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Friday, July 25, 2008

Palestinians "reveal" new Israeli Superweapon: Supr Rat

The moderate news agency of the moderate Palestinian Authority run by the moderate and reasonable Mahmoud Abbas is at it again - inventing bogus Israeli plots to do in the Arabs.

Previously, the PA has accused Israel of irradiating Palestinians at checkpoints, feeding Palestinian kids poison candy and injecting Palestinian children with AIDS.

All the stories are pure invention.


Ami Isseroff


Palestinians: Israel uses rats against J'lem Arabs

Jul. 20, 2008
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

The Palestinian Authority's official news agency Wafa says Israel is using rats to drive Arab families out of their homes in the Old City of Jerusalem.

In the past the news agency, which is controlled and funded by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's office, has accused Israel of using wild pigs to drive Palestinians out of their homes and fields in the West Bank. In the reports, Palestinians were quoted by the agency as saying that they had seen Israelis release herds of wild pigs, which later attacked them.

But this is the first time that Palestinians have spoken of rats being used against them.

"Rats have become an Israeli weapon to displace and expel Arab residents of the occupied Old City of Jerusalem," Wafa reported under the title, "Settlers flood the Old City of Jerusalem with rats." The report continued: "Over the past two months, dozens of settlers come to the alleyways and streets of the Old City carrying iron cages full of rats. They release the rats, which find shelter in open sewage systems."

Wafa quoted unnamed Arab residents as saying that they had tried to eliminate the rats with various poisons, but to no avail.

Israel's goal was to "increase the suffering of the [Arabs] in Jerusalem by turning their lives into a real tragedy and forcing them to evict their homes and leave the city," Hasan Khater, secretary-general of the Islamic-Christian Front in Jerusalem, was quoted as saying.

Jerusalem Municipality spokesman Gidi Schmerling said that the report was "pure fiction," and had no connection to reality.

Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ford Foundation still funding anti-Israel groups

Ford Foundation still funding anti-Israel groups 
By Michael J. Jordan  Published: 07/23/2008 
NEW YORK (JTA) -- In August 2001, Israel became a punching bag for several thousand human rights activists from throughout the world who were gathered for a U.N anti-racism conference in Durban, South Africa.
But while the Jewish state may have been the target, the Ford Foundation also ultimately suffered a serious black eye after it emerged that many of the anti-Israel activists in Durban were egged on by Ford-backed, pro-Palestinian groups.
Hoping to head off a similar debacle, Ford says it will not pay for any organization to participate in the first follow-up conference to Durban, slated for April in Geneva.
This announcement comes nearly five years after Ford, America's second-largest philanthropic institution, adopted what experts describe as the most stringent guidelines on grantees.
Yet despite such  steps and the foundation's public criticisms of what transpired seven years ago, Ford today is funding several organizations that engage in the "Durban strategy" -- a two-pronged tactic launched at the '01 conference to paint Israel as a "racist, apartheid" state and isolate the Jewish nation through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.
The Ford slice of funds to anti-Israel nongovernmental organizations may pale compared to that provided by Europe and its myriad governmental agencies. But the Ford funding enables the groups to wage low-key, diplomatic and economic warfare against Israel, dragging the Palestinian conflict from the battlefield into international forums, media, the Internet and college campuses.

These revelations are the result of a months-long JTA investigation into Ford funding after the highly influential foundation revised its guidelines under pressure from the U.S. Congress.

The pressure followed an October 2003 JTA expose, "Funding Hate", which found that Ford funneled millions of dollars to pro-Palestinian NGOs, enabling them to promote their vitriolic agenda against Israel in Durban. The NGO Forum, which accompanied the official gathering of countries, issued a lengthy document, including passages containing some of the most provocative attacks on Israel ever produced under the umbrella of the United Nations.

Despite the revised guidelines, Ford appears unable -- or unwilling -- to prevent some of its grantees from lending support to the movement that was launched in Durban.

The new JTA investigation, which examined a large cross-section of Ford grantees that speak out on the Middle East conflict, finds that several signed a major 2005 boycott and divestment petition against "Apartheid Israel."

Signatories agreed they were "inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression."

As Ford was announcing its decision not to support the 2009 anti-racism forum, its Web site touted a 2008-09 grant for $305,000 to the Arab NGO Network for Development, which features a map on its Web site that fails to note the existence of Israel. One of the two Palestinian members on its coordination committee is the pro-boycott Palestinian NGO Network, or PNGO, a key organizer at Durban.

Although PNGO is no longer receiving grants from Ford, which has assets above $13 billion and gives away more than $500 million annually, the network works closely with at least three Ford grantee organizations.

Ford does not support groups that solely advocate boycotts, but signing onto a boycott or divestment effort is not itself a deal breaker for foundation funding, according to Ford's vice president of communications, Marta Tellado.

Tellado said there are no concrete red lines.

"We don't have a glossary of terms that are not allowed," she said. "It's not about the specific use of a word, but we look at the totality of that organization, if their activities as a whole still reflect our values and mission."

Tellado said the foundation never supported the anti-apartheid movement against South Africa, but it recognizes that "historically, boycott is seen as a legitimate, nonviolent means of expression."

"We don't think the idea of a boycott can be generalized to mean it's aimed at the destruction of a country," Tellado said. "But we understand that it's a flashpoint" in the conflict today.

Ford says it monitors its grantees, but would not provide any details of the groups it has cut off or how many.

With preparations under way for the follow-up U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Geneva, there are strong indications that Israel again will be singled out for opprobrium.

Tellado said the Ford Foundation, which was endowed with funds donated by Henry and Edsel Ford but no longer maintains any ties to the Ford Motor Co., wants no part of it.

"Experience totally informs our decision," she said. "This reflects our concern for the meeting's ability to be constructive."

This and other steps -- like severing relations with several zealous NGOs -- garner Ford praise from even its toughest critics.

After JTA revealed the Ford-Durban link in 2003, Ford issued its new guidelines for grantees.

Experts say the revisions were the most extensive seen in philanthropic circles. They elicited howls of free-speech infringement from the American Civil Liberties Union and a slew of top U.S. universities.

Under the guidelines, Ford grantees must agree not to "carry on propaganda" or "promote or engage in violence, terrorism, bigotry or the destruction of any State, nor will it make subgrants to any entity that engages in these activities."

Although no Ford grantee was linked to terrorism per se, some appeared to condone violence and terror. Ford has since stopped directly funding those groups.

Yet JTA has uncovered several grantees that engage in the twin "Israel is apartheid" and "boycott and divest" campaigns.

"That is the essence of the Durban strategy: demonize and delegitimize Israel to the degree that it gains no external support and eventually is unable to function," said Gerald Steinberg, the executive director of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor.

"I wouldn't say this is a strong, consistent pattern, but it's more than minor leakage. Ford should take a more proactive approach so its monies are not abused."

Beneficiaries of Ford funds include:

* Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights ; Muwatin: Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy; The Palestinian Center for Human Rights; and Miftah: The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy. All these groups signed onto boycott and divestment petitions against "Apartheid Israel."

Miftah has an online archive with dozens of articles painting Israel as an "apartheid" regime. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights' online archive provides dozens of opinions and documents that paint Israel as an apartheid regime, topped by its own "Fact Sheet: Settlements and Apartheid in the OPT" that describes Jewish settlements as "the cornerstone of a system of de facto Apartheid." In its "How to Help" section, the center urges readers to join the "Palestine Solidarity Campaign," a global network that pushes the boycott and divestment campaign, and to "invest ethically," citing as a model the Methodist Church's efforts to push for divestment from companies that do business with Israel.

* Al Haq: Law in the Service of Man. The West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva in the "Goals and Objectives" section of its Web page cites "participation in civil society discourse and activities regarding divestment, boycott, and sanctions." Last July it urged the U.N. General Assembly to recall the "political, economic, military and cultural isolation of South Africa" as "such measures must be considered in relation to Israel."

* The Arab NGO Network for Development. Its Web site ( prominently features a section called "Eye on Gaza" with links to 10 related documents. Among them are an article titled "The Israeli Recipe for 2008: Genocide in Gaza" and a March news release of the Euro-Mediterranean NGO Platform -- another Ford grantee -- accusing Israel of "massacres," "war crimes" and "genocide."

Observers say that the activities of some Ford grantees point to the challenge that any huge, decentralized organization faces in monitoring its partners. Ford boasts 4,000 grantees around the world.

The issue may boil down to Ford's interpretation of what terms such as "promote" or "bigotry" or "propaganda" mean, as stated in their guidelines.

The guidelines also appear to offer some latitude: "Because we appreciate the important work that our grantees do around the world, some in extremely difficult environments, we strive to fulfill our oversight responsibilities without creating undue burdens for them or being unduly intrusive into their affairs."

It's not a loophole that allows for propaganda, said Tellado, adding that Ford is "troubled" by the rhetoric of some NGOs. Ford officials, however, declined to specify which rhetoric in particular concerned them.

"We're not in the business of censorship because that flies in the face of our values," she said. "Having said that, you really do need to monitor because words do matter. We realize there is a lot of hyperbole bandied about and not backed up by fact."

For their part, the Ford-funded NGOs say branding Israel "apartheid" is one way to "raise awareness" globally.

Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Poster on the Web site of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Ford grantee, paints Israel as apartheid. 

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights received a two-year, $370,000 Ford grant for 2005-07 "for a program of legal advocacy and defense of human rights and the rule of law and promotion of democratic processes in Gaza."

Even Steinberg of NGO Monitor praises the rights group for being one of the rare Palestinian organizations to condemn various abuses committed by the Palestinian authorities and police.

But in November 2006, the center also issued an "action alert" in which it joined with the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign -- a network devoted to the boycott movement -- in calling on the world to hold "Apartheid Israel" accountable for its "war crimes."

Jaber Wishah, the Palestinian Center's deputy director, told JTA that by employing the term apartheid, "we are trying to raise awareness of the illegal and brutal behavior of the Israeli occupying force and the very discriminatory policies that the Israeli judicial system provides cover for."

"The strategy of boycotts and divestment should be adopted to put an end to the Israeli policy of discrimination," he said in a phone interview from Gaza City.

Joharah Baker, an editorial writer for Miftah, another Ford grantee, concedes that equating Israel with South Africa is not quite accurate, as "no two situations are exactly the same." But many comparisons can be drawn, she said -- the separation between the two peoples, and also separating Palestinians from Palestinians.

"I think the goal behind drawing these comparisons is that while everyone knew about apartheid South Africa and condemned it, this is where the Palestinians are at a disadvantage: Israel claims to be a democracy and refuses to admit that it's an illegal occupation," Baker said, speaking from her office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"Once there's such a well-known comparison, people can draw those parallels and it becomes much more tangible in their mind," she said. "It's not that we're misusing the term or that Palestinians misuse the term. I'm saying it's very apartheid-like because of the nature of the conflict."

The Ford-Durban link

The Ford Foundation, with its mission to "strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement," through its Cairo office has provided more than $200 million over the past half-century to some 350 NGOs in the Middle East.

So perhaps it was natural that Ford would support so many groups attending the landmark Durban meeting.

Most of the media attention went to the accompanying NGO Forum in Durban, which attracted thousands of activists from around the world, aimed the harshest rhetoric at Israel alone and inspired several incidents of anti-Jewish epithets and the distribution of anti-Semitic literature.

The extremism sparked a walkout by the American and Israeli delegations.

But the real story, in retrospect, was the launch of the current "Israel is apartheid" movement.

In that Durban NGO document -- mostly rejected by U.N. member-states during their official conference that followed -- plotters unveiled a game plan: "Complete and total isolation of Israel as an apartheid state, as was done in the case of South Africa … sanctions, embargoes, the full cessation of all links (diplomatic, economic, social, and military cooperation and training) between all states and Israel," coupled with "condemnation of those states supporting, aiding, and abetting the Israeli apartheid state, and its perpetration of racist crimes against humanity, including ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide."

Ford's vital funding of the Durban ringleaders helped re-inject terms like "apartheid," "boycott" and "divestment" into mainstream discourse about Israel.

The foundation's then-president, Susan Berresford, apologized for Ford's role in Durban in a Nov. 17, 2003 letter to U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on the heels of the four-part JTA investigation "Funding Hate."

"We now recognize that we did not have a clear picture of the activities, organizations and people involved," Berresford wrote. "We deeply regret that Foundation grantees may have taken part in unacceptable behavior in Durban."

In 2003, Ford initially denied to JTA that any anti-Israel agitation or anti-Semitic activities took place in Durban. But as Nadler and 20 other U.S. lawmakers pressed for an investigation, and groups including the American Jewish Congress threatened a lawsuit, Ford reversed itself.

Berresford's letter to Nadler stated that Ford officials were "disgusted by the vicious anti-Semitic activity seen at Durban," and vowed, "If the Foundation finds allegations of bigotry and incitement of hatred by particular grantees to be true … we will cease funding."

Ford's revised guidelines, produced in November 2003 with input from Nadler's office and Jewish groups, altered a longstanding hands-off policy for its grantees and annual allocations worldwide.
"The fact they were making much clearer what was acceptable and not acceptable was unusual in the world of philanthropy," said Stacy Palmer, the editor of The Chronicle of Philanthropy. "Grant-makers usually give for a project -- 'that's what I'd like to see' -- and those are the only restrictions on grantees."

Not surprisingly, the altered guidelines generated grumbling not only from certain grantees but also from some former Ford employees and critics on the left.

The Nation in a May 2006 piece "Target Ford" swiped at the "vague, sweeping language" and cited the concerns of Ford-supported universities -- Harvard, Columbia and Stanford -- that it could quash "protected speech" on their campus, even in their classrooms.

Scott Sherman, the author, quoted "a former high-ranking Ford employee" who "noted with dismay" -- and somewhat conspiratorially -- that Berresford "is very tough and principled, so they must have really twisted her arm to get her to put in that new grant language."

