A limited operation such as the one envisioned here would serve no purpose except to squander Israeli lives and boost the prestige of the Hamas, especially if it is followed by a truce.
Army is ready for Gaza operation, waiting for Olmert to make final decision
Published: 06.07.08, 13:48 / Israel Opinion
"The sand in the hourglass is running out," Defense Minister Ehud Barak promised Thursday in a meeting with municipal leaders in the Gaza region.
His words could be understood to mean that a significant IDF operation in Gaza is in the cards, and that we are not talking about months or weeks from now, but rather, something that will take place within days. The military blow, he said, will come before the lull.
Barak is attempting to blur his message and refrain from giving Hamas any clues, but it appears he already decided even before the cabinet meeting and consultations with other ministers that a truce with Hamas without a military blow that precedes it is no longer a realistic option.
It appears that on this issue he is in agreement with the prime minister. The IDF chief of staff also decided that there is no other way but a military operation, even though the political leadership is unable to point to a required diplomatic achievement that would stem from this high-risk military move.
The army would perhaps prefer air attacks accompanied by some ground operations against a very large number of Hamas targets. Yet this is not very realistic, because for such activity to take place military intelligence and the Shin Bet are supposed to provide hundreds of high-quality targets, and this, how shall we put it, is not quite working out.
What is left is to take over problematic areas on the ground, using the air power lever, in the hopes that developments would not require a reserves call-up and full occupation of the Strip.
On Thursday, we still saw contacts between the Defense Ministry and the Egyptians regarding the answers Israel is supposed to provide to the truce offer and regarding a trip by top defense official Amos Gilad to Egypt. For the time being, Gilad is not going anywhere, Hamas is not giving any good reason to believe in the truce, and the IDF is on alert ahead of various types of operations in the Strip.
We are talking about phased activity, the plans are in place, and the army is practicing at this time. If the activity expands to occupying significant parts of the Strip for long periods of time there is also a plan for a reserves call-up.
Hamas must be laughing
The IDF is prepared to engage in fighting vis-à-vis Gaza within a short period of time. What are we waiting for? Why does it have to take days? We've already been there. Bush came and went, and the 60th birthday celebrations are over. So what's the excuse now for not taking off the gloves against Gaza? The Shavuot holiday? Indeed, that's a good reason not to spoil the people's mood and the trips to the Negev. But Shavuot will be followed by summer vacation and then by Rosh Hashana. We can always find reasons to postpone tough decisions.
Eight Israelis already died in the war of attrition around the Gaza Strip this year. During all of last year, 10 Israelis were killed. The numbers are indeed talking. Less than a month ago, on May 15th, a kibbutz member was killed by a mortar shell, which prompted a great outcry among area residents. The defense minister ordered the IDF to prepare for a ground operation of a certain extent. The Army chief ordered the Southern Command to be prepared to operate within two days. And indeed, on May 17th everything was ready, but then it was postponed. Truce talks got underway, the peace with Syria broke out, and two more Israeli citizens were killed.
Hamas and its allies in Gaza are continuing to do their thing, while we continue to interpret their actions on their behalf and constantly search for explanations: Why did they fire here, and why did they fire there. They're probably reading our newspapers and laughing out loud. Even they didn't know they are so smart.
And still, why is Israel waiting? Perhaps because the truce agreement is almost finalized. Israel is not overjoyed with it, but Amos Gilad already finalized most details with the Egyptians and the defense minister was willing, until Thursday, to give the deal a chance. Now they're waiting for Olmert to decide whether we're going for a deal or not. If not, we're going for a military operation.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Literally, Dr. Keidar is right - the Qur'an only mentions "the furthest mosque." The angel Gabriel took Muhammed on a flying tour of Jerusalem, heaven and hell, according to Muslim tradition, but in the Quran Surra, Al-Isra, the night journey, only "masjid al aqsa" the furthest mosque, is mentioned. Early Muslim commentators did not associate "Masjid al Aqsa" with Jerusalem. Of course, the Al-Aqsa mosque was built after Muhamad had died.
Dr. Keidar of university Arab studies department tests Qatari network's patience by saying during televised interview, 'Jerusalem not mentioned in Kuran'
Published: 06.07.08, 20:41 / Israel News
It can be assumed that Al-Jazeera's top journalist Jamal Rayyan will not soon forget this year's Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated this week. Following reports of Israel's intentions to construct housing units in areas located beyond the Green Line (1967 borders), the news agency decided to hold an interview with Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a lecturer from Bar Ilan University's Department of Arabic Studies. The interview in Arabic can be seen in full on youtube.
Rayyan opened with the question, "Mr. Mordechai, is this decision meant to constitute another nail in the coffin of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations?"
The journalist appeared taken aback when Keidar answered, "To tell you the truth I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods."
Keidar was referring to a period Arabs call Jahiliyyah (ignorance of divine guidance), which prevailed in the Arab world before the time of the Islam. "So then," he continued, "why must we speak about this? It has been our city for 3,000 years and will be for eternity."
'Jerusalem is ours for eternity'
The stunned Rayyan refused to give up. "Excuse me Mr. Mordechai! If you would like to speak about history let's talk about the Kuran as well. You cannot deny the existence of Jerusalem in the Kuran! I ask you to refrain from making statements that offend Arabs and Muslims. Let's please stay with our topic," he said.
"Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran," Keidar said.
Rayyan stated the verse that, according to Muslim belief, refers to Jerusalem, but Keidar continued to object. "Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Kuran even once."
Rayyan continued: "Let's talk politics, please. Doesn't this decision oppose the Road Map, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?"
"The Road Map does not mention Jerusalem," Keidar argued. "Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Road Map. My brother, go and read the Road Map."
"At this rate Jerusalem will soon include all of the West Bank," Rayyan countered.
"My brother, Israel does not involve itself in housing that Qatar constructs in the Qatar Peninsula," Keidar answered. "What do you want with Jerusalem? Jerusalem is ours for eternity and no one, not Al-Jazeera or anyone else, has any say in it. Jerusalem is solely a Jewish city and no one else has any connection to it."
The interview went on for a few more minutes, after which Rayyan parted from Keidar without thanking him. It is interesting to point out that Al-Jazeera's slogan is "The opinion, and the other opinion". It seems this slogan has never been put to such a test.
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Last update - 01:54 07/06/2008
Arab states leery of Israel's entry into Mediterranean Union
Mediterranean countries due to launch a regional union next month have yet to agree an overall vision for the project and questions remain over Israel's role, Algeria's foreign minister said.
France proposed a Union for the Mediterranean last year to boost ties with the European Union's southern neighbors and improve cooperation on trade, security and migration. The project is due to be unveiled in Paris on July 13.
Arab states are worried that joining with Israel in the union would imply a normalization of ties with the Jewish state.
"The membership of Israel was among questions we discussed and clarifications were urged on this," Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said after a meeting of Mediterranean foreign ministers in Algiers.
Medelci said any normalization of ties with Israel should be based on the 2002 Arab peace initiative which calls for Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in 1967.
"The processes of normalization with Israel is linked to other debates and commitments," he said.
Clarification on other issues was needed, he said, including the union's institutions, financing and decision making.
Medelci was speaking at a news conference after a two-day meeting in Algiers of the 11-nation Mediterranean Forum, which includes France, Spain, Egypt, Malta, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia and Turkey.
The union under discussion is a scaled-back version of the original proposal which would have grouped only states with a Mediterranean coastline and involved nine new agencies and a bank.
The latest plan endorsed by EU leaders in March would see a regular summit of EU and Mediterranean countries with a presidency and a small secretariat. __._,_.___
Continued (Permanent Link)
Almost every presidential candidate in recent years has called for moving the US embassy in Jerusalem, including George Bush. The move was incorporated into law, but a loophole allows presidents to postpone it. After they get into office, they inevitably use that loophole.
Will John McCain be any different?
Last update - 15:54 07/06/2008
By Haaretz Service
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain on Friday said that he believes the American embassy in Israel should be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem is undivided, Jerusalem is the capital and we should move the embassy to Jerusalem before anything happens," McCain said while campaigning in Miami.
McCain stressed, however, that the "subject of Jerusalem itself will be addressed in negotiations by the Israeli government and people."
The presidential hopeful was responding to comments made by Democratic rival Barack Obama, who told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Wednesday that he would not allow Iran to acquire nuclear arms, and that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel.
"Let me be clear," Obama said, "Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," he added, in efforts to secure the Jewish vote.
But a campaign adviser clarified Thursday that Obama believes "Jerusalem is a final status issue, which means it has to be negotiated between the two parties" as part of "an agreement that they both can live with."
McCain took the opportunity to criticize Obama for changing his position on Jerusalem, as well as on "sitting down and talking unconditionally with Ahmadinejad and other dictators.
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PM Olmert and Defence Minister Mofaz were talking up the probability of a US strike on Iran, US officials quickly poured lukewarm water on the idea. Who gains when Israeli officials turn the Iran issue into an Israel issue, and who loses?
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Friday that the United States was committed to solving the Iranian nuclear threat through diplomatic multilateral means.
Perino was responding to comments made earlier Friday by Transportation Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who said that an Israeli attack on Iran appeared "unavoidable" given the apparent failure of sanctions to deny Tehran technology with bomb-making potential.
"I understand that Israel is very concerned about their future and their safety when they have a neighbor in their region - Iran - that says they want to wipe them off the map," Perino told reporters. "We are trying to solve this diplomatically," she explained.
Asked whether the United States was keeping military options open as a last resort with Iran, she said U.S. President George W. Bush had always said he "would never take any options off the table" but that Washington was pursuing multilateral diplomacy.
"The international community deserves to have the verification that that is true," she said of Iran's assertions that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
Earlier, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, asked specifically whether the United States would support an Israeli strike on Iran, said, "I'm not going to talk about hypotheticals. I think we've been pretty clear in recent weeks and months about our approach on Iran."
The Bush administration has repeatedly said it wants to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue through diplomacy but has made clear that military options remain on the table as a last resort.
Iran has defied Western pressure to abandon its uranium enrichment projects, which it says are for peaceful electricity generation.
Tehran has also threatened to retaliate against Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, and U.S. targets in the Gulf if there is any attack on Iran.
Earlier Friday, the mass-circulation Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted Mofaz as saying "if Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective."
"Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable," the former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff who later served as defense minister told the newspaper.
It was the most explicit threat yet against Iran from a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government, which, like the Bush administration, has preferred to hint at force as a last resort should United Nations Security Council sanctions fail to achieve the desired abandonment of nuclear development by Tehran.
Mofaz also said in the interview that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel to be wiped off the map, "would disappear before Israel does."
Mofaz's remarks came as he and several other senior members of Olmert's Kadima Party prepare for a possible run for top office should a corruption scandal force the Israeli prime minister to step down.
Iranian-born Mofaz has been a main party rival of the Israeli prime minister, particularly following the 2006 elections when Olmert was forced to hand the defence portfolio to Labor, his main coalition partner, at Mofaz's expense.
Mofaz, who is also designated as a deputy prime minister, has remained privy to Israel's defense planning. He is a member of Olmert's security cabinet and leads regular strategic coordination talks with the U.S. State Department.
Israel sent warplanes to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.
A similar Israeli sortie over Syria last September razed what the U.S. administration said was a nascent nuclear reactor built with North Korean help. Syria denied having any such facility.
Independent analysts have questioned, however, whether Israel's armed forces can take on Iran alone, as its nuclear sites are numerous, distant and well-fortified
Continued (Permanent Link)
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in the 1920s with the aim of imposing fundamentalist Islamist Sharia government in Muslim countries, reestablishing the Caliphate and the Muslim empire and combatting the west. Intially it was a terrorist group. Following severe repression by the Egyptian government, the Muslim brotherhood splintered and mutated into several other groups, including Al-Qaeda. The Muslim Brotherhood group itself is split into a more moderate "new guard" and a more militant old guard. the "new guard, has apparently been holding talks with western leaders, and is hopeful that Barack Obama as US President will help them achieve their ends, according to an article at the official Web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, IkhwanWeb:
Gina Abdou, an expert in Islamic movements, confirmed that there is a conflict between "the old guard" and "the new guard" inside the Muslim Brotherhood. She revealed that this "new guard" holds quasi periodical meetings with the US administration and many European governments and that Islamic movements in the world hope that Obama manages to win the White House race because they think that this may enable them to expand dialogue with his administration and change the dominant image that they are terrorist movements.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Jpost.com staff and AP , THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 6, 2008
A Palestinian gunman was killed during an IDF operation in the central Gaza Strip, Hamas reported early Friday.
Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, an IDF soldier carrying out engineering work along the border fence was lightly-to-moderately wounded when he was shot by a Palestinian sniper.
Also in northern Gaza, Palestinian doctors said that 15 Palestinians were wounded in an IAF strike on a Hamas installation.
The IDF stated that the air strike Friday in Beit Lahiya targeted a Hamas base, but it did not immediately comment on the operation in central Gaza.
The army added that the Beit Lahiya strike came in response to Thursday's fatal mortar shell attack on the Gaza-border kibbutz, Nir Oz.
Amnon Rozenberg, 51, a father of three, was killed by the Gaza shell that hit the Nirlat paint factory at the kibbutz.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited the scene of the attack on Thursday night, saying that the military operation in Gaza "is closer than ever and it will likely precede the cease-fire."
In addition, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters in Washington Thursday that Israel was inching toward using military force against Hamas in the Gaza Strip because Egyptian cease-fire efforts there were not "ripening."
Meanwhile, IDF troops arrested four Palestinian terror suspects during West Bank operations overnight Thursday.
The suspects, who were arrested in Hebron, were transferred to security forces for questioning.
Continued (Permanent Link)
US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, whose panel has hitherto prevented the sale to Israel of the F-22 stealth fighter jet, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that he was open to removing the sales restriction to boost Israeli deterrence.
The F-22 "Raptor" has long been regarded as a tremendous potential asset in any Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, given its ability to penetrate even the most sophisticated radar and other defense systems.
Officials reportedly brought up the possibility of a repeal of the sales ban in meetings at the White House during Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's trip to Washington this week, though his aides declined to confirm the details of the conversations.
"I'm a strong supporter of Israel getting all the material and equipment they need," said Berman, a California Democrat who assumed the chairmanship after the death of Tom Lantos earlier this year. In terms of dropping the ban on F-22 sales, he said, "I certainly would look at it."
Berman, who visited Israel last month, noted that the House recently passed a bill to strengthen Israel's qualitative military edge in any US arms sales, explaining, "We're trying to lay a foundation for a tougher-minded evaluation of what assistance Israel needs."
That legislation needs to pass in the US Senate before it can be signed into law. And any effort by Berman to drop the ban on sales of the F-22 - described in the past as based on protecting the US from the transfer of technology to the wrong actors - would have to be matched in the Senate. Still, as a leading figure in the House on foreign issues, Berman would be a key player on moving such a priority forward.
Israel has been looking for further US support on a variety of defense measures - including developing advanced missile defense capabilities, acquiring smart bomb technology and expediting F-35 sales - with the Iranian nuclear threat looming.
Iran was the focus of Wednesday's talks, with Olmert saying that Bush had answered many of the questions he'd had about the US path, determination and time frame on Iran. He told reporters after meeting with Bush in the Oval Office that "every day we are making real strides towards dealing with this problem more effectively."
Iran was also on the agenda of meetings Olmert held with the US Senate leadership Thursday afternoon before his return to Israel later in the day. Also discussed were Syria and Lebanon, peace talks with the Palestinians, and how to deal with Hamas and the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's reopening of national unity talks with Hamas could change that equation.
Berman suggested that US funding for the Palestinians could be jeopardized by these talks. American lawmakers would have doubts about giving money to a government that includes a group labeled a terrorist organization by the US, particularly for training Palestinian security forces.
"It certainly undercuts our ability to do a lot of things with the Palestinians," he said. "Giving money to an authority that has Hamas in it is very different from giving money to an administration headed by [PA Prime Minister] Salaam Fayad" of Fatah.
Palestinian officials said US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had demanded clarifications about Abbas's decision to resume unconditional talks with Hamas in a conversation Thursday briefing him on Olmert's visit.
They said Abbas explained his motives to Rice and told her that the initiative was aimed at ending the crisis in the Palestinian arena.
Abbas and Rice also discussed the latest developments and the peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, PA officials said. They added that Abbas urged Rice to pressure Israel to halt settlement construction and to implement the road map peace plan.
Khaled Abu Toameh and Yaakov Katz contributed to this report.
Continued (Permanent Link)
jenna stark , THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 5, 2008
The Egyptian government has refused to release archives connected to the Jewish community to the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, prompting the society to on Wednesday ask the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to intervene.
The historical society's members consist of Jews worldwide whose families have been exiled from Egypt since the 1950s. Nearly half a million Jews originally from Egypt and their descendants live outside the country, the society's president Desire Sakkal told The Jerusalem Post by telephone from New York on Thursday.
In 1948, around 100,000 Jews lived in Egypt, but by 2007 that number had dropped to between 20 and 100.
Another organization, the World Congress of the Jews from Egypt, has been working to recover the property of Jews who were exiled in 1948.
The Historical Society of Jews from Egypt had requested ownership of or access to the books, birth certificates, "civil paper" and 120 holy books belonging to the community, Sakkal said. "It's our history, everything we own going back hundreds and hundreds of years," he said.
However, Egypt has refused to release the documents to the historical society. Sakkal said this was a consequence of the Egyptians' fear of restitution claims.
"Very clearly Egypt is trying to deny our existence. They are afraid that if we can claim that we are Egyptians, that we were born there, then our grandchildren could come there one day and claim everything that they confiscated from us," he said.
The Egyptian Embassy had no comment.
