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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Did Hezbollah really lose?

This account of the Hezbollah victory in Lebanon, Armed and Dangerous, like many others, attempts to be optimistic about the final outcome: Hezbollah will be exposed as a group that is not really interested in fighting Israel so much as in taking over Lebanon. By using their arms against other Arabs, they forfeited their legitimacy and will eventually fail.

David Kenner writes in the New Republic article:
But by turning their weapons on their fellow countrymen earlier this month, Hezbollah has violated the "grand bargain" with the Lebanese public that has allowed them to remain militarized. And by targeting Sunni areas of Beirut and Druze villages in the Chouf, Hezbollah has revealed itself to be, at its heart, a sectarian militia after all, provoking new hostility among non-Shia Lebanese. "The street is very angry about what has happened," says Yehya Jaber, a journalist for The Future, a newspaper owned by Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri whose offices were ransacked and set aflame during the clashes. "No matter what the politicians do, this is a temporary peace."
If Hassan Nasrallah had kept his weapons aimed solely at Israel instead of involving them in Lebanon's sectarian struggle, he may still have won Rabih's grudging respect. But local threats weigh heavier on his mind than geopolitical concerns. "It's two different worlds," Rabih explains, gesturing towards Barbour, no more than a minute's stroll away. "There is a deep hatred between these neighborhoods now."

The resentment is even deeper among the few Sunnis who live in Barbour. "The army tried to come in [during the first day of clashes], but Amal humiliated them and told them to leave," says Sana, a Sunni shopkeeper whose son had to change his identifiably Sunni name to something more generic. "I used to have a picture of [assassinated former prime minister and Sunni leader] Rafik Hariri in my home," she continues, lamenting the need to adjust to life under Shia domination. "But I took it down when the fighting began, because I live next to one of the bodyguards of [Amal leader] Nabih Berri."

As the terror of last month's attacks subsides, the fear of Hezbollah among Lebanon's Sunni, Christian, and other minority communities is quickly turning to anger. By alienating the other sects, Hezbollah's short-term military victory seems to be turning into a long-term threat to its weapons and its autonomy. Their violation of the unspoken bargain of their militarization last month is a significant turning point in Lebanon's precarious sectarian balance--a move that has already started to undermine Hezbollah's special status among the Lebanese population.

Losing their weapons would be a major--and possibly fatal--blow to the group. Without its weapons, Hezbollah would probably lose the support of its Iranian sponsors (whose primary goal is to use the group as a front against Israel), making it difficult for the organization to maintain its patronage networks, and thus allowing space for new Shia leaders to emerge.

"It is difficult for me to imagine Hezbollah [surviving very long] as a toothless organization," Safa says. In light of this month's violence, that day may now be closer than ever before.

It might happen. The flaws in the above logic are legion however. Hassan Nasrallah and the Hezbollah are not stupid and they understood exactly how far they could go. They have engineered the takeover in such a way that from now on they no longer need force. They have veto power over any government decision according to the terms of the agreement. Therefore, it is almost inconceivable that they will be induced to lay down their arms. Moreover, while their might be a lot of dissatisfaction with the Hezbollah in Lebanon, this is meaningless unless it can be translated into armed force. How many divisions has Future TV? None. It was shut down in fact by Hezbollah thugs. In the showdown, the army sided with Hezbollah, working out a near-bloodless capitulation to Hezbollah demands, that only required that they remove their troops from the streets. Saad Hariri had no say in the matter. He was a prisoner in his own house, and his Future TV was put off the air. As Hezbollah had won all their demands, there was no reason for them to keep their troops in the streets. The Qatar agreement simply put the seal of approval on the Hezbollah victory. Moreover, Kenner ignores the huge capacity of Lebanese and their politicians to delude themselves. One has only to read the Beirut Daily Star to understand that a significant element of Sunni Arabs and Christians are willing to make believe that the Hezbollah are really working for the unity of Lebanon and that the Qatar agreement is a "good thing." This is no doubt preferable to opposing the Hezbollah, which has often proven to be very bad for the health of journalists and politicians.

Hebollah has managed to take power by assassinating its most important enemies and then using just enough armed force to make clear who is boss. It is far more likely that if Hezbollah ever "surrenders its arms" it will be because its own troops have been absorbed in, and have come to dominate the Lebanese army. At that point, there will be nothing left of Lebanese sovereignty. The issue of popular support doesn't matter. Islamic Republics like Iran are not dependent on the support of a democratic electorate. They maintain their rule at gun point. The AK-47 and the explosive device, rather than the ballot and the public opinion polls, will decide the future of Lebanon, just as they have now decided the Qatar "agreement."

Ami Isseroff

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Ramon: Elections should be held in november

 Last update - 10:28 31/05/2008       
Vice Premier: Expect elections by November
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
Vice Premier Haim Ramon addressed the Soref Symposium at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on Friday, saying that he believed that the general elections in Israel would be pushed up to this coming November.
Ramon, a close associate of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, spoke two days after Defense Minister Ehud Barak demanded, in a press conference, that Olmert resign from his post, in light of a corruption investigation currently underway against him, and threatened to force early elections if Olmert did not step aside voluntarily.
The elections in Israel take place every four years, but only one of the last eight Knesset assemblies completed its full term.
Ramon also addressed the issue of the recently renewed indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria, saying that he did not believes the talks would ultimately result in a peace agreement.
The comment is in contrast to reports Friday in the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat that in their latest round of indirect talks, Israel and Syria made progress on the contentious issues of water, security, borders and normalization of relations.
The vice premier also reiterated his support for continuing Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip in efforts to end the ongoing Qassam rocket fire against southern Israeli communities.

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Dead man less important than Israeli strike?

But two separate incidents are reported. The IDF struck a Hamas cell but - nobody was hurt?!
The fact that nobody was hurt might have been newsworthy in itself, but was not stated in the headline. However, the same article relates that a Hamas "militant" blew himself up and wounded his relatives and neighbors.
This is not stated in the headline. The text of the article is below.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 10:28 31/05/2008       

By Yuval Azoulay, News Agencies and Haaretz Service
Palestinian officials said the Israel Defense Forces struck a Hamas cell near Khan Yunis early Saturday morning. No injuries were reported in the incident, and IDF spokesperson has yet to confirm the attack.
In a separate incident on Saturday, Gaza officials said an explosion in the house of a Hamas militant has killed the man and wounded 16 relatives and neighbors.
The Palestinian Interior Ministry said it's investigating the cause of
aturday's blast at the home of Hamas activist Nader Abu Shaban.
Hamas officials said Abu Shaban was handling explosives when the blast went off. Doctors say two of the 16 wounded are in critical condition.
Earlier, five Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip. No injuries or damage were reported.
IDF fires into crowd of Hamas protesters
IDF troops used gunfire and tear gas on Friday to keep more than 3,000 Hamas supporters from approaching one of the Gaza Strip's main border crossings with Israel, wounding at least six Palestinians, witnesses said.
Palestinian medical workers said at least two of the wounded were in a critical condition.
"The IDF will operate with all its strength to prevent the demonstrators from approaching the security fence or the crossing ... and from entering the state of Israel," an IDF official said.
During the standoff, Israeli forces shot into the crowd to "make the rioters back off," the IDF official said.
Since Hamas took over Gaza last year, Israel has closed all crossings,
allowing only humanitarian aid and Palestinians with urgent medical needs to cross. The demonstration Friday focused on demanding an end to the blockade.
The IDF had posted signs before the protest warning Palestinians that they faced "Danger of Death" if they tried to approach the Sufa crossing, used to bring some humanitarian supplies into the coastal territory.
Hamas has mounted several similar protests in recent months.
Hamas blew open the border with Egypt earlier this year, putting Israel on heightened alert for similar actions.
The demonstrators on Friday burned tires, waved green Hamas flags and chanted "Dismantle the siege."
In a separate incident Friday, Palestinian medical workers said a 65-year-old woman had died of wounds suffered a day earlier during an IDF raid near her home in the southern Gaza Strip.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Charities for terror

From David Frankfurter on LiveJournal:

Charities for terror

With court cases and wide debate surrounding the linkage between certain Islamic Charities and the funding of terror organisations, it is interesting to note that even the Palestinian Authority is worried enough to take action. 

Ha'aretz reported earlier this week
 (full article below): "The [senior Israeli security] source noted that the PA has outlawed 300 charity organizations, most of them affiliated with Hamas, and its security forces have stepped up their monitoring of imams in West Bank mosques." 

And who should know better than the Palestinian Authority on this particular topic?




Last update - 06:00 27/05/2008
Israeli source: PA security forces have improved dramatically in West Bank
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents

The Palestinian Authority's security forces are becoming increasingly successful in their operations in the West Bank, according to a senior Israeli security source. Indeed he said their performance has so improved that, contrary to the fears of many senior Israeli officials, an Israeli pullout from the West Bank would not automatically result in Hamas being able to take over the area shortly thereafter.

But according to the same source, one area in which the PA security forces have not been sufficiently effective is in combating what he termed "the terrorist infrastructure" in the West Bank.

"They hesitate to outlaw Hamas. They arrest Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad militants, but a short while later they release them," he said. "There is no follow-through in the way they deal with those they arrest: They are not tried, they are not jailed. They are still not dealing with the root of the problem, not even in Jenin, where a large-scale PA security operation is taking place."
The source said that the Palestinians have significantly improved their cooperation with Israel, and especially in matters pertaining to an agreement under which Israel offered immunity to wanted militants who surrendered their arms to the PA. A total of 438 Palestinian militants have so far joined the immunity scheme, he noted.

In addition to surrendering their arms to the PA, the wanted militants are required to spend a set period of time in the confines of the PA security forces' compounds. They must also sign a contract disavowing terrorist activities.

The source noted that the PA has outlawed 300 charity organizations, most of them affiliated with Hamas, and its security forces have stepped up their monitoring of imams in West Bank mosques. In addition, PA forces in Jenin recently arrested 37 suspected terrorists, including two Palestinian policemen, and 180 suspected criminals.

"The various security organs are coordinating their activities with each other more than ever before," he said. "Moreover, in all West Bank cities, there has been a dramatic improvement in law and order and a drop in crime."

"In recent years," he continued, "the thing that bothered Palestinian civilians in the West Bank the most was the chaos, with regard to their own and their family's security: Would someone harass their daughter on her way home, or would someone accidentally shoot at their family, for example. Now, West Bank residents are concerned about the economic situation and their [lack of] freedom of movement in the territories."