Ford denies anything was imposed. Rather, according to foundation officials, the guidelines simply "reflect Ford values."

"We took what had been our implicit values and made them explicit because apparently, they weren't fully understood," Ford spokesman Alfred Ironside told JTA during a recent interview at the foundation's Manhattan offices.

Nadler said the Ford policy has become a "benchmark" for the philanthropic and human-rights world.

"In the face of that substantial pressure, Ford had stood strong, re-articulated their values and forcefully asserted their rights to deny funding to those organizations that violate their essential principles," Nadler told JTA. "They should be lauded for that."

Nevertheless, the perception lingers that Ford "buckled" under pressure from Jewish lawmakers and activists, with Berresford's denial "a bit disingenuous," said Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at Georgetown's Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership.

After Ford's role in the Durban conference was highlighted and the foundation tightened its grantee guidelines, it also doled out millions to assorted Jewish organizations. (See sidebar.)

These grants fulfilled a prediction made to JTA in January 2004 by Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"At the end of the day," he said, "I assume they will fund some project submitted to them by a mainstream Jewish organization."

ADL received $1.1 million soon after.

JTA Staff
The New York headquarters of the Ford Foundation, which following JTA's 2003 investigative series "Funding Hate" published stringent new guidelines on its grantees. 

Ford had been criticized for funding very few Jewish projects. Eisenberg said this burst of generosity was at least partly aimed to placate.

"Clearly, Ford bent over backwards to fund some Jewish groups it had not previously supported after the brouhaha," he said.

Foxman said that Ford dollars wouldn't discourage him from chastising, if necessary.

"One criticism of Ford was that they neglected the Jewish community," he said. "So now they're going to be criticized of what, buying the Jewish community? You can't have it both ways."

Ford also earned kudos for its decision in February 2006 to withdraw support for an American Association of University Professors conference in Italy after The New York Sun revealed that some one-third of expected participants had publicly supported boycotts of Israeli universities.

Then came this most recent move to distance itself from the 2009 follow-up to Durban, which instead will be held in Geneva on U.N. grounds, where security and protocol can be more effectively controlled.

Yet a re-examination of that initial Berresford letter along with recent interviews with current Ford officials suggest that Ford's rejection of groups that incite terror and anti-Semitism does not extend to the boycott and divestment movement.

Ford and some of its current grantees have hardly shied away from controversial topics.

PNGO was one of the more notorious Durban ringleaders and continues to circle within the Ford orbit. Its relations with several current Ford grantees raises questions about whether some funds Ford gives to groups associated with the Palestinian NGO Network might end up supporting PNGO in some way.

PNGO, according to JTA's 2003 series, had received $1.4 million from Ford over the years.

Ford's online grant database is transparent, with all awards since 2004 easily accessible. What is not clear is when or why a particular group that once was funded no longer is.

Ford officials declined to cite specifics, but they did say that overall their number of grantees has declined.

PNGO, meanwhile, is heavily involved with two of the prime campaigns associated with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movements, known as BDS: the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign. The latter recently won U.N. accreditation to attend the 2009 anti-racism forum.

These two groups, along with PNGO, headlined a Nov. 22 conference on boycott and divestment strategy held in Ramallah.

PNGO's advice to participants at the conference on how to publicly describe their objectives is on its Web site.

This advice is also revealing in light of Ford's revised guidelines: "Emphasize that the BDS campaign does not only target Israel's economy, but challenges Israel's legitimacy, being a colonial and apartheid state, as part of the international community. Therefore, efforts are needed not only to promote wide consumer boycotts, but also boycotts in the fields of academia, culture and sports."

PNGO, in turn, is tight with at least three current Ford grantees. It is a coordinating committee member of the Arab NGO Network for Development; an executive board member of the Euro-Mediterranean NGO Platform (the Arab NGO Network is also a member); and is associated with Muwatin, which it thanked online for lending a hand with the November strategy conference in Ramallah.

In addition to giving $305,000 to the Arab NGO Network, Ford awarded $45,000 in 2005-07 to the Euro-Mediterranean network. The group, which is fiercely critical of Israel, received the funds not specifically to oppose Israel but "to translate its reports, news bulletins and meeting documents into Arabic for dissemination in the Middle East and North Africa," according to the Ford grant database.

It also received $150,000 for 2007-08 "to strengthen the role of civil society in protecting and promoting the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers in North Africa and the Middle East."

As for Muwatin, which signed a key May 2005 boycott petition, it landed $180,000 from Ford for 2006-07 "for policy studies and research to inform debate on issues of democracy, Islamism and secularism and for public education on the performance of the Palestinian Legislative Council," the Palestinian parliament.

It also received $200,000 for 2006-08 "for policy research to inform public debate on democracy, Islamism and secularism and for a training and awards program for young social science researchers."

Even if money is not given specifically to bash Israel, NGO workers often speak of "fungibility" -- that money given from one donor, for one specific purpose, frees up money for NGOs to use for another purpose.

With all the intertwined relationships among Palestinian NGOs, it's unclear if any of the Ford money that helps keep these three grantees afloat in some way also helps sustain the PNGO network.

Ironside, the Ford spokesman, said the lines were clear.

"Ford grants are made for specific purposes, and we require a strict accounting of how funds are applied to grant-specific work," he said.

Meanwhile, the words and actions of some direct beneficiaries continue to catch the eye of watchdogs like Steinberg, whose NGO Monitor was established after Durban by the conservative think tank Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

In a Mideast conflict that also battles for the hearts and minds of interested observers around the world, some of these NGOs -- while focused mostly on human rights and other activities -- also bang a steady drumbeat of extreme accusations against Israel.

In many cases, the litany of charges are boilerplate, as if lifted from talking points: collective punishment and disproportionate use of force, ethnic cleansing and breach of international law.

Additionally, there are the accusations of "apartheid" or endorsement of boycotts. For some NGOs it's not mentioned often -- just enough to indicate where their values lie.

Steinberg says that for activists, journalists or news junkies who click on these Web sites, such words are likely to incite strong feelings -- even hatred or bigotry -- toward the Jewish state.

Consider the college student learning more about the conflict but not yet inclined to weigh two sides of a story.

"These are not insignificant activities because you create a public image by repeating the same claims over and over again, where Israel is always being accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar Ilan University, itself a target of academic boycotts for its "complicity" in Israeli policies against Palestinians.

"It's propaganda," he said, "and it's a branding of Israel in a very negative way."

Steinberg himself is often accused by Ford and New Israel Fund defenders of being ideologically motivated to "cherry-pick" and exaggerate the evidence to discredit pro-Palestinian NGOs -- and stifle any criticism of Israeli actions.

"It is true that the Ford Foundation and NIF fund many constructive NGOs that do not promote a radical political or anti-Israel agenda," he said. "But the very major impact of the destructive NGOs" -- in submissions to the United Nations, news releases, reports, etc. -- "is not offset or balanced in any way by the activities of the constructive NGOs."

Monitoring grantees

To monitor its grantees, Ford says it conducts random Web site checks and responds to specific complaints from peers in the field, lawmakers and other respected figures.

The next step is internal discussion of a case, said Tellado, the Ford vice president. The discussion is placed within the broader context of the NGO's goals and activities, and if the case distracts from the central mission Ford has funded.

This may be followed by a "conversation" with the grantee, she said: "You signed the letter, you're aware of our values, are you sure you want this on your Web site?"

If Ford deems it necessary, Tellado said, the foundation will sever, freeze or even recover funding.

"These tools are available to us, and we have used them all," she said.

Ford officials declined to name grantees they have punished this way, nor will the foundation say how many NGOs the foundation has cut loose since revising its guidelines.

While Ford willingly explains the details of how its grantee monitoring works, it refused to provide JTA any concrete evidence of actual investigations, even with grantee names blacked out.

Anything that comes close to revealing a name, said Ironside, "could create a de facto blacklist or be defaming." That, he added, could lead to legal action.

Ford moved quickly in late 2003 to jettison one of the prime Durban instigators – the Palestinian Committee for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment, also known as LAW. But that public announcement was made easier when the group's serious financial improprieties also came to light.

Among the others no longer funded, it seems, are the Habitat International Coalition and 2005 boycott signatory Ittijah: The Union of Arab Community Based Associations in Haifa.

Ittijah, according to NGO Monitor, "joined a number of Palestinian NGOs in rejecting anti-terror clauses in funding agreements" with Ford and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Another signer of the 2005 petition, Shaml: The Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center, was at the time a Ford grantee. It received $90,000 "for a program of research and advocacy on the rights and status of Palestinian refugees." It is no longer a grantee.
Ford officials, meanwhile, say that while they recognize that boycotts are sometimes seen as a legitimate political tool, the foundation would not support a group devoted exclusively to boycotts.

"Our position against boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns is clear: We do not fund them," Ironside said.

Many organizations around the world nonetheless look on boycotts as a constructive and nonviolent means to bring about policy change.

"We do not expect to share every position taken by each organization we support, and indeed we do not," Ironside said. "What we do expect of every grantee is to share and live by the values embedded in our mission: the inherent worth and dignity of all people; social justice and equality; the search for knowledge, understanding and cooperation; and respect for civil society and democratic values."

While NGO Monitor keeps the heat on, other Ford critics from 2003 express less concern while noting they have moved on to other issues and don't follow Ford money so closely now.

"I'm confident that Ford is taking this issue seriously and acting in good faith," Foxman said. "I know there are pressures on them from all sides. There may be some aberrations, some perversions, and some of it is a judgment call. It's not an exact science."

Monitoring so many grantees is no simple process, said Nadler, even when looking at the narrower sphere of Ford funding from its Cairo office. With a "violation" open to interpretation, Ford is indeed the sole arbiter.

Nadler acknowledges "gray areas" in the implementation of Ford's guidelines and process, and doesn't agree with every organization the foundation chooses to fund.

"But will I say with certainty that Ford's actions have been sincere and highly commendable? Yes," the congressman said.

"And have their guidelines become an effective high-water mark that has both set an important tone and significantly lessened anti-Semitic and Israel-threatening activities that had been going on in the NGO world for years? Absolutely."

With Berresford's retirement last year, some on the left expressed hope that Ford's incoming president, Luis Ubinas, would reverse the guidelines policy.

Sherman, the Nation writer, penned an op-ed last October in The Los Angeles Times under the headline "Fixing Ford," in which he called on Ubinas to "move quickly to rectify the mistakes of his predecessor and realign Ford's day-to-day grant-making with the lofty principles that have guided the foundation."

The new president, however, says there's no chance.

"Susan put a lot of thought into creating this policy," Ubinas recently told JTA, "and I have no intention of changing it."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Explosion in Tehran disrupts Hezbollah arms convoy

According to Con Coughlin of the Daily Telegraph, a mysterious explosion causing many deaths disrupted a Tehran convoy that was bringing arms to the Hezbollah:

Senior Revolutionary Guard commanders immediately imposed a news black-out following the explosion, even though it could be heard throughout the capital Tehran, and no details of the incident have so far appeared in the Iranian media.

But Western officials yesterday said they had received reports that the explosion took place in Tehran on July 19, and that the Revolutionary Guards had launched an investigation into the causes of the blast.

"This was a massive explosion that was heard throughout Tehran," one official told the Daily Telegraph. "Even though lots of people were killed the Revolutionary Guards are trying to conceal what really happened."

Iran is believed to have recently stepped up arms shipments to Hizbollah in preparation for any future armed confrontation with the West over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

In a second article, Coughlin notes that there have been previous incidents:

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran's latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards' leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

However, Coughlin's reporting is not generally considered reliable, and unless this news is verified from another source, it should be put in the "dubious" category.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Enemies of Israel in the West Bank

The laxity shown to extremist groups and institutions, some of them supported by taxpayer funds, and all of them defended by the IDF, is explicable.
Last update - 10:56 25/07/2008       
IDF commander: We must deal with settler 'provocateurs'
By Uri Blau and Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondents
The outgoing commander of the Samaria Brigade, Col. Amir Baram, last month told Israel Defense Forces and legal officials that efforts should be made to "deal with provocateurs" among settlement leaders.
Baram cited Kedumim Mayor Daniella Weiss and Rabbi Gadi Ben-Zimra, who heads an Orthodox girls' high school in the northern West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Levona as specific examples.
At that meeting, with IDF officers and officials from the State Prosecutor's Office, Baram focused in particular on two yeshivas in the northern West Bank whose students have been party to crimes against Palestinians in the area.
One, called Dorshei Yihudcha, is located in Yitzhar and headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, an associate of Rabbi Yitzhak Ginzburg, who headed the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva that was formerly located at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. Shapira is among the rabbis who signed a manifesto in support of the suspects in a brutal attack on two Arab youths on Holocaust Remembrance Day in May.
"The community's moderates are unable to exert their authority over the yeshiva boys, and there are many complaints in the area," Baram was quoted as saying. "Two yeshiva boys recently went into a nearby Palestinian village to set fire to Palestinian cars, but they were caught and beaten, and the army had to extricate them."
The second yeshiva is Shiru Lamelech, located at the Havat Gilad outpost. Baram said that a number of "problematic" youths study at that yeshiva.
Baram cited the illegal outpost of Shvut Ami as another source of problems, saying that stone-throwing by residents continues despite a permanent IDF presence there.
Violence follows removal of trailer from West Bank outpost
Two men were released from custody on Thursday after having been detained earlier in the day for firing in the air when Palestinians threw stones at their cars. Police said that the two had acted properly, since their lives were endangered by the stone-throwing.
The incident, which took place at the Yitzhar junction in the northern West Bank, was one of a series of violent incidents that followed yesterday's removal of a residential trailer from the nearby outpost of Adei Ad.
In another incident, settlers from Yitzhar reportedly threw stones at the main road on their way back to Yitzhar from Adei Ad.
At the same time, the police and the Israel Defense Forces received reports that rocks had been thrown by Israelis in the nearby Palestinian village of Burin. Police and soldiers mounted an unsuccessful search for the stone-throwers.
In the shooting incident, one of the men stopped his car close to an IDF vehicle, took a weapon from one of the soldiers and fired into the air several times. The other driver fired his own weapon.
Yitzhar residents said the man who seized the soldier's gun was not a resident of the settlement, but rather an air-conditioning technician from Jerusalem.
5gftv cc"He happened to be at the site and was hit by stones, and since the IDF did not respond, he decided to do something," explained one.
Regarding the trailer's removal, a Yitzhar resident said: "The police and the Civil Administration think they can come and evacuate like a 'hit and run.' So we decided that for every attempt to evacuate, we would exact a price throughout the area. The tiniest evacuation will result in incidents all day long, so it will be clear we don't give up easily."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Israel - no recession here - yet

Central Bureau of Statistics data indicates steady decline in unemployment continues, as figures reach two-decade low; Finance Ministry warns trend may soon end
Gad Lior
Published:  07.24.08, 15:12 / Israel Money
Encouraging data: The Central Bureau of Statistics announced Thursday that unemployment rates in Israel have reached an unprecedented 21-year low, reaching 6.1% – or 178,800 unemployed individuals.
Unemployment rates in Israel hit their most recent high in January of 2004, when 11% of able Israelis – 300,000 people or so – found themselves unable to take part in the workforce.
The Central Bureau of Statistics' data pertains to May and although market analysts have predicted that the recent slow- down experienced by the Israeli market may lead to layoffs, unemployment rates are still steadily declining.
"We are witnessing a decline in unemployment rates despite the growing numbers of people joining the workforce. The thriving Israeli market has been able to accommodate both the new members in the workforce and those seeking employment from within it," said a senior source in the Finance Ministry.
May's indication of a 6.1% unemployment rate is the lowest recorded since 1987. The Bank of Israel and the Finance Ministry did, however, expressed concerns that the current trend has come to its end.

