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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hamas might be interested in Carter proposed truce

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/hamas-might-be-interested-in-carter.html

Last update - 15:17 19/04/2008    
 
By News Agencies 

Hamas engaged in an internal debate Saturday over proposals put froward by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for a unilateral cease-fire with Israel and more political flexibility, Palestinian politicians said.
 
Carter left the Syrian capital Saturday for Riyadh after an early morning meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal.
 
Carter and Meshaal held more than four hours of talks Friday night that discussed how the Islamist group could be drawn into a Middle East peace plan and drop its opposition to peace talks between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah faction.
 
 Carter demanded that Hamas stops firing rockets on Israel while he pursues efforts with Israel and the West to lift the siege on the Gaza strip, which is ruled by Hamas, politicians familiar with the meetings said.
 
"Carter also asked Meshal to adopt more flexible public statements and talked to him as a leader of a national liberation movement, not as the terrorist Israel and America try to depict him as being," one of the sources told Reuters.
 
"Meshal is a first among equals in Hamas. He has to secure agreement from the rest of the Hamas leadership," he added.
 
Carter defied U.S. and Israeli opposition to meet twice this weekend with Meshal and his deputy, two men the U.S. government has labeled terrorists and Israel accuses of masterminding attacks that have killed hundreds of civilians.
 
Thr former president is the most prominent American to hold talks with Meshal, whose group claimed new legitimacy from the meeting along with two other sessions the Nobel laureate held with Hamas leaders in the Middle East this week.
 
"Political isolation [of Hamas] by the American administration has begun to crumble," Mohammed Nazzal, a top figure in Hamas' political bureau, told The Associated Press after Friday's meeting at Meshal's Damascus office.
 
Meshal's deputy, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said the meetings centered on crossings on the Gaza-Israel border, abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli siege on the Strip and a potential cease-fire between Hamas and Israel.
 
Meanwhile, Egypt said Friday it was making good progress in its own efforts to negotiate a tacit cease-fire, including a prisoner exchange, between Israel and Hamas.
 
Another senior Hamas official in Damascus, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to represent the group publicly, described the meetings as warm.
 
But he said Carter did not receive a response to either of the two requests the former president made: that Hamas halt its rocket attacks against Israel, and agree to a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai to discuss a prisoner exchange.
 
Former Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar and former Interior Minister Saeed Seyam, two Hamas officials living in Gaza who met Carter in Cairo last week, are due in Damascus later Saturday for consultations with the leadership in exile about Carter's proposals.
 
Nazzal said that Carter will be informed of Hamas' response in the coming days.
 
But underscoring the impression that Carter did not win any concessions, Hamas said Friday that Shalit would never see the light of day until Palestinian prisoners are also released in an exchange.
 
Previous efforts to broker a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel involving the soldier, have floundered. A Hamas official said Friday that Shalit would until Israel released Palestinian prisoners held in its jails.
 
Hamas is open to the release of Shalit, "but not without a price", Nazzal said.
 
"This meeting was not a courtesy call, concrete proposals were discussed and we admire Carter for making this effort. The discussions were frank and direct," Nazzal said.
 
Carter's convoy arrived at Meshal's office for the meeting under tight security, and reporters were prevented from getting near the site. The meetings were closed to media, and Carter was not available for comment. He left Damascus mid-morning Saturday, flying to Saudi Arabia for the next leg of his Mideast tour.
 
But Carter, who brokered the 1978 Israeli-Egyptian peace and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, has defended what he calls his personal peace mission. He says Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, must be engaged in order to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
The controversy over his visit highlights two different approaches to foreign policy. Some, like Carter, believe that is impossible to resolve a conflict without engaging all parties, even those responsible for attacks on civilians. Others, including the Bush administration, contend that such meetings give credibility to hard-line militants and allow them to play for time when they are not serious about peace.
 
Echoing criticism from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the trip, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack suggested Friday that Carter had opened himself up to exploitation by both Hamas and the Syrian government.
 
"We find it very odd that one would encourage to have a conversation between the Israeli government and Hamas, which doesn't even recognize the right of the Israeli government to exist," McCormack said. "Is that really the basis of a conversation?"
 
Several members of Congress also urged Carter not to meet Hamas leaders, saying it would confer legitimacy on the group behind dozens of suicide bombings and other attacks that have killed some 250 Israelis.
 
"We have a policy in this country about Hamas. And he is just deliberately undermining that policy, and it's wrong," Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., told Fox News on Friday, calling for the State Department to revoke the former president's passport.
 
Friday's meeting, which followed a session between Carter and Syrian President Bashar Assad, was the first public contact between a prominent American figure and Hamas officials since the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Meshal in Syria in 2006.
 
The U.S. government has no contact with Hamas after designating it a terrorist organization in 1995 - an official label that means any financial or business transactions with the group are illegal. The government has also blacklisted Meshal and Abu Marzouk, making it illegal to conduct any transactions with them.
 
Marzouk, who attended both meetings with Carter, has been accused of organizing a network of Islamic charities to funnel money to Hamas. He spent two years in prison in a New York jail after his name appeared on a list of people suspected of terrorist activity. He was deported in 1997.
 
Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Bush, called Carter's meetings with Hamas officials a strategic and tactical mistake.
 
"Palestinians believe they cannot implement a peace agreement without Hamas, but they also understand that they can't reach such an agreement with Hamas in power," Kurtzer said.
 
Martin Indyk, a U.S. ambassador to Israel under President Clinton, said the problem with trying to bring Hamas into the negotiations is it will force Israel out.
 
Israel brands Hamas a terrorist organization and has accused Meshal of masterminding the kidnapping of Shalit near Gaza two years ago. Israel has also blamed Meshal and the group's Damascus-based leadership of directing suicide bombings such as the September 2004 attacks that killed 16 Israelis in the southern city of Be'er Sheba.
 
Israel tried to kill Mashaal in 1997, when agents sprayed him with poison on a street in Amman. Jordan's late King Hussein, who had signed peace with Israel in 1994, forced Israel to send the antidote that saved his life.
 
Afterward, Jordan expelled Meshal to Qatar as the kingdom's ties with Hamas deteriorated, and he moved to Damascus in 1999.
 
Yishai, the deputy prime minister, was the only Israeli minister to meet Carter when he visited Israel and the Palestinians territories earlier this week. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he did not meet Carter during his visit to avoid creating the impression that he was negotiating with Hamas.
 
Carter met senior Hamas officials from Gaza in Cairo on Thursday and asked them to halt rocket attacks against Israel. And in the West Bank on Wednesday, he embraced a Hamas representative, angering Israelis.
 
Though Israel's government refuses to deal with Hamas, Carter said Thursday he knows some Israeli government officials are quite willing to meet the militant group.
 
Yishai said Friday he asked Carter this week to arrange a meeting with Hamas to discuss a prisoner exchange. He said he wanted to try to win the release of Shalit.
 
Hamas official Mushir Masri, in a fiery speech Friday to thousands of Hamas supporters in Gaza, said the meetings with Carter were proof that Hamas was not a terrorist group but a national liberation movement.


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IDF: Hamas attack at Gaza crossing most ambitious since pullout

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/idf-hamas-attack-at-gaza-crossing-most.html

 Last update - 16:06 19/04/2008       
IDF: Hamas attack at Gaza crossing most ambitious since pullout
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents
Two cars exploded at the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Saturday morning, leaving 13 Israel Defense Forces soldiers hurt - one moderately to seriously, two moderately and the rest lightly.
 
Eight soldiers were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva and the rest were treated on the scene.
 
Hamas claimed responsibility for the incident, which the IDF called the militant group's most ambitious attempted attack on Israel since the disengagement from the Gaza Strip in 2005. The goal of the attack appeared to be heavy IDF casualties and the abduction of a soldier.
 
On Saturday afternoon, Palestinian security and health officials said a mechanic with the Hamas police was killed and four people were wounded in an Israel Air Force strike in southern Gaza.
 
An attempted attack on Kerem Shalom this past Thursday, according to IDF sources, was likely to have been an intelligence-gathering mission in preparation for Saturday's attack, which was planned to coincide with the Passover holiday, which begins Saturday night.
 
Three cars, two of which were disguised as IDF vehicles, approached the Kerem Shalom crossing at roughly 6 A.M., under cover of dozens of mortar shells fired on the crossing and heavy fog. An armored vehicle managed to rip a hole through the crossing's fence, allowing the two other cars - both Jeeps - to enter the crossing.
 
Both Jeeps were detonated inside the crossing, one quite close to a group of soldiers. Four militants were killed - one in each of the explosions and two militants in the armored vehicle.
 
At roughly the same time, an IDF missile struck an armored vehicle approaching the Gaza border south of Kissufim. The vehicle was hit, resulting in a large explosion, suggesting a substantial quantity of explosives in the vehicle. It was not immediately clear how many Palestinian casualties were caused.
 
IDF sources suspect Hamas had planned a large-scale attack on several points on the Gaza border, and that the Kerem Shalom bomb and the second vehicle were synchronized.
 
On Saturday afternoon, Palestinian security and health officials said a mechanic with the Hamas police was killed and four people were injured in an Israel Air Force strike in southern Gaza.
 
The IDF said a suspicious vehicle was hit near Kerem Shalom. Witnesses say the target was a jeep parked near the Rafah crossing with Egypt.
 
The IDF sources said that the alertness of the soldiers stationed at Kerem Shalom prevented a much more violent incident, and maybe even an abduction attempt.
 
The crossing is used for agricultural produce and to send humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
 
Immediately following the attack, the IDF instructed residents of nearby communities to stay in their homes as soldiers conducted searches on both sides of the Gaza border, fearing one or two militants had escaped the scene.
 
Palestinian residents near the Kerem Shalom crossing said they heard shooting from IDF tanks and helicopters in the area.
 
The crossing, which is usually staffed by the Airports Authority, had been closed ahead of the holiday, and was under guard by a private security firm.
 
Earlier Saturday, a Hamas militant was killed in a separate incident when IDF troops raided a neighborhood of Gaza City.
 
Attempts at attacking the crossings along on the border were on the rise this week, as were threats by Palestinian militant groups to breach the border in protest of Israeli sanctions on the coastal territory.
 
The IDF on Thursday thwarted an attempted terror attack on Kerem Shalom. Gunmen opened fire on the Israeli side of the crossing, but a patrol of Givati Brigade soldiers located nearby fired back, killing one gunman and wounding another.
 
Also on Thursday, Palestinians fired on Israeli fuel trucks at the Nahal Oz terminal bringing kerosene to the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage were reported. Two Israeli civilians were killed in a shooting attack at Nahal Oz last week.
 
In Gaza City, a Hamas leader, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Hamas would carry out more attacks on crossings to break the nearly yearlong blockade of the territory.
 
"These operations are the beginning of the explosions that Hamas has warned of," said Abu Zuhri. "If the parties don't intervene quickly to save Gaza and break the siege, what is coming will be greater."
 
Dozens of Hamas supporters later took part in anti-Israel demonstrations near the Erez and Karni crossings. No violence was reported.
 
Alongside the attacks, Hamas claims it's ready to reach a truce with Israel on the Gaza border, and Egypt has tried to broker such a deal. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has been meeting with Hamas leaders in recent days in the West Bank and Syria to hear from the militant group.


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Israel Activism on Camput

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/israel-activism-on-camput.html

April 2, 2008

 
Speaking to a packed audience at Hillel's 2008 Summit on the University and the Jewish Community, Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse emphasized that the case for Israel must be made forthrightly on campus. (The complete video of her lecture is available on Hillel's Web site.)

Wisse, the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, was one of three prominent academics invited to present a "Last Lecture," the presentation they would give if it were the final of their teaching career. The other Last Lecturers were Jenny Mandelbaum, associate professor of communications at Rutgers University, and Ralph Williams, professor of English language and literature at the University of Michigan. The "Last Lecture" tradition began at the University of Michigan under the auspices of Hillel.

Wisse described a world in which the liberal democracies of the West are under attack from Islam and in which "Jews are an early warning station" of imminent danger. She recalled an Iraqi Christian expression that "Sunday follows Saturday," in other words that the West will be targeted after Israel.

The professor urged Israel's defenders to loudly demand the Jewish state's rights among nations. "Why should not American Jewish youth undertake basic training in the war of ideas…. The Arab world has kept us waiting like beggars for the diplomatic recognition and respect that has been our due for decades and who else but the students of Hillel should be claiming and winning for the Jews our equal rights," she said.

Ultimately, she concluded, "history is going to ask us only one question, 'Did you or did you not secure the Jewish homeland.'"


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Palestinian suicide car bombings at Kerem Shalom crossing

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/palestinian-suicide-car-bombings-at.html

This is the second attack Palestinians have mounted on border crossings in a few days.  
 
Last update - 09:07 19/04/2008       
6 IDF soldiers wounded in explosion on Gaza border
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
 
Multiple cars exploded near a crossing on the Israel-Gaza Strip border on Saturday morning, leaving two Israel Defense Forces soldiers moderately to seriously wounded, one moderately wounded and three others lightly hurt.
 
The wounded soldiers were taken to Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva.
 
Three Palestinian militants, whose identity and militant affiliation were initially unclear, were killed when at least two cars exploded on the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing. The crossing is used for agricultural produce and to send humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
 
The militants reportedly approached the crossing under heavy fog. The crossing came under mortar shell fire before the cars exploded, to which soldiers responded with gunfire.
 
The IDF instructed residents of nearby communities to stay in their homes as soldiers conducted searches on both sides of the Gaza border, fearing additional militants in the area.
 
Palestinian residents near the Kerem Shalom crossing said they heard shooting from IDF tanks and helicopters in the area.
 
Earlier Saturday, a Hamas militant was killed in a separate incident when IDF troops raided a neighborhood of Gaza City.
 
IDF sources said the attack came deliberately ahead of the Passover holiday, which begins Saturday evening, and that the alertness of the soldiers stationed there prevented a much more violent incident, and maybe even an abduction attempt.
 
The crossing, which is usually staffed by the Airports Authority, had been closed ahead of the holiday, and was under guard by a private security firm.
 
Attempts at attacking the crossings along on the border were on the rise this week, as were threats by Palestinian militant groups to breach the border in protest of Israeli sanctions on the coastal territory.
 
The IDF on Thursday thwarted an attempted terror attack on Kerem Shalom. Gunmen opened fire on the Israeli side of the crossing, but a patrol of Givati Brigade soldiers located nearby fired back, killing one gunman and wounding another.
 
Also on Thursday, Palestinians fired on Israeli fuel trucks at the Nahal Oz terminal bringing kerosene to the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage were reported. Two Israeli civilians were killed in a shooting attack at Nahal Oz last week.


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Carter in Syria...

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/carter-in-syria.html

The former US president hasn't been given a warm welcome in Israel this week. He might be well-meaning, but his timing is terrible
Benjamin Pogrund

Jimmy Carter is a brave man. He has been in Israel this week as a peace mediator, surely knowing how much he is loathed here. In case he was unaware of it the message was publicly conveyed by the refusal of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, and other government leaders to meet him. President Shimon Peres did receive him - to upbraid him for planning to meet Hamas. And in an unprecedented snub, shin bet, the domestic security agency, was reported to have refused to give him protection, even when he visited the southern town of Sderot, under fire from the Gaza Strip.

Carter is himself to blame for the cold-shouldering. It largely stems from his book, Palestine - Peace not Apartheid, published in Britain early last year. The book deeply angered Israel and its friends abroad - starting with the title which has given joy to the country's enemies who repeatedly quote it to support their accusation that Israel is "the new apartheid state".

Yet the title is a fake. It is evidently a bit of huckstering to promote the sale of the book. The word "apartheid" is used only four times in the text (only three times in the index) and in one of those references Carter actually dismisses its relevance by saying: "The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples [Israelis and Palestinians] is unlike that in South Africa - not racism, but the acquisition of land."

For the rest, page after page is taken up with a nannying recital which blames Israel for just about everything wrong in the Middle East. And Carter's string of factual errors reveal an unnerving ignorance of history, such as claiming that Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Jordan in 1967.

But Jimmy Carter also has good intentions and not everyone in Israel disparages him. The country's leading newspaper, Ha'aretz, has reminded Israelis of their debt to him for the peace treaty with Egypt signed nearly 30 years ago and says "he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life."

Carter is known to be driven by his Christianity to work for peace in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and has earned the accolade of a Nobel peace prize. Nor should his book be totally dismissed: it contains criticisms of the occupation of the West Bank which Israelis would do well to heed. There is also obvious merit in his urging dialogue between Israel and its enemies.
Unfortunately, his timing is terrible. He has come to embrace Hamas leaders on the West Bank, in Cairo and Damascus and to declare his belief that they want peace with Israel and an end to killing. That, however, sounds plain silly in the week that Hamas and its cohorts have resumed attacks on Israel after a relative lull of nearly a month, and are firing several dozen rockets and mortars a day indiscriminately at civilians and shooting at workers in fields across the border. Last week they crossed the border and killed two civilian workers at the oil depot which supplies Gaza with the restricted amount of fuel allowed by Israel as part of its blockade.

