at this point. He said the Egyptians are still mediating, but that some Europeans are contributing as well, and the Egyptians know about it.
Meshal said Israel continues to refuse to release prisoners who have been sentenced to life terms, even though it changed its criteria for releasing prisoners.
Two months ago, Meshal said, an agreement was reached with Egypt for the initial release of some 350 prisoners in exchange for the transfer of Gilad Shalit to the Egyptians; then, 100 more prisoners would be released, when Shalit reached Israel. During the second stage of the deal, another 550 prisoners would be released.
Meshal said he was surprised that Israel rejected most of the names on the Hamas list of prisoners, and confirmed that Hamas had included Marwan Barghouti on its list.
AP, citing diplomatic sources, claims China gave IAEA intelligence on Iran's nuclear activities. China, an opponent of harsh United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran, has nonetheless provided the International Atomic Energy Agency recently with intelligence linked to Tehran's alleged attempts to make nuclear arms, diplomats have told The Associated Press.
Well, if China opposes UN sanctions, maybe the intelligence reflected that view and was not quite accurate? The rest of the report:
Beijing, along with Moscow, has acted as a brake within the council, consistently watering down a U.S.-led push to impose severe penalties on Tehran for its nuclear defiance since the first set of sanctions was passed in late 2006.
A Chinese decision to provide information for use in the UN nuclear watchdog's attempts to probe Iran's purported nuclear weapons program would appear to reflect growing international unease about how honest the Islamic republic has been in denying it ever tried to make such arms.
China's venture was revealed by two senior diplomats with good contacts to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with one commenting late last week and the other Wednesday. The IAEA declined comment.
The diplomats said Beijing was the most surprising entry among a fairly substantial list of nations recently forwarding information to the agency that adds to previously provided intelligence, and which could be relevant in attempts to probe Iran for past or present nuclear weapons research.
But they said several other countries not normally considered to be in the anti-Iran camp had also done so in recent weeks.
The diplomats - who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential - declined to name individual nations. But they attributed a generally increased flow of information to concern sparked by a multimedia presentation to the 35 IAEA board members by the agency in February of intelligence previously forwarded by member states on Iran's alleged clandestine nuclear arms program.
One of the diplomats said the agency was also on the lookout for misleading information it was given either inadvertently or in attempts to falsely implicate Iran.
One example, he said was a document showing experiments with implosion technology that can be used to detonate a nuclear device. While the document appeared genuine, it was unclear whether it originated from Iran, said the diplomat.
Suspected weapons-related work outlined in the February presentation and IAEA reports preceding it include:
* Uranium conversion linked to high explosives testing and designs of a missile re-entry vehicle, all apparently interconnected through involvement of officials and institutions
* Procurement of so-called dual use equipment and experiments that also could be used in both civilian and military nuclear programs, and
* Iran's possession of a 15-page document outlining how to form uranium metal into the shape of a warhead.
A U.S. intelligence estimate late last year said Tehran worked on nuclear weapons programs until 2003, while Israel and other nations say such work continued past that date.
The following is a confusing claim:
Israel manufactures and exports communications scramblers and the like that should be adequate to prevent interception. The article states:
One would have thought that that elementary precaution had been taken long ago.
Last update - 19:33 02/04/2008
Israel: Iran listening in on IDF communications from Syria
By News Agencies
Iran has set up sophisticated listening stations in Syria in recent months to intercept Israeli military communications, Israeli security officials said Tuesday.
The officials offered no details on how many stations had been set up. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose information about defense operations.
Military officials said the listening stations received information through powerful antennas able to pick up communications from a distance of hundreds of kilometers. The antennas are receivers and do not transmit signals, so they cannot be blocked.
The distance between Jerusalem and Syria's capital, Damascus, is 220 kilometers (135 miles).
Israel is taking new precautions because of the listening stations, the officials said.
Israel Defense Forces top brass won't be allowed to bring their mobile phones into rooms where classified information is being discussed, the officials said. Also, IDF generals will be assigned special areas on bases to conduct personal conversations. That way, listening stations won't be able to hear sensitive conversations that might be going on in the background while generals talk on their cellular phones, they explained.
Rules governing landline conversations won't be changed because those communications are less exposed to interception.
Military officials say Iran helped Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas pick up Israeli radio communications during the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Several months ago, all radio communications were ordered to be encrypted, security officials said.
On Tuesday, Israeli intelligence officers told a parliamentary committee that Hezbollah was replenishing its arsenal with medium- and long-range missiles, and improving its systems.
On a tour of the northern border Tuesday, Defense Minister Ehud Barak remarked that Hezbollah was growing more powerful, but warned that "Israel is the strongest country in the region, and I would not recommend that anyone on the other side of the border test us."
Too bad the CIDI, which is so vocal in defending Muslim rights, seems to be silent about fighting anti-Israel media coverage in the Netherlands.
Dutch Jews louder than Muslims in condemning 'Fitna' film
By Cnaan Liphshiz
THE HAGUE - Ironically, Dutch Jews are more outspoken than local Muslims in their criticism of the newly released anti-Islam film by rightist legislator Geert Wilders, says Dr. Ronny Naftaniel, head of the pro-Zionist Center for Information and Documentation (CIDI).
Last Friday, hours after the film's online release, CJO, the Jewish community central board of which CIDI is a member, condemned the footage as generalizing and counterproductive to the fight against extremism. The board described parts of the film as unacceptable, adding it had crossed the line of legitimate criticism.
By contrast, Yusuf Altuntas of CMO, a body that facilitates contact between Muslims and the government, said that by releasing the film - which is entitled "Fitna" (Arabic for "strife") - "Wilders is testing the limits of acceptability, but hasn't gone beyond them."
The Muslim community's response - which the Dutch media described as "calm" - was to say the film is not religiously insulting to Islam, and that they had anticipated more offensive content. The government's fears of rioting never materialized.