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US policy on Israel: General confusion

As usual, US Middle East policy reflects the egos and career aspirations of US officials, rather than the exigencies of reality.

'US generals in Israel in turf battle'

Jul. 23, 2008

A report expected to be released by the United States security coordinator to Israel will reveal a turf war going on between two American generals sent by the State Department to the region, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday.

Author of the report Gen. (ret.) James Jones was appointed security envoy to Israel and the Palestinian Authority by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis Conference in November.

While earlier media reports have claimed that the document will slam Israel for its policies in the territories, Israeli defense and diplomatic officials told The Jerusalem Post this week that the report would instead reflect the tension between Jones and another American security envoy operating in the region - Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton.

The US currently has three generals here doing three different tasks, a situation that Israeli diplomatic officials have said naturally invited a degree of tension and "turf battles."

The first general is Lt.-Gen. William Frazier, who is charged with the operational task of prodding both the Palestinians and the Israelis to fulfill their road map obligations.

The second is Dayton, whose job can be described as one of "applied logistics." He has been described as the "force provider," the individual charged with training and equipping the Palestinian forces so that they are capable of carrying out security duties.

Then there is Jones, whose role is of a more strategic nature. He is mandated with analyzing what both Israel and the Palestinian's security needs will be when a Palestinian state is formed.

"There is tension between Jones and Dayton," a senior defense official told the Post. "The report needs to be looked at as part of an American domestic power struggle and is less about Israel and its policies in the territories."

Since his appointment less than a year ago, Jones has made several visits to Israel and met with all of the senior Israeli defense officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau Amos Gilad, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yosef Mishlav.

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, currently in the US, met with Jones in Washington on Tuesday.

According to the defense official, the report would focus on the failure to establish an effective PA security apparatus and as a result likely conclude that the chances of reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians by the end of 2008 were slim.

"The report will have more criticism for the diplomatic echelon in Israel and the US," said another security official who recently met with Jones. "It will also criticize Dayton since the report will conclude that law-enforcement institutions - which Dayton was supposed to help create - do not really exist."

Israeli diplomatic sources said they did not know when Jones would issue his report, but they did not get the impression during a meeting with him 10 days ago that the report would be particularly critical of Israel.

The thrust of the report, the officials said, would be to define the future security relationship between Israel and a future Palestinian state, and what would be needed both for Israel and the new Palestinian state's security needs.

This article can also be read at

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Israel Security Services Chief: Gaza lull helps Hamas, rocket attcks will resume

Last update - 07:18 24/07/2008    
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin believes that the cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip serve the interests of Hamas, not Israel, and charged that by agreeing to the deal Israel has "offered Hamas a lifeline."
Speaking before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday, the security services head argued that Israel's deterrent has "suffered substantially" as a result of events in the past three years - the disengagement from the Gaza strip, the Hamas takeover there and the Second Lebanon War.
Diskin said the tahadiyeh - the cease-fire agreement - is stable because all sides have an interest in maintaining it and because Hamas is imposing its will on smaller Palestinian factions in the Strip.
"The cease-fire gave Hamas a lifeline. We are not attacking them. We eased the blockade on them at a time when they are not committed to stopping their rearmament," Diskin told the committee.
"Hamas presents itself as the victor in this confrontation, as having managed to hold out against the Israeli siege. The lull is being presented as an impressive achievement on its part," Diskin said.
In return Israel gains a temporary lull, which Diskin said "is essentially an illusion. In our assessment the rocket attacks will resume at some point in the future."
The head of the Shin Bet noted that "Israel's situation is very problematic in its struggle against radical Islam. Palestinian daring against Israel has increased since Hamas took over [in the Strip] while Israel's deterrence has suffered a very substantive blow."
Diskin briefed the MKs on the improved rockets produced by the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. He said that Islamic Jihad has independently produced rockets with a 19-kilometer range and that Shin Bet had intelligence indicating that military-grade rockets, whose range is longer, have been smuggled into the territory. Some of those rockets, Diskin added, can reach Ashdod, 30 kilometers away.
Militant groups in the Gaza Strip have also obtained military-grade mortars from Iran, with a range of approximately nine kilometers, Diskin said.
He said there has been no drastic change in Egyptian efforts to prevent arms from being smuggled into the strip. Diskin confirmed, however, that there has been some improvement, but argued that "Egypt accepts the fact that there is smuggling from its territory... [which] is part of the Middle Eastern theater of the absurd. We have asked the Egyptians to deal with the families of smugglers operating in Sinai."

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No surprises from Obama and wise words from a Palestinian

Commenting on Obama's recent statements about his support for a "united Jerusalem", presumably under Israeli control, a senior Palestinian official Wednesday told Haaretz that he advises against taking what presidential hopefuls tell Jewish voters too seriously.
Common sense, no?
 Last update - 07:16 24/07/2008       
Obama tells Haaretz: Two states for two peoples
By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent
If elected, Barack Obama has no intention of wasting time on consolidating an "Obama peace plan." He would rather dive in and promote the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of existing American initiatives, associates of the U.S. presidential hopeful said Wednesday during his visit to Israel.
"I believe the next U.S. administration should move quickly," Obama told Haaretz.
"I have had in-depth discussions today with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and encouraged all of them to make as much progress as they can in their negotiations this year," the presumptive Democratic Party nominee added. "The next U.S. administration should... help the parties build on the progress that has been made thus far, and continue to work toward the goal of two states living side by side in peace and security."
One of Obama's senior consultants on the Middle East said that what Obama told Haaretz demonstrates the senator's determination to allay fears - or hopes - that if he is elected Obama would shelve the Israeli-Palestinian issue and place it at the bottom of his foreign policy agenda.
Projections to that effect by various political commentators were based on the assumption that Obama might opt to deal first with the Iranian issue and the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq.
While Obama would attempt to deepen U.S. involvement in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the consultant elaborated, he would do so on the basis of existing initiatives - the international Quartet's road map for peace and the Annapolis Declaration.
What would change, according to the consultant, is the U.S. distanced position, as the consultant put it, in which Washington monitors developments but generally prefers to refrain from a more hands-on policy.
On the Iranian issue, Obama's statements differ from what Israeli leaders have grown accustomed to hearing from officials in the administration of President George W. Bush.
During his brief visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority Wednesday, Obama told Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he views the peace process between Israel and Syria as very important. When speaking about Tehran's drive to obtain nuclear weapons, Obama reiterated the importance that he attributes to diplomatic pressure.
Commenting on Obama's recent statements about his support for a "united Jerusalem", presumably under Israeli control, a senior Palestinian official Wednesday told Haaretz that he advises against taking what presidential hopefuls tell Jewish voters too seriously.

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ADL condemns anti-Semitic cartoons of Obama, McCain

ADL condemns anti-Semitic cartoons of Obama, McCain
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
Numerous cartoons have appeared recently in the Arab press that portray presumptive U.S. presidential candidates senators Barack Obama and John McCain as lackeys controlled by Israel and by American Jews.
The allegations are in a report released Wednesday in New York by the Anti-Defamation League.
ADL director Abe Foxman said leading media outlets "from Gaza to Ramallah, from Bahrain to Damascus, from Cairo to Riyadh," were printing the cartoons.
"Once again, the Arab media does not miss an opportunity to promote classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of Jewish control over Washington, the media and the democratic process," Foxman said.
The report includes samples of the cartoons.

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Israeli sources claim Russia will supply Iran with S-300 air defense

The acquisition of the S-300 system might supposedly be a red light that would cause Israel to attack Iran.
Last update - 21:47 23/07/2008       
Report: Israeli sources say Russia to supply new Iran air defenses
By Reuters
Iran is set to receive an advanced Russian-made anti-aircraft system by the year's end that could help fend off any preemptive strikes against its nuclear facilities, senior Israeli defense sources told Reuters on Wednesday.
The first delivery of the S-300 missile batteries was expected as soon as early September, one source said, though it could take six to 12 months for them to be deployed and operable - a possible reprieve for Israeli and American military planners.
Washington has led a diplomatic drive to deny Iran access to nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential, while hinting that force could be a last resort. Israel, whose warplanes have been training for long-range missions, has made similar threats.

But the allies appear to differ on when Iran, which denies seeking atomic arms, might get the S-300. The most sophisticated version of the system can track 100 targets at once and fire on planes 120 km (75 miles) away.
Iran, which already has TOR-M1 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, announced last December that an unspecified number of S-300s were on order. But Moscow denied there was any such deal.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has denied knowledge of the Russian delivery.
"Based on what I know, it's highly unlikely that those air defense missiles would be in Iranian hands any time soon," said Gates, responding in a July 9 briefing to a question about the S-300 - also known in the West as the SA-20.
Gates meant that Iran was a good number of months away from acquiring the system, a U.S. official said.
An Israeli defense official said Iran's contract with Russia required that the S-300s be delivered by the end of 2008. A second source said first units would arrive in early September.
The official agreed with the assessments of independent experts that the S-300 would compound the challenges that Iran - whose nuclear sites are numerous, distant, and fortified - would already pose for any future air strike campaign by Israel.
Israel does not have strategic "stealth" bombers like the United States, though the Israeli air force is believed to have developed its own radar-evading and jamming technologies.
"There's no doubt that the S-300s would make an air attack more difficult," said the official, who declined to be named.
"But there's an answer for every counter-measure, and as far as we're concerned, the sooner the Iranians get the new system, the more time we will have to inspect the deployments and tactical doctrines. There's a learning curve."
Israel, which is assumed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal, reportedly carried out a large-scale air force drill over the Mediterranean last month which was widely seen as a "dress rehearsal" for a possible raid on Iran. Some analysts also described it as a bid to pressure the West to step up sanctions.
The exercise involved overflying parts of Greece, which is among a handful of countries to have bought and deployed S-300s. But Greek media quoted Athens officials as saying that the system's radars were "turned off" during the Israeli presence.
According to the Israeli official, it would take a year for Iran to deploy the
S-300s and man them with trained operators.
Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, said: "The minimum work-up time to be comfortable with the system is six months, but more time is preferable."
Hewson said the Iranian S-300 deal was being conducted via Belarus to afford discretion for Russia, which is already under Western scrutiny for helping Iran build a major atomic reactor.
"Belarus is the proxy route whenever Russia wants to deny it is doing the sale. But nothing happens along that route without Moscow saying so," he said.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stopping terror attacks in Jerusalem

The recent spate of terror attacks in Jerusalem has sparked calls to "do something" from all quarters. Everyone offers a 'solution' that suits their ideological convictions and political needs. Following the latest depraved bulldozer attack, there were again demands to destroy the houses of suicide terrorists.

The problem with the suggestion of destroying homes of terrorists is that other than letting off steam, it seems to serve no purpose. An IDF study had earlier indicated that the policy did not deter terrorists, which is why it was discontinued. It makes sense, If a person is willing to blow himself to bits or face certain death, they are unlikely to worry about having their house destroyed. A man who abandons his family and gives up his life to kill Jews is probably not really concerned about whether or not his family will have a place to live while he is enjoying his 72 perpetual virgins in paradise.

On the other hand, dovish Israelis suggest that acts of terror originating with Jerusalem Arabs should be a motivation for giving up Arab parts of the city. There are perhaps good reasons for compromising on Jerusalem and turning over Arab areas to Palestinian rule. Jabel Mukaber and Shuafat were never Jewish national or religious symbols. That is a matter for political consideration. But responding to terror by making concessions is a really bad idea. When I lived in Jerusalem, in the area that had been part of Israel since 1949, a Katyousha rocket landed a block from my apartment, on Kaf Tet November Street. Should Israel have given up Kaf Tet November street in order to avoid terror attacks? In the fifties, terrorists infiltrated and attacked just south of Rehovot. Should we have given up Rehovot to avoid terror attacks?

