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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Iran attack? Don't hold your breath

The article states:
But one cannot conclude, as many have following a report in The New York Times (June 19) that an Israeli attack is certainly around the corner. Not only has such a decision not been made in any relevant forum in Israel - the question has not even been discussed.
Presumably, Yossi Melman sees all the classified top secret documents of the Israeli government and defense establishment, the contents of which he is then authorized to publish in Ha'aretz. That is how we keep secrets.  But it is indeed unlikely that an Israeli attack on Iran is "just around the corner" or inevitable. The more it is discussed, the less credible it is that such an attack, will actually be carried out. At the same time, the more it is discussed, the more pressure in Israel will build to carry out such an attack, and the Iran will be antagonized.
In addition to all the questions listed below, we have to understand what is the red line, if there is one, that would be crossed before Israel decided to attack. Announcement that Iran mastered the fuel cycle does not mean they are building a bomb.
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 03:03 22/06/2008       
ANALYSIS / Israel is a long way from attacking Iran
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Israeli leaders and officials have recently intensified their campaign against nuclearIran. The messages from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Ambassador to Washington Salai Meridor and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz is clear: Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran. Indeed Israel is very concerned by the likelihood that Iran, whose leadership has called for the Jewish state's destruction, will be able to produce nuclear weapons.
These public statements, as well as closed talks between Israel's leadership and leaders around the world, can be interpreted as "preparing the ground" for the possibility that Israel will attack Iran. It is also correct that all the bodies dealing with the "Iran case," including the Mossad, Military Intelligence, Operations Directorate of the Israel Defense Forces, Israel Air Force and the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, are planning for the worst-case scenario. This is their professional duty. But one cannot conclude, as many have following a report in The New York Times (June 19) that an Israeli attack is certainly around the corner. Not only has such a decision not been made in any relevant forum in Israel - the question has not even been discussed.
The decision to attack Iran to foil its nuclear program is from Israel's point of view a last resort, and the chances of it happening depend on many variables, which are unfolding over various time frames  some overlapping, others running in parallel.
The most important variable is Israel's coordination with the United States. As has happened on a number of historic occasions - the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the two Lebanon wars and, most recently, the strike against Syria's nuclear reactor, Israel will not strike Iran without first coordinating its actions with the U.S. This could be a tacit understanding, a flashing yellow light, or a direct request for a green light. Such support is conditioned first and foremost on the question of who will occupy the White House come November.
Another variable is international sanctions on Iran. These are being applied sluggishly. Russia and China are blocking every U.S.-European Union effort to apply painful sanctions that would affect Iran's economy. But Israel has still not given up hope that in Moscow and Beijing will change their policies and impose harsher sanctions.
Another significant factor is the domestic situation in Iran. Next May, presidential elections are scheduled in Iran. If Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei decides he is fed up with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mostly because of the worsening economic situation, and prevents him from running for another term, or does not support him, this dramatic turn of events could also affect Iran's nuclear program.
Although most experts agree the desire to acquire nuclear weapons is shared by most factions in Iran, differences still exist. It is possible that a new president, from less radical ranks, may agree to suspend uranium enrichment and seek dialogue with the West.
But there could also be an unexpected development in the form of a technological breakthrough: Iran may declare before the elections in February 2009, the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, that it has mastered all stages of uranium enrichment, and is capable of roducing
nuclear arms.
The fourth variable, upon which every political decision in Israel is taken, is of course the operational preparedness of the air force and the other agencies that are party to a strike. Is Israel capable of carrying out a significant blow to the essential sites where Iran is developing nuclear weapons, to the point that the process is stalled for several years?
Only when there are clear answers to these issues will Israeli leaders make a decision. First they will take into account the heavy price Israel may have to pay. Undoubtedly, Iran will retaliate. Above all, Israel will make up its mind only as a last resort after realizing the U.S. will not attack Iran, the regime in Iran will not change its direction and the sanctions remain ineffective. Only then will the Israeli cabinet have to make one of the most fateful and existential decisions in the history of the state.

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Spiegel: North Koreans made plutonium for Iran at the bombed Syrian facility

Never a dull moment in the Middle East...
Last update - 01:13 22/06/2008    
Experts believe North Korea provided assistance to Iran at the Syrian facility believed bombed by Israel Air Force in September 2007, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.
The weekly said the Syrian site at al-Kibar was used to produce nuclear material the Iranian regime needed to make a bomb.
North Korean scientists worked alongside Syrians and Iranians at the site, where a reactor was being built to produce weapons-grade plutonium, Der Spiegel quoted the intelligence reports as saying.
The report said Iranian scientists had made progress in enriching uranium but had no experience with plutonium and sought the help of the North Koreans.
Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, are due to travel to Syria on Sunday to investigate whether the country was building an undeclared reactor.
Syria maintains the site, which satellite images show has since been razed, was a military installation and not a nuclear facility.
Iran says its nuclear programme is not geared towards making weapons but to generating electricity for its growing population. Tehran's decision to begin enriching uranium in 2006 triggered Western sanctions.
Der Spiegel, which did not elaborate on Assad's reported change of heart, also said Iran, Syria and North Korea had apparently been cooperating in the production of chemical weapons.
It cited an explosion near the Syrian city of Aleppo in July 2007, during which many were reported to have died when quantities of mustard gas and the nerve agent Sarin escaped.
In addition to 15 Syrian military officials, dozens of Iranian "rocket scientists" and three North Koreans were among those killed, the magazine said.

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Demanding the impossible

How can the Israel high court clarify that which is deliberately obscure? Are they conjurers? Are they Joseph interpreting the dream of Pharoah?
Nobody knows that the truce means, and probably it means nothing. The Hamas say it means they can smuggle arms and the Israelis say it means it cannot smuggle arms. Ehud Olmert insists it is tied to the release of Gilad Shalit, but there is a truce and Gilad Shalit is not in Israel. So what does it mean?
Ami Isseroff

Article in Haaretz
By Tomer Zarchin and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents, and Associated Press
The parents of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will petition the High Court of Justice on Saturday to demand that the government explain why the reopening of Gaza's border crossings is not conditioned upon their son's release.
As part of their petition, the Shalits published a handwritten letter, written by their son, which was delivered to the family two weeks ago by representatives of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
The first petitioner listed is Gilad Shalit, who has since been promoted to the rank of staff sergeant. His parents Aviva and Noam say they view the letter received from him as a "moral power of attorney" to petition the court on his behalf.
The petition, filed against the government of Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minsiter Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, by attorneys Ariel Bendor, Eldad Yaniv and Sharon Stein, requests that the High Court instruct the government to explain why the truce between Israel and Hamas was not conditioned upon Gilad's release or his transfer to Egypt.
The petition also asks why Olmert does not raise the issue for review by the committee for national security.
An Egyptian-mediated truce in Gaza took effect Thursday, halting daily Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israeli towns and communities and Israeli counterraids and airstrikes against Hamas militants in Gaza.
Since Shalit's abduction in June 2006, his parents have met on multiple occasions with political and security authorities, including six times with Olmert and three with Barak. According to the petition, during these meetings the Shalit family was promised that any cease-fire agreement would include Gilad's release.
Shalit's parents have largely remained quiet the past two years so not to interfere with the ongoing negotiations to free their son. But recently they have become increasingly critical of how the government has handled the affair, giving interviews in which they have lashed out at Olmert and other leaders.
In addition, according to the petition, the elements of the truce were raised during a June 11 ministerial committee meeting and were approved because they unequivocally called Shalit's release an integral part of any deal.
"To the petitioners' dismay," reads part of the petition, "over the last few days, Israeli and international media outlets have reported that an Egyptian-brokered truce has been agreed to by Israel and Hamas, but the deal does not refer to Shalit or to his release."
The court petition also reveals that Shalit had his left arm broken and a shoulder lightly wounded during his abduction.
The petition also raises the concern that now that the truce is in effect, the main leverage - the closure of Gaza's borders - that could bring Hamas to free Shalit has been lost.
"All of Israel's efforts to bring about the release of Ron Arad resulted in nothing, in part because of severe mistakes made by generations of Israeli governments that did not take advantage of what leverage they had in their hands," read the petition's closing remarks.
"It is possible to expect the decision-makers in Israel to internalize past lessons and come to the necessary conclusions. It is not too late in the matter of Gilad Shalit."
London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat earlier on Saturday reported that the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is being delayed by a dispute over whether to free 30 Hamas prisoners.
The agreement between Israel and Hamas stipulates that 450 Palestinian prisoners will be freed in exchange for Shalit.
The exchange is to happen in phases: First, Shalit will be handed over to Egypt and Israel will release 350 prisoners, after which Shalit will return to Israel, and the final 100 Palestinians will be freed.
The list of prisoners Israel has agreed to release is expected to include women, children, elderly and ill individuals, some of whom are serving sentences for serious crimes.
Last week, a senior political source said that negotiations over Shalit's release are due to resume on Tuesday in Egypt. Ofer Dekel, Israel's chief negotiator for securing the release of abducted soldiers, will travel to Cairo to meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Palestinian sources also confirmed that intensive negotiations will begin next week to finalize the deal for Shalit's release.

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Obama's "engagement" can have more than one meaning

Attacking Iran would be a kind of engagement, no? I mean, he isn't really contradicting himself, is he?
Last update - 12:13 21/06/2008    
Obama: Israel right to provide for its security amid Iran threat
By Reuters
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama said Saturday that Israel is justified in providing for its security amid the "extraordinary threat" posed to it by Iran.
Obama spoke after The New York Times quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that Israel had carried out a large military exercise this month that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Obama, a Democrat who is running against Republican John McCain in the November election, was asked at a news conference in Jacksonville, Florida whether Israel was right to carry out the exercise.
"Without access to the actual detailed intelligence, I want to be careful about characterizing what was done and whether it was appropriate or not," Obama said in his capacity of Illinois senator.
However, he added that Israel was right to be concerned about comments made against it by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and about Tehran's support for militant organizations Hezbollah and Hamas.
"And so there is no doubt that Iran poses an extraordinary threat to Israel and Israel is always justified in making decisions that will provide for its security," Obama said.
The New York Times said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June.
Israel's ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, also talked of the threat posed by Iran in an interview with CBS News.
"We cannot take this threat lightly and as our prime minister recently said Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran," Meridor told the U.S. television network.
Asked how much time was left before the diplomatic window closes, Meridor replied, "Less today than we had yesterday, and it's running out."

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More Iran attack scares

Last update - 14:35 21/06/2008    
What moron said this?
"Read the writing on the wall" the official urged Iran. "This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons. If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium."
What efforts on the part of Israeli officialdom will be required to finally shut up all the loudmouths?
Please put on the walls of every office and cubicle in the Israel Defense establishment:
"Loose lips sink ships."
Ami Isseroff

 By Reuters and Haaretz Service 
An Israeli political official familiar an Israeli drill reportedly held in preparation for a military raid on Iran's nuclear facilities told the London-based Times on Saturday that the Iranians should view the exercise as a warning.
"Read the writing on the wall" the official urged Iran. "This was a dress rehearsal, and the Iranians should read the script before they continue with their program for nuclear weapons. If diplomacy does not yield results, Israel will take military steps to halt Tehran's production of bomb-grade uranium."
The New York Times on Friday cited unidentified American officials as saying that more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighter jets took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece during the first week of June.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office declined to comment on the reported exercise, but a senior lawmaker in his Kadima Party said Saturday that diplomatic efforts to curb Iran's nuclear program have failed and that the next 1-2 years would be critical.
Tzachi Hanegbi, who heads the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, told Israel Radio that the world had to decide how to proceed.
An Israeli military spokesman said of the report: "The Israeli Air Force regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel."
Meanwhile, in remarks aired Friday, the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said that he would resign if a military attack was launched against Iran, warning that any such attack would turn the region into a "fireball."
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohammed ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television that "I don't believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time ... it would make me unable to continue my work."
"A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball," he said, emphasizing that any attack would only make the Islamic Republic more determined to obtain nuclear power.
"If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West."
Earlier Friday, Oil prices jumped more than $3 on Friday on reports of rising tensions between Israel and Iran.
A hardline Iranian cleric said Friday that Israel and its U.S. ally would receive a "slap in the face" if they speak of using force against the Islamic Republic, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Energy experts are concerned any conflict in Iran could lead to a shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway separating Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, through which roughly 40 percent of the world's traded oil is shipped.
Friday's spike was not the first caused by tensions between Israel and Iran. Oil prices soared $11 on June 6, after former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff and Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz said in a newspaper interview that "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."
Adding to oil's gains Friday, Royal Dutch Shell shut 220,000 barrels of daily production in Nigeria after militants in speedboats attacked the Bonga offshore oil facility.
Shell said it was too soon to say how long output at the deepwater installation would be shut. Nigeria, another OPEC member, is already producing about 20 percent below potential due to sabotage by militants in the Niger Delta oil hub.
The gains marked a reversal from heavy losses Thursday that had been triggered by news China was raising domestic fuel prices -- a move that could slow demand growth in the world's second largest energy consumer -- and expectations Saudi Arabia was planning a 6 percent output hike.
"The petroleum markets rebounded ... on worries that Israeli military exercises held in the first week of June might have been preparation for a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities," said Tim Evans, energy analyst for Citi Futures Perspective in New York.
U.S. July crude, which was expiring on Friday, rose $3.12 to $135.05 a barrel by the evening, off highs of $136.80. London Brent was up $3.06 at $135.06.
China move to backfire
Oil prices had plunged nearly $5 in the previous session after China raised fuel prices by up to 18 percent, its first hike in eight months, as the government bowed to a nearly $40 increase in crude prices since the last hike in November.
Initial forecasts suggested the move by China would hurt demand, but some analysts now say consumption could rise as the price increase will encourage healthier supply at the pumps.
Chinese fuel retailers have had to deal with long queues of customers and rationing as refiners cut back on production to limit hefty losses made by selling discounted fuel.
"We do not think that a country where consumers are used to waiting 3 hours for automotive fuel in many cases will see significant negative demand elasticity from a simple 20 percent price increase," said Citi analyst James Neale.
Demand for oil by China, India and the Middle East has been cited as a factor behind crude's almost sevenfold surge from $20 six years ago to a record high of nearly $140 a barrel.
Oil's rally on Friday also came despite assurances from Saudi Arabia that it was raising its production after months of pressure from consumer nations calling for more supply.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi confirmed on Friday the kingdom will be pumping 9.7 million barrels per day of crude in July, an increase of 550,000 barrels per day since May.
Oil traders said Friday's strength was also supported by a weaker dollar, which improves the purchasing power of buyers using other currencies and encourages investors to ply money into commodities as a hedge against inflation.