"They [the Muslim community] are afraid. They have been told by the Dutch government to keep quiet and be wise about this issue, and that's what they want to do," Naftaniel told Haaretz on Monday in CIDI's four-story headquarters near the American embassy.
"I was surprised by the silence of the local Muslim leaders," Naftaniel added. "If I were a Muslim, I would speak out and I would blame Wilders for this film. I wouldn't stop shouting about it. I don't understand their silence, I really don't. I think they are scared."
A spokesman for CMO told Haaretz that although the Muslim community had not taken to protesting the film in the streets, the umbrella group for Dutch Muslims does condemn it.
The 15-minute film, which drew millions of viewers since its release Thursday, contains footage of Muslim clerics and protesters calling for the slaying of Jews, verses from the Koran, videos from scenes of suicide bombings and executions, illustrations of the demographic increase in the number of European Muslims and archive material from the Dutch media about Islamic terrorism-related incidents.
Naftaniel says that even though he feels the Dutch Jewish community is more at liberty to criticize "Fitna" than the Muslim community, "the only thing which may prevent many Jews from criticizing this film is that they consider Wilders very pro-Israeli and that they don't want to annoy him."
After the Jewish community condemned the film, CIDI received several angry calls from members who objected to the criticism. "Some even wanted to leave our organization, but I really think that what he did was wrong," he said.
Naftaniel stressed that it's not the criticism of Islam that prompted him to condemn the film, but the linking of that criticism of Koran-inspired violence with the demographics. Naftaniel said that is tantamount to suggesting all Muslims are terrorists.
CIDI's founder says he was particularly offended by angry reactions to the Jewish condemnation of "Fitna." These reactions, which came mainly as reader responses to online articles about the condemnation, accused the Jewish community of trying to appease the Holland's Muslims.
"We are never afraid to speak out in the harshest of terms against what we think is wrong, be it against Muslim extremism here in the Netherlands, or the Dutch or Israeli governments," he said. "But this movie portrays all Muslims as The Enemy. And this is just not true."
Israel still has a long way to go in improving its image, but we aren't quite as bad as Iran. Oops, but 20% view Iran positively, whereas only 19% view Israel positively. Israel was ranked worse than North Korea and China in unfavorable ratings, but ahead of Iran.
Last update - 11:59 02/04/2008
BBC poll: Iran only country viewed more negatively than Israel
By Haaretz Staff
Israel is viewed as the country with the second most negative influence on the world, according to a poll released recently by the BBC World Service.
Iran was considered to have the most negative influence, ranked lowest in world opinion at 54 percent - the same ranking it was given in a poll taken last year.
Israel's negative rating dropped this year from 57 percent to 52 percent, moving it from having the worst influence in world opinion to second most negative.
Pakistan was rated the country with the third most negative influence in the world.
The survey also found that world opinion of the United States has risen, with 35 percent of respondents finding it to have a positive influence, compared to 31 percent in the last poll.
According to the poll, Germany was considered to have the best influence on the world, with a positive score of 56 percent and a negative score of 18 percent.
Japan ranked closely behind Germany, with a positive score of 56 percent and a negative score of 21 percent - though respondents in neighboring Asian countries China and South Korea showed negative views.
The poll was conducted by the international agency GlobeScan along with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.
Respondents were asked to rate Brazil, Britain, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, the U.S. and the European Union as having positive or negative influence.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Today the House Res 185 vote concerning Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries just passed the House. The efforts of the Justice for Jews from Arab Countries Organization, for the past few years, are beginning to bear the proverbial fruit.
We gratefully acknowledge the efforts of many for this type of acknowledgement to reach that stage in the political process; we hope that continued efforts will also be as successful with regards to the Senate and the UN resolutions, as well as similar initiatives being undertaken with the EU & Russia.
Congress Passes First Ever Resolution
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shelomo Alfassa 917-606-8262
WASHINGTON, DC (April 1, 2008) - In what may be the beginning of a dramatic shift in United States policy, the U.S. Congress passed House Resolution 185, which grants first-time-ever recognition to Jewish refugees from Arab countries.
Prior to the adoption of H.Res.185, all Resolutions on
The Resolution was introduced by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Mike Ferguson (R-NJ). With the passing of this Resolution, Rep. Nadler stated, "We believe that as a member of the Quartet, and in light of the
Rep. Joseph Crowley said, "The world needs to understand that it is not just the Arabs and it's not just the Palestinians in the
"Discussions of Middle Eastern refugees invariably focus exclusively-and shortsightedly-on the plight of those of Palestinian descent," said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen. "Far fewer people are aware of the injustice faced by Jewish refugees from Arab lands and
Rep. Mike Ferguson said that there was very strong bi-partisan support for this issue which recognizes, "the plight of hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees who were displaced from countries in the Middle East, Northern Africa and all around the
Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice-President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations commented, "the failure during all these years to recognize other refugees, compounded the indignation and the suffering and the deprivation of Jews in Arab countries. There was a systematic process of expulsion which the Arab governments engaged in." He added that the Resolution is not an obstacle to peace. "It is a distortion to talk only of one refugee population, as that would undermine the ultimate outcome of any negotiations. The Congressional action will educate a generation that know too little about the other refugees."
The passing of this Resolution is the strongest
Stanley Urman, Executive Director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries stated that, "Congress has restored truth to the Middle East narrative, by recommending equitable treatment of all
Underscoring the importance of the Resolution, Rep. Nadler added, "When the
Media Kit is available at www.justiceforjews.com/mediakit2.html.
A "Jewish group" open to non-Jews has to be the best thing for Judaism since Moses was a pup. But Hillel sill seems to have the wrong idea of what must be done on campuses and why.
Not really. The benefit for us is OUTREACH. Some people seem to have unrealistic ideas about what is really going on in American society. I wonder how the following line would go over in a meeting of CAIR or the Muslim Student's Association:
Tell it to Osama Bin Laden and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They haven't heard the news yet.