He also noted that since the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the PA security forces have stepped up their operations in Areas C and B - parts of the West Bank where the Oslo Accords assigned security responsibility to the Israel Defense Forces. Even though some members of the PA security forces are still involved in terrorism, he added, "this is not a trend, and the commanders of the PA forces seek intelligence from us about such involvement."

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Christians: Ethnic cleansing in Iraq

"A new wave of ethnic cleansing is going on in Iraq," Iraqi Christian representative Behiye Hadodo told the gathering. "If these atrocities continue, the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian communities there will be wiped out altogether, creating a new catastrophe for humanity."
Nobody seems to care, though, do they?
While media stir up passions about an imaginary Palestinian "Holocaust," a real genocide may be taking place in Iraq.  The story notes in conclusion:
The Minority Rights Group International says Iraq is the second-most dangerous country in the world for minorities in 2008, behind Somalia and ahead of Sudan, Afghanistan and Burma.
"Apartheid Israel" is not even on the list! Yet nobody seems to care. Boycotts, divestment and other initiatives are directed only at Israel.
The rest of the story is below.
Ami Isseroff

( - Days before Sweden hosts an international conference aimed at pushing ahead the political and economic reform process in Iraq, hundreds of exiled Iraqi Christians demonstrated outside the country's parliament Sunday to draw attention to the minority's plight in their homeland.
"A new wave of ethnic cleansing is going on in Iraq," Iraqi Christian representative Behiye Hadodo told the gathering. "If these atrocities continue, the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian communities there will be wiped out altogether, creating a new catastrophe for humanity."
Iraq's Assyrians are a non-Arab ethnic minority located mainly in northeastern Iraq, and adherents of Christian denominations including the Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches.
A 1987 census recorded 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but the numbers began to drop after the 1990 Gulf War, reaching around 800,000 before the U.S. invaded in March 2003.
Persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals -- killings, church bombings, kidnappings, forced conversions and harassment -- has prompted hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee the country since 2003. Although accurate statistics are unavailable, researchers believe the community may have been halved in the past five years.
Many have moved to Syria and Jordan, and others to northern Europe, Australia and the United States.
Of an estimated 70,000 Iraqi Christians in Europe, nearly half are reported to live in Sweden.
Speeches during Sunday's rally in Stockholm centered on continuing harassment by fundamentalists in Iraq, including abductions and assaults of girls and women, and the forcing of women to wear veils in line with strict Islamic doctrines.
Participants reiterated calls for international support for an autonomous safe region for Iraqi Christians in the historical Assyrian region in the north of the country.
Hadodo, a representative of the European Syriac Union, said the demonstration's goal was to draw the attention of the United States, European Union and United Nations to the "ongoing terror" and especially to the murder of Christian clerics in Iraq.
On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will join counterparts and officials from around the world including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a meeting near Stockholm that will follow up last year's launch of the International Compact with Iraq.
The compact is a partnership between the Iraqi government and the international community, aimed at pursuing political, economic and social development over a five-year period.
Iraqi officials are expected to outline progress made during the past year, with a strong focus on the security situation. Among those due to attend is Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, whose government is accused by the U.S. of destabilizing Iraq by supporting insurgents there.
Iraq's Christians are hoping that the meeting in Sweden will consider their concerns too.
"Since the liberation of Iraq much attention has been devoted to the demands and expectations of Iraq's Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds," Hermiz Shahen, secretary of the Australian chapter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, said Wednesday.
"[Yet] the plight of the Assyrian nation is attracting little attention in the outside world."
Pointing to the high number of Christian refugees, Shahen said the international community must make the issue a priority.
Within one or two generations, he said, Christians in the Middle East - the birthplace of Christianity - may be reduced to a negligible number, having been forced to flee radical Islam.
"It is important that the Assyrian voice be heard [at the meeting in Sweden] and the Assyrian nation be distinctly recognized," he said. "It is time for the advocates who call for democracy, justice and human rights to stand up for the rights of the indigenous Assyrians of Iraq."
Shahen said Assyrians' demands included equitable representation in government and amendment of the Iraqi constitution to protect Assyrians and allow them "true and equal citizenship."
They also wanted the establishment of an Assyrian governorate or province, administered by Assyrians under the jurisdiction of Iraq's central government. This would encourage refugees, whether internally displaced or outside the country, to return, and enjoy political, educational, linguistic, religious and cultural protection, he said.
Prior to the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the U.S. designated Iraq as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) for religious freedom violations. The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act allows for a range of steps, including sanctions, to be taken against governments that engage in or tolerate serious religious freedom violations.
CPC designation was subsequently lifted, but the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body advising the White House and Congress, last year placed Iraq on a "watch list" pointing to escalating, unchecked violence against religious minorities as well as "evidence of collusion between Shi'a militias and Iraqi government ministries."
Earlier this month, the commission in a letter to Rice said it remained seriously concerned about the situation, citing violence against non-Muslims "from Sunni insurgents and foreign extremists, as well as pervasive violence, discrimination, and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments, and para-state militias, including those in Kurdish areas."
Some of the commission's members argue that Iraq should already have be returned to the CPC blacklist, but the commission said it would make a recommendation in the near future, after a visit to Iraq.
Earlier this year the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, became the most senior Christian figure to be slain. His body was found after gunmen abducted him at his church, killing three men with him.
The Minority Rights Group International says Iraq is the second-most dangerous country in the world for minorities in 2008, behind Somalia and ahead of Sudan, Afghanistan and Burma.

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Will Seattle Be First U.S. City to Divest From Israel?

Will Seattle Be First U.S. City to Divest From Israel?

Written by: Aaron Katsman | May 22, 2008

If "Initiative 97″ makes it on the ballot in the fall, citizens of Seattle will be asked to approve a measure that would prohibit the city from investing its pension funds in corporations that benefit from the Iraq war, or companies that provide material support to the Israeli government within the so-called "occupied territories." The opposition to the initiative is being led by It strikes me as a bit odd that a measure that seems to be intended to protest the U.S. Iraq policy also includes divestment from Israel.

Why the connection?

Is it because the sponsors were worried about human rights violations that they believe both Israeli and U.S. forces are committing? Couldn't be, could it? After all, I didn't see any reference to other countries in the region who are role models when it comes to human rights. For example, with all the freedoms they enjoy, we all know that women are living it up in some countries in the mid-east. I even heard that they are now allowed to uncover the bridges of their noses as well as their eyes!

But seriously, I find the sponsors of the measure to be an interesting group. You have the ANSWER Coalition, SNOW, the Palestine Solidarity Committee and the Green Party. The Green Party? When I was discussing this whole issue with my partner Zack Miller, he said," Isn't that ironic. Israel happens to be the world leader in GreenTech, CleanTech, WaterTech, and virtually every other environmentally friendly technology that's being developed. What are the Green's thinking?"

According to the Seattle-PI: " The measure would not restrict city investments in The Boeing Co., backers said. Rather, it takes aim specifically at Halliburton Holding Co. and Caterpillar Inc." Hum… Halliburton must be as a punishment to VP Cheney. But why not Boeing? They do work with Israeli defense company Elbit Systems (ESLT)? What about Microsoft (MSFT)? The software giant has purchased 7-8 Israeli hi-tech start-ups over the last few years and just announced the launch of an R&D center in Israel.

The fact is that pension funds have a fiduciary responsibility to do their best to make as much money as possible for their clients, period. Over the last few years investing in Israel has been one of the most profitable places in the world to invest. If these groups want to make a political stand, let them stand out in front of the Federal building on 2nd Ave. and protest. You don't like the Iraq policy, vote for Obama. But don't force money managers to invest in companies that they believe will produce inferior returns and impact the retirement of thousands and thousands of your neighbors, to fulfill your own political agenda.

In any event, divesting won't help. Without knowing it, we all use Israeli ingenuity every single day of our lives. From voice mail (developed by Comverse), to instant messaging (ICQ), to the firewall that sits on your computer (Checkpoint), to the generic drugs you are taking (Teva Pharmaceuticals) and to the cell phone you just spoke on. Like it or not, your life is powered by Israel.

If you are against the war in Iraq, drop the divestment idea and pick up a picket sign instead. If Israel is your problem, then be consistent; start divesting from the Israeli innovation that you use, unknowingly, each and every day.

Disclosure: Author's fund has a position in ESLT, TEVA, CHKP, He has no position in any other stock mentioned as of 5/22/08.

Please see our Disclaimer HERE.

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Aaron Katsman is Managing Editor of the Israel Opportunity Investor newsletter. He is lead portfolio manager for the Israel Growth Portfolio and Managing Director of America Israel Investment Associates, LLC. For more information, go to or call 1-888-327-6179, or email