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Spinning Egyptian incitement

Contradictions between what is needed for the home market and what is needed to please international opinion can keep Arab world spinmeisters busy. A case in point is Egypt, the recipient of $2 Billion in US aid and a supposed peace partner with Israel. Egyptian culture minister Farouk Hosni is nominated by France for a UN job. (See Talk Like an Egyptian). But oops! - he happened to say in a parliamentary debate (for internal consumption) that he would burn Israeli books. Even in France they think that is a bit extreme these days. Chirac is no longer in power.
While transmitting peace light and liberalism abroad, Egypt, like other Arab regimes, has a different program for the home audience. Textbooks villify Jews. Media broadcast anti-Semitic materials that perpetuate the blood libel and the myth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Egyptian government control journals publish slander and polemics about the evils of Israel and the United States, not hesitating to bite the hand that feeds them, and to bite hard. Imam's regularly call for Jihad against Israel, and oppose "terror" unless it involves killing Jews.
Not surprisingly, this double dealing sometimes gets government figures in trouble, as explained below. Minister Hosni will try to brush off the whole incident in which he advocated book burning for Israeli publications. It is a "misunderstanding" you see. He is twisting and squirming, but just gets deeper into his own lies. It is not his fault alone, for he represents an entire system. 
One remark might be due to a misunderstanding. But every issue of Al Ahram, and all the Egyptian legislation against Christians and persecution of Christians, and all the incitement in educational materials and media - can all these be a "misunderstanding?"
Ami Isseroff  

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Oops! A farewell to arms smuggling? Trouble in Gaza utopia.

From Haaretz:
A halt to smuggling is a central Israeli demand in an Egyptian-brokered Gaza ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which came into effect Thursday morning.
As it is a central demand, you would have thunked it was all worked out and all set. Not so.
Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniyeh said Friday that the Islamist group would not stop smuggling activities in the territory.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office, said the ceasefire agreement included an end to attacks on Israel by all militant groups and a complete end to arms smuggling.
"Anyone who says otherwise apparently wants to destroy the calm before it has a chance to really succeed," Regev said.
Ami Isssroff


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Friday, June 20, 2008

With blood on their hands

It may already be too late to stop this tragedy from happening. I hope I am wrong about it, but the danger seems to be as obvious as a safe about to fall on someone's head. Please write to Israeli officials before it is too late.

Israel is under attack and requires your help. Israel is being bombarded by a pernicious propaganda barrage, which threatens to undermine the IDF, the state and everything we stand for, and to imperil the lives of hundreds, perhaps thousands of Israeli soldiers and civilians.

Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser and their comrades, living and dead, fought for a great and just cause, defending Israel against an implacable enemy, Hezbollah, which is sworn to destroy us. Goldwasser and Regev were kidnapped, and most likely killed, starting the Second Lebanon War . Over 150 other Israelis died, many perhaps needlessly, but all in support of a cause that we all thought was correct at the time and which must in fact be correct: never to give in to the extortion of terrorists. Surrender to extortion only leads to more extortion. The Second Lebanon War could have been avoided entirely, if Israel had simply agreed to release murderer Samir Kuntar and whatever other terrorists were demanded by Hassan Nassrallah, in return for the kidnapped soldiers or their bodies. But almost all agreed that this course would be perilous, and would lead to more kidnappings.

If my own sons had been kidnapped, I would surely not rest a minute. I would raise hell all over the world to ensure that the Lebanese government, of which Hezbollah is a part, abides by international law and allows visits by the red cross. I would stage demonstrations at the White House, at the UN, at appearances of American officials in the Middle East, as well as imploring Israeli officials to act for their release. I would not let them or the public forget their duty. I would, if it were practical, hire private detectives, the Mafia, other Lebanese groups to free them or at least to get word that they are alive. I would do anything, except to undermine the cause for which they and their comrades fought, or to undermine the IDF and the state of Israel.

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Truce displaces violence: Three Israelis shot near Rammallah

Since the truce with Hamas prevents violence from Gaza, it will likely be displaced to the West Bank, giving us many more reports like this one.
Betselem did not give these hikers cameras to film their assailants.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 16:19 20/06/2008       
3 Israelis hurt in shooting attack near Ramallah
By Jonathan Lis, Amos Harel and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents
Three Israeli hikers were wounded on Friday, one seriously and two lightly, in a drive-by shooting in Zarka valley near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Unknown assailants in a passing vehicle apparently opened fire at the group of hikers, hitting three of them.
Security and rescue personnel arrived at the scene and located the victims, who were hiding in the area after the attack.
An initial report from the Magen David Adom emergency medical staff on the scene indicated that one of the victims had been shot in the back and another had sustained gunshots to the stomach. One of the hikers was in serious condition and two others sustained minor wounds. According to paramedics, the victims were fully conscious.
Additional hikers that were with the victims suffered from dehydration as they waited for rescue teams in hiding.
Due to difficult field conditions, rescue teams initially had trouble transporting the hikers into the helicopter that was summoned to evacuate them from the area. Ultimately, the wounded hikers were flown to Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv.
Some six months ago, two Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed in a shooting attack while hiking in a stream near the West Bank city of Hebron. The two soldiers, both resident of Kiryat Arba, were hiking with a young woman. During their hike, four terrorists emerged and opened fire toward the group. The soldiers, who were both carrying their army-issued weapon, returned fire. One of the terrorists was killed, and another was badly wounded in the exchange. The two soldiers were killed, while the girl managed to flee. The terrorists fled the scene in a jeep.

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Arab Lobby organizing PR efforts

A reminder of the powerful media presence of Arab and Muslim pressure groups and interests, the legitimacy of which is never questioned.
Common Arab media strategy planned
Saudi Gazette - 20 June, 2008

The Council of Arab Information Ministers called for the formation of a general commission for Arab Information, at a meeting here, Thursday, and discussed a common media strategy for the member countries.

Iyad Bin Ameen Madani, Saudi Minister of Culture and Information, said in a statement after the meeting, the council stressed on the need of giving media support for the Arab issues. The council also decided to follow up on the activities of Joint Arab Information abroad, and to set up a mechanism to activate the principles of organizing satellite transmission in the Arab region.

The satellite transmission organizing principles document was endorsed on the basis of the domestic legislations of each Arab country, the minister said.

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When Samir Kuntar comes marching home

"When Samir comes marching home again, Hurrah, Hurray." Samir Kuntar is a vicious murderer. His release in return for the bodies of Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser makes no sense. It will undoubtedly whet the appetite of the Hezbollah for more kidnappings. There will be many more Regev's and Goldwassers.
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent  
The head of the village Aabey, the birthplace of Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, said Thursday that the preparations for the celebration marking Kuntar's return have been completed, and that the celebration will likely be held on Sunday, barring last minute complications.
Kuntar, a Lebanese Druze, has been jailed in Israel since perpetrating a terror attack in Nahariya in 1979, in which four Israelis were killed. Kuntar has been at the center of a speculated prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah, in which two Israel Defense Forces soldier held captive by Hezbollah since 2006 are expected to be returned to Israel.
Village leader Nazih Hamzah made his remarks in an interview posted Thursday on the Nazareth-based newspaper A-Sinara's website. Hamzah's comments are another possible indication that the prisoner exchange deal is imminent.
Kuntar's brother and his attorney have stressed that the information they have received points to the deal being done, and that the prisoner exchange will take place within days.
Hamzah said that Kuntar will be received upon his release in the southern Beirut neighborhood Dahiya - a Hezbollah stronghold - and will be met there by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. He will later come to Aabey, where the celebrations will commence.

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US Officials spread rumor about Israeli attack preparations on Iran

WASHINGTON — Israel carried out a major military exercise earlier this month that American officials say appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Several American officials said the Israeli exercise appeared to be an effort to develop the military's capacity to carry out long-range strikes and to demonstrate the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program.
More than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters participated in the maneuvers, which were carried out over the eastern Mediterranean and over Greece during the first week of June, American officials said.
The exercise also included Israeli helicopters that could be used to rescue downed pilots. The helicopters and refueling tankers flew more than 900 miles, which is about the same distance between Israel and Iran's uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, American officials said.
Israeli officials declined to discuss the details of the exercise. A spokesman for the Israeli military would say only that the country's air force "regularly trains for various missions in order to confront and meet the challenges posed by the threats facing Israel."
But the scope of the Israeli exercise virtually guaranteed that it would be noticed by American and other foreign intelligence agencies. A senior Pentagon official who has been briefed on the exercise, and who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the political delicacy of the matter, said the exercise appeared to serve multiple purposes.
One Israeli goal, the Pentagon official said, was to practice flight tactics, aerial refueling and all other details of a possible strike against Iran's nuclear installations and its long-range conventional missiles.
A second, the official said, was to send a clear message to the United States and other countries that Israel was prepared to act militarily if diplomatic efforts to stop Iran from producing bomb-grade uranium continued to falter.
"They wanted us to know, they wanted the Europeans to know, and they wanted the Iranians to know," the Pentagon official said. "There's a lot of signaling going on at different levels."
Several American officials said they did not believe that the Israeli government had concluded that it must attack Iran and did not think that such a strike was imminent.
Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defense minister who is now a deputy prime minister, warned in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that Israel might have no choice but to attack. "If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack," Mr. Mofaz said in the interview published on June 6, the day after the unpublicized exercise ended. "Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable."
But Mr. Mofaz was criticized by other Israeli politicians as seeking to enhance his own standing as questions mount about whether the embattled Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, can hang on to power.
Israeli officials have told their American counterparts that Mr. Mofaz's statement does not represent official policy. But American officials were also told that Israel had prepared plans for striking nuclear targets in Iran and could carry them out if needed.
Iran has shown signs that it is taking the Israeli warnings seriously, by beefing up its air defenses in recent weeks, including increasing air patrols. In one instance, Iran scrambled F-4 jets to double-check an Iraqi civilian flight from Baghdad to Tehran.
"They are clearly nervous about this and have their air defense on guard," a Bush administration official said of the Iranians.
Any Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear facilities would confront a number of challenges. Many American experts say they believe that such an attack could delay but not eliminate Iran's nuclear program. Much of the program's infrastructure is buried under earth and concrete and installed in long tunnels or hallways, making precise targeting difficult. There is also concern that not all of the facilities have been detected. To inflict maximum damage, multiple attacks might be necessary, which many analysts say is beyond Israel's ability at this time.
But waiting also entails risks for the Israelis. Israeli officials have repeatedly expressed fears that Iran will soon master the technology it needs to produce substantial quantities of highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons.
Iran is also taking steps to better defend its nuclear facilities. Two sets of advance Russian-made radar systems were recently delivered to Iran. The radar will enhance Iran's ability to detect planes flying at low altitude.
Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, said in February that Iran was close to acquiring Russian-produced SA-20 surface-to-air missiles. American military officials said that the deployment of such systems would hamper Israel's attack planning, putting pressure on Israel to act before the missiles are fielded.
For both the United States and Israel, Iran's nuclear program has been a persistent worry. A National Intelligence Estimate that was issued in December by American intelligence agencies asserted that Iran had suspended work on weapons design in late 2003. The report stated that it was unclear if that work had resumed. It also noted that Iran's work on uranium enrichment and on missiles, two steps that Iran would need to take to field a nuclear weapon, had continued.
In late May, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran's suspected work on nuclear matters was a "matter of serious concern" and that the Iranians owed the agency "substantial explanations."
Over the past three decades, Israel has carried out two unilateral attacks against suspected nuclear sites in the Middle East. In 1981, Israeli jets conducted a raid against Iraq's nuclear plant at Osirak after concluding that it was part of Saddam Hussein's program to develop nuclear weapons. In September, Israeli aircraft bombed a structure in Syria that American officials said housed a nuclear reactor built with the aid of North Korea.
The United States protested the Israeli strike against Iraq in 1981, but its comments in recent months have amounted to an implicit endorsement of the Israeli strike in Syria.
Pentagon officials said that Israel's air forces usually conducted a major early summer training exercise, often flying over the Mediterranean or training ranges in Turkey where they practice bombing runs and aerial refueling. But the exercise this month involved a larger number of aircraft than had been previously observed, and included a lengthy combat rescue mission.
Much of the planning appears to reflect a commitment by Israel's military leaders to ensure that its armed forces are adequately equipped and trained, an imperative driven home by the difficulties the Israeli military encountered in its Lebanon operation against Hezbollah.
"They rehearse it, rehearse it and rehearse it, so if they actually have to do it, they're ready," the Pentagon official said. "They're not taking any options off the table."
Ethan Bronner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Debate - Is anti-Zionism==Antistemitism??

This one won't go away...
Is anti-Zionism a cover-up for anti-Semitism?
"Anti-Zionism" is a term which has gained greater visibility over the last decade, but it is not an unknown phenomenon historically. In communist Europe, the remnants of those Jewish communities which perished during the Nazi Holocaust were frequently persecuted in the name of anti-Zionism.
These days, anti-Zionist views are heavily concentrated among the educated elite. If you regard anti-Zionism as one more expression of hatred towards Jews, this is somewhat puzzling, because anti-Semitism – particularly after the Holocaust – is widely perceived to be more beer hall than bistro.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Report: U.S., Canada warn Hezbollah set to strike Jewish targets

Last update - 23:13 19/06/2008    
y Haaretz Service
Intelligence agencies in Canada and the United States are warning of mounting signs that the Lebanon-based guerilla group Hezbollah is planning to attack Jewish targets in retaliation for the assassination of top Hezbollah man Imad Mughniyah some six months ago, ABC News reported Thursday.
Hezbollah has blamed Israel for the February 12 assassination in Damascus, but Israel has denied any involvement.
The intelligence sources told the American news network that Hezbollah was operating sleeper cells in Canada, and that senior Hezbollah operatives have left Lebanon for Canada as well as Europe and Africa.

According to the sources, ABC reported, there is currently no specific warning of an imminent attack, but they added that Hezbollah operatives have recently carried out surveillance of the Israeli embassy in the Canadian capital, as well as several synagogues in Toronto.
The sources added that Latin America was also a possible target for a Hezbollah strike.
Four suspected sleeper cells have been identified in Canada, ABC reported, and some 20 suspected Hezbollah operatives are currently under surveillance. The members of the cells have received orders to send their family members back to Lebanon.
The network also reported that a Hezbollah weapons expert was spotted at a firing range south of Toronto. According to the intelligence sources, the operatives' moves are being coordinated with Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
"They want to kill as many people as they can, they want it to be a big splash," said former CIA intelligence officer Bob Baer, who told ABC he had met with Hezbollah leaders in Beirut last month.
"Hezbollah would not carry out an attack in the west, or wherever this attack is going to occur, without approval from Tehran," Baer added.
Baer told ABC that his Hezbollah contacts told him an attack against the U.S. was unlikely because Iran and Hezbollah did not want to give the current administration, headed by U.S. President George W. Bush, an excuse to attack.