By Ben Harris Published: 03/31/2008
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Hillel centers on university campuses were viewed not long ago as little more than the local Jewish hangout, a place where students could come for kosher meals or socialize with other Jews.
But in a move that Hillel leaders say has been forced upon them by this generation's altered social landscape, the organization is throwing open its doors to everyone, designing programs that appeal to Jews and non-Jews and hyping its contribution to university -- not only Jewish life.
Examples of the shift are abundant.
Rabbi Joshua Feigelson, the self-described "campus rabbi" at Northwestern University, has designed a campus-wide program called "Ask Big Questions" that stresses the value of Jewish wisdom in addressing contemporary challenges. Other Hillel chapters are organizing interfaith programs, like Jewish-Muslim coexistence houses or trips to rebuild the Gulf Coast. And it's becoming more common to find non-Jews serving on local Hillel boards or as regular attendees at Shabbat dinners.
The shift is even evident in Hillel's changed mission statement. Prior to 2006, the organization sought to increase the number of Jews "doing Jewish with other Jews." Now it seeks to "enrich" Jewish student life, the Jewish people and the world.
"Most of the students that we have are not interested in doing Jewish with other Jews," Feigelson told JTA. "They're interested in doing Jewish with their friends who are doing Catholic and Puerto Rican and Turkish -- their friends and their family. The challenge for us is how do you create expressions of Jewish life that students will deem to be authentic at the same time as they are not exclusive or tribal."
Beginning under the leadership of Richard Joel, Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life sought to expand its reach beyond the minority of students with strong Jewish identities who naturally gravitated to the local Hillel chapter.
But Hillel leaders say increasingly that to reach the majority who might view the organization with anything from disdain to indifference, it must actively counter the perception that its chapters are "Jews-only" venues.
As it attempts to do so, Hillel finds itself negotiating a tricky line between Jewish particularism and universality, between the twin imperatives of creating uniquely Jewish programming and protecting the fluidity of personal identities that today's college students see as their birthright.
"We're in a world that has no boundaries -- no boundaries and infinite choices, literally," said Beth Cousens, Hillel's director of organizational learning and the author of a 2007 monograph, "Hillel's Journey: Distinctively Jewish, Universally Human," which lays out guiding principles for Hillel in the coming years.
"It is just dumb, it's counterproductive for us to create boundaries," Cousens said. "The way to make Jewish life vibrant, and help people fall in love with Judaism and discover who they are Jewishly, is not to be afraid."
Much discussion at Hillel's recent summit here focused on the peculiarities of so-called millennials, the generation born after 1980, and their unique set of cultural dispositions: globally minded, skeptical of institutional authority and unwilling to have their identities narrowly defined.
At the summit's opening plenary, Robert Putnam, the Harvard University professor who authored "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community," described how he could name the religion of every person in his high school class because faith defined the limits of his generation's dating pool. High-schoolers today, he contended, couldn't perform a similar feat.
"It's not that people have stopped being religious, it's just not that big a deal anymore," Putnam said. "That line has been somewhat deconstructed."
For those who worry about the threat of intermarriage to Jewish continuity, the rise of the millennial generation, and Hillel's response to it, is likely to keep them up at night.
Hillel responds that it simply has no choice, that if an intermarried couple doesn't meet at Hillel, they will meet at a party or in the classroom where the organization will have no influence on them.
"Hillel is acknowledging that we don't live in a Jewish bubble," Cousens said. "If we don't do this, we'll be irrelevant."
Putnam has written extensively on the decline of community in America, and he urged the 675 summit participants -- most of them Hillel professionals -- to look for ways to create social connections that stretch across the boundaries of race or ethnicity.
In interviews with JTA on the sidelines of the summit, evidence emerged to suggest that process is already well under way.
At Syracuse University, the election of a non-Jewish student to the Hillel board occasioned some opposition. But while a meeting must sometimes pause to explain a particular Jewish phrase or practice, student leaders mostly say the addition has been positive.
"I think it's been a mutually beneficial experience for not only him and the board, but for also the community at large to see that we've reached beyond the Jewish student, that we've reached beyond what Hillel's stereotype is, and to bring in other types of people, and to really let ourselves realize that Hillel isn't just for one type of person," said sophomore Jillian Zarem. "It's for as many different people as we can reach out to."
At the Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh, a Korean student who regularly attended Shabbat dinners at Hillel managed to recruit his Jewish roommate who previously wouldn't set foot inside the building.
"How did he do it?" asked Aaron Weil, the executive director of the Pitt center. "He said, 'John, I'm a Baptist. I'm Korean. I'm going to Hillel. Don't you think it's a little bit odd that I'm willing to go to Hillel and you're not?' He didn't have a comeback for that, and he came in and saw the open community."
"The benefit to us," Weil continued, "is by making ourself a place that is open to all, Jews are going to feel more comfortable to go there because they're not going to a place that is Jewish only. Jews are looking today, in general, for opportunities to be Jewish but not to be separate."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2008
Contact: Sr. Ruth Lautt, O.P., Esq.
Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East
Christians for Fair Witness Applauds Recent United Church of Christ Executive Council Action on Israel/Palestine Conflict and Asks United Methodists to Follow Their Lead
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East is concerned about a resolution submitted by the Methodist General Board of Global Ministries ("GBGM") to the upcoming United Methodist Church General Conference.
"The resolution, entitled "Israel-Palestine Conflict" (Petition Number 80441-GM-R323), is nothing more than a one-sided attack on the state of Israel camouflaged by the verbiage of peace and justice," according to Sr. Ruth Lautt, Fair Witness National Director. "It refers only to 'Palestinian suffering' without acknowledging that Israelis also suffer. There is no mention of Palestinian terrorism, suicide bombing during the Second Intifada, or the current non-stop firing of Qassam rockets and Iranian-made missiles from the Gaza Strip into Israel. The resolution also mischaracterizes U.N. resolutions and international law in a manner designed to point the finger of blame squarely at Israel," Sr. Ruth explains.