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Hamas planting mines under cover of truce

Shin Bet chief tells Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Palestinian group has missiles which can reach Kiryat Gat, Ashdod
Amnon Meranda
Published:  07.22.08, 12:34 / Israel News
Hamas has been taking advantage of the truce in order to plant mines in wide areas in the Gaza Strip, Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin warned the Knesset's Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

"This is one of the reasons I objected to the ceasefire," he said. "I'm not saying how we should do thing, but in order to fight terror we have no choice but to be present in the area."

The Shin Bet chief went on to say that "Hamas today has missiles which can reach Kiryat Gat, and maybe even Ashdod."

Diskin said the Palestinian group was interested in maintaining the truce in order to stabilize its power and rule. Israeli officials recently expressed their concern over Hamas' armament during the ceasefire.
The Shin Bet chief added that "the truce is enabling Hamas to get stronger. They have not abandoned their long-term plans. They were not required to stop the smuggling and return (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit in return, and they have achieved their main goals."

According to Diskin, there is no other way but to control the area. "Ever since Operation Defense Shield, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of terror attacks originating in the West Bank due to the IDF's presence in the area and due to the (separation) fence."

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Jew shield Arabs from ultraorthodox Jerusalem lynch mob

There should not be lynch mobs in an civilized society, but at least we can be comforted that a greater tragedy was averted because of the courage and decency of a few Israelis. They have redeemed our honor with their blood, as at least one of the defenders was stabbed by a rampaging fanatic.
The Yeshiva students who stabbed the Jew trying to protect the Arabs from the violence, should have their martial prowess redirected into service in the IDF.
Ami Isseroff
Dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews assault two Palestinians in Jerusalem Tuesday evening; 'people in yeshiva were yelling: murder the Jews who protect Arabs,' says Jewish man who saved lynch victims' lives
Roi Mandel
Published:  07.22.08, 23:08 / Israel News
Hatred in Jerusalem: Two Palestinians narrowly escaped a lynching attempt in Jerusalem Tuesday evening after they were assaulted by dozens of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The two Arabs were wounded, while a Jewish resident who protected them with his body was stabbed.

"Blood was boiling, and these crazy people almost killed me," the Jewish man told Ynet. The police are looking into the incident and searching for the attackers.
 According to eyewitness testimonies, an angry mob stormed the backyard of a home located near a Jerusalem yeshiva. The family at the home was sitting shiva at the time after a relative died.

"Suddenly, while we were sitting shiva because my father-in-law passed away, two Palestinians stormed into the house bleeding and bruised, following by an angry mob," the Jewish man, who asked that his name not be published, told Ynet. "Dozens of ultra-Orthodox from the nearby yeshiva entered the backyard and severely beat up the two Palestinians, while we, still shocked, were trying to break it up and protect the Palestinians."

'Murder the Jews who protect Arabs'
The man and his relatives stopped the mob with their bodies and pushed them out of their backyard, while keeping the two Arabs at home until the anger subsided.

"Two ultra-Orthodox guys from the yeshiva's balcony yelled: 'Murder the Jews who protect Arabs,'" the man said. "The two Arabs told us that they had a dispute with the Orthodox owner of a nearby store. After they argued, the masses arrived and started beating them up. We waited a few minutes for things to relax, and then my son and I took them out to a nearby alley, so they can go home."

However, a mob then again came out of the yeshiva and started chasing the two Palestinians.

"They caught them and beat them up terribly," the Jewish man said. "My son and I were quick to protect them with our bodies…then, two Orthodox men arrived and one told us: 'You're saving Arabs?' they pulled out knives. I managed to grab the arm of one of them, yet the second one cut my stomach."
The man said that at this point the mob began dispersing in panic. Large police forces were meanwhile called to the scene.
"It was a mad scuffle…crazy people who are calling themselves 'religious' almost killed the two Palestinians and me. I was unwilling to see anyone being killed – I was educated against violence and to protect any person. Fortunately I'm a strong man, but had I been stabbed one centimeter higher or lower, this would have ended in murder."

'Instead of helping us, he helped them'
A student in a nearby yeshiva told Ynet: "We saw the incident and some of the people chanted against the Jewish guy, who instead of helping the Jews being beaten up helped the Arabs, and even beat up Jews…instead of helping us, he helped them."

"As far as we know, one of the Arabs had a dispute with the store owner and started beating up people," the yeshiva student said. "When people who arrived at the site stared fighting him, more Arabs joined in and assaulted Jews."

Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri, who leads the nearby yeshiva, said the Jewish attackers did not come from his institute, "because there are no young guys here, only older people. It is possible that some of the attackers entered our yeshiva compound during the riot, because it is open to anyone."

The rabbi also proceeded to harshly condemn the Jewish attackers.

"This is a very grave incident. No man must hurt innocents, either Arabs or Jews," he said. "This is against Jewish law. I really hope that they find those who took part in the brawl and bring the attackers to justice."

Efrat Weiss contributed to the story

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Record immigration (Aliya) from France - 450 immigrants at Ben Gurion

Given the supposed discomfort and physical danger to French Jews, the number of immigrants is really very small. Apparently, most French Jews do not see a danger in France, and do not find it really inconvenient to take "prudent steps" to hid their Jewish identity at least in public.
Can Israel do more to foster immigration?
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 14:28 23/07/2008       
Record 450 French immigrants to arrive at Ben Gurion Airport
By Hannah Glass and Haaretz Service
A record 450 French olim were to arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport Wednesday, on three special flights sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the AMI immigration association.
The immigrants were to be welcomed in an official ceremony, where they were to be addressed by Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski, Immigration and Absorptiion Minister Eli Aflalo and AMI founder Pierre Besnainou.
France has one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel, totaling nearly half a million people. Its population is second only to America's Jewish population, which has now exceeded 5 million.
Since 2000, there has been a marked increase in the number of French citizens immigrating to Israel, arguably due to the waves of growing anti-Semitism in the European state.
Many French Jews say that they no longer feel comfortable or welcome in France, particularly within the working-class suburbs of Paris, where much of the tension has been focused.
Last month, a Jewish teenager was brutally attacked in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris.
That neighborhood, which has been the site of ongoing scuffles between North African Jews and Muslims living in Paris, was the same suburb in which 23-year-old Ilan Halimi was beaten and left to die a year before.
During his visit to Israel last month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed that France would always defend Israel in the face of any existential threat - a direct reference to Iran and its nuclear program, which he called unacceptable.
A nuclear Iran is intolerable," Sarkozy said. "Anyone trying to destroy Israel will find France blocking the way."

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Iranian hackers sabotage Zionist Web site

The Jerusalem Online Web site appears to be alive and well, and contrary to the report below, Google does not list it as harmful to your computer. This page has Hoenlein's Message to Iran.  
Last update - 04:55 23/07/2008       
Iran hackers target Israeli Web site over message by Jewish group
By Haaretz Staff
The Webmaster of Jerusalem Online says Iranian hackers have been trying to damage his site, which offers English-language news from Israel and the Jewish Diaspora.
The story began four days ago, when the Web site posted a video of Malcom Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein called on the citizens of Iran to oppose their government, saying it does not represent them or care about their welfare, but is using them only to obtain its own extreme goals.
Since the video appeared, Webmaster Ehud Rozen says, there have been numerous attempts to hack the site. Several hackers managed to get the Web site listed as "dangerous" on Google's search engine.
The site investigated, and found that Iranian hackers probably were behind the attacks, Rozen said in a press announcement. "They didn't manage to harm Hoenlein's message, but they did succeed in erasing pictures and damaging links to the site," he wrote.
Meanwhile, the site's security system has been upgraded. And what about Hoenlein's message, which incited the attack in the first place? The Webmaster promised that the video would remain on the site for a long time, because "the message is too important."

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Kuwait plans metropolis, improved ties with Israel

A remarkable development: 
We're going to outmanoeuvre everybody who is going to remain in the old mode of thinking about economic prospects." One aim of the project is to improve relations with Israel.
"If we do not use oil or money to increase our influence in a peaceful way, we have no existence. People in the Gulf are smart enough to understand the impact of technology on their development, and they know that the technology is in Israel. If you look at the taboos of yesterday, they don't exist."
Ami Isseroff
Oil prices have so swollen Kuwait's national coffers that the petroleum-rich state is to invest $132bn (£66bn) on its ambitious "Silk City" at the head of the Gulf, it emerged yesterday.
The extraordinary scale of the metropolis - a 1,001-metre skyscraper, wildlife reserves, and homes for 700,000 people - is matched by a plan to also build an international rail network linking it to Damascus, Baghdad, Iran and China.
Inspired by Dubai's spectacular growth, the Madinat al-Hareer, or Silk City, is intended to create a trading future and a diversified economy in a city which would become a crossroads of the Arab world.
"We are not dreamers at all when we talk about investing $132bn," insisted Sami Alfaraj, president of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies and an adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six mostly oil-rich Gulf states.
"We're thinking on a different plane, because we cannot afford to think like everyone else. We're thinking about something that might seem unimaginable," he told Reuters in London, where he is holding meetings on the project. "We're going to outmanoeuvre everybody who is going to remain in the old mode of thinking about economic prospects." One aim of the project is to improve relations with Israel.
The London-based architects Eric R Kuhne & Associates have drawn up designs for the city, but said that they were unaware its budget had expanded so fast; earlier this year it was estimated at $86bn. The firm is awaiting Kuwaiti government approval to start construction, due to finish by 2023.
The name "City of Silk" evokes the prosperity of the medieval trade route linking Europe to China via the Middle East.
Kuwait wants to link its city by rail to Damascus, to Baghdad, to Iran and all the way beyond. "This is where we want to put our money. We want to build railways all the way to China," said Alfaraj, who also advises the government on security; he added that talks had been held with Iran since 1998, and with other countries.
"If we do not use oil or money to increase our influence in a peaceful way, we have no existence. People in the Gulf are smart enough to understand the impact of technology on their development, and they know that the technology is in Israel. If you look at the taboos of yesterday, they don't exist."

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Better late than never: Aliyah after 60 years

 Last update - 23:10 22/07/2008       
'Exodus' passenger makes aliyah 6 decades after being turned away
By The Associated Press
When 88-year-old Frances Greenberg walked off an El Al passenger jet and into an air-conditioned terminal on Tuesday, it was her second time trying to move to Israel.
The first was in 1947, on the Exodus, a rickety ship crowded with Holocaust survivors who were turned back by the British and returned to war-ravaged Europe.
"The last time I was alone, the last survivor of my family," said the tiny, white-haired Greenberg. She was 27, and the Jewish state did not yet exist.
When, under British guard, she steamed back toward Europe and saw the shores of Palestine recede behind her, Greenberg remembered being heartbroken. But she married soon after being returned to the continent she had tried to flee, and followed her husband, Isak, a fellow Holocaust survivor, to the United States.
Six decades later, there were no British to stop her. Instead, she was greeted at the airport by her daughter, who has lived in Israel since the 1970s, and three of her grandchildren. An Israeli lawmaker was on hand to present her with a new Israeli passport.
In 1947, Greenberg and 4,500 other refugees were packed on board the creaky Exodus 1947. The ship was an old American passenger steamer that had been converted to a military transport during the war and then purchased by the pre-state Jewish authorities in Palestine to bring Jews to the country.
Many of the passengers were their families' sole survivors. When they arrived off the shore of Palestine, the ship was seized by British sailors.
The British, who controlled Palestine and were cracking down on illicit Jewish immigration, transferred them to three other ships and sent them back to Europe, where they eventually ended up back in detention camps in Germany, home of the Nazis who killed 6 million Jews during World War II.
Greenberg said her parents, her two sisters and brother were killed by the Nazis. She said she did not know how or when they died. She survived the Nazi onslaught by fleeing east from her hometown of Sierpc, Poland, into the Soviet Union.
The Exodus incident shocked the world and came to symbolize the plight of Jewish survivors in Europe after the war. It deeply embarrassed the British and helped galvanize support for the establishment of a Jewish state. It also inspired a best-selling novel by Leon Uris and a 1960 movie starring Paul Newman.
The British pulled out and the state of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, triggering a war between Arabs and Jews.
Before departing for Palestine on the Exodus, she had met Isak Greenberg in a displaced persons camp. He loved her, she said, but they parted ways because she was a Zionist and dreamed of going to Palestine, while he planned to go to America. When she arrived back in Germany after her ordeal, he came to see her, and this time she agreed to join him.
After Isak died last year, she revived her old dream of living in the Jewish state.
This time, she left her home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and flew to Israel on a flight arranged by Nefesh B'Nefesh, a group that helps Jews from Western countries move to Israel. More than 200 other American immigrants were on the plane. Loudspeakers at the airport blared Israeli folk songs, and children waved Israeli flags.
America was good to me, Greenberg said. I hope Israel will be good, too.