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Zionist youth village to be built in Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda' to 'Zionist' village
Ruth Eglash , THE JERUSALEM POST  May. 26, 2008
Jean Pierre Nkuranga was only six years old when he first experienced xenophobia. The son of an ethnic Tutsi teacher growing up in 1980s Rwanda amid a Hutu majority, Nkuranga can still remember his first day at school when the teacher asked all Tutsi children to stand up and identify themselves.
"Afterwards I got into trouble because I'd stood up too quickly and too proudly," said Nkuranga. "My teacher and later, my father, were very angry with me for being so proud."
Nkuranga, now 34, retold the incredible story of how he survived the 1994 Tutsi genocide to a Jerusalem audience this week as part of the official unveiling of plans to open a $19 million Israeli-style youth village in Rwanda - the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village - by year's end.
The project is a collaborative effort between the Jewish-American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jerusalem-based International Center for the Enhancement of Learning Potential (the Feuerstein Institute) and the Israeli youth village Yemin Orde.
While he highlighted the plight of Rwanda's estimated 1.2 million children (15 percent of the total population) left orphaned by the genocide, Nkuranga also shared with the audience the story of his dramatic escape from the Hutu militia intent on eradicating the Tutsi population.
"It felt like the apocalypse," said Nkuranga, explaining how his family and other Tutsis from the village fled to a nearby hilltop but were surrounded by former Hutu friends and neighbors wielding machetes and other traditional weapons.
"My legs were broken and there was no way I could run away with my family. They all said goodbye to me and I remember my auntie saying to me 'maybe we will meet in heaven,' then I hid in the bushes by the side of the road and for five days nobody saw me."
From his hiding place, Nkuranga watched as his family and friends, both young and old, were slaughtered. In less than 100 days, nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in the genocide.
While Nkuranga was eventually rescued by the Rwandan Patriotic Army, which put an end to the killings, he told his Jerusalem audience that he can never forget the images of the children who were massacred.
"Many Tutsis hid their children in bushes but the militia would simply throw grenades at them to kill them," said Nkuranga, who has since dedicated his life to working with orphans and will head the youth village's informal education department.
The Agahozo Shalom Youth Village project was initially set in motion in 2005 by Anne Heyman, a US-based lawyer and mother of three, who had attended a lecture at Tufts University featuring Paul Rusesabagina, the inspiration for the hit movie Hotel Rwanda.
At the event, she learned that the African nation had one of the highest numbers of orphans in the world, posing a serious challenge to the country's future.
"She believed that Israel's youth village model, established in the 1950s primarily as a healing environment for young Holocaust survivors, might provide the answers," commented Gideon Herscher, JDC Israel Coordinator of the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, adding that the project is the "largest humanitarian aid project worldwide" to be undertaken by the JDC.
Following the lecture at Tufts, Heyman began to look at various models in Israel, explained Herscher, and decided that the Yemin Orde youth village, which today houses dozens of new immigrant children from Ethiopia and other youth at risk, would serve as an excellent guide.
Located south of Haifa, the youth village employs educational theories developed in the 1960s by Prof. Reuven Feuerstein, an educational psychologist and world renowned expert on care of special needs children and adults. Used to help young people who have experienced extreme trauma to continue learning, Feuerstein's educational methods will be used to form the backbone of the Rwandan project.
"Our country has a huge challenge to overcome," Sifa Nsengimana, executive director of the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village, said at Sunday's event. "We have very little in terms of natural resources to offer the world and we have our sights set on education - this youth village will help us in that goal and might actually be able to turn our country's fate around."
Herscher said that funding for the project, which has already exceeded $6 million, is derived from various independent foundations and private donations. He predicted that the village would be fully operational within the next four years.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Basketball legend Dr. J: Israel is an inspiration for Jews in America

Last update - 21:26 28/05/2008    
Basketball legend Dr. J: Israel is an inspiration for Jews in America
By The Associated Press
Dr. J made an unlikely visit to Israeli President Shimon Peres, on Wednesday.
Basketball great Julius Erving, who is on a goodwill tour of Israel, told
Peres in a stop at the presidential mansion in Jerusalem that he considered himself an ambassador for Israel. Legend has it, Erving got his colorful nickname because of his admirable defense tactics on the basketball court.
Erving is in Israel along with fellow National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Rick Barry to raise awareness for the Migdal Ohr youth village for underprivileged children in northern Israel.
Migdal Ohr is Hebrew for 'Tower of Light. Erving called Israel an inspiration for Jews in America, as well as other minorities. "I am truly inspired to be an ambassador for the country and for the village," he said.
Erving revolutionized the game of basketball in the 1970's with his electrifying, high-flying dunks and is widely credited for being a model for Michael Jordan, recognized as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all time. Erving won an NBA title and a Most Valuable Player award with the Philadelphia 76ers and earlier won two American Basketball Association championships.
Barry was one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. He is the only player ever to lead the collegiate NCAA, NBA and ABA in scoring. Three of his sons, Jon, Brent and Drew, have also played in the NBA.
Brent Barry scored 23 points off the bench for the San Antonio Spurs on
Tuesday night, in a losing effort to the Los Angeles Lakers. The defending champion Spurs are now in a 3-1 deficit and face elimination when they play Game 5 in Los Angeles on Thursday. Barry launched a last-second three-point-shot that would have given San Antonio the win if it had gone in.
Peres praised Erving for both his excellence as an athlete, and for his
efforts off the court in breaking down barriers for blacks and minorities. He said sports could serve as a bridge between people.
"I think if we built first sports organizations instead of politics, the whole world would be better," Peres said.

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Another UCU Boycott of Israeli Academics!

We thought that the UK union boycotts of Israel were behind us, after legal opinions ruled they were illegal, but the UCU thinks it found a way around the law.
Ami Isseroff

The UCU's Boycott of Israel and How to Fight It

When we launched Z Word at the end of January 2008, the first crop of essays included a brilliant dissection of the boycott by Eve Garrard, entitled "Excluding Israelis."

Eve ended her piece like this: "It would be nice to be able to say that what I've provided here is the anatomy of a failure, but it's by no means certain that we've heard the last of the boycott project. Watch this space." And I remember, during our back and forth over the editing of her essay, asking Eve whether she was not being a little overcautious with this last sentence. Surely, I said, referring back to the UCU's own legal advice that a boycott would violate anti-discrimination laws, this is over. Surely, I continued, what you are writing about is history, not a current threat.

Eve demurred. Don't rule anything out, she told me. Unfortunately, she turned out to be right. Today, 28 May 2008, the UCU did it all over again. At their annual conference in Manchester, they voted to encourage an academic boycott of Israelis.

Except that Sally Hunt, the UCU's General Secretary, is busily claiming that what was passed is not, in fact, a boycott of Israelis, but a call for solidarity with the Palestinians. Now, it may be that Hunt is worried about the fact that the union's policy, as of this afternoon, urges members to break the law, and that her words are a clumsy approximation of spin. Or - remembering Eve Garrard's dictum not to rule anything out, and we are talking about the UCU after all - it may be that we have passed through the looking glass. The boycott is not a boycott. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

This is a motion which puts the entire blame for the conflict on Israel. A motion that notes the "complicity" of "most" of the "Israeli academy." A motion which calls on UCU members to "consider the moral and political implications" of working with Israeli colleagues. Which encourages members to raise the issue of the "occupation" with Israelis they happen to be collaborating with ("Amos and Tikvah, can we just put that discussion about those antiretroviral drugs to one side, as we'd like to ask you about your complicity with the occupation"). A motion which deems that criticism of Israel is not "as such, antisemitic" (very inconsiderate towards Hezbollah and Hamas, who have gone out of their way to demonstrate that the manner in which they criticize Israel emphatically is antisemitic). Finally, a motion which urges a wider discussion about breaking links with Israeli institutions on the basis of discussions with British and Palestinian - but not Israeli - trade unionists.

And yet, Sally Hunt tells us that what we have here is not a boycott.

Many people in Britain will tell you that the UCU is a sorry excuse for a union, unable to do anything to improve the working conditions of its members and cowed by the antics of the Socialist Worker's Party. Some conclude that, therefore, the UCU isn't worth bothering about.

That view is understandable, but mistaken. The boycotters aim is to turn Israel into a 21st Century version of apartheid South Africa. The sordid motion they passed today will no doubt be presented by them as the first step in doing so.

As we gear up to fight the UCU boycott - and the broader campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) - here are some useful links:

And don't forget to regularly check the blog of our friends at Engage.

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UNRWA: Barrier to Israeli-Palestinian Peace

by Jonathan Spyer
Executive Summary: The United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) was created under the jurisdiction of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with the unique responsibility of solely aiding the Palestinians. Due to this special status, the UNRWA perpetuates, rather than resolves, the Palestinian refugee issue, and therefore serves as a major obstacle toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Like no other UN body, UNRWA's definition of refugees includes not only the refugees themselves, but also their descendents. Moreover, refugees keep their status even if they have gained citizenship. UNRWA employs teachers affiliated with Hamas and allows the dissemination of Hamas messages in its schools. The Hamas coup in Gaza of July 2007 has resulted in a Hamas takeover of UNRWA facilities there. Therefore, UNRWA's activities require urgent action. The Agency should be dissolved and its services transferred to more appropriate administering organizations.
Millions of refugees worldwide – over 130 million since the end of World War II – have come under the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which aims to resettle and rehabilitate refugees. On December 8, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 302, establishing an agency dedicated solely to "direct relief and works programs" for the Palestinian Arab refugees – UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency) – making it a unique body.
UNRWA exists in order to perpetuate, rather than to resolve, the Palestinian refugee issue. No Palestinian has ever lost his or her refugee status. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants who are citizens of Jordan, for example – yet as far as UNRWA is concerned they are still refugees, eligible for aid. UNRWA, over the past 60 years, has transformed itself into a central vehicle for the perpetuation of the refugee problem, and into a major obstacle for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Problem of Definition
When UNRWA first began counting refugees in 1948, it did so in a way without precedent – seeking to maximize the number of those defined as refugees. UNRWA counts every descendant of the original refugees as a refugee themselves – leading to an increase of 400 percent in the number since 1948.
This was a politically motivated definition to imply that either Palestinians would remain refugees forever or until the day that they returned in a triumph to a Palestinian Arab state that included the territory where Israel existed. If they built lives elsewhere, even after many generations – decades or centuries – they still remained officially refugees. In contrast to other situations around the world, other refugees only retained that status until they found permanent homes elsewhere, presumably as citizens of other countries.
Moreover, refugee status was based solely on the applicant's word. Even UNRWA admitted its figures were inflated in a 1998 Report of the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (July 1997-30 June 1998): "UNRWA registration figures are based on information voluntarily supplied by refugees primarily for the purpose of obtaining access to Agency services and hence cannot be considered statistically valid demographic data."
Fostering Conflict
In October 2004, then UNRWA Commissioner General Peter Hansen publicly admitted for the first time that Hamas members were on the UNWRA payroll, adding, "I don't see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another." Consequently, taxpayers' money in countries where Hamas was legally defined as a terrorist organization, like the United States and Canada, was being illegally used to fund Hamas-controlled activities.
Hanson's view that Hamas was a normal political organization whose doctrines did not interfere with the governance and education of Palestinians remains the position of UNRWA. This has been so even when Hamas has committed violence against other Palestinians. After the organization seized Gaza by force in July 2007, UNRWA immediately indicated to Hamas that it was eager to get back to providing its services. Nothing was changed in its procedure or performance after the takeover.
A graphic demonstration of this issue was the death of Awad al-Qiq in May 2008. Qiq had a long career as a science teacher in an UNRWA school and had been promoted to run its Rafah Prep Boys School. He was also the leading bombmaker for Islamic Jihad. He was killed while supervising a factory to make rockets and other weapons for use against Israel, located a short distance from the school. Qiq was thus simultaneously building weapons for attacking Israeli civilians while indoctrinating his students to do the same. Islamic Jihad did not need to pay him a salary for his terrorist activities. The UN and the American taxpayer were already doing so.
The increasing numbers of UNRWA teachers who openly identify with radical groups have created a teachers' bloc that ensures the election of members of Hamas and individuals committed to Islamist ideologies. Using classrooms as a place to spread their radical messages, these teachers have also gravitated to local Palestinian elections. Thus, UNRWA's education system has become a springboard for the political activities of Hamas. For example, Minister of Interior and Civil Affairs Minister Saeed Siyam of Hamas, was a teacher in UNRWA schools in Gaza from 1980 to 2003. He then became a member of UNRWA's Arab Employees Union, and has headed the Teachers Sector Committee. Other notable Hamas graduates of the UNRWA education system include Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, the former Hamas chief.
Fostering Dependency
UNRWA's budget has been supported by many countries of which the United States and Western countries have been the largest contributors. In 1990, UNRWA's annual budget was over $292 million, and by 2000 it had increased to $365 million. Despite this seemingly significant rise, however, actual allocations among the various refugee camps has decreased – compounded by a very high birth rate and burgeoning camp populations. Refugees were discouraged from moving out and had the incentive of being on welfare if they remained.
Per capita spending among refugees in camps thus declined from $200 in services per year per refugee in the 1970s to about $70 currently. This situation has been most evident in Lebanon, where the government provides little if any additional assistance to the Palestinians.
UNRWA provides jobs to a large number of Palestinians (it has a full time staff of 23,000). While the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) avoid employing locals who are also recipients of agency services, UNRWA does not make this distinction. UNRWA thus keeps a large population of refugees and their descendants in a permanent state of welfare dependency, financed by the western taxpayer. In so doing, it acts as a barrier to attempts to make the refugees into productive citizens. Bureaucracies have a tendency to become self-perpetuating. In the case of UNRWA, this tendency is exacerbated by the fact that the organization's raison d'etre is the preserving of a refugee problem, rather than finding a solution for it.
The UN erred when it created a UN body devoted exclusively to one refugee population and with a modus operandi contradicting that of all other relief institutions. Four steps are required to bring the international approach to the Palestinian refugee issue in line with standard practice on similar situations.
First, UNRWA itself should be dissolved. Second, the services UNRWA currently provides should be transferred to other UN agencies, notably the UNHCR, which have a long experience with such programs. Third, responsibility for normal social services should be turned over to the Palestinian Authority. A large portion of the UNRWA staff should be transferred to that governmental authority. Fourth, donors should use the maximum amount of oversight to ensure transparency and accountability.
Jonathan Spyer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya.