Each of these actions seems deliberately designed to provoke a harsh Israeli reaction. They are proving successful. It is impossible for the government to ignore the murderous assaults on its people. No government anywhere could do so. So the Israeli army has been bombarding Gaza and sending in troops. Inevitably, the violence is mounting: Wednesday saw the death of four Israeli soldiers and at least 20 Palestinians, mainly civilians and children.

At the same time, Hamas and their cohorts have been repeating their mantra of seeking the destruction of the "Zionist entity", as they call Israel, and there have been reports about the sheer hatred of Jews and Israel fed to Gazan schoolchildren in textbooks and television programmes.
Carter has blundered into the maelstrom. Being well-meaning does not excuse his poor judgment and actions which result in one party to the conflict wanting nothing to do with him. To cap it all, yesterday he was criticised by the Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama who said that he disagreed with Carter's decision to meet with Hamas. Instead, Obama set out the common view of the US, Britain and others: "We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel's destruction. We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognise Israel's right to exist and abide by past agreements."


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Friday, April 18, 2008

Carter meets Hamas leader, Syrian President in Damascus

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/carter-meets-hamas-leader-syrian.html

 Last update - 18:09 18/04/2008       
Carter meets Hamas leader, Syrian President in Damascus
By Reuters
 
DAMASCUS - Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Damascus on Friday for talks expected to focus on ways to include the Islamist group in efforts for Palestinian-Israeli peace.
 
A Hamas official said high-level Hamas members also attended the meeting, which started Friday afternoon at the group's headquarters in the Syrian capital.
 
A source familiar with the meeting said Carter would also raise with Meshaal the fate of an Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.
 
Carter, who is on a Middle East tour to hear views on solving the conflict, has argued the Islamist group should be included in efforts for Israeli-Palestinian peace.
 
Earlier on Friday, Carter met Syrian President Bashar Assad.
 
Carter and Assad posed for photographs ahead of their meeting at a presidential palace. One source familiar with the talks said Carter would raise in his meetings the issue of Shalit, who is held by Hamas.
 
Previous efforts to broker a prisoner exchange deal between Hamas and Israel involving the soldier, have floundered. A Hamas official said Friday that Shalit would never see the light of day until Israel released Palestinian prisoners held in its jails.
 
But the source said that Carter remained positive that a solution could be found.
 
"Carter is very upbeat. The publicity put out by his detractors made him more determined to pursue a different way with Hamas. He is optimistic that the meeting will advance efforts to end the soldier's saga," the source said.
 
In a proposal passed to Carter this week, Shas cabinet minister Eli Yishai offered to meet the leadership of Hamas to ask for Shalit's release - a move which would contravene official Jerusalem policy.
 
Carter, who brokered the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt when he was president, met two senior Hamas officials in Cairo on Thursday after Israel refused him permission to enter the Gaza Strip, where they live.
 
Carter said the Hamas leaders he had met in Cairo told him they would accept a peace agreement with Israel negotiated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah faction, if the Palestinians approved it in a referendum.
 
But one of them, Mahmoud Zahar, wrote this week that a peace process could not start until Israel withdrew from all the land it captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, ended its military presence in the West Bank and Gaza, dismantled all settlements, repudiated its annexation of Arab East Jerusalem, released all prisoners and ended its air, sea and land "blockade" of Palestinian land.
 
"Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again," Zahar wrote in the article published by the Washington Post this week.


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Iran nuclear promises: Nothing can go wrong, right?

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/iran-nuclear-promises-nothing-can-go.html

The optimism of Ehud Olmert that Iran will not get nuclear weapons may be based on nothing more than empty promises of politicians on the campaign trail.
 
A campaign promise is NOT a treaty obligation, and even those are not always carried out very well. Britain and France had both guaranteed Poland against German attack, but in the event they did nothing until it was far too late.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
Clinton: Attack on Israel would incur US retaliation

US presidential candidates spar on Iran nuclear threat during democratic debate, saying US would retaliate if Israel were attacked. Obama: Attack on Israel is attack on our strongest ally in the region
 
Yitzhak Benhorin
Published:  04.17.08, 10:44 / Israel News
 
WASHINGTON – Senators Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama, the two US democratic presidential candidates, participated in a televised debate in Philadelphia on Wednesday, during which the issue of Iran's nuclear power took center stage. Both candidates said they would respond with force if Iran were to attack Israel.
 
During the debate, hosted by ABC, the candidates were asked: "Should it be US policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?"
 
To this Obama answered: "I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons.
 
"I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel.
 
"I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one whose security we consider paramount. It would be an act of aggression that I would consider unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action."
 
On her part, Senator Clinton said: "Of course I would make it clear to the Iranians that an attack on Israel would incur massive retaliation from the United States." She addressed the issue of the region at large, saying she would like to "create an umbrella of deterrence that goes much further than just Israel," referring to diplomatic engagement with Iran that would attempt to end the nuclear threat in the Middle East.
 

The candidates were also asked whether they thought their opponent could defeat Senator McCain, the republican presidential candidate, in the presidential elections. Both gave a positive answer.
 

  
In a poll conducted by the ABC network and The Washington Post, results showed that Americans would not like to see Clinton resign from the race, but 51% of democratic voters said they would like to see Obama face McCain, while only 41% said they would like to see Clinton run against the republican nominee in the presidential elections. 54% of those polled said they had a negative opinion of Clinton.


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No progress in talks about Iran - or with Iran

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/no-progress-in-talks-about-iran-or-with.html

It is clear from this report that there is no progress in negotiations with Iran, and no progress in talks among the international community about what to do about Iran. The optimism of Ehud Olmert that Iran will not get nuclear weapons does not, therefore, seem to be very well founded.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
Last update - 07:32 17/04/2008       
China: Int'l talks on Iran end with 'some' agreement on incentives
By The Associated Press
A group of key world powers' talks in on incentives aimed at persuading Iran to stop its nuclear program ended with no clear result, though the meeting's chairman said diplomatic efforts would continue.
 
"The five permanent UN Security Council members as well as Germany and the European Union reached agreements on some major parts during the closed-door meeting," said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei, who hosted the session in Shanghai. He did not give details of the talks, which ended Wednesday.
 
The envoys discussed proposed political, security and economic incentives designed to coax Tehran into stopping a uranium enrichment program that the U.S. and many other countries fear could produce weapons material.
 
"On the whole, the six countries agreed to continue diplomatic efforts," he said.
 
He gave no details on what might have held up a full agreement.
 
Iran was not invited to participate in the talks, which featured the EU and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China - the six countries that have led efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
 
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the session a good meeting about incentives but said more work was needed for the six nations to reach consensus.
 
"They had some good discussions but the bottom line is they are going to have to continue discussions on it," McCormack told reporters. He said any incentives must be accompanied by Iranian compliance with demands to suspend its uranium reprocessing and enrichment.
 
Iran insists its program is only meant to produce energy and has refused to suspend it despite three rounds of Security Council sanctions.
 
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently said his country was installing thousands of new uranium-enriching centrifuges.
 
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the claim could not be immediately verified.
 
Iran has about 3,000 centrifuges operating at an underground facility. That is the commonly accepted figure for a nuclear enrichment program that is past the experimental stage and can be used for a program to produce material for dozens of nuclear weapons.
 
Iran has said it plans to move toward large-scale uranium enrichment that will ultimately involve 54,000 centrifuges.
 
Tehran has brushed off international concern, pointing to a February report by the International Atomic Energy Agency that said all major past issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities had been resolved or are no longer outstanding at this stage.
 
A top Iranian official, however, abruptly canceled a Monday meeting with the head of the IAEA, an agency official said.


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Remember that Olmert said this: Iran will not have nuclear capabiliy

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/remember-that-olmert-said-this-iran.html

 
 
"I want to tell the citizens of Israel: Iran will not have nuclear capability," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a pre-Passover interview.
Forgive me if I am a bit skeptical about that promise. I remember when Olmert promised to wipe out Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah, and before that, when he promised that Israel would be a "fun place to live."
 
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 09:03 17/04/2008    
 
 PM: Iran will not be nuclear 
 
By David Landau and Yossi Verter, Haaretz Correspondents 
 
"I want to tell the citizens of Israel: Iran will not have nuclear capability," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a pre-Passover interview. According to Olmert, the international community is making an enormous effort, in which Israel has a part, to prevent Iran from attaining nonconventional weapons capabilities. "And I believe, and also know, that the bottom line of these efforts is that Iran will not be nuclear," Olmert said.
 
In his holiday interview, his first to the print media in a year, Olmert declared that since the Annapolis summit in November, the possibility of reaching an understanding between Israel and the Palestinians during 2008 has grown. The prime minister said that the issue of Jerusalem has not yet been discussed at all, neither in his talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas nor as part of the talks headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni with Ahmed Qureia.
 
As to Syria, Olmert said: "I know exactly what the Syrians want and I think the Syrians know what the State of Israel and I expect from the peace process."
 
Olmert said he intented to run again for the leadership of Kadima and to lead the party in the next elections. He did not rule out the possibility of a merger between Kadima and the Labor Party prior to elections.
 
Likud chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is not suitable for the post of prime minister, Olmert said, because of his positions. "We remember what happened here when he was prime minister."
 
Olmert also voiced unequivocal, public backing for Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann, calling him devoted to the rule of law. Olmert revealed that a few months ago he asked former Supreme Court president Aharon Barak to head up a committee that would be charged with drafting a law aimed at guaranteeing the independence of the Supreme Court, with Friedman's agreement. According to Olmert, Barak agreed, but later changed his mind.

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Report: Egyptian troops in Gaza may be a plan

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/report-egyptian-troops-in-gaza-may-be.html

The important part of this article is the following:
 
According to the sources, Israel would have no intention of remaining inside Gaza, but rather would hand it over for administration to either Egypt or a third party.
 
While admitting that neither Egypt nor a third party such as NATO, the EU or the UN would be too excited about taking over responsibility for the Strip, the sources said Hamas's recent breach of the border with Egypt was a significant "wake-up call" for the Mubarak regime, which has become increasingly concerned that Hamas now poses a considerable threat to Egypt.
 
The sources pointed out that the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, has shuttled back and forth to Cairo a number of times in recent weeks for talks with top Egyptian security officials.
 
Last week, Channel 2 reported that Egypt was, for the first time, considering the deployment of troops inside the Gaza Strip....
Is that really the best idea?
 
Ami Isseroff
 

Gaza op possible after Bush visit
Herb Keinon , THE JERUSALEM POST  Apr. 17, 2008
 
There is a heightened sense in the security establishment that a broad-scale ground incursion inside the Gaza Strip is necessary this summer to deal a severe blow to Hamas's infrastructure, sources in Jerusalem said Wednesday, following the death of three soldiers in a Gaza ambush.
 
According to the sources, the incursion - similar but more difficult than Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank in 2002 - would not take place until about a month or a month-and-a-half after US President George W. Bush's planned visit here in mid-May. By then, the last of the world's leaders to have come here to celebrate the country's 60th anniversary would have left. The timing would also place the operation in the middle of summer, considered an optimal time for this type of operation.
 
The sources said there was recognition that such an operation would be extremely costly, both in terms of soldiers and Palestinians killed. Nevertheless, the operation is being considered out of a widespread sense that the current situation in the Gaza Strip cannot continue festering indefinitely.
 
The sources said the idea would be to "clean Gaza out" and deliver a devastating blow to the considerable Hamas military infrastructure that has been built up there over the last few years - largely with Iranian and Syrian support - through the relentless smuggling of arms.
 
According to the sources, Israel would have no intention of remaining inside Gaza, but rather would hand it over for administration to either Egypt or a third party.
 
While admitting that neither Egypt nor a third party such as NATO, the EU or the UN would be too excited about taking over responsibility for the Strip, the sources said Hamas's recent breach of the border with Egypt was a significant "wake-up call" for the Mubarak regime, which has become increasingly concerned that Hamas now poses a considerable threat to Egypt.
 
The sources pointed out that the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, has shuttled back and forth to Cairo a number of times in recent weeks for talks with top Egyptian security officials.
 
Last week, Channel 2 reported that Egypt was, for the first time, considering the deployment of troops inside the Gaza Strip. Back in December, EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte told The Jerusalem Post that the mechanism for an international security presence in the Gaza Strip "could be devised quickly" if an agreement on the matter were reached between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
A senior official in the Prime Minister's Office, when asked Wednesday about the likelihood of a broad-scale IDF action in the Gaza Strip, neither confirmed nor denied that such plans were in the works, saying only that "we have made clear that we hold Hamas responsible for the situation in the Gaza Strip, and will hold them accountable."
 
One top officer in the Southern Command, meanwhile, said that the IDF was prepared for a large-scale operation in the Gaza Strip if ordered to do so by the political echelon.
 
"We have already prepared for a long time many different scenarios, including a large-scale invasion of Gaza," the officer said. "It is up to the level above us to give the order."
 
Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Obama against meeting Hamas; criticizes Carter

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/obama-against-meeting-hamas-criticizes.html

 Last update - 23:38 16/04/2008       
Obama slams Carter for meeting Hamas, tries to reassure Jewish voters
By The Associated Press
 
PHILADELPHIA - U.S. Senator Barack Obama on Wednesday criticized former U.S. President Jimmy Carter for meeting with leaders of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas as he tried to reassure Jewish voters that his presidential candidacy is not a threat to them or U.S. support for Israel.
 
The Democratic presidential candidate's comments, made to a group of Jewish leaders in Philadelphia, were his first on Carter's controversial meeting scheduled this week in Egypt.
 
Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting John McCain called on Obama to repudiate Carter in a speech Monday.
 
Obama told the Jewish group he had a fundamental disagreement with Carter, who was rebuffed by Israeli leaders during a peace mission to the Middle East this week.
 
"We must not negotiate with a terrorist group intent on Israel's destruction," Obama said.
 
"We should only sit down with Hamas if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements," he added.
 
Obama has been working to reassure Jewish voters nervous about his candidacy in the wake of publicity about anti-Israel sentiments expressed by his pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
 
Obama's rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, also criticized him during a February debate, saying he did not immediately rejected an endorsement from black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan. Obama responded that he already denounced Farrakhan, but would reject his support as well.
 
Obama told the group that he had not been aware of Wright's more incendiary speeches before launching his presidential campaign last year, even though he had been a member of Wright's congregation for nearly 20 years. Obama said he had spoken to Wright and privately conveyed his concerns about some of his sermons once he learned of their content. But he acknowledged that he had declined to be more public in his criticism until recently, since Wright was preparing to retire from ministry at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.
 
"You make a decision about how are you going to handle it," Obama said. "Do you publicly denounce his comments? Do you privately express concern but recognize you are still part of a broader church community that is going to be transitioning? I chose the latter."
 
Obama has stepped up his outreach to the Jewish community in recent weeks after videos of Wright's speeches surfaced where he criticized Israel and expressed sympathy for the Palestinian cause.
 
Among other things, Wright has denounced Israel as racist and suggested tension between Israel and the Palestinians had contributed to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
 
Obama also met privately with about 100 Jewish leaders in Ohio before that state's primary March 4.
 
Obama has been the subject of persistent Internet rumors suggesting he is a Muslim who was educated at a Madrassah in Indonesia and took the oath of office with his hand on a Koran. Obama did spend part of his childhood in Indonesia but attended Catholic and public schools there. He took the oath of office on a Bible.
 
Obama delivered a well-received speech last month addressing the Wright controversy, in which he criticized many of his former pastor's views. But the issue has continued to dog him.
 
Obama told Jewish leader he would work as president to diminish tensions between the black and Jewish communities, noting that both groups shared the experience of suffering discrimination.
 
Obama also said at the meeting that he is willing to make diplomatic overtures to Iran even though it has funded Hamas and other militant groups.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

20 Palestinians killed in IDF operations in Gaza

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/20-palestinians-killed-in-idf.html

Last update - 01:41 17/04/2008    
 
 By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies 
Twenty Palestinians were killed Wednesday, including a Reuters cameraman, in Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip, making Wednesday one of the bloodiest days in recent times in Gaza. Most of the clashes came in the afternoon in the center of the Strip, not far from the place where three Israeli soldiers were killed in a Hamas ambush earlier in the day.
 
The fierce day of fighting started at around midnight on Tuesday, when a patrol from the Givati infantry brigade, accompanied by armored and artillery forces, entered the Sajawiya neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City. The soldiers exchanged fire with armed Palestinians, mostly from Hamas. One Givati soldier was moderately wounded in the thigh by a sniper. The soldiers killed four Hamas gunmen. According to military sources, the Palestinians even fired from the minaret of a mosque, and the IDF returned fire at the mosque and later blew up explosive devices found inside the mosque. The mosque suffered heavy damage, and the resulting pictures caused furious responses in the Muslim world.
 
A Palestinian farmer, Hani Al-Zuarub, was killed at 3:00 P.M near Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, when a missile hit the car he was in. Another man was wounded. Three others were injured by shots fired at a school in the town.   
 
Twelve Palestinians were killed, including five children under the age of 16, Wednesday afternoon when IDF helicopters fired missiles at houses in the Juhad Al-Dik area.
 