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Israel-Hamas truce and politics

For better or worse, today marks the start of a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. A truce has de facto legitimized the Hamas government in Gaza. Israel has, it appears, somehow lost the Gaza Monopoly game, landing in the green "Legitimize Hamas Rule" square. There is no doubt that Israel negotiated a very poor and hasty agreement, which does not prevent arms smuggling through the Rafah crossing, and doesn't even get captured soldier Gilad Shalit back.

Objectively, Israel appeared to be winning the war of attrition against Hamas, since Gaza residents were increasingly dissatisfied. On the other hand, Americans and others were expressing increasing dissatisfaction over the bogus "human rights crisis," and there were signs that the international coalition that has more or less isolated the Hamas would crack, or that the Palestinians would conclude a unity deal, which would render the Hamas government "kosher" in the eyes of the world, and give the Hamas control over the West Bank as well. A military operation in Gaza was risky and might put the Hamas in the catbird seat rather than eliminating the problem. A deal with Hamas was needed at least temporarily in order to satisfy the Egyptians and possibly the Americans.

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Israelis support "calm" but think it won't last.

The latest poll shows that a plurality of Israelis support the "calm" with Hamas but think it won't last. Interestingly, Kadima voters support the "calm", but are pretty certain it won't last. Knesset polls show a significant relative advantage for the Kadima party if Tzippi Livni is its candidate for Prime Minister, and a drop in the popularity of Labor and the Likud relative to other scenarios and previous polls. Still, the Likud is the party that gets the largest number of mandates in all scenarios.

Polls: 40.6%:32.9% support calm agreement with Hamas, 74.8% expect to last
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date: 19 June 2008

Telephone poll of a representative sample of 497 adult Israelis (including Arab Israelis) carried out by Shvakim Panorama for Israel Radio's Hakol Diburim (It's All Talk) the afternoon and evening of 18 June 2008 after the announcement of the "calm" in the Gaza Strip.

If elections were held today how would you vote (expressed in mandates - based on the 81.2% who indicated what party they would vote for)

Four scenarios:
[A] Kadima headed by Livni
[B] Kadima headed by Mofaz
[C] Kadima headed by Dichter
[D] Kadima headed by Shetreet

Actual Knesset today in [brackets]
22 18 09 08 [29] Kadima
14 17 19 19 [19] Labor
25 22 29 30 [12] Likud
11 11 11 11 [12] Shas
11 12 11 12 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
07 08 08 07 [09] Nat'l Union/NRP
06 06 06 06 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
06 07 07 07 [05] Meretz
04 05 06 06 [00] Green Party
03 03 03 03 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
** ** ** ** [07] Retirees Party
11 11 11 11 [10] Arab parties
** does not get minimum votes for Knesset representation

Do you support or oppose the calm agreement with Hamas?
Total: Support 40.6% Oppose 32.9% No position 26.5%
Kadima voters: Support 38.1% Oppose 31.8% No position 30.1%
Likud voters: Support 22.3% Oppose 60.4% No position 17.3%
Labor voters: Support 69.2% Oppose 10.1% No position 20.7%

You think that the calm will continue for a short time (days) or a long time (months)?
Total: Short 74.8% Long 17.1% Don't know 8.1%
Kadima voters: Short 81.5% Long 5.3% DK 13.2%
Likud voters:: Short 91.4% Long 2.2% DK 6.4%
Labor voters: Short 59.6% Long 12.8% DK 27.6%

Dr. Aaron Lerner, Director IMRA (Independent Media Review & Analysis)
(mail POB 982 Kfar Sava)
Tel 972-9-7604719/Fax 972-3-7255730

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Italian Foreign Minister: EU policy to Israel was influenced by anti-Semitism

 Last update - 21:24 18/06/2008       
Italy FM: EU stance on Israel in past swayed by intolerance of Jews
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Italy's newly appointed foreign minister said Tuesday that the European Union has in the past taken an unbalanced stance on Israel, at times blurring the line between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitic sentiments.
Speaking before a forum on Israel-European relations in Berlin, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: "I have to admit, if I look at the past, EU has taken on some occasions an unbalanced stance visa vis Israel, even by making an unacceptable confusion between the legitimate political criticism of the Israeli gut [government??}  and the sentiment of intolerance against Jewish people that can become anti-Semitism."
Frattini, who was appointed by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, is considered a supporter of Israel. His predecessor, Massimo D'Alema, often took a harsh line against Israel, particularly with regard to the Second Lebanon War and the situation in the Gaza Strip.
Frattini is expected to visit Israel sometime in July.
In his speech to the Israel-European forum, Frattini criticized the EU for delivering aid to Palestinian organizations which have incited against Israel.
"We ever [often??] found money given to NGOs close to Hamas using it to indoctrinates children against Israelis," he said, but added:
"Now things are changing completely. More awareness of the risk of growing anti-Semitism. Firmness vis a vis with Hamas. Support for the legitimate request of security of Israeli vis a vis the increasingly dangerous activities of Iran in the nuclear field."
With regard to the renewed negotiations between Damascus and Jerusalem, Frattini said that the European Union would support Syria as long as it acted firmly against terrorism.
"EU will support the further commitment of Damascus, provided that Syria takes a very firm stance on preventing and fighting terrorist activities, including support of terrorist organizations that threaten Israelis," he said. "This is one political condition that we want to stress once again.

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Israel ready for Lebanon peace

54 minutes ago
JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli government is calling on Lebanon to open peace talks.
Government spokesman Mark Regev says Israel is interested in "direct, bilateral" talks. He says "every issue of contention" is on the table, including a key border dispute over a small piece of land controlled by Israel.
The dispute over the Chebaa Farms enclave is a key sticking point between Israel, Lebanon and Syria.
Wednesday's announcement came amid a flurry of developments in the region. Israeli officials say they are close to a prisoner swap with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon, and Israel also recently opened peace talks with Syria.
Meanwhile, a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas is set to begin on Thursday.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IAEA: Syrians too dumb to make nukes

El Baradei says:
"We have no evidence that Syria has the human resources that would allow it to carry out a large nuclear program. We do not see Syria having nuclear fuel,"
But of course, Syria denied the IAEA inspectors access to the relevant facilities, so there is no evidence. Even if the Syrians cannot carry out a large scale project, the North Koreans can help them carry out a little project. For example, a plant that assembles bombs from fissionable material produced in North Korea.
Ami Isseroff
'We have no evidence that Syria has the human resources that would allow it to carry out a large nuclear program,' UN atomic watchdog head says
Published:  06.18.08, 00:38 / Israel News
There is no evidence Syria has the skilled personnel or the fuel to operate a large-scale nuclear facility, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog said in remarks aired on Tuesday.

"We have no evidence that Syria has the human resources that would allow it to carry out a large nuclear program. We do not see Syria having nuclear fuel," International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamad ElBaradei told Al Arabiya television.

In an interview with the Dubai-based television station, ElBaradei said the IAEA only had pictures of a site in Syria bombed by Israel last year, which resembled a nuclear facility in North Korea.

Arabiya aired only part of the interview.

The IAEA added Syria to its proliferation watch list in April after receiving US intelligence material, including photographs suggesting Damascus had almost finished building a nuclear reactor in secret with North Korean help before Israel destroyed it in an air strike in September.

Damascus, a US foe and ally of Iran, denies any covert nuclear activity and says the site Israel bombed was a military facility under construction. It has said it would cooperate with a UN investigation into the allegations of nuclear activity.

ElBaradei has said previously that Syria had agreed to a June 22-24 inspection visit to examine the allegations. In the interview, he called on Damascus to cooperate with the IAEA inspectors.

Diplomats have said Syria has refused IAEA requests to examine three sites other than the bombed one.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If Americans only knew: How media miss essential information - The Golan

Below is a well intentioned background article about the Golan heights that misses two or three key points, a defect that detracts from understanding the issues:
1- The Golan Heights were historically part of Palestine and were ceded by Britain to France in a 1923 treaty.
In all of history, the Golan was not part of Syria for much longer than it has been part of Israel.
2- The international border established by the Anglo-French treaty was not the border established in 1949. During the Arab-Israel war of 1948 (Israeli war of Independence) Syria conquered territory that had been historically part of Palestine. Some of it was annexed to Syria, and some became "noman's land." Syria insists on return to the 1949 Armistice borders, the product of Syrian aggression, rather than the 1923 treaty which established the actual international borders. That would reward the acquisition of territory by armed aggression. Israel offered a compromise under Ehud Barak, but Bashar Assad rejected it. The key issue is Syrian access to the Sea of Galilee. In absolute terms, Syria could not in any case have a border with the Sea of Galilee, because the shoreline has been steadily receding. If that shoreline, rather than a surveyed line, were to be established as the border, then Israel would shrink as the Sea of Galilee shrinks. Bashar Assad recently upped the ante, when he declared that not only was the Sea of Galilee Syrian, but that the peace agreement would bring the border right up to Tiberias on the western shore, well inside Israeli territory by any reckoning.
Ami Isseroff  

Briefing: The struggle over the Golan Heights

The Week

For more than 40 years, the disputed status of the Golan Heights has been one of the major obstacles to peace in the Middle East. Is a solution at hand?

Who controls the Golan Heights?
Israel does, at least for now. But last month, Israel and Syria revealed that for the first time since 2000, they were negotiating the status of the disputed territory—a 460-square-mile plateau nestled amid the borders of Israel, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. Neither side is publicly discussing the talks, though the opposing positions are well known. Syria has long demanded that Israel return the Golan, which Syria acquired as part of its independence from France in 1944 and which Israel captured during the Six Day War, in 1967. Israel has responded that this won't happen as long as Syria supports the radical Islamic groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Previous talks have gone nowhere. But now the two longtime enemies say they are pursuing a "serious and continuous" dialogue, and analysts are cautiously optimistic that a resolution can be found.

Why has Israel kept the Golan?
For one thing, it gives Israel complete control of the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake that provides the arid country with nearly a third of its drinking water. But the biggest reason Israel retains the Golan is its strategic military value: From atop Mount Hermon, Israel can look deep into Syrian territory and pre-empt any surprise attacks. That this buffer would be retained has been an article of faith among Israelis—at least until recently. (See below.)

What is the Golan like?
Its lush, rolling terrain carries both the scars and the hopes of this historic land. Ruins from the third century attest to its past; radar towers and electricity-generating windmills mark its present. Fruit orchards and cattle ranches thrive on its fertile volcanic soil, as do vineyards that produce some of Israel's finest wines. The Golan is also heavily militarized, rife with troops, minefields, and barbed wire.

Who lives there?
There are currently 33 Jewish settlements, housing some 18,000 Israelis. For years, Israel tried to keep its people from moving to the Golan, fearing it would again become a battlefield. But more recently, the government has encouraged settlement. Some 400 families put down roots in the Golan annually, drawn by new industrial parks, microbreweries, and Israel's only ski resort, which caters to about 2 million visitors a year. "We're living our life as if we'll be here forever," says Moti Bar of the community of Kanaf.

Is there an Arab presence?
Most of the Golan's 100,000 Arabs fled during the 1967 war, and have not been allowed to return. Still, the area, which is less than half the size of Rhode Island, is home to about 20,000 Arabs. Most are Druze, a sect that split from mainstream Islam centuries ago. The vast majority consider themselves citizens of Syria. But a few have become Israeli citizens, overcoming their fears of Syrian retribution should the territory ever be returned to Damascus.

How does everyone get along?
Remarkably well. Unlike many of their counterparts on the West Bank, the settlers in the Golan are primarily secular and do not view the area in biblical terms, as part of ancient Israel. So although the Golan's Jewish and Druze populations sometimes argue—the Druze charge that Jews are allotted more water, for example—the two groups largely co-exist in peace. Indeed, Golan Arabs enjoy some of the benefits of two nationalities.

In what way?
The Druze have residency rights that allow them to travel throughout Israel. At the same time, Druze can sell their produce to Syria, and they retain such Syrian benefits as free university education. Still, many Arab families separated by the 1967 war remain divided. The experience of Assad Mugrabi, a 58-year-old civil servant, is typical. After his daughter was allowed to enter Syria to marry a cousin in 1989, he didn't see her again until last year, when they met in Jordan. "Every time I think of her, I start to cry," he says. "She was just a small teenager when she left. Now she has children older than she was then."

Might the Golan actually be returned to Syria?
The odds remain long. For starters, public opinion polls indicate that two-thirds of Israeli citizens still oppose giving back the Golan. And returning the territory would involve many knotty problems, including compensating Israeli settlers and making up for lost commerce—the Golan provides Israel with 40 percent of its beef, 21 percent of its wine, and 50 percent of its mineral water. But under the right terms—a phased withdrawal over 15 years, perhaps, coupled with an agreement over water rights—it's possible. The embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, now immersed in a corruption scandal, is clearly open to a deal. In 2006 he called the Golan "an inseparable part of the state of Israel." But last month he said, "We are ready to make substantial concessions to Syria that will be quite painful. I am convinced that the possibility of success is greater than the risk."

Changes on the high ground
When Israel captured the Golan in 1967, it was assumed that it would never give up so strategic an asset, one that afforded commanding views of enemy positions in Syria. Indeed, shortly after the Six Day War, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a report recommending that Israel hold onto the area indefinitely. But today, a number of Israeli generals and politicians, including former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, are expressing openness to the notion of relinquishing the Golan. It's not that they suddenly trust Syria, which in 1973 launched a surprise attack to try to retake the area. Rather, they say, Israel's improved radar systems, listening devices, and air power now enable it to detect and fend off any imminent attack from Syria, thus reducing the need for an actual physical presence in the Golan. "Technology has developed in such a way to favor the defender very much," says Martin van Creveld, one of Israel's most prominent military historians. "With the advent of precision-guided munitions, you no longer need to be 'up there' to hit them 'down there.'"

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Obama can't please 'em all

This may be a bit of a shocker after all those "Obama is a Muslim" "Obama is a Communist" blogs and e-mail hoaxes.

Obama is too pro-Israel

By Ami Eden on Jun 17, 2008

Malik Obama, a Kenyan and the Muslim half-brother of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, says the Illinois will be good for the Jews.

And, following Barack Obama's speech to AIPAC, other Arab voices are starting to agree (with regret).