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

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Al-Durra Case Revisited

Al-Durra Case Revisited

May 27, 2008

It's hard to exaggerate the significance of Mohammed al-Durra, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy allegedly killed by Israeli bullets on Sept. 30, 2000. The iconic image of the terrified child crouching behind his father helped sway world opinion against the Jewish state and fueled the last Intifada.

It's equally hard, then, to exaggerate the significance of last week's French court ruling that called the story into doubt. Not just whether the Israeli military shot the boy, but whether the whole incident may have been staged for propaganda purposes. If so, it would be one of the most harmful put-up jobs in media history.

You probably didn't hear this news. International media lapped up the televised report of al-Durra's shooting on France's main state-owned network, France 2. Barely a peep was heard, however, when the Paris Court of Appeal ruled in a suit brought by the network against the founder of a media watchdog group. The judge's verdict, released Thursday, said that Philippe Karsenty was within his rights to call the France 2 report a "hoax," overturning a 2006 decision that found him guilty of defaming the network and its Mideast correspondent, Charles Enderlin. France 2 has appealed to the country's highest court.

Judge Laurence Trébucq did more than assert Mr. Karsenty's right to free speech. In overturning a lower court's ruling, she said the issues he raised about the original France 2 report were legitimate. While Mr. Karsenty couldn't provide absolute proof of his claims, the court ruled that he marshalled a "coherent mass of evidence" and "exercised in good faith his right to free criticism." The court also found that Talal Abu Rahma, the Palestinian cameraman for France 2 who was the only journalist to capture the scene and the network's crown witness in this case, can't be considered "perfectly credible."

The ruling at the very least opens the way for honest discussion of the al-Durra case, and coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. French media could stand some self-examination. The same holds for journalists elsewhere.

On that Saturday in 2000, Palestinians faced off against Israeli troops at Gaza's Netzarim junction. Two months before, Yasser Arafat had walked out of the Camp David peace talks. Two days before, Ariel Sharon had visited Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The second Intifada was brewing. The French network's cameraman, Mr. Abu Rahma, filmed the skirmishes and got the footage to the France 2 bureau in Israel. Mr. Enderlin edited the film and, relying only on his cameraman's account, provided the voice-over for the report. He suggested Israeli soldiers killed the boy. He didn't say he wasn't there.

Along with the Temple Mount incident, the al-Durra shooting was the seminal event behind the second Intifada. Israel apologized. But nagging doubts soon emerged, as Nidra Poller recounts in detail on the following page. An Israeli military probe found that its soldiers couldn't have shot the father and son, given where the two were crouching.

Others including Mr. Karsenty asked, among various questions, Why the lack of any blood on the boy or his father? Or why did France 2 claim to have 27 minutes of footage but refuse to show any but the 57 seconds on its original broadcast? Mr. Enderlin said, "I cut the images of the child's agony, they were unbearable."

Under pressure from media watchdogs, and after years of stonewalling, France 2 eventually shared the additional film. It turns out that no footage of the child's alleged death throes seems to exist. The extra material shows what appears to be staged scenes of gun battles before the al-Durra killing. For a sample, check out, a site run by Richard Landes, a Boston University professor and one of Mr. Karsenty's witnesses.

Judge Trébucq said that Mr. Karsenty "observed inexplicable inconsistencies and contradictions in the explanations by Charles Enderlin."

We don't know exactly what happened to Mohammed al-Durra. Perhaps we never will. But the Paris court ruling shows that France 2 wasn't completely open about what it knew about that day. It suggests the Israelis may not have been to blame. It makes it plausible to consider -- without being dismissed as an unhinged conspiracy theorist -- the possibility that the al-Durra story was a hoax.

To this day, Islamic militants use the al-Durra case to incite violence and hatred against Israel. They are well aware of the power of images. Mr. Karsenty is, too, which is why he and others have tried to hold France 2 accountable for its reporting.

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Another day in Israel: IDF soldier lightly hurt in Gaza; IAF kills two Hamas militants

 Last update - 11:56 28/05/2008       
IDF soldier lightly hurt in Gaza; IAF kills two Hamas militants
By Haaretz Service
The Israel Air Force on Wednesday killed two Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical workers said.
An Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman said the two aerial attacks targeted
"terror threats" in the Hamas-controlled territory.
The jets attacked a launching site in the northern Strip, just after militants fired a barrage of mortar shells at southern Israel.
The air strike also wounded four militants who were firing mortars at Israeli forces, Hamas said. An earlier Israeli hit wounded four militants from Islamic Jihad, a smaller militant group.
Egypt has been trying to broker a truce that would end militants' rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli raids in the Gaza Strip.
Also on Wednesdat, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was lightly wounded during a military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces often operate in the Gaza Strip in effort to halt rocket and mortar shell fire.
IDF troops also arrested 12 wanted Palestinian militants in overnight raids in the West Bank on Tuesday.

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Peace talks can mean war

 Last update - 10:26 28/05/2008       
Sources: Iran may attack Israeli targets abroad over Syria talks
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Israel is concerned that Iran may attack Israeli targets abroad in an effort to derail the renewed peaces negotiations with Syria, Israel sources told Haaretz this week.
The sources said Iran might consider operating from the stance that an international attack would change Israel's status, bring about an end to the negotiations and even start a regional confrontation.
The sources added, however, that such an operation would not necessarily be in Iran's interest.
"Iran wants to maintain Hezbollah's strength, and is not interested in changing the situation in Lebanon now that Hezbollah's opponents have been neutralized," they said.
Meanwhile, Syria and Iran on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding over mutual defense issues, as Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani wrapped up a three-day visit to Tehran.
The memorandum contained an agreement that the two countries would cement their "defense relations," a process that will include reciprocal visits by military officials, joint military training and cooperation on technical advancements.
The memorandum signed by both sides includes the understanding that all foreign occupying forces must retreat from the region because they are "creating tensions."

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Barak: Olmert must resign or take leave

