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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Qassem Suleimani - Iran's top terror Honcho

Actually, Suleimani has been known for years to Israeli intelligence, in particular as the boss of Imad Moughnieh.
April 11, 2008 – 9:11 p.m.
Iran's Top Terrorist Emerges From the Shadows

When Iran's Brigadier Gen. Qassem Suleimani was leaving on a foreign mission a few years ago, his daughters begged him to bring back designer jeans.

It must have been a dispiriting request for Iran's terrorist chief, head of the Quds Force, or The Jerusalem Brigade, Iran's supersecret overseas intelligence and sabotage unit.

As an elite of the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Suleimani's daughters would be expected to be role models for Iran's brand of militant Shiite Islam, right down to their Calvins.

Under the mullahs' puritanical dress code, jeans are verboten, though commonly worn under the head-to-toe black cloaks women have to wear until they're safely indoors.

"It's kind of ironic, isn't it?" says a longtime close observer of Iran, chuckling. "It shows he has the ordinary pressures of a normal dad."

But otherwise, the general is anything but normal.

If Washington ever attacks Iran's nuclear facilities, it will fall to Suleimani to coordinate terrorist retaliation against U.S. targets abroad, from Beirut to Buenos Aires.

The Quds Force is the tip of the spear.

Suleimani reports directly to Iran's supreme leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, analysts say.

"He is an extremely important and influential guy," says Robert Grenier, a former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center.

"Qassem Suleimani is a key figure in the Iranian regime," says Clare M. Lopez, a retired CIA operations veteran and author of a paper presented at an intelligence conference last year, "Radical Shi'ism Ascendant: Iran's Terrorist Theocracy on the March Again."

"Suleimani has the lead on Tehran's relations with a host of other terrorist organizations," she told me, "including Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, as well as a variety of both Sunni and Shiite militia groups inside Iraq."

The general is the mastermind behind Iran's covert support for its favored Shiite forces in Iran.

He has been "providing logistics, training, and weapons, including IEDs [improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs], EFPs [explosively formed penetrators, which can pierce armor], for terrorist militias and by orchestrating infiltration, supply, and attack operations against U.S. and Iraqi national forces."

But Suleimani seems destined for something bigger.

Many observers were astonished when the shadow warrior emerged in southern Iraq to broker a cease-fire among clashing Shiite militias and the Iraqi army two weeks ago.

Grenier, now head of security consulting for Kroll Associates, called Suleimani's role as a negotiator there "very, very significant," signaling "Iran's irreducible role" in Iraq.

Past sightings have placed him in Lebanon, intriguing with Iran-backed Hezbollah, which fought the Israel Defense Force to a standstill in 2006.

But he was still pretty much unknown to U.S. intelligence until very recently, says former CIA officer Philip Giraldi.

"I was chasing Iranians back in the 1980s and he was not even on the screen at that time, even though the Pasdaran [another name for Revolutionary Guard cadre] were whacking dissidents all over Europe and the Middle East," Giraldi said. "Presumably he was one of them but was not known by name or position to the best of my knowledge."

Giraldi added, "Most of my contemporaries who were at the Counterterrorism Center were also more or less unaware of him, though one officer dimly recalls that there was a file on him that was pretty much empty."

But Suleimani's back-door diplomatic mission to Iraq wasn't entirely unprecedented, said a former U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The general had had previous forays as a covert envoy in Central Asia, particularly Tajikistan and Afghanistan, said the official, where he was a liaison to the Northern Alliance, which was fighting the Taliban long before the CIA arrived after Sept. 11, 2001.

"He got a lot of experience in Afghanistan building cells," or covert intelligence units, said the former official. "On the ground experience."

After the Taliban was routed by U.S.-led forces in 2002, Suleimani also accompanied President Mohammad Khatami to Kabul for a summit with the new Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the source said.

It was then that U.S. officials really began to take notice.

Some sources, particularly Iranian exiles, tend to see Suleimani as a "thug," a skilled terrorist with barely a high school education, typical of the Iranian youth who flocked to the Revolutionary Guard after the 1979 revolution.

But after 2002, American observers began to draw a different portrait.

One called him "adaptable and adroit."

His beard and brushed-backed hair turned steel gray, "he is relatively cautious now," said the former official.

But not much else is known about him, beyond his military service.

During the devastating Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, he quickly rose from a green lieutenant to commander of the 41st Tharallah Division. He was still in his early 20s.

Suleimani was famous for a mission behind enemy lines, said a former Revolutionary Guard officer and contemporary of Suleimani's, who would allow himself to be quoted only as "Nash," his American nickname.

The general-to-be led a team that completely circled an Iraqi army division while gathering intelligence, Nash related over heaping plates of kabob at a Washington-area restaurant on Friday. "The Iraqis were so embarrassed they announced on Baghdad radio that they 'followed his every step' and 'knew all about him and his mission.'"

Iran's then-president, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, took the war hero under his wing, observers said. They were both from the same region, although from vastly different social strata, Rafsanjani being scion to a pistachio-growing fortune in southeast Iran.

Suleimani was appointed the Revolutionary Guard's military commander of the area, centered on the city of Kerman, adjacent to Afghanistan's poppy-growing region.

"The drugs have to go through there to Europe," Nash said. "Officials took their cut."

Like a lot of soldiers who had sacrificed an education for military service, Suleimani was then sent to college in Tehran.

He studied management, Nash said.

In 2000, he was made chief of the Quds Force.

"In addition to his position, he is Khamenei's adviser on Afghanistan and Iraqi affairs, and the Supreme National Security Council counts on his viewpoints about [them]," says Walid Phares, a former Beirut lawyer and specialist on global terrorism at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a hawkish group in Washington, D.C.

Phares said his Iranian sources told him that Suleimani is responsible for "coordinating and commanding the regime's interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan."

But Suleimani's activities in Afghanistan go beyond that, Phares said. He is a "main shareholder" in a company with "economic and road-construction projects in Afghanistan," he alleged. "The other shareholders of the company [include] the senior officer from the IRGC's 41st Tharallah Division."

The allegation could not be independently verified.

Intelligence Vacuum

Other than that, Suleimani remains pretty much an enigma among Iran experts in Washington — including in U.S. intelligence agencies, some say. (The CIA would not comment or aid in the preparation of this piece.)

"Suleimani is a bit of a mystery," admits Mike Connell, an analyst on the Iran Project at the Center for Naval Analysis.

Connell compared the Iranian to the notorious, recently deceased Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyah, "another important figure, often talked about, but about whom there was very little known."

Tehran would like to keep it that way — at least as long as Suleimani heads Quds, he said.

"The regime in Tehran has always sought to downplay its links to terrorists and other proxies so it can assume a stance of plausible deniability," Connell said. "The Quds Force is the equivalent of Delta Force — its members don't publish their bios on the Web."

But others say that's no excuse.

"I don't think we've done a good job on Iran intelligence for, oh, 30-plus years," says Michael Ledeen, who's been in the thick of many a backstage drama between Iran and the United States, including the Iran-contra, arms-for-hostages scandal of the Reagan administration, in which he played a key role as a White House national security official.

"We are utterly clueless about the governmental structure and decision-making apparatus in Tehran," declares Kenneth Pollack, a Middle East specialist in the Clinton White House and author of "The Persian Puzzle: The Conflict Between Iran and America."

"It is why I begin every answer I give to questions about 'What do the Iranians think about X?' by saying that 'We don't know,' and why I get very nervous when people start asserting that they know what the Iranians think," he said.

"I think we know less about Iran's decision-making process than we did about the old Soviet Union," Pollack added. "They are completely opaque and their decision-making is so complex and convoluted as to be virtually impossible to predict."

But there's a bright spot in the darkness, he thinks.

"The only good news," he said, "is that their system is so Byzantine that I think that the Iranians themselves find it equally difficult to predict how the regime will behave."

Jeff Stein can be reached at

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Anti-Semitic Event - Did it Happen??

Here's an account of an alleged anti-Semitic event and some rebuttals and denials. There must've been witnesses. What really happened? Before everyone gets excited about this, perhaps someone should establish what precisely was said, and what the link might be between the alleged anti-Semitic remarks and Barack Obama. If a white person makes anti-Semitic remarks, it is not automatically blamed on Hillary Clinton or John McCain, is it?

Text of Ziman's email

I have to tell you of an experience I had last night that was so anti semitic and frightening:

Last night I was honored by Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, for my work with Children Uniting nations with African American children who are living out of home care.

I have dedicated my life to saving these children from abuse, neglect and a life of crime. We created 'adoption day' and "Day of the child" determined to recruit caring adults to be mentors and life savers for our at risk children in the inner cities. The mayor was present and City council member Bernard Parks, assemblyman Mike Davis Senator Mark Ridely Thomas etc.

I was introduced as a children advocate and a leader in the Jewish community. I began my speech by talking about how I woke up in the morning and listened to Hillary Clinton's speech, in the spirit of Dr. King from Memphis, that moved me so deeply. I expressed to the crowd how grateful I was to listen to Sen. McCain apologize to the community for mistakes he has made in the past. I acknowledged Sen. Obama's speech from the campaign trail about Dr. King's mentorship.

After I spoke and thanked the fraternity and their members, Rev. Eric Lee, pres. and CEO of Southern Christian Leadership Conference of greater Los Angeles, was introduced as the key note speaker.

He began his speech by thanking Jesus for Obama, who is going to be the leader of the world. He continued by referring to other leaders Like Dr. King,being that this was the moment of celebrating Dr. King's spirit on the anniversary of his assasination, and Malcolm X.

It was right after the mention of Malcolm X that he looked right at me and started talking about the African American children who are suffering because of the JEWS that have featured them as rapists and murderers.

He spoke of a Jewish Rabbi, and then corrected himself to say "What other kind of Rabbis are there, but JEWS". He told how this Rabbi came to him to say that he would like to bring the AA community and the Jewish community together. " NO, NO, NO,!!!!" he shouted into the crowd, we are not going to come together. "The Jews have made money on us in the music business and we are the entertainers, and they are economically enslaving us"

He continued as to how now the salvation has come and the gates have open for African Americans to come together behind Barack Obama, because now is the time to show them.(meaning thejews). He continued to speak about ' White supremecy' vs the talents and visionaries in the core of African Americans. He demeaned being given freedom, by saying "To what?" to a country that kills women and children.

I could no longer be polite and sit in front of the crowd, so I walked out.

Members of the fraternity ran after me as did my staff, I was not able to contain my tears and I cried.

I cried for me and my family, who have tried so hard to help the African American community, because we adopted children from the same realities and wanted to give back to other children and people. We have been completely color blind, for us it was only helping those children in need.

I cried for our beloved country and the division that Barack Obama has caused with his Rev. Wright opening the gates to 'hate' against the Jews and whites. I grew up so looking at America as the land of Freedom.

I was honored to receive my citizenship accompanied by members of the Kennedy family. Now, I'm afraid for Israel because Barack sat there for 20 years listening and not standing up for what's right, why would he standup for Israel?

I cried for the Jewish community who are so blind that they can't see that there's a movement here that will destroy us.I cried because for the first time in my life I was afraid of the future.

I cried for our world that is moving backwards and not forward. Everyday, I see children so lost, and so deserving of hope and love. I look into their eyes, knowing that it is their lives that are in our hands. I'm crying now, so I'm going to stop writing because it is so painful.

I just had to share this experience with you,

thank you, Daphna

2. Denial (same source):
" In an interview, Lee emphatically denied Ziman's account.

"None of those words are what I said. Not a single word. My goodness," Lee said. "I look at the Jewish community as allies in our quest for advancement. For me, it doesn't do any good to indict anybody. I just need help in changing the characterization of African Americans through the entertainment industry, and whoever can help me is fine. And without question there are a lot of influential members of the Jewish community that may be able to help us with that.""

3. Second try at denial, published here
SCLC of Greater Los Angeles Statement

April 9, 2008

On the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I gave a speech at a public meeting of a predominately African American fraternity on the theme of "Leaving an Inheritance to Our Kids and Our Communities".

Let me first state that at no time did I intend to offend, insult, indict or condemn any person or group of persons during any portion of my presentation. Furthermore, I did not make any statement that was offensive regarding the Jewish community and I completely deny and refute any accusation that I have done so. The accusations do not truly characterize the statements made during the presentation, nor do they accurately characterize my life or my position as President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles.

Additionally, I have an existing and ongoing collaborative relationships with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Anti Defamation League (ADL) in which we are committed to the cause of justice for our respective communities.

In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting I had with Rabbi's [SIC] and other community leaders. A Rabbi stated in that meeting that the close relationship between the African American and Jewish communities had been disconnected after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are perceived to be influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else. I then indicated in my presentation that I told the Rabbis' [SIC] that before a genuine coalition could be rebuilt between our communities, there would have to be dialogue and efforts made to deal with the negative characterizations of African Americans.

The focus of my presentation was that African Americans should embrace our historical legacy as an "Inheritance of Measurable Value", and that we use our legacy to define ourselves. This message is no different than what Daphne Ziman wrote in the March issue of the Jewish Journal when she stated, "Please tell us who you are, Sen. Obama; don't let your enemies, or your friends, define you."

The Mission of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is to redeem the soul of America. SCLC of Greater Los Angeles continues the legacy of our founder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, by promoting the philosophy of non-violent progressive social change. Our roots extend deeply into the African American religious experience with its biblical vision of liberation of all humankind. Our goal is to realize the dream of freedom, justice, peace and equality for all by recognizing the inalienable dignity and worth of every human being.

The SCLC of Greater Los Angeles has as its mandate to organize and mobilize the strength of America's moral consciousness against the weakness of its social order. We accomplish this through the continued advocacy of justice for all people, regardless of social status, religious belief, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. We affirm nonviolence as the only reasonable basis for social change and interpersonal living. These two principles are reflected in our work.

Was it one "Rabbi" or many "Rabbi's"?? The above stilted and semi-literate masterpiece sounds like a parody from an old non-PC joke about African Americans pretending to be lawyers, but apparently it is genuine. The circumlocutions used in the SCLC denial are not very satisfying:
I further referenced in my speech that my response to the Rabbi was that the Black Power Movement emerged after the assassination of Dr. King and it was a direct response to the negative characterizations of African Americans through the silver screen, TV and the music industry, industries that are perceived to be influenced by many in the Jewish community. I then stated to the Rabbis that the Black Power Movement was our effort to define for ourselves our own identity rather than be defined by anyone else.
Tell us what what you said. not what you referenced in your speech. This sounds like a man saying, "I further referenced the divine attitude to the canine ancestors of the complainant and the legitimacy of his Hebraic ancestry," when what he really said was "You're a god damned son of a bitch Jew Bastard."
In a very small part of my presentation, I referenced a meeting...
"I only made reference to his canine ancestry one time. In the rest of our communication I was very friendly."
Still, there is no point starting a crusade about this issue unless the facts can be proven, and it doesn't seem to have much to do with Barack Obama.
Ami Isseroff

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Rice: "Hamas is the main impediment to peace"

Good Ole Jimmy Carter is going to visit with Hamas, to learn more about the evil Zionists for his next book. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice notes:
"I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace," Rice said at a press event with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
The same question, "What is to be gained by having discussions with Hamas?" should be directed at those Israelis who favor talking to Hamas.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 13:09 12/04/2008
Rice criticizes Carter over planned meeting with Meshal
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized former President Jimmy Carter on Friday for his reported plans to meet Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal during a visit to Syria.
Carter has not confirmed the plans to meet Meshal but the Palestinian militant group has said the former Democratic president sent an envoy to Damascus, where the Hamas leader resides, requesting a meeting with the militant group's officials.
"I find it hard to understand what is going to be gained by having discussions with Hamas about peace when Hamas is, in fact, the impediment to peace," Rice said at a press event with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Rice was responding to a question about Carter's plans but did not mention him by name.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization," she said, repeating the Bush administration's explanation for why it will not meet with members of the group.
The State Department says it twice advised Carter against meeting any representative of Hamas. A Carter-Mashal meeting would be the first public contact in two years between a prominent American figure and Hamas officials.
A press release from the Carter Center said the former president was to lead a study mission to Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as part of his ongoing effort to support peace, democracy and human rights in the region.
Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his decades of work in mediating conflicts and his humanitarian travels for the Carter Center since he was in office. One of his mediations was the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel, for which Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize.
Earlier Friday, Rice said the U.S. will consider fresh incentives and sanctions to persuade Iran to rein in its nuclear program but major changes in either are unlikely now.
"We will always continue to consider refreshing both tracks but this is not the time, I think, to expect major changes,"
Rice told reporters. "We have just passed a (UN) Security Council resolution (imposing additional sanctions) and we will see how Iran responds."
Report: Secret Iranian missile site revealed in new spy photos
A series of recently released spy photos have uncovered the secret location where Iran has allegedly been developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Europe, The Times reported on Friday.
The satellite pictures pinpoint the facility where Iran launched its Kavoshgar 1 "research" rocket in February, according to the report. Iran has claimed that rocket was tested as part of its space program.
Analysis of the Digital Globe QuickBird satellite taken just days after the launch show details indicating that the site of the research rocket is the same location where Iran is preparing a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 kilometers, the report said.
The site is located about 230 kilometers southeast of Tehran. The connection between the research rocket and Iran's long-range program was exposed by Jane's Intelligence Review following an analysis of the photos by a former Iraqi weapons inspector, said The Times.
Analysis of the photos suggest that Iran is pursuing a space program similar to that being developed in North Korea, with a focus on long-range missile technology, according to the report.
An analyst at the Institute of Technology, Geoffrey Forden, said that a structure on the Iranian site - roughly 40 meters in length - closely resembled a Taepodong long-range missile assembly facility in North Korea, The Times reported.
The editor of Janes's Proliferation has said that based on examination of the Iranian site, Tehran may be just five years away from developing the long-range missile, according to the report.

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Better in Baghdad?