"Although Israel is far from blameless in this conflict, a resolution with this blatant lack of balance should be a red flag," says Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Minister, First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto, California. "Especially when it comes from a Methodist agency that recently published a book that accuses Jews of ' becoming monsters' and characterizes the founding of the Jewish state in terms of 'original sin,'" added Rev. Summers.
In June 2007, the United Church of Christ ("UCC") Synod adopted a resolution on Israel-Palestine which acknowledged that it "may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation . . ." and obligated the denomination "to establish a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict." In its first meeting after the Synod, the Executive Council of the UCC adopted an Action (October 2007) that directed the Task Force or panel to "engage in dialogue with traditional as well as new voices . . . representing diverse perspectives" regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict. "Fair Witness wholeheartedly applauds this new and balanced approach adopted by the UCC Executive Council and urges the United Methodists to follow their lead," says Sr. Ruth.
An analysis of the GBGM's resolution is available on the Fair Witness website:
Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East
475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115
Periodically, we are victimized by headlines that insist that the United States is about to attack Iran. The attack has been in preparation for a long time. Here's Seymour Hersh predicting the attack in 2005. Seymour Hersh reported again that it was about to go down in the New Yorker on April 17, 2006. There's another such story here from February 2007. Here's a story from March 29, 2007, that insists that an attack is imminent. And here's another, closer to he source of the "information" - Russian intelligence. The indefatigable Hersh was at it again in October of 2007, with the same arguments and rumors. And the Russians are back at it again too. Now, almost a year to the day after the last Russian-inspired Iran attack fiction, they have once again published "intelligence" about U.S. military moves that are supposedly preparatory to an attack on Iran.
Incredible as it may seem, there are still those who take these rumors seriously. Hersh has a perfect record as a journalist: he has been wrong every time, and he is wrong now. There was no US attack on Iran, and there won't be one in the near future. Likewise, the Russian intelligence is clearly disinformation.
In a better regulated world, a "journalist" like Hersh would be selling used cars by now or writing scripts for Star Gate episodes, professions more suited to a man of his protean imagination, so unfettered by reality. The Russian "intelligence" sources would be treated as what they are as well. Imagine if the little boy who cried "wolf" got people to come running every single time, though there was never any wolf!
D. H. Lawrence and T.S. Elliot lived hundreds of years ago, according to the Jerusalem Post. But what do you want, good English or good reporting?
Epicenter is a geological term identifying the point of the earth's surface directly above the focus of an earthquake.
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST Mar. 31, 2008
Britain has become the epicenter for anti-Semitic trends in Europe as traditional, age-old anti-Semitism in a country whose literature and cultural tradition were "drenched" in anti-Semitism has developed into a contemporary mix of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, an Israeli historian said Monday.
The problem of anti-Semitism in Britain is exacerbated by a growing and increasingly radical Muslim population, the weak approach taken by a timid British Jewish leadership, and the detachment of the British from their Christian roots, said Hebrew University historian Prof. Robert S. Wistrich in a lecture on British anti-Semitism at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
"Britain has become the center point for the meeting of anti-Semitic trends in Europe," Wistrich said.
In a wide-ranging two-hour address, the Cambridge University-educated historian, who has just completed a book on global anti-Semitism, traced the roots of British anti-Semitism to its history, culture and literature going back to medieval times.
"Anti-Semitism in Great Britain is at least a millennial phenomenon and has been around for 1000 years of recorded history," Wistrich said.
He noted that the expulsion of all Jews from Britain in 1290 by King Edward I following years of anti-Semitic violence was the first major expulsion of any Jewish community in Europe.
Jews were banned from Britain until 1656, when Oliver Cromwell, who had overthrown the monarchy, authorized their return.
Wistrich noted that a Jewish presence was not required in Britain to produce potent and resonating anti-Semitic stereotypes in classic English literature, including in works by Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dickens, Trollope, T. S. Elliot, and D. H. Lawrence, which he said continues to impact British society hundreds of years later today.
"The authors are conveying and transmitting to a future generation an embedded anti-Semitism whose influence is impossible to underestimate," Wistrich said.
"English literature and culture is in fact drenched in anti-Semitism," he said, adding that British intellectuals fail to understand the long-term impact of this phenomenon.
During World War II, the British refusal to rescue the Jews of Europe and their decision to close the gates of Palestine stemmed not only from a policy of realpolitik but by anti-Semitic sentiments, he said.
"Nothing was to be construed as fighting a Jewish war," he said.
He noted that the famed British wartime leader, Winston Churchill's, record on Zionism was "far from brilliant, rhetoric aside" noting that he promoted the infamous White Paper, which severely limited Jews from immigrating to Palestine during World War II.
The recent controversial contemporary theory of a Jewish lobby controlling American government policies in the wake of the 2003 Iraq War actually had its antecedents a century earlier, and dated back to the infamous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, while anti-Israel activities on British campuses was going "strong blast" in the 1970s, he said.
In his address, Wistrich said that today's British media had taken an almost universally anti-Israel bias, especially but not exclusively on the BBC, with context removed from description of Israeli military actions, and Islamic jihadist activity such as suicide bombing never connected to ideology.
"Under no circumstance will a Palestinian act of terrorism be referred to as terrorist, They are militants similar to the floor-shop dispute in Liverpool whose workers have decided to go on strike," he said.
"Palestinian terrorism is portrayed as a minor pin-prick compared to 'massive' retaliation of this 'rogue' state [Israel]," he said.
"You cannot read a British newspaper without encountering a variant of the libel that Zionism is racism or Zionism is Nazism," he said, describing a culture of "barely disguised hatred" when the subject of Zionism of British Jewry or Anglo-Israel relations is broached, unless they are "the good anti-Zionists."