Three more Palestinians were killed near the Wadi Gaza Bridge, including Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana, 23. He died when the car he was riding in was hit by a missile. Two other journalists were wounded. Pictures showed the car had the letters "TV" on it, as is usual for vehicles used by journalists in the region.
 
Footage from Shana's camera showed an Israeli tank firing a shell in his direction from several hundred metres away.
 
IDF sources expressed regret Wednesday over Shana's death. "Nevertheless, it must be remembered that there are battles against terrorist cells in the area on a daily basis. This fighting endangers the press and others not involved who are nearby." The IDF has not yet said whether it will conduct an official investigation into the death.
 
Four Hamas militants were killed in an exchange of fire with IDF troops east of the Sajawiya refugee camp. Five more Palestinians were wounded in the area, three of them critically.
 
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said his group's armed wing was authorized to "strike the Zionist enemy everywhere".
 
The government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas censured the Israeli attacks but said the peace talks would stay on track. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told reporters that the negotiations were meant to stop Israel's "incursions, siege and daily killing".
 
Fuel limits
The Nahal Oz fuel depot remained closed; Israel shut it April 9 after militants killed two Israeli civilians at the facility. The Ministry of Defense had said it would reopen the depot but the latest attacks put that into doubt.
 
Kanan Abaid, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority in the Gaza Strip, said before pumping resumed that the power plant only had enough fuel to operate until Saturday.
 
The EU official said the goal was to provide "as much [fuel] as can be possibly pumped today" because the army had yet to tell the Europeans whether they would be allowed to make further deliveries to the plant on Friday.
 
The plant supplies power mainly to residents of Gaza City and the vicinity, home to 800,000 people.
 
A strike by Gaza petrol station owners has been preventing distribution of limited Israeli supplies of gasoline and diesel to the general public.
 
Israeli officials accuse Hamas of preventing distribution of petrol and diesel in order to create a crisis to pressure Israel to ease a blockade it tightened after the Islamists took over. In a development likely to stoke further anger in Israel, Hamas said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who planned to travel later in the day to Egypt, would meet in Cairo with two of its Gaza-based leaders, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Saeed Seyam.
 
"Mr Carter asked for the meeting. He wanted to hear the Hamas vision regarding the situation, and we are interested in clarifying our position and emphasising the rights of our people," Hamas official Ayman Taha said.
 
Carter's delegation in Israel declined to comment.
 
Zahar, speaking in Gaza before leaving for Egypt, said Carter had been able "to break all the restrictions preventing him from meeting Hamas leaders".
 
Israeli leaders have shunned Carter over his contacts with Hamas, which
has rejected Western demands to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing Israeli-Palestinian interim peace deals.
 
Carter, who began a Middle East visit on Sunday, said in Arab East Jerusalem it would be counterproductive to exclude Hamas completely from "conversations or consultations".


Continued (Permanent Link)

An Arab view of Carter in Damascus

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/arab-view-of-carter-in-damascus.html

This article could have been written for Jerusalem Post. It should have been written for Ha'aretz, but Ha'aretz editors chose to praise Carter instead. It was written by a clear sighted Arab friend who understands the Middle East much better than the editors of Ha'aretz or Meretz Youth, and it was published in the Beirut Daily Star.
 
Young misses only one point: Meshaal's proffered "settlement" with Israel was never a peace treaty, only a long term truce or lull.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
Jimmy Carter : a fool on a fool's errand
By Michael Young
Daily Star staff
Thursday, April 17, 2008

Say what you will about Jimmy Carter, he has a way of transforming moments of plodding gravitas into uproarious comedy. Remember that moment during the 1980 Democratic convention when Carter stood up, and in a phrase paying tribute to Hubert Humphrey, instead praised "Hubert Horatio Hornblower," confusing the late vice president with the character from the C.S. Forester novels?
 
As Carter prepares to meet with a senior Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus, the former American president again risks attempting to say one thing, only to blunder into another. Carter's declared goal is to affirm that no one can avoid talking to Hamas. As he put it last week, "I'm not a negotiator. I'm someone who might provide some communication. I'm going to try to make [Meshaal] agree to a peaceful resolution, both with Israel and with Hamas' Palestinian rivals."
 
The debate over whether the United States, Israel and others should talk to Hamas has become tiresome, largely because those supporting dialogue invariably limit their reasoning to a narrow syllogism: Hamas is a central actor in the Palestinian conflict; to resolve the conflict you need to talk to central actors; therefore talk to Hamas. To many engagers the problem is mainly one of communication. If only everyone could just sit around a table and talk, things would work out. Khaled Meshaal hasn't yet been shown the prospective gains from a peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; he hasn't been talked to. But because he's a pragmatic man, a sincere dialogue would allow him to deploy some of that pragmatism to the benefit of reaching a peaceful regional equilibrium.
 
You can almost hear Khaled Meshaal gasping at the naivete of such sweeping positivism, as he prepares to score points off his solemn American visitor. Meshaal knows what talks with Hamas would really imply, and he knows the snag is hardly one of miscommunication.
 
For one thing, negotiating with Hamas would effectively undermine the authority and credibility of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Liberation Organization - together, the paramount representatives of the Palestinian people. If the engagers' riposte is that Abbas is already discredited, that only confirms their intention to replace Abbas with Hamas as Israel's chief interlocutor. Still, senior members of the Fatah movement would disagree with the grim assessment of Abbas. They believe Hamas is increasingly squeezed in Gaza, its credibility on the wane as it has brought only hardship to the strip's inhabitants. That is why, they point out, the movement is so desperate to break out of the Israeli blockade. As for the West Bank, Hamas has lost ground there as well, they insist, despite claims that the movement could seize control of the area were it not for the presence of the Israeli Army.
 
Regardless of whether this is true, it makes no sense today to damage Abbas by opening a channel to Hamas, which has never endorsed the agreements reached with Israel during the Oslo years. In fact, to bring Hamas into negotiations would only grant legitimacy to the movement's rejection of those agreements, and of the entire Oslo process. This, in turn, would only further constrict Abbas' slim margin of maneuver.
 
A second consequence of talking to Hamas, Meshaal knows, is that it would insert Iran and Syria squarely into the Palestinian track. There are differences between Meshaal in Damascus and Mahmoud Zahhar and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, but it's hard to imagine that an open channel to the movement would not enhance Meshaal's standing, and that of his backers. Meshaal is more accessible and can call on substantial Iranian funding, even if the Muslim Brotherhood's financial networks benefit all factions. Whoever ends up speaking on Hamas' behalf, Tehran and Damascus could only gain from a dialogue with the movement. Yasser Arafat's singular achievement for three decades was to safeguard the "independence of the Palestinian decision," particularly from Syria. Talking to Meshaal could well mean reversing that accomplishment.
 

There is also a valid case to be made that Hamas is not interested in a peace treaty with Israel, because its ultimate ambition is to liberate the whole of Palestine. Certainly, that's what the movement demonstrates day in and day out. Meshaal has declared that Hamas would accept a deal on the basis of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, but has added a key caveat that this must also include a right of return for the Palestinian refugees of 1948 to their places of origin. For Israel this is a non-starter on demographic grounds, and Meshaal knows it. However, it does allow supporters of dialogue with Hamas to conveniently slot the movement into the Oslo consensus, even if the reality is different.
 
Whatever Hamas' true intentions, the contention that states should not talk to the movement on principle is difficult to sustain, if only because politics abhors a vacuum and the impulse to do something different can become overwhelming. That's why the onus should be placed on defenders of engagement to substantiate their proposals. Talking should not be an end in itself. First the engagers should clarify what Hamas will agree to talk about. The movement says it is willing to negotiate a long-term truce with Israel, a notion once championed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as well. If both parties agree, fine. But the outcome won't be peace. Israel will use the interregnum to consolidate its hold on strategic parts of the West Bank, while Hamas will use it to marginalize its Palestinians foes, rearm, and prepare for a showdown with Israel.
 
On the other hand, if Hamas is willing to discuss peace, then the movement has to first demonstrate this before anyone seriously considers overhauling the Palestinian-Israeli track. That shouldn't be difficult, even if nothing shows that Hamas is contemplating peace with Israel, while everything about the movement's behavior and rhetoric says the contrary.
 
That's why Jimmy Carter is on a fool's errand, complicating an already complicated situation. It's often said that Carter has been a better ex-president than president. That's no compliment, so ghastly was his tenancy of the White House - the Camp David accords notwithstanding. Peace may be a long way away between Palestinians and Israelis, but Carter won't speed things up any by turning into Meshaal's patsy.
 

Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
 
 


Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama on the Israel Question

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/obama-on-israel-question.html

Ron Kampeas of JTA got Barack Obama's views of the Jewish question. The interview, reproduced below, contains few surprises. It has to be reassuring to those, if there are such, who really believe that Obama is an anti-Semitic monster, while it is probably disquieting those who are looking for a candidate with foreign policy sophistication, as well as to Arab or Jewish exremists who would like Obama to back pushing one or the other side into the sea or the desert.  

If Obama has positions on dividing Jerusalem, return of the Palestinian refugees, compensation for Jewish refugees or any other issue, he has hidden them pretty well. He is for mom's apple pie and against violence and like all politicians, he loves everyone. What's he going to do when Iran gets the A-bomb? We won't find out from reading this interview. To be fair, no other candidate tells us any more.

Obama's rosy characterization of Reverend Jeremiah Wright will satisfy those who really want to believe, but otherwise makes no sense:

"The characterization of him that appears with the press is not a picture of what his ministry's been about," said Obama, who was attracted to Wright's Trinity United church in part because of the message of self help he preached to African Americans. "Prior to this controversy he was widely regarded as one of the pre-eminent preachers in this country, and certainly of one of the largest and most active churches in Chicago.

Wright has made totally unacceptable remarks about Jews and about the US. After all, you only have to say "God Damn America" once. Believe it or not, Hitler didn't talk about the Jews all that much either, and Governor Wallace of Alabama did really dwell that much on the "colored people." Wallace and Hitler weren't perceived by their audiences as being "about" hate. They were "about" helping poor people like themselves. They were about "change" and "hope," right? Even Ahmadinejad doesn't have to say more than a few sentences about Israel and America here and there for people to get the idea. A little bigotry goes a long way.

Obama's faith in direct negotiations with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is touching. He should study the experience that Europeans have had with such negotiations - totally fruitless. Likewise, he should consider the humiliating experiences that the Clinton administration had when negotiating with President Assad (the first - Hafez) of Syria. The United States netted absolutely no gains from its negotiations with Syria, while Assad could show the world that he had brought the greatest super-power to knock on his door - and he kept its representative waiting! Compared to Ahmadinejad, Assad was a pussycat.

Ami Isseroff


In a wide-ranging exclusive interview with JTA, Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama stressed his support for Israel, but said both sides in the peace process must live up to their agreements. The U.S. senator also did not shy away from his insistence on sitting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and listening closely to Palestinian complaints.


WASHINGTON (JTA) -- An Obama administration would cultivate close relations with Israel, but also would hear out elements that stir unease among many American Jewish groups -- including the Iranian leadership and those calling for more balance in U.S. mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"My belief is that Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, one of our strongest allies anywhere in the world," U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said Wednesday in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with JTA during which he addressed many of the issues that have dogged his campaign among Jewish Americans.

Even as he repeatedly stressed his support for the U.S.-Israeli alliance as the unshakable starting point of his Middle East approach, the Democratic presidential contender insisted that both the Israelis and the Palestinians must be accountable in progressing toward peace and said he would more actively engage in that arena than President Bush.

"I don't consider myself in any camp other than the common sense camp," he said when asked if he favors those who see the Israel alliance as uppermost or those who advocate greater balance. "It is dangerously simplistic to think that our only options with respect to U.S. foreign policy are to be unquestioning in our approach to Israel-Palestinian relations or alternatively to fail to recognize the special relationship and the historic friendship and bonds that exist between the United States and Israel."

As he did during a meeting in February with Jewish communal leaders in Cleveland, Obama voiced admiration for the Israeli people's ability to conduct a "robust" debate over issues regarding peace and security.

Despite aggressive efforts by conservative pundits and Web sites to cast him as a political unkown with advisers and mentors hostile to Israel, Obama has done well among Jewish Democrats in his primary battles with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

A recent Gallup Poll found Jews favoring Clinton 48 percent to 43 percent -- a gap falling within the margin of error. That represents a much better showing than many had expected from Obama, a relative newcomer who, beyond his home state, cannot match his rival's longer and deeper ties to the Jewish community.

Obama's comments come as polls show him gaining on Clinton among the Democratic electorate in Pennsylvania, where Jewish voters and politicians are seen as playing an important role in the state's April 22 primary.

"My whole campaign is premised on the belief that people are decent and generous and people want to get beyond some of the old animosities of the past," Obama told JTA. "Obviously the only way I could win would be to put together the kind of coalition I put together back in Illinois, and the Jewish community has always been the heart and center of that coalition."

The senator did not shy away from a defense of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., his former pastor whose closeness to positions and individuals considered anathema to Jews has stirred controversy, or from his insistence on reaching out to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and listening closely to Palestinian complaints.

The U.S. role "requires listening to both sides and talking to both sides," Obama said. "That requires that we don't dismiss out of hand the concerns of the Palestinians because there's no way we can move forward in those negotiations without at least understanding their perspective."

Obama was asked about the views of Daniel Kurtzer, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel who before joining the Obama team as an adviser, co-wrote a book recently on negotiating Israeli-Arab peace. In the book, Kurtzer advocated sanctioning Israel if it does not keep its agreements, saying Jerusalem has not paid a price for failing to dismantle unauthorized outpost settlements as it had promised in recent years.

"It is important if we're going to make progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks that both sides are held accountable to previous agreements," Obama said. "I think that the failure to abide by previous agreements has occurred more consistently on the Palestinian side, particularly as it pertains to reining in violence."

For a settlement to be reached, Obama said, Palestinians must make great strides in recognizing Israel's security needs and abandon the goal of an unfettered right of return for Palestinians that would undermine Israel's existence as a Jewish state.

Israel, on the other hand, will have to "acknowledge that it's going to have to make some territorial modifications to ensure that there is a stable and contiguous Palestinian state that can function, and ultimately that Palestinian children have opportunities to thrive like children anywhere else," he said.

Obama hewed to his insistence that he would meet with Ahmadinejad and other pariah leaders -- perhaps his most substantive foreign policy difference with Clinton. The Iranian leader has denied the Holocaust and expressed wishes that Israel would disappear.

"Nobody has to persuade me that Ahmadinejad is in many ways reprehensible in his views," Obama said. "A simple diplomatic gesture of direct talks can actually strengthen the hands of moderates. A belligerent tone for Iran empowers the hard-liners in Iran. It becomes more difficult for those who want to be part of the international community to persuade their fellow Iranians that the United States is not determined to invade or engage in regime change."

In contrast to his position on Iran, Obama repeated his support of the view advanced by Washington, Jerusalem and the pro-Israel lobby that Hamas will not be a legitimate negotiating partner until it recognizes Israel, abandons terrorism and agrees to honor previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

The difference, Obama says, is that Ahmadinejad is the president of a sovereign nation.

"Hamas is not the head of a state. I think that's a very clear distinction," he said. "I'm not suggesting that we meet with every head of an organization, particularly one that has pursued such odious policies as Hamas has."

In fact, Hamas won elections in 2006 and its leader, Ismail Haniyeh, became prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Later, in a move supported by the Bush administration, Haniyeh was deposed by P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas following Hamas' violent ouster of Fatah from the Gaza Strip. But Hamas remains in control of Gaza and Haniyeh is still referred to there as prime minister.

Obama would not budge in his position on Wright, criticizing his most inflammatory rhetoric while saying that it was a small part of his record as a preacher in the Chicago church where he served as the senator's pastor for two decades.

"The characterization of him that appears with the press is not a picture of what his ministry's been about," said Obama, who was attracted to Wright's Trinity United church in part because of the message of self help he preached to African Americans. "Prior to this controversy he was widely regarded as one of the pre-eminent preachers in this country, and certainly of one of the largest and most active churches in Chicago.

"It doesn't excuse the statements that were made, it's just simply to indicate it's not as if there was a statement like this coming up every Sunday when I was at church."

In response to a question, Obama said a Jewish campaigner had passed along a Haggadah in advance of Passover and invited him to a seder on April 19, although the candidate did not say if he would attend.

"The seder is one of my favorite occasions," Obama said. "It's so important to tell stories that tie history of the past to our moral obligations in the present."


Continued (Permanent Link)

8-year-old Yemeni girl divorces her 30-year-old husband

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/8-year-old-yemeni-girl-divorces-her-30.html

She told journalists that every time she wanted to play outside, her husband demanded that she return home to sleep with him....
 
 Last update - 16:56 16/04/2008       
8-year-old Yemeni girl wants to divorce her 30-year-old husband
By Zvi Bar'el, Haaretz Correspondent
 
Nojoud Mohammed Nasser is probably the most famous Yemenite girl in the world.
 
Last week, 8-year-old Nasser went alone to the court of justice in Sanaa, Yemen's capital city, to find a judge who would agree to accept her claim against her father for compelling her to marry a 30-year-old man. She also insisted that the judge force her husband to divorce her.
 