I am not saying it's true. It is this man's opinion.
Perseverance Pays Off in Baghdad
April 12, 2008; Page A9
The recent violence in Sadrist areas of Baghdad should not distract us from the big picture. The capital city of Iraq is immensely more at peace than it was a year ago.
This time last year, there were deep booms and the rattle of extended firefights from virtually all around the compass throughout the day and night. Such incidents are now a rare occurrence in a week.
Some of the reasons for this progress are better known than others. The surge, the Awakening Councils and the neighborhood-based counterinsurgency program have received solid credit.
But the condign effects of the Iraqis' own Baghdad Services Committee and Popular Mobilization Committee have garnered little attention outside Iraq, perhaps because they are led by Ahmed Chalabi, the returned exile who is far more controversial abroad than at home. Yet these days the committees' weekly government-level meetings are attended by ministers and American and Iraqi generals from David Petraeus on down.
Whatever some Americans in the U.S. may think of Mr. Chalabi, this much is certain: He has stayed in Baghdad throughout the troubles, living in the Red Zone, touring the neighborhoods more than any Iraqi politician, and routinely incurring considerable risks. He could have lived safely abroad on his family wealth.
Mr. Chalabi has made no effort to advertise that he helped the surge succeed by implementing the civilian arm of the Baghdad Security Plan through the work of the two committees. Arguably, he has, more than anyone in the country, evolved a detailed sense of what ails Baghdadis and how to fix things.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appointed Mr. Chalabi to launch the committees last year, no doubt because Mr. Chalabi's unusual habit of direct contact with the populace made him the only realistic choice.
The Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) was launched in February 2007. It now supervises the activity of some 3,000 volunteers around Baghdad. They, in turn, operate a localized system of 120 neighborhood watch committees. They provide intelligence, report trouble, help settle returnees to their homes and the like. They have been crucial in stabilizing the city neighborhood by neighborhood.
Mr. Chalabi estimates that a total of perhaps one million (mostly Sunni middle-class) refugees left Baghdad after 2003. Many of them left Iraq, while some 350,000 were internally displaced. A quarter have now returned, and more are coming back, chiefly because their money has run out. They routinely find squatters in their homes.
According to Mr. Chalabi, the situation is often delicate, but not as bad as it might be. "Everyone knows who actually lives where," he says. "People work out reasonable solutions. Baghdadis are very clear about ownership." (According to a Chalabi aide, real estate values in the city have actually gone up in the last year.) Since many of the refugees were forcibly purged, a deal of suspicion and anxiety attends the process, which the local committees help smooth out.
Meanwhile, the PMC takes Shiite leaders into Sunni areas and vice-versa. "We just did two reconciliation meetings where hostile tribal chieftains invited each other just because they heard we were coming," Mr. Chalabi told me.
Through the PMC, Sunni mosques are returned to Sunnis. Intersectarian prayers are held. The PMC also monitors the prisons, and provides legal help to citizens, as requested by the local committees. To avoid favoritism and the appearance of patronage, "we decided that whoever does the most work gets to lead the committees," says Mr. Chalabi. As a result, even the most hostile sectarian areas welcome his efforts as practical rather than political, and above all as efficacious.
This is especially true of the Baghdad Services Committee, which concentrates on water, electricity, infrastructure repair and the like. The BSC was launched in November 2007, with the immediate goal of reclaiming the circle of power plants deliberately positioned by Saddam Hussein around Baghdad in Baathist areas.
Much of the city's post-Saddam power supply was either hijacked or deliberately sabotaged, until the BSC identified the problem. It demanded a military presence to protect substations, while arranging for the railways to transport diesel into the city. Electricity supply today is three hours on, three off, up from one hour a day last year.
Mr. Chalabi complains that the U.S. does not do enough to help the power supply. "In Mahmoudiya [a suburb], we are asking the Russians to come back and complete a power station which they half-finished in Saddam's time," he says. "Electricity is crucial also for pumping water. Baghdad needs three million cubic meters of water a day. The most reliable source north of Baghdad can provide almost a half of that, but it needs power. We got . . . [from the US military] a massive generator of 60 megahertz, whereas all our system is designed for 50 megahertz – it's just sitting there."
Some Baghdad neighborhoods are improvised shantytowns with no access to water and no sewage system. Says Mr. Chalabi: "We must provide 1,000 tanker trucks quickly by this summer. But I'm not confident we'll get them. The real, long-term solution is to build housing with proper infrastructure – we are in desperate need of new housing."
The BSC has gained a considerable reputation around Baghdad for taking government ministers into neglected areas, television cameras in tow, to shame the government into action. Mr. Chalabi's political party, the Iraqi National Congress, also recently launched a weekly newspaper entirely about services, in which citizens get to sound off and government officials are asked to respond.
The practical projects of these committees aside, one could argue that their greatest service has been psychological: to show that the problems of Baghdad, and by implication Iraq, are not some bottomless pit of chaos. They can be dealt with concretely and overcome with perseverance.
Mr. Kaylan is a writer based in New York.

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UN to Webcast Human Rights Hearings despite Islamic and African oppostion

Don't hold your breath until Bahrain corrects human rights violation.
Bahrain First to Undergo "Seriously Flawed" Review Procedure
Geneva, April 7, 2008 — Facing opposition by Arab, Islamic and African states, the UN Human Rights Council's decision to webcast its review of Bahrain, the first to undergo a new procedure that will scrutinize all UN members, constituted a small victory for reform, UN Watch said today.
"The new system of universal periodic review has serious institutional flaws, including its grant of excessive control over the outcome to the state under review," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based human rights monitoring organization.
"Although the official verdicts are likely to be questionable at best, the very fact of holding debates on countries that were previously given a free pass, even if only once every four years, helps activists to shine an international spotlight on human rights violations, and to challenge government responses that are inadequate or false."
Today's three-hour session on Bahrain offered little in the way of scrutiny, and was dominated by praise of the gulf state's record. In his presentation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar Al Baharna told the council that Bahrain respected women's rights, equality and freedom of expression. Of the more than 30 states that then took the floor, most were fellow Islamic nations that complimented Bahrain's record on "social and economic rights," with Pakistan citing the growth of its GDP.
"We are deeply disappointed that the session summarily ignored the detailed NGO submissions, which presented evidence of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, torture, and violations of women's rights," said Neuer. "Although the U.S., Canada, France and a handful of Western democracies posed questions, their interventions were overly cautious and diplomatic, and did little to make this new procedure into one of real scrutiny. Human rights victims deserve far better."
On Friday, the Arab, Islamic and African blocs made a last-ditch effort to block UN webcasting of the session, but their attempt failed. Click here to read set of demands.
"After a series of major setbacks at the council—including the outrageous insertion of anti-blasphemy provisions into the freedom of expression mandate—this is one small victory that human rights activists must cherish," said Neuer.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

UN Dissatisfied with israeli roadblock removals

It was to be expected that the UN would be dissatisfied with the number of roadblocks removed by Israel, no matter what that number might be. Curiously, the UN has not commented on the Palestinian terrorist attack on the fuel depot that supplies Gaza. As long as a roadblock exists, it is a barrier to peace and a symbol of Israeli apartheid repression according to the UN. As soon as a roadblock is removed, it is demonstrated to have been insignificant.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 12:40 11/04/2008       
UN: Israel's removal of W. Bank roadblocks fall short of promise
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Israel has removed 44 roadblocks in the West Bank, short of the number promised to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a United Nations agency has found.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said most of the roadblocks removed were of little or no significance.
OCHA, which charts the location of roadblocks in the West Bank, conducted its own field survey of the 61 obstacles that Israel said it removed earlier this month after Rice's visit.
The agency found that 44 of the 61 obstacles had been removed, six remained and 11 could not be found, according to a preliminary report presented to Western donors.
The Israel Defense Forces announced last week the removal of 50 roadblocks plus one checkpoint, as promised to Rice. It subsequently said an additional 10 barriers were taken down, but the army would not disclose their locations publicly.
Of the 44 obstacles that OCHA confirmed as having been removed, five were classified by the UN agency as "significant" for Palestinians in the area.
OCHA said nine of the 44 were of "minimal significance" to Palestinians, noting there was another roadblock nearby or that the obstacle blocked an unpopulated area used by the IDF.
OCHA said 17 of the 44 roadblocks were of "no significance", either because they obstructed a closed military zone, had already been removed, were located near a settlement or were in the middle of a field.
OCHA cited 13 "questionable circumstances". In those cases, the agency visited the sites where it received repeated reports that obstacles were added at the last minute and then removed.
Rice said during her recent visit that she would push hard to ease West Bank restrictions to try to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose authority has been limited to the West Bank since Hamas Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in June.
State recycles promise to remove dozens of roadblocks in W. Bank
More than half of the roadblocks Israel committed to lifting as part of the first stage of measures meant to ease restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank are temporary obstacles that the state had promised the High Court a month ago to remove.
On March 11, the state promised to lift 27 dirt obstacles that were used to "separate" the northern West Bank from other parts of the territories, following the February terrorist attack in Dimona, and as a check on the potential movement of cars laden with explosives.
These roadblocks did not appear on the OCHA's official map from last December.
Responding to a petition filed by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the heads of Palestinian villages in the area, the state attorney's office said that the orders concerning the movement of Palestinians (which prevented males aged 16-35 from the area of Jenin to exit the area) had expired, and that temporary extensions were issued on February 12 and 20. This was the state's argument for asking the court to reject the petition against the original restrictions.
The petitioners argued that "in order to enforce the restrictions, the army imposed dozens of new physical impediments on the roads in the area, as well as new roadblocks, some of them permanent and some movable. These obstacles and roadblocks created new 'blockades' around the towns and villages in the northern West Bank. Thus the city of Tul Karm has been completely surrounded and cut off from the nearby villages that depend on it. Even though the siege on Nablus has been in place for seven straight years, it has been tightened further though the application of more roadblocks. This causes unexpected travel restrictions, that change frequently and which are now known to the general population."
Human rights groups have carried out checks on the ground, concluding that a significant number of the roadblocks on a list Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Palestinian Authority, are piles of dirt blocking side roads. In many cases, these have already been flattened by locals who bypass them.
In the past, there have been cases in which Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised PA President Mahmoud Abbas that the number of roadblocks would be reduced, however data from OCHA, B'tselem and Machsom Watch suggested that the numbers have not decreased - only increased.
In closed sessions held these past few days with Israeli officials, American diplomats assigned to the implementation of the road map expressed their dissatisfaction at the lack of change in Israel's policy restricting the movement of Palestinians.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office would not comment, referring Haaretz to the IDF Spokesman.
"According to the decision of the political leadership, the IDF lifted on Tuesday, April 1, 50 dirt obstacles and one roadblock, in an effort to improve the lives of Palestinians. In addition, the Central Command has evaluated the situation along with officials from the Civil Administration, and other measures have been agreed upon, including the lifting of 10 other roadblocks, which were lifted on Thursday, April 3. The IDF will continue assessing the situation and exploring the possibility for improving the lives of the Palestinians, while dealing with the terrorist organizations that are trying to strike in Israel's rear and in the area," the IDF Spokesman said.

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Do Palestinians have a friend in Barack Obama?

The Obama controversy goes on. This seems to be a fairly balanced and informative account, but the Nation, which is itself virulently anti-Israel at times, insists that Peter Wallsten is throwing mud at Obama for no reason, and so does M.J. Rosenberg. Don't ask me where and how they get their ideas.
Ami Isseroff
From the Los Angeles Times
Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama
They consider him receptive despite his clear support of Israel.
By Peter Wallsten
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2008
CHICAGO — It was a celebration of Palestinian culture -- a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York.
A special tribute came from Khalidi's friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi's wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been "consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It's for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation -- a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table," but around "this entire world."
Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.
And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.
Their belief is not drawn from Obama's speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.
At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, "then you will never see a day of peace."
One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."
Obama adopted a different tone in his comments and called for finding common ground. But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House.
"I am confident that Barack Obama is more sympathetic to the position of ending the occupation than either of the other candidates," said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that began after the 1967 war. More than his rivals for the White House, Ibish said, Obama sees a "moral imperative" in resolving the conflict and is most likely to apply pressure to both sides to make concessions.
"That's my personal opinion," Ibish said, "and I think it for a very large number of circumstantial reasons, and what he's said."
Aides say that Obama's friendships with Palestinian Americans reflect only his ability to interact with a wide diversity of people, and that his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been consistent. Obama has called himself a "stalwart" supporter of the Jewish state and its security needs. He believes in an eventual two-state solution in which Jewish and Palestinian nations exist in peace, which is consistent with current U.S. policy.
Obama also calls for the U.S. to talk to such declared enemies as Iran, Syria and Cuba. But he argues that the Palestinian militant organization Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, is an exception, calling it a terrorist group that should renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist before dialogue begins. That viewpoint, which also matches current U.S. policy, clashes with that of many Palestinian advocates who urge the United States and Israel to treat Hamas as a partner in negotiations.
"Barack's belief is that it's important to understand other points of view, even if you can't agree with them," said his longtime political strategist, David Axelrod.
Obama "can disagree without shunning or demonizing those with other views," he said. "That's far different than the suggestion that he somehow tailors his view."
Looking for clues
But because Obama is relatively new on the national political scene, and new to foreign policy questions such as the long-simmering Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both sides have been looking closely for clues to what role he would play in that dispute.
And both sides, on certain issues, have interpreted Obama's remarks as supporting their point of view.
Last year, for example, Obama was quoted saying that "nobody's suffering more than the Palestinian people." The candidate later said the remark had been taken out of context, and that he meant that the Palestinians were suffering "from the failure of the Palestinian leadership [in Gaza] to recognize Israel" and to renounce violence.
Jewish leaders were satisfied with Obama's explanation, but some Palestinian leaders, including Ibish, took the original quotation as a sign of the candidate's empathy for their plight.
Obama's willingness to befriend Palestinian Americans and to hear their views also impressed, and even excited, a community that says it does not often have the ear of the political establishment.
Among other community events, Obama in 1998 attended a speech by Edward Said, the late Columbia University professor and a leading intellectual in the Palestinian movement. According to a news account of the speech, Said called that day for a nonviolent campaign "against settlements, against Israeli apartheid."
The use of such language to describe Israel's policies has drawn vehement objection from Israel's defenders in the United States. A photo on the pro-Palestinian website the Electronic Intifada shows Obama and his wife, Michelle, engaged in conversation at the dinner table with Said, and later listening to Said's keynote address. Obama had taken an English class from Said as an undergraduate at Columbia University.
Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian rights activist in Chicago who helps run Electronic Intifada, said that he met Obama several times at Palestinian and Arab American community events. At one, a 2000 fundraiser at a private home, Obama called for the U.S. to take an "even-handed" approach toward Israel, Abunimah wrote in an article on the website last year. He did not cite Obama's specific criticisms.
Abunimah, in a Times interview and on his website, said Obama seemed sympathetic to the Palestinian cause but more circumspect as he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004. At a dinner gathering that year, Abunimah said, Obama greeted him warmly and said privately that he needed to speak cautiously about the Middle East.
Abunimah quoted Obama as saying that he was sorry he wasn't talking more about the Palestinian cause, but that his primary campaign had constrained what he could say.
Obama, through his aide Axelrod, denied he ever said those words, and Abunimah's account could not be independently verified.
"In no way did he take a position privately that he hasn't taken publicly and consistently," Axelrod said of Obama. "He always had expressed solicitude for the Palestinian people, who have been ill-served and have suffered greatly from the refusal of their leaders to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist."
In Chicago, one of Obama's friends was Khalidi, a highly visible figure in the Arab American community.
In the 1970s, when Khalidi taught at a university in Beirut, he often spoke to reporters on behalf of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. In the early 1990s, he advised the Palestinian delegation during peace negotiations. Khalidi now occupies a prestigious professorship of Arab studies at Columbia.
He is seen as a moderate in Palestinian circles, having decried suicide bombings against civilians as a "war crime" and criticized the conduct of Hamas and other Palestinian leaders. Still, many of Khalidi's opinions are troubling to pro-Israel activists, such as his defense of Palestinians' right to resist Israeli occupation and his critique of U.S. policy as biased toward Israel.
While teaching at the University of Chicago, Khalidi and his wife lived in the Hyde Park neighborhood near the Obamas. The families became friends and dinner companions.
In 2000, the Khalidis held a fundraiser for Obama's unsuccessful congressional bid. The next year, a social service group whose board was headed by Mona Khalidi received a $40,000 grant from a local charity, the Woods Fund of Chicago, when Obama served on the fund's board of directors.
At Khalidi's going-away party in 2003, the scholar lavished praise on Obama, telling the mostly Palestinian American crowd that the state senator deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat. "You will not have a better senator under any circumstances," Khalidi said.
The event was videotaped, and a copy of the tape was obtained by The Times.
Though Khalidi has seen little of Sen. Obama in recent years, Michelle Obama attended a party several months ago celebrating the marriage of the Khalidis' daughter.
In interviews with The Times, Khalidi declined to discuss specifics of private talks over the years with Obama. He did not begrudge his friend for being out of touch, or for focusing more these days on his support for Israel -- a stance that Khalidi calls a requirement to win a national election in the U.S., just as wooing Chicago's large Arab American community was important for winning local elections.
Khalidi added that he strongly disagrees with Obama's current views on Israel, and often disagreed with him during their talks over the years. But he added that Obama, because of his unusual background, with family ties to Kenya and Indonesia, would be more understanding of the Palestinian experience than typical American politicians.
"He has family literally all over the world," Khalidi said. "I feel a kindred spirit from that."
Ties with Israel
Even as he won support in Chicago's Palestinian community, Obama tried to forge ties with advocates for Israel.
In 2000, he submitted a policy paper to CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee, that among other things supported a unified Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a position far out of step from that of his Palestinian friends. The PAC concluded that Obama's position paper "suggests he is strongly pro-Israel on all of the major issues."
In 2002, as a rash of suicide bombings struck Israel, Obama sought out a Jewish colleague in the state Senate and asked whether he could sign onto a measure calling on Palestinian leaders to denounce violence. "He came to me and said, 'I want to have my name next to yours,' " said his former state Senate colleague Ira Silverstein, an observant Jew.
As a presidential candidate, Obama has won support from such prominent Chicago Jewish leaders as Penny Pritzker, a member of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, and who is now his campaign finance chair, and from Lee Rosenberg, a board member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Nationally, Obama continues to face skepticism from some Jewish leaders who are wary of his long association with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who had made racially incendiary comments during several sermons that recently became widely known. Questions have persisted about Wright in part because of the recent revelation that his church bulletin reprinted a Times op-ed written by a leader of Hamas.
One Jewish leader said he viewed Obama's outreach to Palestinian activists, such as Said, in the light of his relationship to Wright.
"In the context of spending 20 years in a church where now it is clear the anti-Israel rhetoric was there, was repeated, . . . that's what makes his presence at an Arab American event with a Said a greater concern," said Abraham H. Foxman, national director for the Anti-Defamation League.

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Is Hamas under Pressure?