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Israel wants to get tough on East Jerusalem terror

The question is, if there is any effective policy, and if destroying houses of terrorists is that policy.
 Last update - 07:28 23/07/2008       
Israel keen to crack down on East Jerusalem
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Responding to the sharp rise in terrorist attacks in the capital, carried out by Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, Israeli authorities are keen to expedite procedures that would authorize the resumption of punitive measures, such as the razing of terrorists' homes.
For the second time in three weeks, a Palestinian terrorist went on a rampage with a bulldozer in central Jerusalem. Twenty four Israeli civilians were injured, one seriously, before the driver was shot and killed by a Border Police officer and a civilian. The attack occured close to 2 P.M., near the King David Hotel, where Barack Obama, the presumptive U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, stayed Tuesday night.
Security sources expressed concern Tuesday at the sharp rise in the number of attacks in the capital, and the role of East Jerusalem's Arab residents in them. Since the start of the year there have been five major attacks in Jerusalem, claiming the lives of 12 Israelis.
During the first half of the year, the Shin Bet security service arrested 71 Palestinians from East Jerusalem suspected of being involved in attacks, compared to 37 such arrests during the entire year of 2007.
In the first seven years of the second intifada (which began in September 2000), some 270 East Jerusalem residents were arrested for similar suspicions.
The same security sources said that the last three attacks in West Jerusalem (at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva and the two bulldozer attacks) constitute a new challenge for Israel, and stressed that at present there is no means to counter them.
The combination of a lone terrorist, who decides to attack without having an organizational structure behind him, and the freedom of movement an Israeli identity card guarantees East Jerusalem Arabs, constitutes a weak point in Israel's defenses, making it difficult to prevent similar attacks in the future.
The security sources further said that in the near future, efforts will be made to accelerate those administrative processes that will result in the razing of the homes of the two bulldozer terrorists from East Jerusalem.
Israel ceased destroying the homes of terrorists in 2005. However, as a result of the recent attacks in the capital, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak called for resuming the punitive acts.
In spite of their declarations, the matter ran into bureaucratic obstacles. One way of bypassing them is for the head of Home Front Command, Yair Golan, to issue an order to destroy the home of the Mercaz Harav terrorist.
If the order is approved and survives the Supreme Court appeal of the terrorists' families, the homes of the two bulldozer terrorists will also be razed.
A security source claimed last night that one of the reasons for the delay in destroying the homes is that the Shin Bet has yet to officially rule that the attacks were terror-related. However, the Shin Bet has refuted this claim, calling it "baseless."
In recent talks among security officials, additional steps for deterring East Jerusalem terrorists were discussed. Past ideas were revived, including that of expelling the families of terrorists involved in serious attacks inside the city, and revoking the Israeli identity cards of their immediate relatives.
Such measures would require legislative changes, and legal experts expressed doubts whether such proposals would be approved by the Supreme Court.
Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin is in favor of resuming the policy. Speaking at the Knesset prior to Tuesday's attack, he said that Israel faces a "problem of deterrence" in East Jerusalem because it lacks any effective punitive tool, like razing homes.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama in Jerusalem

Barack Obama is sounding rather presidential, though he has not yet been nominated...
Is he as committed to Israel's security as the American government was committed to the security of South Vietnam? As the British were committed to Czechoslovakia in 1939? If the US forces Israel to make a fatal mistake, will the US be there to deal with the consequences.
Ami Isseroff  
 Last update - 13:37 23/07/2008       
Obama in Jerusalem: I'm committed to Israel's security
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama pledged Wednesday that as
president he would preserve the close relationship between Washington and Jerusalem, and pledged that Israel's security would be a top priority in his administration.
"I'm here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel's security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president," Obama said during a meeting with President Shimon Peres.
Obama, after vowing to immediately work for a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations if elected U.S. president, plunged into the intricacies of the region's conflict Wednesday with a packed schedule of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
He visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and held meetings with Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu.
Netanyahu, the Likud chairman and a former prime minister, said following their talks Obama promised never to seek to damage Israel's security. Both men agreed on the "primacy" of preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Netanyahu said.
During his visit to Yad Vashem, Obama laid a wreath, lit a memorial flame, and deemed the place to ultimately be a place of hope.
"At a time of great peril and torment, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world," he wrote in the visitors' book.
American tourists who passed him by at the memorial told him, "Remember what you see here," and he replied, "Yes, I understand, I understand," said Yad Vashem's director, Avner Shalev.
Security guards at the memorial kept back the few American and European visitors who had hoped to get a closer glimpse of the presidential contender.
But the somberness of the occasion at Yad Vashem also gave way to moments of warmth and lightheartedness.
Peres gave him an effusive welcome, saying he had read Obama's two books and was moved by them. The Israeli president handed Obama an English translation of a book he himself wrote, The Imaginary Voyage: With Theodor Herzl in Israel.
Obama praised Israel's accomplishments 60 years after its creation, and complimented the 84-year-old Israeli president on his youthful appearance.
"I also want to get his recipe for looking as good he does," Obama said.
In the afternoon Obama will make the short drive from Jerusalem to the West bank of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, return to Jerusalem to meet Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, fly by helicopter to the southern town of Sderot - the target of many Palestinian rocket attacks - then chopper back to Jerusalem to meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Olmert is expected to tell Obama during their evening meeting that time is running out for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions and that everything must be done to halt its uranium enrichment.
A senior Jerusalem official noted that Olmert will brief Obama on a range of issues, including Iran and the state of the negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria.
The source said Olmert intends to give Obama a full picture of Israeli intelligence vis-a-vis Iran, stressing the need to take rapid action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability.
With regard to Syria, Olmert will emphasize his desire for U.S. involvement in the Syria-Israel negotiations, with an eye toward advancing them and turning them into direct, bilateral talks. Olmert will point out to Obama the way the negotiations can contribute to U.S. interests.
Obama arrived in Israel on Tuesday night from neighboring Jordan and is due to leave for Germany early on Thursday.
In a statement at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Tuesday, after arriving from Jordan, Obama condemned an attack a few hours earlier by a Palestinian tractor driver who ran amok on a Jerusalem street, smashing into a bus, overturning a car and seriously injuring an Israeli before being shot dead by a civilian and a police officer.
Israeli officials attribute great significance to Obama's visit. The preparations for his visit have been much more intensive than those for that of Obama's Republican counterpart, John McCain, a few months ago.
"It's just one more reminder why we have to work diligently, urgently and in a unified way to defeat terrorism," Obama said. "There are no excuses."
Obama's itinerary
8 A.M. Breakfast at the King David Hotel with Defense Minister Ehud Barak
8:45 A.M. Meeting at the hotel with opposition leader MK Benjamin Netanyahu
9:45 A.M.  Visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, wreath-laying at Hall of Remembrance
11 A.M.  Meeting with President Shimon Peres
1:30 P.M.  Meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Muqata, in Ramallah
2:45 P.M.  Meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni
4:15 P.M.  Visit to Sderot with Livni and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter
5:10 P.M.  Press conference at Sderot police station
8:30 P.M.  Dinner with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
10:10 P.M.  Visit to the Western Wall
6:40 A.M.  Obama leaves for Europe

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem

A new fashion in terror attacks has been inaugurated.  
Last update - 16:13 22/07/2008       
Driver shot dead; 16 hurt, one in serious condition
Bulldozer driver goes on rampage in Jerusalem, apparent copycat of recent deadly attack
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
A Palestinian bulldozer driver went on a rampage in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday, wounding at least 16 people, just weeks after a similar attack in the capital left three dead.
One of the wounded was in serious condition and the rest sustained light wounds. They were taken to Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem for treatment.
The driver of the tractor struck a bus and at least five cars before being shot dead by security forces, Jerusalem police said.
Television footage showed an elderly woman being wheeled into an ambulance and rescue personnel assisting visibly shocked passersby. A mother and her 9-month-old son were among the lightly wounded.
The copycat attack occurred on the corner of Keren Hayesdod and King David streets in downtown Jerusalem, down the road from the hotel where U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama was to be staying later in the day.
"The bulldozer driver left a construction site, and hit two cars," a police spokesman said. "A civilian who saw what was happening, shot him. The bulldozer continued on its way. A Border Police patrol... continued to shoot and the terrorist was killed."
An eyewitness said that the whole incident took place in less than a few minutes.
"One car flipped over and others were crushed. I started running in the direction of the tractor. People regained their composure within seconds. A guy from Susya, near southern Mount Hebron, shot him in the head and a few minutes later a Border Police officer shot him as well," the witness added.
On July 2, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem plowed a bulldozer down Jaffa Road, Jerusalem's main thoroughfare, killing three people. He was not known to be affiliated with any Palestinian militant group.
"This was another attempt to murder innocent people in a senseless act of terrorism," said government spokesman Mark Regev. "All people who believe in peace and reconciliation must unequivocally condemn this attack. Unfortunately, it is clear that we as a society will have to remain vigilant against terrorism."
Minutes after the attack, the driver, wearing shorts and black shoes, was sprawled backward in the construction vehicle's cabin, his legs dangling lifelessly.
Firetrucks had massed at the scene, where the smell of gas was wafting and liquid had spilled on the ground.
Sirens wailed in the background, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.
 Last update - 15:48 22/07/2008       
Rampaging bulldozer driver 'missed pedestrian's head by inches'
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies
Witnesses to the attack by a bulldozer driver in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday said the Palestinian behind the wheel targeted pedestrians and vehicles before he was shot dead by a civilian and a Border Policeman.
"[The driver] tried to bring the blade of the bulldozer on the head of a pedestrian, but missed her by an inch," said one eyewitness. "At first I thought it was an accident, but then he kept going in a zigzag down the slope of King David Street, overturned a car and hit a few cars. The whole thing happened very quickly.
"One car flipped over and others were crushed. I started running in the direction of the tractor. People regained their composure within seconds. A guy from Susya, near southern Mount Hebron, shot him in the head and a few minutes later a Border Police officer shot him as well," the witness added.
At least 16 people were wounded when the East Jerusalem resident drove the vehicle off the contruction site and down a main road, yards from where U.S. presidential hopeful Barack Obama was due to stay Tuesday night.
The driver of the bus hit by the bulldozer said he was chased as the driver wielded the vehicle's shovel.
"I was driving on the main road when the [it] hit me in the rear, on
the right hand side," the driver of the bus, who was not identified, told Channel 10 TV.
"After I passed him he turned round, made a U-turn and rammed the windows twice with the shovel. The third time he aimed for my head, he came up to my window and I swerved to the right, otherwise I would have gone to meet my maker," he said.
Witness Moshe Shimshi said the driver, who was wearing a large, white skullcap commonly worn by religious Muslims, slammed into the side of the bus, then sped away and went for a car.
"He didn't yell anything, he just kept ramming into cars," Shimshi said. "The driver then headed for cars waiting at a red light and rammed into them with all his might.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

US official James Jones preparing hard critique of Israeli West Bank policies

Last update - 02:37 22/07/2008    
The United States security coordinator for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, retired general James Jones, is preparing an extremely critical report of Israel's policies in the territories and its attitude toward the Palestinian Authority's security services.
A few copies of the report's executive summary (or, according to some sources, a draft of it) have been given to senior Bush Administration officials, and it is reportedly arousing considerable discomfort. In recent weeks, the administration has been debating whether to allow Jones to publish his full report, or whether to tell him to shelve it and make do with the summary, given the approaching end of President George Bush's term.
Jones was appointed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following the Annapolis peace conference last November. His assignment was to draft a strategic plan to facilitate stabilization of the security situation, as a necessary accompaniment to Israeli-Palestinian final-status negotiations. In this context, he assessed the PA security forces in the West Bank, whose reform is being overseen by another American general, Keith Dayton. Jones has visited the region several times and met with senior Israeli government officials and army officers.
According to both Israeli and American sources, the envoy's conclusions about Israel are scathing. Israelis who met with Jones on his most recent visit here a few weeks ago, including Israel Defense Forces officers, said their impression was that the report would be "very harsh, and make Israel look very bad."
Jones is apparently critical of Israel on two key issues. One is its fairly broad definition of its security interests in the West Bank under any final-status agreement. The other is its attitude toward the PA security services.

However, the sources said, Jones also had some criticism for Washington: He said its efforts to reform the PA security services fell short and complained that U.S. government agencies are not coordinating their assistance for these forces. In addition, he reportedly concluded that the PA forces are not yet capable of effectively enforcing the law in the West Bank.
The harsh criticisms contained in the executive summary are reportedly upsetting the Bush administration. Some senior U.S. officials are demanding that the full report not be published, so as not to create a storm in advance of the presidential elections in November. Jones, however, is apparently insisting that his full report be published,
just as the report he issued last year on the Iraqi security forces was.
Officials at the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment

Continued (Permanent Link)

Brown scores Iran in first ever Knesset speech by British P.M

British PM Brown also called for a settlement freeze during his visit, but he told the knesset:
"no other country has accomplished as much in such a short time."
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 19:16 21/07/2008       
Brown to Knesset: Iran must suspend nuclear bid or face global isolation
By Haaretz Staff and News Agencies
In the first ever Knesset address by a British prime minister, Gordon Brown on Monday condemned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel as "abhorrent," and vowed that Tehran's bid to acquire nuclear weapons would not be allowed to pass.
It is "totally abhorrent for the president of Iran to call for Israel to be wiped from the map," Brown told lawmakers. "Iran has a clear choice to make: suspend its nuclear weapons program and accept our offer... or face isolation... not just of one nation, by all nations around the world."
The British leader hailed Israel's successes in the 60 years since its establishment as the manifestation of "boundless capacity of mind and spirit," adding that "no other country has accomplished as much in such a short time."
He condemned recent efforts by British unions to implement a boycott against Israel on the grounds of its treatment of the Palestinians.
"The British government will stand full square against any boycotts of Israel or Israeli academic institutions," he said.
Brown also voiced his support for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, relaunched at a U.S.-hosed summit in Annapolis, Maryland last year, telling the Knesset that he felt "a historic and lasting peace is within your grasp." He added that he favored a two-state solution with a Palestinian state that "accepts Israel as a friend and a neighbor."
Prior to Brown's address, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the visiting premier and also stressed that Israel could not reconcile with a nuclear Iran.
"From our point of view, we are talking about an intolerable situation, one with which we cannot reconcile ourselves," Olmert said.
He added however that Iran was not just a menace for Israel, but a "global threat."
"The state of Israel is not asking for anything else but peace," he said, adding that although Israel's conflict with the Palestinians was "bitter," it was "not unsolvable" and that although there were "still profound disagreements" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, these were "bridgeable."
Olmert also praised Britain's "tough stance" in the global struggle against terrorism.
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China have offered Iran financial and diplomatic incentives to halt nuclear activity which the West fears is a cover for making bombs. Tehran says its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating electricity.
After talks in Geneva ended in a stalemate on Saturday, the six major powers gave Iran two weeks to answer calls to rein in its nuclear activities or face tougher sanctions.
Rice: Iran wasn't serious at Geneva nuclear talks
Speaking of the talks in Switzerland, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday accused Iran of not being serious, despite the presence of a senior U.S. diplomat, and warned it may soon face new sanctions.
In her first public comments since Saturday's meeting, Rice said Iran had given the run-around to envoys from the group of "five plus one" ? the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.
"We expected to hear an answer from the Iranians but, as has been the case so many times with the Iranians, what came through was not serious," Rice told reporters aboard her plane as she flew to the United Arab Emirates.
"They can't go and stall and make small talk about culture, they have to make a decision", she said. "People are tired of the Iranians and their stalling tactics."
British government officials traveling with Brown said if Iran did not accept the incentives, the next step would be to ratchet up sanctions against Tehran, possibly including sanctions on Iran's oil and gas industry.
They said such sanctions could seek to target Iran's domestic energy market by making it difficult for Iran to obtain equipment and spare parts for its refineries.
Tensions between Iran and the West have helped drive up crude oil prices to record highs in recent months.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday evening, Brown said Iran had broken the terms of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and had "misled the international community about the scale of their preparations for weaponry."
The United States has refused to rule out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear row.
Israel, long assumed to have nuclear arms, has sworn to prevent Iran from obtaining atomic weapons. An Israeli air force drill last month raised speculation it was planning an attack.
A senior Iranian official was quoted this month as saying Iran would destroy Israel and 32 U.S. military bases in the Middle East if the Islamic Republic was attacked.