Muammar Gadhafi didn't like the speech — he says it shows "that he either ignores international politics and did not study the Middle East conflict or that it is a campaign lie."

Nadia Hijab, a senior fellow in the D.C. office of the Institute for Palestine Studies, has a column in the Nation complaining about Obama's AIPAC pitch and his tendency to steer "clear of the American Jewish left and center."

George Bisharat, a professor of law at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, argues in the San Francisco Chronicle that Obama "whiffed in his first major foreign policy speech as the Democratic candidate" by spouting pro-Israel orthodoxies.

James Zogby liked parts of the speech and still thinks Obama is better than John McCain, but he has some qualms.

And, as noted earlier, Hamas seems to have soured on Obama

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Good news from Europe - for Israel

Time for supporters of Israel to cast aside the stereotype of European anti-Israel-ism. It's not all bad....
 Last update - 14:47 17/06/2008       
EU unanimously upgrades Israel ties, turning aside PA objections
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
The European Union, turning aside Palestinian objections, has announced upgraded relations with Israel in the form of a range of steps involving commerce, the economy, and academic ties as well as improvements in the diplomatic dialogue between the sides.
The decision was taken unanimously on Monday by the EU's 27 member nations, following an intense diplomatic effort by Israel.
The upgrade in relations had been in doubt prior to the decision, amid moves to make approval conditional on a freeze on Israeli settlement activity and on progress in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad enraged Israeli officials when he asked the EU not to upgrade ties with Israel unless Israel ceased construction of settlements and the West Bank separation barrier.
The PA has charged that Israel delayed and reduced payments of tex revenues it collects for the Authority in order to "punish" Fayyad.
In the wake of diplomatic efforts by senior Foreign Ministry officials, the EU made do with a call for movement in Israeli-Palestinian talks, and without conditioning the upgrade on such progress.
Accordingly, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and EU counterparts meeting in Luxembourg on Monday agreed to set up a working group to discuss the outlines of upgraded ties and to present their conclusions by year's end.
The upgrade will be carried out in a number of spheres. The diplomatic dialogue between the Israeli government and senior officials of EU institutions, by means of annual high-level meetings.
In the economic sphere, Israel will join European agencies and working groups with the aim of bringing the Israeli economy closer to European standards, and to help Israeli companies more easily contend with the European commercial market, particularly in the fields of high-tech and aviation.
Upgraded ties may also lead to recognition by European academic institutions of degrees awarded by Israeli universities and colleges, a step which would allow Israeli students to study for advanced degrees in European universities and other academic institutions.
In addition, the process would allow grants worth tens of millions of euros to be awarded Israeli scientists and researchers.

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Settlers beating Palestinians and Israeli response

Crime and punishment! The people who carried out these attacks on innocent Arabs should be hunted mercilessly and treated as traitors and enemies of the Jewish people. They have done more harm to the Israeli cause than suicide bombers. Indeed, some suspected that the beatings were provocations by Palestinians dressed as Israelis.
The story of the beatings of the Nawaja family near Sussiya, and a video are posted here.
How many Palestinians have been arrested by Palestinians for murdering Israeli civilians?
Ami Isseroff

Jerusalem Post / Jun 17, 2008 10:10
2 settlers arrested in assault case

Several days after police have opened an undercover investigation to identify the masked men who were videotaped beating three members of a Palestinian family with sticks a week ago, two settlers from the southern Mount Hebron area were arrested, Tuesday.

One of those arrested on Tuesday is a minor, and police estimated more arrests will be made.

The two settlers who were held Tuesday did not try to resist arrest. They were caught after police acted under cover.

The assault took place near Sussiya in the southern Hebron Hills. In the video, shot by a teenage Palestinian girl, four individuals who appear to be young men march toward the family while holding sticks, with one
man wielding a stick at a Palestinian farmer. The film then ends, as the camera girl fled to summon help.

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If Only Americans Knew: Gaza Siege and humanitarian crisis - urgent information

"If Only Americans Knew" - What every American and everyone else needs to know about Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinians, aided by "humanitarian" organizations and UN officials, have insisted that Gaza is under siege by Israel and that there is a "humantarian crisis" perpetrated by Israeli actions. The truth is, that the Gaza leadership of the genocidal Hamas has been waging a propaganda war against Israel and a humanitarian war against its own people. Fuel meant for hospitals is commandeered for "police" vehicles and terrorists who drive around launching rockets at Israel.

Gaza will go down in history as a unique "siege" in which a country that was being pounded by rocket fire provided food and fuel to a vicious genocidal enemy bent on its destruction. It is also unique because it is the only time in history that a country has been condemned for "human rights" violations because it was defending itself against a rogue regime. Below is the record of shipments of humanitarian assistance to Gaza from Israel. Let's not forget that Hamas terrorists shot up the fuel depot to prevent fuel supplies.

Let's set the record straight about the "Gaza Siege." The record is below.  

Ami Isseroff

24,358 trucks; 571,852 tons Humanitarian    assistance to Gaza since Feb 27 escalation in terror

13 Jun 2008

 Ministry of Defense Unit of Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Total (June 16, 2007 - June 13, 2008): 24,358 trucks; 571,852 tons "No humanitarian crisis and no hunger in the Gaza Strip"

 The Unit for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories reports daily on the general humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

 The data for the supplies transferred via the Karni and Sufa crossings is based on the reports of Palestinian merchants.

Two-way traffic at the Erez Crossing of international organizations' staff, patients seeking medical treatment and people accompanying them ("medical evacuations"), and Palestinian civilians  has been permitted for humanitarian and medical aid since 18 January 2007 and occurs almost daily.

 Via the conveyor at the Karni Crossing, hundreds of tons of grain - wheat, barley, soy beans, corn and animal feed - are transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip every week.


Via the Nahal Oz fuel depot, diesel fuel for transportation and the local Gaza power station, petrol, and gas for cooking and heating are transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip, according to an assessment of civilian needs mandated by the Israeli court.


Via the Sufa Crossing, the following supplies are transferred by truck from Israel to the Gaza Strip: food, including: baby formula and food, rice and legumes, fruits and vegetables, meat, chicken and fish, dairy products, flour and yeast, oil, salt and sugar; hygiene products; raw materials for essential infrastructures; medicines and medical equipment; and a myriad of other items - ranging from school books to wheel chairs - needed by the civilian population.

The Kerem Shalom Crossing has been closed since 19 April 2008, due to terrorist attacks directed at it.


June 13, 2008

 51 trucks carrying mostly food products were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing.

 Via the Nahal Oz crossing, 510,000 liters of diesel fuel for the power station, 130,000 liters of diesel fuel for transportation, and 173 tons of gas were delivered.

 In addition, 55 people (patients and their companions) crossed into Israel via Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 11, 2008

 38 trucks carrying fruit and vegetables and other food products as well as materials for humanitarian infrastructure were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing.

 In addition, 54 people (patients and their companions) crossed into Israel via Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 10, 2008

 59 trucks carrying food, materials needed for infrastructures, and medications were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing.

 24 trucks carrying 888 tons of grain were transferred via the Karni crossing.

 Via the Nahal Oz crossing, 280,000 liters of diesel fuel for the power station, 100,000 liters of diesel fuel for transportation, and 88 tons of gas were delivered.

 In addition, 66 people (patients and their companions) crossed into Israel via Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 8, 2008

 521,800 liters of fuel and 84 tons of heating gas were transported via the Nahal Oz terminal.

 In addition, 10 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 4, 2008

 50 trucks carrying food and hygiene products were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing.

 64 trucks carrying 2,409 tons of wheat, corn, soy beans and animal feed were transferred via the Karni crossing.

 Cooking gas was transferred via the Nahal Oz fuel depot.

 In addition, 17 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip via the Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 4, 2008

 Medical evacuation: A Palestinian worker was critically wounded by a mortar bomb fired by Palestinian terrorists towards the Nahal Oz fuel depot.

 He was rushed to hospital in Gaza City.

 Due to the critical wounds the worker suffered and the deterioration of his condition, an urgent request was forwarded to the Israeli Coordination & Liaison Administration at the Erez crossing, to refer the wounded man for further treatment in Israel.

 Colonel Nir Press, Head of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Administration at Erez Crossing, approved the evacuation to Barzilai Hospital in Ashkelon as per the request.


 Press stated that evening: "The attack earlier today caused the casualty of one Palestinian, and ultimately forced the early cessation of pumping of fuel and gas.

 The Hamas campaign against the Gaza Strip crossings primarily inflicts suffering on the people of the Gaza Strip.


June 3, 2008

 60 trucks carrying food, and raw materials for essential infrastructures were transferred to the Gaza  Strip via Sufa crossing.

 At the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 261 tons of gas and 1.

124 million liters of fuel for transportation and electricity were transferred.

 In addition, 32 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel for medical treatment.


June 2, 2008

 64 trucks carrying rice, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, dairy and other food products, and raw materials for essential infrastructures were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing.

 71 trucks carrying 2,577 tons of wheat, soy beans, corn and animal feed were transferred via the Karni grain depot.

 At the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 260,410 liters of fuel for transportation and 732,400 liters of fuel for the power station, and 210 tons of heating and cooking gas were transferred to the Gaza Strip.

 In addition, 13 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel via the Erez crossing for medical treatment.

June 1, 2008

 30 trucks carrying vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, dairy and other food products, medications and medical equipment, and raw materials for essential infrastructures were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing.

 64 trucks carrying 2,500 tons of wheat, soy beans, corn and animal feed were transferred via the Karni grain depot.

 At the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 1.

038 million liters of fuels and 262 tons of gas were transferred to the Gaza Strip.

 In addition, 29 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel via the Erez crossing for medical treatment.

May 28, 2008

 71 trucks carrying 2,610 tons of wheat, soy and animal feed were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Karni conveyor.

 Via the Nahal Oz depot, 110 tons of cooking and heating gas were transferred.

 This week, 70,030 liters of petrol (out of 75,400 allocated), 693,450 liters of transportation fuel (out of 800,000) and 2,097,400 (out of 2,200,000) liters of diesel fuel for the power station were transferred.

 In addition, 87 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel on

May 28 for medical treatment.

May 27, 2008

 62 trucks carrying 1,260 tons of wheat, 72 tons of barley and 900 tons of animal feed were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Karni grain depot.

 72 trucks with food, hygiene products, medicines and supplies for essential infrastructures were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing.

 Via the Nahal Oz fuel depot, 70,030 liters of petrol, 253 tons of gas, 155,000 liters of fuel for transportation and 736,200 liters of fuel for the power station were transferred.

 In addition, eight people crossed into Israel for medical treatment.

May 26, 2008

 66 trucks carrying baby food, agricultural produce and equipment, meat/chicken/fish, dairy products and other food, medicines, and supplies for essential infrastructures were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing.

 170 tons of gas and 1.

01 million liters of diesel fuel were transferred via Nahal Oz.

 In addition, 27 people (patients and their companions) crossed into Israel for medical treatment.

May 25, 2008

 75 truckloads (2690 tons) of wheat, barley, corn, soy, sesame seeds and animal feed were transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip via the Karni grain depot.

 66 truckloads of agriculture produce, meat/chicken/fish, dairy products, other food, supplies for essential infrastructures and medical equipment were transferred via Sufa crossing.

 245 tons of gas, 270,420 liters of fuel for transportation and 619,200 liters of fuel for the power station were transferred via the Nahal Oz depot.

May 23, 2008

 During the week 18-23

May, 300,000 liters of fuel were transferred via the Nahal Oz depot into the Gaza Strip for the use of UNWRA.

 43,010 liters of gasoline and 159 tons of gas were transferred; 1,116,830 liters of fuel for transportation, more than the 800,000 liters allocated, and 2,177,200 liters of fuel out of the 2,200,000 liters allocated for the power station were transferred.

May 22, 2008

 The truck bomb attack on the Erez crossing prevented 31 Palestinians from receiving medical treatment in Israel.

May 14, 2008

: 59 trucks with food, medical supplies, and agricultural produce and equipment were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing point.

 88 tons of gas and 469,000 liters of diesel fuel were transferred via the Nahal Oz depot.


May 11 to

May 16, 1.

957 million liters of fuel for power plants were transferred, out of the 2.

2 million liters allocated weekly.

 In addition, 36 people (patients and companions) crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical treatment.

May 13, 2008

: 65 humanitarian aid trucks carrying baby food, agricultural produce, meat & fish, hygienic products, milk products, salt & sugar, medical equipment and medicines, oil, flour and yeast were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing point.

 In addition, 65 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment via Erez crossing.

May 12-13, 2008

 81,000 liters of fuel for transportation and 1.

488 million liters of diesel fuel for power plants were transferred via the Nahal Oz crossing.

May 12, 2008

 71 truckloads of humanitarian aid (food, hygiene products, tools and raw materials for infrastructures) were transferred via the Sufa crossing.

 Eleven tankers (242 tons) of gas for heating and cooking were transferred via the Nahal Oz depot.

 In addition, 49 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.

May 11, 2008

: 69 humanitarian aid trucks carrying wheelchairs, walking sticks, additional medical equipment, food supplies and camping equipment were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Sufa crossing point.

 In addition, 83 people (patients and companions) crossed from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical treatment.

May 4-9, 2008

: 2,407,000 liters of fuel (petrol and diesel) were transferred to the Gaza Strip via Nahal Oz fuel depot.

May 4, 2008

: 70 humanitarian aid trucks carrying  vaccines, electric wires, hygiene and food products and other materials were transferred to the Gaza Strip via the Sufa crossing point; 27 trucks carrying grains and coffee were transferred via the Karni crossing; 120 tons (5 tankers) of heating gas and 560,000 liters (11 tankers) of fuel were transferred via the Nahal Oz crossing.

 In addition, 57 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from Gaza for medical treatment.


April 30, 2008

Approximately 64 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via Sufa crossing.

 The assistance was organized with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

 The following is a list of supplies transferred: diapers, fruit, meat, flour, corn, oil, cocoa powder, dairy products, sugar, toilet paper, garlic, fish, ful, carrots, nylon bags, reproductive eggs, cleaning products and medical equipment.

April 23, 2008

Approximately 85 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via Sufa crossing.

 In addition, 1 million liters of fuel were transferred via Nahal-Oz.

 The assistance was organized with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

The following is a list of supplies transferred through Sufa crossing: oil, paper, meat, nylon bags used for greenhouses, rice, fruit, juice, sugar, milk, dairy products, flour, washing powder, salt, cleaning products, medical equipment, fish, fuel, disposable dishes, pasta, conserves, vegetables and humus.

April 17, 2008

 Approximately 27 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom crossing before it was forced to close due to the attack on the crossing.