A man is innocent until proven guilty, but in the Israeli system of government, it is difficult for the government to continue with the Prime Minister under a cloud.
Ehud Barak did almost the only thing he could do apparently, after the extremely damaging testimony of Morris Talansky. Opposition to continued Labor membership in the government from within his own party was too great to be ignored.
Remembering other such scandals in Israel and the United States, we should not be quick to form judgements on the guilt or innocence of Ehud Olmert.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 13:01 28/05/2008       
Barak ultimatum to Olmert: Take leave or agree to early elections
By Ofra Edelman and Tomer Zarchin, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday will deliver an ultimatum to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whereby he will demand the premier either take a leave of absence or agree on a date for elections, Army Radio reported.
The Labor Party chairman was holding consultations with senior party officials, after which he is expected to make a statement at a 1:30 P.M. press conference. He also met with Olmert himself at the end of the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
As Olmert's senior coalition partner, Labor's departure would leave the premier without a majority with which to rule.
"Either Olmert suspends himself or the Labor Party must leave the government," senior Labor legislator Danny Yatom said amid news reports that Barak would make that demand.
Barak was expected to deny radio reports according to which he was considering forming an emergency government with the right-wing opposition Likud party that would leave out Olmert's centrist Kadima party.
The news came hours after Morris Talansky, the American-Jewish businessman suspected of making illicit cash transfers to Olmert, said in court testimony in Jerusalem on Tuesday that he had transferred Olmert some $150,000 over 15 years, and that Olmert had tried to aid a Talansky business venture by introducing him to several American billionaires.
Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) said Barak consulted "with nearly the entire Labor Party" regarding the faction's future in light of the probe. The minister said that party officials are not averse to early elections, adding that it would be difficult for Olmert to contend with state issues while embroiled in this affair.
Kadima MKs Amira Dotan and Ze'ev Elkin on Wednesday also demanded Olmert resign.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum began calls for Olmert's resignation and fresh elections nearly three weeks ago, moments after it emerged that Olmert was suspected of illegally receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from an American businessman and fundraiser.
Labor Party officials said then that the faction would remain in Olmert's coalition government until a court ruling is made in the case.
Olmert has said he would resign if indicted but State Prosecutor Moshe Lador said it was too early to say if an indictment would be issued and that a decision would be made only after completion of police investigations.
Tal Silberstein, an Olmert adviser, told Army Radio on Wednesday that the prime minister had no intention of stepping aside now.
"I can tell you, based on a recent conversation with him, that he has no intention of announcing that he is taking a leave of absence or declaring anything at this stage - not as long as he is trying to prove his innocence," Silberstein said.
Olmert's lawyer: Wait until cross examination
On Tuesday, Olmert's lawyer Eli Zohar labeled Talansky's testimony "twisted" and said the truth would be revealed in his cross-examination set for July 17. "In general, we're saying that we're not talking about criminal activity whatsoever," Zohar said.
Talansky, 75, said there were no records of how the money he transferred was spent. "I only know that he loved expensive cigars. I know he loved pens, watches. I found it strange," Talansky told the court, then shrugged.
Talansky insisted that he never expected anything in exchange. But later, he said he had grown disillusioned over the years.
"Olmert had the ability to reach out to the American people, the largest and richest community of Jews in the world," Talansky said. "That's why I supported the man. That's why I overlooked, frankly and honestly, a lot of things. I overlooked them, maybe I shouldn't have."
It remained unclear if Talansky's day-long testimony had significantly helped prosecutors near proof of a "smoking gun" of evidence of bribery against Olmert. Although he admitted to having given Olmert cash-filled envelopes, Talansky maintained that he had asked for nothing in return.
The businessman told the court that Olmert had asked him for donations for his 1993 Jerusalem mayoral campaign and throughout his tenure as industry and trade minister. He said the cash-filled envelopes were transferred through Olmert's former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, each one containing between $3,000 and $8,000, and that the transfers were "legitimate."
Talansky also said that Olmert volunteered to contact three billionaires, including Plaza Hotel owner Yitzhak Tshuva and Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, to try to drum up business for a hotel minibar venture run by Talansky. But Talansky said the offer did not help, and Adelson slammed down the phone on him.
"I said to myself, 'I'm never going to go to a politician for business'," Talansky said with a laugh. "He wanted to do me a favor and it never worked out." Adelson, America's third richest man, was questioned in the case earlier this month during a visit to Jerusalem.
Coaltion concerns
Knesset members lashed out at Olmert on Tuesday in response to Morris Talansky's testimony in the Jerusalem District Court.
"The greenbacks in Talansky's envelopes were black [with filth]," said the chairman of the Knesset caucus against corruption, MK Arieh Eldad (National Union-National Religious Party). "Black money bought the prime minister of Israel, and until Olmert is removed from his post, the black flag of corruption flies over the entire state of Israel."
Knesset Interior Committee Chairman Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor) said: "I do not understand how testimony like this jives with Olmert's statement that he did not take one shekel for his own pocket." Pines said Olmert's continued tenure was "insufferable and impossible."
Knesset State Control Committee Chairman Zevulun Orlev (National Union-National Religious Party) said: "A prime minister who asked for and received money in envelopes has lost his moral and public authority. Talansky's testimony is a serious public indictment against Ehud Olmert, and the coalition parties will be like partners in crime if they do not end his term immediately."
MK Limor Livnat (Likud) said: "If there were any doubts, along came Talansky's testimony and proved that Ehud Olmert must go home immediately and we must have elections."
MK Ran Cohen (Meretz) said: "Despite our support for the diplomatic process Olmert is leading, if what Talansky says is true, Olmert cannot sit one more day in the prime minister's chair."

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Israeli project helps teach the Qur'an and use the Qur'an as a force for tolerance and peace

Quranet - A bridge between the Islamic world and the West

One of the projects exhibited at the Israeli Presidential Conference in May 2008 was Quranet - an educational tool which reveals the beauty of the Quran and its respect for human dignity.

 At the Israeli Presidential Conference held in May in honor of Israel's 60th Independence Day, 60 projects were selected for an exhibition entitled "Tomorrow's Spaces", presenting new ideas, products and technologies that will help shape the face of tomorrow. One of the projects selected was Quranet - a website in which every person in the world can find a Quranic answer to his/her educational questions.
  • Quranet transforms the Quran into a unique and useful educational tool for parents and teachers, and thereby renders the beneficial power of the Quran widely accessible.
  • Quranet interweaves the Quran, in unprecedented fashion, with modern educational approach, thereby helping the Islamic world and the West to understand each other.
  • Quranet reveals the beauty of the Quran and its respect for human dignity, thereby providing a resounding response to warped exploitation of the Quran for the justification of terror.
  • Since many issues are common to Islamic and Western culture, we aspire to develop Quranet into a social network in various languages, and create communities with shared interests, thus establishing a bidirectional bridge between the two cultures.

How does Quranet work?

The user selects a particular issue from the list of contents, and receives the relevant Quran verse. He or she can then study a brief description of an everyday event, illustrating how the verse can be utilized to convey a message to the child. The session concludes with a brief educational-psychological explanation of the process.
The material has been developed in Hebrew by a group of Bedouin students of education and their lecturer, Dr. Ofer Grosbard. With an introduction by three distinguished sheikhs, it was recently published in book form by Ben Gurion University Publishing House.

How Quranet began

Last year a group of fifteen Bedouin students studying for graduate degrees in educational counseling attended a course on Developmental Psychology given by our lecturer Dr. Ofer Grosbard.

One day I went up to him and said: "May I tell you the truth. What you are teaching us is not going to be of help to us."
"Why do you say that?" Ofer asked.
I said that that when I become an educational counsellor, a parent may come to me one day and say, "A demon has entered into my child" or some similar statement from the same cultural background. "Do you think that what you have taught us here  will be of any use to me then?"
"Then what would he helpful to you?" Ofer asked.
I replied with one word: "The Quran."
He asked me to explain. I said that, in the appropriate context, quotation of a verse from the Quran has enormous impact on Muslims.

Ofer brought a copy of the Quran to our next lesson. He divided the chapters among us and asked us to locate the educational-therapeutic verses. It transpired that there are many of these in the Quran. The verses exhort individuals to take responsibility, learn the truth, respect others etc. Ofer asked us to compose a brief story taken from everyday life for each verse to illustrate how a parent or teacher can utilize the verse to convey a message to the child. Together we collected more than three hundred stories, and Ofer added to each a simple and brief educational-psychological explanation.

That was how Quranet came into being.

See how Quranet works

What happens when we repay evil with good? 
... the one who used to be your enemy may become your best friend (Sura Fussilat, Ayat 34)

Bushra Mazarib - the student who set the project in motion

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Study: Israeli Jews and Arabs want peace

Study: Israeli Jews and Arabs want peace

A new study released May 15 finds strong support for coexistence efforts among a majority of Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel. The findings may buoy hopes for long-term peace in the region.

"Coexistence in Israel: A National Study" provides a compelling snapshot of current relations between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel as the nation celebrates its 60th anniversary. Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) associate professor Todd L. Pittinsky, research director of the school's Center for Public Leadership (CPL), served as lead researcher on the project. The study was conducted in Hebrew and Arabic, and included 1,721 adult citizens of Israel; researchers at the University of Haifa assisted.

Among the study's findings:

• A great majority of both Jewish citizens (73 percent) and Arab citizens (94 percent) want Israel to be a society in which Arab and Jewish citizens have mutual respect and equal opportunities.

• 68 percent of Jewish citizens support teaching conversational Arabic in Jewish schools to help bring Arab and Jewish citizens together.

• 77 percent of Arab citizens would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world.

• More than two-thirds of Jewish citizens (69 percent) believe contributing to coexistence is a personal responsibility; a majority (58 percent) of Jewish citizens also support Cabinet-level action.

• Arab citizens and Jewish citizens both underestimate their communities' liking of the "other."

• Urgent action on coexistence in Israel is desired: 66 percent of Jewish citizens and 84 percent of Arab citizens believe that Israeli government investments should begin now, and not wait until the end of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Addressing the significance of the study's most salient findings, Pittinsky remarked: "These data support what we've found in our allophilia research around the world — evidence of interest, comfort, and affection among some, even in communities in conflict. A growing body of research is showing that it is possible for members of groups who are very different from each other not only to tolerate each other — but to feel positive toward each other despite their differences, even in Israel. We call these positive feelings allophilia."

Pittinsky notes that much media coverage focuses on the divisions between Jewish and Arab citizens in Israel, and not enough on the sincere and concerted efforts to coexist peacefully.

"Everyday innovative experiments in coexistence are going on," Pittinsky said. "People on the ground in Israel are running community centers that enable cultural exchanges; in bilingual schools — like the Hand in Hand network of schools — young Jewish and Arab children become culturally conversant with each other. These deserve as much attention as rockets and roadblocks. They should be nurtured, studied, funded, and reported in the media. Ultimately, the most successful of them should be promulgated."

According to Alan Slifka, a philanthropist who has funded many grassroots coexistence projects in Israel, and whose foundation funded the study: "This report supports what we have long suspected — unity among Israel's Jewish and Arab communities is not only attainable, but there is great public support for it. The critical next step is for Israeli policymakers to bring about the structural changes that the Jewish and Arab publics support, to reshape the educational, income, residential, and other divides that undermine national unity."

Pittinsky notes, "A change in Jewish-Arab relations within Israel could help form the grassroots platform to support shifts from regional conflict toward regional cooperation between Arab and Jew. Improving the equality and constructive engagement of Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens may help create a ripple effect that will spread, including the course of the relations of not only Jews and Arabs in Israel, but the Middle East more broadly."

Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.

National Director

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115

(212) 870-2320

Continued (Permanent Link)

Political Campaigns and Israel

Let's face it. Israel supporters live in glass houses, and people who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones. When a "pro-Israel" blog takes up a McCarthyite campaign to "prove" that Barack Obama is a Communist, they are doing the work of the opposition. We must not be associated with this sort of tactic.
Read more here:

Continued (Permanent Link)

Was Lebanon sold to Hezbollah?

Was Lebanon sold to Hezbollah?
By: Elias Bejjani

May 27/08

Much has been said in praise and criticism of the "Doha agreement" that ended the bloody and criminal unsuccessful coup attempt that the Terrorist Hezbollah Militia and the axis of evil two countries, Syria and Iran, executed earlier this month in Lebanon to take over all the country, by force and topple the whole free and democratic regime.