Continued (Permanent Link)

McCain on Iraq - Op-Ed rejected by the New York Times

From the Drudge Report - McCain's Iraq editorial that was somewhat arbitrarily rejected by the New York Times.  
Mon Jul 21 2008 12:00:25 ET

An editorial written by Republican presidential hopeful McCain has been rejected by the NEW YORK TIMES -- less than a week after the paper published an essay written by Obama, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
The paper's decision to refuse McCain's direct rebuttal to Obama's 'My Plan for Iraq' has ignited explosive charges of media bias in top Republican circles.
'It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece,' NYT Op-Ed editor David Shipley explained in an email late Friday to McCain's staff. 'I'm not going to be able to accept this piece as currently written.'
In McCain's submission to the TIMES, he writes of Obama: 'I am dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it... if we don't win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president.'
NYT's Shipley advised McCain to try again: 'I'd be pleased, though, to look at another draft.'
[Shipley served in the Clinton Administration from 1995 until 1997 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Presidential Speechwriter.]
A top McCain source claims the paper simply does not agree with the senator's Iraq policy, and wants him to change it, not "re-work the draft."
McCain writes in the rejected essay: 'Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. 'I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there,' he said on January 10, 2007. 'In fact, I think it will do the reverse.'
Shipley, who is on vacation this week, explained his decision not to run the editorial.
'The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information (it appeared before his speech); while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans.'
Shipley continues: 'It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.'

The DRUDGE REPORT presents the McCain editorial in its submitted form:
In January 2007, when General David Petraeus took command in Iraq, he called the situation "hard" but not "hopeless." Today, 18 months later, violence has fallen by up to 80% to the lowest levels in four years, and Sunni and Shiite terrorists are reeling from a string of defeats. The situation now is full of hope, but considerable hard work remains to consolidate our fragile gains.
Progress has been due primarily to an increase in the number of troops and a change in their strategy. I was an early advocate of the surge at a time when it had few supporters in Washington. Senator Barack Obama was an equally vocal opponent. "I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there," he said on January 10, 2007. "In fact, I think it will do the reverse."
Now Senator Obama has been forced to acknowledge that "our troops have performed brilliantly in lowering the level of violence." But he still denies that any political progress has resulted.
Perhaps he is unaware that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has recently certified that, as one news article put it, "Iraq has met all but three of 18 original benchmarks set by Congress last year to measure security, political and economic progress." Even more heartening has been progress that's not measured by the benchmarks. More than 90,000 Iraqis, many of them Sunnis who once fought against the government, have signed up as Sons of Iraq to fight against the terrorists. Nor do they measure Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki's new-found willingness to crack down on Shiite extremists in Basra and Sadr City—actions that have done much to dispel suspicions of sectarianism.
The success of the surge has not changed Senator Obama's determination to pull out all of our combat troops. All that has changed is his rationale. In a New York Times op-ed and a speech this week, he offered his "plan for Iraq" in advance of his first "fact finding" trip to that country in more than three years. It consisted of the same old proposal to pull all of our troops out within 16 months. In 2007 he wanted to withdraw because he thought the war was lost. If we had taken his advice, it would have been. Now he wants to withdraw because he thinks Iraqis no longer need our assistance.
To make this point, he mangles the evidence. He makes it sound as if Prime Minister Maliki has endorsed the Obama timetable, when all he has said is that he would like a plan for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops at some unspecified point in the future.
Senator Obama is also misleading on the Iraqi military's readiness. The Iraqi Army will be equipped and trained by the middle of next year, but this does not, as Senator Obama suggests, mean that they will then be ready to secure their country without a good deal of help. The Iraqi Air Force, for one, still lags behind, and no modern army can operate without air cover. The Iraqis are also still learning how to conduct planning, logistics, command and control, communications, and other complicated functions needed to support frontline troops.
No one favors a permanent U.S. presence, as Senator Obama charges. A partial withdrawal has already occurred with the departure of five "surge" brigades, and more withdrawals can take place as the security situation improves. As we draw down in Iraq, we can beef up our presence on other battlefields, such as Afghanistan, without fear of leaving a failed state behind. I have said that I expect to welcome home most of our troops from Iraq by the end of my first term in office, in 2013.
But I have also said that any draw-downs must be based on a realistic assessment of conditions on the ground, not on an artificial timetable crafted for domestic political reasons. This is the crux of my disagreement with Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has said that he would consult our commanders on the ground and Iraqi leaders, but he did no such thing before releasing his "plan for Iraq." Perhaps that's because he doesn't want to hear what they have to say. During the course of eight visits to Iraq, I have heard many times from our troops what Major General Jeffrey Hammond, commander of coalition forces in Baghdad, recently said: that leaving based on a timetable would be "very dangerous."
The danger is that extremists supported by Al Qaeda and Iran could stage a comeback, as they have in the past when we've had too few troops in Iraq. Senator Obama seems to have learned nothing from recent history. I find it ironic that he is emulating the worst mistake of the Bush administration by waving the "Mission Accomplished" banner prematurely.
I am also dismayed that he never talks about winning the war—only of ending it. But if we don't win the war, our enemies will. A triumph for the terrorists would be a disaster for us. That is something I will not allow to happen as president. Instead I will continue implementing a proven counterinsurgency strategy not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan with the goal of creating stable, secure, self-sustaining democratic allies.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-Semitism Without Anti-Semites

July 19, 2008 - by Henryk Broder

Earlier this month, the Domestic Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag held public hearings on anti-Semitism in Germany. Many of the speakers chose to focus on the "classical" anti-Semitism to be found in what in Germany are euphemistically called "right-wing extremist" milieus, i.e., among skinheads and self-avowed neo-Nazis. The journalist Henryk Broder, however, located the problem elsewhere: namely, in the mainstream "anti-Zionist anti-Semitism" to be found, for instance, among academics and Bundestag members. Pajamas Media here presents a complete English translation of Henryk Broder's statement to the Bundestag�s Domestic Affairs Committee.

I thank you for the invitation to this hearing. It is an honor for me to be able to speak to you. I know that there has been some unhappiness on account of my participation. But I am sure that by the end of my statement you will not regret having invited me.

This is not the first hearing on the issue of anti-Semitism and it will not be the last. Ever since the writer and self-avowed Jew-hater Wilhelm Marr published his "The Triumph of Germandom [Deutschtum] over Jewry" in 1879, thus becoming the leader of political anti-Semitism in imperial Germany, there have been numerous attempts made to define, explain, and neutralize anti-Semitism. They have all failed. If this was not the case, we would not be here today. Every discussion of anti-Semitism starts with a definition of the concept. And many get no further than that, such that after all the efforts to get a grasp on the phenomenon one is left merely with the finding that anti-Semitism is, as the old joke goes, "when one can't stand Jews even more than is normal."

I would like, therefore, to concentrate on two points: two arguments to which one has to pay special attention if one does not want to conduct a merely virtual debate. Firstly, anti-Semitism is not a matter of a prejudice, but rather of a sort of resentment. In and of themselves, prejudices -- literally "pre-judgments" [Vorurteile] -- are harmless. I have prejudices, you have prejudices: everyone does. It is only negative prejudices that bother us. If I say to you that Germans are hardworking, disciplined, and show their guests great hospitality, you will happily agree with me. If, however, I say that Germans are cheap, infantile, and lack a sense of humor, you will presumably get upset. That's an unacceptable generalization, you will say. It is the same with Jews. We gladly hear positive prejudices expressed -- on the "people of the book" or Jewish humor -- but negative prejudices, which thematize our worse tendencies, we take as an insult.

The distinction between a prejudice and a resentment is as follows: a prejudice concerns a person's behavior; a resentment concerns that person's very existence. Anti-Semitism is a resentment. The anti-Semite does not begrudge the Jew how he is or what he does, but that he is at all. The anti-Semite takes offense as much at the Jew's attempts to assimilate as at his self-marginalization. Rich Jews are exploiters; poor Jews are freeloaders. Smart Jews are arrogant and dumb Jews == and, yes, there are also dumb Jews --are a disgrace to Jewry. The anti-Semite blames Jews in principle for everything and its opposite. That is why there is no point in trying to debate anti-Semites or in wanting to convince them of the absurdity of their views. One has to marginalize anti-Semites: to isolate them in a sort of social quarantine. Society must make clear that it disdains both anti-Semitism and anti-Semites: just as it disdains parents beating their children and rape -- including spousal rape -- even though it well knows that it cannot monitor everything that transpires behind closed doors.

Secondly, if you want to come to terms with anti-Semitism, you must realize that it is not a fixed quantity like the meter prototype in Paris or the definition of the volt, watt, or ampere. Like all social phenomena, anti-Semitism is susceptible to transformation. Even poverty is no longer today what it once was at the time of Oliver Twist. The anti-Semitism that we are most readily inclined to discuss is an artifact of the last century and the century before that. It is the anti-Semitism of fools, who are still chasing chimeras. [In the late 19th century, the German Social Democrat August Bebel famously described anti-Semitism as the "socialism of fools." -- Translator's Note] The common anti-Semite has no real idea about the object of his obsessions, but only a diffuse feeling. He lets off steam by painting swastikas on aluminum siding and scribbling "Juda verrecke" ["Jews go croak!"] on gravestones. He is a case for the police and the local courts, but nothing more than that. Nobody is going to feel sympathy for thugs who raise their arms to give the Hitler salute and shout "Juden raus!" ["Jews out!"]. This sort of anti-Semitism is ugly, but politically irrelevant: it is its own death notice.

The modern anti-Semite looks entirely different. He does not have a shaved head. He has good manners and often an academic title as well. He mourns for the Jews who died in the Holocaust. But at the same time he wonders why the survivors and their descendants have learned nothing from history and today treat another people as badly as they were once treated themselves. The modern anti-Semite does not believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But instead he fantasizes about an "Israel lobby" that is supposed to control American foreign policy like a tail that wags the dog. For the modern anti-Semite, it goes without saying that every year on January 27 he will commemorate the liberation of Auschwitz. But at the same time he militates for the right of Iran to have atomic weapons. For �how can one deny Iran what one has permitted Israel or Pakistan? -- as Norman Paech [the foreign policy spokesperson of the German Left Party] has put it. Or he inverts the causal relationship and claims that it is Israel that is threatening Iran and not vice-versa --as [German Middle East scholar] Dr. Udo Steinbach did in a recent radio interview. The modern anti-Semite finds ordinary anti-Semitism disgraceful. He has no problem, however, embracing anti-Zionism and is grateful for the opportunity to express his resentment in a politically correct form. For anti-Zionism is a sort of resentment just like classical anti-Semitism was. The anti-Zionist has the same attitude toward Israel as the anti-Semite has to Jews. He is not bothered by what Israel does or does not do, but rather by the fact that Israel exists. That is why he participates so passionately in debates about the solution to the Palestinian question -- which could well mean a final solution for Israel. On the other hand, he is left indifferent by conditions in Darfur or Zimbabwe or Congo or Cambodia, because there are no Jews involved in those places. Ask the foreign policy spokesperson of the Left Party, for instance, how many statements he has issued about 'Palestine' and how many about Tibet.

Earlier -- let's say at the time of classical anti-Semites like Wilhelm Marr, Karl Lueger, and Adolf Stoecker -- everything was plain and simple. There were Jews, there were anti-Semites, and there was anti-Semitism. After 1945, for the well-known reasons, we then had in Germany an anti-Semitism without Jews. And now today we are again confronted by a new phenomenon: an anti-Semitism without anti-Semites. Another new phenomenon is the professional profile of what might be called the 'leisure time anti-Semite' who does his regular job during the day, perhaps even in a federal government office, and then in his spare time writes 'critical\ texts on Israel that appear on obscure anti-Zionist websites. [The reference is to Ludwig Watzal, an official of Germany's Federal Office for Civic Education (BpB), many of whose articles have been reprinted on the site See [1] here on Watzal. The BpB has resisted calls for Watzal�s dismissal, arguing that the writings in question are not connected to his professional activity. -- Translator's Note] Nobody wants to be an anti-Semite, but the �anti-Zionist� hall of shame is getting increasingly crowded.

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are two sides of the same coin. If the anti-Semite was convinced that it is not him, the anti-Semite, who is to blame for anti-Semitism, but rather the Jew himself who is to blame, so too is the anti-Zionist convinced that Israel is responsible not only for the suffering of the Palestinians, but also for the hardship it suffers itself. The older persons among you will perhaps remember what a Green Party politician, who is still a member of the Bundestag, said about the Iraqi rockets that were fired at Israel at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991: "The Iraqi rocket attacks are the logical, nearly unavoidable consequence of Israeli policy." [The author of the quote is Green Party Member of Parliament Hans-Christian Strobele. -- Translator's Note] At the time, the same Green Party politician also opposed the delivery of defensive weapons like Patriot rockets to Israel, because this would, he claimed, lead to an escalation in the hostilities.