 Supplies transferred through the Kerem Shalom crossing: oil, paper, meat, nylon bags used for greenhouses, rice, fruit and halva.

 In addition, 800,000 liters of diesel fuel for heating and 240,000 tons of gas were transferred via Nahal Oz, which also closed during the afternoon after Palestinian snipers fired at the crossing.

April 16, 2008

 Approximately 95 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 59 trucks trough the Sufa Crossing containing: cleaning products, rice, dairy products, fruit, sugar, humus, meat, spices, flour, salt, garlic, fish, starch, hypochlorite, fennel, pea, pasta, hatching eggs and disposable plates.

 36 trucks, including 11 trucks of Egyptian donation through the Kerem Shalom crossing containing: oil, paper, single-use dishes, medical equipment, diapers, preservatives, nylon bags, gloves, drip irrigation system, pipes and pads.

 The supply of diesel fuel for the Gaza power plant and cooking gas was resumed at 14:30 through the Nahal Oz fuel terminal.

 The fuel depot is 70% full (188,000 liters of gasoline and 820,000 liters of diesel fuel).

 The Palestinians in Gaza have refrained for the last two weeks from providing this available fuel to the Palestinian people.

April 15, 2008

 Approximately 100 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 67 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: drippers, seeds, cleaning products, rice, sugar, meat, flour, salt, fruit, carrots, garlic, corn, pasta, fruit, humus, eggs, cinnamon, fish and cloth.

 33 trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing containing: medications, mushrooms, bandages, bottles, cloths, diapers, canned food, oil, toilet paper, timber and cable clips.

April 14, 2008

 Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the renewal of diesel shipments to Gaza's power station.

 Only the minimal amount required to maintain the station's operations, determined in the past, will be transferred.

 Israel will also allow shipments of cooking gas.  At this stage, gasoline and diesel fuel will not be supplied for transportation needs.  The supply of fuel will begin on Wednesday,

April 16, after the completion of security arrangements between the IDF and Dor Energy.

 Approximately 123 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Karni and Sufa Crossings: 54 trucks trough the Sufa Crossing containing: medications, cleaning products, rice, sugar, meat, dairy products, washing powder, flour, salt, fruit, carrots, halva, starch, eggs, cinnamon, yeast, fish and cloth.

 51 trucks through the Karni crossing containing: wheat, barley, soy, lentils and sesame.

 18 trucks through the Kerem Shalom crossing containing: medical equipment, medications, electrical equipment, conserves, paper, nylon, diapers, toilet paper, oil, wood for greenhouses, pumps and drip irrigation system.

April 13, 2008

 87 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Sufa and Kerem Shalom crossings.

 The supplies included rice, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, other food stuffs, and hygiene products.

 In addition, 71 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip for medical treatment via Erez crossing.

April 9, 2008

 Approximately 95 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 55 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: salt, carrot, fruit, rice, sugar, spices, dairy products, meat, flour, garlic, fish, pasta, frozen vegetables, coffee, cleaning products, hatching eggs.

 30 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: oil, rice, medical equipments, diapers, cleaning products, toilet paper, shampoo and soap.

 10 trucks donated by Egypt, through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: flour and sugar.

April 8, 2008

 Approximately 90 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 61 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: baby formula, salt, rice, fruit, flour, dairy products, sugar, garlic, carrots, milk powder, frozen vegetables, cardamon, eggs, fish, food additives, humus and tea.

 29 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: medicine and medical equipment, boiler for a hospital, oil, nylon bags, cleaning products, yeast, shampoo, toilet paper, halva and tehina.

 In addition, 655,000 liters (13 tankers) of fuel and 282 tons of heating gas (11 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

April 7, 2008

 Approximately 128 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 56 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: salt, tea, garlic, sugar, carrot, apples, dairy products, meat, fish, hatching eggs, animal vitamins.

 40 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat, cumin, sesame, coriander, barley.

 32 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: soy, yeast, salt, cleaning products, toilet paper, soap, hair shampoo & conditioner.

 In addition, 650,000 liters (13 tankers) of fuels and 176 tons of heating gas (8 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

April 6, 2008

 Approximately 76 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 60 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: books, baby kits, food kits, fruit, rice, oil, meat, milk, flour, red pepper, eggs and tea.

 16 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: wheel chairs, sugar, flour and other basic food products.

 In addition, 705,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuels and 177 tons of heating gas (7 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

April 3, 2008

 Approximately 100 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 63 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: fruit, rice, sugar, dairy products, meat, fish, flour, garlic, medicine, cocoa powder, carrot, yeast, hatching eggs.

 37 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: rice, sugar, coffee, oil, flour, pasta, tea, toilet paper, cleaning products, diapers, medicine.

April 2, 2008

 Approximately 111 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 59 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: fruit, rice, sugar, dairy products, garlic, meat, flour, paper, medicine, salt, meat preservatives, cocoa powder, fish, pasta and yeast.

 27 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat and construction materials.

 25 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: school equipment, shampoo, toilet paper, washing powder, soap, diapers, oil, rice and wet wipes.

April 1, 2008

 Approximately 138 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 51 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat, sesame, corn, coffee, soy.

 56 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: fruit, rice, sugar, dairy products, meat, fish, flour, carrot, garlic, pasta, cleaning products, school books.

 18 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: soap, rice, meat, oil, sugar, coffee, animal vitamins.

 13 trucks donated by Egypt, through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing rice and sugar.

 In addition, 746,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 273 tons of heating gas (11 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 30, 2008

 Approximately 78 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 57 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: powdered milk, dairy products, sugar, cleaning products, washing powder, fruit, rice, fish, meat, flour, coffee, vitamins, carrots, garlic and reproduction eggs.

 21 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: washing powder, cleaning products, oil, nylon, plastic bags, diapers, hygiene products, jam, shampoo and medicine.

 In addition, 687,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 300 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 28, 2008

 A total of 502 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 18 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 24 trucks were unloaded.

March 26, 2008

 139 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today: 43 trucks via the Karni crossing grain conveyor carrying 1,548 tons of wheat, barley, corn, soy and animal feed.

 64  trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: sugar, powdered milk, bananas, dairy products, meat/fish, fruit, carrots, salt, coffee, flour, rice, garlic, frozen vegetables, medical equipment.

 22 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: oil, pasta, rice, sugar, coffee, ketchup, mayonnaise, soap, diapers, shampoo, toilet paper.

 691,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 282 tons of heating gas (11 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

 In addition, 86 people (patients and companions) crossed into Israel for medical treatment via the Erez crossing.

March 25, 2008

 Approximately 149 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 26 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and 49 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: cocoa, powered milk, jam, oil, peas, tissue, diapers, toilet paper, medical supplies.

 65 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat, corn, sesame, grains.

 58 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: dairy products, sugar, fruit, meat, rice, flour, oil, carrots, pasta, garlic, fish, reproduction eggs, salt, tea, medical supplies, ketchup, vegetables.

 In addition, 668,000 liters (14 tankers) of fuel and 356 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 24, 2008

 Approximately 164 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 37 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing and 49 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: rice, fruit, fish, meat, chicken, dairy products, salt, sugar, flour, oil, medicine.

 5 trucks donated by Egypt, through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: flour and rice.

 73 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat, corn, sesame, grains.

 In addition, 651,000 liters (14 tankers) of fuel and 326 tons of heating gas (11 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 23, 2008

 Approximately 74 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 24 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: reproduction eggs, frozen vegetables, dairy products, fish, meat, beans, halvah, toilet paper, and diapers.

 50 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: coffee, rice, flour, salt, sugar, peas, fruit, and oil.

March 20, 2008

 Approximately 112 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom and Karni Crossings: 45 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing toilet paper, medical supplies, electronic supplies, oil, meat, frozen vegetables, flour, and fruit.

 67 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing wheat and corn.

March 19, 2008

 Approximately 39 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: diapers, toilet paper, medical supplies, oil, pasta, fish, meat, frozen vegetables, rice and tea.

March 18, 2008

 A total of 3,401 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 79 trucks through the Karni Crossing conveyer containing: wheat, corn and animal feed.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 34 trucks were unloaded.

 In addition, 635,000 liters (14 tankers) of fuel and 242 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 17, 2008

 Approximately 147 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 55 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: meat, fruit, sugar, diapers, flour, peas, oil, carrot, coffee, fish, rice, garlic.

 64 trucks through the Karni Crossing containing: wheat, grains, sesame, corn, barley.

 8 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: diapers, toilet paper, tea, soup, medication, blankets and 20 trucks of food donated by Egypt.

March 16, 2008

 Approximately 65 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 11 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: toilet paper and diapers.

 54 trucks through the Sufa Crossing containing: sugar, flour, salt, fruit, powdered milk, hatching eggs, cocoa, ketchup, mayonnaise, & food preservatives.

 In addition, 679,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuels and 334 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 14, 2008

 20 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies with a total weight of 301 tons were transferred into the Gaza Strip today via the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: vitamins, diapers, toilet paper, fruit, oil, frozen meat, tea, coffee, powdered milk, hatching eggs, corn, pasta, carrots and tahini.

March 13, 2008

 Approximately 152 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom, Sufa and Karni Crossings: 59 trucks through Sufa Crossing containing: meat, fruit, sugar, bananas, flour, coffee, garlic, oil, pasta, carrots.

 73 trucks through the Karni Crossing conveyer containing: wheat, grains, barley.

 20 trucks through the Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: diapers, pasta, tea, oil, toilet paper, fish, medicine, meat preservatives.

March 12, 2008

 A total of 1,567 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 54 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 22 trucks were unloaded.

 In addition, 640,000 liters (14 tankers) of fuel and 248 tons of heating gas (14 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 11, 2008

 A total of 3,877 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 72 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 21 trucks were unloaded.

 Karni Crossing conveyer - 61 trucks were unloaded (2,800 tons of wheat, legumes, corn and animal feed) In addition, 695,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 320 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 10, 2008

 A total of 3,810 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 59 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 5 trucks were unloaded.

 Karni Crossing conveyer - 81 trucks were unloaded (2,800 tons of wheat, legumes, sesame seeds, corn and animal feed) In addition, 695,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 320 tons of heating gas (12 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 9, 2008

 A total of 1,248 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 55 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 23 trucks were unloaded.

 In addition, 681,000 liters (15 tankers) of fuel and 272 tons of heating gas (13 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 7, 2008

 A total of 906 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 30 trucks were unloaded.

 Kerem Shalom Crossing - 8 trucks were unloaded.

 In addition, 225 tons of heating gas (10 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 6, 2008

 About 160 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies are being transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom, Karni and Sufa Crossings.

 63 trucks passed through Sufa Crossing containing: flour, fruit, sugar, cooking oil, frozen meat and fish.

 19 trucks (donated by Egypt) passed through Kerem Shalom Crossing containing: rice, sugar, oil and dairy products.

 Approximately 80 trucks passed through the Karni Crossing containing grain.

March 5, 2008

 About 70 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom and Sufa Crossings: 63 trucks passed through the Sufa Crossing containing: fruit, sugar, humus, flour, coffee, baby formula and oxygen masks.

 6 trucks passed through the Kerem Shalom crossing containing: oil, flour, beans and tomato sauce.

 In addition, 25 Palestinians entered Israel for medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.


March 2008

 About 160 trucks of humanitarian aid and supplies were transferred into the Gaza Strip via the Karni and Sufa crossings, as well as the reopened Kerem Shalom crossing.

 Sufa Crossing: 12 trucks of medicines and medical supplies (including one UNRWA truck) 9 trucks of meat, fish and frozen vegetables 8 trucks of fruit 7 trucks of flour, oil and sugar 5 trucks of dairy products 18 trucks of flour, oil and humus donated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Kerem Shalom Crossing: 8 trucks of sugar 2 trucks of rice 4 trucks of oil 4 trucks of rice and oil 4 trucks of rice and sugar Karni Crossing: 80 trucks of grain

March 3, 2008

 A total of 4,073 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 60 trucks were unloaded.

 Karni Crossing conveyer - 76 trucks were unloaded (2,700 tons of wheat and animal feed) In addition, 1,014 liters (21 tankers) of fuels and  300 tons of heating gas (7 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

March 2, 2008

 A total of 1,152 tons of humanitarian aid and fuel were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 55 trucks were unloaded.

 In addition, 918,000 liters (19 tankers) of fuel and 169 tons of heating gas (7 tankers) were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

February 29, 2008

 400,000 liters (18 tankers) of fuels were transported through the Nahal Oz Crossing.

 February 27, 2008

 A total of 3,924 tons of humanitarian aid and supplies were transported.

 Sufa Crossing - 60 trucks were unloaded.

 Karni Crossing conveyer - 73 trucks were unloaded (2,600 tons of wheat and animal feed)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Lessons of the Jenin "Massacre" for today

In 2002, following a month of massive and brutal suicide bombings, the Israeli government reacted to defend its citizens by launching operation Defensive Shield. Palestinian propagandists fabricated a story about a "massacre" perpetrated by the Israel Defense Forces in which 500 Palestinians were killed in Jenin refugee camp. The lie was broadcast around the world. It was carried to the UN where there were demands for action against Israel. This angry chorus of anti-Israel recriminations for non-existent "crimes" was in marked contrast to the silence that had greeted the Palestinian campaign of actual suicide bombings that was orchestrated and financed by the Palestinian Authority.

There was no massacre. Israel warned people repeatedly to leave the camp, and most had left. UN and HRW investigations as well as those of the IDF determined that about 56 Palestinains had been killed in all. Of these, over half were armed terrorists killed in batte. The rest were civilians, most of whom had chosen of their own volition to stay with the terrorists. Some supposedly could not move. How could it be that there was nobody available to help old or infirm people leave the camp. How could people run away and leave family members there?

A large number of Israeli soldiers were killed as well. It would have been easier to simply bomb the compound where the terrorists had holed up with civilians as willing or unwilling hostages. That is what any other country would have done, and it is what the US has done repeatedly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, Israel used ground troops to spare Palestinian lives.

The lie of the Jenin Massacre was also made into a film, "Jenin, Jenin." which perpetuates the lie. Though both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the UN admitted that there had not been a massacre - many months after the fact, Human Rights Watch still alleged Israeli "war crimes" based on the same fake "eye witness" testimony that had earlier been offered as "proof" of the non-existent massacre.

The "Jenin Massacre" is not just history. The same pattern of fabrications has been carried forward and is repeated today in almost every story you read about Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank and in Lebanon.

Media and rights groups again cited such fabricated evidence in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War, to complain of Israeli rights violations, indiscriminate killing of civilians and other "crimes" that never happened.