Every party whether internal or international, interpreted the agreement that was brokered by the Arab League and the Qatari ruler, from its own political, national, ideological, or materiel perspective. Some western analysts said it came as a result of an American-Iranian global secret understanding for numerous Middle East conflicts in general and for the Iraqi one in particular. Others explained it as a preliminary consequence of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations currently being conducted in Turkey, in the open this time.
The International and regional press considered it a victory for the two states of the Axis of Evil; Syria and Iran, a great defeat to the Cedars Revolution, and a certain defeat of the West and its plans for the Middle East. Some even went as far as claiming that Lebanon has now become "a state under the control of Hezbollah".
In Lebanon, the opposition coalition leadership, including Hezbollah, as well as the majority parties, leaders, politicians and MP's considered it a great and historic accomplishment, but each from mere individual perspective, confessional affiliation, wishful thinking, local and foreign links as well as Divine interpretations for winning and losing.
The Majority, (March 14 coalition) is working hard to market it to its supporters as the beginning of a long term, well and thorough comprehensive programmed solution. A triumph of the concept of the State and coexistence among its multi-cultural communities. A defeat of Hezbollah's armed coup objectives. A strengthening of civil peace propelled by a Gandhi-like attitude resulting in substantial and essential compromises. The Majority justified the back off and retreat on numerous major and substantial matters as "necessary to avert and abort Hezbollah's civil war venomous scheme"
Hezbollah and its followers such as Amal, Aoun's FPM, and other Syria-Iran mercenaries, read in it a great defeat to the "American-Zionist Middle East Plan" and its followers in Lebanon including the "conspirators, Zionists, and traitors". From this arrogant and illusionary stand, Syria's mouthpiece and loyal servant, Lebanon's House Speaker Mr. Nabih Berri hideously and evilly, seriously endeavored unsuccessfully to ban the Saniora Cabinet members from attending the election ceremony of president Michel Suleiman that took place on Sunday, alleging the cabinet is "unconstitutional and illegal", from his perspective. His cheap and mean game failed and the cabinet members attended after the Majority MP's threatened to boycott the election session.

Meanwhile Hezbollah's General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah delivered a lengthy speech yesterday in which he reiterated his  "Divine" refusal to disarm and reaffirmed his Iranian-Syrian long term plans of resistance "against the enemy, Israel".   "The resistance weapons are to be used in fighting the enemy, liberate lands and prisoners, and defend Lebanon and nothing else," . "State weapons … should defend the nation, the people and their rights … but cannot be used to settle accounts with a political opponent. State arms cannot be used to target the resistance and its arms,". "All weapons should serve the purpose for which they were organized,".
Where does the truth stand? Where are all the parties, whether majority of minority, Arabs or internationals, taking Lebanon in this agreement which they sponsored, blessed and advocated for, even though it failed to mention Security Council Resolutions
(UNSCR) 1559 and 1701, that stipulates for the disarmament of Hezbollah, and for putting an end to all cantons erected during the Syrian occupation era, among which is Hezbollah's mini state. The agreement also omits any reference to the 1948 Armistice treaty with Israel and contains no clauses calling for the disarmament of militias as required by the "Taef Accord".

One wonders, where are all these parties, Arabs, Europeans and the USA are taking Lebanon with an agreement that legitimizes the "Hezbollah State" inside the state and grants it a veto power in the first cabinet to be formed under the presidency of General Michele Suleiman?
What good is to expected from an agreement which did not come with a time schedule or a roadmap to deter, contain and ultimately confiscate Hezbollah's Iranian-Syrian weapons. These same weapons that were criminally used earlier this month to massacre more than 100 Lebanese civilians and invade many peaceful Lebanese territories including the western part of the capital Beirut.
What actually distresses the Sovereign Free Nationalists in Lebanon and Diaspora, and darkens Lebanon's future of Freedoms, democracy, and its multi cultural role model in the Middle East, is that the Security Council which supported the Doha agreement, has also failed to mention in its statement issued last week,
UNSCR 1559 and 1701, as well as the "Taef Accord" .

Those who are hailing the Doha agreement, be they Americans. Europeans, Arabs or Lebanese, and who are alleging that the newly elected president Michele Suleiman will work on disarming Hezbollah peacefully, should review thoroughly Suleiman's achievement record as Army commander during the last nine years, as well as his political affiliations background. Suleiman was handpicked by late Syrian president Hafez Assad as Army commander during the Stalinist Syrian occupation of Lebanon and then was embraced by Assad's son, the current Syrian president Basher Al Assad. Suleiman always was and still is a Hezbollah strong ally, and a loud and staunch advocate for what is falsely called "resistance against Israel".
This does not mean that Suleiman will not adopt new strategies and side with his country, Lebanon, and accordingly be a loyal guardian and protector for the Lebanese constitution as a president. Having said this, No one should ignore the fact that the majority of the Lebanese politicians are opportunists and chameleons. They change their affiliations and shift from one side to another so smoothly to secure power and authority. There is no doubt that Suleiman is no exception.
Things will be in the clear and unveiled within only two weeks. We will witness either the re-emerging of the state of Lebanon, or the Hezbollah's state instead.  The Suleiman presidency's path will determine which state this Genera-president is going to preside over. All this will be decisive in the new cabinet's Ministerial policy statement which will be presented to the parliament for its vote of confidence.
If the statement re-iterates the falsehood of  "resistance, liberation, rejection, and occupied land", and again gives Hezbollah militia legitimacy and legality, as was the case in the Saniora cabinet pre-2006 war statement, then this will mean simply that the "Hezbollah's mini state" has triumphed over the Lebanese state. That the Suleiman presidency will be a crisis management one, under the control, instructions, conditions, weapons, ideology, and religious edicts (fatawa) of Sheik Hassan Nassrallah, Hezbollah's General Secretary and behind him of course, Syria and Iran.
The Saniora cabinet's fatal mistake, or rather its mortal sin, was that it deluded itself in believing that Hezbollah will not turn its weapons against the Lebanese people, so it surrendered complementally, and from its first day it was formed, to this Iranian-Syrian Terrorist militia, and legalized its weapons, its influence, its cantons in its cabinet Ministerial Statement. That Statement stated "It is in protection of our valiant resistance, in calm dialog over the options available to us all, and in the context of the Arab struggle against Israel and its occupations, and to fortify Lebanon and adhere to Arab solidarity, to confirm the Arab League Beirut Summit resolutions for a final just peace and the respect of international resolutions".

Hopefully, the new Lebanese cabinet to be formed within the coming few days, the first in President Suleiman's six years term, will not commit the same sin and fatal mistake that the departing Saniora Cabinet did. Hezbollah was never a real or genuine resistance, but an Iran-Syrian army by every standard. Its coup attempt earlier this month and the horrible crimes and massacres it committed against the Lebanese peaceful civilians tell the whole story.
We, the Lebanese in the Diaspora, call on the free world not to keep a blind eye while Iran and Syria are devouring Lebanon bit by bit through its Hezbollah Army. The falling of Lebanon to the Axis of Evil countries and organizations will make all and every country world-wide targets for this merciless beast.
I reiterate what was stated in my last commentary: "The solid and proved fact that no one in the entire world should ignore is that Hezbollah, like the rest of the regional and global terrorist groups understands and bows to only one language. This language that they master and understand is a combination of force, deterrence and decisiveness. Hopefully the world will be able to communicate with Hezbollah with the only language that it knows and understands".


Elias Bejjani
Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, May 26, 2008

The not so cold war

Of course we are in a kind of cold war with Jihadists of different kinds. In some places it is a fairly hot war in fact. But we need to remember that the USSR was not defeated by direct military action. A Marshall plan of sorts would help, wouldn't it? If there is no Marshall plan, there will be a Meshaal plan. In the long run it is more expensive.
It would also help to have another Harry S. Truman in the White House, but they are in short supply.  We should also consider that even though the USSR was pledged to wipe out the capitalist system, the US and Europeans negotiated with the USSR government - and with the Chinese government. Something to think about.
Ami Isseroff
The Next Cold War

By David Hazony

A new Cold War is upon us. Though there is no Soviet Union today, the enemies of Western democracy, supported by a conglomerate of Islamic states, terror groups, and insurgents, have begun to work together with a unity of purpose reminiscent of the Soviet menace: Not only in funding, training, and arming those who seek democracy's demise; not only in mounting attacks against Israel, America, and their allies around the world; not only in seeking technological advances that will enable them to threaten the life of every Western citizen; but also in advancing a clear vision of a permanent, intractable, and ultimately victorious struggle against the West–an idea they convey articulately, consistently, and with brutal efficiency. It is this conceptual strategic clarity which gives the West's enemies a leg up, even if they are far inferior in number, wealth, and weaponry. From Tehran to Tyre, from Chechnya to the Philippines, from southern Iraq to the Afghan mountains to the madrassas of London and Paris and Cairo, these forces are unified in their aim to defeat the West, its way of life, its political forms, and its cause of freedom. And every day, because of this clarity, their power and resources grow, as they attract allies outside the Islamic world: In Venezuela, in South Africa, in North Korea.

At the center of all this, of course, is Iran. A once-friendly state has embarked on an unflinching campaign, at considerable cost to its own economy, to attain the status of a global power: Through the massive infusion of money, materiel, training, and personnel to the anti-Western forces in Lebanon (Hezbollah), the Palestinian Authority (Hamas and Islamic Jihad), and the Sunni and Shi'ite insurgencies of Iraq; through its relentless pursuit of nuclear arms, long-range missiles, and a space program; through its outsized armed forces and huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons; through its diplomatic initiatives around the world; and through its ideological battle against democracy, Zionism, and the memory of the Holocaust. For the forces of Islamic extremism and political jihad, Iran has become the cutting edge of clarity.

The West, on the other hand, enjoys no such clarity. In America, Iraq has become the overriding concern, widely seen as a Vietnam-style "quagmire" claiming thousands of American lives with no clear way either to win or to lose. (As the bells of the 2006 Congressional elections continue tolling in American ears, it is hard to hear the muezzins of the Middle East calling upon the faithful to capitalize on Western malaise.) Europeans continue to seek "diplomatic solutions" even as they contend with powerful and well-funded Islamists in their midst and their friends among the media and intellectual elites–forces that stir public opinion not against Iran and Syria, who seek their destruction, but against their natural allies, America and Israel. Throughout the West we now hear increasingly that a nuclear Iran is something one has to "learn to live with," that Iraq needs an "exit strategy," and that the real key to peace lies not in victory but in brokering agreements between Israel and the Palestinians and "engaging" Syria and Iran. The Israelis, too, suffer from a lack of clarity: By separating the Palestinian question from the struggle with Hezbollah and Iran, and by shifting the debate back to territorial concession and prisoner exchange, Israelis incentivize aggression and terror, ignore the role Hamas plays in the broader conflict, and send conciliatory signals to the Syrians. Like the Americans with Iraq, Israelis have allowed themselves to lose sight of who their enemies are, how determined they are, and what will be required to defeat them.