Today, some 17 years later, we hear similar remarks about rocket attacks on Israel from southern Lebanon or the Gaza Strip: namely, that they are the logical, nearly unavoidable result of Israeli occupation and that Israel would do well not to react in order to avoid escalating hostilities. The modern anti-Semite pays tribute to Jews who have been dead for 60 years, but he resents it when living Jews take measures to defend themselves. He screams "Beware of the Beginnings!" when a handful of weekend Nazis hold a demonstration in Cottbus, but he justifies the policies of the current Iranian president and defends the continuation of German business with Iran.

Ladies and gentleman, we will not solve the problem of anti-Semitism: not at this hearing nor at the next. But the mere fact that you are discussing the issue -- when there are also other and more pressing problems that need attention -- is a good sign. If I may in all modesty make a suggestion: leave the good old anti-Semitism to the archaeologists and antiquarians and historians. Devote your attention to the modern anti-Semitism that wears the disguise of anti-Zionism and to its representatives. You will find some of the latter among your own ranks.

I thank you for listening.

English Translation by John Rosenthal


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Samir Kuntar is a Convicted Killer and Not a Hero

Samir Kuntar is a Convicted Killer and Not a Hero
By: Elias Bejjani

July 21/08

It is really sad, shocking and shameful when a convicted murderer is decorated as a hero. Shame on Lebanon's leaders, parties, dignitaries, politicians and officials who boldly and evilly distanced themselves from the hopes, aspirations, education, and culture of their own people and welcomed Samir Kuntar as a hero. By doing so they have alienated themselves from the majority of the Lebanese people and negated the deeply Lebanese rooted standards and criteria for what is wrong and what is right, and for what is good and what is evil.

They are stupidly blemishing the actual peaceful image of Lebanon and the historically known role  of the Lebanese people as lovers and advocates for peace, democracy, coexistence and multicultural principles. In the eyes of the majority of the Lebanese people Samir Kuntar is a mere convicted murderer and not a hero.

The Ottoman Turks occupied Lebanon for almost 400 years (1516-1918) with an iron fist, yet despite their bloody repression, persecution, injustice, and blatant bloody oppression means, they failed to impose "Ottomanization" on the Lebanese people. Nor did they succeed in imposing the Turkish language as a replacement for the Lebanese language.

The Ottomans' condescending and suppressive repression was confronted by the Lebanese stubborn attachment to their culture, their identity, their history. And most of all, their faith, hopes, values and morals, their humanistic standards for Good and Evil. The Lebanese triumphed and the Ottomans were defeated.

After the Ottomans, the French mandate shined its civilized and peaceful administration, with respect to human rights, and seeking the public good in harmony with Lebanese culture and beliefs. The French mandate ushered a spring of Lebanon lasting 30 years of consenting cooperation. It produced with the Lebanese people a Franco-Lebanese common, solid Franco-Lebanese culture that continued to thrive even after France's exit. This culture is still very rooted in the spirit, conscience, and practices of the Lebanese.

On the other hand, 30 years of a Syrian barbaric and savage occupation backed by collaborators, imported terrorists and ideologies, and dishonest theatrics, also failed to uproot any of the Lebanese cultural constants for they are deep rooted in their being, and merged with the holy earth of Lebanon, so, just like the Ottomans, the Syrians were also defeated and were forced to leave Lebanon trailing their disappointment and humiliation.

For 7000 years, holding to their culture, values, faith and stubbornness, the Lebanese people struggled and defeated the greed, plans, and oppression of hundreds of invaders, occupiers, and conquerors whose traces are carved on few stones in Lebanon's famous "Nahr Kalb" river.

Based on all the above, it is a moral duty to judge all those celebrators who chanted like parrots the mantra of Samir Kuntar's heroism, and accepted in obedience and subservience to celebrate Kuntar's crime as heroism, in contradiction to standards of the Lebanese culture, civilization, and values, and in violation of all religious and legal charters.

We believe strongly that it is a patriotic duty and ethical obligation to hold accountable all the Lebanese leaderships, whether officials or religious parties and intellectuals. We, as Lebanese people in both Lebanon and Diaspora must hold accountable all those who participated in the " festival of lies and falsehood" while at the same time claiming their adherence to the framework and foundations of Lebanon's message of civilization, to its constitution, its laws of the land, to the principles of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention regarding civilians in times of war, and to the teachings of their religions, values, principles, and morals inherited from our forefathers.

They have shamelessly "sinned" reneging the Lebanese culture and its values, and all its moral and legal humanistic constituents. They threw to the wind the sacrifices of thousands of venerable Lebanese sacrificed at the altar, so that Lebanon remains Free, Sovereign, and Independent. A civilized country. A model of openness, tolerance, and coexistence.

Through their "Dhimmitude" action, they walked the path of Hezbollah's fundamentalist and Iran's mullah-isolationist culture. The culture of the ""Wilayat al-Faqih."   " which totally negates the Lebanese Culture. It is the opposite of civil societies, human charters, freedoms, democracy and civilization.

(Wilayat al-Faqih is a religious theology that is divisive amongst the Muslims themselves. It is a bizarre, autocratic concept created and tailored by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in the early seventies. The basis of this system provides all the ruling powers and authorities with unlimited vetoes on every aspect of life and governance into the hands of one man, the Highest Shiite Imam, whose headquarters is located in the Iranian city of Qom).

A prisoner's family, regardless of his crime, has the right to celebrate their family member's release. But the politicians and parties who brandished the banner of the Cedars Revolution, who struggled for freedom and for the "Lebanese culture" in face of  "Wilayat al-Faqih" Iranian education and doctrine, who opposed Hezbollah's fundamentalist agenda, do not have the right to run breathlessly behind Hezbollah's travesties. No right to accept the "standards and criteria of heroism" as defined in Hezbollah's religious-sectarian philosophy and education. These leaders cannot overturn the universal set standards and criteria of true heroism, and subjugate themselves to Hezbollah's logic and its heretical doctrine.

They have no right promoting the "Dhimmitude" education and logic to their practices and public statements. Their acceptance to be subservient in Hezbollah's musical band desecrates the Lebanese people numerous heroic stands since 2005, when one and a half million Lebanese descended the streets in civilized peaceful demonstrations, and gave these politicians the mission of standing guardians to protect us from Hezbollah's culture, education, schemes and Iranian terrorist agenda.

Yet it is the right of the sovereign Lebanese to request public accountability from all the Cedars Revolution leaders, cabinet ministers, MPs, and party leaders, as well as all the state officials who celebrated Hezbollah's Kuntar's heroism which is totally alien to the Lebanese culture. We have the right that they offer either their apology and repentance for their ugly action, or resign from their positions and join Hezbollah.

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

LCCC Web Site
CLHRF Website


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Arab league to block justice for Darfur

The news speaks for itself. The Arab League is rushing to defend an acknowledged genocidal war criminal.
Ami Isseroff
Monday, July 21, 2008
Jennie Matthew
Agence France Presse
KHARTOUM: Arab League chief Amr Moussa headed for Khartoum on Sunday with a plan aimed at stalling possible legal moves against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, accused of masterminding genocide in Darfur. Bashir was to receive Moussa Sunday evening, bolstered by an agreement from Arab foreign ministers to seek a political solution to the crisis sparked when the World Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Bashir.
Egypt's official MENA news agency, quoting Sudanese Deputy Foreign Minister Al Samani al-Wassila, said Moussa would suggest to Bashir "the possibility of holding an international conference."
Such a conference, it added, would "gather all forces and Sudanese and international parties to solve the problem of Darfur ... and to close the file in a definite manner."
The Arab League on Saturday resolved to support Sudan, slammed International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo as "unbalanced," and said Sudanese courts should judge those accused of war crimes during Darfur's five-year conflict.
Moreno-Ocampo accuses Bashir of personally instructing his forces to annihilate three non-Arab ethnic groups in Darfur, masterminding murder, torture, pillaging and the use of rape to commit genocide.
The UN says up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict erupted in February 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.
It began when African ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime and state-backed Arab militias, fighting for resources and power in one of the most remote and deprived places on earth.
Moreno-Ocampo asked ICC judges Monday to issue a warrant for Bashir's arrest. If granted, which it is unlikely to happen for months, it would be the first issued by The Hague-based court against a sitting head of state.
Moussa has refused to divulge details of the plan before his meetings in Khartoum, but the Arab League on Saturday urged Sudan to give suspected Darfur war criminals trials that were not a "sham." According to the ICC statute, if credible trials of alleged war criminals are held domestically, the court's own charges are dropped.
Sudan's two other ICC indictees, Cabinet Minister Ahmad Harun and Arab militia leader Ali Kosheib, had both been set to face trial in Sudanese courts on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Kosheib's trial was indefinitely suspended in March 2007. Harun was briefly detained and released last October for lack of evidence.
Sudanese diplomatic efforts now focus on persuading the UN Security Council to freeze any prosecution of Bashir for a year, renewable, warning that peace prospects would be severely undermined.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ali Karti, told reporters in Khartoum that information could soon emerge about Sudan approaching the Security Council to invoke article 16 of the Rome Statute.
"Nothing is done now, actually, for the Security Council to take any action ... Now we have the African Union, we have the Arab League ... maybe in the coming few days you will hear about something like that," he said.
The Security Council has the power to adopt a resolution requesting that the ICC suspend its procedures for 12 months.
Western members of the 15-strong council have called consideration of such a freeze premature, given that the ICC judges have not yet formally issued any arrest warrant.
Sudan is also banking on strong support from the African Union, which can also put such a request to the Security Council, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Egypt, meanwhile, called Sunday for an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Darfur, state media reported.
The conference should be held "in coordination with the UN, permanent members of the Security Council and countries influential in Africa," the MENA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Ahmad Abu al-Gheit as saying. - AFP

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Testimony: Israeli emergency service's new immigrant volunteers first to arrive at scene of terror attack

Youths attending MDA emergency medicine program were first to answer call on bulldozer attack. They tell tales of horror at witnessing awful sight, but admit experience only reinforced their feelings for Israel
Ohad Avidan Keinar
Published:  07.17.08, 07:24 / Israel Activism
Emergency medical teams, the first to arrive on the scene of any disaster, are usually accustomed to the sight of blood and bodily injuries. However the Magen David Adom (MDA) team that arrived first on the scene of the Jerusalem bulldozer attack two weeks ago had not even had the chance to grow accustomed to Israel when they were exposed to the harsh views.
This is because the team was made up entirely of volunteers that had only recently come to Israel, and graduated from an MDA course for the distribution of emergency medical treatment just a few days prior to the attack.

"At the first moment I thought we had come to the scene of a traffic accident," said Alon Mordel, a new paramedic assistant who arrived just a few moments after the attack had occurred. "We started to run over in order to offer assistance and as we got closer we saw more vehicles and understood that it was a terror attack."

The newbie volunteers had heard of the harsh Israeli reality, but they never anticipated they would come face to face with it so quickly. "I was not expecting something like this to happen," said Haim Cohen, another volunteer. "I knew it was possible that a terror attack would take place, everyone always says it could happen, but I didn't believe it." 

The youths had to swallow their shock quickly in order to offer assistance to the many victims. "You comprehend what you're seeing and try to help: A man is lying on the road so you try to help him, you see people rescuing a woman from a car so you go over to try to help the rescuers. There's no time to think, you just act," Alon recounted.

Every year dozens of Jewish youths from around the world come to Israel in order to undergo a 60 hour course that teaches them basic life-saving techniques. The course is part of a joint effort by MDA and the Jewish Agency, and though it prepares them for the offering of basic medical treatment, it doesn't prepare them for the sights they may have to witness.

"At some point I saw the terrorist that had been shot dead in the bulldozer. These are memories that will never leave me," Haim said. However he stressed that even the harsh views of the attack would not deter him from continuing to contribute.

"Dozens, maybe even hundreds of people arrived to help. It looked as if every Israeli had shown up. It felt like everyone was connected, like brothers, like one body of people that want to help each other. It was a very strong feeling," he said.

"On the one hand you see the most awful side of humanity, how one person can kill so many. But three minutes later you look around and it appears as though an entire nation has come to help and save people," Alon said, adding that the difficult experience only reinforced his sense of belonging to Israel. "This is a very special nation. Until my final day I will be Israeli," he announced.

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More good news from Israel: Ben-Gurion Airport ranked best in Middle East

Hong Kong International Airport voted the world's best for the seventh year in annual survey of 8.2 million passengers. Waiting times at security checkpoints mentioned as major cause of passenger discontent
Reuters Published:  07.18.08, 08:48 / Israel Travel 
Hong Kong International Airport was voted the world's best for the seventh year in an annual survey of passengers, with Asian airports dominating the top positions in the list.
In the Middle East, passengers ranked the best airport for the region as Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport, followed by Bahrain.
The annual survey conducted by Skytrax, a UK-based consultancy, judges airports on more than 40 categories, ranking them after collecting 8.2 million questionnaires completed by passengers over a 10-month time period from 2007 to 2008.
The passengers judged 190 airports on factors like shopping, dining, staff courtesy, baggage delivery and wait-times at security.
Overall, airports in Asia did well. Hong Kong, with its reputation for efficiency and comfort, beat Singapore's Changi Airport and Seoul's Incheon Airport in South Korea, which were ranked second and third respectively.
Hong Kong has held the title of best airport seven times. Only once, in 2006, it was knocked from the No. 1 slot by Singapore's Changi Airport.
"In recent years, the whole air travel experience has become much more focused on the time customers spend in the airport environment, and Hong Kong has established itself as a clear passenger favourite in this respect," said Skytrax CEO Edward Plaisted in a statement.
Also in the top 10 were airports in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Kansai in Japan.
Munich in Germany was voted the top European airport, ranked fifth in the world, while Copenhagen in Denmark, Zurich, Switzerland, and Helsinki, Finland also made the top 10. Cape Town, South Africa rounded out the list at No. 10.
There were no North American airports in the top 10 list. San Francisco did best, ranked 11th, followed by Vancouver in Canada and Dallas/Forth Worth.
Israel Airports Authority 'proud'
Plaisted said waiting times at security checkpoints was a major cause of passenger discontent.
"Easy transportation, quick check-in, good shopping and dining facilities, clean terminal areas - all the positives can easily be undone when confronted by a 20 minutes security queue, especially if one also finds that only half the security facilities are operational," he said.
Plaisted said total customer satisfaction for many airports had improved in the past year but the financial crisis ahead would impact the airline industry and bring on a rash of operational difficulties, cancelled and consolidated flights and more airlines going under.
"In turn, this will put pressure on airports being able to react to and cope with the pressure points as they arise," he said.
An Israel Airports Authority told Ynet in response, "We are proud about this ranking and will continue to exert efforts and put the issues of safety, security and passenger service at the top of the IAA's priority list.