Tensions rose between Egypt and Israel on May 26 when 45 elderly Jews, most of whom were born in Egypt, were forced to cancel their four-day trip to Egypt, as reported by the Post. A media storm in Egypt made the situation too sensitive by portraying the roots tour as a call for restoration of properties.
On May 10, Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said during a parliamentary conference that he "would burn Israeli books myself if found in Egyptian libraries."
In response to Hosni's statement, the historical society sent a letter on Wednesday to the UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuuro, as a "last resort," Sakkal said.
The letter asks that the organization "take custody of this 'intangible heritage' of the Jews from Egypt by negotiating with Mr. Hosni on our behalf to photocopy our registers in Egypt and then to hold these copies under UNESCO World Heritage protection."
UNESCO has not yet received the letter and cannot comment, said the spokeswoman for the director-general, Muriel Depierrebourg.
UNESCO has never before received a request to retrieve documents for another country, said Joie Springer from the organization's information society division.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Background for this: The UK UCU has again raised a motion to boycott Israel.
Here are some related materials
The joint legal Opinion on UCU motion 25 published by Stop the Boycott
Stop the Boycott has published an addendum to the joint legal Opinion on UCU motion 25. This takes into account new text in the final UCU conference order paper that did not appear in the initial motions document.
Universities UK statement on Israeli boycott debate
Government higher education minister Bill Rammell has called on lecturers not to boycott Israeli academics
UCU: delegates vote for international solidarity
Jerusalem Post : UK union encourages Israeli academia boycott
Jewish Chronicle; Academics' motion seen as a boycott by the back door
U.K. academic union mulls boycott of Israeli academia
Letter to UCU from Anthony Julius On UCU Boycott Motion
By Anthony Julius
June 3, 2008 SPME Latest Academic News
The following letter was sent to Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU from attorney Anthony Julius representing various members of the UCU on June 3, 2008.
General Secretary UCU
25-31 Tavistock Place
United Kingdom June 2008
Dear Ms Hunt
I act for certain groups of UCU members adversely affected in one or more ways by the passing of Motion 25, in respect of which they reserve their legal rights. The purpose of this letter, however, is not to threaten legal proceedings. Such a letter, couched in more formal terms than the present one, may follow in due course. My clients' object here is to set out their concerns, in the hope that these concerns will be addressed when the NEC next meets.
On Wednesday 28 May 2008. UCU Congress passed Motion 25. Following a skewed and partial account of one aspect of the Israel - Palestinian conflict, and an affirmation that "criticism of Israel or Israeli policy are [sic] not, as such, antisemitic," it resolved upon a course of boycott initiatives.
Prior to the vote, you announced, "the union will defend their right to debate this and other issues Implementation of the motion within the law will now fall to the national executive committee." I understand that the NEC is meeting shortly for this purpose.
My clients consider Motion 25 to be both a "boycott motion" and anti-Semitic.
Motion 25 is a boycott Motion
That the motion cowers in the shadow of an (unpublished) legal opinion regarding the illegality of last year's boycott motions does not mean it is not itself a boycott motion. It is merely a craven version of a boycott motion.
The invitation to "colleagues... to consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions," the commitment to distribute material intended to promote "discussion by colleagues of the appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions," and the resolution to "investigate [Arid College] under the formal Greylisting Procedure," comprise the opening stages of a campaign of boycott. it would be dishonest to suggest otherwise.
Motion25 is anti-Semitic
Motion 25 is anti-Semitic because it is, in combination:
(i) Irrational, that is:
(a) It does not tiow from any general principle, given general application. On the contrary. It is no different in character to a motion that resolved to boycott all Jewish-owned businesses considered delinquent, but no other businesses, though similarly or more delinquent. Its promoters could not give a non-anti- Semitic answer to the question: why just those businesses?
(b) It is contrary to the equality principles that the UCU itself embraces, and which it constitutionally binds itself to promote.
(c) It is incoherent on its face. The merely "apparent complicity of most of the Israeli academy" cannot furnish the justification for any sanction by the union. What is "apparent" may not be real. in addition, the "complicity" identified by the Motion is not related to any specified vice, It is enough, it would seem, for the promoters and supporters of the Motion that Israeli academics are "apparently" complicit in some or all of the things that the Motion lists in its opening section. This should not, however, he enough for any rational or fair-minded person.
(ii) Continuous with episodes in anti-Semitisms history, that is, in
(a) Its completely false claim that attempts were made "to prevent UCU debating boycott of Israeli academic institutions," which rehearses the anti- Semitic trope that Jews endeavour to stifle free expression in pursuit of their own nefarious interests.
(b) Its stipulation that Jews ("Israeli colleagues") submit to questioning on their views as a precondition to continued collaboration with UCU members, which revives the anti-Semitic programme that what others may enjoy as of right, Jews must work for.
(c) Its conceptualising of the Israel / Palestine conflict as a melodrama (pure villain confronting pure victim), which reproduces the anti-Semitic scenario of wicked Jews preying upon defenceless and innocent gentiles.
(d) Its proposed boycott of Jews. which has been a staple of anti-Semitic programmes for at least 800 years. Indeed, the history of anti-Semitism is in substantial part the history of boycotts of Jews.
(iii) Frivolous (both intellectual/i,, and iizoralli), that is, it is
(a) Indifferent to the pain it will cause Jewish members.
(b) Indifferent to anti-Semitism, by implication treating the charge of anti-Semitism as made in bad faith.
(c) Indifferent to the anti-Semitism it will foster.
(d) Dismissive of the possibility that some "criticism" of Israel may indeed be anti-Semitic, and fails to consider whether its own proposals fall within that category.
(e) Ignorant of/indifferent to the impact of a boycott campaign on Israeli society, and/or Palestinian society and/or research projects currently being undertaken by UCU members. an society and/or research projects currently being undertaken by UCU members.
Causes of action
Of course, in the event that Motion 25 is not rescinded or otherwise treated as defunct by the NEC, litigation may well follow. The possible causes of action against the UCU and its trustees have been set out in detail in the unchallenged legal opinion obtained by Stop the Boycott (STB). and there is no need to repeat its contents here. It is, however, worth elaborating the ambit of the likely claim against the UCU for harassment under s. 3A(l) of the Race Relations Act. that is, the creating of an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and / or offensive environment for Jewish members of the union and/or violating their dignity. Such a claim would rely upon, among other matters:
(a) The conduct of the boycott debate, which (contrary to Standing Orders) was not balanced.
(b) The moderating of the on-line forum for UCU members, known as the "Activists' List," which sanctions the open and incontinent expression of anti-Semitic opinion.
(c) The penalising of anti-boycott activists, by exclusion from the Activists' List or by causing manifestly unfounded allegations of racism against them to proceed to formal inquiry.
(d) The failure to engage adequately or at all with concern regarding the union's institutional anti-Semitism expressed by Jewish union members and by representative bodies of the Anglo-Jewish community.
(e) The failure to respond adequately to the Report of the Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism.
(f) The rebuffing of Gert Weisskirchen, the OSCE's special representative on anti-Semitism.
(g) The failure to respond adequately to the steady stream of resignations by Jewish union members from the union.
Motion 25 is just the latest discreditable manifestation of the UCU's culpable indifference towards Jewish union members, and indeed, to the many Jewish and non-Jewish members who believe that unless an academic union is committed to academic freedom and the equal treatment of academics, it is nothing.
Continued (Permanent Link)
It would hardly be necessary to belabor the obvious if so may here not denying it.
The recent events in Lebanon are like a play in three acts. In the first act, the pro-Western government chooses to take steps challenging Hizbollah's independent security activity (placing cameras at the airport and planting an internal communications network). In response, on May 7, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah dispatches his fighters to take control of western Beirut and various areas in the northern and eastern parts of the country. Approximately 80 Lebanese citizens are killed in clashes that hint at Lebanon's return to civil war. For the second act, a plot twist: The sides agree to an initiative brokered by Qatar's ruler, and following several days of intensive discussions attended by Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other regional players, the parties arrive at a series of understandings that end the crisis. The region and the world breathe a sigh of relief. A civil war is averted and the political crisis in Lebanon is seemingly resolved. A new president is elected and the country ostensibly sets out on a new path. The third act has yet to be written. In other words, what actually happened and what lies ahead?
Various commentators and political figures depict the Doha agreement as a compromise between Lebanon's competing power elements. In fact, however, the agreement represents a forced division of political power and compliance with the demands of the Hizbollah-led opposition, following a demonstration of power by the organization's fighters along with determined action by its leadership. To recall: in November 2006, Shiite ministers in Lebanon's government tendered their resignations in protest over the continuing opposition by the Christian-Sunni-Druze majority to increase opposition representation to one third of all government ministers. The political crisis included a delay in electing a new president once Emile Lahoud's presidency ended in November 2007.
What then was achieved by the Doha agreement? Most important, opposition representation in the government was increased: out of 30 ministers, 11 Shiite and other ministers will be appointed (another 16 will represent the pro-Western camp and three will be appointed by the president). In addition, the sides are prohibited from using weapons in internal conflicts, the Shiite protest camp set up in the heart of Beirut in November 2006 will be dismantled, and changes were made in Lebanon's division into electoral districts. The political compromise also made possible the election of Lebanese Army Commander Michel Suleiman as president.
From a political aspect, the Doha agreement grants the Shiite-headed opposition the possibility of constituting an opposing bloc that can veto government decisions. Thus Hizbollah and its allies will be able to remove from the agenda resolutions not compatible with the interests of its sponsors, Syria and Iran. For example, there is the issue of cooperation with the International Court of Justice in trying the suspects in the murder of former prime minister Hariri (UN Resolution 1757). Since senior Syrian officials are suspected of involvement in the assassination, the Court ignites fierce opposition in Syria. Also effectively removed from the agenda are the questions of disarming Hizbollah, a future accommodation with Israel, cooperation with the US, and many other issues. The redistribution of Lebanon's electoral districts primarily serves the camp of Michel Aoun, Nasrallah's principal ally in the Christian community. In the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2009, the opposition will presumably gain increased representation.
The agreement's remaining clauses are gestures largely intended to cast it as a compromise rather than a surrender. The dismantling of the Hizbollah protest camp is a purely symbolic act; practically speaking, following the attainment of the organization's demands, the camp is no longer necessary. The agreement's decision against the use of force in internal conflicts is meaningless, because as proven by recent events in which the Lebanese army avoided intervention, there is currently no force to prevent Hizbollah from exercising its military strength in the future. Thus at the close of the play's second act, the anti-Syrian or pro-Western camp and its allies Europe and the US are returned to reality. If since the Cedar Revolution (which led to the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon in April 2005) it seemed that Lebanon was a Western style democracy in the making, recent events have underscored that at best there is a very long way to go.
What are the long term implications of the events of May 2008 and the Doha agreement? From an historical aspect, it appears we are in the process of power redistribution. The Shiites, who have endured discrimination since the founding of the country in the 1920s, are gradually gaining a larger share of authority in accordance with their demographic weight. As such, Shiite dominancy in the country is apparently only a matter of time. Therefore, in the third act, the Shiites may translate their military and political strength into a fundamental change in the nature of the Lebanese state.
From a regional aspect, recent events signify a strengthening of Iran and Syria and the weakening of the regional status of the US. For years Iran and Syria have armed Hizbollah; it appears that the investment has paid off. Their Hizbollah protégé has become the dominant force in Lebanon. All that remains is for the pro-Western camp to reach a compromise with them in an attempt to prevent its own destruction in a renewed civil war. At the same time, Iran one of the patrons of the Doha agreement has received added confirmation of the political maneuvering ability it demonstrated with the West in recent years: "determination pays." This has implications not only for the Lebanese issue, but for the Iranian nuclear issue as well.
Finally there is the Israel angle. The recent events have closed the door on the possibility of seeing Hizbollah disarmed by some sort of Lebanese force. If there were some in Israel who hoped to see this aspect of UN resolution 1701 realized, then this expectation has for the moment proven false. Hizbollah, with Syrian and Iranian backing, will continue to constitute the dominant force in the country; and following the organization's demonstration of its military capabilities in May, this is also clear to the other communities in Lebanon. The positive aspect in the recent developments is that the political deadlock has been broken, and now perhaps Lebanon may be able to function somewhat better. Still, it is not certain whether the new direction Lebanon will take is what Israel and the West had hoped for.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Israel wasted money on a PR boondoggle. Everyone is willing to be a 'Zionist" if they get paid enough, but there is never enough, is there?
Palestinian supporters got a bigger bang for their bucks with the Nakba "celebrations."
Raised voices and arguments could be heard in the Prime Minister's Office this week. It was not a turbulent meeting over talks with Syria, but over the management of celebrations for Israel's 60th anniversary. One month after the last Independence Day fireworks had died out, problematic conduct by groups involved in organizing the celebrations is threatening to cancel some of the 60 events planned to mark the anniversary.
This is the last thing that the 60th celebrations headquarters needs. Harsh public criticism of the budget allocated for the celebrations, NIS 99.6 million, inspired headquarters chairman Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila (Kadima) to publicly pledge that at least the budget would not be exceeded.
But according to a report by the Finance Ministry's accountant general, NIS 33.2 million has already been spent, and only 13 events and projects have been carried out - and there are concerns that the remaining funds will be insufficient to cover the cost of the remaining events. Which raises the question: How did the funding fall short? Problematic management, it would seem.
Tenders were not always issued for suppliers, and the terms of tenders that were issued were not always adhered to. Moreover, the calculations that formed the basis for budgeting the events were not always based on careful preparation.
At the flagship event on the eve of Independence Day, fireworks filled the skies and simultaneous multimedia shows took place at eight different sites. Two bodies were behind these shows: The Ariel Municipal Corporation, which won the tender, and Gil Teichman, who was hired by Ariel to produce the event.
The final price tag for the shows was NIS 11.5 million NIS 1.5 million more than the assigned budget.
One possible reason for this deviation is that no tender was issued for the production of this most expensive of all of the 60th anniversary events. Ariel was satisfied with a "request for information" (RFI), a preliminary process meant to assist government bodies in defining the terms of a tender. Such a process cannot by any means replace a tender.
The Israel Experience, a subsidiary of the Jewish Agency, was to have handled the largest share of the budget: It was appointed to manage 27 events with a total budget of NIS 18.3 million. It is reasonable to assume that one of the reasons for its appointment was the low management fees it charged, of 4.5%.
Ariel, in contrast, charged management fees of 7.5%, and received a budget of NIS 13.8 million for the management of three projects. Nevertheless, the accountant general's May report found that Ariel in fact managed events that cost a total of NIS 16.7 million - almost NIS 3 million more than prescribed. Another event that Ariel managed, for
instance, the "Party of All Parties," was originally budgeted at NIS 3.5 million, but ended up costing NIS 4.1 million.
In contrast, the Israel Experience, which was to have been the celebration's primary management company, has thus far been put in charge of events with a minuscule budget totaling just NIS 200,0000.
Deviations from the budget originally allocated for the events managed by Ariel are good news for the company, since its management fees are a function of each event's budget. But because Avraham-Balila has undertaken not to exceed the budget, the celebration headquarters will now have to reduce budgeting for the events that have yet to take
The Israel Experience was apparently unaware of how many events it was expected to manage - and discovered it only through TheMarker. Sources in the organization claimed it had been agreed that it would manage only five or six small events. It added that the division of events was decided by the 60th anniversary headquarters, and the Israel Experience was not a party to the decision.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Hey queers4palestine, don't hold your breath until this happens in Gaza.
A new mezuzah was affixed to the entrance to a building on the campus of the "Dov Hoz" school in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, one covered in the rainbow flag of the Gay Pride movement.
After decades as the home of the "Workers' children's school" serving the children of the Labor Party elite, and later a local high school, the building is now home to Tel Aviv's first-ever Gay and Lesbian community center.
"The image of God can be seen in every person, and therefore, this building is not only a community center, but a house of God" said Rabbi David Lazar at a ceremony to bless the affixing of the building's mezuzah.
The initiative to build the center was started five years ago by leaders of the local Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual, and Bisexual community, and its opening represents the first time the city has officially sanctioned such a project.
The center has already hosted events for a teen gay pride group, as well as one to prepare new Israel Defense Forces recruits for their enlistment.
The center is also planning on hosting ballet recitals and events for elderly members of the community.
Itai Pinkus, Tel-Aviv City Hall's advisor for the Gay, Lesbian, Transsexual, and Bisexual community, said the center will hold many events for the elderly, as these members "spent years underground, at a time when they were under risk of serious personal harm if they were to be exposed."
The building is also expected to house a child care center, albeit one that is not run by the center.
"The home will serve to reflect the plurastic spirit of Tel Aviv, and the desire to honor and respect all minorities," said Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai at the dedication ceremony.
"We see ourselves as a trailblazing society. We decided to found this institution out of the belief that it is necessary," Huldai added, saying the onus is now upon the residents of Tel Aviv and the Gay and Lesbian community to ensure that the building is a success.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Israeli emphasis on Iranian nuclear development might be misplaced. The bomb is only a means to an end, that is pursued by many other means as well.
The moment when Israel and the Palestinians Authority will have to make tough decisions is fast approaching, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Tuesday.
"We must stop the Iranian threat by all possible means," he said.
"Each and every country must understand that the long-term cost of a nuclear Iran greatly outweighs the short-term benefits of doing business with Iran."
Olmert is to meet Wednesday with U.S. President George W. Bush to discuss the Iranian nuclear program and upgrading security relations between the U.S. and Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington Tuesday, stressed the urgency of establishing a Palestinian state, saying that the increase in violence in the Middle East makes the establishment of a peaceful Palestinian state more urgent rather than less.
That remark, however, was greeted with silence - though the secretary had been warmly greeted by the conference. AIPAC has been a leading skeptic regarding the current Palestinian leadership's ability to control terrorism should a state be established.