The greatest dangers to the West and Israel, therefore, lie not in armaments or battle plans, but in our thinking. Like World War II and the Cold War, this conflict cannot be won without first achieving clarity of purpose. Even the most urgently needed actions, such as stopping the Iranian nuclear effort, require leaders who understand the nature of the threat and have sufficient public support to enable them to act decisively. To achieve this, however, requires a major, immediate investment in the realm of ideas–a battle for understanding that must be won before the battle for freedom can be effectively engaged.
Israel, in particular, has a pivotal role to play. As the front-line state in the conflict, and the lightning rod of Islamist aggression, the world looks to Israel to see how it will respond. From its birth, Israel has served as a model to the West: In deepening its democratic character while fighting a series of wars; in fighting terror effectively, from the defeat of the PLO in the early 1970s in Gaza, to the Entebbe raid in 1976, through Operation Defensive Shield in 2002; and striking preemptively against enemies who combined genocidal rhetoric with the acquisition of sophisticated weapons, as with Egypt and Syria in 1967, and Iraq in 1981. Israel can again serve as a model of a state proud of its heritage, a democracy that knows how to fight against its tyrannical foes without sacrificing its own character. But to do this will require that Israel, too, disperse the conceptual fog in which it has been operating, recognize the strategic costs of ambiguous outcomes such as with the Lebanon war last summer, and adopt a clear and coherent vision and plan of action. If the West is to act decisively and with clarity, it may need Israel to show the way.

What would such a struggle look like? We should not fear to call this conflict by its name: It is the Second Cold War, with Iran as the approximate counterpart of the Soviet Union. Like the ussr, Iran is an enemy that even the mighty United States will probably never meet in full force on the battlefield and instead must fight via its proxies, wherever they are found. Like the Soviet Union, the Ayatollahs' regime is based on an ideological revolution that repudiates human liberty and subjects its political opponents to imprisonment and death, a regime which, in order to maintain its popular support, must continue to foment similar revolutions everywhere it can, to show that it is on the winning side of history. And like the Soviet Union in the 1980s, the Iranian regime today has two clear weaknesses, which could ultimately spell its downfall: Economic stagnation and ideological disaffection. With unemployment and inflation both deep in double digits; an increasing structural dependence on oil revenue; a negligible amount of direct foreign investment; and a stock market that has declined over 30 percent since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's heavy investment in other people's wars and its own weapons and terrorist groups must in the end exact a price in terms of support for the regime. Today, moreover, the great majority of Iranians do not identify with the government's Islamist ideology, and among young people the regime is widely derided.
 Is it possible to bring about the fall of revolutionary Iran? Despite the obvious differences, there is a great deal the West can learn from the way victory was found in the first Cold War. Led by the United States, Western countries in the 1980s mounted a campaign on a wide range of fronts–military, technological, diplomatic, public relations, and covert operations–to convince the Soviet elites that their regime was failing at every turn, and was headed for collapse. By deliberately escalating the arms race and through trade sanctions on the Soviets, America increased the pressure on the Soviet economy. By supporting dissident groups, sending radio transmissions into the Soviet Empire, and making dramatic pronouncements such as Ronald Reagan's famous Berlin Wall speech in 1987, the West emboldened the regime's internal opponents. And by supporting anti-Communist forces around the world, from Latin America to Africa to Western Europe to Afghanistan, the West halted the expansion of the Communist bloc and even began to roll it back. In all cases the goal was the same: To make it clear to the ranks of Soviet elites, upon whom the regime's legitimacy continued to depend, that they were on the wrong side of history.

When taken in combination with the Soviet Union's failing economy and widespread ideological disaffection among the populace–much as we see in Iran today–it was possible for the West's multi-front strategy to bring about the downfall of what was, during the time of Jimmy Carter, believed to be an unstoppable, expanding historical juggernaut for whom the best the West could hope was "containment" and "détente." Its vast nuclear arsenals, its pretensions to global dominance, its coherent world-historical ideology–none of these could protect it against the determined, united efforts of the free world. But it required, above all, a spiritual shift of momentum which began at home: A belief that victory was possible, that the Soviet Union was impermanent, and that concerted effort could change history. It required a new clarity of purpose.

By most measures, Iran is an easier mark than the Soviet Union. It does not yet have nuclear weapons or icbms; its Islamist ideology has less of a universal appeal; its tools of thought control are vastly inferior to the gulag and the KGB; and its revolution is not old enough to have obliterated the memory of better days for much of its population. In theory at least, it should be much easier for the West to mount a similar campaign of relentless pressure on the regime–from fomenting dissent online, to destabilizing the regime through insurgent groups inside Iran, to destroying the Iranian nuclear project, to ever-deeper economic sanctions, to fighting and winning the proxy wars that Iran has continued to wage–in order to effect the kind of change of momentum needed to enable the Iranian people to bring their own regime down the way the peoples under communism did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Yet it is precisely because of the Ayatollahs' apparent frailty that the West has failed to notice the similarities between this menace and the Soviet one a generation ago. For despite their weakness on paper, the forces of jihad are arrayed in full battle armor, and are prepared to fight to the end. What they lack in technological and industrial sophistication, they more than make up for in charisma, public-relations acumen, determination, ideological coherence, and suicidal spirit. Above all, they possess a certainty, a clarity, and a will to sacrifice which will greatly increase their chances of victory, and of continued expansion, until they are met with an equally determined enemy. 

The fall of the Iranian regime will not end the global jihad. Beyond the messianic Shi'ite movement, there is still a world of Sunni and Wahhabi revolutionaries, from al-Qaida to Hamas, determined to make war on the West even without Iran's help–just as anti-American communism did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union. Yet there can be no question that today, it is Iran that has earned the greatest admiration, given the global jihad its greatest source of hope and funds, and racked up the most impressive victories, taking on the West and its allies throughout the Middle East–and especially in Iraq, where its proxy insurgencies have frustrated American efforts and even brought about a shift in the internal politics of the United States. Iran is not the only foe, but it is the leader among them. It is only through Iran's defeat that the tide of the Second Cold War will be turned.

David Hazony

Continued (Permanent Link)

Organizer: Egypt tour stymied by Cairo Jews

Organizer: Egypt tour stymied by Cairo Jews

Gal Tziperman Lotan , THE JERUSALEM POST

Members of Cairo's Jewish community may have prevented 45 Israeli Jews of Egyptian descent from touring the country, the president of the Israeli Egyptian Friendship Association said Sunday.

Levana Zamir said she had planned a four-day trip to Cairo and Alexandria beginning this past weekend for 45 elderly Israelis.

The group was planning on praying in Cairo and Alexandria synagogues and visiting the Israeli Academic Center in Cairo.

But after reports in the Egyptian media and on Bassatine News, an Egyptian Jewish community Web site, that claimed the group would try to reclaim their ancestors' property, a wave of protest began, leading to the cancellation of the trip by Egyptian authorities.

"Both the Cairo JCC [Jewish Community Center] board and its members refuse to have anything to do with this pseudo Congress," read a posting on the site, apparently confusing the Friendship Association with a different organization.

According to Zamir, members of the Cairo Jewish community had refused to allow the group entrance to Shaar Hashamayim Synagogue, without which the group could not get the required security and permits from the Egyptian government.

"Without this confirmation from the Jewish Community of Alexandria or Cairo to the Egyptian security authorities, there is no entrance for any group at one of the synagogues," she said.

On Wednesday, Egyptian broadcaster Amr Adib reported that the tour group was going to Egypt to celebrate 60 years of Israeli independence and to reclaim their families' lost property, allegations that Zamir denied.

"His report was like a bomb," she said. "We had already made hotel and flight arrangements for 45 people and paid for them."

According to AP, the report sparked a media frenzy in Egypt, which caused the Cairo Marriott to cancel the group's reservation.

"On Thursday morning, I got an e-mail from our travel agent saying the Marriott Hotel does not have adequate security for us and they have canceled our reservation," Zamir told The Jerusalem Post.

The agent tried making reservations at other Cairo hotels, but none agreed to accept the group, she said.

A Marriott Cairo employee said there was no reservation for the group, and that he knew nothing other than what was published in the media.

A group member said she was disappointed the trip was canceled over the false report.

"We are very disappointed because they built up a story about us, but we don't know who started the story," she said. "We have doubts, we think someone didn't want us to go, but we're not sure."

The woman, who has not returned to Egypt since her family was exiled 46 years ago, said she was angered by the false reports.

"Why did the journalist speak nonsense about us?" she asked. "Somebody must have told him those things. But who? I don't know."

Both the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Embassy in Egypt declined to comment.

Dr. Max Salama, president of the Alexandria Jewish Community, told Zamir in an e-mail obtained by thePost the tour group was welcome to pray at Alexandria's Eliahu Hanavi Synagogue.

AP contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's economic miracle

Can we keep this up, in the face of the US and world recession? Watch carefully...
Market triumphs odds, marks 5.4% growth in first quarter. European Central Bank head 'amazed by Israeli market's performance,' says local market in best position to profit from globalization while avoiding pitfalls of credit crisis,7340,L-3547860,00.html
Gad Lior
Published:  05.26.08, 09:39 / Israel Money
The Israeli market noted a surprising 5.4% growth in the first quarter of 2008, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) reported Monday.
The growth, though lower than the one noted in 2007's third and forth quarters, exceeded expectations, especially when considering the various recession warnings heard around the world and in Israel since the beginning of the year.