This seems to be reading a lot into a single "tough guy threat" remark by one Hamas honcho.
Hamas under pressure
Movement's threats to kill Gilad Shalit reflect its leader's defeatist state of mind
Moshe Elad Published:  04.07.08, 23:03 / Israel Opinion 

The next scenario is very realistic: Israel grants Hamas' demand to release 350 of the most senior Palestinian terrorists of all times in exchange for the release of Gilad Shalit. Those freed, according to the "Israeli blood standard", would be terrorists whose hands are covered with so much blood they can hardly be seen.
Their release from prison could be interpreted in the territories as a divine miracle, a wonder that only takes place once every several generations, and Khaled Mashaal would become a legend in his life.
Because in the territories, as always, those who succeed in freeing prisoners, no matter how, are immediately crowned as leaders and win public fame.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas know this full well. These days, he is Israel's unexpected ally against realizing the Shalit deal. He, as well, knows that if the deal materializes, the scope and nature of Hamas' victory rallies would be easy to predict. And when these celebrations reach their peak, they could sweep the Palestinians masses in the direction of some of the PA's strongholds in the West Bank.
Condoleezza Rice and Tzipi Livni won't enjoy hearing the "Death to Abbas" and "We are all Hamas" slogans that protestors would chant when they march on the Mukataa in Ramallah. Indeed, the days that would follow the "grand release" as it is called, could have a catastrophic effect on the entire region. The Road Map could become the Map of Bloodshed.
It is not for nothing that Fatah's leaders in the West Bank have demanded from Abbas to boost forces in the area. The United States and Israel have already promised Abbas, who is considered an Israeli-American collaborator in the territories, arms and munitions, armored cars and hundreds of trained soldiers in order to prevent him from becoming a de facto exiled leader.
This scenario has been planned by Hamas' heads for a long time now. Their leaders Khaled Mashaal and his deputy Moussa Abu Marzouk, have become more and more tensed, because Israel's steadfast resistance and its insistence not to free hundreds of human monsters, even for the painful price of not releasing Shalit, have undermined their strategy. It appears that they have been too influenced by Nasrallah's "spider web speech". By refusing to grant "the grand release", Israel has significantly delayed Hamas' plans to take over the West Bank.
Deep and ongoing frustration 
The movement is under pressure because it is incapable of fulfilling its promises to better the quality of life of the residents of the territories. It has failed in removing the international siege on Gaza, and has yielded to the Egyptians on the issues of the border crossings and the Philadelphi route.
Therefore, Abu Marzouk's threat that Israel will end up negotiating "the return of Shalit's remains" should be construed as a new height of pressure which Hamas is facing. This statement follows previous declarations by the movement's heads hinting that due to Israel's refusal, Shalit could be killed.

This is yet another threat directed at the overly sensitive Israeli public over its leaders' heads. Abu Marzouk's "vision of dry bones" should be viewed as an expression of deep and ongoing frustration among Hamas' ranks over Israel's refusal to yield to the organization's demands and to its jungle laws and piratical fighting techniques.

Not to worry. Hamas will not give up Shalit so quickly. He is the last asset its leaders have, and they know this full well. Shalit is their insurance policy from being assassinated by the IDF, as well as their guarantee against an invasion to the Gaza Strip and a massive strike of the movement's infrastructure. Abu Marzouk's words are therefore a reflection of the defeatist state of mind of a movement whose ideological ammunition is running out.
The writer served in various posts in the territories and currently researches Palestinian society at the Shmuel Neeman Institute at the Technion


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Israel and PA: Hamas seizing half of fuel sent to Gaza Strip

 Last update - 16:10 11/04/2008       
Israel and PA: Hamas seizing half of all fuel sent to Gaza Strip
By Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies
Hamas seizes half the fuel Israel sends to the Gaza Strip and uses it in part for its military wing's vehicles, Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials said Thursday.
Israel cut off the only source of fuel for Gaza's 1.4 million people Thursday after Wednesday's deadly attack on the only fuel transfer point into the territory.
But Israeli defense officials indicated that the cutoff would not last past the weekend.
Nir Press, commander of the military liaison unit for Gaza, said Hamas takes about half the fuel transferred to the Gaza Strip.
Hussein al-Sheikh, a PA official, confirmed to Haaretz that Hamas seizes half the amount of fuel transferred by Israel to the Strip. The amount confiscated is approximately 400,000 of the 800,000 liters of diesel transferred to Gaza weekly and intended for uses such as generators, hospitals, water pumps and sewage pumps. In contrast, Hamas uses this fuel for militant purposes.
Israeli sources said Hamas was preventing the pumping of all the fuel from the Nahal Oz depot's reserves and funneling it to the Strip's gas stations. In the past week, only a small amount of fuel and diesel was pumped from the depot, leaving some 820,000 liters of diesel and 200,000 of gas in the depots, they said.
"Hamas is trying to create a false fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip," a senior government source said. "The simulated strike by Gaza's gas-station owners is also organized by Hamas. They want to create long lines for gas and a feeling that Israel is tightening the siege on Gaza, although this is not the case," he said.
Israel has discussed the situation with European Union officials in charge of financing Gaza's fuel.
Israeli sources said they were concerned that in addition to fuel, Hamas would try to create the impression of a food shortage, although food supplies were sufficient.
Also Thursday, a hair-dressing salon in the center of Gaza City was blown up before dawn, apparently by religious zealots.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hamas fabricating humanitarian crisis to score points

By now, everyone must know this is true, but somehow, nobody seems interested outside Israel.
Senior officer: Terror group creates false display of suffering in order to
score points
Hanan Greenberg YNET  Published: 04.10.08, 23:24 / Israel News

Hamas is presenting a distorted picture of reality in the Gaza Strip and creating a phony humanitarian crisis in order to score points, a senior IDF officer charged Thursday evening.

Referring to the latest terror attack at Nahal Oz, Colonel Nir Press, who heads the Erez Crossing Coordination Office, told Ynet that the attack is part of the campaign led by Hamas, aimed at "creating a false display of crisis in order to gain international legitimacy."

The claims made by Hamas regarding a supposed humanitarian crisis in the Strip have turned out to be false, Press said.

"The buds of this phenomenon emerged at the end of 2007, when we heard claims that gas used by hospitals in Gaza has run out, making it impossible to use operation rooms," the senior officer said. "We immediately brought in large quantities. Hamas' objective in that case was to direct an accusatory finger at Israel, as if it undermines the operation of hospitals."

'We have nothing against Palestinian civilians'

Press said Hamas established a special body, The Popular Committee for Fighting the Siege on the Gaza Strip, in order to make accusations against Israel.

"For example, they started to count the number of patients who died of disease in the Strip and blamed us for failing to provide treatment," he said. "When the list reached 60 people we undertook a thorough examination and discovered that 20 of them were treated in Israel, while the rest did not even ask to enter Israel for treatment."

"In the past year, the defense establishment allowed more than 7,000 patients and a similar number of escorts to enter Israel for treatment," he said. "Had these 40 patients asked for it, they would have received the same permit."

"Hamas realizes that its situation on the Palestinian street is difficult, and every such accusation resonates in the media and creates international support," Press added. "In reality, the ones who cut off the electricity supply in January were Hamas."

Press also stressed that Israel has no interest in creating a humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

"At the end of the day we have nothing against the Palestinian population," he said. "We're not fighting it, but rather, the terror groups. It is sad to see those engaged in terror using innocent civilians in order to gain power."

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Release Barghouti - What were they thinking?

Marwan Barghouti has got to be the worst news possible for Israel and the peace process. His arrest and incarceration was a major factor in stopping the violence that he started and led, and which claimed over 1,000 lives. He has insisted repeatedly that the Palestinian refugees must return to Israel and Israel must give up all rights to East Jerusalem. Yet there are people who think it is a "good idea" to release him in order to get back hostage Gilad Shalit or weaken the Hamas. Here's part of the story...

Labor party infrastructure minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who usually has a sober grip on reality, added his voice to those calling for the release of Marwan Barghouti, which supposedly is the only way to bring peace. Quoth Ben Eliezer:

At this rate Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. The only person who could put a stop to that is Barghouti.

Ben-Eliezer misses the point What matters to Israel, is not who controls what in the Palestinian Authority, but rather what policy Fatah and the PLO will follow regarding Israel and the peace negotiations.

Barghouti never hid his vision of "peace" and he has been consistent about three elements: Right of return of the Palestinian refugees, no compromise at all on Jerusalem, and the "right" of resistance if his demands are not met. Of course, exercise of "right" of return of the refugees would mean the end of the Jewish state. In a 1998 interview with Aaron Lerner of IMRA, Barghouti said:

...I think that the issue of Jerusalem is the core of the peace process in the Middle East. If the Israelis accept everything except Jerusalem then the peace process will collapse.

What is the meaning of a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital? It would mean having a state composed of some village here and there and refugee camps. The soul of the Palestinian state will be Jerusalem.

IMRA: When you say 'Jerusalem' you mean all of Jerusalem beyond the 1967 line?

Barghouti: Yes, yes. Of course.

IMRA; There is no compromise on that.

Barghouti: Yes. Of course. I don't think that we have to make compromise after this. I prefer to live without peace and continue to fight without accepting a compromise on Jerusalem.

IMRA; If the PA had Al Aksa Mosque and other areas in eastern Jerusalem but not all of eastern Jerusalem?

Barghouti: Eastern Jerusalem is not just Al Aksa.

I am not a religious man. Jerusalem for me is the important thing as a Palestinian. It is the title of Palestine. And also from a geographical point of view it is very important, for example, for the South and North of the West Bank. Jerusalem united the Palestinians over history. It is the symbol of the Palestinian people.

It gets worse. Continued here: Marwan Barghouti - Prince of Israeli-Palestinian peace??

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Keeping the US on the side of Israel

In Ynet, Dov Wiesglass writes that Israel must find a way to keep the US on Israel's side. That is important, but it  is dangerous  to mortgage the existence of Israel to the foreign policy of a country that we cannot control. It is more important to find ways to get the world on our side, and to make ourselves independent of the foreign policy of any one country. Weisglass wrote:
Israel must therefore immediately undertake a thorough examination of the American motives for support: We should look at which components of this support are out of date and which can be rehabilitated or boosted.

The Holocaust of European Jewry, for example, served in the past as a powerful basis for the national demands of the survivors, yet the dozens of years that have passed since then have weakened the weight of this component considerably. Israel's location and status during the Cold War, as a Western outpost in the heart of the Soviet sphere of influence, is another motive that has faded away.
The Jewish community, whose immense contribution to shaping the essential American support is unquestionable, is not growing, and it is  doubtful whether it will keep investing in Israel as it does today. Intermarriage and the complete and successful integration into American life, and the process of distancing, in generational terms, from the historic origins of Jewish existence all serve to shape political support patterns for a candidate or party that are premised on general considerations, which have nothing to do with the "Israeli" position.
The Holocaust should never have been a motive for support, and the imperialist game in the Middle East is never at an ened. History did not stop when the USSR broke up.

Ami Isseroff

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Presidential rape case improved, say prosecuters

The rape case against former president Katsav is likely to drag out in many years of legal maneuvers, broken plea bargains and other problems. Katsav will eventually prove he is too old to stand trial or some witnesses will get "amnesia."
Give us a break.
Ami Isseroff  
Last update - 06:04 10/04/2008       
Katsav case in better shape now, says senior judicial source
By Tomer Zarchin
The working assumption at the State Prosecutor's Office is that a fresh indictment will be filed against former president Moshe Katsav ascribing to him, among other charges, the rape of the former Tourism Ministry employee known as A., but excluding charges relating to another A., a former President's Residence employee, a senior judicial official said yesterday.
Over the next few days, the state prosecution will ask the police to conduct a few additional inquiries, on matters in the case that were earlier designated "nonessential." The need for this brief additional investigation stems from the hearing that Katsav's lawyers were accorded with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz before striking the plea bargain that their client canceled on Tuesday.
Work on the new charge sheet will begin next week, and the indictment will be finalized within a few weeks.
The senior official rejected criticism of the fact that the state had previously argued before the High Court that the case's weak evidence was the grounds for its signing a plea bargain with Katsav, but now plans to indict the former president for rape. The official insisted that the prosecution never said there was no evidence for the case, otherwise a plea bargain would have been out of the question from the start.
However, the senior official accepted that the evidentiary weakness of the case was not concealed, and the plea bargain option was chosen after performing a risk-management assessment.
According to the official, the prosecution's case is in better shape now than on the eve of signing the plea bargain: "Throughout, there was a total denial from Katsav regarding any sexual relationship with any of the complainants. By contrast, he has personally signed a document stating that he admits these crimes.
"Today the public's expectations for the case are more realistic. People know it's going to be a tough case. Nobody likes going to trial when there are excessive and unrealistic expectations, because it creates pressure that boomerangs."
Regarding the conduct of Katsav and his lawyers between signing the plea bargain and cancelling it, the official said: "There are a lot of brilliant maneuvers that turn out to be dirty tricks."
Prosecution officials have started drafting a list of witnesses that can help to establish a pattern in Katsav's conduct. The list includes women on whose complaints the statute of limitations has run out, barring them from being included in the amended indictment.
A. from the President's Residence will not be included as a witness because her testimony is too problematic.
Katsav's lawyers plan to argue that the media's intense coverage of the case, including revelations about complainants' testimony, and the public atmosphere surrounding it, make it impossible for the former president to get a fair trial. If the court accepts this preliminary argument, the indictment will be thrown out.
Prosecution officials deflected that claim, saying that such an argument was anticipated and indeed was made by Katsav's lawyers on various occasions, but under the circumstances it has little chance of succeeding.

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What, Bush won't visit Sderot?

Sharm el Sheikh Summits do not have a good record, do they?
Article says:
"Organizers of Bush's planned two-and-a-half-day stay said they had been searching for a symbolic location for the president to visit, but wanted to avoid one that might stir controversy like the Western Wall, Golan Heights or Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron"
Sbarro's pizzeria, Mike's Cafe, Sderot, and the fuel terminal at Nir Oz are some good choices.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 05:37 10/04/2008       
Bush likely to make symbolic visit to Masada, avoiding contentious sites
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
U.S. President George W. Bush is likely to visit Masada during his trip to Israel next month for Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, U.S. sources said on Wednesday.
Organizers of Bush's planned two-and-a-half-day stay said they had been searching for a symbolic location for the president to visit, but wanted to avoid one that might stir controversy like the Western Wall, Golan Heights or Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Bush, accompanied by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, would visit the ancient mountaintop fortress where Jewish rebels made their last stand against Roman legionnaires.
During his stay, Bush will address the Knesset and give a speech detailing the history of U.S.-Israeli relations and his vision of its future.
White House staff said they were interested in organizing a meeting between Bush, his wife Laura and a group of recent immigrants to Israel.
Bush will hold meetings with Olmert, President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He will take part in a conference organized by Peres that will include presidents and heads of state from around the world.
U.S. sources added, however, that the itinerary is in its initial stages and could change.
"A lot depends on security arrangements," one of them said.
Officials from the Prime Minister's Office, President's Residence, Foreign Ministry and the White House met last week to discuss the visit.
The team from the Prime Minister's Office will be headed by Amnon Ben-Ami, who led the team organizing Bush's previous visit.
Over the next few weeks, Israeli and U.S. preparations will focus on meticulous security arrangements that will involve thousands of police officers.
Olmert not invited to Sharm summit, despite contrary reports
Olmert has not been invited to a regional summit at the Sinai resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, contradicting reports he would participate in the event.
Former Meretz leader Yossi Beilin on Monday said at a press conference promoting the Geneva Initiative that Olmert would attend the Sharm conference.
However, U.S. sources said on Wednesday that the summit would be attended by U.S. President George Bush, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah, and is intended as a U.S.-Arab meeting.
Bush, who does not intend to visit the Palestinian Authority during his Middle East visit, will meet Abbas in Egypt and host him in Washington a few days before his departure.
The United States is keen on holding a summit at the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to coincide with Bush's visit to Israel next month for the country's 60th anniversary celebrations.
Bush would like to use the event as a way station in the diplomatic process, following November's Annapolis conference, so as to provide another boost to efforts to reach an agreement by the end of the year over the core issues for a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

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Druze commando buried with honors, but not in IDF cemetery

Last update - 09:05 10/04/2008    
 Druze commando buried with honors, but not in IDF cemetery 
By Jack Khoury,
Haaretz Correspondent 
Until Wednesday, four soldiers from the Druze village of Jatt in the Western Galilee had died during their Israel Defense Forces service.
The four, locals say, died serving the army but not during combat duty. They were interred in a civilian, not military cemetery, because the town does not have a military cemetery, despite the many locals who serve in the army.
Staff Sergeant Sayef Bisan of the Egoz elite unit was killed during combat duty in Gaza on Wednesday but was also interred in a civilian plot. The head of the local council, Sheikh Jadalla Saed, does not know why there is no military cemetery in Jatt, unlike the nearby village of Yanu'ah. "There were lots of inquiries in the past," the sheikh said.
"The Israel Lands Administration said that the plot we designated as the military cemetery would harm the landscape. It's a real insult."
The Israel Land Administration said the Defense Ministry's department caring for fallen soldiers' commemoration were responsible for creating a military cemetery, and that it would not be averse to changing the land's designation, so long as a detailed plan is drawn-up in cooperation with the Defense Ministry and the local council.
The Defense Ministry, however, says Bisan's family asked to inter him in the family burial site. They added that the Lands Administration had allocated a plot for a military cemetery and its construction is in the pipeline. "Had the family asked for a military burial we would have prepared it within hours," the Defense Ministry said.
Meanwhile, the village of Jatt was in mourning, as many of its inhabitants and people from nearby villages visited the Bisan family's home. Jihad Abid, the deputy mayor of Jat-Yanu'ah and a cousin of Bisan, told Haaretz that his entire family serves in the IDF with pride. The late soldier's brother is an officer in a combat unit and his father
also served in the army.
"He's a guy everybody loved and respected," Abid said. "Everyone praised him. He was a friend with people of different families, clans and ages. I am 52, and I always enjoyed chatting to him. The army was a place of pride for him, the fact that he was in an elite unit demonstrates his bravery and excellence."
Karim Bisan, the soldier's uncle, said Sayef did not like to talk about his membership in an elite unit with people outside his close circle.
Bisan was on leave last weekend and visited his family. Relatives said that his unit's involvement in fighting in Gaza was a constant source of worry. He was interred Wednesday in a funeral with full military honors.
The Druze spiritual leader in Israel, Sheikh Muafek Tarif, eulogized Bisan, followed by the head of the local council and his unit's commander, who said he was the "soul of our unit."