Rice said that while the present opportunity is not perfect by any means, it is better than any other in recent years, so it must be seized. "Israelis have waited too long for the security they desire and deserve," she said, "and Palestinians have waited too long, amid daily humiliations, for the dignity of a Palestinian state."
Regarding the Iranian issue, Rice said "We would be willing to meet with them, but not while they continue to inch closer to a nuclear weapon under the cover of talk."
"Our partners in Europe and beyond need to exploit Iran's vulnerabilities more vigorously and impose greater costs on the regime - economically, financially, politically and diplomatically," she added.
Rice also said the Palestinian track should take precedence over recently renewed Israel-Syria talks, though she stressed that the U.S. appreciated the efforts Turkey is making to mediate a peace between Israel and Syria.
Rice was to have come to Israel next week. However, she has decided to cancel her trip, apparently in response to the political crisis in Israel.
Sources in Washington said Rice is concerned that the parties will not be able to reach an agreement before the end of the year, and there will be no possibility of creating continuity in the negotiations with the next American administration.
Meanwhile, in Rome, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Tuesday that Israel will cease to exist with or without Iran's involvement, while in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni branded Iran a "neighborhood bully" that must be met with firmness.
Livni told a closed-door meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the international community must take decisive action on Iran and reiterated that military action was an option.
On Monday, Ahmadinejad had said in Tehran that the "satanic power" of the U.S. faced destruction, and that Israel would soon disappear from the map - a theme he returned to yesterday.
"This will happen whether we are involved in it or not," he told a news conference at a UN food summit in Rome.
"The Iranian people are the most peace-loving nation in the world, but we believe that peace can be durable and meaningful only when it is based on justice," he added.
Livni told the Knesset committee that the international community must send a strong signal to Middle Eastern nations that are undecided on which camp to join. "The inability to build an international consensus against Iran will be interpreted in our region as weakness," an official present at the meeting quoted Livni as saying.
Referring to Iran as the "neighborhood bully," Livni said that making clear that the military option is on the table "may in the future mean it is less likely to be used."
Continued (Permanent Link)
Matthias Küntzel is a political scientist based in Hamburg, Germany. From 1984 to 1988 he was a senior advisor to the Federal Parliamentary Fraction of Germany's Green Party and is the author of Bonn and the Bomb: German Politics and the Nuclear Option (Pluto 1995). Since 2004, he has been a research associate at the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His latest book, Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11 (Telos Press, 2007), traces the impact of European fascism on the Arab and Islamic world. It was awarded the London Book Festival's annual grand prize for 'books worthy of greater attention from the international publishing community' and First Prize Gold Medal in the Religion category in the prestigious Independent Publisher Book Awards. His writings in English are available online here. The interview took place in Hamburg on May 7, 2008.
: Can I begin by asking you what have been the most important personal and intellectual influences that led you to write Jihad and Jew-Hatred?
Matthias Küntzel: Born in 1955, I was politicised in the aftermath of the '68er'-era. One of the events that particularly affected me was the Palestinian terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics in 1972. It forced me to look for an explanation how could this kind of massacre happen? As a young idealist, I wanted to believe in the good in people, which meant there could be only one possible answer: such terrorism was indeed appalling, but it had social roots, in this case in the Middle East conflict. So, as a young leftist, I took much the same attitude to Arafat and the PLO as the left I now oppose does to Hamas and Hezbollah, in the naïve belief that mass movements are intrinsically progressive, so that terrorism can only be a response to oppression. Back then I and my friends refused to take on board the reality of Auschwitz and National Socialism at either the personal or intellectual levels.
The first event which began to slightly change my perception was the Bitburg affair of 1984. The US president Ronald Reagan and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl led a ceremony in honour of German soldiers at Bitburg cemetery, including at the gravestones of SS soldiers. I was at that time a senior advisor to the German Green Party's parliamentary fraction in Bonn and was shocked by the antisemitic comments in major German papers against those Jewish organizations which vehemently criticised the event. The reaction of the German left was also revealing. On the very same day as Jews came from all over Europe to demonstrate at Bitburg against this insult, the West German left preferred to participate in an anti-American demonstration at Bonn.
In the aftermath of this experience a Jewish intellectual in America, Moishe Postone, wrote an angry 'Letter to the West German Left'. Postone had studied in Frankfurt and had many friends there. He told us that 'there are actually only two choices: an ultimate reconciliation with the German past, or a consistent break with it' and that 'the German Left that considers itself opposed to the existing order, in a sense replicates that order by being incapable of dealing with the past.' This letter, which I translated and published for the first time at the start of the 1990s, convinced me and had a strong influence on me.
Postone was, of course, right. We were completely incapable of providing an even halfway adequate response to the continuing impact of the crimes against the Jews. Here's an example from my own life: as a left-wing German you do not normally meet Jewish people. But when I was in New York City in 1983 I started to chat to a young woman on a bus. I said 'I'm from Germany'. She said 'I am Jewish'. This sentence must have struck me like a blow. The only thing I could find to say after a rather long silence was to ask her why Israel dealt so harshly with the Palestinians.
It was years before I realised what must have been taking place within me at that instant. When she said 'I am Jewish' I felt I had to defend myself. And in defending myself, my subconscious was that of an antisemite, connecting this young American woman with a kind of Jewish conspiracy, as if she was responsible for everything Israel was doing. Everything happened in my mind without reflection of course, it was spontaneous. Jewish people to whom I told this little story always agreed that this happens to them quite often, especially with German left-wingers.
The second event was the unification of Germany. This compelled us to rethink our whole political approach. Until that time we had tried to strengthen the left-wing of every social movement. But now we faced a kind of nationalist and sometimes even racist mass movement that we could not influence 'from the left', but only reject. When Germany won the European Football Championships in the same year as unification, in 1990, well, it was not a lovely night for foreign people in Hamburg. This kind of spontaneous and overloaded nationalism was something frightening.
On the one hand, this experience sparked a renewed interest in critical theory and accelerated the abandonment of collectivist ideologies, while on the other it stimulated a more intensive engagement with the German past. While the mainstream German left continued to fight mainly the United States and 'the West' we tried to say 'well, let's look at German history first and worry about the elements of continuity'. This was the beginning of a movement that would later be called 'the anti-German Left'. This term was provocative enough to spark a necessary debate. But otherwise this term is misleading. After all, the antisemites in Poland and the Czech Republic call themselves 'anti-German'. The emergence of this current, however, is the reason that today there is a more developed debate about antisemitism within the German left than within the left of other countries in Europe.
A third important watershed for me and my friends was Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book, Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, in 1996. This book, we felt, provided a big chance, after unification, to really deal with the history of the Holocaust and do what the West German left had never done, with all its talk of 'well, it was about capitalism and the ruling class', and 'the masses were not so bad'.
We dealt critically with Goldhagen but we considered his book at the same time to be a kind of treasure trove: You could open it and find a lot of most important discoveries. For example, his discussion of the German conception of 'work', which is quite different to the British conception of work as laid down in Richard Biernacki's The Fabrication of Labour of 1995. Thus, with Goldhagen's help, we began to understand the antisemitic meanings of the term 'German work' versus 'Jewish' non-work.
But the German left ignored Goldhagen's book or, even worse, denounced it. My friends and I asked why this was and so we wrote a book of our own, Goldhagen and the German Left. Here we offer two main explanations for this failure of the left. First, there is the personal and psychological connection of Germans to the Nazi perpetrators and bystanders to our own ancestors, to our fathers and grandfathers and to our mothers and Grandmas which I already mentioned. Second, German emigrants during the Forties tended to say 'well, the German people are OK and only Hitler and his clique is bad'. During those years, only a tiny minority of exiled communists and socialists such as the 'Fight for Freedom' group in the UK spoke out and told the truth: that German masses had also been infected by Nazi ideology. These German emigrants' estimation was correct. They nevertheless found themselves thrown out of the trade unions and the Social Democrat and Communist parties and denounced as 'Vansittardists'. After 1945 this tendency was forgotten. Instead, those delusionists who pretended that the German masses were always progressive went on to form the left in Germany after 1945. This 1996 book of ours was the first big break with the German left.
Then 9/11 happened. The little group which had produced Goldhagen and the German Left met that very day, by accident. At this meeting it was clear to us that this attack had an antisemitic connotation. There was the symbolism of New York as a so-called centre of Jewry and of modernity and the wave of suicide attacks in Israel during that summer. On 9/12 I began my research for the book Jihad and Jew-Hatred: Islamism, Nazism and the Roots of 9/11.
Part 1: Islamism and Nazism: discussing Jihad and Jew-Hatred
Alan Johnson: Let's talk about that book. What is its central thesis?
Matthias Küntzel: The basic argument is that Islamism is a modern movement which came into being as a reaction to the spread of modernity within parts of the Muslim world and a revolutionary movement with antisemitism as one of the central features of its ideology. During the Thirties and Forties, Islamist anti-modernism was poisoned by the Nazi antisemitic mind-set. Today it provides a kind of fascist alternative to capitalism. It is therefore a tragedy that so many on the left who are supposed to be anti-fascist show sympathy for or even approval of this kind of Islamist movement.
Alan Johnson: You have written that 'the separation from and hatred of the Jews began of course with Mohammad's activities in Medina and is a constitutive element of Islam.' But in your view modern Islamist antisemitism is radically different from what you see as the anti-Judaism of the foundational texts of Islam the Koran and Hadith. I was struck by one phrase of yours, which I'd like you to unpack for the reader: 'Mediaeval Jew-hatred considered everything Jewish to be evil. Modern antisemitism, on the other hand, deems all "evil" to be Jewish.' What do you mean?
Matthias Küntzel: In his book of 1971 The Event of the Qur'an: Islam in its Scripture, Kenneth Cragg observed that the early Muslim archetypes of the Jews were 'the most abiding and massive example of an identity discovered out of an antipathy'. Hence Islam's most important self-formulation emerged by virtue of the Jews' very resistance to Muhammad's revelation. That is why the Koran contains so many anti-Jewish diatribes. There are also a few pro-Jewish verses there. The early Meccan verses are pro-Jewish. The later Medinan verses are aggressively against Jews. The picture of the Jew in Islam, however, is different to the picture of a Jew in Christianity. The founding myth of Christianity is that the Jews were so powerful that they were able to kill God's only son. In Islam the Prophet kills the Jews rather than the Jews killing the Prophet. So in Islam Jews were denounced and downgraded and ridiculed. This was the main feature of Koranic anti-Judaism.
Modern antisemitism, by contrast, tried to give a simple explanation of the contradictions in the world. It identifies capitalism, modernism and democracy all understood as degenerate, anti-human and sacrilegious with Jewish influence. This is the very topic of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion an identification of Jewish influence with modernity. Equality, women's rights, the party system and disputes between parties all of this degeneracy is associated with the Jews, and interpreted as a Jewish conspiracy to rule the world.
In the one case you downgrade Jews: every Jew is evil. You subject them to dhimmitude and act as their masters. In the other case, if you believe that Jews are the root cause of all the wars and contradictions of modernity, then all evil is Jewish. And if all evil is Jewish then the Jews must be killed to save the world. It is in my opinion vitally important to see this difference.
Alan Johnson: You point out that in Egypt in 1925 'the Jews were an accepted and protected part of public life' with members of parliament, employed at the Royal Palace and with important positions in economics and politics'. Yet 'within a quarter of a century that was all gone'. You explain this profound caesura in the Jewish experience in the Middle East by looking at the period 1925-1945, when an intimate relationship developed between European totalitarian ideologies and movements, specifically Nazism, and a rising modern Islamism in the Middle East, in Egypt in particular, in the shape of the Muslim Brotherhood. What was the Muslim Brotherhood, why did it emerge, and what did it stand for?
Matthias Küntzel: The Muslim Brotherhood was created in 1928 and became the very first revolutionary movement of Islam rooted in the cities. It rejected the quietism of the Wahhabites, who didn't want to see any Europeans, let alone confront them. The Muslim Brotherhood shared some ideological features with the Wahhabites. Both were 'Salafists' wishing to 'return' to the ways of Muhammad and the companions. But the differences are important. The Muslim Brotherhood wanted to change the world by interpreting Jihad in a way which had been almost absent from Islamic education before their foundation: to fight a holy struggle against the West immediately.
You can't disconnect the appearance of the Muslim Brotherhood from Fascism and National Socialism, which emerged at the same time. All these movements were in some way or other connected to the crises in the aftermath of the First World War, and to the general dissatisfaction with modern times. Each of these movements opposed modernity in its own way of course, but each deployed modern means of propaganda allied to a secret apparatus and terror.
I nevertheless avoid the term 'Islamofascism' because it is not exact enough. It might have some use as an agitational slogan, but if I want to be precise I have to say their characteristics are not identical. Fascism and National Socialism were based on European developments, and were reactions to, indeed rejections of, the French Revolution. In contrast only a very thin cover of modernity existed in Egypt. The ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood was based on ancient interpretations of life consider the subjugation of women in Islamism. The Muslim Brotherhood's ideology is a modern declaration of war mixed with the archaic hallmarks of a desert religion. You won't find this type of archaic subjugation of women in European totalitarianism. And, at the same time, Islamism is not influenced by social Darwinism as Nazism was. The Islamists hate Darwin! They say Darwin was a Jew who tried to overcome the holy scriptures. That is why they are not biological racists like the Nazis. They feel no need to eradicate every drop of 'Jewish blood'.
In the book I try to differentiate between National Socialism and Islamism and between the racist type of antisemitism of the Nazis which sought the death of every Jewish baby, and the Jew-Hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Alan Johnson: How important is anti-sensualism and fear of the woman to Islamism? You have written:
At the forefront of the Brotherhood's efforts lay the struggle against all the sensual and 'materialistic' temptations of the capitalist and communist world. At the tender age of 13, the pubescent al-Banna had founded a 'Society for the Prevention of the Forbidden'  and this is in essence what the Brothers were and are a community of male zealots, whose primary concern is to prevent all the sensual and sexual sins forbidden according to their interpretation of the Koran. Their signature was most clearly apparent when they periodically reduced their local night clubs, brothels and cinemas constantly identified with Jewish influence to ashes.
These are not just historical questions. When UK terrorists were secretly recorded by MI5 discussing the bombing of the biggest nightclub in central London in 2004, the agents heard Jawad Akbar say that 'no one can even turn round and say, "Oh, they were innocent"' because the dead, in his view, would be just 'slags dancing around'. What's going on with Islamism and desire and the body, and is this a central or a peripheral question, in your view?
Matthias Küntzel: I think it's a central aspect. It's very hard to analyse Islamism without resorting to sexual psychology. I talk in my book about the inability of the Muslim Brotherhood to accept 'the Other' or 'Otherness'. And this refusal always begins with the relationship between men and women. If you do not properly subjugate your wife and women you can't be an Islamist, because in that case you would be accepting the other as an equal. And this is seen as being against the Koran and the holy scriptures.
The Charter of Hamas is most interesting when it comes to the role of women. They say women are important because they are needed to raise Jihad warriors. This is supposed to be their main function. And they add that the West wants to influence Muslim women by printing journals with nasty pictures and whispering wrong ideas. So every Muslim woman who likes modernity is framed as a traitor. The Islamists' perception of the woman their refusal to deal with otherness as something equal is at the very core of Islamism and antisemitism.
When male Hamas members murdered a young couple who two days before their marriage had dared to walk hand in hand on the shore of the Gaza Strip, they took the women's dead body and beat it frenziedly. This was the only way they could touch a woman's body with sticks and with aggression. We are talking about a kind of inner prison, and it has a great impact. Islamist males first have to suppress their own needs and desires. There is a connection between killing your own desires internally and then extending this murderous activity externally against the 'sin' or 'sinner' that constantly inflames your desire.
Bridges between early Islamism and late Nazism
Alan Johnson: In your book you show that from the 1930s to the mid 1940s there was a growth of 'personal contacts and ideological affinities between early Islamism and late Nazism'. Let's talk about two people who acted as bridges between an older, doctrinal or Koranic anti-Judaism and a modern political and Islamist antisemitism, influenced by Nazism: Haj Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, and Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. First, who was Haj Amin al-Husseini and what was his central achievement?
Matthias Küntzel: The main achievement of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was to combine the Jew-hatred of ancient Islam with modern antisemitism into a new and persuasive rhetoric. I discovered a speech he gave in 1937 with the title, 'Jewry and Islam'. Here, he intermingled modern antisemitism with the stories of very early Islam, going back and forth from the 7th and the 20th centuries, and connecting both kinds of Jew-hatred. This was something new.
When Churchill visited Jerusalem in March 1921, just before the British Mandate, he was given a petition by the then Palestinian leadership which was very antisemitic. But it was a purely European antisemitism about the alleged Jewish responsibility for the First World War, about how later Jews incited the Russian Revolution and so on. It was ridiculous and no Muslim of that time would have been able to understand any of this, because it was really a précis of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion! This was not the way to mobilise the Arab masses. It was the Mufti who realised this. He was always a special case in this regard. High ranking Muslims at this time rarely wanted to mobilise masses, but Haj Amin al-Husseini did. Indeed it was a mass mobilisation that in 1921 led to his appointment as Mufti, against other Jerusalem notables.
Here was a modern feature the mobilisation of masses to rescue your position. To this end he invented a form of Islamic antisemitism which was able to reach the illiterate masses by recruiting their religious feelings and by repeating the anti-Jewish verses from the Koran and Hadith again and again. Thus, we find for the first time in about 100 years the famous Hadith about the stones and the trees that want to kill Jews a Hadith which constitutes today a part of the Hamas Charter mentioned in the Mufti's speech of 1937.