With the media and the elites skewed against Israel - aided by former Israeli academics who routinely condemn the Jewish state and who have attained "historic dissident status and are listened to as the authentic voice of Israel" - the whole discussion of anti-Semitism had become distorted in Britain, with the accuser becoming the accused, he said.
"The self-proclaimed anti-racists of the [London Mayor Ken] Livingstone brand lead the pack when it comes to the prevailing discourse about Israel and by implication Jews."
"If you bring up the subject of anti-Semitism you are playing the anti-Semitism card and you are [seen as] a dishonest deceitful manipulative Jew or lover of Jews who is using the language of anti-Semitism to disguise hide or silence criticism of Israel," he said.
The tenure of former prime minister Tony Blair - considered to be the most favorable British premier to the State of Israel - was a paradox of the British situation today, Wistrich said.
He said that Blair's support for Israel during the Second Lebanon War was "the straw that broke the camel's back" for a British premier who had already supported the Iraq War and was closely allied with US President George W. Bush, and helped bring about his downfall.
Today, the rapidly growing Muslim community in Britain numbers at least 1.6 million, compared to about 350,000 Jews.
Wistrich faulted British-Jewish leadership for taking a "softly softly approach," which he said was "very strange" and did not bear fruit in contemporary times.
"There is a long tradition of doing things behind closed doors and it is different to break with tradition but it should be broken," he said.
The historian noted that the straying of the British from their Christian roots has also created a changed reality in the Anglo-Israeli relationship with no Bible-based reasons or raison d'etre for a Jewish presence in the Holy Land.
He cited the recent support of the archbishop of Canterbury for the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Britain - the same country, which, he noted, was once the birthplace of the US evangelical movement.
"The loss of Christian identity in what was the most Bible-believing culture in its day is one of the deeper layers of what has happened here," he said.
He noted some of the biblical remarks of prominent British leaders such as Lord Balfour and Lloyd George would be viewed as anathema today.
"You cannot speak or act that way today, or you would be considered the 'biggest threat to civilization' as American evangelicals are."
Monday, March 31, 2008
Such a document could be crafted - a memorandum of disagreement. The issues are return of the Arab refuges, return of the Jewish refugees, United or divided Jerusalem, Israel as a state of the Jewish people... On each one, the Israelis and the Arabs of Palestine seem to have diametrically opposed views.
The pilots were part of a small group trained in Czechoslovakia during the Israel War of Independence. Better late than never, but for some, it was too late:
The ceremony highlights the key role that the Czechs played in ensuring an Israeli victory in 1948.
After sixty years, pilots finally get their wings
By Yossi Melman
Hugo Marom covered the small blue box with his hand and opened it slowly and reverentially. Inside lay gold wings, the pilot's wings of the Czech Air Force. "It's always exciting when someone remembers you," he said.
Marom and 16 others received their pilots' wings at the Israel Air Force House in Herzliya yesterday - for courses they completed 60 years ago at Czech Air Force bases. The ceremony was attended by Czech Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova - who, along with the Czech Air Force commander, decided the time had come to grand these pilots their wings - and the Czech Republic's ambassador to Israel, Michael Zantovsky. Israeli officials in attendance included Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and several former IAF commanders, among them former chief of staff Dan Halutz.
Marom was born in Czechoslovakia to the Meisel family, whose family tree shows that they spent 1,000 years in the country. "My father used to say that we were more Czech than the Czechs," he said with a smile.
Marom's life was saved when he was sent out of Czechoslovakia to Great Britain as part of the Kindertransport in 1939. He returned to his homeland after World War II and was offered a spot in a pilots' course for Czech Jews in 1948; those who completed the course were supposed to be sent to help the fledgling Jewish state fight for its existence.
"From the age of 11 I wanted to be a pilot, so the offer captivated me and I fought to be a pilot," said Marom. "Unfortunately today, the state is forced to fight in order to find young people who are prepared to be inducted."
After completing the course, Marom moved to Israel and became one of the first members of the IAF. He was the first commander of the flight school and made the rank of major - the most veteran major in the air force, he said - and retired from the IAF in 1954. He served for 10 years as the chief test pilot for the Defense Ministry and Israel Aerospace Industries, and went on to plan airports around the world as a private consultant. He planned airports in the United States and Paraguay, and is working on Israel's second international airport, which is slated to go up off the coast of Tel Aviv after the Sde Dov airport shuts down.
"It's the closing of a circle for me," said Marom. "Unfortunately, out of the 22 members of the first course, only five of us remain."
One of Marom's classmates was Avraham Hershlom, whose assistance and financial support helped make the ceremony possible. Hershlom was born in Poland, fled Auschwitz at age 16 and then fled Buchenwald after that, eventually finding his way to Prague and the pilots' course.
During the ceremony, the Israel Air Force House showed an exhibit about what was then called "Israel Confidential" - the code name given to the operation in which Czechoslovakia, with the approval of the Soviet Union, provided aid to Israel during the War of Independence.
Aharon David Gordon on Ecology and Love of Eretz Yisrael
By Rabbi Dr. Einat Ramon
(This article is based on Rabbi Ramon's recent publication, A New Life: Religion, Motherhood and Supreme Love in the Works of A.D. Gordon, (Carmel Publishing), which describes A.D. Gordon's philosophical and religious attempt to examine modernity from a traditional viewpoint, and tradition as it faces the challenge of modernity. This article first appeared In the Faculty Forum distributed by the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and appears here with the author's permission.)
One of the modern Jewish thinkers whose philosophy may shed light on the connection between People and Land in the wake of Zionism, for us who live in Israel, is Aharon David Gordon, a founder of the Labor Movement and a giant of the Second Aliya (1856-1922). Gordon, in his concise but rich writing, comes to grips with the spiritual implications of living in the Eretz Yisrael habitat in modern times.