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Israel plans to show Hamas behind deadly border raid

Proving the obvious...
Last update - 06:39 10/04/2008    
 Israel plans diplomatic offensive to show Hamas behind deadly border raid 
By Barak Ravid, Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents
Israel will launch a diplomatic offensive with the United Nations and international aid organizations to emphasize that Hamas is responsible for the cross-border raid which killed two Israeli civilians on Wednesday and the consequent humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The civilians were shot dead and two others were wounded Wednesday afternoon at a filling depot close to the Karni border terminal, when four Palestinian terrorists infiltrated from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.
Officials admit that with Libya on the Security Council it will be difficult to achieve anything.
Israel sent letters of complaint to the UN secretary general, Security Council and international aid organizations, accusing Palestinian terror organizations of attacking a humanitarian crossing, which is a lifeline for the Gaza Strip's population.
The activity at the fuel terminal was halted Wednesday following the attack, but security sources said Israel had not decided to stop the fuel supply to Gaza completely and would probably resume the supply in a few days.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday blamed Hamas for the attack. "Hamas took part in planning and approving the attack and will pay dearly for it," he said. "Hamas is the ruling force in Gaza and, as far as Israel is concerned, it is responsible for the attack," he said in a conversation with visiting Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
Israel also complained that in contrast to the UN and aid organizations, "Hamas does not care about Gaza's population." The attack proves that the terror organizations do not hesitate to attack the crossings "cynically and deliberately," Israel complained.
"Anyone with eyes in his head can see that the terrorists' aim is to kill as many Israelis as possible and undermine any display of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians," an official Israeli statement said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said the raid would not affect peace talks, which resumed in earnest this week with a summit between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The two sides hope to reach a final peace deal by the end of the year.
"We decided that we will continue to talk and will not let terrorists have a veto voice on the talks with the pragmatic forces," Mekel said. Following the infiltration, IDF tanks and soldiers rushed to the scene, and killed two of the terrorists with tank fire. Two others managed to escape to the other side of the Gaza border, where a getaway car was waiting for them.
An IAF missile strike Wednesday evening hit a car in the Sajaia neighborhood in Gaza, in which one of the terrorists who carried out the shooting attack was traveling, IDF sources said.
According to the sources, the terrorist and another man who was with him in the vehicle were killed in the strike.
Earlier, during the IDF forces' attempt to target the terrorists who carried out the attack and fled the scene, the Israel Air Force fired one missile at a Palestinian car in Gaza City's Zeitun neighborhood and another at a house in the area.
Four Palestinians were killed as a result of IDF missile fire. They were identified as A'ataf al-Arbali, a member of the "Mujahideen Brigade," his brother Ahmed al-Arbali, Mazen Abu Kamiz and Muhammed Abu Jabeh.
Maj. Tal Levram, an IDF spokesman, said the militants fired a series of mortar shells before the infiltration to divert Israel's attention. The mortar attacks continued afterward, and one landed by Levram as he described the attack.
Levram said the army believes the militants were planning to stage an attack on a kibbutz or to kidnap a soldier, but were thwarted by the army's quick response.
"It could have been much much worse," the officer said.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who met Tusk in Jerusalem, briefed him on the attack and said "the Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip is a problem for the whole area."
She said "Hamas rules Gaza and can prevent every terror act from it. Israel sees it as being responsible for every terror attack, with all that this implies."
 Source (with video)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gorbachev, Bush, Kissinger and Blair to attend Israeli 60th anniversary celebrations

Too much of this list reads like a "who was who." Putin and Brown would have been more to the point...
Last update - 14:41 09/04/2008    
 Murdoch, Blair, Gorbachev to attend Israel's 60th celebrations 
 By The Associated Press  
 President Shimon Peres is bringing in top personalities from around the world to celebrate Israel's 60th birthday.
United States President George W. Bush, Barbara Streisand, Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev and Rupert Murdoch are among those expected to attend a May conference focusing on Jewish and Israeli contributions to humanity.
"We are going to have probably 10 presidents from different countries, six former presidents, ministers, prime ministers, scientists, philosophers, artists," Peres said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

The conference is expected to be one of the highlights of weeks of celebrations marking Israel's 60th, including concerts, Holocaust remembrance events, a workshop promoting Arab-Israeli coexistence and a 750-mile trans-Israel bicycle trail.
The May 13-15 conference will open with a tribute to Israel's staunchest ally, the United States. It will be attended by Bush and feature Streisand singing the Hebrew prayer Avinu Malkeinu - Our Father Our King - which Peres described as unbelievably beautiful.
"After 60 years we want to stand up and say 'thank you America," Peres said.
Peres said the subjects of the conference are as varied as one can think of... from arts and science and philosophy and medicine and ecology.
He said most of the of the conference's 2,000 participants will be Jewish, but that it's open to people of all faiths.
The list of confirmed guests also includes Henry Kissinger, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, former Czech President Vaclev Havel, Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz, Google founder Sergey Brinn, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerman, Ratan Tata, chairman of India's Tata group, U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia, a country with no diplomatic relations with Israel.
The date for Israel's Independence Day is marked each year according to the Hebrew calendar and falls this year on May 8.

Continued (Permanent Link)

French Amazigh Fadela Amara: Israel is a success at integration

Israel gets approval from an unexpected source...
The secret of the Israeli mosaic

 By Alexander Yakobson 

Fadela Amara, the French minister for urban affairs, was asked by Haaretz Magazine in an interview, "What did you think of Israel?" Amara, the daughter of Berber immigrants from Algeria and a well-known advocate of women's and Muslim immigrants' rights who has come out against radical Islam, said: "I felt very comfortable [in Israel]. I wasn't the object of special stares, as often happens toward foreigners. I didn't feel any racism, though I'm certain it exists. You have all the colors there so it's become almost natural to see white, yellow, brown. ... Here in France, I get looks. To the French, I'm not very 'French.' We're living here under a dominant culture. When your name is Francois and you're white with blue eyes, it's one thing. But when your name is Fatima and you've got a little color, the look you get is different. In Israel, because of the variety of people, I didn't feel that."

Of course, there has to be a "but" after such a flattering description of Israeli society. There's always a "but" - especially when it comes to a society immersed in a serious national conflict. But the guest from France grasped something fundamental about Israeli society and the Zionist enterprise: the astounding ethnic diversity involved in the concept of the Jewish state. In a certain sense, Jewish nationality in Israel is indeed ethnic, as people tend to say (in a reproachful tone): It is not identical to Israeli citizenship. In a country with two peoples, as the Jews and Arabs see themselves, the national identity of each is necessarily ethnic in that it represents only part of the country's residents (in contrast to what is accepted in France).

But there is a fairly significant paradox involved in defining the Jewish people as an ethnic group. The Zionist view of a people that includes all Jewish communities around the world (an outlook that merits trendy opposition from the left) is certainly one of the most multiethnic and multicultural national attitudes in history. When you see the Jews of Poland and the Jews of Yemen, the Jews of Germany and the Jews of Morocco as members of one people, and establish a country based on this national view, that is essentially a multiethnic and multicultural enterprise, whether or not the participants think in those terms.

Theodor Herzl was well aware of this aspect of the national enterprise he initiated, as seen when he declined to call the Jews a race and defined them instead as a nation - a historic unit comprised, as is the way of nations, of various ethnic blocks. The ethno-cultural differences between the various groups that came together to form Jewish Israeli society were quite large. But these groups shared the belief that they belonged to the same people, whether they subscribed to the modern Zionist version of this outlook, the traditional Jewish one or some combination thereof. They therefore had a shared cultural basis and consciousness - a recipe for successful multiculturalism, even if the feeling of belonging to one people does not preclude arrogance or prejudice.

This feeling of belonging is the primary reason that the State of Israel is the most successful example of integration between people from Europe and the Muslim Middle East - in an approximately 50-50 ratio - in all of modern history. From a Zionist perspective, this success should not be surprising; after all, this is not about the integration of immigrants from 70 countries, but the absorption of newcomers from 70 diasporas who were members of the same people from the beginning.

Those who reject this ideological approach or at least refuse to accept it as self-evident, those who categorize Jews' arrival to Israel as immigration rather than as aliyah, should be even more impressed by the Israeli enterprise's success at building a nation, despite all its well-known difficulties. No matter what ideological definitions are used, the extent of integration of those from Europe and the Middle East is an extremely notable achievement in our world.

During her visit to Israel, Fadela Amara sensed the fruit of this accomplishment - a society where people take ethnic differences for granted more so than in many societies that take pride in their openness and acceptance of the other. One may presume that many of the people she saw here are not of Jewish origin, but have either close or distant relatives who are Jewish, and moved to Israel and became citizens in accordance with the Law of Return - and became part of Hebrew-speaking Jewish Israeli society. They, too, are today part of the Israeli mosaic that so impressed the visitor from France. The fact that Israeli eyes are used to seeing different colors and faces and Israeli ears are used to hearing different accents benefits them as well. If Amara consulted with experts on nationalism, they no doubt told her that one may join the Jewish people only through religious ritual. Israeli reality, however, tells a different story.


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Gaza terrorists attack fuel depot - kill two Israelis

Only a few weeks ago, Palestinians in Gaza were complaining about fuel shortages and begging Israel for fuel, staging candle-light parades in broad daylight and bringing down the wrath of the human rights groups and the UN on Israel. Now Gaza terrorists have staged a raid on the Karni fuel depot, killing two Israelis and wounding two.
The fact that it was an attack on the depot is buried in the story.
Last update - 17:22 09/04/2008

 2 Israeli civilians killed in attack by Gaza infiltrators 
By Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies

Two Israeli civilians were shot dead Wednesday afternoon when four Palestinian terrorists infiltrated from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel.

Two other Israelis were wounded in the attack at the filling depot close to the Karni border terminal, near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. The Israeli emergency service Zaka said two Palestinian terrorists had been killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli security forces.

"Terrorists entered Nahal Oz and the fuel depot. They shot at civilians inside. There are two Israelis dead and two wounded," an IDF spokeswoman said.
Israeli security forces were also checking whether there were more terrorists in the area. The gunmen apparently set out from central Gaza.

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, along with a group linked to the Al-Aqsa Brigades. A spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees said that members of three groups, not including Hamas, infiltrated the crossing.

"We are talking of a unique and complicated operation," said Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmad. He said details would be released later.

IDF forces who arrived at the scene opened fire on the gunmen, chasing the four as they fled back into Gaza. Spokesmen for the Palestinian groups said the infiltrators fled back into the Strip, under fire from Israel Air Force helicopters.

The infiltration occurred after the latest delivery of fuel funded by the European Union, Western diplomats said.

A resident of Nahal Oz identified as Larry told Channel 10 television that several cars and homes in the area had been damaged as a result of mortar fire that reportedly occurred around the time of the attack. He said that the kibbutz residents had been told to remain in protected areas.

Israel raised its level of alert in the area in the wake of the attack, the Magen David Adom rescue service said.

Munther Rahmi, a worker on the Palestinian side of the border, said he saw IDF tanks crossing into Gaza. "We are surrounded by tanks. It's a war out there," he said.

An initial IDF investigation showed that the four Palestinians breached the border fence and infiltrated into the filling depot close to the Karni crossing. They opened fire on the civilians at the site, killing the two victims.

The IDF will now investigate how the militants were able to infiltrate without being caught, and escape back into Gaza. An IDF official maintained that troops acted quickly, reaching the site of the attack in a short period of time.

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As Israel Delivers Humanitarian Aid, IDF soldier killed by Hamas

After this announcement was issued by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, terrorists clashed with IDF soldiers. One IDF soldier was killed and another was wounded. Two Hamas terrorists were killed.

Gaza: Israeli aid and Hamas attacks

Israel is facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip while at the same time it is being attacked from that Hamas-controlled territory.

(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)

Tunnel intended for use in terror attack uncovered in northern Gaza
Tunnel intended for use in terror attack uncovered in northern Gaza, 8 April (IDF Spokesman)

Today, Tuesday, 8 April 2008 (as of 16:30 Israel time), terrorists in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip fired 32 mortar bombs and three Kassam rockets at Israeli territory. So far, there have been no reported injuries or damage.

In addition, during an IDF operation against terrorists operating near the border fence between Israel and the northern Gaza Strip, terrorists opened fire on the IDF force. The IDF soldiers returned fire, hitting two gunmen. Rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov rifles were found on the two terrorists.

At the same time, 127 humanitarian aid trucks, carrying medical equipment, diapers and basic food products were transferred today from Israel to the Palestinian population in Gaza, via the Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings.

Israel is facilitating the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip while at the same time it is being attacked from that territory. Israel holds Hamas fully responsible for these attacks and their consequences.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Katsav rape update: Complainant seeks to reenter rape charge

Here's more about Israel's presidential rape case...
Last update - 22:54 08/04/2008       
Complainant against Katsav seeks to reenter rape charge in new indictment
By Ofra Eidelmann, Haaretz Service and Agencies
The attorney representing A., the first of a string of female employees who filed sexual assault complaints against former president Moshe Katsav, demanded Tuesday that his client's complaint, which was dropped from the original indictment, be reentered into a fresh indictment set to be filed against Katsav.
The lawyer's demand came on the heels of Katsav's announcement that he would forgo a plea deal struck last year, which dropped the rape charges included in the original indictment in favor of lesser charges and no jail time, and will instead stand trial in efforts to clear his name.
The trial will be the first for an Israeli head of state past or present.
The prosecution is now faced with the task of preparing a fresh indictment against the former president, which will include charges of various sex crimes.
Attorney Eldad Yaniv demanded that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz summon A. to discuss the matter. According to Yaniv, A. is not opposed to confronting Katsav face to face.
Yaniv wrote to Mazuz "in light of the former president's announcement he is dropping the plea deal, I ask that my client be summoned for a discussion with the attorney general during which the attorney general will reconsider his stance in regard to the composition of a new indictment and she [A] will be allowed the fundamental right to have her rights protected."
A.'s complaint was excluded from the original indictment after the state prosecution decided that her testimony was not sufficiently reliable due to many contradictions. The prosecution's decision came after the police interviewed A. and decided that her testimony was credible, and recommended that the prosecution indict Katsav for rape based on her testimony.
Earlier, A.'s spokesman Nissim Douek said that "now, that it appears she may have a second chance, she is not changing the path she has chosen - to bring him [Katsav] to trial -- she may even speed up the process."
He added that A. welcomed Katsav's decision to forgo the plea deal, but "we recently announced that we were planning to launch civil proceedings against Katsav, and as far as we're concerned, he would have stood trial for his actions anyway."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Beilin: Follow-up summit to Annapolis set for May

 Last update - 14:35 08/04/2008       
Beilin: Follow-up summit to Annapolis set for May
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The U.S. is planning to convene a follow-up summit to the Annapolis peace conference in May at Sharm al-Sheikh in Sinai, Meretz MK Yossi Beilin told the media Tuesday.
Speaking at the Geneva convention headquarters on the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Beilin said that the American government hopes the summit will bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority closer to reaching a permanent agreement on the core issues.
According to Beilin, U.S. President Bushm Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the Jordan King Abdullah will all be present at the summit.
Beilin warned that if Israel does not prepare fot the summit, no progress will be made and it will fail and cause serious damage.
"If peace deal is to be signed this year, a dramatic change must be made in the way the peace talks are handled. They way things are going now; there will never be an agreement by the end of 2008," Beilin said, adding that "the excitement from this summit is dangerous, unless there is a true intent to reach agreements on the core issues."
"The window of opportunity will close at the end of 2008, and unless we make progress, we won't be able to do a thing come 2009.
Shaul Arieli, a former senior negotiator, added that an agreement cannot be reached if Hamas is left out of the game because then they would sabotage the agreement.
Arieli slammed the work of the Israeli negotiators, saying that there is no body that is preparing the negotiations and there is no real discussion on the core issues.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Nuke: Iran boosts uranium refinement for nuclear program

Iran announced a great expansion of its program to enrich uranium. The program has been the subject of several half-hearted UN resolutions, which have attempted to stop it. Iran, which has some of the largest reserves of oil and gas in the world, insists that its program is peaceful, and is intended to produce electric power to replace depleted fossil fuels. European attempts to provide incentives for stopping the enrichment program have been consistently rebuffed by Iran.
Ami Isseroff 
Last update - 14:35 08/04/2008    
 Ahmadinejad: We've added 6,000 centrifuges to nuke program 
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press 
Iran has begun installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant in Natanz, state television quoted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying Tuesday.
Iran already has about 3,000 centrifuges operating in Natanz, and the new announcement is seen as a show of defiance of international demands to halt a nuclear program the U.S. and its allies say is aimed at building nuclear weapons. It also brings Iran one step closer to developing a critical mass of uranium needed to build an atomic bomb.
The president announced the start of the phase of installing 6,000 new centrifuges in Natanz, the television reported.
 Centrifuges are machines that can enrich uranium to a low level to produce nuclear fuel or a high level for use in a weapon. Iran insists its nuclear program is solely focused on the peaceful production of energy.
Ahmadinejad made Tuesday's announcement as he toured the Natanz facility in central Iran. The television also quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that other activities have been carried out in Natanz that he would announce later Tuesday.
The president's trip was scheduled to coincide with Iran's National Day of Nuclear Technology, marking the second anniversary of when Iran first enriched uranium on April 8, 2006.
Ahmadinejad is widely expected to confirm for the first time that Iran has installed hundreds of more sophisticated centrifuges that can enrich uranium faster.
The workhorse of Iran's enrichment program is the P-1 centrifuge, which is run in cascades of 164 machines. But Iranian officials confirmed in February that they had started using the IR-2 centrifuge that can churn out enriched uranium at more than double the rate.
Iranian state television didn't say if the installation of the 6,000 new centrifuges included the older P-1 or the advanced IR-2 centrifuges.
Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced centrifuges at Natanz.
One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground, suggesting they could be the sophisticated IR-2 centrifuge.
But a senior diplomat said that while the new work appeared to include advanced centrifuges, they were not IR-2s. Both diplomats are linked to the Vienna-based International Agency for Atomic Energy, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, but asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.
A total of 3,000 centrifuges is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used as a platform for a full industrial-scale program that could churn out enough enriched material for dozens of nuclear weapons.
Iran says it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that
ultimately will involve 54,000 centrifuges.
The U.N. has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend enrichment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Former president of Israel to be tried for rape