The Mufti was the most important founder of modern Islamic antisemitism and this achievement with all its after-effects is more important than his role during the Nazi time. Amin el-Husseini is often reduced to this time. But I think that what he did before and after this period of time was much more important. Before, he created the new antisemitic rhetoric, the rhetoric the Islamists would spread. Between 1946 and 1948, he played a key role in mobilising the Arab world against Israel. Sometimes individuals can change a lot, and the Mufti was by far the best-known representative of the Muslim world at that time, among other things because of his broadcasting of pro-Nazi and antisemitic sermons into the Middle East during the war over the Berlin short wave transmitter. He pursued his passion after May 8, 1945 and stirred up a specifically antisemitic hatred against the Jews in Palestine and Israel.
Alan Johnson: Yet this was the very period when the Nazi camps were discovered, and so Jewish powerlessness was plain to see.
Matthias Küntzel: This was obvious to anyone not infected by the antisemitic virus. To understand what happened in the Middle East between 1946 and 1948, we have to enter as deeply into the Muslim Brotherhood's antisemitic mental universe as Daniel Goldhagen did into that of the German perpetrators of the Holocaust. Specialist works, such as Jeffrey Herf's great book of 2006, The Jewish Enemy, show that the Nazis, the Mufti and the Muslim Brotherhood were convinced, really convinced, that the American and British governments were controlled by Jews. For them, the Jews 'stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials', as the charter of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine (i.e. Hamas) tells us. The Holocaust, in that perception, was a counter-measure that was not radical enough. Having won the war, the 'Jews' then 'inspired the establishment of the United Nations
in order to rule the world by their intermediary' (Hamas Charter, Article 22) and partitioned Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood leader Hassan al-Banna believed that the partition proposal was a Jewish conspiracy. If you think the Jews are the root of all evil everything looks very very different.
Alan Johnson: The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna. You have compared the role of the Brotherhood in the history of Islamism to that of the Bolshevik party in communism: 'It was and remains to this day the ideological reference point and organizational core for all later Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Hamas or the group around Sidique Khan'. But what exactly is your claim about the relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazis? In what ways did the Nazis influence the Muslim Brotherhood?
Matthias Küntzel: National Socialism was neither the founder nor the puppet master of the Muslim Brotherhood but supported the burgeoning Islamist movement financially and ideologically. The Brotherhood was always a real religious movement. Its founder, Hassan al-Banna, never acknowledged Hitler to be a world leader, simply because Hitler was not a Muslim. He always felt himself superior. He was a proud religious leader while the Mufti was hardly religious at all. When he lived for four years in Berlin we don't have evidence that he prayed even once in a Mosque.
Alan Johnson: The next key figure in this process of melding an older textual anti-Judaism and a modern political radical antisemitism was Sayyid Qutb. What was his significance?
Matthias Küntzel: Sayyid Qutb personified the radicalisation of Islamism. Qutb wanted to kill every Muslim ruler who differed from his interpretation of the Koran. Qutb invented the concept of jahiliyya which means that the whole world is now at the same stage as it was before Muhammad. Qutb wrote the antisemitic tract 'Our Struggle Against the Jews' in which he considers every modernised Muslim to be an agent of the Jews. There is much more straightforward racism in Qutb's form of thought. His writing became most influential via the Saudis. His brother Muhammad Qutb went to Saudi Arabia and spread his brother's writings from Jiddah all over the world. The Saudi ruler supported Qutb's ideas against Egypt's alleged deviation.
Alan Johnson: Let me ask you about Hamas. We are encouraged by many to 'engage' with Hamas. How does your book help us understand Hamas? Is Hamas a rational actor with negotiable demands? Should we take its murderously antisemitic Charter seriously? Do they believe their own Charter?
Matthias Küntzel: Hamas are extremely rational and extremely irrational at the same time. Their means and methods of dealing with the West are quite rational. They use 'instrumental reason' as Max Horkheimer would have put it. They know how to spread their ideas. But their ideas, their mind-set, are driven by religious feelings and the perception of a religious holy war. They are the most radical enemies of the western way of living which they equate with Jewish influence. They would never accept modernity in the way we do founded on the dignity and independence of the individual human being. Islamists not only say but believe that only Allah can rule, make laws and possess truth. History shows that the strong belief in this kind of ideology is a powerful force that might effect devastating consequences.
Alan Johnson: Might we compare that kind of belief to what Goldhagen calls the 'hallucinatory thinking' that Nazism rested on, and to which the Nazis allied the instrumental reason of bureaucracy?
Matthias Küntzel: Well, I think every religious ideology is hallucinatory in its way. Neither the perception of a crucified Jesus ascending to heaven nor the idea of God who created the world within six days is something real. The key question is whether religious people give their founding texts a metaphorical or a literally meaning. There are fundamentalists in all religions. And all fundamentalisms exhibit hallucinatory thinking. But Islamism is the only fundamentalism which is connected to the concept of Holy War and thus constitutes a threat to mankind. They do not only declare but conduct a real war against their own people and against everyone who wants to enjoy the achievements of modernity.
Part 2: Responding to the critics of Jihad and Jew-Hatred
Alan Johnson: One of the most severe critics of Jihad and Jew-Hatred has been Andrew Bostom, editor of The Legacy of Jihad and author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism: From Sacred Texts to Solemn History (forthcoming). Bostom argues that '[Kuntzel's] conceptions of both jihad and Islamic Jew hatred are mere simulacra of these phenomena'. Let's take each in turn.
Bostom's first criticism: getting 'Jihad' wrong
Let me put his case and you can respond. Bostom claims your book radically underplays the roots of the institution of violent jihad in classical Islam. He writes, 'Simply put, Küntzel decided to ignore all these seamless doctrinal and historical connections between ancient Islam and modern totalitarianism, especially Nazism'. Jeffrey Goldberg, in the New York Times, also complained that you oversimplified. 'One doesn't have to be soft on Germany to believe it was organic Muslim ideas as well as Nazi ideas that led to the spread of antisemitism in the Middle East'.
For Bostom, Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood (and associated 20th century ideologues such as Sayyid Qutb) did not invent jihad war, jihad war was not a sui generis phenomenon, and jihad war was not catalysed by Nazism. Because you do think all this, in his view, you divorce the Muslim Brotherhood from 'the sacralized Islamic institution of jihad war, with its clearly demonstrable doctrine and history spanning a nearly 14 century continuum'.
To support his argument Bostom cites Ibn Khaldun's (d. 1406) summary of half a millennium of Muslim jurisprudence on the question of jihad:
In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force... The other religious groups did not have a universal mission, and the holy war was not a religious duty for them, save only for purposes of defence... Islam is under an obligation to gain power over other nations.
According to Bostom 'Islam's foundational texts sanctioned such acts of jihad martyrdom, and held them in the highest esteem'. Indeed, '[u]nequivocal, celebratory invocations for acts of martyrdom during jihad are found in the Koran, and even more explicitly, in the canonical hadith'. For Bostom, Hassan al-Banna and Qutb 'merely reiterate what classical Islamic jurists had formulated, and Islamic dynasties (major and minor alike) had practiced continually for over a millennium'
How do you respond to this criticism from Bostom?
Matthias Küntzel: Many questions! First of all: Jeffrey Goldberg's remark is in accordance with my book: It was not in the first place the creation of Zionism or Israel but the mixture of 'organic Muslim ideas' with 'Nazi ideas that lead to the spread of antisemitism in the Middle East'. In addition, I never claimed or created the impression that the Muslim Brothers did invent jihad war and that jihad war was catalysed by Nazism. Also, my book does not divorce the Brotherhood from the sacralized institution of early Islam but lays emphasis on the fact that, as a Salafist movement, the Brotherhood leads on from these Islamic origins. Finally, I did not decide to 'ignore all these seamless doctrinal and historical connections between ancient Islam and
Nazism'. Up to now, Bostom is the first and only historian who claims that such 'seamless connections' exist and I'll be interested to see what evidence he has for them.
Bostom bases his argument solely on Islamic doctrine without paying sufficient heed to the social reality of Islamic societies, i.e. how these societies tried to live with this doctrine. He starts off from a '14 century continuum' and asserts that the Muslim Brotherhood's fundamentalism is the normal state of affairs, its aim being to 'merely reiterate' what Islamic dynasties 'had practiced continually for over a millennium.' In doing so, he totally ignores the hundred years of rapprochement between modernity and Islam that lasted from the 1830s to the 1930s.
In Turkey, however, or Indonesia or Iran, or even Egypt broad masses simply neglected Islamic doctrine and lived with their religion in the way Christians live with theirs it is a part of their life, maybe very important, but they were (and mostly are) not fundamentalists. We must differentiate between different perceptions of the doctrines. If you don't, if you see the whole Islamic world in a monolithic way, you are not able to grasp the historical moment when this kind of Salafism got its roots in modern times as a reaction to the modernisation of society. And if we are not accurate in our analysis we can't overcome our enemy. Analysis in its literal translation from the Greek means the dissolution of a complex problem into its individual parts, not the lumping together of things which are different. Bostom, however, does not want to make a distinction between Islamism and Islam.
Alan Johnson: So Bostom's analytical error, in your view, can have big political consequences? There is a political pay-off in getting the story right because it directs us to work effectively against the influence of the Islamists and avoid inadvertently strengthening them?
Matthias Küntzel: We just have to know against whom we are fighting. Muslims, especially female Muslims are the first victims of Islamism which is a movement that can't be beaten by the non-Muslim world alone. In my most recent book, in German, I have an appendix with only Muslim voices against Islamic antisemitism. I want to strengthen those parts of the Muslim world which struggle against Islamism, risking their lives in the process. So we have to know about the origins and shape of the danger that confronts them and us, and it's not the whole of Islam. It is Islamism.
The sources of contemporary Islamic antisemitism
Alan Johnson: Bostom's second main criticism of your book concerns the sources of contemporary antisemitism. While you stress the innovations of the mid-20th century Islamist movements under Nazi influences, Bostom stresses the ancient theology and the historical practice of antisemitism. Again, he cites many passages from the Koran and Hadith.
Regarding dhimmitude the diminished status of Christians and Jews in Muslim lands in the period before the collapse of the caliphate after World War One Bostom alleges that you present that social institution as a form of benevolent paternal generosity towards Christians and Jews. Bostom cites the findings of the book his mentor, Bat Ye'or, that claims to show that dhimmitude was 'a system of oppression, sanctioned by contempt and justified by the principle of inequality between Muslims and dhimmis'. How do you respond to that criticism?
Matthias Küntzel: According to my book, dhimmis suffered 'severe humiliation' and were forced to behave with 'appropriate humility.' More important, however, is the fact that my study concentrates on 20th century developments in the Middle East. It analyses 'the reason, why, between 1925 and 1945, a shift in direction was effected in Egypt from a rather neutral or pro-Jewish mood to a rabidly anti-Jewish one, a shift which changed the whole Arab world and affects it to this day.' Bostom in all his papers about my book devotes not a single syllable to this. He regrettably did not to take up the challenge my book presents to his generalizing approach.
Alan Johnson: I think it's important to know that Jews were members of parliament in Egypt in the 1920s and to rivet our attention to what happened between that time and the period twenty years later when all this had gone. It's important to ask what happened. And politically it is very important to ask what was new in the situation.
Matthias Küntzel: Indeed. Between 1830 and 1930 there was a connection between modernity and Islam. This period produced an Egyptian constitution which abolished the Sharia law as far as public law was concerned. It produced Ataturk's reforms and the secularization of a country which used to be the centre of Islam. It is necessary to study this period of time and draw lessons about how Islam can be adapted as a religion to modernity.
Alan Johnson: When I interviewed Saad Eddin Ibrahim, this was his point also. He talked of a conspiracy of silence about that period. The theocrats don't want to talk about it because it involved the tentative emergence of a secular polity in some places. The autocrats don't want to talk about it because there were competing parties and elections. He argues there is no reason for us to join in that conspiracy of silence.
Matthias Küntzel: That's exactly what I feel.
Part 3: A new eliminationist antisemitism?
Alan Johnson: Are we witnessing the rise of a new eliminationist or genocidal antisemitism in the world? You have noted the not untypical sermon given by Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid, in a September 2002 at a mosque in Al-Damam, Saudi Arabia:
The Jews are the helpers of Satan. The Jews are the cause of the misery of the human race, together with the infidels and the other polytheists. Satan leads them to Hell and to a miserable fate.
When eight Jewish students were murdered in a religious school in Jerusalem in March 2008, many laughed and celebrated in the streets. Even leading religious authorities within the Muslim world espouse quite extraordinary views about Jews. Sheikh Tantawi, the current Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University (the closest thing to a Muslim 'Pope') wrote a long book rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred, Banu Isra'il fi al-Koran wa al-Sunna [Jews in the Koran and the Traditions]. He argued:
[The] Koran describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people's wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness
only a minority of the Jews keep their word
.[A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not. (Koran 3:113)
How widespread is that kind of antisemitic obsession? Is this new demonological antisemitism confined to organised Islamist groups or is becoming a popular 'common-sense'?
Matthias Küntzel: This antisemitic obsession is not at all confined to organised Islamist groups. In fact let me say this: antisemitism has never been as widespread in history as it is today. During the Nazi time eliminationist antisemitism was not widespread across the world. But think about the reaction to 9/11. It was a watershed, the way 9/11 was interpreted across many parts of the world. Take the myth of the 4,000 Jews who didn't enter the World Trade Centre on that day. What does that myth, and its astonishing popularity, tell us? If you believe it, it means, first, that Israel can call upon thousands of Jews all over the world; second, that those Jews will obey the secret services of Israel like disciplined soldiers; and third, that they are happy to see their non-Jewish colleagues killed. That they knew but didn't warn their colleagues. Now, this is the kind of rumour that used to create pogroms. It's a very aggressive lie, painting the Jews as the enemies of mankind, and it was invented by Hezbollah TV in the days after 9/11. But people willing to believe it were found all over the world. People want simple explanations for things they can't explain, and 9/11 was such a thing.
But we have to distinguish between the Tantawi-Hamas antisemitism (which I call Islamic antisemitism because it is not only the Islamists who adhere to it but 'normal' leading figures of Islam, such as Tantawi as well), and hatred of Israel within the intellectual left in western countries. These two expressions of hate are not the same.
Alan Johnson: What is the relationship between the two, in your opinion?
Matthias Küntzel: Well, that's a very good question. European thinking has been influenced by antisemitic patterns for centuries in this regard, no criticism of Jews or Israel is a priori immune from antisemitic stereotypes. Contemporary anti-Zionism, in my opinion, is a kind of Trojan horse that brings a new version of antisemitic sentiment into the quarters of society which normally hate discrimination and racism. It's a Trojan horse because it seems to be aimed only against a powerful state. It's also a Trojan Horse because, in an intellectual environment that internalized the PLO version of Middle East history decades ago, people are no longer able to recognize its aggressive potential. So it's very effective.
The international left did not deal in an accurate way with the Holocaust, otherwise they would be much more alarmed by the antisemitic ideology of movements like Hamas. Thus, in defending Hamas directly or indirectly, the left plays the role of useful idiot for the Islamists. Today, hostilities against Israel result in the form of a pincer movement. On one side we have antisemites such as Ahmadinejad or Hamas who draw their 'knowledge' about Jews from the Koran and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. On the other side we have non-Jewish and Jewish fellow travellers of antisemitism in progressive Western movements and governments who take up and proliferate, albeit in muted form, the Islamists' attempts to delegitimize Israel.
Part 4: Taking Ahmadinejad seriously
Alan Johnson: Let's turn to Iran. In a stream of articles and lectures presented around the world, you have pleaded with us to 'take the Iranian leader's Weltanschauung [worldview] seriously as a specific outlook with its own principles and history'. You have invited us to 'look inside Ahmadinejad's fantasy world and seek to grasp the immanent logic behind his attacks, even if this involves insights which may send a shiver down the spine'. You see the regime's ideology a 'mish-mash of Jew-hatred, Holocaust denial and Shiite death-cult messianism' as the real context for its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Let's begin with that aspect that most observers find frankly bizarre Holocaust denial. What is the meaning and import of what you call 'this new form of Holocaust denial: creative, modern, unrestrained, and extremely self-assertive'?
Matthias Küntzel: I should say first that I am convinced that they believe what they say. It's not just propaganda for their public. They are also trying to influence UN debates, suggesting that Israel should not be allowed to 'spread the lie of the Holocaust' and so on. Iran is pushing its own 'truth' within institutions. And this is little understood.
Alan Johnson: Is this what you mean when you say that when it comes to Iran we must understand we are dealing with 'a phantasmagoric parallel universe in which the reality principle is constantly ignored
the laws of reason have been excluded and all mental energy is harnessed for the cause of antisemitism'?
Matthias Küntzel: Exactly. Anyone who wishes to engage in a serious study of this centre of Islamism must first attempt to grasp the internal logic of this 'parallel universe'. Its main component is a particular form of Islamist epistemology. Islamists think reason is a sin. You have to believe in what God says, and reason endangers this naïve belief in God. To give you an example: No Islamist would challenge the statement in the Koran that Allah changed Jews into apes and pigs, because everything the Koran says is true. The only permissible debate which took place in the theoretical monthly magazine of Hamas, Falastin Al-Muslima, is about whether the Jews who became animals are able to have offspring or not, since the Koran provides no answer to this question. Truth is not a matter of trial and error but a matter of belief.
Even on the occasion of his speech at Columbia University Ahmadinejad claimed that only the true believer is gifted by Allah with truth. Nothing else counts. Therefore the Western style of historiography is rejected as well. Therefore Islamists are able to say that Moses was 'the first Muslim', that the Holocaust is a myth and that the reappearance of the Twelfth Imam is a reality.