CBS data indicated that Israeli exports have gone up 12% and that goods and services imports rose by 18.7%, gross domestic product added 5.4% and gross industrial product added 6.1%.
Israeli lifestyle expenditures continued to rise in the first quarter as well, as private consumption increased by 14.1%. Housing industrial and transport investments all added some 9.6%, and goods and services exports have gone up by 23.6%.
Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, is believed to announce interest rates will go up by only 0.25%, in order to maintain dollar rates from slipping back to the NIS 3.20 margin. Fischer is also expected to decrease interest rates over the next two months, aiming for a 4% interest rate by August.
 Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, told Yedioth Ahronoth he believes the Israeli economy is the most successful one in the world today: "I'm amazed by the performance of the Israeli economy," he said.
Trichet, considered Europe's most influential financial figure, said he believes the Israeli market is "in the best possible position to reap the fruits of globalization and not be affected by the sub-prime crisis."
Positive as he sounds, Trichet refused to sign off on the widespread belief that the worst is over: "We see world markets internalizing the changes and reconfiguring assessments… This is a long process that still has some ways to go."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The Israeli Shekel is now "real money"

Israeli currency makes significant leap, joins CLS Bank global settlement system along with Mexican peso. Induction 'a significant step in Israel's increasing integration into global economy,' says Bank of Israel governor
Published:  05.26.08, 10:38 / Israel Money

The Israeli shekel joined the foreign exchange market's CLS Bank global settlement system Monday, making it available for international payment instructions.
In a CLS statement, the bank announced that "Following regulatory approval, the Mexican Peso and Israeli Shekel have been designated as CLS Bank Settlement Eligible Currencies… The extension of the CLS Bank service to these currencies enhances systemic stability in the settlement of foreign exchange transactions, and over half of all CLS Bank Members will be able to settle in these two currencies immediately."
The shekels and the peso join the CLS' other 15 eligible Currencies: The US dollar, the Australian, Canadian, New Zealand Hong Kong and Singapore dollars, the Danish and Norwegian krones, the euro, the yen, the Korean Won, the South African rand, the Swedish krona, the Swiss franc and the UK pound sterling.
The Bank of Israel has been in contact with CLS on the matter since 2004 and had consistently pushed Israeli banks to meet the CLS criteria. The induction of the shekel into the CLS system is considered a very important step towards upgrading Israel's financial infrastructure. Bank Hapoalim and Bank Leumi are registered CLS members.
Rob Close, Chief Executive Officer of CLS Group and President and CEO of CLS Bank, said: "Bringing the benefits of CLS Settlement to an ever wider community of stakeholders is central to our strategy of growing the value of CLS to the market... The local banking systems in Israel and Mexico will also experience the risk and efficiency benefits that CLS participation will bring, and we are very pleased to welcome these two new currencies to the CLS community."
Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer said Monday that Israel induction into the CLS system "is a significant step in Israel's increasing integration into the global economy. By reducing settlement risk in FX transactions, vital to Israel's open economy, it reinforces the stability and efficiency of Israel's banks and financial system, and benefits the entire economy.
"We are pleased that the ongoing reform of the payments system undertaken by the Bank of Israel, including the introduction of an RTGS system and adoption of a modern payments system law, along with the Bank's close cooperation with CLS Bank, the new Israeli members of the CLS service and others has made this possible."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hizbollah's Increased Strength: Risks and Opportunities for Israel

Hizbollah's Increased Strength: Risks and Opportunities for Israel,   INSS Insight No. 57, May 26, 2008
Shalom, Zaki
One tangible aftermath of the Second Lebanon War and the agreement that concluded it is an increase in Hizbollah's strength. In fact, this agreement increases the possibility of Hizbollah's taking over all or large parts of Lebanon, which entails severe dangers for Israel. For Hizbollah, war against Israel is a supreme goal, and it has indeed inflicted many significant casualties. It is responsible for a long list of terrorist attacks against Israel and Jewish targets, including two atrocities in Argentina. Hizbollah also attacked American and French forces stationed in Lebanon, which prompted their hurried withdrawal.
     Israel's decision to withdraw from southern Lebanon in May 2000 has been attributed, and with much justification, to the years-long difficult war imposed by Hizbollah. This war cost Israel heavy casualties, and is what finally led to the growing public protest against the Israeli presence in southern Lebanon. According to many, this withdrawal strengthened the Palestinians' belief that exerting heavy pressure on Israel through terrorist attacks would lead to further withdrawals and represented a significant cause for the outbreak of the intifada in late September 2000.   
    Since the end of the Second Lebanon War, Hizbollah has succeeded in rehabilitating its forces to a great extent. According to various reports, Hizbollah today has tens of thousands of missiles, some of them long range, and is capable of inflicting very serious damaged deep into Israel. Thus, the risks involved in Hizbollah taking control of Lebanon are quite apparent. Less apparent are the pluses that may emerge from this process.
Since its establishment Israel has maintained that any country that shelters terrorists who attack Israel is responsible for their activities. Israel, according to this principle, does not have to pursue a terrorist organization staging operations against it from the territory of a sovereign state. Rather, it is up to the sovereign state in which the organization operates to do so. If hostile actions are taken against Israel, the country harboring the terrorist organizations is accountable and must pay the price. The goal is to prompt the country itself to take the requisite steps to stop the attacks.
In practice, particularly in the Lebanese context, Israel has found it difficult to realize this doctrine fully. For many years Lebanon has been ruled by moderate, pro-West leaders. This leadership views Hizbollah as a bitter and hostile rival, and it too is interested in clipping the organization's wings. At the same time, Lebanese leaders are afraid of a confrontation, and in practice allow Hizbollah to operate against Israel in a "bloodletting" effort, while stressing their inability to restrain the organization. When Israel responds against Lebanon, the Lebanese leadership uses its good relations with Western countries, in particular the United States and the moderate Arab countries, to exert pressure on Israel not to harm it.
This phenomenon was evidenced in prominent fashion on July 12, 2006. In a Cabinet discussion held after the serious consequences of that day's Hizbollah operation became clear, then-Chief of Staff Dan Halutz proposed attacking infrastructure installations in Lebanon, including electric plants, oil refineries, and water sources. His suggestion was supported by a number of ministers. However, the senior political echelon, and in particular the prime minister, defense minister, and minister of foreign affairs, vetoed the idea. The reason: unequivocal clarifications received by Israel that very same day from senior levels in the American administration and the British government to the effect that Israel must refrain from damaging Lebanese targets because this might undermine the stability of the pro-Western government headed by Fouad Siniora. Consequently, the proposal was shelved.
We lack adequate tools to assess whether that proposal, if implemented, would have generated an essentially different outcome from the events of July-August 2006. Nonetheless, it is clear that an American-British veto of this option stemmed from the fact that the official government in Lebanon was pro-Western and enjoyed the support of the United States. The fact that Israel was not able to exercise the option to attack Lebanon represents a significant constraint on Israel's freedom to maneuver.
Should Hizbollah in fact take control of Lebanon, Israel's options of maneuvering vis-à-vis Hizbollah are significantly increased. It will become clear to all sides that no international element will get involved to protect Hizbollah from Israeli attacks. Obviously, this does not mean that Israel would necessarily attack Lebanon's infrastructure should Hizbollah cast down the gauntlet. Beyond international constraints, the Israeli leadership also has to contend with a set of legal and normative, value-based constraints and restrictions that would make it very difficult indeed for Israel to take steps against civilian infrastructure. This has become clear in Israel's refraining from damaging the electrical and fuel infrastructures of the Gaza Strip under Hamas control. At the same time, there is no doubt that Hizbollah's taking control of Lebanon would expand Israel's ability to maneuver vis-à-vis Lebanon in case of another armed conflict, at least from the international perspective.
From Israel's own perspective, Hizbollah is first and foremost a body representing a military threat against Israel. However, Hizbollah is also a powerful body with economic and financial assets, and an organization with far-reaching political ambitions. Therefore, in any military confrontation with Israel, if Hizbollah holds the reins of leadership it would conclude that there is nothing stopping Israel from severely damaging its assets. The very awareness of this fact, i.e., that there would not be anyone trying to delimit Israel's scope of action in terms of damaging Lebanon, may cause it to refrain from a confrontation with Israel.
Beyond this, one may speculate that Hizbollah's taking control of Lebanon will bring about a new awareness on the part of various international elements of the "Iranian threat." To date, the concerns of the international community regarding Iran have focused on its intention to develop nuclear capabilities. Hizbollah's taking control of Lebanon would bring the danger inherent in Iran into sharper relief, not only regarding the nuclear question but also vis-à-vis the stability of other pro-Western regimes in the region, chief among them Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Gulf states. Such a development might very well match the interests of the State of Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, May 25, 2008


A spy has outed a number of Israeli agents in recent years. It is not clear if the leak was known at the time and the agents were saved, or how many were compromised.
According to Israel radio,  the spy was an Israeli of Iranian origin who evidently gave names of Mossad or AMAN agents.   
Last update - 15:57 25/05/2008       
Israeli charged with passing information to Iran
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent

The suspect was charged in the Tel Aviv district court on Sunday.
The suspect, who has been living abroad, was brought to Israel for investigation a few days ago.
During his questioning, he said that he had visited the Iranian consulate in Istanbul a number of times while he was living there in 2006.
In meetings held there, the suspect allegedly agreed to cooperate with Iranian intelligence officials, providing them with the names of people he knew who were apparently serving in Israel's defense establishment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lebanon and Czechoslovakia

Barry Rubin is right about the Fall of Lebanon, It is a sad betrayal. There is nothing, however, that could be done in Lebanon itself. Israel could do nothing, and Western troops sent to Lebanon would have only served as targets for suicide bombers. Moreover, not only Barack Obama has no plan, as Rubin notes. Nobody else does. It is futile to blame it on Obama, since he is not in power.
Even before the shameful capitulation of the UN, I had written two very sad comments on Lebanon:

Springtime for Nasrallah and Iran, winter for Lebanon and France

The news from Doha is that the long Lebanese impasse is finally over. Aided by the good offices of the ostensibly pro-Western Qatar government, the Hezbollah has seemingly scored a knockout blow over its Lebanese opponents. Qatar mediated a "compromise" that apparently gives Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran everything they wanted, and puts an end to Lebanese independence in all but name. The crucial issue, which pro-government forces had supported during the many months of the Hezbollah siege, was the question of granting Hezbollah and its allies over 1/3 of the 30 cabinet members in the government. This provides them with veto power, and will probably make it possible to stop the international tribunal that was to try the murderers of Rafiq Hariri.  (Continued: Springtime for Nasrallah and Iran, winter for Lebanon and France)


Lebanon: frozen in the headlamps of history

Watching the events in Lebanon from a safe distance provides a frustrating sense of deja vu. It happened in 1938 in Czechoslovakia, but that was before my time. It happened in Hungary again in 1956, and in Czechoslovakia again in 1968, and in Iran in 1979, and now it is happening in Lebanon. A people is being crushed, and the world looks on helpless. Never mind that nobody cares about the Lebanese people. Foreign relations and foreign policy are never really based on humanitarian sentiments and affection. That is just bumf to be written in speeches and schoolbooks. But it is shocking that nobody seems to care that Lebanon has taken one more step on the road it began to travel with the foundation of Hezbollah: the road to becoming an Islamic Republic. The Lebanese government itself, and those who should care about Lebanon, did not seem to have the sense to stop playing with the fire of Hezbollah when it was still possible to do so.

(Continued: Lebanon: frozen in the headlamps of history)

Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

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