Yemenite law states that 15 is the minimum legal age for marriage, but does permit girls younger than that to marry on condition that the couple "does not engage in intimate relations."
 
Nasser told journalists that every time she wanted to play outside, her husband demanded that she return home to sleep with him.
 
The court on Tuesday annulled the marriage and ordered the girl's family to pay compensation to the husband.
 
According to Yemenite journalists, this story reflects the massive gap between a seemingly reformed republic and the reality on the ground.
 
In Yemen, there are in fact, two "law books": the first is official and the second is based on traditional Yemeni customs. When these two legal systems collide, the traditional law wins.
 
It is not just the law books that suffer double meaning. Yemen's image as a united state is also misleading. The government for example, drafts youth from all over the country to serve in the security forces, but it appears the main focus of these recruitment efforts is on northern residents. Southerners are still perceived as "suspicious" - better to be kept at arm's length.
 
It was against this divisive background that violent riots took place this month in the country's southern cities, after officers in charge of army recruitment in the north refused to accept two southern youths who had asked to sign up.
 
Eleven people were killed in those clashes, scores more were injured and hundreds arrested. Consequently, the divide between the north and the south has widened even further.
 
A powerless government
 
In a country considered the poorest of Arab states, the gap is not just between the north and the south, but also between the central government and the tribes that control the peripheries of the state's major cities.
 
In this instance, there is no difference between the north and south - the government's powerlessness is felt everywhere.
 
Thus for example, tribal leaders encourage abduction of tourists and, as part of the negotiation process, demand local government help in obtaining cars, paving roads and building schools in exchange for the release of the hostages.
 
The security services, who in the past have tried to free hostages using force, have begun absorbing their losses, leaving management of "abduction deals" to the tribes.
 
Foreign tourism agencies now understand that it is preferable to discuss the release of the captive tourists with tribal leaders instead of with the security services. This way, all sides benefit from tourism.
 
At present, the tribal leaders are being forced to "compete" with extremist factions, who have been linked to the organization, Al-Qaida.
 
Tourism is considered to be an important part of Yemen's economy, though its revenue brings in only 2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
 
Still, the extremists seem unsatisfied with just abducting tourists - on certain occasions foreigners have been killed, and as a result, there has been a significant reduction in the number of tourists coming to Yemen.
 
Last week, the government announced that its aim was to raise the number of tourists from this year's half a million to one million by 2010.
 
Following the announcement, state representatives were asked how these aspirations could be reconciled with the extremist elements' control of foreign movement within the country.
 
New state guidelines require tourists traveling outside of Sanaa to obtain a special permit from the Interior Ministry, in order to monitor their itinerary in the event of an abduction.
 
Despite the schism between Yemeni and state law, Al-Qaida and the tribes, north and south, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is striving to maintain order in his country.
 
He has won the support of the Bush administration by vowing to fight decisively against Al-Qaida. Still, Saleh has been forging close relations with Iran; Iran's Foreign Minister visited Saleh earlier this month.
 
Saleh is also responsible for driving initiatives aimed at solving two of the Middle East's central crises - the political unrest in Lebanon and the bloody rivalry between Fatah and Hamas.
 
His schemes have so far yielded no real results, but they bolstered Saleh's position at the recent Arab League summit in Damascus. That summit, like the Yemini initiatives, however, was just a lot of hot air.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Who's the most popular hero in the Arab World?

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/whos-most-popular-hero-in-arab-world.html

Who's the most popular leader in the Arab world? A paragon of non-violence and spiritualism? No way, It's terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, with President Bashar Assad of Syria close behind. All them folks who tell us that most Arabs are not extremists ought to think again. At least, Osama Bin Laden is not number 1 any more. That's something.
 
Ami Isseroff

 
 
 Last update - 14:37 16/04/2008       
Survey: Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world
By Haaretz Service
 
Hezbollah chief Sheikh Nassan Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world, according to a poll released recently by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.
 
Nasrallah seems to be gaining in popularity, with some 26 percent of respondents voicing support for him. Syrian President Bashar Assad also won an increase in popularity, according to the poll.
 
The survey also found that the majority of Arab public - in contrast to their governments - does not view Iran as a major threat.
 
Respondents said they believe Iran should be free to pursue its nuclear program and are opposed to international pressure to halt development. Some 44 percent of respondents said the outcome of a nuclear Iran would be beneficial for the region.
 
The poll found an increased interest within the Arab world regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with some 86 percent of respondents calling it one of the top three most important issues facing the refion.
 
A majority of respondents support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders but an increasing number voiced pessimism about its prospects.
 
Some 50 percent of respondents believe that the failure of a two-state solution would lead to continued conflict, 9 percent believe it would eventually lead to a one-state solution and 7 percent think the Palestinian will eventually surrender to Israel.
 
The survery also found that 18 percent of Arab respondents sympathize with Hamas over Fatah, while 38 percent voiced equal sympathy for the rival factions. Some 15 percent of respondents blame Hamas for the situation in Gaza, while 23 percent believe Fatah is to blame.
 
Some 83 percent of respondents, meanwhile, voiced an unfavorable view of the United States, while 70 percent express no confidence in the American government. Most Arabs, however, ranked the U.S. as among the leaders of freedom and democracy.
 
The poll found that 32 percent of Arabs believe that America's Middle East policy will remain the same regardless of who wins the coming elections. Some 18 percent of respondents think Barack Obama has the best chance of bringing peace to the region, while 13 percent favor Hillary Clinton. Another 4 percent think McCain is the best candidate to advance Middle East peace.


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Three Israeli soldiers killed in clashes near Gaza border

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/three-israeli-soldiers-killed-in.html

Last update - 15:34 16/04/2008    
 
 
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent 
 
Three Israel Defense Forces soldiers from the elite Givati Brigade were killed on Wednesday in an exchange of heavy gunfire with Palestinian militants next to the Gaza Strip security fence.
 
A preliminary IDF investigation suggests that an operational mishap occurred during the soldiers' raid, a senior officer in the Southern Command told Haaretz.
 
The officer said that the army was investigating why reinforcements were not sent to back up the Givati troops and whether the soldiers were sent on the correct path.
 
  
The IDF said that the clashes occurred near Kibbutz Be'eri, in the western Negev, as troops entered the Strip to arrest a band of suspicious looking figures.
 
The soldiers were killed after troops spotted two Hamas militants planting a bomb near the Israeli border. Troops pursued the militants, only to fall into an ambush by another Hamas force lying in wait, Israeli defense officials said.
 
Three other soldiers were wounded in the clashes, two of them moderately, and were taken to the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva for treatment.
 
The army named one of the slain soldiers as Corporal Matan Ovadati, 19, of Moshav Patish. The names of the other fatalities have not yet been released.
 
An IDF spokeswoman said soldiers had shot several Palestinian gunmen during the fighting, though there were no reports of injuries among the militants.
 
The six Israeli casualties were struck in the first few minutes of the clashes. Two were killed instantly, another was critically wounded, and the other four sustained various levels of injuries.
 
Palestinian medical workers and Hamas reported that IDF troops killed four Hamas gunmen in a separate battle in Gaza near a terminal used to supply fuel to the coastal territory.
 
Hamas said soldiers, backed by helicopters, killed the four militants during fighting east of Gaza City, a few hundred metres from the Nahal Oz border terminal. The terminal was the site of a terrorist attack last week, in which two Israeli civilian workers were shot dead by Gaza gunmen.
 
An IDF spokeswoman said soldiers clashed with Palestinian gunmen in the area and identified hitting them. An Israel Air Force air craft also fired at a group of gunmen, the army said.
 
At least five Palestinians were injured in the clashes at several points in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and medics said.
 
Two Palestinian civilians were wounded when their house was hit by a tank
shell, medics said. The army did not immediately comment on that incidents.
 
In one of the areas east of Gaza City, IDF armored vehicles hit and damaged a mosque, local residents said. Orange and olive trees were also
uprooted, the witnesses said. The IDF did not immediately comment on the damage to the mosque and trees.
 
Throughout the fighting, militants fired 10 Qassam rockets and a number of mortar shells at the western Negev on Wednesday morning. There was no word of casualties in any of the incidents.
 
Hamas claimed responsibility for both the Qassam fire as well as the slaying of the IDF soldiers.
 
Meanwhile, an IDF soldier was moderately wounded late Tuesday when shot by a Palestinian sniper in the central Gaza Strip.
 
Earlier Tuesday evening, the Israel Air Force attacked two Palestinian militants as they rode a motorcycle through the northern Gaza Strip, killing one and wounding the other, Hamas police officials said.
 
They identified the casualties from the missile attack in Jabalya refugee camp as members of Islamic Jihad, one of several Palestinian militant factions.
 
The dead man was named as Mohammed Ghausain, Islamic Jihad's commander in northern Gaza. He was hit while riding his motorcycle in the Jabalya refugee camp, Palestinians said.

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Being pro-Israel on Campus

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/being-pro-israel-on-campus.html

Ilana Diamond's complaint about Israel advocacy on campus is common to many of us. Progressive and Middle of the Road Zionist groups are conspicuous by their absence. Surely a large group like Arza should have some campus presence in the fight for Israeli legitimacy? Ilana writes:
It is extremely hard to fight fire with fire and remain respectable. The images the pro-Palestinian groups put onto posters are deplorable. Texans for Israel will try to avoid the pity ploy, but on today's college campuses it seems that that's what it takes to gain support for a cause. A group has to be loud, crude, over the top, and gut wrenching for their message to be heard. Simply showing the positive side to a cause no longer captures attention.
Pro-Israel activists can talk up the positives of Israel until we are blue in the face, but until someone sees Israelis as victims, they will just ignore our message.
Indeed, it is sad that what "works" among these "budding intellectuals" is blood, gore and sensation, "personal messages" and the like, rather than facts and rational argument. The cult of Rachel Corrie and Yasser Arafat is a much more effective advocacy tool than a dozen boring tracts about international law.
Ami Isseroff


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ilana Diamond , THE JERUSALEM POST Apr. 15, 2008
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Many people put much faith into average college students, assuming that they are curious enough to explore every facet of information given them. But people who think this of college students are severely misguided.
The majority of college students are looking for something to believe in. So when pro-Palestinian on-campus groups wave around posters with pictures of "mutilated" Palestinian children, it's easy for students to fall into the "Israel is the aggressor" trap.
This is a widespread problem on numerous college campuses - not only in the United States, but Canada and European countries as well.
On the University of Texas at Austin campus, where I am a student, it's a daily problem. There are some five pro-Palestinian student groups currently active on campus. Guess how many pro-Israel student-run groups there are. One.
Well, maybe two. There is also the Union of Progressive Zionism, but I am not yet convinced that their main battle won't be fighting the "occupation."
Meanwhile, one could say there are about seven institutionalized forces working against Israel on the UT campus.
This year alone, these groups have brought in speakers such as John Mearsheimer, author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a book denouncing AIPAC; Alison Weir, journalist and the founder of If Americans Knew, a group that argues the US is sending too much money to Israel and that the Palestinian plight is underrepresented in American media; Neturei Karta Rabbi Dovid Weiss, who attended Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial conference and is a member of Jews United Against Zionism; and Anna Baltzer, a pro-Palestinian American Jew.
Needless to say, the Palestinian sympathizers at UT know how to make their events look credible, and the events are usually well attended. This is the part where putting too much faith in college students starts to go wrong.
STUDENTS ATTEND these lectures and hear how AIPAC is supposedly wasting taxpayer's money, how Israel is supposedly brutalizing and killing innocent Palestinian children, and so on. The organizers of these events know these issues are compelling, and that any Joe-shmoe is going to sympathize with their cause.
The average college student attending is likely to be hearing about the Arab-Israel conflict for the first time, and can end up believing that what they've just learned is the whole story, thus creating a large problem for pro-Israel activists.
It is especially undermining when some of these anti-Israel speakers are of Jewish heritage. Students interpret that to mean that if a Jew doesn't like Israel, then Israel must be really bad - so it's ok if I don't like Israel either.
In fact it is not uncommon to see scattered clueless middle-class kids schlepping to class with a keffiyeh around their neck because they sympathize with Palestine and believe they are wearing a "freedom scarf," as is called by the clothing store Urban Outfitters.
To combat anti-Zionism on campus, TFI (Texans for Israel) has brought in speakers such as Middle East expert and former Jerusalem Post editor David Makovsky, Nonie Darwish, the Muslim-born Christian who founded Arabs for Israel, and David Brog, the founder of Christians United for Israel.
However when speakers like these appear, Palestinian sympathizers come and make accusations against them. A member of the Palestine Solidarity Committee got up to ask Nonie Darwish a "question" which began: "You can't be serious. You are not a serious speaker. What are you trying to accomplish by speaking to a bunch of white American Jews?"
Nor can these relatively few speakers compete with the onslaught of weekly posters put up around campus with pictures of bloodied Palestinian children, body bags, and misquoted statements from Israeli officials seeming to suggest that Palestinians are asking for it. For some reason - perhaps the way the media covers the conflict - many college students seem to be more skeptical of pro-Israel speakers than anti-Israel ones.
SO FAR TFI has taken a non-confrontational stance when addressing the gory posters and signs claiming "Zionism equals racism." The Palestine Solidarity Committee even protested at an Israeli cultural event that had nothing to do with politics - proving that it is not aiming for peace or even dialogue.
However in response to the recent "Apartheid Week" (that actually went on for two weeks) and the Campus Anti-War Movement to End the Occupation which displays posters with cartoons comparing Gaza to Auschwitz, TFI is stepping up our game, and preparing exhibits on the current situation in Sderot, minus the overwhelming gore.
It is extremely hard to fight fire with fire and remain respectable. The images the pro-Palestinian groups put onto posters are deplorable. Texans for Israel will try to avoid the pity ploy, but on today's college campuses it seems that that's what it takes to gain support for a cause. A group has to be loud, crude, over the top, and gut wrenching for their message to be heard. Simply showing the positive side to a cause no longer captures attention.
Pro-Israel activists can talk up the positives of Israel until we are blue in the face, but until someone sees Israelis as victims, they will just ignore our message.
But is it right for pro-Israel groups to capture attention by exhibiting photos of suicide bombing victims? Or life under continuous rocket attack?
Israel prides itself on being able to quickly pick up the pieces and move on. By stooping to the level of showing bombed-out homes, are pro-Israel groups helping or hurting the country? I am not sure.
Luckily the semester is almost over, and we will have a whole summer to gear up for another 10-month-long war of words and rethink the tactics we are using.
The writer is a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin studying journalism and Middle Eastern studies. She was a Jerusalem Post intern last year.

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Iraq Author: Jews have a historic right to Palestine

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/iraq-author-jews-have-historic-right-to.html

There is much to ponder in this wonderful article, including this:



"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba – that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.

"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.


"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.

"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.

"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."
...
"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba – [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands – among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights – that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."


Iraqi Author 'Aref 'Alwan:
The Jews Have an Historic Right to Palestine

In an article posted December 7, 2007, on the leftist website http://www.ahewar.org ,(1) 'Aref 'Alwan, an Iraqi author and playwright who resides in London and is the author of 12 novels,(2) states that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine because their presence there preceded the Arab conquest and has continued to this day.

In the article, titled "Do the Jews Have Any Less Right to Palestine than the Arabs?" 'Alwan called on the Arab world to acknowledge the Jews' right to Palestine, because justice demanded it and also because doing so would end the violence and the killing of Arabs, as well as intra-Arab strife. He added that such a move would also open up new avenues for the Arab world that would be more consistent with the values and needs of modern society.

'Alwan writes that the Arab League is to blame for the refusal to recognize the 1947 U.N. partition plan, for starting a war to prevent its implementation, and for the results of that war, which the Arabs call the Nakba (disaster). He points an accusing finger at the Arab regimes, the Arab League, and the educated circles in the Arab world, saying that they had all used the term "nakba" to direct popular consciousness toward a cultural tradition that neither accepts the other side nor recognizes its rights – thereby promoting bigotry, violence and extremism. He also claims that there have been attempts to rewrite Palestinian history, in order to deny any connection between it and the Jewish people.

'Alwan contends that the "Nakba mentality" among Arabs has boomeranged, giving rise to tyrannical rulers, extremist clerics, and religious zealots of every description. In his view, the Arab world will never shed the stigma of terrorism in the West unless it abandons this concept and all that it entails.

To boost his claim that the Jews have an historic right to Palestine, 'Alwan provides an overview of Jewish history in the land of Israel. He questions the validity of the Islamic traditions underpinning the Arab claim to Palestine, Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount, and presents evidence that religions that preceded Islam had conducted rituals on the Temple Mount.

As an example of the traditional Arab mentality that does not accept the other or recognize his rights, 'Alwan discusses the Arabs' abuse of the Kurds in Iraq and of the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon.

The following are excerpts from the article:

The Nakba: A Great Lie


"When the Salafi mob in Gaza tied the hands and feet of a senior Palestinian official and hurled him, alive, from the 14th floor, I asked myself: What political or religious precepts must have been inculcated into the minds of these young people to make them treat a human life with such shocking cruelty?