Gordon did not perceive any hierarchy in nature; to him, the cyclical characteristics of nature exemplified the philosophic principle of lack of hierarchy. He maintained that this principle provided a replicable model. Against nature, he claimed, stands modern urban culture, which is mechanical, competitive and therefore also alienating.
Urban relationships are not broad they are intricate, like the spider's web, in which human beings are trapped. Attempting to broaden one's space in the web causes a deeper enmeshment and strangulation of others. Only by trampling on other people, physically or spiritually, can one raise one's position in the web. We should take a lesson from the sky, the sun, the wind, and mountains, who occupy no comparative size or importance. Man, worm, and the entire world are one.
Gordon's environmental philosophy was born out of a respect for untamed nature, for the world of living plants and animals. These he perceived to be driven by an organic, not hierarchical, principle. He, first among the revolutionary Jewish philosophers, stood opposed, from a religious Jewish viewpoint, to the various expressions of humanity's destruction of nature resulting from man's arrogance and pretensions to unrestrained dominion over it. In the following section taken from the latter part of "Man and Nature," apparently written during or after his journey to Vienna in the summer of 1914, Gordon articulates his critical and visionary environmental stance unequivocally:
How did the human being act vis-à-vis Nature from the moment that he began to treat Nature as his own? Is there, in reality, a spiritual relationship to the plant, to the field, to the garden, and to the forest as they are? Isn't there a movement for deforestation of entire forests, even eternal forests that are not only the magnificence of Nature, but also sketches of nobility and Divine inspiration on Nature's? These forests are also essential for the health of both humans and plants. Don't we destroy them for the sake of money, as a result of our limited and narrow calculations? Even the most decent governments do not regulate such actions. This is all an outcome of short mindedness and not an account of Nature . . . Where is the Biblical forest of Lebanon? Or a waterfall that becomes a power engine, what does it say? And so on. (Do not respond to these questions by blaming it all on capitalism. This destruction of Nature has existed since the dawn of civilization. A social revolution adds nothing in this regard. In a different social order we may find a more just distribution of material and natural resources, yet the path to a different relationship with Nature is still very long.
Gordon's revulsion to the material, utilitarian and voracious approach to nature surfaces in his writings recorded on a train journey from Trieste to Vienna. He was mainly upset by the surfeit of advertisement "of all kinds of fabrications fabricated by fabricators and all kinds of merchants selling their wares in shops, and notices glued to trees or rocks, splicing the eye's view and, moreover, the soul's view of more beautiful and lofty sights." 3 Thus when asked by a friend, "Would you like to see cities such as these in Eretz Yisrael?," his answer was a strident "No! No!"
His respect for the ancient landscapes of Eretz Yisrael, which in those days had not reached the height of development that existed in European countries, and his awareness of the potential destruction that the Zionist development plans could wreak, are unique in Zionist discourse. Gordon did not elaborate on how one should lead one's private and public life on a practical, day-to-day basis in accordance with the vision he formulated. He did not enter into the question of which contacts between man and nature are desirable and which are destructive. Although he warned against human oppressiveness and alienation that could potentially damage the environment, he did not attempt to set the ground rules for good ecological behavior that he endorsed so strongly.
Gordon's approach to Eretz Yisrael as the 'Mother of Nations,' whose image is reflected in Jewish culture and the Hebrew language (and therefore also in each Jewish soul), contains a great spiritual potential for a profound understanding of the link between the Land and the People of Israel. His thinking allows us to ponder the concept of National Homeland in a non-fanatical way. Eretz Yisrael in Gordon's view is an ecological realm to which the Jews are deeply connected and for which they feel a great responsibility. As a result, part of the moral test of Zionism is the ability to treat the ancient landscape that we have inherited from our forefathers and foremothers with love and great care, so that it can infuse our children and children's children will both physical and spiritual life.
English Translation: Penina Goldschmidt
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The Man Islamists Cannot Silence
He fired the first salvo in 2003 and has been sticking his thumb in Islamist eyes ever since. Bangladeshi journalist Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury describes himself as a "Muslim Zionist." He is unabashedly pro-US, pro-Israel, and anti-Islamist. More importantly, he remains all of that from within the Muslim world, which he refuses to leave. I have fielded any number of asylum requests for him, and he declined them all. "Retreat is not in my vocabulary," he says, for he believes that if he were to leave his country, his credibility would be gone, and Islamists would claim victory; a satisfaction he refuses to give them. "Bangladesh is my country," he says. "Let the radicals leave!"
Since 2003, we have fought not only a battle of ideas but also a battle of wills with our adversaries; and the skirmishes never end. Shoaib has been imprisoned and tortured. He has been beaten, and Islamists bombed his newspaper before they and their cronies in the ruling party seized the premises. All of this happened after Shoaib published articles that exposed the rising strength of Islamist radicals in Bangladesh, urged relations with Israel, and advocated genuine interfaith dialogue based on religious equality.
In November of that year, he was about to board a plane for Bangkok and then Israel (there are no direct flights between Dhaka and Tel Aviv), agents grabbed him. Eventually, they charged him with sedition, treason, and blasphemy, which are capital offenses and could send Shoaib to the gallows.
In 2005, however, after an intense seventeen month campaign for his freedom, Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) took on his case. He summoned then Bangladeshi Ambassador Shamsher M. Chowdhury to his Washington office, and the three of us had a sometimes acrimonious, always difficult, hours-long meeting. As Kirk (a member of the House Appropriations Committee) describes it, we had a "full and frank discussion," after which Dhaka agreed to free Shoaib Choudhury.
Our elation was short-lived, however, when Shamsher Chowdhury clarified that Shoaib would be freed on bail even though the ambassador had just admitted that there was no substance to the charges. To be sure, we had won the most important point: Shoaib would be free. Still, I looked up and said, "Not good enough. It's an old and tired ruse used by tyrants," I continued. "Free the dissident but keep the charges pending in order to silence him." And so we argued some more until Chowdhury relented and agreed that Dhaka would drop the charges not long after Shoaib's release.