Moshe Katsav, former President of Israel, decided to forego a plea bargain agreement and stand trial for rape. Katsav disgraced the Israeli presidency when several former female employees came foreward to complain that he had raped them. Katsav had been elected president by the votes of ultraorthodox party members who reneged on their promises to vote for Shimon Peres. Peres succeeded Katsav after his disgrace. The new development will reopen the legal battle and may result either in a harsher indictment, or in dismissal if it is decided after all, that there are no grounds for indictment (see here) . If witnesses develop "amnesia" for example, the state's case could be damaged. Underworld figures have occasionally hinted that they might be interested in causing amnesia in some of the witnesses.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 19:39 08/04/2008       
AG hints new Katsav indictment will be harsher than first
By Ofra Eidelmann, Haaretz Service and Agencies
Attorney General Meni Mazuz on Tuesday hinted that former president Moshe Katsav will face a much harsher indictment than the one that was dropped in favor of a plea bargain after he resigned in the midst of a sex scandal last year.
Mazuz expressed surprise at the former president's Tuesday announcement that he was scrapping the plea deal he struck after being accused of sex crimes by several female employees.
"On the eve of the plea bargain, there was a clear tendency toward indictment on the most serious crimes with which [Katsav] was charged, despite the difficulty such an indictment posed," Mazuz said.
The attorney general was referring to the fact that Katsav was initially charged with rape - a charge supported by police who investigated the case - but as part of the plea bargain this charge was dropped in return for his admission to lesser crimes.
Lawyers for Katsav announced Tuesday that he will instead face trial in a bid to clear his name. The trial will be the first for an Israeli head of state past or present.
The disgraced former president, flanked by bodyguards and his wife, was in attendance at Jerusalem Magistrate's Court as his attorney, Avigdor Feldman, asked the court to overturn the plea bargain.
"Katsav told me that he couldn't admit to crimes he didn't commit," Feldman said. "The evidence will show that Katsav is innocent."
The accusations against the then-president emerged in the summer of 2006 when he reported to police that a former employee identified only as "A" allegedly tried to blackmail him, demanding $200,000 in exchange for her silence on alleged sexual relations between him and her.
Katsav also submitted a tape recording of the suspected extortion attempt. But then "A" filed her own complaint, accusing the president of having coerced her into a sexual relationship through intimidation and while exploiting his superior position as her employer.
Her complaint prompted as many as other women to come forward and submit similar complaints.
Katsav, a married father of five and grandfather, vehemently denied the charges, and insisted he also engaged in no consensual sexual relationships with any of the women.
He resigned in June last year, weeks before his term was due to expire, under the terms of the plea bargain. Katsav was succeeded by President Shimon Peres, whom he defeated in the 2000 election for the presidency.
As part of the plea deal, he also confessed to sexual harassment, forcible indecent assault and harassing a witness. In return he was to receive a suspended sentence, and rape charges were struck from the indictment.
The Supreme Court, deliberating a petition by women's rights groups to throw out the deal, upheld the plea bargain in February, saying it saw no reason to intervene in a decision by Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to approve the arrangement.
Prosecutors said Tuesday that they will prepare a fresh indictment against Katsav in the coming days.
"There are many factors that brought him to this decision," said another of Katsav's attorney, Zion Amir, after the decision was announced.
Outside the court, about 80 protesters from anti-rape and women's groups gathered Tuesday, waving placards decrying sexual violence. "We are all 'A'," read one sign.
The protestors responded with elation to the news, saying that they would finally have their day in court. Amir told them: "You wanted to cancel the plea bargain, you got it."
Katsav, a former Likud legislator, has accused the Israeli media of mounting a politically motivated witch-hunt against him.
"Check newspaper archives and television footage over the past two years and see what you did to this man," Amir told reporters.
"Protesters were chanting outside, 'We want a trial, We want a trial' - so there will be a trial," said Feldman.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Taibeh Arabs to paint mosque blue and white: "We are all citizens"

The Arabs of Taibeh join the Arabs of Shfar'am in celebrating Israeli independence. Is this a trend? The future of Israel depends on reversing the "Palestinization" of Israeli Arabs, many of whom insist on commemorating the Palestine Nakba of 1948. How can we encourage this trend, and ease integration of Israeli Arabs into Israeli society? 
Ami Isseroff   
Last update - 19:31 08/04/2008    
Galilee Arabs paint mosque blue and white for Israel's 60th
By Haaretz Service
In an unusual gesture of solidarity for Israel's 60th anniversary, villagers in one Arab-Israeli town have have painted the dome of their mosque in the national colors, blue and white.
The gesture in A-Taibeh, a village in the Galilee near the Gilboa, comes at a time when Arab-Jewish relations in the region have been marked by tensions, and many Israeli Arabs have vowed to boycott the anniversary celebrations and commemorations.
"We are residents of Israel. Our religion encourages love and closeness among nations. Jews, Muslims, we are all cousins, right?" A-Taibeh Mayor Hisham Zuabi was quoted as telling Maariv newspaper.
"We decided to paint the mosque's dome, the most important, dear, and holy site for us, in the national colors. We are all citizens of the state of Israel. As far as we are concerned, there is no difference here between Jews, Muslims, and Christians."
A-Taibeh, which sits adjacent to the moshav Moledet, has a population of about 2,000. Its newly decorated mosque has been in existence for decades.
Zuabi was quoted as saying that village residents don't fear criticism or threats because of their decision. Instead, they hope it will serve to unite Arabs and Jews. "The goal is purification, coexistence," said Zoabi. "A Jew who enters the mosque will not feel hostility, but rather will feel at home."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaydamak plans to short circuit Israeli democracy

Russian-Israeli billionaire Arkadi Gaydamak is planning to enter the Knesset by a clever maneuver, using leftover members of the Pensioners' party. The Pensioners' party was apparently appropriately named, as its only function seems to have been to get pensions for its members as Knesset members. Polls indicate it would not get any seats if elections were held today, because it has not done very much. Now Gaydamak wants to use dissatisfied members of this party to form a new party, and then to build an empire of smaller parties. To Gaydamak's credit, he seems to be the only dynamic force in Israeli politics.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 13:07 08/04/2008    
 Gaydamak may become minister thanks to spurned Pensioners 
By Lily Galili 

The party of billionaire businessman Arcadi Gaydamak, Social Justice, is expected to reach the Knesset in the next few weeks, long before parliamentary elections.
Barring a last-minute change, Social Justice officials are expected to team up with three members of the Pensioners Party to form the Social Justice faction in the Knesset. According to the agreement, Social Justice will become a Knesset-represented party on April 18.
This is the first step of Gaydamak's much-bigger plan to add MKs from various parties to form a faction of 18 MKs by the next Knesset elections.

The new faction will be eligible to have one of its members appointed a minister, according to the current arrangement. The minister could be one of the three MKs quitting the Pensioners Party - Moshe Sharoni, Elhanan Glazer or Sara Marom Shalev - one of the new members, or even Gaydamak himself.
Gaydamak, who plans to run for mayor of Jerusalem, has said he would consider serving as minister for Jerusalem affairs. In any case, he intends to be chairman of his party and attend the faction's Knesset sessions.
Faction chair Izhak Galenti said that there is "no ideological motive" behind the other Pensioners party MKs move to join Gaydamak. He said that Sharoni, who is leading the revolt against the party, is asking for a senior ministerial position in return.
Sharoni says that his decision to leave the Pensioners party is due to the fact that the Galenti and other party members refuse to support his bill calling for a sharp increase in stipends for the elderly.
Up until October, Sharoni served as the faction party leader as well as the ehad of the Knesset Welfare Committee. Sharoni was dismissed from these positions by Pensioners Party head Rafi Eitan and replaced by Galenti. His dismissal came after Eitan refused to back his bill to increase elderly stipends to 20 percent of the average wage in Israel.
Soon after his dismissal, Sharoni said that he was considering establishing his own party. To do so, he would have to gain the support of a 2 other MKs in the party.
Regarding his contact with Gaydamak, Sharoni said that while the two did meet last week, "it was not negotiations. Negotiations aren't done haphazardly. I have time to think about it. Hopefully my friends in the Pensioners party will realize that they were voted in by pensioners and they will demand that the bill be passed. It is part of the coalition agreement we reached.
Galenti said in response that while Sharoni acts as if he wants to stay in the Pensioners party, he thinks that he will join Gaydama since he was promised a top job.

Haaretz has learned that Gaydamak plans to form a faction of five by the end of May, by adding two other MKs - at least one who would quit Kadima. Then the faction will try to add MKs from various parties until the elections.
The Pensioners' MKs are suitable to Social Justice due to their affinity to social causes and because they are not expected to run during the next Knesset elections.
In addition to Knesset members who do not intend to run for the next Knesset - and would therefore not hesitate to leave their party for Social Justice - the new faction hopes to add several MKs after splits in Labor and Yisrael Beiteinu.
Social Justice people are conducting intensive negotiations with MKs from both these parties. If an entire third of a parliamentary faction splits from the mother party and joins a new one, the MKs maintain their rights in the new faction as well.
The new faction is offering MKs a chance to join up without having to take part in a primary election.
The formation of the Social Justice faction was accelerated after Gaydamak's party launched a big push for the local elections due later this year.
Gaydamak's big plan could alter the political and parliamentary scene. If various MKs join Social Justice, it could change the current arrangement for appointing ministers.
Gaydamak himself is going ahead with his preparations for the Jerusalem mayoral elections.
Gaydamak told Haaretz on Monday that he would consider being a minister for Jerusalem and Diaspora affairs.
"This is a post I think I am suitable for," he said.
"The Maariv poll that said the public prefers me to [Ehud] Barak for prime minister reflects the public's confusion and frustration. In the absence of experience in security affairs, I am not suitable to be prime minister," he said.
"On the other hand I am very suitable to be a minister who would bring peace and prosperity to Jerusalem and unite the Jewish people in the Diaspora around a feeling of solidarity for Israel."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Namer Armored vehicle to go into production

Namer (pronounced 'nahmehr' and meaning "leopard" or "tiger") is an evolution from the Merkava tank system. Several systems may be evolved from this vehicle. It is not clear what the "long range vision" means in the announcement below.

Appended to this announcement is additional information about the Namer. 

April 5th, 2008


IDF Chief of Staff Approves Armored Vehicles

IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi approved the IDF plan for the production of armored vehicles as a part of the IDF multi-year plan. He emphasized the importance of ground maneuvers as part of the multi-year plan. The armored vehicles are a basic building block in the strengthening of ground forces. The plan focuses on the continued manufacturing of the "Merkava" tank and the development and manufacture, in large quantities, of the heavy armored personnel carrier, the "Namer".

Development of the "Namer" began a year ago and is now undergoing operational and technical testing in the Ground Forces Command.

The continued manufacturing of the "Merkava" and "Namer" vehicles, over the long term, will strengthen the ground forces while ensuring the security and safety of combat soldiers in the field, and provides an operational solution to the different threats faced on the battlefields.

The development of the "Namer" has recently been accelerated and deliveries will begin by the beginning of 2009. The commander of the Ground Forces, Major General Avi Mizrahi, noted that the historical decision of the Chief of Staff gives the IDF the capability to maneuver heavy vehicles, using long range vision.

Israel Launches Namer Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle Program

In July 2007 the Israel Defense Forces launched the Namer (Leopard in Hebrew) Armored Infantry Fighting Vehicle (AIFV) program, funding a pilot production of 15 of the tracked vehicles in 2008. The program is a major element in the IDF land forces' five-year modernization plan. Currently in formation the plan is expected to finalize this month. Eventually, the IDF plans to buy few hundreds AIFVs, providing the infantry with the level of protection and mobility matching those of the latest Merkava Mk 4 tanks.

The latest design of the Namer AIFV based on the Merkava Mk 4 depicting sloped hybrid armor protecting the fighting compartment, remotely operated weapon station, multiple smoke canisters embedded into the armor and Trophy active protection modules covering both sides, with threat warning radar modules protecting the vehicle's four quadrants.
The elements of teh Trophy  Active Protection System (APS) include the target acquisition radar (lower eliptical element) and the interceptor element (dark box seen above). Photo: RAFAELThe IDF plans to equip its elite infantry brigades with the new Namer. Furthermore, procurement of wheeled armored vehicles such as the Stryker is considered for the lighter (paratroop) brigades. The currently operational Achzarit AIFVs will also be upgraded, receiving a more powerful engine and weapon station. Some of the M-113s are expected to be retrofitted with improved armor and redeployed to lower intensity missions, particularly for counter-terror operations in urban warfare, where the relatively lightweight and small vehicle could prove quite effective. The IDF also plans to deploy more armored wheeled vehicles, including the Golan Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle which was already selected for a similar program in the USA.

Several versions of the Namer are envisioned; two versions, configured as an armored infantry fighting vehicle (AIFV), Repair and Medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) will replace M-113 vehicles currently in service. A weapons carrier armed with 30mm automatic cannon and missiles will provide a support base, utilizing new capabilities such as the 30mm automatic cannon. Such vehicles are expected to replace the anti-tank vehicles such as the M-113s and HMMWV currently employed with the anti-tank (TOW) units. The IDF also plans to field a Namer as designed as an Armored Recovery Vehicle (ARV), supporting Merkava tank formations. The Merkava based ARV will be able to tow a fully loaded Merkava tanks, augmenting or replacing the M88 ARVs and trucks.

Currently being finalized, the design of the new troop carrier will be based on a turretless Merkava MK4 Tank Chassis. Unlike previous suggestions to use obsolete Merkava Mk1 chassis for the new vehicle, the IDF opted for a more practical, cost effective production of new vehicles. However, the initial vehicles will utilize modernized and uprated AVDS 1790 engines taken from old Merkava Mk1 tank to support accelerate fielding. A final decision on the future powerplant will be made next year. The IDF is evaluating two engine makers - Continental Motors, the producer of the AVDS system or MTU, producer of 833 type engine, powering the Merkava Mk4 tank. Decision on other powertrain elements will determine which transmission will be procured from Allison and the type of final drive ordered from Renk. The selection will be followed with production orders sustaining future production lots. The cost of a fully equipped Namer is expected to be around $1.5 million.

The final design will include an ergonomically designed driver's compartment, similar to that of the Merkava tank, fitted with large vision blocks and electro-optical driver's viewing devices enabling effective performance under all visibility conditions. At least four remotely controlled video cameras are used to provide the crew, driver and commander with unobstructed peripheral view. The Namer will become a fully networked armored fighting vehicle. Part of its C4 equipment will be the new Battle Management System/Infantry, designed by Elbit Systems to support the dismounted 'Integrated Advanced Soldier' (IAS) system.

Namer will be equipped with the same protection level available for the latest Merkava Mk4. Its armor will include, for the first time, an active protection system as an integral element. The IDF hasn't decided yet which APS will be installed on the vehicle. Both RAFAEL's Trophy and IMI's Iron Fist are being evaluated and, in fact, the development of the Iron Fist was accelerated to have it ready for comparative testing around the year's end, in time for a future decision for the Namer. IMI is also developing and will produce the advanced armor suite for the Namer. The advanced armor will provide maximum protection to the front, sides and roof. IMI is also providing the advanced armor protecting the Merkava Mk 4 tank. Internally, the seating arrangement enables good protection from blast effect, utilizing highly protected belly and 'floating' seats (not rigged to the floor).

The vehicle is armed with RAFAEL's Mini-Samson Remotely Controlled Weapon Station with multi-sensor target acquisition systems. The system mounts a 12.7mm M2HB heavy machine gun, 7.62mm M246 machine gun or M19 40mm automatic grenade launcher. The IDF considers developing future multi-purpose support versions of the Namer, armed with the Samson weapon station, mounting much heavier 30mm automatic cannons as well as the Spike guided weapons. The current design of the Namer is already prepared for such installations, offering protected storage for weapons separated from the fighting compartment and strengthened roof able to carry the extra loads.

The vehicle accommodates 11 soldiers, including commander and driver. It also has attachments for carrying stretchers. The Namer uses a slightly redesigned door/ramp, enabling more efficient offload of soldiers and equipment and handling of stretchers.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Palestinian authority might favor Israeli takeover in Gaza

What is most interesting here, though it is what we might expect:
...And whatever happens in Gaza -- whether an Israeli-Hamas truce or all-out war -- Abbas stands to be further damaged. His prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has hinted privately that he might favor an Israeli attack on Hamas, because it would allow Abbas's Fatah movement to take control of Gaza. But Abbas's security forces are unlikely to be strong enough to control Gaza's population of 1.5 million anytime soon.
Hamas now seems to be taking care not to provide provocation for such an attack, as we can learn from this report in Maanews: Palestinian military groups 'agree to hold fire' in order to avoid Israeli incursion in Gaza.
Ami Isseroff
By Jackson Diehl
Monday, April 7, 2008; A17
Seven years ago George W. Bush's incoming foreign policy team blamed the Clinton administration for an eleventh-hour rush for a Middle East peace agreement that ended with the explosion of the second Palestinian intifada. Now, with less than 10 months remaining in office, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are engaged in a similar last-minute push -- yet they don't seem to recognize the growing risk that their initiative, too, will end with another Israeli-Palestinian war.
Rice visited Jerusalem again last week to press for visible Israeli fulfillment of commitments made at last year's Annapolis conference, and she appeared to win some incremental steps, such as the dismantlement of a few dozen of the several hundred military roadblocks in the West Bank. Yet a more significant Israeli signal may have been delivered by the stream of senior officials who have quietly been visiting Washington in the past month: Israel, they have been saying, is on course for a major conflict with the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.
That battle seemed on the verge of beginning a month ago, when Hamas for the first time began firing Iranian-made missiles at the Israeli city of Ashkelon -- in addition to the volleys of homemade rockets it has been aiming at the smaller town of Sderot for several years. After a punishing series of Israeli airstrikes the fighting subsided, and with the State Department's encouragement Egypt began to broker discussions about a more enduring truce. In previous columns, I've argued that such a cease-fire in Gaza is the least bad of Israel's limited options.
But officials portray Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak as having little interest in a deal with Hamas. They acknowledge that a suspension of attacks by both sides might make the ongoing peace talks easier -- and that the outbreak of an all-out conflict would almost certainly kill the Annapolis process. Yet, increasingly Israeli officials see the confrontation in Gaza with Hamas as more important in strategic terms than the talks with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The view in Jerusalem, as more than one official put it to me, is that there is no alternative to a military collision with Hamas in Gaza, probably before the end of the Bush administration.
The grim Israeli view is driven to a large degree by what officials say is the massive and continuing smuggling of weapons into Gaza, sponsored by Iran and tacitly allowed by Egypt, which despite considerable pressure from Washington shrinks from actions that might trigger its own confrontation with Hamas. Hamas is building hardened bunker systems and stockpiling missiles in imitation of the infrastructure built in southern Lebanon by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement. The Israelis say hundreds of Hamas militants have traveled to Iran for training in targeting and firing Grad missiles, Iran's version of the old Soviet Katyusha.
Sobered by the bloody nose it suffered when it attacked Hezbollah's Lebanese base in 2006, the Israeli army has been training against Hamas's Gaza strong points. But officials say that the longer the army waits to take on what is now viewed as a strategic threat, the greater Hamas's chance will be to inflict heavy casualties or strike southern Israeli cities with missiles. The cease-fire Egypt seeks (and that Hamas sometimes says it wants) would only make the problem worse, in the Israeli analysis, by giving Hamas the opportunity to accelerate its buildup.
Bush and Rice would like Israel to hold off against Hamas until Olmert can complete an agreement on principles for a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement with Abbas. While Olmert still wants that deal, it's become increasingly clear to the Israelis that an Abbas-led government will never be able to implement it. Despite extensive international aid, the West Bank Palestinian administration remains little more than a shell kept in power by Israel's troops. Hamas, the Israelis say, can stop the peace process at any time by resuming missile attacks against Ashkelon. And whatever happens in Gaza -- whether an Israeli-Hamas truce or all-out war -- Abbas stands to be further damaged. His prime minister, Salam Fayyad, has hinted privately that he might favor an Israeli attack on Hamas, because it would allow Abbas's Fatah movement to take control of Gaza. But Abbas's security forces are unlikely to be strong enough to control Gaza's population of 1.5 million anytime soon.
The Israelis say the coming confrontation won't necessarily involve a full-scale reoccupation of the Gaza Strip. Given the predictable international backlash against any Israeli offensive, and the inevitable satellite television coverage of suffering Palestinians, Olmert is likely to wait for a clear provocation from Hamas. Perhaps it won't happen for a few more months. But what concerns some Israelis is the lack of readiness by the Bush administration for the possibility that its drive for Mideast peace will be overwhelmed by a Mideast war.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Message to Methodists about Israel

Thoughts on the Task of Peace Making in the Middle East
  A Message to Our Methodist Friends

On behalf of:
American Jewish Commitee, Anit-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith International, Hadassah: the Women's Zionist Organization, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism


· We share values: any time a single human being suffers, we all suffer.  There has been deep, painful suffering on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for far too long. 