"Earlier, I had watched on TV as the bodies of two Israeli soldiers were thrown from the second floor [of a building] in a Palestinian city. Whether or not it was the same Salafi mob behind that incident, [one asks oneself]: What language, [or rather,] what historic linguistic distortion could have erased from the human heart [all] moral sensibilities when dealing with a living and helpless human being?

"Arabs who are averse to such inhuman behavior must help me expose and eliminate the enormous lie that has for 60 years justified, extolled, and supported brutality. [Such behavior] is no longer limited to the expression of unconscious [impulses] by individuals, but constitutes a broad cultural phenomenon, which began in Lebanon, [spread to] Iraq and Palestine, and then [spread] – slowly but surely – to other Arab states as well.

"This enormous lie is what the Arabs called the Nakba – that is, the establishment of two states in Palestine: the state of Israel, which the Jews agreed to accept, and the state of Palestine, which the Arabs rejected.

"In our times, when science, with its accurate instruments, can predict climatic changes that will lead to drought or the movement of tectonic plates that causes earthquakes, it is inconceivable that a modern man can, without making a laughingstock of himself, attribute the destruction of cities ancient or modern to the wrath of Allah. Nevertheless, today, 80% of Arabs claim this to be the case. They are neither embarrassed nor afraid of being laughed at.

"This high percentage includes not only the illiterates who densely populate rural areas, villages, and small and large cities, but also students, teachers, lecturers, graduates of institutions of higher education, scientists, technology experts, physicians, graduates of religious universities such as Al-Azhar, historians, and politicians who have held or are currently holding public office.

"It is those numerous educated elites who have forced the Arab mentality into a narrow, restrictive, and deficient cultural mold, spewing violence, terrorism, and zealotry, and prohibiting innovative thought... All this was done to instill a false sense of oppression in the hearts of the Arabs, and to destroy them with the infectious disease of despair and confusion.

"[This attitude] is rooted in the 1947 Arab League resolution stating that Palestine is a 'stolen' land and that none but a Muslim Arab is entitled to benefit from it as an autonomous [political entity], even if another's historic roots there predate those of the Muslims or the Arabs."

The Nakba Boomerang


"[The upshot] of this confusion in [Arab] mentality is that the lie has boomeranged on the Arabs. [Thus] appeared [on the scene] Saddam Hussein, Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar Al-Assad, Osama bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, Hassan Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Khaled Mash'al, Isma'il Haniya, and Mahmoud Al-Zahar, whose young [thugs] threw the senior Palestinian official from the 14th floor. Finally, from the foot of the eastern mountains bordering the Middle East came Ahmadinejad, who is committed to preparing the way for the anarchy and destruction that accompanies the advent of the long-awaited Mahdi, who will resolve the Palestinian problem.

"Today, owing to the ideological distortions that have afflicted the Arab popular consciousness since the so-called Nakba, and [also owing] to the lies that have accumulated around this notion, [the label of] 'terrorism' has become attached to Arabs, wherever they are.

"Despite the great political and cultural efforts by large and important Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and some Gulf states to restore Arab ties with the rest of the world, and to curb the culture of terrorism in Arab societies, they have all failed. This is because these attempts to rectify [the situation], from both within and without [the Arab countries], both stemmed from and were a logical extension of the concept of the Nakba.

"This proves that the Arabs have no hope of extricating themselves from the cultural and political challenge of terrorism unless they come up with [new] and different [fundamental] premises, and with an outlook completely free of the fetters of the religious ritual that they have devised in modern times and called the Nakba.

"Although Palestinian senior officials, leaders, educated circles, and public figures, whose patriotism is beyond doubt, have come to terms with the existence of the State of Israel, the aforementioned 80% of Arabs... do not accept this view, and consider it religious apostasy. Leaders of the [Arab] states in the region, and party leaders, inflame sentiment, entrancing them with the drumbeat of extremism.

"With the strident chorus of its secretaries, the Arab League ensures that every car crash in Gaza or the West Bank is interpreted as an Israeli conspiracy against the Arab future. This is because the Arab League... was established as a pan-Arab entity whose main function was to write reports and studies rife with distortions of fact so as to quell the conscience of any Arab who dared think independently and expunge [the concept of] the Nakba from his consciousness. [It has done] this instead of devising creative strategies for cultural and economic development, so as to improve the deteriorating standard of living in the Arab societies."

The Nakba is Rooted in a Culture that Does Not Recognize the Right of the Other


"Why did the partition resolution, which gave a state in Palestine to the Jews and one to the Arabs next to it, become the Nakba – [the star] that rises and sets daily over the Arab lands without emitting even the tiniest ray of light to illuminate the path for their peoples?

"Did the Jews have any less right to Palestine than the Arabs? What historic criteria can be used to determine the precedence of one [nation's] right over that of the other?

"Refusing to recognize the right of the other so as to usurp his rights was a governing principle of the Islamic conquests from the time of 'Omar bin Al-Khattab; during that historical period it was the norm. [But] at the turn of the [20th] century, this principle was abandoned and prohibited, because it sparked wars and [violent] conflict. The international community passed laws restricting the principle of non-acceptance of the other, in the founding principles of the League of Nations in 1919. Subsequently, with the U.N.'s establishment, these laws were developed [further], with appendices and commentary, to adapt them to the current historical era and to express the commonly accepted values of national sovereignty and peoples' right to self-determination.

"But because of their sentimental yearning for the past and zealous adherence to [old] criteria, the Arabs purged their hearts of any inclination to adjust to the spirit of the age. They thus became captives of the principle of non-acceptance of the other and of denying the other [the right] to live, [among] other rights.

"As a result, damage was done to the rights and interests of non-Arab nations and ethnic groups in the Arab lands – among them the Kurds, the Copts, and the Jews. [Thus,] the Arabs still treat the numerous minorities that came under their dominion 1,400 years ago in accordance with the laws from the era of Arab conquest.

"Despite the consequences of denying the other the right to exist, not to mention other rights – that is, [despite] the oppression, conflicts, wars, and instability [resulting from this]... the Arabs have steadfastly clung to their clearly chauvinist position. All problems in the region arising from minorities' increasing awareness of their rights have been dealt with by the Arabs in accordance with [the principle of non-acceptance]... [even] after the emergence of international institutions giving these rights legal validity, in keeping with the mentality and rationale of our time."

Refusing to Accept the Other: The Kurds in Iraq; the Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

The Kurds


"The denial of the Kurds' national rights by the Iraqi government, and the Arab League's support for it, has brought on wars lasting 50 years – that is, three-quarters of the life span of the state that arose in Iraq...

"After fabricating arguments to justify the [1921] combining of the Basra region with the Baghdad region in order to establish a new state in Iraq, British colonialist interests demanded that a large area historically populated by Kurds be added to the new state. [This was done] to satisfy the aspirations of King Faisal bin Al-Hussein [bin Ali Al-Hashemi], who had been proposed as head of state in return for protecting British interests in the region.

"In his persistent refusal to grant the Kurds their rights, from 1988 through 1989 Saddam Hussein murdered approximately 180,000 Kurds, in an organized [genocidal] campaign he called 'Al-Anfal.' He then used mustard gas against one [Kurdish] city (Halabja), killing its residents (5,000 people). The Arab conscience silently acquiesced to this human slaughterhouse, while Arab League secretary-general (Shadhli Al-Qalibi) called the international press coverage of these events 'a colonialist conspiracy against the Arabs and the Iraqi regime.'

"Syrian Kurds are considered second-class citizens, and are banned from using their language or [practicing] their culture in public."

The Christians in Egypt and Lebanon

"The ethnic oppression of the Kurds [in Iraq] was echoed by sectarian extremism against the Copts [in Egypt]. In both cases, the Arabs used the principle of denying the existence of the other so as to strip him of his rights.

"The Copts, who [initially] assimilated Arabs into their society, but who have over time themselves assimilated into Arab society, discover time and again that this assimilated state is but a surface shell, which quickly cracks whenever they demand equality... As a result, Egypt, as a state, is gripped by constant social tensions that keep rising to the surface and threatening to undermine its stability...

"Sectarian extremism in Egypt took the form of an organized party with the 1928 emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood, with the aim of splitting Egyptian society into two mutually hostile and conflicting parts. This was in line with the Arab religious and political principle of denying legitimacy to all non-Muslims or non-Arabs, [a principle practiced] since the Muslim armies reached Egypt in 639 [CE]...

"In Lebanon, the presence of armed Palestinian militias – which was in accordance with the decision of the Arab states – encouraged the formation of Lebanese militias, both Sunni and Shi'ite. Chanting slogans proclaiming Palestinian liberation, they frightened Christians by appearing armed in streets swarming with Lebanese [citizens] and tourists.

"This eventually led to a confrontation with Christian militias, which had also armed themselves out of fear of the pan-Arab slogans and fear for the [preservation of] the rights of the Christian sects.

"Lebanon was engulfed by an ugly 15-year civil war, that ended only after Syria, which had played an ignominious role as instigator [of the hostilities], attained full protectorate status over Lebanese affairs and the Lebanese people – [and this] took on the nature of colonialist hegemony...

"After the Lebanese were liberated from this [Syrian] control, in 2005 the clouds of civil war – albeit of a different kind – reappeared on the Lebanese horizon. The Arab League is making no effort to prevent the eruption [of this civil war] for two main reasons. First, the Syrian regime still supports ethnic tension, in order to regain control of Lebanon; and second, the current majority government, which opposes the renewed Syrian influence, is predominantly Christian...

"We had hoped that the Arab national conscience would recover from the illness afflicting it since the time of the Nakba, and that it would adopt [views] which, if not ahead of their time, would at least be appropriate to our time. But a group of journalists, writers, and several Arab historians guided by the principle of non-acceptance of the other has twisted the facts and concocted a false and gloomy history of the region – thereby trampling these dreams to the ground."

Jews Have a Rich and Ancient History in Palestine


"The Arabs see the Palestinian problem as exceedingly complicated, while it actually appears so only to them – [that is], from the point of view of the Arabs' emotional attitudes and their national and religious philosophy. The Arabs have amassed false claims regarding their exclusive right to the Palestinian land, [and] these are based on phony arguments and on several axioms taken from written and oral sources – most of which they [themselves] created after the Islamic, and which they forbade anyone, Arab or foreigner, from questioning.

"When the Arabs agreed to U.N. arbitration... to resolve the Palestinian problem, it transpired that their axioms clearly contradicted reliable historical documents [that] this new international organization [had in its possession]. As a result, they wasted decades stubbornly defending the validity of their documents, which do not correspond to the officially accepted version of the region's history – which is based on concrete and solid evidence [such as] archaeological findings in the land of Palestine, the holy books of the three monotheistic religions, accounts by Roman, Greek, and Jewish historians... and modern historical research..."

Jewish and Christian Ritual Sites in Jerusalem Predate Muslim Sites


"[A look at] the story of Al-Aqsa is now in order – a site considered holy by Muslim Arabs, who call it 'Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif' [The Noble Sanctuary] and [believe that] it was set aside for them by Allah since the time of Adam.

"[This site] contains several places of worship, including the Dome of the Rock, built by the [Umayyad Caliph] 'Abd Al-Malik bin Marwan in the seventh century CE – that is, 72 years after the Muslim conquests. This religious public gathering place was erected over a prominent [foundation] stone at the peak of 'Mount Moriah.' [Mount Moriah] contains three ancient Jewish public worship sites, as well as [some] Christian sites... The octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock Mosque was constructed on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, adjoining Solomon's Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

"Since the majority of Muslims claim that the Temple Mount is an Islamic site to which no one else is entitled, they do not acknowledge the presence of Jewish and Christian places of worship predating the Dome of the Rock within its walls...

"The Arabs take great pride in their tolerance of and benign treatment of the Jews and Christians who lived under the Muslim rule since the Muslim conquests. This account is part of the distortions underpinning the edifice of the Arabs' religious and national culture. [Arab] writers and historians keep eulogizing this epoch... while the truth is the opposite of what they claim. [Indeed,] the Pact of 'Omar [compelled] the Jews and the Christians to choose between either abandoning their religion and embracing Islam, or paying the [poll] tax in return for being permitted to reside... and receive protection of life and property in their homeland. [The Pact of 'Omar] allowed them to practice their religion, build new houses of worship, and repair the old ones [only] with the permission of a Muslim ruler, and subject to numerous conditions.

"In subsequent historical periods, the Muslims imposed [additional restrictions] on the members of [these] two religions: They forbade them to raise their voices during prayer; [they forced them] to conduct their prayers and religious ceremonies in closed areas so as not [to disturb] passersby; they forbade them to carry weapons, ride saddled horses, or build houses taller than those of the Muslims. [Christians and Jews] were required to show respect for the Muslims, e.g. by giving up their seat to a Muslim if he wanted it. They were banned from holding government posts or from working in 'sensitive' public places.

"The Koranic verses cursing the Jews and casting doubt on [the veracity of] their Holy Book [the Torah] promulgated a desire among Arabs to set themselves above the Jews who lived in their midst, humiliating and persecuting them even without pretext. In time, this treatment made large numbers of Jews abandon their cities and their land and emigrate... while those who stayed [in Palestine] until the 19th century remained marginalized, living among the Arabs like criminals in a foreign land...

"The Arabs claim that the 'Wailing Wall' has been their property since the Prophet Muhammad tied his horse Al-Buraq to one of its supports when Allah transported him by night from the Holy Mosque in Mecca to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem... Although this night-journey story seems dubious, Arab historiography after the advent of Islam contains such oddities as giving a horse the prerogative of making a wall weighing more than 2,000 tons into Muslim property. This is only one of thousands of examples of tales concocted by zealots, with which they swept away the Arab imagination.

"...When the U.N. resolution on the partition of Palestine was issued on November 29, 1947... the Arabs refused to recognize it. They thereby rejected the state set out by the resolution as the right of the Palestinians and the Arabs, with the aim of establishing legal and historical equity. The Arabs called this resolution the Nakba, while their new states, formed several years before the State of Israel, launched the first war against Israel, in which regular military operations were combined with local attacks by gangs comprising Palestinians and Arabs from Arab regions near and far. [That war] ended in [the Arabs'] defeat. Persisting in their error, the Arabs established refugee camps for the Palestinians who had fled during and after the war...

"Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas... was the first Palestinian leader to acknowledge that the Christian church in Gaza plundered by Hamas gangs had stood there 'before [we] came to Gaza.' By this he meant 'we the Palestinians' – particularly the current Gaza residents, [the descendants of] Bedouins from the Sinai and the Arabian Peninsula and of others, of unknown origin. [These people were] attracted by the wealth of the new Islamic state that extended from Persia to Southern Ethiopia, and came after the Muslim conquests and set themselves up over the local population – Christians, Jews, Phoenicians, Byzantines, and the remnants of the Sumerians...

Arabs Must Recognize the Jews' Right to Palestine


"In order to prevent more bloodshed among the innocent [population]... and in order to keep the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, and the West Bank from making [these regions into] a quagmire that will spread to engulf all Arab states and societies, the Arabs must reassess the question of the Nakba and come up with a new, courageous vision for the region and for the future of its residents.

"[This vision] must involve public recognition of the Jews' legitimate right to their state – which is based on historical fact – instead of [recognition] of the writings filled with anger and demagogy produced and formed into an ideology by the confused [Arab] consciousness – a consciousness built upon lies, myths, and distortions stemming from the principle of non-acceptance of the other.

"The most important factor in strengthening such a new vision is [the adoption of] a principle [requiring] official condemnation of all individuals, groups, companies, religious and political parties, and totalitarian regimes that built their glory and hollow leaderships upon the notion of the Nakba, and which are always ready to absorb other false claims and fabrications.

"This must be done, so that a modern Arab face is turned to the world – [a face reflecting] ethical values that will not allow any Arab, under any pretext, to oppress his son or his brother who differs from him in religion, ethnicity, or ideology."

Endnotes:
(1) www.ahewar.org (formerly www.rezgar.com), December 7, 2007.
(2) 'Aref 'Alwan is the first Arab author to publish his novels on the Internet. His doing so was the subject of his January 20, 2005 interview in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat.

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Moderate murders: Moderate Palestinian Abbas to honor terrorists

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/moderate-murders-moderate-palestinian.html

Don't we wonder if these "little gaffes" are ever raised by Israelis in talks with the Palestinians?
 
Abbas honors Sbarro killer's driver
JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST  Apr. 16, 2008
 
The Al Kuds Mark of Honor, the PLO's highest medal, will be given to two female terrorists who helped kill Israelis, Israel Radio reported Wednesday.
 
Ahlam Tamimi, a Hamas affiliate serving a life sentence for driving the suicide bomber who exploded himself in the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem, killing at least half a dozen people, including a whole family and Amra Muna, who seduced Ophir Rahum over the Internet and then lured him to Ramallah where he was murdered, will both be awarded the medal.
 
Conferring the Al Kuds Mark of Honor is decided at the discretion of the Palestinian Authority's president, and he alone has the final say when choosing the Palestinians to be honored with the medal.
 
Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Ashraf el Ajami told Israel Radio that his ministry gave PA President Mahmoud Abbas a comprehensive list of prisoners and his office chose the nominees from this list.
 
Ajami refused to confirm that the medal would be given to Tamimi and Muna, saying that he didn't want to "ruin the surprise" for the families attending the ceremony scheduled for Thursday.
 
Abbas himself was en route to Russia and his staff refused to comment on the report.
 
Likud MK Gideon Sa'ar said the report was "troubling and severe" news, but added that if the report were true, it would continue a recent history of doublespeak from Abbas, which, Sa'ar said, presented different Palestinian intentions and narratives when speaking to Arab crowds and when addressing Western diplomats.
 
Sa'ar mentioned a recent article where Abbas - Israel's Palestinian peace partner - hinted that a return to armed struggle might be in the benefit of the Palestinian cause.
 
 


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

IDF arresting Hamas in Ramallah

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/idf-arresting-hamas-in-ramallah.html

 
Palestinian sources: IDF encircling 10 Hamas members' homes in Ramallah area
 
Ali Waked Published:  04.16.08, 00:51 / Israel News 

West Bank operation: Palestinian sources reported Tuesday night that the IDF was encircling 10 Hamas members' homes in different areas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
 
According to the sources, one of the houses belongs to Hamas lawmaker Dr. Myriam Salah, who is jailed in Israel. Another house belongs to senior Hamas member Omar Hamdan. One more home encircled by the troops is reportedly located near the house of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
 
The IDF said it was engaged in a routine arrest operation.
 
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources in Ramallah reported that IDF soldiers asked PA intelligence forces to enter their headquarters in a bid to prevent wanted Palestinians from escaping to the compound.
 
Efrat Weiss contributed to the story


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Isarael kills Islamic Jihad commander in northern Gaza

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/isarael-kills-islamic-jihad-commander.html

Islamic Jihad commander killed as IAF fires missile at motorbike
JPost.com Staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST  Apr. 15, 2008
 
The Islamic Jihad commander in northern Gaza was killed late Tuesday when an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at a motorcycle, Palestinians said.
 
The group identified the dead man as Mohammed Ghausain. It said he was hit while riding his motorcycle in the Jabalya refugee camp.
 
The IDF confirmed it carried out the attack.
 
Meanwhile, an IDF soldier was moderately wounded when he was shot by a Palestinian sniper during ongoing counter-terror operations near Khan Yunis.
 
The soldier was evacuated to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba.
 
Earlier Tuesday, Givati Brigade and Armored Corps troops operating in the Kissufim area fired at a Kassam launching cell, identifying a hit, the IDF said. The soldiers came under heavy mortar and anti-tank fire. No troops were wounded.
 
The army said that IDF soldiers shot several other armed Palestinians in the battle.
 
In addition, an Israeli home was hit as Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, near the Gaza border, came under heavy mortar fire. No one was wounded, but the roof sustained mild damage.
 
On Tuesday night, a Kassam rocket fired from Gaza landed in a western Negev neighborhood. No one was wounded and no damage was reported.


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Jimmy Carter honors Arafat

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/jimmy-carter-honors-arafat.html

Arafat was involved in an attack on a US embassy, remember?
 
Carter: Arafat fought for just causes

Former US president visits Ramallah gravesite of deceased Palestinian leader, embraces senior Hamas official. Israel dodging implementation of Annapolis agreements, he says
 
Ali Waked
Published:  04.15.08, 18:24 / Israel News
 
Yasser Arafat fought for the advancement of the Palestinians and other just causes in the world, former US president Jimmy Carter said after laying a wreath Tuesday on the grave of the deceased Palestinian Authority chairman in Ramallah.
 
Carter was greeted at the gravesite by Abed Elrahim, general secretary of the Palestinian presidency, who said the Palestinians hope to transfer Arafat's bones to Jerusalem.
 

The former American president, who is on a week-long tour of the region, also met with Nasr a-Din Shaar, Hamas' deputy prime minister and education minister in Ismail Haniyeh's government. The two embraced and kissed each other warmly.
 

During a visit to the Muqata'a compound in the West Bank city, Carter said Israel was dodging the implementation of the agreements reached during last year's Annapolis peace conference and criticized the Jewish state for not taking the negotiations seriously enough.
 
Prior to his meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Carter told reporters Israel refused to grant him permission to travel to the "besieged" Gaza Strip, adding that he was determined to meet with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Damascus despite Israeli and American objections.
 

During his visit to Sderot on Monday the former US president said the rocket fire directed at the southern Israeli city was a crime and that he would work to secure a ceasefire.
 


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Sex & Muslims: More about the Iranian Spitser & his whores

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/sex-muslims-more-about-iranian-spitser.html

Actually, it happened last month, but is only confirmed today....
 
 
Gen. Reza Zarei, who was in charge of a program to clean Tehran from corruption, taken to jail after he was caught last month during police raid on underground brothel
 
Associated Press
Published:  04.15.08, 17:35 / Israel News
TEHRAN, Iran - Tehran's police chief, who was in charge of fighting vice, has been taken to jail and his case is currently under investigation, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary said Tuesday.
 

But the spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, refused to elaborate further about the case which has caught wide public attention in Iran, saying it is now in the "legal stage."
 
Jamshidi said he was not authorized to provide more information.
 
Local media have reported that the police chief, Gen. Reza Zarei, was taken to jail after he was caught last month with six nude women by a police raid on an underground local brothel. He was also forced to resign.
 
Local websites have also extensively reported the case in recent weeks, and some of them reported of the existence of a sex tape depicting the incident. 
 
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, have also confirmed the reported arrest circumstances.
 
Prostitution is illegal in Iran and even talking about sex is frowned upon by hard-line clerics ruling Iran. The order to raid the alleged brothel was reportedly given directly by Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
 
Zarei was in charge of a program to clean cities from corruption and in recent months had reported arrests of young men and women for illicit relationship or not respecting the Islamic dress code.
 
State media in recent weeks reported Zarei's replacement but made no mention of his arrest or the reasons that led to his detention since such issues are considered a taboo in Iran.
 

Prostitution spreading
 
Iran's strict Islamic rules allow little socializing between the sexes, and young Iranians have been jailed and flogged for dancing together at birthday parties.
 
For years, the hard-line clergy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution painted a rosy picture of the Iranian society, never admitting to vices such as prostitution, which under Iranian law could be punishable by death.
 
But in the past decade, authorities have acknowledged that prostitution was a fact and is even spreading in Iran. Prostitutes are becoming more and more visible on the streets, mainly due to economic hardships.
 
The rise in prostitution has led to suggestions that brothels be legalized and monitored. Some Iranians say brothels could be run according to Islamic rules, presumably under a Shiite Muslim tradition in which men and women are allowed to have "temporary marriages" — sometimes less than 24 hours.
 
 Most clerics, though, scoff at the idea that sex outside marriage can ever be condoned by Islam. After the 1979 revolution, clerics destroyed brothels as un-Islamic and corrupting.


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Egypt hunting Sinai terrorists;Report: Hamas planning border breach

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/egypt-hunting-sinai-terroristsreport.html

 Last update - 22:42 15/04/2008       
Egyptian security forces hunting multiple terror cells in Sinai
By Haaretz Service
Egyptian security forces on Tuesday were searching in Sinai for multiple terror cells believed to be planning attacks against foreign nationals, especially Israelis, in the area.
 
The Counterterrorism Bureau has issued a severe warning against visits by Israelis to Sinai during the upcoming Pesach holiday.
 
Egyptian military sources told foreign reporters on Tuesday that its forces were searching for four pickup trucks thought to be carrying carrying militants to a target site. Roadblocks were set up throughout Sinai in an effort to apprehend the cells, which are believed to be part of "World Jihad."
 
Israeli officials fear a terror attack with mass casualties at a tourism site popular with Israelis, as well as attempts to abduct Israeli citizens, possibly with intent to take them to the Gaza Strip and use them as bargaining chips in negotiating the release of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel. These operations could be carried out by Hamas or Palestinian terror organizations.
 
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday called on Israelis to heed the warnings and cancel any plans to visit Sinai in the near future.
 
Sinai is the only location abroad with a specific warning, but security preparedness is already at the highest level possible in the wake of Hezbollah's threats to avenge the killing of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus about two months ago. The focus of the warnings is in East Asia, Africa and in South America. Extraordinary measures to protect Israeli aviation and Israeli institutions abroad are already in place.
 
Over 50,000 Israelis are expected to cross the border into Sinai and Egypt this coming Passover holiday despite warnings by the security establishment, the Airports Authority reported Monday.
 
Also Tuesday, Egypt's official newspaper reported a detailed plan by the Palestinian Hamas movement to blow up the concrete wall along the border at Rafah and to kill Egyptian security forces. The Islamic movement was quick to deny the reports.


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Report: Tehran's Top Cop and anti-vice crusader caught with six nude whores in whorehouse raid

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/report-tehrans-top-cop-and-anti-vice.html

This is not supposed to be a parody, but it might be.  It is a breaking story. Here are two versions, the first published April 15, followed by the "fictional" parody. Make of it what you will.

1. Tehran police chief in charge of fighting vice 'caught with 6 nude women'

(GULF IN THE NEWS)  

Agencies
Published: April 15, 2008, 14:38

Tehran: A spokesman for Iran's judiciary is confirming that Tehran's police chief has been detained and is presently "under investigation".

But Ali Reza Jamshidi on Tuesday is refusing to detail the circumstances of General Reza Zarei's arrest.

Local media report that Zarei was taken to jail after he was caught with six nude women by a police raid on an underground local brothel.

Zarei had been in charge of fighting vice.

Media reports say he was forced to resign last month after being caught in the police raid.

Jamshidi says he is not authorized to provide more information since legal proceedings have begun in Zarei's case.

2. Here is a post from a month ago:

Tehran Brothel Bust Nets Naked Top Cop with 6 Prostitutes

  Iranian Farda News reports Reza Zarei, police chief of Tehran, has been arrested in a police raid on a Tehran brothel. Accounts say that Zarei was found in the nude with a half dozen also nude prostitutes.

Farda News is said to be closely allied to Tehran's mayor and former police chief Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf. After the raid, Rezi resigned from his position as police chief.

Reports on the Iranian website Gooya say the raid was ordered by chief judicial authority Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. There are reports of hundreds of arrests in recent months for disrespect of Islamic code.

And here is the supposed parody, labeled as "fiction"

Written by queen mudder
Story written: 16 March 2008

Tehran, Iran - (Reuterus & Ass Mess) Iran's top morality enforcer and head of the dreaded secret religious police has been arrested in a brothel run by the Holy Roman Emperor VIP escort agency's international division.

Brigadier General Ali Reza Zarei was caught in a similar credit card sting that nabbed New York Governor Eliot Spitzer last week.

Zarei, 69, has been described as the scourge of Tehran's paranoid zealots who roam the streets looking for women whose veils may have slipped from the heads.

CCTV camera surveillance caught Zarei along with Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf, Tehran's Mayor, former police chief and a top contender for President Ahmadinejad's job in next year's elections.

666 hours of videotape was seized along with half a tonne of sex-related paraphernalia, five hundred kilos of cocaine, over $4 million in counterfeit $100 bills and 'enough marijuana to keep the smoking population of Jamaica happy until Christmas 2020.'

Silda Wall Spitzer is 50.

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

Not entirely fictitious, maybe.


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Iran's deceptive commercial practices

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/irans-deceptive-commercial-practices.html

Iran's Deceptive Commercial Practices

Emanuele Ottolenghi

Perspectives Papers No. 41, April 15, 2008


Executive Summary: Sanctions against Iran focus on nuclear and ballistic missile technology, drawing a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate trade. But a closer look at Iran's commercial practices proves that Iran is systematically abusing its access to Western technology. Technology it is acquiring for civilian projects or for legitimate policing activities is being diverted in order to bolster Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and its overwhelming economic role in Iran; and also for the development of Iran's clandestine nuclear activities. In short, Western technology sold to Iran is being utilized in ways that Iran's Western suppliers have never dreamed of, even in their worst nightmares. The current reality is that for a healthy profit and without moral compunctions, Western companies are legally selling Iran tools to repress its own citizens, to bully its neighbors, and to destabilize the entire region.


Iran's Human Rights Violations

In the seven weeks since the UN called for an international moratorium of executions, in late December 2007, Iran hung more than 60 people, frequently in public. Recent pictures, which the Iranian regime has now ordered off the internet to avoid international embarrassment, show convicts hanging from cranes made by such Japanese companies as TADANO, KATO, and UNIC. Many European companies sell similar equipment to Iran. Nor do they necessarily sell these products knowing Iran will turn construction equipment into death machines. Accusing them of complicity is like accusing, say, Volkswagen, of complicity with bank robbers if they happen to drive a VW Golf while escaping the scene of the crime.

Of course, there is nothing illegal about selling cranes and thousands of other products to Iran. But when it comes to Iran, Western companies should know better: they are dealing with masters of deception. Iran has been executing tens of thousands of people, since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, by using cranes. Deal with Tehran and sooner or later your company's logo will experience an embarrassing moment of exposure.

Iran's Systematic Diversion of Technology

Even if deals do not violate either UN sanctions or export controls over dual use technology, Iran is sure to divert perfectly legitimate products for sinister purposes. Legally, there is no complicity with Iran's behavior. But the legality of such transactions only highlights the inefficacy of the current sanctions' regime against Iran and the consequent lightness of the moral burden affecting western companies and their economic self-interest.

Examples abound. Wirth – a German producer of tunnel boring machinery – proudly boasts on its website that "When Barcelona receives a new metro system, a bridge is built over the Orinoco in Venezuela or a new water supply system is created in the Iranian mountains of Isfahan, Wirth machines are used." Indeed they are. The problem is that one of Wirth's project clients in Iran is Sahel Consulting Engineers – a company owned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Wirth has so far declined to comment on the matter. BAFA, the German export controls' agency, has confirmed that the machines sold to Sahel are not subject to embargo – a perfectly transparent deal, with all the seals of approval, to be used in a harmless civilian project.

Seli – an Italian company in the same line of business – also provided machinery and technicians for the previous phase of the same tunnel project – which was done through a consortium of which Wirth was a partner. The deal, worth 8.5 million Euro, was completed in 2005. The client was Ghaem, another IRGC subsidiary. The deal was similarly not subject to any restrictions or embargoes. Seli is involved in other important projects in Iran.

Another, much bigger contract is the Kerman Water Tunnel Project, a five-year deal worth 134.6 million Euro signed in 2004 with the active involvement, again, of Sahel Consulting Engineers. Italian and German tunneling equipment was thus sold to the IRGC and made available, once the water tunnel was completed, for other projects the IRGC may wish to undertake. Intelligence reports have repeatedly suggested that much of Iran's clandestine nuclear program is being built deep underground, in bunkers that are accessible through tunnels – tunnels which only technology such as the one provided by Wirth and Seli can build. What guarantee did Western governments have that Wirth and Seli's IRGC clients would not later use their machinery to advance Iran's military ambitions?

Legitimate Business Projects – Illegitimate Business Partners

In other cases, European companies sell advanced technology to IRGC companies for huge infrastructure projects in a no-bid context: Austrian Andritz VA Tech Hydro, Finnish Poÿrÿ, and German KTI-Plersch are all involved in different technical aspects of dam building in Iran – and all list IRGC companies as their clients. Not all deals involve dual use technology – but by dealing with the IRGC, European companies help them flourish economically. Such examples are not confined to the civilian sector. IRGC units carrying RPG launchers for hit-and-run action routinely ride Japanese Honda and Austrian KTM motorbikes; Iran's military employs Italian-made IVECO trucks as missile launchers; the IRGC uses Mercedes trucks for its transports and mounts machine guns on Toyota Land Cruisers. Not the best flattery, for Western products.

Selling Weapons to Iran – At Our Own Peril

Even when military equipment is supplied to Iran under tight controls, things go wrong. In 2003, Great Britain and Italy supplied night-imaging equipment to Iran's anti-drug units to fight drug smugglers in Iran's eastern provinces, under a United Nations Drug Control Office approved scheme. Israeli troops later found similar equipment inside Hizballah's headquarters in south Lebanon.

In 2005, Austria's arms manufacturer, Steyr-Mannlicher sold Iran 800 .50 caliber sniper rifles to be used by Iran's police drug fighting units in their war against drug smugglers. At the time, the US protested the deal and put sanctions on Steyr-Mannlicher – but the Austrian Minister of Defense called the deal "unimpeachable" and confirmed it. When 108 such guns were found in insurgents' safe houses in Baghdad by American troops, a small media storm ensued, but the Austrians – both company and diplomats – successfully challenged the initial media reports demanding evidence that those were the same weapons.

What eventually transpired was that the media were wrong – the weapons were perfect copies, made in Iran and China. Soon after the delivery, Iran's defense industries engaged in reverse engineering for the sniper rifles and quickly managed to produce its own version – which the IRGC is now busy distributing to insurgents across the Middle East. Once more, Western technology, sold under license and for ostensibly legitimate purposes, abetted Iran's sinister activities, given Iran's systematically fraudulent behavior.