Secondly, there is the emotional infrastructure of antisemitism. Holocaust denial brings antisemitism to its extreme point. Holocaust deniers implicitly claim that for 60 years the Jews have lied to the world. They claim that the Jews have every academic and media post sewn up to sustain the lie in order to browbeat the world. Every denial of the Holocaust thus tacitly contains an appeal to repeat it.
Alan Johnson: Western observers find it hard to judge the significance of the Iranian regime's beliefs concerning the return of the 'Twelfth Imam' and the connection of this belief to either Holocaust denial or the pursuit of the nuclear bomb. Should we take this idea seriously?
Matthias Küntzel: We must take it extremely seriously. Different religions have different ideas about the Messiah. It's normally a form of metaphorical thinking about utopia a better world in a future to come. But in the case of the special brand of Shiite Islam that Ahmadinejad and the group around Khatami represent, it's quite another story. They have transferred the abstract idea of a Messiah into a political programme for today. That's why it matters.
If the Mayor of Rome knocked down a quarter of the city to build a giant boulevard to prepare for the reappearance of Jesus Christ as a Messiah, I think the Italian people would remove him, maybe to the Asylum! But this is exactly what happens in Tehran. It was part of the last election campaign. Ahmadinejad won with the promise of building a boulevard for the return of the Twelfth Imam. Look, it's the first time in human history that the special threat of destruction connected to the nuclear bomb is connected to this kind of religious apocalyptic thinking. This is extremely dangerous.
Alan Johnson: You recently compared the reaction to the November 2007 American National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran [which concluded Iran probably stopped the active pursuit of nuclear weapons in 2004] to 'the euphoria inspired by Chamberlain's words on Sept. 30, 1938, as he
announced that he had achieved 'peace in our time.' Why did you make that comparison?
Matthias Küntzel: People see what they want to see, and read what they want to read. Chamberlain didn't want to notice the connection between the Sudeten German question and the overall ideology of Nazism. He wanted to separate these things. The NIE also wants to separate things. It takes the view that if Iran has declared uranium enrichment to be peaceful then we should believe the regime. (There is a footnote to this effect in the report). They disconnect the question of the nuclear programme from the whole ideology. But if you look at the constitution of Iran one part says 'every means' must be used to defend and to spread Islam. There is nothing which can't be used for military means, according to the constitution of the 'Islamic Republic'. Once you disconnect the technique and tools of the nuclear programme from the ideology, you are committing the same mistake as Chamberlain did.
I read British journals from the 1930s. When Chamberlain came back, people were so happy! More important: the British reporting of Nazi Germany changed instantly. Before Munich, the press was critical of the internal workings of the Nazi regime, of how it dealt with Jews and so on. After the huge sight of relief of Munich, they changed their reporting. Things were now seen in a brighter light. The realism faded. A rosier view emerged. Here we have one main consequence of appeasement. In order to defend the decision you have taken, you'll start to see the enemy in a new light. After the NIE, in Germany at least, Iran vanished from the headlines. When Ahmadinejad called Israel a 'dirty microbe' without doubt the language of Julius Streicher there was no mention in any German newspaper.
Alan Johnson: Speaking of Germany, we have both been attending a conference in Berlin titled 'Business as Usual? The Iranian Regime, the holy war against Israel and the West and the German Reaction'. You are critical of Germany's stance towards sanctions against Iran, accusing it of 'departing from the Western block in order to make common cause with China and Russia against the core Western powers'. Is Germany simply subordinating all to the short-term pursuit of economic self-interest or is it more than that?
Matthias Küntzel: You also have to see the position of Chancellor Angela Merkel as expressed in her recent acclaimed speech to the Knesset. At this time we can't know how serious she was when she said that we must stop Iran getting the nuclear bomb and we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust. There may be a split within the coalition, with the Foreign Ministry much more in favour of appeasement, while the Chancellor is, in her words at least, more realistic about Iran. We need to study these contradictions. I tried to do this in my recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
Those who view a nuclear bomb in Iran as not such a terrible thing talk about a 'strategic partnership' between Germany and Iran. They talk in big geo-strategic terms about this connection. They want a special alliance with Iran in order to enhance Germany's position and to confront American influences in this region. This kind of connection is always, at some level, directed against the West.
Our German history of being an enlightened society is not a very long one as you know. It started only in 1949. Ideological traditions on the other hand are strong. I do not exclude the possibility that talk of a new strategic partnership with Iran involves the idea of distancing Germany from the West.
Alan Johnson: Where do the German Social Democrats stand on this?
Matthias Küntzel: Today, there is no well-known Social Democrat who would dare to reiterate what Chancellor Merkel told the Knesset last month namely that if 'we Europeans' were to shrink from tougher sanctions in order to stop the Iranian nuclear programme, 'we would have neither understood our historical responsibilities nor developed an awareness of the challenges of our time.' This party destroyed the floodgates of resentment in 2002 when Chancellor Schröder based his election campaign on blatant anti-Americanism. German Social Democrats still consider the USA to be the main threat, not Tehran.
Part 5: Israel at 60
Alan Johnson: At 60 Israel finds itself insecure and demonised. It faces a fascistic Hezbollah on the Northern border, rearming and preparing a new assault. A fascistic Hamas unleashes rockets and eliminationist rhetoric from Gaza. Syria, it seems, came close to obtaining a nuclear capability with North Korea's help. Iran's leaders openly proclaim their intent to 'wipe Israel off the map' and create 'a world without Zionism', and is enriching uranium at great speed. Meanwhile world opinion is hostile to Israel, which is routinely compared to apartheid South Africa. Demands spread for a boycott of Israeli goods, or Israeli intellectuals.
You argue that 'the character of the Middle East conflict has fundamentally changed in the last 20 years' as 'a war of Weltanschauung and religion has emerged from a minor conflict between Palestinians and Zionists, which later escalated into a larger conflict between the Israelis and the Arabs'. Can you elaborate?
Matthias Küntzel: At the beginning, this conflict was a territorial dispute perhaps until the middle of the thirties. Then it started to become a conflict between the Arab world and the Zionists, and then with Israel. During the 1980s, after the Iranian revolution, it again changed its profile and scope. The basic framework is now Islamism against the West. Israel is not the root but just the front line in this war. The Islamists tell us they want to destroy liberal democracies and free societies the world over. They are outspoken about this but the Western world prefers not to listen to what they say.
Even in his letter to President Bush, President Ahmadinejad boasted that he 'can already hear the sounds of the shattering and fall of the ideology and thoughts of the liberal democratic systems.' I'm neither Jewish nor even religious. Thus I have no love affair with Israel. For me it's nevertheless quite obvious that Israel defends my freedom against Islamism and that giving support to Israel is in my self-interest.
Alan Johnson: In the UK the debate has become very confused. The lecturer's trade union, the UCU, passed a resolution at its national conference that proclaimed 'criticism of Israel cannot be construed as antisemitic'. When does legitimate criticism of Israel stop and antisemitism begin?
Matthias Küntzel: First of all this UCU resolution is unbelievably ridiculous. It is a historical fact that since the year 1921 there has been an antisemitic anti-Zionism in existence. Alfred Rosenberg wrote his first book against Zionism in that year, and it is completely antisemitic. Second, antisemitism has been a part of Europe for two millennia. And antisemitism is like a chameleon that changes its complexion over time as its environment changes. In such a deeply antisemitic world as Europe, it's just common sense to look for the ways in which the establishment of a Jewish state would reshape antisemitic thinking. It's logical to think that it would. In fact, it would be a kind of miracle if this were not the case!
The EU adopted a reasonable definition of antisemitism that includes the phenomenon of antisemitic anti-Zionism. It says that criticism of Israel becomes antisemitic 1) when Israeli policy is equated with Nazi practices or when symbols and images of long-established antisemitism are assigned to Israel; 2) When Israel's right to existence is denied; 3) When a double standard applies and demands are made of Israel that would never be expected or demanded of another democratic state.
For instance, it is normal for a state to defend itself against rocket attacks from outside. You must give Israel the same right. Otherwise you are dealing with Israel in the same way antisemites deal with Jews. The way the attacks on Sderot are dealt with reminds me of how attacks on European Jews were dealt with in the Middle Ages. At that time also, it was very normal that Jews got punished and beaten, but if the Jew got up the courage to defend himself it was a big scandal. Today, the big headlines only come when Israel tries to defend itself against the rockets. The rockets themselves are treated as, well, normal.
Alan Johnson: Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Jeffrey Goldberg, after praising your book, complained that you had oversimplified the Israeli-Arab conflict, noting that 'Jews today have actual power in the Middle East, and Israel is not innocent of excess and cruelty.' Do you recognise any validity in Goldberg's criticism? How much responsibility does Israel bear for the failure thus far to achieve the two-state solution?
Matthias Küntzel: If you go back through the history you find that there was more than one opportunity to have a two-state solution. In 1937 first, when the Zionists and the moderate Muslims in Palestine supported it. The Mufti destroyed that opening. In 1947 there was a second big chance. Again, the obstacle was the ideology that said there must be no Jewish state in any corner of the Middle East. That blocked the two-state solution proposed by the UN which the Jews and many Arab leaders (though only privately) had accepted. And again in 2000 at Camp David the two-state solution was available but Arafat rejected it without making any kind of counter-proposal.
I expect that any Israeli government would be happy if a moderate Palestinian leadership really and seriously went for the two-state solution. Or not? The fact is that this has never happened yet. It's vital to see that the leadership of the Palestinians, until Abbas, has been dominated by the Mufti of Jerusalem and the successor he chose, Arafat. Today, with Hamas' propaganda outpourings, antisemitism in the Palestinian territories is worse than ever. It might be more realistic therefore to retreat to a 'three-state solution', with Israel within clearly defined and internationally accepted borders, Gaza as an Egyptian province and the West Bank as a part of Jordan. In such a case, the Mufti and his legacy would for the time being have robbed the Palestinians of their statehood.
Alan Johnson: What are you working on now?
Matthias Küntzel: I am preparing a book about the special relationship between Germany and Iran, with an emphasis on the time since the Islamist revolution.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Our "peace partner" is hiding something.
Syria has told fellow Arab countries that it will not permit an International Atomic Energy Agency probe to extend beyond a site bombed by Israel, despite agency interest in three other suspect locations, diplomats told The Associated Press Tuesday.
The agency's main focus on its planned June 22-24 visit to Syria is a building in the country's remote eastern desert that was destroyed in September by Israeli jets.
IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei announced Monday that Syria had agreed to an agency check of U.S. assertions that the target was a plutonium-producing reactor tèlp was near completion, and thus at the stage where it could generate the fissile material for nuclear arms.
But the agency is also interested in following up on information that Syria may have three other undeclared atomic facilities. Diplomats and a nuclear expert told the AP Monday that at least one of the sites may have equipment that can reprocess nuclear material into the fissile core of warheads.
One of the diplomats said the IAEA was following up on a U.S. intelligence-based tip but emphasized the agency had not seen the intelligence itself. The nuclear expert said two of the military sites were operational and one was under construction. He and the diplomats asked for anonymity because their information was confidential.
On Tuesday, a senior diplomat familiar with the planned IAEA Syria trip told the AP that expectations were that Syria would gradually warm to the idea of giving agency experts access to those three sites, as well as the bombed Al Kibar facility.
But two other diplomats briefed on the Syrian stance said outside a meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board that a senior official from Damascus ruled that out during a meeting with chief delegates of the 10 Arab nations accredited to the IAEA.
The diplomats said Syrian atomic energy chief Ibrahim Othman told the Arab delegates that his country could not open secret military sites to outside perusal as long as Syria and Israel remained technically in a state of war.
After fighting three wars and clashing in Lebanon, Israel and Syria are bitter enemies whose last round of peace talks collapsed eight years ago. Both countries recently confirmed that they are holding peace talks through Turkish mediators.
As well, they said, Othman expressed fear that too much openness on Syria's part would encourage the U.S. to push for years of relentless international scrutiny of the kind Iran's nuclear program is now undergoing, despite Tehran's assertions its aims are purely peaceful.
After-hours calls to the Syrian Mission to the IAEA in Vienna for comment went unanswered.
Neither the U.S. nor Israel told the IAEA about the bombed site until late April, about a year after they obtained what they considered decisive intelligence: dozens of photographs from a handheld camera of the inside and outside of the compound.
Since then, Syria had not reacted to repeated agency requests for a visit to check out the allegations. Satellite photos appear to show construction crews using the interval to erect another structure over the site - a move that heightened suspicions of a possible cover-up.
Pressure on Syria to respond positively mounted with the approach of the latest meeting of the IAEA board that opened Monday.
In announcing the Syrian visit to the board, ElBaradei repeated his criticism of Israel and the U.S., taking Washington to task for waiting so long to brief him on its suspicions, and Jerusalem for its airstrike.
Diplomats have recently suggested that the Americans may have waited even longer, telling the AP that Washington may have had indications of Syrian plans more than five years ago. They demanded anonymity because their information was confidential.
The invitation signaled the start of an international fact check of U.S. and Israeli assertions that Damascus had tried to build a plutonium-producing facility under the radar of the international community.
Syrian President Bashar Assad denied once again that his country has a secret nuclear program in interviews appearing Tuesday in United Arab Emirates newspapers.
Israel has never officially confirmed September's air strike on the Al Kibar site, though it has not disputed the foreign reports, or U.S. government comments, on the incident.
Continued (Permanent Link)
What I find wrong with this essay is that lecturing Europe is not going to change it. Everyone understands the problematic relationship of the EU to Israel, but that is their opinion. Everyone may have their opinions of why it is so, but simply saying "you are wrong" will not help, and hoping for resurgence of reactionary tendencies will not help either. Those who think differently have to understand how to change it, and how to live with it until it is changed. Simply telling them they are wrong is not going to cut the ice.
ASSESSING EUROPE'S RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL involves a barrage of questions. What do we mean by "Europe?" Are we talking about the European Union? Are we talking about the member states? If so, which ones? Do we judge the relationship with Israel by what is said in Madrid, to take one example, or Warsaw, to take another?
Which part of the "relationship" are we talking about? The blossoming trade and technology relationship? The increasingly close diplomatic relationship which has brought Israel to a position in which some have argued that the Jewish state is only one or two steps from EU membership? Or are we talking about Europe's anti-Israeli stance at the United Nations or the widespread, though not uniform, hostility in the media? Where do we position that complex set of ideas and attitudes which some have dubbed the "new anti-Semitism?"
All these questions make it clear that Europe's relationship - perhaps relationships might be a more appropriate term - with Israel is multi-layered. The answers, to a great extent, hinge upon the question that is being asked. Yet we also know that in raising these questions, we are acknowledging that, especially when compared with the US, the Europe-Israel relationship is a much more troubled one. What interests us here is why that is, what has changed in Europe and Israel over time to make these problems worse, and where are we headed in the future.
I will concentrate on four key areas: some preliminary observations about the challenges inherent in building a congenial relationship at a time of profound internal changes on both sides; an outline of the way in which Europe sought to reconstruct itself following the end of World War II, and why this sometimes conflicts with Israeli realities; some pointers to Europe's historic difficulties in recognizing and confronting totalitarianism, particularly militant Islam; and a few final thoughts about the shifting currents of political ideology in Europe especially as that relates to the old, socialist Left and the established, paleoconservative Right.
Making Sense of Transition
It is something of a truism in international relations that when two parties to a relationship are in a state of transition, it is hard to establish a stable equilibrium. Each side presents the other with a moving target. Misunderstanding and mistrust are frequently the order of the day. Hence, before we discuss the content of the relationship, it is helpful to recognize that, even at the formal level, the terms of engagement have not been propitious.
Israel, of course, is a new state. The Zionist movement built a country largely from scratch, absorbing millions of immigrants, teaching them the Hebrew language, finding them homes and jobs. Critically, the enterprise of building a state remains incomplete. Israel's borders are not defined and even its capital city is disputed. Relations with neighbors range from the dire to the awkwardly manageable.
...Europe's relationship - perhaps relationships might be a more appropriate term - with Israel is multi-layered
Europe also has been undergoing a transition which in important respects continues. The European project, which began in the aftermath of a war in which 45 million Europeans died, has changed the continent fundamentally. The process has moved through easily identifiable stages: the post-war reconstruction itself; the "unification" of Europe following the end of the Cold War; and ongoing efforts to stabilise and integrate the countries of the western Balkans and other post-communist states. This has involved vast changes to the way in which European countries interact, both with each other and with the outside world.
By appreciating the content of these parallel transitions, the true nature of the problems between Israel and Europe becomes clearer.
Consider the following statement from the preamble to the European Coal and Steel Community - the forerunner institution to the European Union, which was formed six years later - signed in April 1951. The leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg declared that they were:
"Resolved to substitute for historic rivalries a fusion of their essential interests; to establish, by creating an economic community, the foundation of a broad and independent community among peoples long divided by bloody conflicts; and to lay the bases of institutions capable of giving direction to their future common destiny..." 
Treaty preambles are important because they showcase the spirit in which the legal principles elaborated later on are formed. As the first great statement about the European project, these words are replete with meaning. The two key elements - a backward looking revulsion at the horrors of the past, and a determination to recreate Europe through a common destiny - set the ideological tone for decades to come. Its central elements, developed and refined throughout the post-war era, speak to a deep distrust of the manifestation of political destiny through the nation state and a yearning for a peaceful future in which conflicts are resolved without bloodshed.
It is remarkable just how pacific European political culture has become over the years. A recent survey by the German Marshall Fund of the United States asked respondents in several European countries and the US whether they thought that, under some circumstances, it was appropriate to go to war to secure a just outcome . One would surely expect that most Europeans could imagine at least some circumstances in which they could agree with such a proposition; apparently not. A mere 31 percent of Germans, 33 percent of the French, 35 percent of Italians and 25 percent of Spanish were in agreement. Only Britain, with 69 percent, provided a convincingly large section of the population who could agree. (The figure for the United States was 82 percent.)