Today, the same campaign is being conducted regarding Gaza. An electricity shortage was fabricated by the Hamas, complete with pictures of people gathering by candle-light - with electric signs clearly lit and visible. Nothwithstanding the obvious fakery, media, rights groups and the UN cooperated in disseminating the lie.
UN rights workers and NGOs complain of a "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza, but Israel has been trucking huge quantities of humanitarian supplies there on a regular basis. Fuel supplies were interrupted when a Hamas terror squad shot up the fuel depot.

Physicians for Human Rights announced that a Palestinian had died because Israel did not allow him to get medical attention in Israel. A few days later, the dead man appeared, alive and well (see Palestinian Miracle: Fatality "victim" of occupation resurrected) . The Hamas falsely claimed, again with "eye witnesses" that Israel had bombed a house, killing seven "civilians." In retaliation for the imaginary "crime," Hamas carried out a real bombardment of targets in Israel (see Hamas Palestinians manufacture atrocity and 'retaliation').

Below is one of the first detailed reports from the Jenin, published in the National Post in 2002, that provided fairly detailed evidence that there had been no massacre. Parts of this article are quoted elsewhere on the Web, but the original appears to be missing, and the entire text is apparently not posted anywhere else. Pay attention to the "eye witness reports" which were all fabrications. Especially - the report of Israel soldiers loading bodies into a truck. In fact, the truck contained only food.

How long will the lies go on? When will the media, the NGOs and the UN learn the lesson of Jenin?

Ami Isseroff

What happened at Jenin?
National Post
Monday, April 15, 2002
Page: A1 / FRONT
Section: News
Byline: Stewart Bell
Column: Mideast: Analysis
Dateline: RAMANEH, West Bank
Source: National Post, with files Reuters
National Post reporter Stewart Bell interviewed Palestinians fleeing the Jenin refugee camp and Israeli military officials in an attempt to sort out the two sides' widely disparate claims about the conduct and human cost of the battles in the camp.

- - -

RAMANEH, West Bank - Ramaneh Elementary and Preparatory School normally echoes with the squeals of children. Yesterday it served a more sombre function as a refuge for hundreds of war-weary Palestinians displaced by the fighting in nearby Jenin.

There was a woman who had fled her home in such a panic she grabbed the wrong child, realizing too late that she was running away from the battle with her nephew rather than her son. She still does not know what happened to her boy.

There were young men who told of being rounded up en masse by Israeli troops, detained and released with orders to carry crude army-issue photo identity cards. And there were those who said missiles had struck their homes, all but destroying them.

During a stop at the Ramaneh school, Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, said he had met hundreds of Palestinians displaced by what he termed the "massacre" in Jenin, where 23 Israeli troops and at least 100 Palestinians were killed last week.

"Everyone has a story," he said. "Everyone has a tragedy, about executions they saw, about their whole family that was killed, about the most tangible concern -- where is my family?"

While the people of Jenin had vivid accounts of the fighting and destruction of homes, few seemed to have first-hand knowledge of the massacres said to have taken place. The lack of solid information has fuelled the rumour mill.

A grocery store owner near Jenin spoke in a hushed voice about seeing Israeli troops loading the bodies of massacred Palestinians into a refrigerated truck which he said was still parked on a nearby hill.

Asked to elaborate, he declined. "The people that are sitting there are collaborators," he said.

The refrigerated truck was parked on a grassy hill, where Israeli troops were resting with their tanks and armoured vehicles listening to Alanis Morissette on a stereo.

When a National Post reporter inspected the truck, it contained not bodies but apples and other food and supplies for the troops.

Yesterday was a day of diplomacy in the Middle East, but it was also a day of all-out public relations, as the Palestinians tried to portray Jenin as a cold-blooded massacre -- their version of Srebrenica or Racak -- and the Israelis did their best to prove such accusations unfounded.

The Jenin refugee camp, a hotbed of Palestinian militancy, was the scene of the heaviest fighting of the current Israeli counter-terrorism offensive. Although the house-to-house street battles ended four days ago, the camp remains off-limits (still, the Israeli army took a hand-picked group of reporters on a guided tour yesterday).

The Israelis say the camp has not been opened up because it was extensively booby-trapped by Palestinian militants. But that has only fuelled speculation that the Israelis are buying time to cover up a massacre. A few reporters who snuck past security lines or broke away from the official tour overseen by Israeli officials found bodies, frightened civilians and heavy damage to buildings.

The contorted bodies of four Palestinian men, blackened by decomposition, were found in a living room apparently hit by a missile. Andeera Harb, 34, a child psychologist whose relatives owned the house, said the four men had been eating dinner.

However, there was a helmet on the head of one body. What appeared to be pipe bombs were partially hidden under a coat.

In a room of a house 100 metres away, the bloated body of a middle-aged man, arms and one leg suspended in rigor mortis, lay on its side next to a bookcase.

Only a few dozen residents were seen, all women, children and older men. They said the army had killed or detained all men of fighting age, whether they were militants or not.

Many homes, including some untouched by fighting, seemed to have been ransacked. Residents claimed money, jewellery and other valuables had been stolen, and that larders were raided.

In Jerusalem, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, the Israeli Defence Minister, told the Cabinet around 70 militants were killed in the camp, fewer than earlier army estimates, political sources said.

Jacob Dallal, an army spokesman, said 26 bodies lay unretrieved around the once-teeming concrete camp, home to Palestinian refugees since 1948, and more could be under the wreckage. Another nine Palestinian bodies were turned over to two hospitals for burial and two more had been buried by relatives.

All but three were members of the estimated 200-strong, hard-core Palestinian militant force in the camp, Mr. Dallal said. The others were two women and a child.

Jenin has exacted the highest Israeli toll -- 23 soldiers dead and scores wounded -- in the 16-day incursion into West Bank cities, billed as a drive against suicide bombers. The army says most of its dead were killed by booby traps fitted to cars, assault rifles, garbage cans, doors, closets, chairs, drawers, fridges, sports balls and uniforms.

Mr. Dallal cited these as one reason why 26 bodies had yet to be retrieved. "Some of the bodies themselves may be booby-trapped."

Army officers said the Palestinian Red Crescent had been reluctant to collect bodies for safety reasons. However, Palestinian medics say the army has barred them from entering the camp and some Palestinians said the army was secretly burying corpses in mass graves to cover up a massacre.

Standing before eight-metre mounds of rubble and earth in the square, army officers said most of the camp's 15,000 residents had been evicted by militants who placed booby traps in their homes, before the army arrived.

Camp residents said the army drove them out by threatening to destroy their homes, and then kept them out.

"Most of the houses we approached on entering the camp were empty [of civilians]. The camp was ready for war," said Israeli platoon commander Yoni Wolff.

"People are living in agony because of these massacres," Mr. Tibi said. "No one has any numbers but people here are talking about hundreds of Palestinians murdered. People are talking about a missile attack by helicopter, by tank."

Major Natan Golan, spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces, countered that what the Palestinians are calling a massacre was really an extremely heavy battle between government troops and armed militants who set bombs throughout the village.

Jenin was "littered with explosives and [defended by] very certified terrorists," he said. He acknowledged there was heavy damage to the camp but said it was a result of booby-trap bombs that were either set off by Palestinians or blown up by Israeli forces.

He also said the Israeli army had dispatched rescue teams to Jenin yesterday to help rescue 19 Palestinians trapped in two collapsed buildings.

Tanks were not used in the operation because the streets are too narrow and helicopters were only used on one day, when a group of Israeli troops were ambushed. "There was no massacre in the Jenin refugee camp," Maj. Golan said.

He blamed the Palestinian propaganda machine for the massacre story. "They are doing their job well," he said.

About 800 uprooted Jenin residents are now living in Ramaneh and the nearby villages of Zbouba and Taiiba. Most are staying at the school but hundreds more have been taken in by local families.

The towns lie within the Israeli security perimeter, so locals have set up an underground smuggling operation to bring in clothes and food. The goods are stashed at a house in a nearby village and then carried after dark across the defence lines.

Yesterday, a tractor ferried the supplies to the Ramaneh school -- onions, potatoes, apples and old clothes.

As he lay in the shade of the school, one young man described how he had been arrested by troops and taken by bus to a makeshift prison in Salem. The troops held him for hours and then took his photo with a Polaroid camera and released him, telling him not to return to Jenin.

"Most of the men have pictures like this," said another man, holding an identity card. "This picture shows that they were captured."

Rashid Mansour described how he left after 11 shells hit his house and an adjoining home. "I don't know if my house is destroyed, gone, bulldozed."

Kiffah Moustapha said, on the second day of the fighting, her children were terrified so she made a run for it and the Israeli troops let her go. She walked roughly 10 kilometres to Ramaneh.

She said she saw no bodies, only damaged homes. But if the Israelis were only trying to capture Palestinian militants, she said, why were they bombing homes? She said she suspected the troops were seeking revenge rather than simply trying to catch terrorists.

Almost everyone at the Ramaneh school seemed convinced there had been a massacre. They said the Israelis had taken away scores of bodies because they wanted to hide the evidence.

One Jenin man accused Israeli troops of planting ammunition beside the bodies of civilians to make it look like those killed were fighters.

The debate over the body count might have been settled yesterday by Israel's Supreme Court, which ruled that the army had to let Palestinians identify those killed in Jenin before they could be buried.

The Israeli army planned to escort the Red Cross to Jenin today to begin dealing with the bodies.

Stewart Bell

Idnumber: 200204150160
Edition: National
Story Type: News; Analysis

Length: 1590 words

BASNUM: 3698516
NDATE: 20020415
NUPDATE: 20020417
DOB: 20020415

Labels: ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Oslo Process: What went wrong?

BESA prespectives gives us this view of why Oslo failed - Israelis and Palestinians "weren't ready." That's one way of putting it - a diplomatic way. Another way is to say that at least one side never wanted peace at all. Probably, large segments of both sides did not want "peace" in the way that peace is ordinarily understood in this context - a compromise that allows both sides to coexist.
Ami Isseroff

Perspectives 45 

June 16, 2008

The Failure of the Oslo Process: Inherently Flawed or Flawed Implementation?

by Jonathan Rynhold

Executive Summary: Liberals argued that the Oslo process collapsed because it was not implemented properly; especially the failure to implement economic integration and build mutual trust. In contrast, from a Realist perspective, it is argued below that the Oslo process was flawed from the outset. Israel and the Palestinians were ripe for negotiations but not for conflict resolution because the parties remained too far apart on core issues. No amount of trust could overcome this problem. Attempts at integration actually made matters worse by increasing friction. The key to conflict management is not integration but physical and political separation.


Since the collapse of the Oslo process in 2000, a debate has raged as to what went wrong. Much of this debate has been a "blame game" designed to determine whether Israel or the Palestinians were more culpable. Instead, it is worth asking whether the Oslo process failed because it was not implemented properly or because it was inherently flawed. The answers given to this question usually depend on the intellectual approach of the respondent.

According to a Liberal approach, the failure to reach a permanent status agreement was a failure of implementation – the parties lacked the necessary will and skill to bring the process to a successful conclusion. However, according to the Realist approach adopted here, the failure of the Oslo process was primarily due to constraints that were inherent in the process. The Liberal processes designed to secure conflict resolution were over-burdened. Rather than helping to resolve the conflict, they exacerbated it.

Liberalism and Failure of Negotiations

According to Liberalism, the key to conflict resolution lies in mutual recognition of national rights, development of mutual trust and economic integration of both societies. From this perspective, the agreement on mutual recognition between Israel and the PLO, signed in September 1993, signaled that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ripe for a negotiated resolution because it ended the "zero-sum" nature of the conflict. But to actually reach a detailed settlement, Liberals argued that mutual trust between negotiators, such as was said to exist during the secret Oslo talks in 1993, was necessary. In addition, economic integration, symbolized by the 1994 Paris Accords and Peres' plan for a "New Middle East" was supposed to generate mutual economic gains that would create a reservoir of support for the peace process and hence for the major compromises required on permanent status issues.

When the Oslo process collapsed, Liberals, such as Yossi Beilin and Ron Pundak, argued that it was due to a failure to properly implement the Liberal model to which they adhered. First, there was a loss of trust due to the "autistic" negotiation style of Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Israel's tough negotiating style and the expansion of settlements, especially under Barak, are said to have undermined Palestinian trust. The US is also blamed for undermining Palestinian trust by siding with Israel in the negotiations and for not pressuring Israel enough to reach an agreement. Meanwhile, Arafat is blamed for undermining Israelis' trust for allowing incitement and terrorism to continue. Second, Israel's policy of closures is blamed for preventing the Palestinians economy from growing, thereby reducing Palestinian support for the peace process.

Realism and the Failure of the Oslo Process

From a Realist perspective, the key to successfully managing ethno-national conflict is the physical and political separation of ethno-national groups, not mutual trust and economic integration. The prevention of conflict depends on the balance of power and on the interests of the parties concerned. Thus, it was shifts in the balance of power wrought by the first Palestinian uprising (Intifada) which began in December 1987, the 1991 Gulf War and the end of the Cold War that gave Israel and the Palestinians parties a strong interest in negotiations. However "ripeness" for negotiations is not the same as ripeness for conflict resolution. Although both Israel and the PLO were ripe for negotiations, there remained large gaps between how they conceived a permanent settlement, particularly regarding the issue of Palestinian refugees which challenges the idea of "separation" that lies at the heart of Realism.

On the one hand, there was overwhelming Israeli opposition to a "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and the immigration to Israel of any more than a few thousand Palestinian refugees in practice. Jewish Israelis perceive the "right of return" as a serious threat to their core consensus political value – the existence of Israel as a Jewish (in demographic terms) state. It is also a matter of personal and national security. Most Israeli Jews (and Israeli Arabs for that matter) believe that Israelis and Palestinians cannot live peacefully side by side in a single state.

On the other hand, the Palestinians continued to demand at least recognition of the "right of return" for the refugees and their descendents. Even if they were prepared to make some compromises regarding implementation, this position implied that Israel's existence as a Jewish state was subordinate to the right of Palestinian refugees to choose their ultimate place of abode. This created the impression that the long-term aim of the Palestinians remained the removal of Israel, only now in demographic terms.

Indeed, Palestinian leader Faisal Husseini, considered a moderate, effectively endorsed this position in one of his final public statements before he died. In any case, in January 2001, Arafat rejected the Clinton Parameters for a Permanent Settlement. In direct contradiction to the Framework, Arafat demanded an explicit "right of return," while opposing an international force in the Jordan Valley and refusing any compromise regarding the Temple Mount.