· We share goals: two viable, democratic states living side-by-side, in peace, economic stability, and security.

· We share the need for balance: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has caused deep scars, and leaves both parties sensitive to unbalanced criticism or support.  Any action or critique which ignores either the humanitarian and national needs of Palestinians or ongoing terror and Israeli security concerns will fall on deaf ears with one of the two parties.  The ultimate result will be to push peace farther away.

· Peace requires that both Israelis and Palestinians must take risks, and American Jewish and Christian voices can play an essential and instrumental role in paving the path to peace in the Middle East.


· The Jewish community, together with other friends of Israel, is deeply concerned about any efforts that distract from the goal of peace and a two-state solution.  Targeted anti-Israel divestment is one such distraction. 

· Those seeking to hasten peace should focus on efforts of reconciliation that are necessary to foster a generation of Israelis and Palestinians prepared to work and live side-by-side in harmonious coexistence.  Investing in coexistence sends a pro-active message for peace and reconciliation.  Many groups are already laying the critical groundwork for peace by building bridges between divided peoples. These groups desperately need international support.  Investment is needed for joint Israeli-Arab business enterprises; for Palestinian businesses; for building Palestinian infrastructure; for development banks involved in micro-finance; for organizations promoting dialogue; and for those providing humanitarian relief.  An emerging Palestinian state will need economic stability from investment not the mistrust caused by divestment. Economic power and moral persuasion must be used to heal and build, not to wound and destroy. 

· Socially responsible investing is a high calling - and some believe divestment can be effective in certain limited situations.  However, in this case divestment is more likely to hinder rather than advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  It glosses over the complexities of the conflict, including the immeasurable power of terror.  Divestment embodies a systematic attempt to blame Israel exclusively for the failure of the peace process, giving hope to extremists that their goals can be realized without a dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure.    

· In the aftermath of the Annapolis peace gathering in November 2007, and considering the continued meetings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, what is needed now are confidence-building measures, not punitive one-sided actions.

· Divestment has deeply negative implications for domestic interfaith relations.  Regardless of intent, its imbalance has an uncomfortable resonance with the Jewish community, as divestment evokes memories of anti-Jewish boycotts of the recent and distant past.


· The United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries published:

-- A Mission Study that calls Israelis terrorists, likens Israelis to Nazis, labels Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, an "extremist," and uses the phrase "original sin" to describe the birth of Israel.  Jews are referred to as "monsters." 

-- An illustrated children's book about a Christian family's visit to the Holy Land depicts Israeli adults only as gun-toting soldiers.  The book and its accompanying teacher's guide convey a one-sided condemnation of Israel - even justifying violence against Israelis - while showing Israelis as only militaristic and intent on controlling the lives of Palestinians.  Meanwhile there is no mention of why Israelis feel the need to have checkpoints and exert caution. 
· The Methodist Federation for Social Action Newsletter calls for divestment that targets only Israel and includes a speech that utterly slanders Israel by comparing Israeli actions to Nazi atrocities.  For example, the speech outrageously claims that Israeli soldiers shoot "Palestinian children for sport," that "Palestinians must be buried in mass graves," and that others are left in streets and alleys because Israelis will not allow proper burial.


· The unbalanced approach of some segments of the United Methodist Church to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict provokes a challenge to peace and to the Methodist-Jewish relationship.  Targeted anti-Israel divestment is but one manifestation of this.  Profoundly anti-Israel educational materials have been published, as mentioned above, by the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries, Women's Division, as well as the Methodist Federation for Social Action. 

· To achieve the goal of a two-state solution both parties will be required to take significant risks.  As Americans, Christians and Jews, our best role is to help both Israelis and Palestinians feel supported as they make these sacrifices for peace. We cannot play a moderating role in peace-building if our stances are not seen as moderate.  Only a balanced approach can ensure that Christians will be taken seriously in their comments on the Middle East. At the General Conference the UMC can establish itself as a reasonable and effective voice.

JCRC: Pursuing a just society and secure Jewish future

Continued (Permanent Link)

US State Department report: some criticism of Israel is ant-Semitic

For the first time, someone in government has said the obvious:
"Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon," the report said. "New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel's perceived faults to its Jewish character."
Why does stating the obvious have to constitute a dramatic breakthrough?

US Department of State
Photo of anti-Semitic vandalism comes from a U.S. State Department report stating that criticism of Israel at times is veiled in anti-Semitism.

Published: 04/06/2008

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The Bush administration has taken the groundbreaking step of identifying some virulent criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, as it warns that anti-Jewish attitudes and incidents are on the rise worldwide.

In a new study, the U.S. State Department cites Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute in reporting an increase of serious anti-Semitic incidents, encompassing physical attacks and vandalism, from 406 in 2005 to 593 in 2006.

The new study, "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism," also cites a range of other nongovernmental organizations to show dramatic increases in Latin America, Australasia and Europe, including a 31 percent spike in incidents in Britain from 2005 to 2006 and a 35 percent jump in Argentina during the same period.

The report goes quite far in warning about the intensification of anti-Semitic rhetoric among governments and international elites, and its policy recommendations are unusually strong for State Department reports, which generally refrain from pronounced language.

Its boldest venture is to name some attacks on Israel as anti-Semitism. In addition, the report marks the first time that the U.S. government has made it a policy to apply the label of anti-Semitism to some criticism of Israel.

"Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon," the report said. "New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel's perceived faults to its Jewish character."

In a town where tone often matters more than substance in assessing a government's priorities, the pronounced focus on anti-Semitism stands out, especially when compared to the State Department's separate, relatively muted report on human rights worldwide.

U.S. diplomats and other officials will be expected to take their cues from this forceful language in how they deal with political groups and individuals overseas.

In its introductory overview -- generally the part of any report that is most closely read by U.S. officials seeking guidance on an issue -- the report singles out governments that have had particularly parlous relations with the Bush administration, including Iran, Syria and Venezuela.

The body of the report, however, includes pronounced examples of anti-Semitism among the elites of nations that the United States has cultivated as allies, including Russia, Ukraine and Iraq.

Among other examples, it notes cartoons in the Greek and Arab press depicting Israelis as Nazis, as well as statements by Greek and British politicians to that effect. Some examples date as far back as 1991, and the report also includes examples of graffiti without reporting whether it is sanctioned or tolerated by the responsible authorities.

More could have been done to rate how different nations tackle anti-Semitism, said Paul LeGendre, the senior associate for fighting discrimination and hate crimes at Human Rights First, the only major human rights watchdog that deals with hate crimes.

"Ukraine is a country that we're particularly concerned about at the moment," LeGendre said by way of example.

LeGendre said its government has condemned outbreaks of anti-Semitism, but "it doesn't seem to be translating into action at the police local levels, where crimes need to be prosecuted as hate crimes and not hooliganism."

Still, he welcomed the report as an important contribution to raising awareness.

"I hope this keeps it on the radar screen and lets other government know that the U.S. sees this as an important issue that needs to be taken seriously," LeGendre said.

The report, which was sent to Congress last month, culminates four years of research launched in 2004 after U.S. lawmakers passed a bill commissioning such a report. The process was accelerated in 2006 when President Bush named Gregg Rickman the first U.S. special envoy on anti-Semitism.

Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee, welcomed the report, as did some members of Congress.

"All too often, legitimate criticism of the State of Israel can veer into naked anti-Semitism characterized by vile hate speech," said U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, in a statement. "When hate speech arises, we should call it what it is -- and do what can be done to stop it."

The 94-page report deals at length with Holocaust denial as a vehicle for anti-Semitism, focusing particularly on the role Iran's government has taken in its propagation. It also targets the United Nations system, saying the double standards some of its constituent bodies display toward Israel promote a hostile environment for Jews.

"Regardless of the intent, disproportionate criticism of Israel as barbaric and unprincipled, and corresponding discriminatory measures adopted in the U.N. against Israel, have the effect of causing audiences to associate negative attributes with Jews in general, thus fueling anti-Semitism," it says.

The report noted the singling out of Israel for condemnation by the U.N. General Assembly and, in particular, the U.N. Human Rights Council, as well as the tendency to keep Israel out of regional groupings, hampering its efforts to accrue legitimacy. At the same time, it commended the recent increase in General Assembly condemnations of anti-Semitism.

The willingness of the authors of the anti-Semitism report to speak out stands in contrast to the relatively muted tone of the State Department's human rights assessment. Last year's human rights report saw the elimination of rankings such as "poor," "very poor," "improved" or "not improved" that were applied to foreign governments. This year's report is even less venturesome, simply describing reports of abuses as "credible" or "reputable," and relaying the data.

That might be a function of the U.S. government itself facing an increase of allegations of abusive behavior, according to Human Rights First.

"The problem," the organization said in a statement, "is not so much that the reports fail to tell it like it is, but rather that because of the United States' own polices on torture, rendition and detention, the Bush administration is less able to combat human rights abuses abroad."

Continued (Permanent Link)

"A Land without a People for a People without a Land"

"A Land without a People for a People without a Land"

by Diana Muir
Middle East Quarterly
Spring 2008, pp. 55-62

"A land without a people for a people without a land" is one of the most oft-cited phrases in the literature of Zionism—and perhaps also the most problematic. Anti-Zionists cite the phrase as a perfect encapsulation of the fundamental injustice of Zionism: that early Zionists believed Palestine was uninhabited,[1] that they denied—and continue to reject—the existence of a distinct Palestinian culture,[2] and even as evidence that Zionists always planned on an ethnic cleansing of the Arab population.[3] Such assertions are without basis in fact: They both deny awareness on the part of early Zionists of the presence of Arabs in Palestine and exaggerate the coalescence of a Palestinian national identity, which in reality only developed in reaction to Zionist immigration.[4] Nor is it true, as many anti-Zionists still assert, that early Zionists widely employed the phrase.

Origins of the Phrase

Many commentators, such as the late Arab literary theorist Edward Said, erroneously attribute the first use of the phrase to Israel Zangwill, a British author, playwright, and poet.[5] In fact, the phrase was coined and propagated by nineteenth-century Christian writers.

In 1831, Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, wrested control of Greater Syria from direct Ottoman control, a political change which led the British Foreign Ministry to send a consul to Jerusalem. This development catalyzed the popular imagination.

The earliest published use of the phrase appears to have been by Church of Scotland clergyman Alexander Keith in his 1843 book The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.[6] Keith was an influential evangelical thinker whose most popular work, Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy,[7] remains in print almost two centuries after it was first published. As an advocate of the idea that Christians should work to encourage the biblical prophecy of a Jewish return to the land of Israel, he wrote that the Jews are "a people without a country; even as their own land, as subsequently to be shown, is in a great measure a country without a people."[8] Keith was aware that the Holy Land was populated because he had traveled to Palestine in 1839 on behalf of the Church of Scotland and returned five years later with his son, George Skene Keith, believed to be the first photographer to visit to the Holy Land.

In July 1853, British statesman and social reformer Lord Shaftesbury wrote to Foreign Minister George Hamilton Gordon, Lord Palmerston, that Greater Syria was "a country without a nation" in need of "a nation without a country… Is there such a thing? To be sure there is: the ancient and rightful lords of the soil, the Jews!"[9] Shaftesbury elaborated in his diary that these "vast and fertile regions will soon be without a ruler, without a known and acknowledged power to claim dominion. The territory must be assigned to some one or other. There is a country without a nation; and God now in his wisdom and mercy, directs us to a nation without a country."[10] A subsequent Shaftesbury biography sold well and exposed a wider audience to the phrase.[11]

The year after Shaftesbury's first use, a writer in a Presbyterian magazine told readers that, "Surely the land without a people, and the people without a land, are intended soon to meet and mutually possess each other"[12] and, in an 1858 essay, yet another Scottish Presbyterian, Horatius Bonar, advocated the "Repatriation of Israel… [in which] we have a people without a country, as well as a country without a people."[13]

Following an 1881 trip to the Holy Land, American William Eugene Blackstone, another Christian advocate of restoring a Jewish population to Palestine, wrote that this "phase of the question [of what to do with Jews subject to tsarist persecution] presents an astonishing anomaly—a land without a people, and a people without a land."[14]

Anglicans also favored the concept. In 1884, George Seaton Bowes, a Cambridge University clergyman, advocated the return of Jews to Palestine and also used the phrase, "a land without a people… [for] a people without a land."[15]

John Lawson Stoddard, a Bostonian from a privileged background, grew rich traveling to faraway lands and then giving stereopticon lectures upon his return. In an 1897 travelogue, he exhorts the Jews, "You are a people without a country; there is a country without a people. Be united. Fulfill the dreams of your old poets and patriarchs. Go back, go back to the land of Abraham."[16]

By the late nineteenth century, the phrase was in common use in both Great Britain and the United States among Christians interested in returning a Jewish population to Palestine.[17] Christian use of the phrase continued into the first decades of the twentieth century. In 1901, American missionary and, later, Yale professor, Harlan Page Beach wrote approvingly of the idea that the Jews will one day, "In God's good time, inhabit the land of their forefathers; otherwise we can offer no valid explanation of a people without a land and a land without a people."[18] In her 1902 novel, The Zionist, English writer Winifred Graham (1873-1950) has her Jewish hero stand before the Zionist congress and advocate for the return of "the people without a country to the country without a people."[19] Augustus Hopkins Strong, a prominent American Baptist theologian, used the phrase in 1912[20] and, on December 12, 1917, the lead article in The Washington Post, written by a Christian journalist, used the phrase.

The first use of the phrase by a Zionist did not come until 1901 when Israel Zangwill, probably echoing Shaftesbury's wording, wrote in the New Liberal Review that "Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country."[21]

Jewish Nationalism in Context

Although the image of Palestine as a "land without a people" was most commonly advanced by Christian proponents of a Jewish return to Palestine, it would be wrong to ascribe the perception of Palestine as a land without a people only to Christians. In the context of the nineteenth century and the many nationalist movements that captured the Western imagination, the notion of a Jewish restoration in Palestine seemed logical, even without religious motivations. In 1891, William Blackstone sent an open letter, known today as the Blackstone Memorial, to U.S. president Benjamin Harrison: "Why shall not the powers which under the treaty of Berlin, in 1878, gave Bulgaria to the Bulgarians and Servia to the Servians now give Palestine back to the Jews? … These provinces, as well as Roumania, Montenegro, and Greece, were wrested from the Turks and given to their natural owners. Does not Palestine as rightfully belong to the Jews?"[22] Nineteenth-century Westerners associated peoples or nations with territory, and so to be a land without a people did not imply that the land was without people, only that it was without a national political character.

What may be odd, viewed from the Arab perspective, is the lens through which Westerners look at the land. In Western eyes, the eastern Mediterranean is permanently overlaid with the outline of a territory called "the Holy Land," or "the Land of Israel." Because Westerners equate lands with peoples, even post-Christian Westerners expect to find a people identified and coterminous with the Holy Land. Muslims, however, neither perceived Palestine as a distinct country, nor Palestinians as a people. In Ottoman times, the Holy Land and its moderately valuable agricultural districts were subject to rule from Beirut or Damascus, where many of the wealthy Arab families who owned land in Palestine lived. During this period, Arabs thought of the Holy Land as an integral part of Syria, Bilad ash-Sham.[23] The Muslim perception of Syria and Palestine as distinct countries developed in the twentieth century.[24] In Arab eyes in the pre-World War I period, all of Bilad ash-Sham, including portions Christians and Jews saw as the Holy Land, was an integral part of Arab domains and not a separate entity.

Advocates of a Jewish return to Israel, when they thought about the Arab inhabitants at all, assumed the existing Arab population would continue in residence after a Jewish state was established. This outcome appeared workable since all nation-states include ethnic minorities among their citizens.