In Robert Kagan's famous formulation of America as a masculine, warlike Mars and Europe as a feminine, gentler Venus, the European project has become "a self-contained world of laws and rules and transnational negotiation and cooperation. It is entering a post-historical paradise of peace and relative prosperity, the realization of Immanuel Kant's 'perpetual peace.'" 
It is remarkable just how pacific European political culture has become over the years
Alongside the tendency towards supranationalism, and a diminishing appetite for the use of military force, there is a third factor: the shift to secularism. This has happened both at the public level (with some exceptions in countries such as Poland and Ireland) and, even more emphatically, at the elite level. The leaders of the European Union have expressly rejected the continent's Christian heritage in the key documents underpinning the European project .
It should be clear then that, taken together these three pillars of the new Europe make for a bad fit with Israeli realities.
The European temperament is post-national, while Israel is a state built upon Jewish national self-determination. Where Europe has largely cast aside its religious heritage, a nationalist ideology, which has secular and religious as well as socialist and liberal streams, underpins the identity of the State of Israel. European realities are largely peaceful and the continent's institutions project these realities onto their dealings with the outside world. By contrast, Israel deals with the daily impact of terrorism, particularly with the constant streaming of rockets from Gaza, as well as the existential threat of an implacably hostile neighbourhood, epitomized by Iran.
There are other aspects of Europe's political and ideological development in the post-war era that may have also had a powerful impact, especially in terms of the continent's ability to empathize with Israel's conflict with militant Islam.
Many commentators have pointed to Europe's seeming inability to understand the ideological roots of the Islamist challenge, and its preference, instead, for locating the surge of Islamism in the colonial grievances nursed by the Muslim world. This "self-hating" narrative sees Islamist militancy as something which is understandable and to some extent justified. The British writer and parliamentarian Michael Gove has placed this core inability to see the true nature of the Islamist threat in historical perspective:
"The belief that Islamist violence can be explained by these factors is as flawed as the belief in the 1930s that Nazism could be understood as simply a response to the perceived injustices of the Versailles settlement, which could be assuaged by reuniting Sudeten Germans with their Bavarian cousins. That response, the classic appeasers' temptation, betrays profound misunderstanding of the totalitarian mindset. The Nazis were not capable of being satisfied by the reasonable setting of border disputes. They were motivated by a totalitarian dream of a thousand-year Reich, purged of Jewish and Bolshevik influences, in which Aryan manhood could flourish. Their territorial ambitions in the 1930s were not ends in themselves but mechanisms for testing the mettle of their opponents. Hitler's success in realizing his interim territorial goals established, to his own satisfaction, the flabbiness of the West, emboldened him to go further and created a sense of forward momentum that silenced internal opposition. Jihadists today are not conducting a series of national liberation struggles which, if each were resolved, would lead to peace on earth and good will to all infidels. They are prosecuting a total war in the service of a pitiless ideology."
New Left and Old Right
If Europe is unable to come to terms with an Islamist challenge, even when it is mounted against Europe itself, it is hardly a surprise that there are problems empathizing with Israel. But where does this problem come from? What is it about the way in which European political culture is configured that creates so many problems when it comes to understanding Islamism in general and the threat it poses to Israel in particular?
Many commentators have pointed to Europe's seeming inability to understand the ideological roots of the Islamist challenge
Some answers to those questions have already been offered in relation to the post-war reconstruction - the downplaying of nationalism and the adoption of pacifistic approaches to conflict. These aspects may be said to have engendered a sense of self-doubt in the European psyche. But there are also deeper ideological currents which have made their presence felt through a wrong-headed introspection which has had profound implications for the relationship with Israel.
For many analysts, the great turning point in European relations with Israel came with the 1967 war, the outcome of which left Israel as an occupying power. According to this version of events, sympathy shifted to the Palestinians, particularly on the left, due to a supposedly natural tendency to support underdogs against oppressors.
It is an unconvincing explanation. For one thing, the left may style itself as the champion of the oppressed, but no objective observer could possibly concur; while it is true that some social democrats were in the forefront of opposition to totalitarianism, the "New Left" which emerged during the 1960s largely turned to a blind eye to human rights violations by those regimes it deemed to be "progressive". The greatest human rights violators of the 20th century (with the exception only of the Nazis) were communist governments in China and the Soviet Union. Together with other tyrannies in countries such as Ethiopia, North Korea and Cambodia, they combined to produce a death toll in the high tens of millions. The European left, with few significant exceptions, was hardly at the forefront of the campaign to oppose this despotism, and that is putting it kindly. The idea, therefore, that support for the Palestinians from the European left should be seen in terms of a particular instance of a general predisposition to back the oppressed against their oppressors does not stand up to a moment's scrutiny.
A better explanation is to be found in an understanding of the way leftist ideology itself was reinvented in response to its own internal failings. During the latter half of the 1960s, it was becoming painfully clear to the extreme left that traditional Marxist explanations of historical development were evaporating before their very eyes. The European (let alone American) proletariat was becoming richer rather than poorer; it was more, not less, committed to liberal democratic capitalism. A new vehicle for revolutionary change had to be discovered.
...the 'New Left' which emerged during the 1960s largely turned to a blind eye to human rights violations by those regimes it deemed to be 'progressive'
Third World "liberation" movements were the obvious place to go. Since the western proletariat would not function as a meaningful mass movement against capitalism, resistance movements in the Third World, such as the PLO, would take their place. And if ideological changes in Europe (and to some extent in America) at that time helped turn the terms of debate against Israel, events two decades later would accentuate the trend even further.
With the western proletariat having long been written off as a lost cause, the complete collapse of Soviet communism (along with most of its satellites), as well as China's embrace of market economics, narrowed the range of potential opponents to global capitalism even further. Indeed, by the early 1990s the only serious challenge being mounted against western hegemony would come from a militant Islamist ideology for which the Palestinian struggle against Israel was a powerful energizing factor. It is therefore eminently arguable that the European far left, quickly joined by more mainstream elements, took up the cause against Israel because there was nowhere else to go. In other words, a collapsing ideological edifice, rather than a universalist concern with human rights, was the trigger.
In our own time, although increasingly few influential people in modern Europe still adhere to Marxist or neo-Marxist dogma, there are vast numbers of people in politics and in the media for whom such dogma was an important part of their past. While they may have long thrown away the Old-Left text books, it is perhaps understandable that some are possessed of a yearning for a kind of validation that not everything they once believed is worthless. The case against Israel serves that purpose like no other.
Traditionalist hostility to Israel may in part be motivated by a residual antisemitism of the 'I wouldn't want Jews in my club' variety
For reasons that may at some level be related, Europe's ancien, traditionalist right also functions as a bulwark against the Jewish state, though with less influence than its leftist rival. The traditionalists have largely lost out in right-wing politics to centrist, neo-liberal and neo-conservative ideological currents, all of which are usually sympathetic to Israel. Nevertheless, it retains a presence in some EU foreign ministries and in religious circles such as the Church of England, which recently debated divesting from companies with connections to Israel.
Traditionalist hostility to Israel may in part be motivated by a residual antisemitism of the "I wouldn't want Jews in my club" variety. But it is also linked to a rejection of those forces - America generally and Israel in the Middle East in particular - that are seen to have upset the kind of old world certainties which are constitutive of the traditionalists sense of nostalgia. The quasi-feudalistic, traditionalist character of much of the Arab world resonates with old right values in a way that "upstart" Israel never could.
There is certainly a sense in which anti-Israelism unites people and ideological viewpoints which feel that they have lost out in the modern world. This may yet include the supranationalists of the EU and their deeply held belief that nationalism is an anachronism. For all across the old continent, the evidence in recent years has been pointing to a revival rather than a diminishing of national (and nationalist) loyalties. From Kosovo and Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia to the ongoing friction between Dutch and French speakers in Belgium to the continuing tensions over the degree of Scottish or Basque home rule, it is clear that national sentiment is far from dead in Europe. This does not mean that the European "project" is finished. But it may mean that the supranationalist assumptions of the most committed integrationists in the European Union are going to be increasingly challenged.
This could create a third ideological constituency, filled with resentment and anger that deeply held beliefs have been disproved or cast aside by history. As the battle rages, this may to some extent spill over into the debate about Israel creating a new space for enemies but also a new space for friends as well. As Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, once put it, "the struggle for Europe's soul is still an open one". And so it is. Europe is a work in progress. It remains to be seen how Israel will fare when one or other of the continent's various potential futures finally comes out on top.
 Preamble to the treaty establishing the European Coal and Steel Community. http://www.ena.lu/
 Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power. Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. Page 3.
 In both the failed "constitution" and the Lisbon Treaty which succeeded it, references to the primacy of Europe's Christian heritage were refused a place against much recrimination from Poland and Spain.
 Michael Gove, Celsius 7/7: How the West's policy of appeasement has provoked yet more fundamentalist terror - and what has to be done now. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006. Pages 11-12.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Americans support Israel because Israel is like America in many ways. This has always been common sense about United States policy since 1948, but it has been obscured by a lot of rhetoric.
One of the most enduring myths about American politics, a helpfully all-encompassing theory that purports to explain a bedrock feature of US foreign policy - and laced with just the faintest hint of the world's oldest hatred - is that of the all-powerful Jewish lobby.
To outsiders, the spectacle of politicians lining up to pay homage to a lobby group that promotes the interests of one small country in the Middle East is proof positive of the disproportionate power wielded by Jews in American life.
Why else would presidential contenders rush every year to attend the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Why else would they go to great lengths to ensure that they say nothing there that does not get the committee's approval?
The Jewish vote, after all, is pretty insignificant. Less than 3per cent of the population is Jewish - about the same number as Muslims. In New York and Florida the proportion is larger, but still in single figures. The Jewish population's direct political influence is probably further diminished by its tendencies to vote for Democratic candidates. In this, as in many other respects, Jews' voting behaviour is formed much more by their socio-economic conditions than any religious or foreign policy concerns.
If Jews wield little direct electoral clout, the reason for the power of the Israel lobby, say its critics, must be that it uses the financial and political muscle of American Jews to exercise a stranglehold on foreign policy debate. It requires politicians to commit America to uncritical support for Israel, irrespective of other US interests in the region.
There is a lot wrong with this idea. In a country as diverse as America, candidates are constantly trying to ensure that they are in the good graces of people of almost all faiths and traditions. Last week, John McCain was forced to disavow his support from an evangelical preacher who described Catholicism as a "godless theology of hate".
But there is a bigger reason to object to the familiar characterisation of the Jewish lobby. AIPAC is undoubtedly one of the most effective lobbying organisations in Washington. But it succeeds because very large numbers of Americans share its aims, not because it somehow strongarms politicians into supporting it. Candidates want AIPAC's approval because they know that being seen as pro-Israel is central to their foreign policy credentials.
In opinion polls Americans express overwhelming support for Israel. They see it in kindred terms - a thriving democracy forged in an inhospitable climate. For Barack Obama in particular, dispelling doubts about his pro-Israel credentials is essential to winning the votes of most Americans.
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June 3rd, 2008
IDF SPOKESPERSON'S ANNOUNCEMENT
Implementation of Plan to Ease Restrictions in Judea and Samaria- Update and Summary
In accordance with political echelon directives, the IDF has formulated an extensive plan to ease restrictions for Palestinians in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. The plan will significantly improve Palestinian lives in the area.
The plan was created following a series of meetings between regional IDF commanders, Palestinian security officials and other Palestinian Authority senior officials.
The IDF and the Civil Administration are constantly operating to enable different relief measures to the Palestinian population whilst guaranteeing the security of the citizens of Israel.
The Plan includes:
Economy and movement:
· The number of Palestinian workers allowed into Israel will increase by 40%; 5,000 Palestinian workers will be permitted to stay overnight in Israel; 500 permits will be issued for senior Palestinian businessmen.
· Four central checkpoints in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley were already removed for Palestinian movement, including: Rimonim checkpoint, that allows free passage between Ramallah and the Jordan Valley; the checkpoint at Asira Ash-Shamaliya, north of Nablus, that allows passage between Nablus and northern Samaria; Bet-Ha'Arave between Jericho and the Dead Sea; and the checkpoint at Sheep Junction that allows passage between Hebron and adjacent southern villages.
· During the month of May approximately 70 temporary and permanent checkpoints were removed in addition to 130 security officials and governors that received permits alleviating travel restrictions. The number of trucks transferring merchandise and goods from Nablus to Efraim Gate was doubled. In addition, 150 agricultural vehicles were permitted to travel from northern Samaria to the Jordan Valley and the validity of NGO workers permits was doubled.
Improvement of Infrastructure:
· The authorized plan includes: two intersections built in Hebron, and the upgrade of five checkpoints in Judea and Samaria, at the total price of 30 millions shekels. In addition, it was decided that industrial zones will be established in Jericho, Jenin and Tarqumiya, and a hospital will be built in northern Samaria. Additionally, the authorization of 14 plans will allow the legal settling of thousands of Palestinians.
Reinforcement of Palestinian Security Mechanism:
· 20 Palestinian police stations in Judea and Samaria will be established; training for Palestinian security forces in Jordan was authorized. Seven police stations have been opened this far; three in Tulkarm, two in Ramallah, one in Qalqiliya and one in Nablus.
Financial Conference in Bethlehem:
· Between May 21st and 23rd, a financial conference took place in Bethlehem, aimed at collecting funds for developing the Palestinian economy. The State of Israel prepared for the conference through coordination between the IDF, the Civil Administration and various government offices, to guarantee smooth passage of visitors to the conference. As part of the preparations, international crossings were open for additional hours and checkpoints were manned by representatives meant to assure the smooth running of the conference.
· The conference contributed to Palestinian tourism, produced profits of 20 million shekels and led to the signing of contracts and investments estimated at 1.4 billion dollars. Palestinian officials publicly expressed their contentment with Israeli assistance that contributed to the success of the conference.
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis
Continued (Permanent Link)
PM Olmert on Jerusalem Day: Glory of Jerusalem is in heralding peace
The glory of Jerusalem is in the heralding of peace; in the heralding of justice, morality and the hope that ensued and shaped the values of the enlightened world.
(Excerpts from PM Olmert's Jerusalem Day speech at Ammunition Hill)
Today, 41 years since the Six Day War, it is time, after a great delay, to finally close the chapters of war and write a new book for Jerusalem, with its title taken from the prophecy of Isaiah, which was heard in this city 2,700 years ago and which still resonates: "How pleasant are the footsteps of the herald upon the mountains announcing peace, heralding good tidings
However, the realization of this prophecy is currently blocked by forces of darkness. Sons of darkness, full of twisted faith, radicalism and blind in the fanaticism of those who knowingly choose the path of terror and blood in order to impose their dark existence on all of us. While we try to create a horizon of peace, hope and light, the sons of darkness are occupied with schemes of indiscriminate killing. While we turn to the other side with our hand outstretched to shake hands, they squeeze the trigger.
The firing of Kassam missiles towards the Gaza Envelope communities and the city of Sderot is intolerable and unforgivable. The sons of darkness will not be exonerated of this.
I say to the residents of Sderot and the Gaza Envelope: my heart and thoughts are with you. You pay the ongoing price which effects your way of life, primarily that of your children. The hour of decision is approaching, after which you too will have the longed-for quiet. The threat towards you will also be removed, one way or another.
I said in the past that I prefer the path of dialogue, and indeed the Government I lead is attempting to reach a truce in this manner, but as long as all the measured steps we take do not lead to the hoped-for calm, we will be forced to turn to the sword. We will brandish it in a heavy, sharp and painful manner.
In the hopes of avoiding this turning to the sword, we will all remember that the glory of Jerusalem, like our glory as a people, is not in wars. The glory of Jerusalem is in the heralding of peace, "nation shall not lift sword against nation"; in the heralding of justice, morality and the hope that ensued and shaped the values of the enlightened world.
Jerusalem has known many wars, too many - as have we - but its hoped-for eternal destiny remains "the whole city", the city of peace. This great challenge is still before us.
I believe there is no contradiction between the Israeli people's total allegiance to Jerusalem and its unity and our ambition to create peace within it. Jerusalem is a city of many peoples. We respect all believers, preserve their holy places and are wholly committed to freedom of religion, religious worship and conscience for all residents, visitors and lovers of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people, the axis of identity, faith and history of our people for generations. Three times a day for thousands of years, believing Jews turn their faces towards Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. The power of the emotions, and the expectation of Jerusalem which throbs in the hearts of Jews in the Diaspora - the passion of their yearning, the depth of their love and the sanctity of their prayers - they are unequaled...
Forty-one years ago, in a war that was forced upon us, Jerusalem was liberated and united. Nearly 3,000 years after David and Solomon sanctified it as the capital of Israel and the city of the Temple, and nearly 1,900 years after it fell and was torn from us during the destruction of the Second Temple, Jerusalem - with Israel's holy places contained within it - returned to the bosom of the Jewish people, who yearned and dreamed and prayed to it in endless longing. It was returned and cannot be undone.
The eternal Jewish love for and commitment to Jerusalem, which are deeper and stronger than any other, stood behind the decisions of the Israeli Government and Knesset to unify the city 41 years ago, with the support of the entire nation. They ensure Israeli sovereignty in historic and sacred Jerusalem forever.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Forgive me for suspecting this story was improved over the years, but it is a good story.... What is true - someone put an Israeli flag up on the temple mount, and it was quickly ordered to be removed.
In Israel's darkest moment, outnumbered and surrounded by enemies, an old woman sees what no one else can see.
The Six Day War had ended. The generals assembled the commanders and foot soldiers for a customary review and analysis of the battle. After the military questions had been asked, and the investigative committee was about to disperse, a commanding officer pointed to one of the soldiers. "Wait a minute. I have a question for you. Yes, you, the soldier who put up the flag on the Temple Mount."