In fact, the attempt to negotiate compromises on such core identity/symbolic issues prior to clear signs of ripeness among the public, allowed Palestinian rejectionists to mobilize the public to violence. Thus, it was Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount that provided the opportunity for the initiation and incitement of violence. Indeed, the Palestinians named the round of violence that began in September 2000 as "The Al Aqsa Intifada."

Integration and the Disintegration of Support for the Oslo Process

In contrast to the Liberal prescription of integration, the parties would have been better off following a strategy of separation. Open borders empowered "spoilers." It allowed the settlers to build up and strengthen their position in the Territories. It made the task of removing them physically difficult as they could always return with relative ease. Meanwhile, integration enhanced terrorists' ability to attack Israeli targets and erode the credibility of the peace process. Integration also made the Palestinian economy a hostage of terrorism. Overall, integration increased friction.

Liberals like Ron Pundak argued that the Oslo process need not have been a hostage to terrorism had Israel, especially Yitzhak Rabin, not resorted to the "unnecessary" policy of closures. However, the terrorist threat and the policy dilemma it produced for Israel cannot be dismissed. Terrorism can demoralize the public and thus threaten the state with implosion, a threat recognized as increasingly real in the 1990s even by Rabin who had previously dismissed terrorism as a strategic nuisance.

The domestic pressure on Rabin to respond to terrorism was thus of real strategic importance. If Rabin would have simply ignored the violence, he would contribute to demoralization, and probably the fall of his government and its replacement with a more right-wing coalition. Any offensive action would clearly lead to a deterioration in the peace process. That left a defensive action, such as closure, as the only viable alternative. Moreover, subsequently the tactical-defensive value of separation in the battle against terrorism became evident as the construction of separation barrier helped to reduce Israeli casualties following the collapse of the Oslo process. Thus, the problem was not too much separation, but too little.

The Implications of the Threat Environment

For Realists, one cause of regional stability and cooperation is the presence of a common threat. For example, in Western Europe, the common Soviet threat was an important factor that facilitated cooperation and integration between the former adversaries. Shimon Peres thought that the threat of Islamic fundamentalism could provide such a common enemy for Israelis and the secular Palestinian leadership. However, the PA's relationship with the Islamic opposition was ambivalent. Its preference was for cooption not confrontation. Thus, the lack of a common threat represented an a priori barrier to conflict resolution.

Even when "moderate" Arab states in the region did recognize a common interest with Israel in combating the "radicals," this translated into a commitment to regional conflict management rather than conflict resolution. Pro-American Arab states support the peace process as a means for conflict management; however that does not mean that they are willing to pressure the Palestinians to reach an agreement on the core issues. In fact, Egypt actually played a negative role by discouraging the Palestinians from making compromises regarding Jerusalem prior to Camp David. Arab states feared that actively supporting compromises on symbolic permanent status issues would expose them to great domestic criticism, which could threaten their regimes' internal stability. In addition, most Arab states viewed Shimon Peres' vision of a "New Middle East," which was suggested as a common good, as highly undesirable and even threatening, despite the real prospect of material gains.

Realism and the US Role

Finally, it was argued that the US should have been more forceful in imposing a solution. However, the US cannot impose an Israeli-Palestinian peace because the balance of motivations favors the local parties. The exact details of any permanent settlement are not of great concern to the US, so long as stability is achieved in the context of a pro-US balance of power in the region. In contrast, for the local protagonists, vital interests are deemed to be at stake in core questions such as borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The locals have a greater interest in the details and are thus prepared to pay a higher price in terms of defiance than a superpower has an interest in bearing. Thus despite the promise of billions of dollars in aid, the Clinton Administration failed to get the Palestinians to accept its framework for a permanent status agreement in December 2000.

Looking Ahead

Since 2000, the price of the conflict has risen greatly for both Israelis and Palestinians. Against this background, there are some indications, as of early 2008, that Israel and the Palestinians might be ripe for some sort of Framework Agreement on Permanent Status issues, albeit with delayed implementation. However, as in 1993, even if there is ripeness for an agreement, this does not necessarily translate into ripeness for actual conflict resolution.

Israeli Liberals argue that Abbas and Salim Fayad are credible partners and that the Geneva Permanent Status draft agreement reached by prominent Israelis and Palestinians in 2003 represents the basis for conflict resolution. Yet, the Palestinians have failed at state building. President Abbas' writ does not even run through most of the West Bank, let alone Gaza, which was taken over by Hamas in June 2007. Since 2000, the regional situation has also deteriorated. Radical forces such as Iran, Hizballah and Syria are in a stronger position to wreck the chances of peace than they were before. In addition, there seems to be a shift in the rhetoric of moderate Palestinian and Israeli Arab leaders against the idea of recognizing the right of the Jewish people to statehood. This is of practical significance concerning the explosive issue of Palestinian refugees, over which there appears to still be a very great divide.

Instead of trying again for a comprehensive agreement, the best strategy may be to focus on implementing the more modest goal of conflict management, while helping to construct the underlying conditions for future conflict resolution, or at least keeping the door open for conflict resolution. According to one line of Realist thinking adopted here, this means promoting political and physical separation between Israel and the Palestinians as the basis for partition and a two state solution, even without a detailed formal permanent status agreement.

Dr. Jonathan Rynhold is a senior lecturer in political science at Bar-Ilan University and a research associate at the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies.

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

Continued (Permanent Link)

Egyptian Islamists lose battle for Female Genital Mutilation

The "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood fought the good fight, but owing to the undemocratic nature of the Egyptian government, they were unable to block laws that forbid female genital mutilation and will not register marriages to minors.
According to the government supported Al-Ahram newspaper, the legislation carried despite strenuous objections of the defenders of the faith. Egyptian electoral laws ensure that the government party has a majority. Nonetheless, Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed, managed to elect the largest group of "independent" candidates affiliated with its views, but still controls only about 20% of the representatives.
The laws were sponsored by President Hosni Mubarak's wife, Susan, who heads the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood (NCMC).  Accoring to Al-Ahram:  

Muslim Brotherhood MPs did their best to block a vote on the law's most sensitive articles by repeatedly claiming they contravene Islamic Sharia and serve a Western agenda. Sayed Askar, a Brotherhood MP, argued that Islamic clerics have differing opinions on FGM and whether or not it is an Islamic tradition. "Why not leave it optional for parents to decide instead of criminalising it?" asked Askar, who went on to assert that outlawing FGM was tantamount to promoting vice.

Mohamed El-Omda, an independent MP with Islamist leanings, argued that FGM is an Islamic tradition. "This is a practice that has been performed for over 1,400 years and it is against the Sunna [traditions of Prophet Mohamed] to outlaw it," he railed. El-Omda accused the NCMC of exercising enormous pressure on the assembly to pass the law in one day. "The problem is that the NCMC obtained millions of dollars in donations from Western institutions to push their non-Islamic agenda on Egypt. Its members want to see this agenda enacted as soon as possible so they can claim more cash donations," he said. El-Omda, together with his mother and two daughters, led a demonstration in favour of FGM in front of the assembly.

One hopes there will be sympathy demonstrations in London, San Francisco and Washington. "WE WANT FGM" "DEMOCRACY IS THE CANCER. ISLAM IS THE ANSWER." NCMC is clearly an implant of foreign colonialist imperialist agents of the Zionist conspiracy. We can't wait for real democracy in Egypt, can we?
Shame on the Mubarak government! Progressives should be outraged that the puppet Mubarak government has outlawed delightful practices such as child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which many Islamists believe are part of Sha'aria law. One thing will lead to another. Next, they will outlaw wife beating and insist that daughters be sent to school.
Ami Isseroff 

Continued (Permanent Link)

You don't have to believe in God to be Jewish

You don't have to believe in God to be Jewish

Jun. 15, 2008
nigel kersh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Q: You call yourself an atheistic Jew. Is that not a contradiction in terms?

A: No, I don't believe it is. I define my Jewishness in terms of culture, not in terms of religion. Judaism for me is like a pizza pie. One part of the pie is the Hebrew language. Another piece is Jewish festivals. Yet another is Jewish food. Another is Jewish history. Then there is Israel - a large piece of that pie. Jewish jokes, Jewish music, Jewish literature and philosophy, the Bible. The only piece of that pie that I cannot swallow is the concept of a Jewish god.

Q: The Bible? But I thought you said you were an atheist? How can the Bible be part of your culture?

A: Of course it is! Aren't Jews the People of the Book? The Bible is the most important piece of literature in the entire history of the Jewish people! But to me, that's all it is, a work of literature. There is little evidence that the majority of the biblical characters ever existed, their names probably the result of eponymous fables blended with the ancient history of nomadic peoples.

Q: You say that all the Bible is to you is just a piece of literature. What do you mean by that?

A: The Bible is supposed to tell us the history of the Jewish people, but in reality it's more legend than fact. For example, there is virtually no evidence that biblical King David attained those triumphs attributed to him, if he ever lived at all. No comparative history exists to confirm that he and the majority of the biblical cast actually existed.

Q: Returning to your statement that you consider yourself a cultural rather than a religious Jew. How exactly do you manifest your Judaism without resorting to religion?

A: Judaism cannot exist without a belief in God. Why follow the mitzvot unless you're commanded by Him? Why pray unless you believe there's someone up there listening? I express my Jewishness by living in Israel, celebrating Jewish holidays with my family in a secular fashion without worshiping any supernatural being. I raise my children to believe in humankind, teaching them that Man's fate lies in his own hands.

Q: So how exactly do you celebrate Jewish festivals without the traditional prayers, ceremonies, and rituals?

A: Good question, but it's amazing what you can do with a little imagination. For example, at Pessah, we follow a non-theistic service devised by the Machar humanistic Jewish congregation in Washington, DC. We discuss the legend of the Israelites liberation from slavery and tie this in with modern equivalents like poverty, war, and racism. We also build our succa at Succot and light the menora at Hanukka. We burn bonfires on Lag Ba'omer and dress up at Purim. Our participation in these events confirms our attachment to the Jewish people - one which is in no way at odds with my personal atheism. The simple fact is you don't have to believe in God to be Jewish.

Q: You say you have a "message to deliver." What exactly do you mean by that?

A: My hometown of Glasgow, Scotland currently contains around 3,000 Jews, an 80% drop from its high of yesteryear. Demographic experts inform us that the world Jewish population will fall further leaving two concentrations of Jews - in Israel and the USA. The Glasgow Jewish community's solution to combat the Jewish decline is Kollel, Lubavitch, and Limmud. Their answer to combat Jewish youth's move away from religion is to offer them more religion! It isn't working and it's doomed in the long term.

Q: What is your solution to the problem of Jewish assimilation?

A: Being Jewish means more than going to shul on Shabbat. Being Jewish means learning Hebrew, studying Jewish history, and discussing Jewish literature. It means supporting Israel in the Eurovision and laughing at Jackie Mason on stage. This rich, cultural tapestry can be reclaimed by those Jews disillusioned by the religious model. Secular Jewishness represents a lifeline to those Jews on the periphery of the Jewish world. Without it, the decline in the world's Jewish population will continue, completing the legacy of two millennia of anti-Semitism. Israel should lead this campaign, sending emissaries into the Diaspora communities, promoting a secular Jewish rallying call to disenchanted Jews.

Q: And who is going to pay for such an ambitious campaign?

A: That's simple. We know aliya promotion isn't working, so I would divert those funds to stimulate a secular Jewish revival in the Diaspora. It's a tall order, but what was it that Herzl said about wills and ways…?

The writer is a professional karate teacher and technical writer who lives in Ra'anana in central Israel with his wife and three children.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Another rumor: Israel to free Kuntar for missing (dead) Israeli soldiers

If the story is correct, Israel is about to hand Hassan Nassrallah a huge victory. Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, the two soldiers abducted in 2006, are almost certainly dead. Israel will swap their remains for murderer Samir Kuntar, giving Nasrallah a huge victory celebration in Beirut.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 14:16 15/06/2008       
Source: Israel to swap Lebanon terrorist Kuntar for missing soldiers
By The Associated Press
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has concluded that Israel should swap the perpetrator of a particularly grisly terror attack for the two abducted Israel Defense Forces soldiers held in Lebanon for the past two years, a senior government official confirmed on Sunday.
Samir Kuntar is serving multiple life sentences for killing four Israelis in a 1979 infiltration of an apartment building in northern Israel. Among the dead were a 28-year-old man and his four-year-old daughter, whose head Kuntar repeatedly smashed against a rock before crushing her skull with a rifle butt.
Her mother, who was hiding in a crawl space, accidentally smothered her other daughter while trying to silence the two-year-old's cries.
The source's confirmation of the deal comes after the pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper a-Diar on Thursday reported that Kuntar has been told to pack up his belongings and prepare to return to Beirut in the near future, possibly by the end of the month.
Israel had hoped Kuntar would be a bargaining chip to wrest information from Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas about the fate of a missing Israeli navigator captured in Lebanon in 1986.
But Olmert and other senior Israeli leaders have concluded Hezbollah has no new information about navigator Ron Arad, the government officials said.
And the prime minister is willing to swap Kuntar for two Israeli soldiers Hezbollah kidnapped in a July 2006 cross-border raid that sparked a month-long war with Israel, they added, speaking on condition of anonymity because no deal has been finalized.
IDF Soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev are believed to have been badly wounded during their capture, and Hezbollah has offered no proof they are alive.
Olmert plans to meet with the Arad family on Tuesday to inform them about the impending deal, the officials said.
Arad was forced to parachute out of his fighter jet on a mission over Lebanon in October 1986 after one of his aircraft's bombs apparently malfunctioned. The jet's pilot was rescued by Israeli forces, but Arad was captured by guerrillas from the Shi'ite Amal organization.There have been reports that Arad later was transferred to Hezbollah and then to Iran, but no reliable evidence of his fate has ever surfaced.
Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said last year that he believed Arad was dead.
No timetable for a swap has been disclosed.
Because of the brutal nature of Kuntar's attack and his lack of remorse, his release would be highly controversial in Israel.
But the swap would end a difficult chapter here and bringing him the two abducted soldiers would offer the embattled Olmert a rare political victory. The two soldiers have come to symbolize what is widely seen in Israel as a failed war. Olmert saw his own popularity plunge in response, and is now fighting for his political survival after a U.S. businessman accused him of taking envelopes stuffed with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash.
In all, Israel is believed to be holding seven Lebanese prisoners, including Kuntar. Four others would be swapped for the soldiers in addition to Kuntar, the government officials said.
There have been recent signals from Hezbollah and Israel that a prisoner exchange could be in the works. Nasrallah predicted last month that Israel would soon release prisoners it is holding, and two weeks ago, his Islamic group unexpectedly turned over body parts of IDF soldiers killed in the 2006 war.
A senior Israeli military official confirmed at the time that a deal was in the making.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Nazis in Spain