Attack on the Slogan

Opponents of Zionism began to attack the slogan shortly after the Balfour Declaration was issued. In 1918, Ameer Rihami, a Lebanese-American, Christian Arab nationalist, wrote that "I would even say … 'Give the land without a people to the people without a land' if Palestine were really without a people and if the Jews were really without a land." He argued that Jews needed no homeland in Palestine because they enjoyed everywhere else "equal rights and equal opportunity, to say the least."[25] It was an attitude not limited to Arab nationalists. One early twentieth-century academic Arabist wrote, "Their very slogan, 'The land without a people for the people without a land,' was an insult to Arabs of the country."[26] American journalist William McCrackan said, "We used to read in our papers the slogan of Zionism, 'to give back a people to a Land without a People,' while the truth was that Palestine was already well-peopled with a population which was rapidly increasing from natural causes."[27]

Proponents of a binational state in Palestine employed the phrase when debating mainstream Zionists. Robert Weltsch, editor of the prestigious German Zionist weekly Juedische Rundschau, wrote in August 1925, for example, "We may be a people without a home, but, alas, there is not a country without a people. Palestine has an existing population of 700,000."[28]

Anti-Israel propagandists seized upon the phrase following the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).[29] In his speech at the United Nations on November 13, 1974, PLO leader Yasir Arafat said, "It pains our people greatly to witness the propagation of the myth that its homeland was a desert until it was made to bloom by the toil of foreign settlers, that it was a land without a people."[30] Likewise, in its November 14, 1988 "Declaration of Independence," the Palestinian National Council accuses "local and international forces" of "attempts to propagate the lie that 'Palestine is a land without a people.'"[31] Hanan Ashrawi, a PLO spokeswoman and former dean of the faculty of arts of Birzeit University, suggests that the phrase shows that Zionists "sought to deny the very existence and humanity of the Palestinians."[32] Salman Abu Sitta, founder and president of the Palestine Land Society, calls the phrase "a wicked lie in order to make the Palestinian people homeless."[33]

Edward Said cited the phrase to deny Israel's right to exist on the grounds that the Zionist claim to the land was made on the false premise that Palestine was "a land without people."[34] Many Said disciples furthered the argument.[35] Perhaps the best known is Rashid Khalidi, who writes that, "In the early days of the Zionist movement, many of its European supporters—and others—believed that Palestine was empty and sparsely cultivated. This view was widely propagated by some of the movement's leading thinkers and writers, such as Theodore Herzl, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and Max Mandelstamm, with Herzl never even mentioning the Arabs in his famous work, The Jewish State. It was summed up in the widely-propagated Zionist slogan, 'A land without a people for a people without a land.'"[36]

Khalidi's statement is factually wrong. Rather than check Der Judenstaat, he refers to an academic work that was inaccurate.[37] Herzl mentions the resident population of Palestine, albeit in the context of discussing possible locations for his projected Jewish state. He was prescient in his analysis of the political impact that the inhabitants were likely to have on the Zionist project. Immigration, he explained, "continues till the inevitable moment when the native population feels itself threatened and forces the government to stop a further influx of Jews. Immigration is consequently futile unless we have the sovereign right to continue such immigration."[38] To say that Herzl at the time he wrote Der Judenstaat had little interest in the existing population beyond assessing their probable impact on Zionism is fair. To state that he "never even mentioned" the Arabs of Palestine is untrue. Nor did the phrase "land without a people" ever appear in Herzl's books, letters, or diary.[39]

Khalidi is also guilty of inconsistent methodology in applying rules of grammar. He often uses "a people" in the ordinary manner, as a near-synonym for nation, writing: "The Palestinians are a people with national rights."[40] Or, "This remarkable book recounts how the Palestinians came to be constituted as a people."[41] He justified the terrorism of the second intifada by arguing that the "violence, which has broken out, has been the natural result of a people desiring its independence."[42] Khalidi misunderstands the phrase "a people" only when discussing the phrase "land without a people."[43]

Many other academics and commentators use the phrase to discredit Zionism. Radical journalist Ronald Bleier, for example, cites it as an example of a "wilderness myth" and likens it to Nazi propaganda.[44] Norman Finkelstein, an anti-Israel polemicist who, until he was denied tenure in 2007, taught at DePaul University in Chicago, also linked the phrase to a wilderness myth.[45] Lawrence Davidson, history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, calls it "ethnic cleansing at the conceptual level."[46] Jacqueline Rose, professor of English at Queen Mary University in London, calls the phrase "a blatant lie."[47] Post-Zionists such as Tom Segev and Joel Beinin, who oppose the Jewish character of Israel, have also used criticism of the slogan to further their arguments,[48] as has revisionist historian Benny Morris.[49] Even some Zionists have been induced by these attacks to misunderstand the phrase. In Commentary, Hillel Halkin suggests that photographers angled an early photo of Tel Aviv "to substantiate Zionist claims that the Jews, 'a people without a land,' were returning to Palestine, 'a land without a people.'"[50]

A Zionist Slogan?

In the minds of many of Zionism's detractors, the "land without a people" formulation has become a defining element of Zionism's original sin. But to what extent was that slogan actually employed by the early Zionists? The official Zionist mantra of the era stated that "The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law." Zionist groups used a range of other slogans, including "Torah and Labor," "The Land of Israel for the People of Israel according to the Torah of Israel," and "Zionism, Socialism, and Diaspora Emancipation." These, along with "Jewish State," "Back to the soil," "Return to Zion," "Jewish homeland," "A Palestine open to all Jews," and, by far most frequently, "Jewish national home," were widely-propagated Zionist slogans. In a search of seven major American newspapers—the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post[51]—there were more than 3,000 mentions of the phrase "Jewish national home" through 1948. No other Zionist phrase or slogan comes close. In contrast, there are only four mentions of Zangwill's phrasing, "country without a people,"[52] all before 1906. There is no mention of its variants: "land without a people" or "country without a nation." ProQuest's Historical Newspapers database shows one additional use of the phrase before 1972: the 1947 "Text of the Statement before U.N. by Jamal el Husseini on the Arabs' Position on Palestine: Arab Statement Denounces U.N. Proposal for Partitioning Palestine,"[53] in which Husseini charges that "the Zionist organization propagated the slogan 'Give the country without a people to the people without a country.'"

Despite the claims of Husseini, Said, and Khalidi, it is not evident that this was ever the slogan of any Zionist organization or that it was employed by any of the movement's leading figures. A mere handful of the outpouring of pre-state Zionist articles and books use it.[54] For a phrase that is so widely ascribed to Zionist leaders, it is remarkably hard to find in the historical record.[55]

Attendees at the 1905 Zionist congress associated the phrase with Zangwill,[56] and it appears to have passed out of use along with the rejection of his proposal to establish the Jewish homeland in British East Africa. In the rare instances where the phrase is found in a post-1905 Jewish source, it is usually as a specific reference to Zangwill[57] although sometimes it appears when a Jewish author quotes a Christian writer.[58]

Mainstream writers refer to the phrase as something used briefly and years before. In 1914, Chaim Weizmann referred to the phrase as descriptive of attitudes common in the early days of the movement.[59] Israeli writer and historian Amos Elon dated Zionist use of the phrase to 1903 but said it had faded from the lexicon by 1917.[60] The single use of the phrase in The Maccabean, the journal of the Federation of American Zionists, occurred in 1901.[61] By 1922, Christian journalist William Denison McCrackan described the phrase as no longer in use.[62]

Unless or until evidence comes to light of its wide use by Zionist publications and organizations, the assertion that "a land without a people for a people without a land" was a "widely-propagated Zionist slogan"[63] should be retired.

A Land without People?

Rashid Khalidi uses the phrase to charge Zionist leaders with believing that the land was "empty."[64] Edward Said actually alters the wording of the phrase to allege that Zionists thought that Palestine was "a land without people."[65]

But travelers such as Keith, Blackstone, Stoddard, and Zangwill (who first visited Israel in 1897 and whose own father went to live there) were well aware of the small Arab population, which Blackstone, at least, addressed when he opined that it would not pose an obstacle to Jewish restoration.[66] If some Zionists believed that Israel was literally empty, it is unlikely that they did so after Ahad Ha'Am's 1891 essay, "Truth from Eretz Yisrael," sparked debate over conditions in Palestine.[67]

Did some Jews imagine the Land of Israel as an abandoned land? Perhaps. But it seems more likely that Jews were capable of knowing on one level that there were enough Arabs in Palestine to stage pogroms in Hebron and Safed in 1834 while still referring to the land as empty. The editors of The Maccabean, for example, estimated in 1901 that there were only 150,000 Arabs in Palestine, perhaps one-third of the true number, and suggested the following year that one-third of the population was already Jewish. They nevertheless characterized Palestine in 1905 as "a good land, but it is an empty land." [68]

Zionism, with its penniless, powerless enthusiasts and grand plans to restore a Jewish commonwealth, was a movement of wishful thinkers. Herzl's treatment of the topic in The Jewish State was typical.[69] He gives the resident population passing mention and only in the context of discussion of political obstacles that lay in the path to building a Jewish state.

Arabs, of course, were recognized by Zionists and others as a people deserving of national sovereignty. As Israel Zangwill put it in the wake of World War I, "The Arabs should recognize that the road of renewed national glory lies through Baghdad, Damascus, and Mecca, and all the vast territories freed for them from the Turks and be content … The powers that freed them have surely the right to ask them not to grudge the petty strip [Israel] necessary for the renaissance of a still more downtrodden people."[70]

Diana Muir is the author of Reflections in Bullough's Pond: Economy and Ecosystem in New England (University Press of New England, 2000).

Related Topics: History, Israel

[1] Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 101.
[2] See for example, Hanan Ashrawi, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
[3] Saree Makdisi, "Said, Palestine, and the Humanism of Liberation," Critical Inquiry, 31 (2005): 443; idem, "An Iron Wall of Colonization," Counterpunch, Jan. 26, 2005.
[4] Muhammad Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).
[5] Edward Said, The Question of Palestine (New York: Times Books, 1979), p. 9.
[6] Alexander Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob (Edinburgh: William Whyte and Co., 1843), p. 43. An 1844 review of Keith's book in The United Secession Magazine (Edinburgh), vol. 1, p. 189, highlights the phrase with its most common wording: "a land without a people, and a people without a land."
[7] Whitefish, Mont.: Kessinger Publishing, 2005 (originally published in 1826).
[8] Keith, The Land of Israel According to the Covenant with Abraham, p. 43.
[9] Cited in Adam M. Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," Middle Eastern Studies, Oct. 1991, p. 543.
[10] Shaftsbury as cited in Albert Hyamson, "British Projects for the Restoration of Jews to Palestine," American Jewish Historical Society Publications, 1918, no. 26, p. 140.
[11] Edwin Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury (London: Cassell and Co., 1887), p. 487.
[12] Anonymous review of Van de Velde, C.W.M., Narrative of a Journey through Syrian and Palestine in 1851 and 1852 (Edinburgh: Wm. Blackwood and Sons, 1854), in United Presbyterian Magazine, Wm. Oliphant and Sons, Edinburgh, 1854, vol. 7, p. 403.
[13] Horatius Bonar, The Land of Promise: Notes of a Spring Journey from Beersheba to Sidon (New York: R. Carter and Brothers, 1858), excerpted in The Theological and Literary Journal (New York), July 1858-Apr. 1859, p. 149.
[14] William Blackstone, Palestine for the Jews (Oak Park, Ill.: self-pub., 1891), reprinted in Christian Protagonists for Jewish Restoration (New York: Arno, 1977), p. 17.
[15] Sermon by C. H. Banning, cited in George Seaton Bowes, Information and Illustration, Helps Gathered from Facts, Figures, Anecdotes, Books, etc., for Sermons, Lectures, and Addresses (London: James Nisbett and Co., 1884), p. 128.
[16] John L. Stoddard, Lectures: Illustrated and Embellished with Views of the World's Famous Places and People, Being the Identical Discourses Delivered during the Past Eighteen Years under the Title of the Stoddard Lectures, vol. 2. (Boston: Balch Brothers Co., 1897), p. 113.
[17] See, for example, William Henry Withrow, Religious Progress in the Century (London: Linscott Publishing Company, 1900), p. 184; Gospel in All Lands (New York: Methodist Episcopal Church Missionary Society, Jan. 1902), pp. 199-200.
[18] Harlan Page Beach, A Geography and Atlas of Protestant Missions: Their Environment, Forces, Distribution, Methods, Problems, Results, and Prospects at the Opening of the Twentieth Century (New York: Student Volunteer Movement for Foreign Missions, 1901), p. 521.
[19] Eitan Bar-Yosef, The Holy Land in English Culture, 1799-1917: Palestine and the Question of Orientalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 236.
[20] Augustus Hopkins Strong, Miscellanies (Philadelphia: Griffith and Rowland Press, 1912), p. 98.
[21] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use, and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539; Israel Zangwill, "The Return to Palestine," New Liberal Review, Dec. 1901, p. 615.
[22] Yaakov Ariel, On Behalf of Israel: American Fundamentalist Attitudes toward Jews, Judaism, and Zionism, 1865-1945 (New York: Carlson Publishing, 1991), pp. 70-2.
[23] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 163.
[24] Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism, pp. 131-54.
[25] Ameen Rihani, "The Holy Land: Whose to Have and to Hold?" The Bookman, Jan. 1918, p. 10.
[26] Norman Dwight Harris, Europe and the East (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926), p. 93.
[27] William Denison McCrackan, The New Palestine: An Authoritative Account of Palestine since the Great War (Boston: Page Company, 1922), p. 250.
[28] Martin Buber, A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs, Paul Mendes-Flohr, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), p. 14.
[29] Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, Palestine between 1914 and 1967 (New York: New World Press, 1967), p. 10; Izzat Tannous, The "Activities" of the Hagana, Irgun, and Stern Gang: As Recorded in British Command Paper No. 6873 (New York: Palestine Liberation Organization, 1968), p. 3.
[30] Walter Laquer and Barry Rubin, eds., The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (New York: Penguin, 2001), pp. 174-5.
[31] "Palestinian National Council Declaration of Independence," Algiers, Nov. 14, 1988.
[32] The Sydney Morning Herald, Nov. 6, 2003.
[33] Matt Horton, "The Atlas of Palestine 1948," The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Aug. 2005, p. 58.
[34] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
[35] For example, Saree Makdisi, "Israel's Fantasy Stands in Way of Peace," The Arab American News (Dearborn), Feb. 5-Feb. 11, 2005; Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of "Transfer" in Zionist Political Thought (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992), p. 6.
[36] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
[37] Khalidi relies on Anita Shapira, Land and Power: The Zionist Recourse to Force, 1881-1948 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 41.
[38] Theodore Herzl, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (London: Nutt, 1896); idem, The Jewish State, Sylvie d'Avigdor, trans. (New York: Dover, 1988), p. 95.
[39] Garfinkle, "On the Origin, Meaning, Use and Abuse of a Phrase," p. 539.
[40] Rashid Khalidi, "Observations on the Right of Return," Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 1992, p. 30.
[41] Rashid Khalidi, jacket blurb for Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S. Migdal, The Palestinian People: A History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003).
[42] Rashid Khalidi, "To End the Bloodshed," Christian Century, Nov. 22-29, 2000, p. 1206.
[43] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, p. 101.
[44] Ronald Bleier, review of "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict," Middle East Policy, Oct. 1999, p. 195.
[45] Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso Books, 1995), p. 95.
[46] Lawrence Davidson, "Christian Zionism as a Representation of American Manifest Destiny," Critique: Critical Middle East Studies, Summer 2005, p. 161.
[47] Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 44.
[48] Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate (New York: Owl Books, 2001), p. 493; Joel Beinin, "Political Economy and Public Culture in a State of Constant Conflict: Fifty Years of Jewish Statehood," Jewish Social Studies, July 31, 1998, p. 96.
[49] Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist Arab Conflict, 1881-2001 (New York: Vintage, 2001), p. 42.
[50] Hillel Halkin, "The First Hebrew City," Commentary, Feb. 2007, p. 57.
[51] ProQuest Historical Newspapers database, accessed Nov. 27, 2007.
[52] The New York Times, Nov. 23, 1901, May 20, 1903; The Chicago Daily Tribune, Dec. 22, 1901; The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
[53] The New York Times, Sept. 30, 1947.
[54] See Israel Herbert Levinthal, Judaism, An Analysis and An Interpretation (New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls, 1935), p. 254; Morris Silverman, ed., Sabbath and Festival Prayerbook with a New Translation, Supplementary Readings, and Notes (New York: Rabbinical Assembly of America and the United Synagogue of America, 1946), p. 324; Max Raisin, A History of the Jews in Modern Times (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1919), p. 356; The Zionist Review, Apr. 1918, p. 231; Leonard Mars, "The Ministry of the Reverend Simon Fyne in Swansea: 1899-1906," Jewish Social Studies, Winter/Spring 1988, p. 92.
[55] Alan Dowty, The Jewish State, A Century Later (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), p. 267.
[56] The Washington Post, Aug. 27, 1905.
[57] See "The Restoration of Judea," New York Globe editorial, May 1, 1917, reprinted in Zionism Conquers Public Opinion (New York: Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, 1917), p. 16; Richard James Horation Gottheil, Zionism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1914), p. 139.
[58] Walter M. Chandler statement, The American War Congress and Zionism: Statements by Members of the American War Congress on the Jewish National Movement (New York: Zionist Organization of America, 1919), p 154.
[59] Paul Goodman, Chaim Weizmann: A Tribute on His Seventieth Birthday (London: V. Gollancz, 1945), p. 153.
[60] Amos Elon, The Israelis: Founders and Sons (New York: Holt, Reinhart, Winston, 1971), p. 149.
[61] Raphael Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, 1898-1948 (Ph.D. diss., Yeshiva University, 1991), p. 17.
[62] McCrackan, The New Palestine, p. 250.
[63] Khalidi, Palestinian Identity; p. 101.
[64] Ibid.
[65] Said, The Question of Palestine, p. 9.
[66] Ariel, On Behalf of Israel, p. 74.
[67] Alan Dowty, "Much Ado about Little: Ahad Ha'am's 'Truth from Eretz Yisrael,' Zionism, and the Arabs," Israel Studies, Fall 2000, pp. 154-81.
[68] Medoff, American Zionist Leaders and the Palestinian Arabs, p. 19.
[69] Shapira, Land and Power, p. 51.
[70] Israel Zangwill, The Voice of Jerusalem (New York, Macmillan and Company, 1921) p. 110.