The soldier nodded.
"Where did you get an Israeli flag, and why did you put it up?"
The soldier spread out his hands and smiled, a gesture that indicated that here was more than just a one sentence response. He told the following story:
The night before the Old City was liberated, a contingent of soldiers fighting near the Old City took cover in a shelter in a Jerusalem neighborhood. Hordes of children, mothers, old men and women packed inside the bunker alongside the soldiers. People looked frightened and bereft. The government had imposed a news black-out so that the Arab countries wouldn't be able to figure out their positions. And the news -- originating from Jordan, Egypt and Syria -- was enough to induce hysteria: calls from Saudi King Faisal for the total elimination of Israel, calls from every Arab country to push the fledgling country into the sea.
Things looked so bad, Israelis famously converted public parks into mass graves, in preparation for the expected casualties. (Israel's Chief of Staff, Yitzchak Rabin, had even suffered a nervous breakdown.)
As the soldier sat there in the bunker, hopeless and uncertain, he saw an old woman slowly make her way over to him. "Excuse me," she said, standing at his side. She held a satchel in her arms.
He lifted his eyes. "Yes, Doda. Tell me, what is it?"
"Tomorrow you'll go to the Old City and you'll go to the Kotel."
He shook his head at the absurdity. He said, "No, we won't." There were no army plans to liberate the Old City. First, they were fighting just to hold their positions. Also, overtaking the Old City would entail hand-to-hand combat which was greatly feared: Many people would die. Moreover, any bombardment of the Old City might demolish even more of the holy sites than had already been destroyed by the Jordanians. He tried to explain all of this.
The old woman looked at him, steady-eyed. "No, you will go," she said, not as if she were trying to convince him, but as if relaying simple facts.
He shrugged. An old woman's delusions. He wasn't going to argue with her.
Before he turned away, she said, "I have a favor to ask you." She reached into her satchel and took out an Israeli flag. From the way she touched it, it was clear the flag had some personal meaning for her. Had she made it? Perhaps it had been draped over a loved one's grave? But what was she now saying? "When you go, please take this flag, and when you get to the Temple Mount, I want you to hang it up there." She held out the flag.
The soldier repeated, "We're not going into the Old City."
"You're going," she said. Again, she held out her arm.
A thought struck him. "I can't take it," he told her. "It's against army regulations."
"It'll be all right. Just take it."
"I'll get in trouble. You're only allowed to carry a few specified items."
Please," she said hoarsely. "Do me this favor."
He shrugged again. Why was he arguing with this old woman? Let him take the flag, let him make an old woman feel good. He could always get rid of it later.
The next day, the Israeli army, contrary to everyone's expectations, took the Old City. Sure enough, the soldier's unit ended up at the Temple Mount. As he and the other soldiers came close to the Western Wall, he suddenly remembered the flag and the old woman's words. Yes, he would do it, he would! He enlisted two buddies, and together they draped the flag over the grating on the upper left most side of the Kotel, and there they hoisted and hung the Israel flag.
The commanding officer conducting the investigation said to the soldier, "And what were you thinking when you put up that flag?"
The soldier said, "I was thinking that this was the answer to 2,000 years of Jewish suffering."
And so ends the story of the soldier, our hero.
But there's an unsung hero, too. What about the old woman who supplied the flag? One wishes the investigating officers had tracked her down. What did she have in mind as she entered a shelter with an Israeli flag in her satchel? And who was she, anyway? The only identifying feature is that she was old and carried a bag. But her advanced age already tells us plenty: that she knew something about Jewish history, probably having personally lived through it
World War I, Arab attacks, the Holocaust, the War of Independence, 1956. What hadn't she seen?
There, in Israel's darkest moment, outnumbered and surrounded by enemies, terrified that the next morning there will be no Israel, the old woman sees what no one else can see, what no one else is capable of conceiving. She insists on her vision, she practically browbeats the soldier into carrying out her plan. We'll never know how she knew, only that, like many Jewish women before her -- the Matriarchs, the midwives in Egypt, the righteous women in the desert -- she just knew. There are two kinds of prophecy. One that predicts the future, and one that makes the future.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Sometimes headlines tell more than they mean. Headline:
"Yasser Arafat Commemoration Massacre"
"You are cordially invited to the annual Yasser Arafat Commemoration Massacre, held in honor of the father of all massacres. Formal dress not required. Kaffiyeh and fatigues are acceptable dress. Bring an AK-47 rifle, RPGs, grenades and explosives. RSVP."
How fitting - to hold a massacre every year in honor of Yasser Arafat! When we read the substance, it gets even better:
Seven people were killed in clashes with Hamas-affiliated police during a rally by Fatah members to commemorate Arafat's death .
At a press conference in Gaza City, the spokesperson of the de facto government, Tahir An-Nunu, read a report from the committee set up to investigate the incident. According to the report, the blame lies with both Hamas' police officers and Fatah members, specifically the leaders who delivered speeches during the commemoration rally.
That's pretty cut and dried. I mean, anyone who gives a speech has to be guilty of murder, right? And this reason shows why it is such an apt memorial for Arafat:
The investigation committee added that based on police reports, there were large numbers of Fatah-affiliated gunmen on the tops of buildings close to the rally. There were also large numbers of booby-trapped pens as well as other kinds of explosives.
What could be a more appropriate way to immortalize the man who championed "armed struggle" and legitimization of gangs of armed thugs?
Continued (Permanent Link)
Considering the former record of the Israeli economy, this is really amazing news....
Even the powerful euro has had a hard time competing with what has become probably the strongest currency in the world since the beginning of 2008: the Israeli shekel.
Since the beginning of 2008 the shekel has made some serious gains against nearly all the major world currencies. The shekel has gained 15% against the dollar, slightly more against the British pound and the Canadian dollar, as well as 8% versus the Swedish kroner and 24% against the South African rand.
Even the solid euro has had a hard time competing with the shekel, and has fallen from NIS 5.74 at the beginning of April by 12% to NIS 5.00 - its lowest rate in five years. Since the start of the year, the shekel has strengthened against the euro by 9%.
A week ago the president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Triche, praised the euro to the Wall Street Journal, saying the European currency would provide price stability in the medium-term.
Even compared to the currencies of countries rich in natural resources and raw materials, such as Australia and Canada, it has done well.
One opinion is that the shekel will continue to gain in the next few months against the dollar and euro, at least until the November elections.
The real question is, which elections - those in America or maybe those here in Israel?
Continued (Permanent Link)
Some 50,000 people marched up Fifth Avenue on Sunday in the annual Salute to Israel Parade celebrating 60 years of independence.
But one group of New Yorkers, according to the New York Times, did not show up: Israeli expats.
The organizers of the parade made special efforts to reach out to Israelis living in New York and to Jewish immigrants from Russia, the paper said on Sunday, to no avail.
Israelis who have left the country are much more critical of their homeland, it explained, unlike American Jews who have a more positive image of the country.
Also, despite the fine weather, there were fewer people marching in comparison to previous years.
However, those who weren't underrepresented were Israeli officials, local politicians and public figures. Among the marchers were Minister Ruhama Avraham Balila, Vice Premier Haim Ramon and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, alongside New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Governor David Patterson, and New Jersey Governor John Corzine. Hundreds of Jewish school students, and several bands and orchestras also marched, including the IDF Orchestra who came to the city especially for the event.
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This is from Irene Lancaster. You will like it, but I wish Irene would avoid literal URLs (I converted them) :
Tonight is the start of Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day).
Yesterday, in honour of this day, we listened to a humdinger of a sermon by Rabbi YY Rubinstein, one of the most sought-after rabbis in the world:
After giving his opinion on the recent decision taken at Manchester University to boycott Israeli academics (yet again), Rabbi YY related his experience at a recent meeting of university chaplains from all over the country, including some imams. This meeting took place at Church House in Manchester. The subject was how to deal with anti-semitism on campus, although it was billed somewhat differently. The meeting had been arranged jointly by the Council of Christians and Jews and the Christian-Muslim Forum.
According to Rabbi YY, people were awfully nice and friendly and he wondered whether to change the address he had already prepared. But he decided against this option, and spoke to his fellow Christian and Muslim chaplains as follows:
'...The New Anti Semitism is in reality the old anti Semitism. When I walk in the street or Campus and someone shouts "Jew" or "Palestine" at me, they have not asked me whether or not I am an Israeli or a Zionist, I am in fact neither, they simply see a Jew and one Jew is guilty of the crimes or perceived crimes of all the Jews
In medieval Europe I killed Jesus. In the New Anti Semitism I am guilty of every alleged crime of Israel, although I have never oppressed a Palestinian or a Muslim in my life
and that is Anti Semitism.
But let me here be frank. Since the founding of the State in 1948 it has created untold suffering. It has been responsible for a massive transfer of population and a huge refugee problem. It was carved out of an existing State and was set up specifically to be the home of one religious group. It is Nuclear armed and has been the cause of several wars with its neighbours, any one of which could have escalated and dragged the world into a third world war. It's politicians and government are generally believed to be corrupt
But personally I wish Pakistan and it's people well.'
After the general intake of breath at this .... (call it what you will), Rabbi YY went on to say:
Now if you thought I was taking about Israel, that s because you suffer from Anti Semitism. To single out one person for criticism and disapproval while ignoring the exact same faults in others in bigotry and prejudice. Against Jews it has historically been called Anti Semitism and that is exactly what it is today.
Rabbi YY went on to talk about George Orwell's remarkable 1945 essay: Anti-Semitism in Britain:
"George Orwell in an essay on Anti Semitism wrote the following
'I defy any modern intellectual to look closely and honestly into his own mind without coming upon nationalistic loyalties and hatreds of one kind or another. It is the fact that he can feel the emotional tug of such things, and yet see them dispassionately for what they are, that gives him his status as an intellectual. It will be seen, therefore, that the starting point for any investigation of anti-Semitism should not be "Why does this obviously irrational belief appeal to other people?" but "Why does anti-Semitism appeal TO ME? What is there about it that I feel to be true?" If one asks this question one at least discovers one's own rationationalisations, and it may be possible to find out what lies beneath them. Anti-Semitism should be investigated ... and I will not say by anti-Semites, but at any rate by people who know that they are not immune to that kind of emotion."'
Meanwhile this was my own contribution to how well Jews, Christians and Muslims (not to mention Bahais and Druze) get on in Haifa, Israel. It is published in the Council of Christians and Jews' journal 'Common Ground', which I'm delighted to see is now available on line. Just scroll down to the article entitled Melting Pot:
Haifa University was the focus of the earlier attempt by the universities' union to boycott Israel.
Continued here: The British universities' boycott of Israel and thinking outside the box
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In their advice [pdf] to the Stop the Boycott campaign on the legal status of the UCU boycott motion (subsequently adopted by the UCU conference on May 28, 2008), Michael Beloff QC and Pushpinder Saini QC of Blackstone Chambers, London, refer to the provisions of the Race Relations Amendment Act 2003 against the creation of a hostile environment. This section of the Act defines harassment as follows:
HarassmentThe principle that the Act formulates is uncontroversial across a broad spectrum of opinion within the anti-racist consensus. People have the right to live and work in an environment in which they are not subjected to racial abuse, where such behaviour consists in expressing hostility based on race, national origin, or ethnic background (and, it should be added, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, although these are not enumerated in the Act). But while the principle is clear and commendable, its application raises serious problems of interpretation. Specifically, when is an action an instance of racist harassment, as opposed to a legitimate, if offensive, exercise of free speech?
3A. - (1) A person subjects another to harassment in any circumstances relevant for the purposes of any provision referred to in section 1(1B) where, on grounds of race or ethnic or national origins, he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of
(a) violating that other person's dignity, or
(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him.
(2) Conduct shall be regarded as having the effect specified in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) only if, having regard to all the circumstances, including in particular the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to construct non-defeasible criteria for making this distinction in entirely general terms. There seems to be no alternative to considering particular cases on their merits in order to develop paradigms of each kind, as the basis for distinguishing classes of actions which can reasonably be construed as generating a hostile environment from those which cannot. For purposes of concreteness, let's situate the discussion in the context of university life.
Assume that a lecturer in social psychology gives a talk in which he/she purports to show that general human intelligence is largely determined by heritable racial or gender properties. This view is offensive, and it has been shown to be unsupported by serious genetic evidence. However, it is very doubtful that we can use the notion of a hostile environment here to prevent the lecturer from presenting his/her arguments, such as they are. The reasonable response is a robust critique of the empirical mistakes and errors in reasoning that infect his/her claims. By contrast, if someone presents a paper describing the members of an entire racial or ethnic group as inferior, criminal, deviant, etc., then there are good grounds for seeing this as racial abuse.
What about the boycott of Israeli academics? If an individual endorses the proposal for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, then he/she expresses a view which is misguided and, to many of us, deeply unpleasant. This does not suffice to place it in the category of harassment. However, if someone denies access to academic forums to Israelis simply because they live and work in Israel, or have Israeli citizenship, then they are not only generating a hostile environment. They are engaging in racist (in the extended sense of nationality-based) discrimination.
It is worth recalling a relevant incident in this context. In 2002 Mona Baker, then a lecturer in translation studies at UMIST, dismissed two Israelis from editorial boards of journals which she owns and publishes, because of her objections to Israeli Government policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. This was an act of blatant discrimination.
On December 16 the Guardian published a letter by five former presidents of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain (LAGB) objecting to UMIST's investigation into Baker's actions and defending her right to 'engage in political' action outside the University as an issue for [her] 'own individual judgment'. A colleague, Jonathan Ginzburg, and I published a reply the following day in which we pointed out that we are British-Israeli linguists teaching at a UK university. We asked if the authors of the letter would also endorse the right of boycott supporters to exclude us from academic activities in Britain. We received no reply to this question from the people who wrote the letter, or from our other colleagues who supported the boycott.
Shortly after this exchange another Israeli linguist teaching in the UK approached the serving president of the LAGB and asked that the Association officially distance itself from the original Guardian letter. This request was refused, and the president would not respond to further correspondence on the issue. As a result of these and related events, I and a number of other Israeli linguists in Britain experienced a deep break with the LAGB and much of the field in Britain that it represents. We were particularly struck by the fact that, while many of our colleagues privately expressed opposition or indifference to the boycott campaign, virtually none of them took a public stand against the fact that five former presidents of the LAGB spoke in their name, defending Mona Baker's right to discriminate against Israeli linguists.
This would seem to be a clear case of a hostile environment. While the letter defending Mona Baker's right to dismiss Israelis from her editorial boards is obviously protected as free speech, its effect was to offer legitimation to an act of discrimination from some of the most senior people in the field, who had occupied leadership positions in its official professional association. The fact that the then president of the LAGB rejected an appeal to issue a statement indicating that the letter did not express the Association's policy permitted the authors' claim to 'speak for a large body of opinion' in the field of linguistics to stand unopposed. The relative silence of the membership gave this assertion additional credibility. What began as an expression of opinion by a group of senior linguists quickly became an ugly exercise in embarrassed silence and collaboration that alienated those of us on the receiving end from active involvement with large parts of our own field.
The real damage caused by events of this kind is their corrosive impact on the normal course of academic life. If many of our colleagues are prepared to accept a boycott of Israeli academics living in Israel and they are not willing to rule out exclusion of Israeli academics working in the UK, then how can we trust decisions on research grants, promotion, journal articles, etc? How can we interact freely with colleagues who have publicly endorsed the principle that acts of discrimination against Israeli academics are a matter for a person's 'own individual judgment'?
Continued: UCU Boycott
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Meet the new ambassador to the US from Bahrain, Huda Nunu. The appointment is somewhat remarkable not so much because she is a woman, but because... she is a Jew.
It is a nice gesture, PR stunt or not. Even better would be appointment of a Muslim male ambassador to Israel
MANAMA (AFP) Bahrain's anticipated appointment of a Jewish woman as ambassador to the United States -- the first for an Arab country -- is not a public relations stunt, a senior official said on Saturday.
"This is not a public relations move," the official told AFP, referring to the expected naming soon of Huda Nunu as the Gulf kingdom's ambassador to Washington.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said King Hamad informed US officials during a visit to Washington in March of Bahrain's intention to name Nunu.
The Jewish population amounts to no more than 37 among a total of around 530,000 people.
"This move is not propaganda. It reflects a climate of tolerance towards minorities in Bahrain," which is ruled by a Sunni dynasty and has a disgruntled Shiite majority.
Nunu will be the third Bahraini woman to be appointed as an ambassador. Sheikha Haya al-Khalifa was the country's ambassador to France, while Shiite Bibi Alawi was appointed a few months ago as envoy to China.
Until she assumes her new position, Nunu will continue serving in the appointed Shura (consultative) Council -- the upper chamber of parliament. In 2006, she replaced her brother Ibrahim, the first Jewish member of the council.
Bahrain is the only Arab Gulf country to have a Jewish community. Their numbers are believed to have been higher at the turn of the 20th century, but dwindled following the creation of Israel in 1948.
"The number of Jews increased from around 50 people in 1905 to 500 in the 1940s ... This was a golden period for Bahraini Jews," said Ali al-Jalawi, a Bahraini writer who authored a book on the Jewish minority.
Nunu's grandfather, Ibrahim Nunu, represented the Jewish community in Bahrain's municipal council formed by the British authorities in 1919. The council had representatives of all religious and ethnic communities that were present in the then British protectorate.
The first wave of Jewish migration from Bahrain came after the creation of Israel following reactionary attacks on houses of some Jews and their synagogue in Manama, Jalawi told AFP.
Another batch left Bahrain after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
The only synagogue in Bahrain, which is located in the Old Quarter of Manama and had been deserted since 1948, has recently been renovated, he said.