Evidently, the account is still open - for the last 500 years...
Last update - 12:55 15/06/2008    
By Roi Ben-Yehuda 

I came to Barcelona on a skipped heartbeat. I fell in love with a woman who lived in the Catalonian capital, and I decided to pack up a suitcase and move to Spain. It was as simple as that. But when I arrived my heart skipped another beat, only this time it was for a less auspicious reason - there were swastikas everywhere.
Barcelona is a beautiful city. People often say that about a lot of places, but in the case of Barcelona it also happens to be true. Barcelonians are an extremely affable people who exhibit the virtue of patience and gentleness that an Israeli/New Yorker like myself can only admire covetously. And whatever quality they lack, they make up for in architecture. Walking through the streets of Barcelona is like walking through a symphony of frozen music: one is surrounded by a myriad of buildings that verge on the sublime.
For all its beauty and friendliness, my eyes kept turning, again and again, on something I couldn't quite believe. In just about every place I looked, I saw swastikas and anti-swastika graffiti. From giant spray-painted images adorning the walls of otherwise innocuous buildings, to tiny ones on the back of benches. From pro-Nazi slogans telling all foreigners to leave the country, to anti-Nazi statements which read: "Nazis, there will not be mercy! Never forget, never forgive. Nazi die!"
Much to my surprise, the Nazi issue was very much alive on the walls and benches of Barcelona.
In today's Spain, like in much of modern Europe, the symbol of the swastika is thick with meaning that transcends its World War II context. Of course it is not that the swastika has been appropriated to mean something new, rather it is just that it has been extended to its logical conclusion of all-embracing hate of the other.
If the presence of swastikas were not enough, Barcelona also has the dubious honor of being home to Europe's most famous neo-Nazi bookstore, brazenly titled "Europa Bookstore: Persecuted Books - The Truth Will Set You Free."
A bookstore full of Nazi-phile content is a particularly vulgar phenomenon for a Jewish writer. I can take Nazi speeches and demonstrations. I can take Nazi videos. I can even take Nazi music. But books? I find books to be the ultimate symbol of civilization. For me to desecrate a book has nothing to do with ripping apart its pages, or burning them - rather, it has everything to do with words.
A neo-Nazi bookstore is therefore a store dedicated to graphic abominations. I am aware that books, like any form of cultural technology, are amoral - vehicles for communication that can carry messages of falsehood or truth, beauty or ugliness, hate or love. But as a bibliophile and as a Jew (can the two really be differentiated), I reject such neutrality.
During my first few weeks in Barcelona I mustered the courage to pay Europa Bookstore a visit. I was surprised to see how well kept and attractive the store actually was; if I hadn't known better, I would have been excited to enter. In the store's front window, right below the sign reading, "the truth will set us free," I noticed that they accept American Express - a rarity in Barcelona.
The books in the store were a literary mix covering revisionism, fascism, Israel-bashing, Hitler-praising, anti-immigration and homophobia. To this was added DVDs and CDs of Hitler's "greatest hits."
In my best Spanglish, I told a young woman who asked if I needed help that I would like to take some pictures and talk to her. She hesitated and then declined, but told me that I could "come back tomorrow and speak to the leader."
But then something happened to me. Perhaps it was all the Nazi material, or the war between my brain (a staunch believer of free speech) and my heart (an elitist moralist), or maybe it was the thought of my Holocaust survivor grandmother seeing me inside this den of disgrace; but as I walked around I had a "for the six million!" moment. One of those moments that lead Jews to do something about injustice. So I took out my camera and started taking pictures. It wasn't much, but it was my way of giving the middle finger to everything the store stood for (and blowing the journalistic opportunity to meet "the leader").
As I walked out of the store I heard a voice shouting behind me, it was the young woman who had offered to help me earlier.
"I saw you take pictures", she said.
"No, you didn't."
"Give me your camera", she had raised her voice. "I want to see the pictures. I want to eliminate the pictures!"
Not sure if it was the translation of Spanish to English, but having a Neo-Nazi use the word "eliminate" in a sentence while talking to me got my blood flowing and my heart skipping beats again.
"I bet there are a lot of things you want to eliminate," I uttered nervously, "but you are not getting my camera."
She gave me a baleful look and stormed back into the store. I knew it was high time for me to leave, before I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with her friends. But I also knew I would have to return.
Indeed, later that night, when the store was closed, I revisited the scene (a mere 10 minutes walk from my house). Much to my surprise I found a plaque I had overlooked in my earlier visit.
Situated on the ground, right next to the store, was a commemorative inscription that read: "Anne Frank 1929-1945".
Apparently the neighbors in the street had their own "for the six million!" moment, and had petition the city government to post this plaque as a reminder to all who enter the store.
Being in a neo-Nazi bookstore in Europe was a profound experience for me. It seems that I walked into the bookstore a human being, and I left a Jew. But I also left the store more Muslim, black, and gay than I did coming in. A foreigner in the true sense of the word: ready for chutzpa-filled action in the face of moral abomination.
Perhaps Barcelona was going to be alright after all.
Roi Ben-Yehuda is an Israeli-American writer living in Spain. He is a regular contributer to Jewcy and France 24. His blog can be read at Roi's Word Weblog

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Arab News Op Ed against Suicide Bombing

New winds are blowing over the hot Saudi deserts. They have suddenly understood that suicide bombing is not all that wonderful after all.

Saudis who want to find the reasons for suicide bombing needn't look far. They need only examine the mounds of Saudi Fatwas and editorials praising "martyrs" and they need only check the huge subsidies paid by petrodollar millionaires to madrassas that crank out Mujahedin like those who did the 9-11 attack. It is good that Saudis are finally frightened of the Jihad genie they unleashed, but they won't solve the problem until they are honest with themselves.

It is not true, as stated below, that suicide bombings are increasingly being called martyrdom operations. They were called "martyrdom operations" from the start

Saudis financed the extremists on the premise (or excuse) that they could export their terrorists to other countries and keep peace at home. Saudis only became horrified at suicide bombings as it became clear that the targets could be themselves rather than Israelis or Americans. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.

Ami Isseroff

Four-year-old Duha can barely hold back her tears as she watches her mother getting dressed to leave home. Knowing full well she will not be accompanying her, she implores: "Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me?"

There are no answers. Not until a day later. Just when teary-eyed Duha has all but given up questioning her mother's return with eyes transfixed on the door, the evening news tells it all. Her mother, it turns out, had blown herself up, killing four Israelis.

The little girl, inconsolable as she is, seeks solace in her mother's belongings. Rummaging through her dead mother's bedside table, Duha finds a hidden stick of dynamite. She picks it up.

And embraces it. By the looks of it, little Duha may well grow up to follow in her mother's footsteps.

That may not be a true a story — it was a macabre music video that appeared on a television show for Palestinian children — but there's no denying that it drew inspiration from any number of similar real-life stories circulating in the Arab street.

Take Reem Riyashi, a Palestinian mother of two who blew herself up in a suicide attack against Israeli soldiers at a Gaza border crossing in January 2004, for instance. A video statement released hours after her death showed her in battle fatigue, brandishing a semiautomatic rifle.

"I have always wished to knock at the door of heaven carrying skulls belonging to the sons of Zion," Riyashi said menacingly, with a scowl on her face.

Not surprising then that, four years after her bloody death, she continues to be hailed as a courageous resistance fighter throughout Gaza and the West Bank.

But, at the same time, one cannot help but wonder if people had noticed how she was also fighting to ensure that her tough talking did not betray her hidden emotion. The emotion of a mother who was going on a mission from which she would never return to embrace her two children. To take care of them, to caress them.

Never mind. The fact of the matter is: With the number of Riyashis growing everyday, it is not easy to sketch a picture of an archetypical suicide bomber. Not any more.

Today, a suicide bomber could be a weary old man in a wheelchair asking for help on the streets of Baghdad. An elderly lady holding out her palms for charity in a bazaar in Ramallah. Or it could be a zesty young lad cheering along with the crowd at a sporting event in Kandahar.

He could also be a brooding figure offering a hand as a dear one is laid to rest at a cemetery in Mingora town in Pakistan's Swat Valley or a trendy young lad standing outside the discotheque in Tel Aviv.

On the other hand, she could be a mentally handicapped woman nudging past in a Shiite shrine in Karbala or a pretty, young lady sitting next to you on a bus in Colombo.

But that's not all, if slain Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a bomb-and-suicide attack in Rawalpindi last year, was to be believed, it could be also be an innocent baby.

In her memoirs, she raised suspicion that a baby a young man was holding out to her at a rally in Karachi was laden with explosives. Moments later, a suicide attack killed 180.

Yes, it is true, such pictures of suicide bombers are now etched in our recent memory.

It's worrisome enough that suicide bombers seem to be springing up everywhere. But, what's worse is the fear that they are no longer shadowy figures that were once described as the pride and joy of former PLO chief Yasser Arafat's arsenal.

Today, they are the most deadly weapons of mass destruction which have no known defense. And the reason for their very existence — and subsequent demise — ranges from political vendetta to social vengeance and from ideological differences to economic disparity.

To put it bluntly, suicide bombers today are furiously crawling out of the woodwork and could even be right next to you as you read this.

No, I am not trying to paint a scary picture and suggest suicide bombers have taken over the world in general and the Middle East in particular. Far from it, they exist in pockets. But those pockets are growing alarmingly deeper — and at a far greater pace than you and I had ever imagined.

What's more, the picture of the quintessential suicide bomber — if there was one — is being rapidly replaced by everyday faces.

But now, the question is: Why are people much like you and me dying to kill themselves, knowing only too well there will be no dignity in death?

Moments after they have pressed the trigger to blow themselves and others around them up, their bodies would be splattered into tiny pieces that may never see a funeral, let alone get recognized in the pool of blood and gore. Also, whatever it is that they choose to answer their Creator thereafter, one thing is clear: They will have to explain why they decided to play God.

And took it upon themselves to end the lives of their victims. It would certainly weaken their case if they have to account for innocent women and children in those numbers.

Without venturing into a debate on the merits or demerits of suicide bombings - given that the term is being increasingly replaced by martyrdom operation - the increase in attacks against civilians, as opposed to military targets, does raise alarm bells.

A Hamas training manual, for instance, apparently notes "It is foolish to hunt for the tiger when there are plenty of sheep around." And that's something we can ill afford to dismiss sheepishly.

(Next week: Socio-Economic Reasons.)

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Israelis outsourcing software development to Palestinians

 Last update - 03:49 15/06/2008       
Programming for Arab-Israeli peace
By Guy Griml
After turning to China, India, Eastern Europe and ultra-Orthodox Israeli women as low-cost sources of software programmers, some local tech companies have begun outsourcing their coding needs to West Bank Palestinians.
John Bryce Training, the training and deployment division of Matrix, is currently negotiating with the managing director of ASAL Technologies, Murad Tahboub. The company is based in El Bireh and provides software development services to companies and organizations the world over. And Cisco Systems Israel is also planning to hire about 20 Palestinian information technology workers.
Meanwhile, seven Palestinian engineers are already working for the Israeli design center of the chip manufacturer Winbond Electronics Corporation, which also trained them. They work out of ASAL's Ramallah offices.
The president of Winbond Israel, Yonatan Levy, says he was first exposed to the idea of hiring Palestinians about two years ago, at a meeting of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO), an international organization of 20,000 company directors.
"The next stage was organized by the Israeli Chambers of Commerce, which gathered together between 100 and 150 Palestinian IT executives to meet with Israeli partners. That's where I met Murad Tahboub, who presented ASAL to me," Levy recalls.
"At first I thought of turning to ASAL's Palestinian engineers to program on an outsourcing basis, but that didn't suit our unique needs. Afterward YPO organized another meeting that included Americans, Israelis and Palestinians. We realized that instead of fighting each other and throwing bombs we needed to work together. During the same period our parent company asked us to expand our research and development activities in China. I started thinking that it would be better to hire a Palestinian engineer to develop our less complex products, for reasons related to cost calculations as well as problems of language, culture and deadlines," Levy says.
Tahboub, who is already working with Israeli startup (for Global Hosted Operating System) told Levy that it costs between $1,500 and $1,800 to employ a Palestinian computer engineering graduate - about one-third of the "operating costs" for his or her Israeli counterpart. "Besides," Levy adds, "in China 30% to 40% of the workforce leaves you soon after accumulating experience, to work for better known companies like Intel and Microsoft."
Psychological barriers
Every year Palestinian universities in the West Bank graduate 2,500 to 3,000 computer scientists. ASAL has 35 full-time IT professionals and 12 part-timers on its payroll.
"My goal is to remove the psychological barrier Israelis have against working with Palestinian companies," Tahboub says. "Our people have a good command of English, good managerial abilities, a familiarity with Israeli and Western culture and knowledge of the computing field. In addition, we are in the same time zone. Everyone knows it's possible to do business with Palestinians in the field of stone and marble, or textiles. They didn't know it was also possible to do IT outsourcing," he adds.
Winbond interviewed the Palestinian candidates not at company headquarters in Herzliya Pituah, but at a small restaurant at the gas station on the road to the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim. In the end, seven of the dozens of Palestinian students admitted to Winbond's training program completed the program.
"When I told Winbond's employees that we were hiring Palestinian engineers some voiced concern," Levy relates. "Some asked whether they would be bringing bombs. Others asked whether it was okay to work with enemies."
Why not hire Israelis from the periphery, such as Sderot?
Levy: "Israeli engineers cost the same - whether they're from Sderot or anywhere else."
The typical Israeli engineer will say that now the Palestinians will steal their jobs.
"That's what our engineers at Winbond asked me. I told them that if it wasn't the Palestinians it would be the Chinese."
Udi Gal, who trained the Palestinians for Winbond, says the experience was enjoyable but that the outcome is still unclear. "The intent is to create a group of employees who can take care of a project on their own, but there's a long road ahead. On the other hand, the training period for an Israeli graduate is also a long one."
Gal says the Palestinians finish university with less knowledge than their Israeli counterparts. "They focus more on software and are less familiar with hardware," he explains. "The training wasn't easy, either. The whole issue of entry permits into Israel is complicated, you have to submit a request three weeks in advance and sometimes when the date rolls around it is no longer relevant."
What about politics?
Gal: "I was careful not to talk about it. Politics is politics, work is work. I told them, even if there's a closure, if we can turn on the computer every morning and work via the Internet it'll be okay. Although there's still a lot of work to be done on the technical side, I was very surprised about the seriousness and concern they demonstrated."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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