"I Sold Boats, Not Weapons!"

The same happened with the IRGC speedboats involved in the recent naval incident in the Straits of Hormuz – according to diplomatic sources the boats are made in Iran, but frame and design come from Italy's FB Design, a famous producer of racing boats that sold Iran its patrol boat "Levriero" along with frames and blueprints under a now revoked government license. The owner recently protested his innocence in an interview: "I sold boats, not weapons!"

With Iran, unfortunately, there is no such distinction. European and other Western companies sell Iran a variety of sophisticated technological tools which apparently fulfill harmless but profitable deals outside the purview of the UN sanctions' regime. Soon after the merchandise reaches Iran, the regime systematically diverts it from legitimate activities to illegitimate ones. A recent Financial Action Task Force statement encourages its financial institutions to apply "enhanced due diligence" in dealing with Iran, due to its deceptive financial practices. This is because Western credit lines, which may well finance apparently legitimate operations, in fact involve money laundering and the financing of terrorism and Iran's ballistic and nuclear programs.

What the above examples prove is that the principle of enhanced due diligence must now be expanded by Europeans to apply to all trade with Iran. This is true even when Iranian interlocutors appear innocuous and well intentioned, and even when legally speaking there are no impediments to exporting certain products to Iran. The current reality is that for a healthy profit and without moral compunctions, Western companies are legally selling Iran tools to repress its own citizens, to bully its neighbors, and to destabilize the entire region.

Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi is the Director of the Transatlantic Institute, a Brussels-based think tank (www.transatlanticinstitute.org). This article is based on Dr. Ottolenghi's lecture at BESA as part of the Annual Leonard Wolinsky Lecture series.


BESA Perspectives is published through the generosity
of the Littauer Foundation.


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Iranian army deputy chief: If Israel attacks, we can wipe it off map

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/iranian-army-deputy-chief-if-israel.html

 Last update - 13:59 15/04/2008       
Top Iranian army officer: If Israel attacks, we'll wipe it off map
By Haaretz Service
In a new round in the war of words between Jerusalem and Tehran, the Iranian army's deputy chief threatened Tuesday "to wipe Israel off the map" in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.
 
"We will be able to wipe Israel off the map, if Israel attacks Iran," Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff Mohammed Rada Ashtiani said, according to the Iranian news agency Mehr.
 

Ashtiani was speaking at a press conference to mark "Army Day," which will take place on April 17. He was referring to recent drills carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the civilian population.
 
"As the President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has said, we have the motivation to defend the borders of our country," he added.
 
According to the officer, the Iranian armed forces are in a situation which does not allow to mount an attack on Iran via land.
 
The Iranian officer's comments came after Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week warned Iran that "an Iranian attack on Israel will lead to a harsh response by Israel that will cause the destruction of the Iranian nation."
 
In turn, Tehran blasted Ben-Eliezer's comments as "scandalous" and "insulting" in a complaint to the United Nations.
 


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Following Israel boycott, Al-Jazeera agrees to discuss coverage of Mideast conflict

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/following-israel-boycott-al-jazeera.html

Last update - 11:41 15/04/2008    
 
 Following Israel boycott, Al-Jazeera agrees to discuss coverage of Mideast conflict
 By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent 
The Qatar-based television network Al-Jazeera has agreed to discuss its coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict with Israel, after Israel decided to embargo the media outlet, claiming its reports were biased.
 
The chief executive of the Arab-language station agreed to the request by Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahabi (Kadima), who complained in a letter that the station ignored the plight of Israeli residents of the Western Negev, who have been the target of Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza for years.
 
Last month, an official directive issued in Jerusalem ordered Israeli officials not to grant interviews to Al-Jazeera, citing the station's anti-Israel bias.
 
Foreign Ministry officials said they were pleased with the network's willingness to discuss coverage of Israel.
 
Meanwhile, the network omitted any reference to Monday's meeting at the Qatar conference between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and the Emir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa. It did, however, report on Livni's meeting with her counterpart from Oman.
 
Qatar's national television network aired photos of the meeting between Livni and the Qatari head of state.
 
 


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IDF head of the Democratic Front in Northern Gaza

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/idf-head-of-democratic-front-in.html

In a joint IDF and ISA activity in Jabaliya, the IDF targeted and identified hitting Ibrahim Alba, the head of the Democratic Front in northern Gaza. Alba was involved in numerous infiltration attempts to the Israeli homefront from northern Gaza, many of which were thwarted by the IDF. Alba was involved in the infiltration of two terrorists armed with explosive devices and dressed in uniforms to Netiv Ha'asara on August 25th, 2007. Three IDFsoldiers were lightly wounded during exchanges of fire with the terrorists, the two terrorists were killed. Alba has since then continued attempting to execute terror attacks against Israel. In recent days, he was planning another terror attack. He was also involved in launching rockets into Israel.


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Monday, April 14, 2008

April 8 was not the first Palestinian attack on Gaza crossing points

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/april-8-was-not-first-palestinian.html

The April 8 terror attack by Palestinians on the fuel depot that supplies Gaza surprised many, because it obviously had the potential to stop fuel deliveries to Gaza and harm Palestinians. This list tabulated by the Israel Ministry of foreign affairs shows that this is not the first time Palestinian terrorists have used the crossings as targets for terror attacks. The list does not include many attacks that did not end in fatalities. The original list included additional instances where Palestinians tried to smuggle explosives through the crossings, but where no attack on the crossing itself was intended. These cases were removed for clarity. In a number of the incidents not shown here, Palestinian terrorists used fake medical documents as a means of gaining entry to Israel in order to carry out terror attacks. This should be kept in mind when evaluating claims that Israel arbitrarily denies medical treatment to Palestinians.
 
Ami Isseroff
 

Nov 23, 2000 - Sgt. Samar Hussein, 19, of Hurfeish, was killed when Palestinian snipers opened fire at soldiers patrolling the border fence near the Erez Crossing.

Dec 28, 2000 - Capt. Gad Marasha, 30, of Kiryat Arba and Border Police Sgt.-Maj. Yonatan Vermullen, 29, of Ben-Shemen, were killed when called to dismantle a road-side bomb near the Sufa Crossing in the Gaza Strip. The bomb was dismantled, but another bomb exploded, killing both and wounding two other soldiers. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nov 26, 2001 - A Palestinian suicide bomber killed himself and lightly wounded two Border Policemen at the Erez Crossing point in the Gaza Strip. The bomber joined workers waiting to be cleared for entry into Israel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Apr 12, 2002 - Border policeman St.-Sgt. David Smirnoff, 22, of Ashdod was killed when a Palestinian gunman opened fire near the Erez Crossing, in the Gaza Strip, killing one and injuring another four Israelis. The terrorist killed one and injured three Palestinian workers in the same shooting spree. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack.

Apr 20, 2002 - Border Policeman St.-Sgt. Uriel Bar-Maimon, 21 of Ashkelon was killed in an exchange of fire near the Erez industrial park in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces pursued the Palestinian gunman and killed him. An explosive belt was found on his body. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility.

Apr 15, 2003 - Zachar Rahamin Hanukayev, 39, of Sderot and Ahmed Salah Kara, 20, of Shuafat in northern Jerusalem were killed and four Israelis were wounded when a Palestinian terrorist opened fire at the Karni industrial zone crossing in the Gaza Strip. The gunman was killed by security personnel. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

June 8, 2003 - Four IDF soldiers were killed and four reserve soldiers were wounded when Palestinian terrorists wearing IDF uniforms opened fire on an IDF outpost near the Erez checkpoint and industrial zone in the Gaza Strip. Three terrorists were killed by IDF soldiers. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

Jan 14, 2004 - Four Israelis - three soldiers and one civilian - were killed and 10 wounded when a female suicide bomber detonated a bomb at the Erez Crossing in the Gaza Strip, at the workers crossing terminal in the Erez industrial zone, where magnetic entering cards are issued. Hamas and the Fatah Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed joint responsibility for the attack. The terminal was severely damaged, and needed to be rebuilt. As a result, Palestinians were not able to enter the industrial zone for several days.

Feb 26, 2004 - Sgt.-Maj.(res.) Amir Zimmerman, 25, of Kfar Monash was killed and two other soldiers wounded when two Palestinian terrorists opened fire near the Erez Crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. The terrorists were killed by IDF forces. The Fatah Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

In March 2004, four terrorists traveling in three vehicles (two of which were rigged with explosives) attempted to kill Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers at the Erez Crossing.

Mar 6, 2004 - Two Palestinian policemen were killed when four terrorists traveling in three vehicles rigged with explosives, including jeeps camouflaged as IDF vehicles attempted to kill Israeli civilians and IDF soldiers at the Erez Crossing. Two of the vehicles exploded on the Palestinian side of the crossing, and four terrorists were killed. There were no IDF casualties. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the military wing of Fatah all claimed responsibility.

Apr 17, 2004 - Border Policeman Sgt. Kfir Ohayon, 20, of Eilat was killed, three others wounded when a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at the Erez Crossing. Hamas and Fatah claimed joint responsibility for the attack.

In August 2004, a Palestinian terrorist wearing explosive underwear was arrested at the Erez Crossing. [This was not an attack on the crossing, but I left it in. Explosive underwear seems like an idea whose time has come...]

Dec 7, 2004 - St.-Sgt. Nadav Kudinsky, 20, of Kiryat Gat of the Oketz canine unit was killed by a bomb, along with his dog, when a booby-trapped chicken coop exploded northwest of the Karni Corssing in the Gaza Strip. Four soldiers were wounded in the exchange of fire while evacuating him. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.

Dec 12, 2004 - Five IDF soldiers were killed and five wounded in a combined explosives tunnel and gunmen attack on an IDF post located near the Rafah terminal post, followed by the infiltration of the post by two terrorists who opened fire and activated another explosive device. Hamas and the Fatah Hawks claimed responsibility for the attack.

Jan 5, 2005 - A Palestinian gunman infiltrated Erez via the Palestinian tunnel that leads to the Israeli terminal, activated an explosive device that created a hole in the tunnel's wall and entered the courtyard connecting the Israeli and Palestinian posts. The gunman was killed in exchanges of fire that took place at the scene.The Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack.

Jan 13, 2005 - Six Israeli civilians were murdered and five Israeli civilians were wounded in a combined terrorist attack carried out in the compound of the Karni Crossing. Three terrorists infiltrated into the compound via a hole which was created in a wall after the terrorists activated an explosive device which was placed next to a door at the Palestinian side of the crossing. The civilians were killed as result of the explosion, and after the terrorists hurled grenades and opened fire at the civilians working at Karni. Hamas and the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed joint responsiblity for the attack.

Apr 8, 2008 - Oleg Lipson, 37, and Lev Cherniak, 53, both of Beersheba, were killed when Palestinian terrorists, after firing a salvo of mortars at the Nahal Oz area, penetrated the fuel terminal and opened fire on the civilian employees.


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Good news from Israel?

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/good-news-from-israel.html

A report about Israel from the Netherlands? It must be bad, right? Read to the end...

Five hours at Tel Aviv airport

Diary from the Middle East (1)

by Nicolien den Boer in Israel*

09-04-2008

Nicolien den BoerWhat does daily life look like in Israel and the Palestinian territory? Two editors of the Arabic desk of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Nicolien den Boer and Abir Sarras, will be - separately - travelling through the region in the coming weeks.

Their trip coincides with the 60th anniversary of the state of Israel and the commemoration of the naqba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians. They are keeping a travel diary.

In the first contribution of Nicolien den Boer: five hours at Tel Aviv airport.

(edited translation of the original Dutch report by Nicolien den Boer) 

                                                            ********

Middle East diary part 1 - arrivalWhen the Israeli woman who's interrogating me at Tel Aviv airport says, "I've just sent someone back who didn't co-operate", what she actually means is "you've been warned". It's 4 a.m., and this is the third time I've been questioned so far. I'm trying to stay calm. I haven't slept yet and I haven't had anything to drink for hours. The woman, probably a member of the Israeli security services, points me to the water fountain outside the toilets. I rinse my mouth, nothing more (is it safe to drink the water here?).

My passport has stamps from various Arab countries: Dubai, Yemen and archenemy Syria. After having to explain away all the telephone numbers I have in my possession, give my e-mail address and provide information about all my planned visits to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, there yet another interrogation of about an hour followed, this time about my time in Syria: "What did you do there?" "Do you know anyone there?", "Where exactly did you go?".

Finally, after more than five hours of waiting and being questioned at Tel Aviv airport, I get my passport back and am allowed to go. My suitcase is waiting, but - despite what I was promised - there's no one keeping an eye on it.

Israel-PalestinianlandsConfused
On the way to my hotel, I am feeling rather confused. I thought the Israelis always laid out the red carpet for members of the Western press. Haven't they got a reputation for bending over backwards to help journalists, handing out beautiful press packs and great quotes? If they treat me, a Dutch woman like this, what's it like for a Palestinian? I'd started going on about getting the Dutch embassy involved. I even rang them up - they were closed, of course. But a Palestinian wouldn't have any embassy to call. I'm trying not to think in simplistic terms of 'good guy, bad guy', but it's difficult.

So I save my complaint for the government press office in Jerusalem, where I go to pick up my press card next day. "Security measures," is the explanation I get from the press officer, a tired looking woman by the name of Pnina Aizenman. "What do you think it's like for us, waking up each morning and never knowing what the day will bring?" she says, clearly referring to Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

Wrecked
While Pnina's busy getting my press card ready, I take a look at the photos of children and a newspaper article on the wall behind me. The article is about a woman who lost her mother and her five-year-old child in a Palestinian suicide bombing. The name of the woman is Pnina Aizenman. I get the shivers. "That's you," I stammer. "Yes. Do you understand now what I mean by security measures?" she replies. I suddenly feel ashamed that I've just been complaining about being kept waiting for five hours when this woman's life has been totally wrecked by a bomb.

Then I also remember the bread roll that a police officer offered me at the airport, and that one of the women questioning me told me about the death of two friends and how she dedicated her work to their memory and did it "to defend her country". Totally confused, I leave the press office and walk out onto the streets of Jerusalem. Suddenly I find that I've totally binned [trashed]  that 'good guy, bad guy' thing I had in my head less than 24 hours ago.

Middle East diaries 2008
* RNW translation (mw)


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Christian Embassy urges police action on harassment of messianic Jews

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/christian-embassy-urges-police-action.html

Bombing people is not a way to solve religious disputes unless you are a Jihadist fanatic. It is also against the law, and the law must be enforced.  
 
 Last update - 09:27 14/04/2008       
Evangelicals urge police to act on harassment of messianic Jews
By Daphna Berman
 
A leading evangelical organization in Israel has called on local police to stop "overlooking" cases of "harassment, intimidation and even physical violence" against messianic Jews, in the wake of last month's attack, which seriously injured a member of Ariel's small Christian missionary community. In an open letter released Sunday, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem condemned the attack against 15-year-old Ami Ortiz, son of prominent messianic pastor David Ortiz, breaking some three weeks of silence on the subject.
 
"We urge Israeli authorities to take this criminal assault seriously, and to commit all the resources, manpower and willpower necessary to see the investigation through to conclusion and to prosecute to the fullest those deemed responsible," the statement read.
 
"The 'Purim gift basket bombing' has caught the attention of the Christian world and Israel needs to assure everyone that it is indeed a democracy that safeguards the rights and lives of its religious minorities."
 
The organization refrained from reacting to the attack earlier, the statement said, "in hopes the police investigation would quickly identify those responsible for this appalling act."
 


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PLO Honcho admits staged plan to destroy Israel

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/plo-honcho-admits-staged-plan-to.html

This guy is at least frank:
 
"In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the PLO proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy. Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine," added Zaki.
PLO: We'll drive Israel out of Palestine
 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jerusalem Post Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST  Apr. 13, 2008
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
"The PLO is the sole legitimate representative [of the Palestinian people], and it has not changed its platform even one iota."
 
That's what the PLO's ambassador to Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, told Lebanon's NBN TV in an interview that aired last Wednesday and was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
 
"In light of the weakness of the Arab nation and the lack of values, and in light of the American control over the world, the PLO proceeds through phases, without changing its strategy. Let me tell you, when the ideology of Israel collapses, and we take, at least, Jerusalem, the Israeli ideology will collapse in its entirety, and we will begin to progress with our own ideology, Allah willing, and drive them out of all of Palestine," added Zaki.
 
The clip can be viewed at http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1738.htm.
 
And in a sermon televised on Friday, Yunis al-Astal, a Hamas MP and cleric, told worshipers that Islam would soon conquer Rome, "the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and which has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam," just as Constantinople was.
 
Rome, he said, would become "an advanced post for the Islamic conquests which will spread through Europe in its entirety, and then will turn to the two Americas, and even Eastern Europe."
 
In his address aired on Hamas's Al-Aksa TV and also translated by MEMRI, Astal told his audience: "Allah has chosen you for himself and for his religion, so that you will serve as the engine pulling this nation to the phase of succession, security, and consolidation of power, and even to conquests through da'wa [preaching] and military conquests of the capitals of the entire world."
 