"Nunu's appointment stresses the seriousness of Bahrain's reform policies ... It shows that Bahrain does not differentiate between men and women in public offices and does not discriminate against citizens on the bases of their beliefs," the official said.
Nunu heads a human rights watchdog in Bahrain, where political parties remain banned, although political associations operate as de facto parties.
Her forthcoming office assumes extra importance as Bahrain is a key US ally in the region, and is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. It also has a free trade agreement with Washington.
© 2008 Agence France-Presse
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Same old, same old...
Following are excerpts from an interview with Saleh Riqab, Hamas deputy minister of religious endowment, which aired on Al-Aqsa TV on May 14, 2008.
Saleh Riqab: The goal of the Zionist movement is to establish a state in Palestine, which would become a base for ruling the entire world. Its other goals are to destroy the religions it opposes, particularly Islam, to corrupt values and morality, to spread permissiveness and sex, and to generate moral decline. They have come up with many means to achieve this, such as inventing philosophical theories that destroy religion and morality. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim founded the theory of the formation of religion, which attributes it to reason which means that religion did not originate from God. This is known as the theory of "collective thought." Jean-Paul Sartre, founder of existentialism, which is based on atheism, was a famous French Jew. The psychologist Freud, who interpreted the infant's relations with his mother as sexual, said, when he was given an award: I have never renounced my Judaism.
There are also theories that were invented by non-Jews, but they disseminate them, knowing that they are scientifically false, such as the theory of Darwin. Darwin was not Jewish, but they exploited his theory. Even though new Darwinist theories have appeared, they spread the original theory, because the concept of "survival of the fittest" serves their colonialist needs.
Interviewer: That's what the theory says.
Saleh Riqab: Yes. It serves the goals of global Jewry. In addition, they established destructive movements to fight religion and morality, to corrupt the leaders throughout the world, and to break down social relations among nations. This was led by global Freemasonry, which was founded by three prominent Jews, the first of whom was Herod. This is a long well-known story the role of the Jews in creating the Masonic movement. The Freemason movement used various methods to bring the political, philosophical, and literary leaders worldwide to their knees. I remember the names of Arab leaders some are dead and others are still alive who joined the Masonic movement. They were brought down. There were even Palestinians among them. By the say, I'd like to say something... I don't want to mention names. The viewers will know what I mean. There is a book called Les Fous de la Paix, which was written by two Jewish journalists. I have a copy. It was translated into Arabic, and I've read it. It mentions that one of the architects of the Oslo Accords was meeting with the Jewish negotiator at an hotel in Britain. According to the book, in an adjacent room, the son of the Palestinian negotiator was with the daughter of the Jews, and they locked the door. That's when the Palestinian negotiator was brought down.
We see this clearly in the U.S. elections. Both Democrats and Republicans compete to please the state of the Jews. That's why when a Democrat comes to occupied Palestine, he puts on a religious skullcap, goes to the Western Wall, bangs his head against the wall, and says: "Your philosophy and the need to please you is now inside my head." They all compete with one another, but the Jews maintain a balance, and they always prefer the Christian Zionists. If a Democrat comes to power, like [Bill] Clinton who served them well in Oslo and elsewhere, and almost served them in the second Camp David, but then, he made statements [they didn't like] what did Zionism do? It sent him the Jewish Monica, with whom Clinton had sex in the American White House. Clinton left [the White House], but there are thousands of pages documenting his sexual depravity, because he had sex in the White House. I read a report that Clinton used to call Arab leaders and talk to them, while she was having sex with him.
Interviewer: My God!
Saleh Riqab: These things are documented, but the Arabs don't read them.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which are a product of the 1897 Basel Congress, discuss how the Jews should seize control of the world. In Europe, and especially in the U.S., there was a quick Jewish takeover of the major mass media, because in the West, the mass media shapes their mentality and their views. They don't read very much, they just listen.
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Continued (Permanent Link)
Perhaps this explains why Syria agreed to peace negotiations with Israel, though it then hastened to fasten its ties with Iran.
Last update - 08:28 01/06/2008
Foreign Ministry officials are growing increasingly concerned at what they see as signs that relations between Syria and European countries are thawing following many months during which the Syrian regime was internationally isolated.
In view of the restart of talks between Israel and Syria, Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe were issued instructions from Jerusalem to ask European capitals to exercise "caution" in their contacts with Damascus, because it has yet to prove the seriousness of its intent regarding to the negotiations.
In recent years Syria had suffered international isolation due to suspicions that the regime of President Bashar Assad was behind the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and the uprising in Iraq. However, senior European figures recently resumed contacts with Syria, and Thursday French President Nicolas Sarkozy telephoned Bashar Assad, even though France had been, along with the United States, among the major players leading the isolation of Damascus.
Five days ago, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos visited the Syrian capital, after a year of not visiting Damascus.
Last week, Israel's ambassadors in key European capitals received a classified telegram pointing out that the recent contacts by leading European figures are the first signs of the breakdown of Syria's isolation.
Haaretz received a copy of the content of the telegram, which was authored by the deputy head of the Western Europe division at the Foreign Ministry, Rafi Barak. The note also included instructions for diplomatic activities in those capitals.
"It must be explained to the Europeans that the negotiations have still not begun and therefore they must be careful and measured in contacts vis a vis the Syrians," the note read.
Barak added in the note that the Israeli diplomats should ask the Europeans to treat Syrian requests carefully, "until we can tell if they are serious [in their intentions]." "The Europeans need to be reminded that Syria continues to smuggle weapons to Hezbollah, supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad and is not disengaging from Iran. All these are issues of great concern for Israel, and they are still on the table, unresolved."
Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau said last night that the content of the cable was not coordinated with them.
Foreign Ministry officials had expressed concerns that international pressure on Syria would be on the wane following the announced resumption of indirect talks between Israel and Syria and the backing Syria gave to the Doha agreement, which brought an end, two weeks ago, to the political crisis in Lebanon.
Even before Sarkozy telephoned Assad, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem met with the French president and delivered a message from Assad that "Syria is interested that France will contribute to Israeli-Syrian negotiations."
Details of the telephone conversation between Sarkozy and Assad, received by Haaretz, suggest that the French president expressed his satisfaction with Syria's role in bringing the crisis in Lebanon to an end and said he expected Damascus to contribute to its implementation.
Sarkozy also expressed his support for the talks between Syria and Israel and said that "France recognizes the legitimate rights of Syria on the Golan Heights."
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Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni served as a Paris agent for the Mossad overseas intelligence agency in the 1980s during a series of missions it ran to kill Palestinian terrorists across Europe, according to the Sunday Times.
The report cites Livni's former colleagues as saying the Kadima frontrunner was on active duty in 1983, when senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Mamoun Meraish was shot dead by two Mossad agents in Athens.
While Livni was not involved in the killing, her service in the Mossad remains secret, the report says. She had joined the agency after completing her service in the Israel Defense Forces with a rank of lieutenant and one year of law school.
According to the report, during Livni's service in the Mossad she traveled from her Paris base throughout Europe, seeking out Palestinian terrorists.
"Tzipi was not an office girl," the report quotes an acquaintance of Livni as saying. "She was a clever woman with an IQ of 150. She blended in well in European capitals, working with male agents, most of them ex-commandos, taking out Arab terrorists."
Livni resigned from the agency in the 1980s and returned to Israel to complete her legal degree, citing the stress of the job, the Sunday Times wrote.
The foreign minister is seen as the heir to the Kadima party, once primary elections have been held. Last week, she broke her silence regarding the investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and called for fresh elections amid the corruption case.
A recent Haaretz-Dialog poll indicated that a Livni-led Kadima would garner 23 Knesset seats, compared to a predicted 29 seats for opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.
Livni has greatly accelerated her political activity within Kadima since the probe against Olmert was announced. Party sources say that last week her camp stepped up their recruiting efforts, taking hundreds of party membership applications from party headquarters
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Outdoing McCain, who disavowed two preachers who had supported him, Obama has quit his church. Hillary Clinton can top that by becoming Jewish, I guess. Strange though, that Obama was not moved to quit his church when they gave Louis Farrakhan an award, or when his pastor said grievous things about America or the Jewish people.
Democratic presidential front-runner Barack Obama said on Saturday he quit his Chicago church in the aftermath of inflammatory sermons that could become a lightning rod in the November election.
Obama's resignation from Trinity United Church of Christ, which he has attended for 16 years, was an attempt to put the nagging issue behind him as he closes in on the Democratic nomination to run against Republican John McCain for the White House.
"This is not a decision I come to lightly and frankly it's one I make with some sadness," Obama told reporters during a stop in South Dakota. "Trinity was where I found Jesus Christ, where we were married, where our children were baptized."
The Illinois senator, who would be the first black U.S. president, cut ties last month with Trinity's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who angered many with anti-American and racially charged sermons.
Just as controversy over Wright had died down, a Roman Catholic priest mocked Obama's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during a guest appearance at Trinity United.
In his sermon, the priest, Michael Pfleger, screamed and imitated Clinton and accused her of espousing "white entitlement." Pfleger later apologized for his comments and was condemned by Obama and the archbishop of Chicago.
"It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles," Obama said.
His campaign released a copy of a letter Obama and his wife, Michelle, sent to the church announcing their decision.
"Our relations with Trinity have been strained by the divisive statements of Rev. Wright, which sharply conflict with our own views," the letter said.
The decision to quit the church appeared to be a sign that Obama wants to put the issue behind him before the general election.
Obama said he and his family would find another church, although he said they would not likely settle on one until early next year. Whoever wins in November will be inaugurated in January to succeed President George W. Bush.
In an effort to quell the controversy over Wright, Obama gave a widely praised speech in March calling for racial healing and offering a nuanced view of Wright, denouncing the pastor's remarks but declining to disown him.
But then Wright made a series of public appearances and stood by his inflammatory comments. He has blamed the U.S. government for the spread of the AIDS virus, declared "God damn America" and blasted the country's history of racism.
Obama was reportedly furious and finally cut ties with Wright last month. He condemned the minister's comments as "outrageous" and "appalling."
Wright's comments posed problems for Obama because they contradicted one of his campaign's central messages - that he can transcend past divisions such as those involving race.
Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, has attracted strong support in some heavily white states such as Wyoming, Iowa and Wisconsin. But he has struggled to win the votes of white, working-class voters in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Political analysts have questioned whether Obama's links to Wright might hurt him in the general election.
U.S. Democrats compromise on Florida and Michigan
Meanwhile, the Democratic Party backed a compromise to seat the disputed Michigan and Florida delegations at reduced strength on Saturday, sparking anger from Clinton's presidential campaign and threats to press the issue at the August nominating convention.
At a raucous meeting of the party's rules committee, frequently interrupted by cheers and jeers from Clinton's backers, the panel agreed to seat the delegations from both states but cut their voting power in half.
The decision was a victory for front-runner Obama, removing one of the last stumbling blocks on his march to the party's presidential nomination.
The vote moved the magic number to clinch the nomination to 2,118 delegates, leaving Obama about 70 short as he heads into Tuesday, when Montana and South Dakota hold the last votes in the lengthy Democratic presidential nominating fight.
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Lapid was one of the last of a dying breed - the urbane central European Jew, with the characteristic biting humor, fluency in practically every European tongue and love of European culture that typifies that vanished tribe.
Former cabinet minister and prominent journalist Yosef (Tommy) Lapid died of cancer early Sunday in Tel Aviv, at the age of 77.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday eulogized Holocaust survivor Lapid as a Jew with "all 248 organs of his body, even if he did not always ascribe importance to etiquette."
Olmert was referring to the significance of "248" in gematria (Jewish numerology), which is both the number of positive commandments in the Torah as well as the number of organs in the human body.
The prime minister met Lapid for the last time on Tuesday when he visited him at Ichilov Hospital. His visit came shortly after the testimony of American fundraiser Moshe Talansky, a key witness in the corruption investigation currently underway against Olmert.
Olmert sat by Lapid's bedside for two hours. During that time, the pair spoke very little as Lapid passed in and out of consciousness.
On Thursday, Lapid phoned Olmert's office, after which the prime minister returned the call at 20:00, and the two spoke to each other for the last time.
Lapid was taken to the Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv over the weekend in serious condition. About half a year ago, Lapid was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack in his home.
Lapid, 77, headed the Shinui Party, which sought to curb the growing political power of ultra-Orthodox parties. During the 16th Knesset, he served as justice minister and deputy prime minister.
A Holocaust survivor born under the name Tomislav Lampel in Benovitz, Serbia, Lapid later left politics to become chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial council.
During the war, his father was taken to a concentration camp and was killed two weeks before liberation. Lapid and his mother were placed with a group of Jews in Budapest whom the Nazis planned on killing along the banks of the river Danube. He was saved at the last minute, however, after his mother hid him and herself inside a toilet.
"As I've said, there I became a Zionist," Lapid told Haaretz in a 1995 interview, "because there I understood that there is not enough space in the whole world for a 13-year-old Jewish boy - so there must be one place for us. In Israel."
Lapid subsequently immigrated to Israel with his mother three years after the war at the age of 17.
He was immediately drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a mechanic. Later on, he studied law at Tel Aviv University, and began to write for the Hungarian-language newspaper Uj Kelet, under the editorship of the author and satirist Ephraim Kishon.
Kishon soon presented him to the founding editor of the Maariv daily newspaper, Azriel Carlebach, who employed Lapid as his personal assistant. It was Carlebach who suggested Lapid Hebraicize his name from Lampel.
Among the top journalists in Israel, Lapid later served as part of the editorial staff at Ma'ariv, as financial director of the Broadcasting Authorities, as a member of the television program Popilitica, and as chairman of the cable television union. He was awarded the Sokolov Prize in 1998.
Lapid was first elected to the Knesset in the 1999 elections, in which his party gained six mandates. In the 16th Knesset, after the 2003 elections, Shinui reached the peak of its strength, receiving fifteen mandates. In the government subsequently formed, Lapid served under prime minister Ariel Sharon as justice minister and deputy prime minister.
Shinui pulled out of the government in December 2004 in protest against a decision to transfer hundreds of millions of shekels to the ultra-Orthodox sector. Lapid was then appointed opposition leader. The condition of his party, though, deteriorated from this point on until its final collapse, evidenced the 2006 elections in which it did not gain any Knesset seats.
Journalist Amnon Dankner, a close friend of Lapid's, said that, "His mouth and heart were alike, and he was as loyal to himself as he was loyal to his family and to the people he loved. He was also not a man who was hated by his opponents."
Dankner added: "He had a huge appetite for life. He was a very educated man with a very broad understanding. A man who renewed himself every day. He will leave a huge void in my heart, which never be filled."
Lapid is survived by his wife, the writer Shulamit Lapid, his daughter Meirav and his son Yair, the Channel 2 News presenter and Yedioth Ahronot newspaper columnist. Lapid's oldest daughter Michal died in a road accident in 1984.
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This may be the first round in a shameful and ill-advised deal that could end with the release of murderer Samir Kuntar.
The Lebanese-based guerilla organization Hezbollah on Sunday said it handed the remains of Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed in the 2006 Second Lebanon War to the International Committee of the Red Cross for delivery to Israel.
Hezbollah security official Wafik Safa announced the release of the soldiers' remains at Naqoura upon the arrival of Nissim Nasser, a Lebanese man released from jail by Israel on Sunday morning.
"We today are handing over some of the remains of a number of Israeli soldiers who were killed in the July war and who the Israeli army left in Lebanon," Safa said. The bodies, held inside a box, were placed in an ICRC vehicle.
The Red Cross confirmed that its representatives had received a box containing the remains of IDF soldiers. Helge Kvam, a Red Cross spokesman in Jerusalem, called Hezbollah's move a complete surprise.
The container was transferred to IDF forces at the Rosh Hanikra crossing and taken for forensic evaluation.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office called the transfer a unilateral move on the part of Hezbollah, claiming it was not connected to Nasser's release from detention or to any other kind of deal with the militant organization.
Israel suspects that Hezbollah's goal in handing over the remains was to advance negotiations on a prisoner swap.
Hezbollah spy Nasser was released after six years in Israeli detention. He was handed over by Israeli authorities to representatives from the Red Cross and UNIFIL at the Rosh Hanikra border crossing, and was to be returned to Lebanon later in the day.
Nasser has said that he decided to spy for Hezbollah because he saw himself as a "Lebanese patriot and a Muslim."
He was convicted of spying on Israel for Hezbollah, and his release is part of efforts to advance a prisoner exchange with the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group.
Nassar, 41, was born to Valentina Nasser, a Jewish woman who converted to Islam. In 1991, he immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, reportedly as a means of improving his quality of life and not out of any sort of Zionist sentiment.
Nasser's release, announced by Israeli authorities, has raised speculation that it is linked to German mediation efforts to secure a prisoner swap between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrilla group.
Security authorities and the Prime Minister's office have said the handover is not connected to any future prisoner exchange, rather, was approved after it became evident that the decision to continue to hold Nasser indefinitely as a bargaining chip would not stand up to Supreme Court scrutiny.
Nasser signed a plea bargain and was sentenced in 2002 to six years in prison for spying for Hezbollah. He finished serving his sentence early this year, but he was subsequently held in administrative detention, apparently so that he could be used as a bargaining chip in a deal for the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
As part of his plea bargain in 2002, Nasser admitted to passing information to a senior Hezbollah officer, as well as photos of one of his relatives who was a high-ranking Israeli security official.
Nasser was also found to have taken photos and gathered intelligence on potential gas and electrical facilities to be used as targets for Hezbollah, reportedly under his own initiative without being asking to do so.
The group did however, tell Nasser to try to establish contact with a high-ranking IDF officer in order to solicit intelligence on IDF operations. He was also asked to try and gauge public sentiment in Israel after attacks by the militant group.
Continued (Permanent Link)
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