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Obama vs McCain - an Israeli view

Gerald M. Steinberg
Comming soon in
Jewish Week

Presidential election campaigns in the United States are always closely watched in Israel, and this is particularly the case in 2008. The conventional wisdom is that Obama, like Jimmy Carter, is inexperienced and naïve, and that he has been influenced by radical Palestinian friends like Rashid Khalidi (the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University), anti-Israel advisors like Samantha Power and Zbigniew Bzrezinski, and by his ex-pastor, Jeremiah Wright, a supporter of Louis Farrakhan. In contrast, McCain is viewed as a realist who understands the complexities of the Middle East, including Iran's efforts to dominate the region through nuclear weapons, and is prepared to respond effectively.

But Obama has provided some reasons to reexamine this image, while also introducing a new and important factor that works in his favor. Like others around the world, Israelis have observed and been impacted by the decline of American power in recent years. Intense internal divisions (red vs. blue states) and President Bush's stumbling appearances severely undermined Washington's credibility and influence, from Venezuela to Pakistan. Major mistakes in Iraq allowed the Iranian regime to become a leading force in the Middle East, and the faith-based promotion of instant democracy legitimized Hamas, and weakened the military elite that provides stability in Egypt. Power projection resulting from economic success has disintegrated as the dollar and Wall Street plummeted, and America-led alliances have failed to defeat Al Qaida or the Taliban. The perception of the US as a weak and fading world power has also reduced Israel's own deterrence, and emboldened its enemies.

To restore American power and, in its wake, Israeli security and Middle East stability, the next president must first unify the American public, and inspire them to take the steps necessary to repair their economy, including reducing the huge gap between rich and poor, and improving education. A president who projects confidence, intelligence, and empathy can lead a long-overdue transformation, and here, Obama has the advantage.

History has shown that these steps will also have a major impact in improving America's ability to act effectively around the world. In 1961, John F. Kennedy's stirring speeches projected a confident superpower, sure of its moral mandate and ready to "bear any burden" to defend the cause of freedom. In practice, the inexperience of Kennedy and his advisors led to serious policy challenges, including the 1962 nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union, but America emerged as the undisputed leader and inspiration for citizens in many other countries.

The Vietnam War, the darkness of the Nixon years, and Jimmy Carter's "malaise" undermined this power, but in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan's clear message and actions restored America's position as the world leader, and sped the demise of the Soviet empire. The economy boomed, and further increased Washington's power. As the close ally of the US, Israel's deterrence capabilities also benefited from this recovery.

On this score, Obama's energy and racial background can unite and inspire Americans, and his election will revive the glow of American democracy around the world. His speeches and Q&A responses display a quick intelligence and a sharp wit, and his body language is consistent with the words. In this context, Obama has written about his admiration for Reagan – the quintessential Republican and Neo-conservative. However, to convince Israelis, the Democratic candidate must also demonstrate that he invoke a credible deterrent, and make the difficult calls, including the use of force, when required. Obama's comments on Iraq, including a pledge to end the war, come across as simplistic, as did the confused statements on the very complex issue of Jerusalem. In his upcoming visit to the region, Israelis will be looking for signs that beyond inspirational speeches and self-confidence, Obama can also deal with the threats on the ground.

In contrast, McCain's policies, including threats to use of America's military power to defend freedom, are more credible than Obama's, and his record is consistent and substantive. On Iraq, as on many other difficult issues, McCain does not present thin hopes of a quick solution which will allow America to disengage and leave a stable government. But McCain's personality and rhetoric do not inspire, and he will be seen by many both inside the U.S. and from overseas as a continuation of the Bush era.
These dimensions, taken together, make for a difficult choice for Americans, while Israelis watch with more than usual interest. If the result produces a stronger America, this should also benefit other democracies around the world, including Israel. 
Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg is executive director of NGO Monitor in Jerusalem, and chairs the Political Science department at Bar Ilan University, in Israel.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Trouble ahead - Anti-Israel blockade busters to aid racist Hamas

What a charming idea! Israel should allow the ship to pass, provided it includes a contingent of gay people, who will be allowed to stage a gay pride parade in Gaza citiy.
It seems the "humanitarians" forgot that the Hamas is a racist, genocidal organization that came to power by force.
Ami Isseroff
"Free Gaza" initiative to try and enter Gaza by sea and open port
Date: 19 / 07 / 2008  Time:  14:58

Bethlehem - Ma'an - A small shipping vessel will set sail for Gaza from Cyprus on 5 August expecting to be illegally detained as it enters Gazan waters.

The waters off the Gaza Strip are patrolled by Israeli naval vessels, and Israel enforces a "Fishing Limit" that is 6 nautical miles (11.1 km) from the Gaza shore. These restrictions on access and borders are enforced despite the 2005 Israeli "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip.

There will be 60 people aboard the "Free Gaza" vessel including a Holocaust survivor a survivor of the Palestinian Nakba, and members of the international Palestinian diaspora.

The crew intends to travel into the Gaza strip, past the international waters boundary, the 1996 Oslo accords boundary (20 nautical miles from the Gaza coast), the 2002 Bertini agreement boundary (12 nautical miles and 22.2 km from the Gaza coast) and the current "Fishing Limit" imposed by the Israeli navy since October 2006.

Legally, the group says there should be no problem passing each of these lines since Israel disengaged from the Gaza strip in 2005 and should no longer its control airspace and territorial waters.

The initiative hopes to draw attention to the continued de facto occupation of Gaza. In an interview with Ma'an on Saturday, a spokesperson for the group in Israel said that the crew expects to be stopped by the Israeli navy shortly after they cross from international waters into Gazan territorial waters, which according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) from an area's shoreline.

While Israel has not signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, they did sign the Bertini Agreement in August 2002 with the UN, which stated that Gazan territory extended the full 12 nautical miles from the shore.

In June 2005, Israel unilaterally "disengaged" from Gaza and withdrew all troops to the 1967 borders. In theory, Gazans control the entire Strip, excluding approximately 650 meters along the eastern border which is called a buffer and "no go" zone.

The trip organizers think one of four things will happen to the ship: it may be stopped as it crosses or approaches the barrier marking the international waters boundary, in which case the crew is prepared to stay on board for at least two weeks in protest of the illegal halt of passage. The second possibility envisioned by the organizers is that the ship will be allowed to pass into the area, and will be stopped in the territorial waters. In this eventuality the crew expects to be arrested, and the ship dragged to shore.

A third possibility is that the ship will be sunk by the navy.

The final option is that the ship actually makes it through to the Gaza port near Gaza City in the north of the Strip.

According to Holocaust survivor and crew member Hedy Epstein, in the event that they can get through to Gaza they will "open the port, fish with the fishermen, help in the clinics, and work in the schools."

What Epstein hopes to do on this journey is to "remind the world that we will not stand by and watch 1.5 million people suffer death by starvation and disease."

Coordinator of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, Palestinian Legislative Council member and lawyer Jamal Al-Khudari said that he hopes the arrival of the ship in Gaza will mean an end to the siege. He emphasized that the ship has a right to enter the local waters and Gazans have the right to host their guests without Israeli intervention.

Opening a port in Gaza would allow residents to export agricultural products, and gain control over the goods and material brought into the region. Currently, all crossing points are controlled by Israel and Egypt. The truce between Hamas and Israel was supposed to see the blockade and restriction on essential goods lifted, but food, medical supplies, cement and fuel are still only trickling in.

The ship was invited to Gaza by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and support for the initiative was provided in part from Carter Center in the US and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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German Press: Israel allowed itself to be blackmailed

'Israel's Enemies Are Celebrating'
Israel managed to bring two of its soldiers home on Wednesday. But even still, praise for the prisoner exchange with Hezbollah has been scant. Israel, say German commentators, has allowed itself to be blackmailed.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah helped his followers celebrate the prisoner swap. Israeli's were busy mourning.
It didn't take long for the critics to find their voices. On the afternoon of the same day that Israel sent five Lebanese militants -- the brutal murderer of a four-year-old Israeli girl among them -- and the bodies of 199 Arab fighters to Lebanon in exchange for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, many slammed the deal for encouraging hostage taking.
"What we've done now has made kidnapping soldiers the most profitable game in town," Martin Sherman, an Israeli security expert, told the Associated Press on Wednesday. "There is absolutely no reason why Hezbollah should not invest huge resources now, along with Hamas, in the next kidnapping."
The two dead soldiers Israel received in the exchange, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were captured by Hezbollah militants in July 2006 near Israel's northern border with Lebanon. The raid touched off a month-long war which saw Israel advance into southern Lebanon in an attempt to clear Hezbollah out of the region. The war, by all estimations, was a failure.
Many are particularly skeptical of Israel's Wednesday release of Samir Kantar, who was serving three life terms for killing an Israeli man in front of his four-year-old daughter before bludgeoning her to death with his rifle butt. The release violates the long-held principle in Israel of not releasing any prisoners who have blood on their hands -- a high price to pay, say many, for two soldiers who many had assumed were dead before the swap took place.
"This is a very dangerous precedent," Yuval Steinitz, an Israeli parliamentarian from the Likud Party, told the AP. "We are telling them that they don't have to do their utmost to keep captive soldiers alive, to save them if captured."
Many in both Lebanon and in the Palestinian Territories spent Wednesday celebrating the swap as a major victory for Hezbollah and for the militant group's leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. German commentators on Thursday fear that their view of the prisoner exchange -- that of a major defeat for the Israelis -- is the correct one.
The center-left daily Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"The macabre Israeli-Lebanese deal, which saw living Lebanese prisoners being swapped for the bodies of Israeli soldiers, is a major success for the Shiite militia…. The prisoner exchange shows who really has the power in Lebanon and who can force archenemy Israel to make concessions: It is Hezbollah, it is Nasrallah. That elevates the radicals' image in Lebanon, in the Arab world and in the Muslim world."
"Nasrallah and his militia were able to achieve everything that the Lebanese government would never have been able to accomplish. Israel cannot be pleased by this state of affairs. After all, Hezbollah is not just a dangerous and unpredictable enemy on the Israeli-Lebanese border. Rather the group is also allied with Iran, another enemy of Israel."
"The spectacular prisoner exchange only makes sense for Israel if it was part of a larger deal being negotiated behind the scenes to solve the Middle East conflict. If, for example, the deal was a decisive move in Israel's preliminary peace talks with Syria; if Iran was thus put at risk of losing its allies in Damascus; and if Hezbollah approves of such a development. Then the macabre back-and-forth of the coffins and prisoners would be an indication that the situation is fundamentally changing. That, though, is not guaranteed."
The conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"That Hezbollah is celebrating the macabre deal as a triumph is understandable -- but it is also psychopathic. It shows that human suffering doesn't count in the fight against Israel and that murder pays. In such an atmosphere, how can one hope for peace -- and for the trust necessary for an agreement? Hezbollah uses the fight against Israel to gain power in Lebanon, with the approval of both Syria and Iran. At the same time, Hezbollah hopes to gain international standing through its deal with Israel."
"The problem is not just that the unequal prisoner swap allows Hezbollah to fudge its designation as a terror group by becoming a recognized party to a war. Rather, it means that terror, kidnapping and murder can be profitable. This situation weakens the Israeli deterrent, rewards abductions and provides imprisoned terrorists with the hope that they might soon be freed."
The business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:
"When it comes to prisoner exchanges, there was one aspect that was always seen as non-negotiable by the Israeli government: Israel never frees a terrorist who has blood on his hands, no matter what is being offered in return. A country under threat like Israel cannot get around upholding this convention. Nevertheless, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has now abandoned this principle by freeing a prominent terrorist in order to secure the remains of the two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah. What the prime minister wants to present as a triumph of negotiation, is in truth a sign of weakness: Israel can be blackmailed, kidnappings are worthwhile."
"If Olmert, who is facing mounting domestic difficulties resulting from ongoing corruption investigations, had expected applause for this prisoner swap, he was wrong. Instead, it is Israel's enemies who are celebrating."
The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:
"The image of a country that will do anything to bring its soldiers home, dead or alive, has been restored. That is vital for the morale of Israel's army, because who would like to be sent to fight in a foreign country if there was a risk that he or she would be forgotten there? Nevertheless, the unequal trade has made Israel more vulnerable. The government in Jerusalem has shown that it can be coerced."
"The only way to reduce the dangers for those soldiers currently stationed on Israel's northern border is settling the conflict over the Shebaa Farms, that disputed area of land at the point where Syria, Lebanon and Israel meet. As long as the Islamic extremists find a reason to fight against Israel, it is only a matter of time until the next soldier is abducted there."
-- Charles Hawley; 12:15 p.m. CET

Continued (Permanent Link)

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