That was three years ago. The charges remain, even though numerous Bangladeshi officials have made the same admission as the ambassador; that the charges are baseless and are maintained only to placate the country's radical Islamists. Bangladesh's population is about 88 percent Muslim, a figure that is growing constantly, especially as Hindus are being ethnically cleansed from that country, falling from 18 to nine percent of the population. Although radical Islamists affiliated with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations represent only a small proportion of the population, they have infiltrated and taken charge of almost every major institution in Bangladesh from education and banking to police and the judiciary.
For months, both sides had settled into a sort of stasis until this past fall when the Bangladeshis tried illegally to revoke Shoaib's bail and send him back to prison. The fact that we continued to frustrate these attempts could have had something to do with what happened next. On the evening of March 18, as Shoaib sat at his desk working on another edition of his newspaper, Weekly Blitz, a large contingent of armed goons from the government's paramilitary squad -- the hated and feared Rapid Action Battalion or RAB -- burst into his office. They ordered all employees out, seized Shoaib's means of contacting the outside, and began "interrogating" him.
Fortunately, his driver quickly alerted Shoaib's brother, Sohail, who telephoned me in the United States. Shoaib's life was in very real danger, so we determined on an immediate course of action. Sohail called Luke Zahner, Second Secretary at the US Embassy in Dhaka, and a long time supporter of Shoaib's. Zahner, who had previously helped set up USAID's elections support program in Iraq, notified U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Geeta Pasi.
I telephoned Kirk's office and described the events unfolding in Dhaka and their life-and-death nature to Andria Hoffman, who is Kirk's point person on the Choudhury case. "These [RAB] are bad people. I know them, and you don't even want them as friends, let alone be on their bad side. They're the kind of group where people sometimes go into their custody and 'disappear.'"
Hoffman got to Kirk, and they set up an emergency command center in his Longworth Building office. I then called three other legislators who have been especially supportive of Shoaib: Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), and Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA). Their staffs -- who had frequently worked with me on Shoaib's case -- said they would take action and coordinate further with Kirk's office.
That done, I telephoned Bangladesh's DC embassy and told them the following: "If I don't receive a telephone call confirming that Shoaib has been released unharmed and soon, you're going to have a s**t storm like you've never even imagined." Within a short time, the embassy received calls from all four members of Congress mentioned above, as well as several others who they got involved. Hoffman called the Embassy's political secretary, Sheikh Mohammed Belal on his personal cell phone, demanding action.
Cut to Bangladesh. After holding Shoaib for about an hour an a half, an RAB officer said (and I am paraphrasing here), 'Oh look, it appears he has some illegal drugs in his desk drawer.' Now, I have known Shoaib as a brother for years, and we have spent a lot of time together. The man is simply not involved in any way with drugs. Moreover, he and I have spoken on many occasions of the paramount importance of his remaining "squeaky clean" in every way so as not to give his enemies an excuse to further persecute him. According to Sohail Choudhury, the evidence had to be planted, a tactic that RAB has been known to use rather liberally. No matter; they blindfolded Shoaib and took him to a "detention center" within RAB's office in the capital. According to Shoaib, the officers continued the verbal assault non-stop. They threatened him specifically and journalists in general for their criticism of the current military-backed government. They repeatedly called Shoaib a "Zionist spy and agent of the Jews."
At one point, Shoaib reminded them that they were violating a US Congressional Resolution that calls for an end to this sort of harassment, something with which the government said it would comply. House Resolution 64, authored by Kirk and co-sponsored by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) calls on the Bangladeshis to drop all charges against Shoaib and end all harassment of him and his family. It passed last year by an overwhelmingly 409-1 margin. Their response was a string of expletives about the United States and the value of its resolutions.
As they approached the three hour mark, things were turning even nastier. RAB officers told Shoaib that he could expect a steady diet of this, or even worse, unless he began working for them; something that he called "ridiculous." Then the phone rang. The officers told Shoaib that the call came from "a high government official" ordering them to let him go. He phoned Sohail and asked him to bring him home.
Before they allowed them to go, however, Shoaib's captors forced the pair to sign an affidavit giving RAB the power to enter their home or business at any time and for any reason; although it should be added that it had no warrant or other sort of order when its men broke into his newspaper earlier. As such, Shoaib remains in danger, especially as his legal status remains equivocal at best.
Although Shoaib was released unharmed, the action represents a serious escalation of the government's and its Islamist cronies' attempt to silence this courageous journalist who now counts supporters on every continent. Equally important, we have learned over the years that they do these things periodically to probe us and test our resolve. They want to know if we are going to react or note. They want to know if we still are ready to defend Shoaib and other anti-Islamists or if we have lost interest.
Unfortunately, they started this false persecution on the assumption that no one would care what happened to Shoaib, and many in the government still believe that we Americans have little resolve -- and actually have told me that. And so they go after us. Our enemies count on this and point to success when they hear proposals to make concessions in Israel or to pull up stakes in Iraq and elsewhere. If we don't respond, and respond with strength, they'll continue persecuting Shoaib and others like him.
Because, in fact, the stakes go beyond even the fate of this hero. Muslim editors from Pakistan to Indonesia (and even the United States) have told us that Muslims throughout Asia are watching this case. They want to know if it is possible to stand against the radicals and prevail -- without running to the safety of the West, as they put it. If Shoaib prevails, they will be emboldened to act similarly. If we let him go down -- and that is exactly how they will see it -- they will remain silent.
When Shoaib was in prison, his brother told me that people all over the world who need a champion to save them from oppression look only one place, the United States; not to Europe; not to tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad or Fidel Castro who claim to be freedom fighters; and not to terrorist like Osama Bin Laden. When we stand with Shoaib, we reinforce their belief in us.