"I believe that our children or our grandchildren will inherit our jihad and our sacrifices, and Allah willing, the commanders of the conquest will come from among them. Today, we instill these good tidings in their souls, and by means of the mosques and the Koran books, and the history of our prophet, his companions, and the great leaders, we prepare them for the mission of saving humanity from the hellfire on the brink of which they stand."
 
The clip can be viewed at http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1739.htm.
 


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Israel, U.S. sign nuke agreement

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/israel-us-sign-nuke-agreement.html

 Last update - 09:08 14/04/2008       
Israel, U.S. sign nuclear cooperation agreement
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
 
Israel and the United States signed an agreement several days ago to step up cooperation in the field of nuclear safety. The move is part of Israel's efforts to receive foreign assistance in ensuring that the aging nuclear reactor at Dimona continues to operate safely.
 
The new agreement broadens and upgrades previous accords between the two countries in this field, which were signed over the past two decades. It will enable the Israel Atomic Energy Commission to access most of the latest nuclear safety data, procedures and technology available in the U.S.
 
The agreement was signed by the director of the Atomic Energy Commission, Dr. Shaul Horev, and the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Dr. Dale Klein.
 
Horev also met in the U.S. with his American counterpart, Thomas D'Agostino, who is the administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
 
Even though the agreement is essentially technical in nature, it has much greater significance, as many countries, including the U.S., are inclined not to cooperate with Israel on any aspects related to the nuclear field, because Israel is not a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). However, the U.S. has agreements on nuclear safety with Israel. Moreover, Israel also has an agreement for limited cooperation on matters of nuclear safety with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has adopted the stringent standards and safety procedures of the Vienna-based organization.
 
In recent years Israel has tried to improve and broaden its ties in the nuclear field with as many countries and organizations as possible. This was done in an effort to breach its isolation in this field, but also because of the need for foreign assistance to help ensure safety at the nuclear research compound in Dimona, as well as monitor nuclear waste at the site.
 
The Dimona reactor - which foreign reports say is used by Israel to develop nuclear arms - was established nearly five decades ago, and is considered relatively old. Experts in the field have expressed concern that safety mishaps could occur there, since it is not under international supervision, due to the classified activities there.
 
However, Israel has argued that the reactor has been upgraded in recent years and that safety there meets the highest international standards.
 
The Israel Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) stressed that old reactors in the U.S. underwent similar upgrades and were issued licenses to continue operations for decades more. The IAEC is responsible for operating the Dimona reactor and also for monitoring safety there. The monitoring is done in cooperation with an inter-ministerial body, the Committee for Nuclear Safety.
 
In recent years, some of the senior members of the IAEC have called for a nuclear reactor here to produce electricity, thus limiting the dependence on imported petroleum and preparing for the forecast shortage in oil reserves.
 
However, Israel is expected to meet with opposition from abroad to an electricity-producing reactor because of its refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. One of the options raised was to seek an agreement with the U.S. that will allow the transfer of technology for the construction of such a reactor. The U.S. was on the verge of recently signing a similar agreement with India, a country also not a signatory of the NPT, but due to domestic political opposition, an agreement faltered.
 


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Surprise - Jimmy Carter finds he is not popular in Israel.

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/surprise-jimmy-carter-finds-he-is-not.html

Former US President Jimmy Carter must've been very shocked to find that he is not popular in Israel. I wonder why. Nobody could meet with him because of "scheduling difficulties," which means they said, "hell will freeze over first."
 
 
 
 Last update - 20:00 13/04/2008       
Carter comes to Israel on peace mission, but finds himself shunned
By The Associated Press
 
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, broker of the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty, is getting a cool reception on his latest mission to the region: Israeli leaders are shunning him for accusing Israel of apartheid and for planning to meet with the head of the violently anti-Israel Hamas group.
 
A schedule released by the U.S.-based Carter Center showed no plans for the former president to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni or Defense Minister Ehud Barak during this week's visit in Israel, which was scheduled to begin Sunday.
 
Scheduling problems was the official reason given, a senior Israeli official said - even though Olmert recently took time from his busy schedule to chat with Wentworth Miller of the U.S. TV drama, Prison Break. Olmert's office declined comment.
 
What is really behind the cold shoulder is Carter's plan to meet with Hamas' Damascus-based political leader, Khaled Meshal, when his peacekeeping mission moves later in the week to Syria, the Israeli official said. "Israeli leaders are not publicly criticizing Carter out of respect for his former position as U.S. president," he added.
 
In remarks to air Sunday on ABC News' "This Week" Carter said that his upcoming visit to the Middle East will probably include a meeting in Syria with leaders of the militant group Hamas.
 
"I've not confirmed our itinerary yet for the Syrian visit, but it's likely that I will be meeting with the Hamas leaders," Carter said, bolstering the rumors that he was planning to meet Meshal.
 
Ahead of his arrival in Israel, Carter said he feels quite at ease about meeting Hamas militants.
 
"I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind that if Israel is ever going to find peace with justice concerning the relationship with their next-door neighbors, the Palestinians, that Hamas will have to be included in the process," Carter said.
 
Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction and has carried out dozens of suicide bombings that have killed more than 250 Israelis. Israel has no contacts with the Islamic militant group, whose violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in June has undercut newly revived efforts by Israel and the Palestinians to strike a final peace deal.
 
The most prominent Israeli to meet with Carter during his visit was President Shimon Peres, Israel's ceremonial head of state, and a Nobel peace laureate for his role in the historic 1993 accord between Israel and the Palestinians.
 
Sources at the President's residence reported that during their meeting, Peres sharply rebuked Carter over his last book, in which he called Israel an apartheid state. Peres told Carter that despite the former president's many achievements in advancing peace during the Camp David era, his activity in recent years has caused grave damage to Israel and to the peace process.
 
The meeting between the two men was low-key and representatives from the media were not invited to document the event.
 
Carter also met with the parents of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, who were planning to give him a message to pass on to Hamas.
 
Carter was also scheduled to meet with several Israeli lawmakers, and was planning to visit Sderot, the southern Israeli town most frequently targeted by Gaza rocket squads.
 
Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his work in mediating conflicts, while president and under the auspices of The Carter Center. In 1978, he brokered the landmark accord between Egypt and Israel, for which Egypt's Anwar Sadat and Israel's Menachem Begin were awarded that year's Nobel Peace Prize.
 
But the goodwill Carter earned here through that agreement was all but swept away two years ago with the publication of his controversial book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" which equates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories with the racial segregation and oppression that once reigned in South Africa.
 
Jewish groups and some fellow Democrats strongly objected to the book and more than a dozen members of the Carter Center's advisory board resigned in protest.
 
In a later afterword to his book, Carter criticized the lack of balanced debate in the United States about the Middle East and warned officials against being seen as knee-jerk supporters of every action or policy of the Israeli government.
 
"For the past two to three years, Carter has embarked upon a crusade of hate against Israel," Uzi Arad, an adviser to parliamentary opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, told Israel Radio.
 
"There is no doubt that Jimmy Carter as a former president should be greeted as a matter of protocol, but it does not mean that the prime minister, the foreign minister and certainly the opposition leader have to meet him," Arad said.
 
In addition to Israel, Carter is scheduled to visit the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Carter will not be visiting Hamas-ruled Gaza.
 
A Carter-Meshal meeting would be the first public contact between a prominent American figure and Hamas officials since The Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Mashaal in Syria in 2006.
 
The U.S. lists Hamas as a terrorist organization, and on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Carter for his reported plans to meet with Meshal.
 
"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.
 
The State Department says it twice advised Carter against meeting any Hamas representative.


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Belarus dumps Jewish bones from cemetery

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/belarus-dumps-jewish-bones-from.html

Nothing like the old country...
 
Last update - 10:43 13/04/2008       
Belarus workers move bones from Jewish cemetery to dump
By The Associated Press
Workers rebuilding a sports stadium on the site of an 18th century Jewish cemetery in Belarus say they have no choice but to consign the bones to city dumps.
 
"It's impossible to pack an entire cemetery into sacks," said worker Mikhail Gubets, adding that he stopped counting the skulls when the number went over 100.
 
But critics say it's part of a pattern of callous indifference toward Belarus' Jewish heritage that was prevalent when the country was a Soviet republic and hasn't changed.
 
The stadium in Gomel, Belarus' second largest city and a center of Jewish life until World War II, is one of four that were built on top of Jewish cemeteries around the country.
 
The Gomel cemetery was destroyed when the stadium was built in 1961, but the remains lay largely undisturbed until this spring when reconstruction began and a bulldozer turned up the first bones.
 
A Jewish leader in Gomel, Vladimir Gershanok, says he asked the builders to put the bones into sacks for reburial at a cemetery that has a monument to Holocaust victims.
 
"We know we can't stop the construction but we're trying to minimize the
destruction," Gershanok said.
 
But city authorities have ruled that the construction can go ahead because the bones are more than 50 years old.
 
Igor Poluyan, the city official responsible for building sports facilities, says he doesn't understand the problem. "If something was scattered there, we'll collect it and take it away," he said.
 
A history professor, Yevgeny Malikov, sees the cemetery as part of the city's heritage. He has filled three sacks with bones and pulled aside two of the unearthed marble gravestones. Other gravestones are piled near a trash bin or already carried away. Some of the bones have been carried off by stray dogs.
 
"The history of the city is being thrown into the dump together with the human remains," Malikov said.
 
Jews began settling in Gomel in the 16th century and by the end of the 19th century made up more than half of the population. In 1903, they made history by being the first to resist a pogrom, defending 26 synagogues and prayer houses.
 
Most of Gomel's 40,000 Jews managed to flee before the Nazis arrived. The
4,000 who remained were shot in November 1941. Only a few thousand Jews now live in the city of 500,000.
 
Oleg Korzhuyev, 38, who lives on Karl Marx Street at the edge of the site, said the workers aren't happy about digging up human bones, but if they find a gold tooth then it's a real celebration.
 
Another city, Grodno, experienced a similar problem while reconstructing a stadium built on a Jewish cemetery. The excavated earth and bones were scattered into a ravine.
 
Jewish graves also have been disturbed in neighboring Ukraine.
 
"It's not just a Jewish issue, it's this general Soviet legacy," said Ukraine's chief rabbi, Yakov Blaikh. They didn't respect people while they were alive and they don't respect them when they are dead.
 
This month, the Jewish community in the city of Vinnyntsa was able to stop construction of an apartment building on a pre-World War II Jewish cemetery.
 
Ukrainian authorities apologized, saying they did not realize the construction would affect the cemetery. Belarus, on the other hand, has been one of the least responsive countries on all Jewish issues, according to Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli Simon Wiesenthal Center.
 
"The government is simply erasing Jewish history from the face of this land," said Yakov Basin, vice president of the Belarusian Jewish Council.
 
Before the war, about 1 million Jews lived in Belarus and 800,000 of them died in the Holocaust. Today they number 27,000 in the country of 10 million.
 
Belarus' president, Alexander Lukashenko, has shown little respect for Jewish culture. In a radio broadcast in October that provoked a sharp protest from the Israeli government, he suggested that when Jews were numerous in another town, Bobruisk, they turned it into a pigsty.
 
"You know how Jews treat the place where they live. Look at Israel; I was there," he said.
Source


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Israel Poll: Likud 29 Labor 18 Kadima 15, Nuclear Iran top concern

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/israel-poll-likud-29-labor-18-kadima-15.html

The big news seems to be the decline in the fortunes of the Likud. After the big IDF operation in Gaza, Israelis had a better understanding of the problems involved in hasty military operations, and are less keen to follow the recommendations of Benjamin Netanyahu. The other news is that the election of Haim Oron to head Meretz has produced a tiny rise in its fortune. This is the first poll in a long time that I remember that gives Meretz more than six mandates.
 
Poll:  Likud 29 Labor 18 Kadima 15, Nuclear Iran top concern
Dr. Aaron Lerner         12 April 2008

Haaretz-Dialog poll of  500 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs) conducted 9 April, 2008 supervised by Professor Camille Fuchs of Tel Aviv University. Statistical error +/- 4.5 percentage points.

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates) Based in the 64% who said who they would vote for.
Actual Knesset today in [brackets]

[Ap]= current poll
[Fb]= February poll
[Jn] = 18 January poll
[Nv] = November 2007 poll]

[Ap][Fb][Jn][Nv]
29 35 34 30 [12] Likud
18 17 17 23 [19] Labor
15 14 13 15 [29] Kadima
12 12 12 11 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
10 09 09 09 [12] Shas
07 06 04 04 [05] Meretz
06 07 06 07 06 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 04 06 06 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
04 03 06 04 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
00 00 00 03 [00] Green Party
00 03 02 02 [07] Retirees Party
10 10 10 10 [10] Arab parties

Percent satisfied with the performance of:
Olmert 23% Livni 43% Barak 37%

What are you most concerned about?
[IMRA: This was a "closed question".  It would have been appropriate to also include the security situation in the South]
34% Iran going nuclear
22% Economy
21% Security tension in the North
14% All to same extent
04% None of the above
04% Don't know

This week a large security drill was held.  Is Israel better prepared for  war than it was two years ago?
Yes 43% Same as before 23% Less 18% Don't know 16%

Next month Israel will celebrate 60 years of independence. Will Israel continue to exist in another 60 years?
Yes 77% No 11% Don't know 12%

Who most has the following characteristics?
Sound judgment
Olmert 17% Barak 21% Netanyahu 31% All same/don't know 31%

Personal integrity
Olmert 9% Barak 24% Netanyahu 23% All same/don't know 44% Courage
Olmert 10% Barak 33% Netanyahu 33% All same/don't know 24%

Do you plan to eat chametz on Passover?
No 68% Yes 26% Don't know 6%

If Kadima and Labor combine and run together in the coming elections will it change the chances you would vote for them?
Increase 24% Decrease 20% Unchanged 39% Don't know 17%

Who of the following would you like to eat dinner with?
None of them 38% Netanyahu 14% Lieberman 12% Olmert 9% Barak 8% Yishai 8% Oron 7% All same 3%


Published in Haaretz on 11 April 2008



--------------------------------------------
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis


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Unbearable lightness of UNIFIL: Israel fears Iran may ship Hezbollah arms via Beirut port

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2008/04/unbearable-lightness-of-unifil-israel.html

It was evident from the start that UNFIL is not doing its job in Lebanon. It should have been understood that this was inevitable. A serious police effort would result in suicide bombing of UN installations. But now that Imad Moughnieh is dead, perhaps it is safer. He was responsible for bombing the international force in the 1980s.
 
Ami Isseroff
 
Israel fears Iran may ship Hezbollah arms via Beirut port
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel is concerned that Iran might start moving weapons to Hezbollah by means of ships that anchor in the Beirut port, government sources in Jerusalem said.
 
The sources said oversight of marine vessels by UNIFIL (the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) was not efficient enough to enforce an embargo on weapons shipments into Lebanon and to pinpoint such shipments.
 
A government source in Jerusalem said Saturday that a year ago Israel transmitted to Germany, which at that time commanded UNIFIL's marine forces, that it suspected Iran would transfer weapons to Hezbollah by sea. The source said Israel voiced its concerns over the marine forces' insufficient control over the coast, and that Germany promised to increase its supervision.
 
"The problem is that UNIFIL's checks are not strict enough and are simply not serious," the source said. He said that UNIFIL soldiers do not physically examine the cargo in suspicious vessels, making do with comparing the vessel's name and registration number to the registration of the ships in the Beirut port.
 
"We are afraid that many ships registered in the port as carrying certain cargo are in fact carrying cargo of a totally different kind," the source said.
 
A response from UNIFIL could not be obtained over the weekend.
 
Iran concedes that it provides moral support and money to Hezbollah, but denies supplying it with weapons, which would be in violation of a UN resolution.
 
The Israel Defense Forces said last month that Iran is sending Hezbollah weapons by means of planes and trucks, passing through Turkish territory without the knowledge of the government in Ankara, and from there to Syria and Lebanon.
 
In the two years since the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah has been working to rehabilitate itself and increase its strength. The organization has considerably increased the number of rockets in its possession, and it now has tens of thousands of them.
 
According to the Israeli government source, Hezbollah has placed two thirds of these rockets south of the Litani River in the area under UNIFIL control, where the organization is not allowed to operate.
 
Over the past month, Israel has been lobbying in the UN to promote the release of a presidential statement by the Security Council regarding the ongoing smuggling of weapons to Hezbollah despite the arms embargo. However, the lack of consensus among the countries on the Security Council, along with American and French concerns over a worsening of the political crisis in Lebanon, have impeded progress on the statement.
 
About a month ago, responsibility for UNIFIL's marine forces was transferred from Germany to Italy. The marine force has been operating since October 2006, when European gun boats began patroling Lebanon's territorial waters, allowing Israel to lift the sea blockade it had enforced upon the outbreak of the war.
 
When the force, which consists of 11 ships and works closely alongside the Lebanese navy, locates a suspicious vessel, it sends it to be checked by the Lebanese authorities, usually at the Beirut port. The force has so far preliminarily checked 13,000 vessels, but has sent only 70 suspicious ones for comprehensive examination by the Lebanese authorities.
 


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