Source: Middle East Quarterly.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Tall Tales about Israeli "atrocities" in Gaza

 Apr. 2, 2008
Many factors contribute to Israel's perennially poor public relations, most of them stemming from its own incompetence. They range from spokesmen who are not fluent in the relevant foreign language to the failure to formulate a clear, simple and consistent message for these spokesmen to convey. One aspect of the problem, however, is Israel's persistent failure to refute Palestinian lies.
Two weeks ago, for instance, the New York Times/International Herald Tribune ran a report on the latest poll by Khalil Shikaki's Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR). It stated that Shikaki "was shocked" because the poll "showed greater support for violence than any other he had conducted over the past 15 years... Never before, he said, had a majority favored an end to negotiations or the shooting of rockets at Israel."
Shikaki's "explanation for the shift," it continued, "is that recent actions by Israel, especially attacks on Gaza that killed nearly 130 people, an undercover operation in Bethlehem that killed four militants and the announced expansion of several West Bank settlements, have led to despair and rage among average Palestinians."
The message could not be clearer: The normally peace-loving Palestinians, who previously opposed rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, have been driven to violence by Israel's brutality. There is only one problem: Shikaki's claim is utterly false.
HIS LATEST poll found that 64 percent of Palestinians favored rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Far from being unprecedented, however, that figure is almost identical to what it was 18 months ago, according to Shikaki's own data: A PSR poll conducted in late August, 2006 found that 63 percent of Palestinians favored such attacks. And it is lower than the figure in some earlier Shikaki polls: In September 2004, for instance, PSR found that 75 percent of Palestinians supported rocket attacks on Israel.
The other leading Palestinian pollster, the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, has consistently produced similar results: A JMCC poll from July 2006, for instance, found that 60 percent of Palestinians supported rocket attacks on Israel.
In other words, peace-loving Palestinians have not been suddenly radicalized by Israeli brutality; they have supported rocket attacks on Israeli civilians from the moment they acquired this capability.
This is not a trivial issue. First, the main international criticism of Israel's counterterrorism operations in Gaza is that they hurt "innocent civilians." Yet that argument loses much of its force if those "innocent civilians" actually support the rocket attacks, because repeated studies have shown that whether terrorist organizations wither or thrive depends substantially on the support they receive from the local population. Thus a populace that backs terrorist activities is not "innocent," it is an active and essential contributor to the terrorists' success.
This is even truer for the Palestinians, because Hamas is not only a terrorist organization; it is also an elected ruling party. Public opinion is thus an especially crucial component of its power, one it cannot afford to totally disregard. Hence were ordinary Palestinians largely opposed to rather than supportive of rocket attacks, Hamas would be much more likely to restrain both its own military wing and smaller groups like Islamic Jihad.
Israeli operations in Gaza are also routinely slammed as counterproductive - which might be valid if these operations indeed increased support for anti-Israel attacks. But if support for rocket attacks against Israel has remained steadily high for years, regardless of the ups and downs of the fighting, that claim, too, loses much of its force.
THE SHIKAKI poll, of course, is merely one of many Palestinian lies that have gone unrefuted by Israel. Another excellent example is the partial fuel embargo on Gaza.
Palestinians have had great success in charging that this embargo deprives them of fuel for such humanitarian essentials as pumping water and running hospital generators. Israel routinely counters that it does provide enough fuel for humanitarian needs, but since it never provides evidence to back this assertion, the world has largely dismissed it.
Yet such evidence is readily available: One need look no farther than the New York Times.
On February 26, for instance, the International Herald Tribune ran a Times report on a protest against the Israeli embargo that Hamas organized in northern Gaza. Of the approximately 4,000 demonstrators, it said, "many were schoolchildren who arrived directly from their classrooms ... They had been bused in to join the protest, despite complaints from Gaza about a dire shortage of gasoline because of the Israeli sanctions."
On March 11, the Times reported on another Hamas-organized protest, in Gaza City. Palestinian livestock owners "were paid 100 shekels each (about $28) to attend the protest, as well as transportation costs. Hundreds of animals - sheep, camels and donkeys - came from all over Gaza."
Busing in schoolchildren from all over Gaza guzzles fuel; so does trucking in livestock from all over Gaza. Thus clearly, Hamas has fuel for things it deems important. If it considers anti-Israel demonstrations more important than supplying hospitals and pumping stations, that is hardly Israel's fault; it is Hamas that has chosen to deprive its own people in order to score propaganda points.
Again, this is a nontrivial issue. Virtually nothing could damage Israel's image more than people worldwide imagining Palestinian children with no water to drink, or hospitals unable to perform lifesaving operations, due to an Israeli embargo. And virtually nothing could damage Hamas's image more than having people worldwide realize that it is cynically withholding vital fuel from its own people in order to make Israel look bad.
It would be nice if journalists, world leaders and international human rights organizations consistently noticed such lies on their own, but the reality is that they rarely have the time, energy or interest to do the necessary research. For Israel, however, exposing Palestinian lies is a vital interest. Hence it is Israel's responsibility to invest the resources necessary to document these lies and expose them to international opinion leaders.
That would still be only one small element of the comprehensive public relations strategy that Israel needs. But it would be far better than the current policy of letting such damaging lies go unchallenged.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bizarre claim: Six Day War was launched to increase Israel's watter pumping capacity

According to Haa'retz, A German 'expert' hired by the Palestinian Authority claimed that Israel launched the Six Day War in order to increase its water pumping capacity.  Clemens Messerschmid, who serves as a consultant on water projects for the Palestinians in the territories also claimed,  "For Israel to consume all the water it does, it must keep that water away from its neighbors and from the people it is occupying - and this is evident in the Golan, Lebanon, Jordan and the occupied territories."
In fact, Israel has reduced water consumption from natural sources. In 1967, Israel used 1.4 billion cubic meters of fresh water from natural sources, while in 2006, despite more than doubling its population, Israel used only 1.23 billion cubic meters.  Annual consumption decreased from 508 cubic meters per capita in 1967 to 170 cubic meters. The saving was due in part to use of 600,000 cubic meters of recycled and desalinated water, and in part to decreased use of water for agriculture.
Israel is experiencing water shortages due to chronic droughts in recent years, according to the Israel Water Authority.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Qassam rockets: US & EU Taxpayers gift to Israel

The following must be the non-sequitor of all times:
"There is no solution for the troubles in Gaza, or for the rockets being fired from it," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview for Kuwaiti journal al-Rai on Saturday. "All we can do is transfer funds to the Gaza Strip." 
How is transferring funds going to stop rockets. The funds ultimately pay for the rockets. The funds come from your pocket, by the way. Each Qassam rocket should be labeled, "Gift of the people of the United States." Without those funds, the Hamas could not stay in power in Gaza.
Ami Isseroff

Fayyad: No solution to Qassam issue
Palestinian prime minister says does not believe solution to Qassam attacks exists. Laments detachment of West Bank from Gaza: 'All we can do is transfer funds'
Roee Nahmias
Published:  04.05.08, 16:49 / Israel News
"There is no solution for the troubles in Gaza, or for the rockets being fired from it," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview for Kuwaiti journal al-Rai on Saturday. "All we can do is transfer funds to the Gaza Strip."
Fayyad was referring to the detachment of the West Bank from Gaza following the hostile takeover of the coastal territory by Hamas, and to his authority's helplessness in remedying the situation. "We can do nothing but transfer the clerks' salaries and relief funds through the banks. We have tried numerous times to resolve this issue," he said.
Regarding the economic situation of the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad, the former finance minister of the PA, remarked: "What you hear about the rate of 40% unemployment in Gaza is untrue. In actuality the rate is much higher. Because of the siege people have become frustrated, and have not been seeking employment."
"If we had not transferred the clerks' salaries the situation would have deteriorated to a general social disaster," he continued.
Fayyad met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak 10 days ago. During the meeting Barak informed Fayyad of the forthcoming gestures Israel plans to offer the PA, including an increase of entry permits for Palestinians working in Israel, movement permits, and privileges for Palestinian businessmen.
In addition, Israel plans to promote joint economic projects, remove road blocks, and transfer 300 vehicles to PA employees. Besides the Israeli venture, Fayyad's government also received $150 million from the US, which constitutes a small part of the $7.7 billion donated to the PA globally.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Engaging Iran: Iran jilts EU again, refuses to halt enrichment

Those who insist on engagement with Iran should take note: been there, done that.
Iran rejects economic incentives to halt uranium enrichment
Tehran says it hopes to offer 'good news' regarding its nuclear program later this week as the country celebrates it National Day of Nuclear Technology, dismisses EU offer of benefits in exchange for termination of uranium enrichment efforts. 'The Islamic Republic doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights,' says government spokesman Gholam Elham
Associated Press
Published:  04.05.08, 17:35 / Israel News
Iran rejected recent European overtures to halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives, saying it will continue to expand, not halt, its nuclear program, the government spokesman told reporters Saturday.
The European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said last month that his bloc was open for further talks with Tehran to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions despite UN Security Council approval of a third round of sanctions.
''Iran does not trade its rights in return for incentives,'' government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters. ''The Islamic Republic of Iran doesn't need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights.''
Though the UN Security Council imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran last month for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, the foreign ministers of the US, Russia, China, Britain and France, along with Germany, also pledged to enhance a 2006 package of political, security and economic incentives to Iran in return for a halt on uranium enrichment.
But Iran has refused, dismissing a third round of sanctions imposed March 3 as ''worthless'' and ''based on political motivations.''
Elham, however, said Iran will still talk to Europe about its nuclear program.
''Iran has always stated that the door to dialogue and interaction with the outside world, European or non-European is open,'' he told reporters, while making it clear that the six nations can't replace the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency in dealing with Iran's nuclear rights and obligations.
''Dialogue doesn't mean creating new institutions to replace legal bodies. We do not accept replacing the IAEA (with some countries which themselves possess nuclear weapons),'' he said.

'IAEA vindicated our program'
Iran has repeatedly said its right to enrich uranium under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty was ''nonnegotiable.''
 The United States, the European Union, Israel and others suspect Iran's goal is to produce nuclear weapons. But Iran insists its program is aimed solely at producing nuclear energy.
Iran says a report released by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency in February vindicated Iran's nuclear program and left no justification for any Security Council sanctions.
The 11-page report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said all major past issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities had been fully resolved or are ''no longer outstanding at this stage,'' repeatedly saying the IAEA's findings are consistent with information available to the agency and explanations provided by Iran.
Diplomats in Vienna told The Associated Press Thursday that Iran has assembled hundreds of advanced machines reflecting a possible intention to speed up uranium enrichment.
One diplomat said more than 300 of the centrifuges have been linked up in two separate units in Iran's underground enrichment plant and a third was being assembled. He said the machines apparently are more advanced than the thousands already running underground.

The location is significant, since the aboveground site at Natanz is for experimental work and the underground facility is the working enrichment plant.
Elham said the government hoped to offer ''good news'' to the nation on Iran's ''achievements'' on April 8, declared as the National Day of Nuclear Technology.
It refers to April 8, 2006 when Iran for the first time enriched uranium at Natanz.

Continued (Permanent Link)

What's More Important: Blue Jeans or Being Blown Up?

Barry Rubin's article makes an important point about how media bias works. One problem is that checkpoint and security hassles are never directly associated with the terror attacks that they prevent or the lives that were saved.

Media bias depends on the audience too. Truth, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. If you sympathize with Palestinian Arabs exclusively, then Palestinian blue jeans are much more important than blown up Israelis. Let's face it, them Israelis are Jews, right? And they are SETTLERS, right? So they deserve it, don't they?

The most egregious example of this that comes to mind was a report from the (un)Christian Peace Teams in Hebron, that described in detail the sufferings of a poor Palestinian Arab in Hebron, who could not feed his chickens because of the curfew. There is no doubt that the readers of this heartrending chicken & Palestinian Arab story were stirred up to hate the settlers and the evil Jewish IDF for their cruelty to chickens. A rather brief sentence in this lamentation mentioned in passing that the curfew was imposed because of a suicide bombing in which several people had lost their lives. Hey, they were only Jews, right?

Ami Isseroff

What's More Important: Blue Jeans or Being Blown Up?
Barry Rubin
April 4, 2008

It's hard to satirize a lot of media coverage about Israel and the Arab-Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. The truly dreadful stuff is in the details, the small stories and big assumptions on which they are based, rather than in any "scoops" or blockbuster articles.

There are basically two types of such articles. In one, the author's basic and extreme political bias comes out clearly. The writer is consciously determined to slam Israel. This happens more often in large elements of the European press and in Reuters.

A Reuters reporter called me and told me that they were writing a story on how Israel destroyed the Palestinian economy. I suggested that perhaps they should do an article about the problems of the Palestinian economy rather than assume the answer. When the story came out, my short quote was represented fairly, but the rest of the article was totally biased, trying to prove a thesis, and even misquoted a World Bank report. In the article, the report blamed Israel for the problems but the actual text--available online--said the opposite.

Another personal experience. Australian Broadcasting Company, that country's main and official television network interviewed me on the main events of the Middle East in 2007. I said that the most important single thing was Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip, an action which set back the chances for peace by many years, even decades.

When the story was broadcast it had been edited so that I appeared to be saying that Israel policy had set back the chances for peace by many years, even decades.

I filed an official complaint and in the end they came down on my side, sort of. The decision was that the piece had been carelessly edited or something like that. In the online correction, however, they didn't even say that but merely that I had asked that an explanation be added to make clear my point was not about Israeli policy.

Of course, the reporter had done it on purpose.

But most silliness, especially in the U.S. media, is based on the blindness of assumption: of course Hamas could become moderate, of course the Palestinians want peace, of course Fatah is moderate, of course Israel treats them unfairly.

So we get AP items like Laurie Copans, "Israeli-Palestinian Trade Suffers," March 28. Oh dear, suffering trade. That's bad. Wouldn't more trade be good for everyone?

The article is very long for AP, 22 paragraphs. It tells us a touching story about how--due to the fact that "the Palestinian driver did not have a permit through an Israeli military checkpoint and the X-ray machine at a crossing was broken," a shipment of blue jeans for the Israeli market "arrived 8 1/2 hours later."

Silly me. I expected the reporter would then compare a delayed shipment of blue jeans with the danger of dozens of Israeli civilians being murdered. Nope. Let me explain: this is wartime, safeguarding lives is more important than expediting clothing. If the Palestinians are not happy with the delays let them crack down on terrorism so that roadblocks aren't needed.

Does the article make this point? Hardly, and even then only in a derisive way.

Here is paragraph four. Note how it tells you about the real story in a way that says it is totally unimportant:

"Israel agreed this week to issue more permits for Palestinian laborers and merchants, but has yet to take down any of the hundreds of West Bank checkpoints it says are necessary to stop suicide bombers. With little real progress on the peace front and violence persisting, Israeli-Palestinian business ties are discouraged."

Now is it so unproved, a mere Israeli assertion, that checkpoints are necessary to stop suicide bombers, not to mention other forms of terrorism? It is well established that past terrorists have come through checkpoints yet this is treated as some possibly wild or at least unproven Israeli allegation.

Are Israelis quoted for balance after all the quotes from Palestinians toeing the party line? Sure, but only if the Israelis say what the author wants: "`Israel has an interest in not having hungry neighbors,' [economist Ephraim] Kleiman said. `Israel has a vested interest in the economic well-being of the Palestinians. It's much more important than any moral obligation.'"

Not Kleiman's fault. What he said is right in context. But the reporter didn't put it into context. Instead the message is: Trade is vital for peace and human needs. The Palestinians are hungry, if the Israelis hold up the jean deliveries it verges on being a crime against humanity, and security is either an illusory factor or an outright excuse.

Oh, and there is also the big ending. Here it is:

"A harrowing incident made [Israeli designer Irit] Levzohar...thankful for the Israeli security.

"Once, when she made the trip to the West Bank herself, she discovered a stack of guns after she pulled her bags of clothing out of a Palestinian driver's truck.

"`I began to shake all over and I dropped the bags,'" Levzohar said. "`All I could think about was my children.'"

"She confronted her Palestinian supplier, who promised never to work with that driver again, and reported the incident to the Israeli military. Now Levzohar says she only picks up clothes at authorized crossings.

"`You can't gamble for business,'" Levzohar said."

Yeah, that seems a relevant consideration, doesn't it? Perhaps it isn't just an Israeli claim about the need for roadblocks to stop terrorists and weapons from getting into Israel. But that's stuck in at the end (the part most likely, as AP editors know, to be cut by newspapers to make a piece fit) rather than made part of the lead. And probably it got in only because it was a colorful anecdote that spiced up the article.

In many cases, pieces like this don't even have that ending but stick to the usual framework. Trade is good; Palestinians are hungry; Israel is bad. The key elements involved here--terrorism is central, extremism among Palestinian leaders incites and organizes it, Israel wants piece while Palestinian groups don't--is absent from most of the articles written on these issues.

No wonder so many in the West find the Middle East incomprehensible. A lot of the coverage makes it seem that way precisely because the reporting ensures that viewers don't understand what is going on or how things work.

Reminds me of what a very cynical Washington Post reporter once told me: "That's why they're called stories"

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal . His latest books are The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan) and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley) .

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sderot is closer to California than you think

By Vic Rosenthal
04/05/08 09:43:42
Fresno Bee

I just returned from a visit to Israel, where I met my brand-new grandson, Shilo. Yesterday, it seems, his father was skateboarding at Shaw and West avenues, Hamilton School and other prime (and forbidden) locations.

But for the past 12 years, he's had to put aside his desire to be an illustrator and instead serve in various military and security-related jobs, because somebody wants to kill his children.

For the past six years, Qassam rockets have been falling on Israeli towns. If you are a young teenager and live in, for example, Sderot, you may not remember a time when sudden death did not fall from the sky.

You hear the shriek of the warning siren and you have 15 seconds -- 15 seconds or less -- to get to a shelter. Then you hear explosions, from far away if you're lucky. Usually the rockets come in groups; the terrorists set up a group of launchers, fire the rockets and run away. They also sometimes use timers or fire them remotely with cell phones.

The rockets are inaccurate, so they are just aimed at populated areas and fired. There have been several models, each more powerful than the last. They include ball bearings, so that if one explodes within a few yards of you, you will be injured or killed. So far, 14 people have been killed, hundreds injured and nobody knows how much psychological trauma suffered.

Imagine your child, or my grandson, walking to school. Suddenly, he hears the siren wail and runs as fast as his legs can carry him for the nearest substantial building. If there isn't one, then he falls in the street and covers his ears. Imagine that this happens almost every day (they deliberately fire rockets when schoolchildren are in the streets). He learns to always be aware of where he is with respect to possible shelters, always ready to bolt. Imagine that he is 12 years old and has been doing this for half of his life. Half of his days ... and half of his nights. Some families sleep in shifts so someone will always be awake to hear the siren.

Rockets fall

Some days, literally hundreds of rockets fall; other days, only a few. The pace stepped up significantly when Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, and yet again last year when the terrorist group Hamas took complete control of the Gaza strip.

Recently, Hamas has obtained Iranian-made Grad rockets. Based on a Russian design, these are much more powerful and have a longer range. Some 125,000 Israelis are now in range. Soon this will include my children and grandchildren. None of these people are settlers. They all live within the 1967 boundaries. But Hamas sees all Israeli Jews as colonists, all civilians as potential soldiers.

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar made this clear when he said, "Palestine means Palestine in its entirety -- from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River. ... We cannot give up a single inch of it." When Hamas talks about "ending the occupation," it means the "occupation" that began when Israel was created in 1948, not 1967.

Zahar has also said that rockets are better than suicide bombings. The psychological effect is much worse, especially the national feeling of impotence they engender as the years wear on.

But let's get back to rockets raining down on kids. Israel has tried many ways to stop them. Threatening to reduce the electricity supply to Gaza resulted in Hamas photographs of candlelit cabinet meetings and international outrage. Targeted killings of rocket squads evoked Hamas claims of civilian deaths and international outrage. A relatively small incursion into Northern Gaza created (you guessed it) international outrage as a result of Hamas reports of civilian casualties. They were five times greater than the Israel Defense Forces figures, but the world believed Hamas and the United States forced Israel to withdraw. The rockets continued to fall.

What would you do?

What nation in the world would sit still and allow this to be done to them? What would the United States do if dozens of Mexican rockets a day were falling on El Paso? What would you do if your child had to live half his life scrambling in terror?

What Israel is going to have to do is clear. They will enter Gaza again, seek out the rocket stockpiles and factories, and destroy them. They will find the Hamas leadership and kill them. There will be a lot of international outrage, but they will simply have to do it anyway. How much longer can this continue?

Vic Rosenthal of Fresno is in the computer software business. He writes a blog on the Middle East at

Continued (Permanent Link)

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