In the meantime, Shoaib Choudhury refuses to be silent, especially he says given all the support he received. Two days after his abuse at RAB's hands, he published another edition of Weekly Blitz. Two of its headline articles were "RAB Cocoon of Terror" and "They want to Appease Islamists." He is our ally; he is my brother; he is the bravest man I know. He is the man whom Islamists cannot silence.
Is this going to really happen, or will it all vanish after Condoleezza Rice goes home?
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Israel and the Palestinians on Sunday agreed to a series of concrete steps aimed at paving the way for a final peace agreement later this year, beginning with an Israeli pledge to remove some 50 roadblocks in the West Bank, U.S. officials said.
The officials, traveling with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also said the Palestinians had agreed to step up their efforts to prevent terror in the West Bank.
The U.S. issued its statement after Rice met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
It said the two men had agreed on concrete steps to implement the road map, the U.S.-backed peace plan that envisions the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
"This is a program that will improve the daily lives of Palestinians and help make Israel secure," the statement said.
The statement said Israel would remove about 50 roadblocks and take other immediate steps to speed up the movement of Palestinians through other West Bank travel barriers. It did not say which roadblocks would be removed, saying only that Israel would focus on points of special immediate emphasis.
Israel maintains hundreds of checkpoints, roadblocks and other travel restrictions in the West Bank, measures it says are needed to stop suicide bombers.
The Palestinians say the restrictions are excessive and have stifled their economy. They have made removal of the checkpoints a top priority as the two sides, with U.S. backing, try to negotiate a final peace agreement by the end of the year.
In its statement, the U.S. said Barak and Fayyad agreed Palestinian security forces in the West Bank must assume greater responsibility. Israel has complained that the Palestinian forces have not done enough to control militants.
The statement said the Palestinians would soon deploy additional security forces in the West Bank town of Jenin, a hotbed of militant activity, and work to prevent terror. Last week, Barak said he had agreed to let the Palestinians deploy some 600 Jordanian-trained officers in Jenin.
The statement also said the two sides agreed Sunday to take new steps to promote economic development in the West Bank. International Mideast envoy Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, is overseeing efforts to develop the West Bank economy to lay the groundwork for a future Palestinian state.
Among the new measures are plans to build new housing for Palestinians in 25 villages, connecting Palestinian villages to the Israeli power grid and an agreement by Israel to allow larger numbers of Palestinian laborers and businessmen to work inside Israel.
What she is saying, is that any such plan would necessarily announce or admit that Israel is willing to give up a particular area, which is not a good thing to do when you are negotiating.
Last update - 14:20 30/03/2008
FM: Setting final borders must precede settler compensation plan
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Sunday that while Israel should begin work on plans on compensating settlers who may be evacuated from the West Bank in the future, it should not be enacted until a final peace deal has been reached with the Palestinians.
"I think that someone who has settled in a certain place should be helped by the government to leave it in accordance with its priorities," she told reporters after talks in Jerusalem with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "In principle, as one who went through the [2005 Gaza Strip] disengagement, I think that it is proper to work on this as early as possible."
But she added that, "It appears to me that it is still too early, since no final borders have been defined in the negotiations, and it is therefore difficult to formulate this on the level of legislation," she stated.
Rice, who is in the Middle East for a three-day visit, said she expected Israel to take meaningful steps to improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.
"There is a shared responsibility here for an atmosphere and a reality that can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on security for Israel and Palestinians alike and economic viability for Palestinians," Rice said at the press conference.
"I understand the security considerations and I would hope and I expect that we're going to be able to some things, or that Israel and the Palestinians together will be able to do some things, that are meaningful both for security and for economic viability," Rice said.
Livni said Israel aimed to improve the Palestinians' living conditions, but would not do so if this entailed compromising its own security.
"The idea is to ease the life of the Palestinians... Like always, the formula is to do whatever we can as long as it doesn't affect our own security. Because the other responsibility is to find the way to give security to the Israeli citizens," Livni said.
Upon her arrival in Israel on Saturday, Rice said she would focus on ways to improve Palestinians' quality of life in the West Bank during her three-day visit to the Middle East.
"The improvement of life on the ground is the piece that I think really has to be pushed forward pretty hard," Rice told reporters en route to Israel. Her first meeting was with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem.
Rice said she would look at the issue of removing West Bank checkpoints - something Israel has been reluctant to do, citing security concerns.
"Obviously there are security issues but we do have to find ways to improve movement," she said.
The secretary of state said her visit is not intended to introduce any new American proposals for the peace talks, saying the negotiations have been "pretty fruitful" thus far and that introducing new ideas would not be "useful."
"I am not coming to insert American ideas into this process," Rice said.
Addressing the ongoing violence in the Gaza Strip, Rice said the continued Palestinian rocket fire at Israeli communities and the humanitarian situation in the Strip must be resolved.
"Obviously we are continuing to try to find an answer for Gaza, where there needs to be an end to the rocket attacks on Israel and where we need to find solutions - sustainable solutions - for the humanitarian situation," Rice said.
But when asked if she was more amenable to a formal Gaza cease-fire agreement, Rice said: "No."
Rice plans to hold two trilateral meetings during her visit. One American-Israeli-Palestinian conclave will deal with the final status negotiations, while the other will address the situation on the ground in the West Bank and what both sides are doing, or not doing, to fulfill their obligations under the road map peace plan.
She will hold meetings in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman - the latter with King Abdullah of Jordan. The visit is intended to signal growing American involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and to prod both sides to make significant progress before U.S. President George Bush visits the region in May.
Rice is interested in raising the profile of the final-status talks and demonstrating real progress on the core issues. To this end, she plans one three-way meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qureia, who head the respective negotiating teams. A joint declaration about progress in the negotiations might be issued at the end of it.
This is the Israel News and Commentary Weblog of Zionism-Israel Center. Contact: info(at)Zionism-Israel.com
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