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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Haniyeh: Arrival of boats spells end of Gaza siege

 Last update - 21:56 23/08/2008    
Haniyeh: Arrival of blockade-busting boats spells end of Gaza siege
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday welcomed two boats that sailed from Cyprus to the Gaza Strip in efforts to break the Israeli-imposed blockade on the Palestinian territory, saying that the arrival of the boats signaled the end of the siege.
The 70-foot (21-meter) Free Gaza and 60-foot (18-meter) Liberty left the southern port of Larnaca about 10 a.m. Friday for the estimated 30-hour trip. The activists planned to deliver 200 hearing aids to a Palestinian charity for children and hand out 5,000 balloons.
The 46 activists from 14 countries belonging to the U.S.-based group Free Gaza include an 81-year-old Catholic nun and the sister-in-law of Mideast envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The arrival of the boats is another "nail in the coffin of the blockade," Haniyeh said in an interview with the Qatari-based television network Al Jazeera.
He urged the head of the Arab League Amr Moussa to come to Gaza and called on Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing, which the Egyptians closed in 2007 when Hamas violently seized control over the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also lauded the activists, who docked at Gaza City's tiny port Saturday evening, receiving a warm welcome from thousands of jubilant Palestinians after a two-day journey marred by communications troubles and rough seas.
"We were all dizzy, nauseous. We were all tired. But in the last hour it was like we were recharged," said Ayash Daraj, a journalist with al-Jazeera who sailed with the activists.
Since setting sail from Cyprus early Friday, the Free Gaza mission had been in question. Israel initially hinted it would prevent the vessels from reaching Gaza, and on Saturday, the group accused Israel of jamming its communications equipment.
But late Saturday, Israel said it would permit the boats to dock in Gaza after determining the activists did not pose a security threat. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said Israel wanted to avoid the media provocation that the activists were seeking. He said he had no knowledge of attempts to harm the boats' communications.
He went on to say that the authorities in Greece and Cyprus inspected the vessels and their passengers before they set sail from the port of Larnaca in Cyprus Friday morning, and assured Israel that they carried no weapons.
Israel decided to permit the Free Gaza boats to sail into the Strip as a one-time measure and announced that similar missions in the future would be examined individually. It was further announced that the boats would be inspected upon their return to ensure they were not carrying wanted militants or weapons.
Israel has led an international boycott of the Gaza Strip since the militant Muslim group Hamas seized power of the territory in June 2007. Israel closed its trade crossings with the coastal territory, while neighboring Egypt sealed its passenger crossing, confining Gaza's 1.4 million residents.
Israel has allowed little more than basic humanitarian supplies into Gaza, causing widespread shortages of fuel, electricity and basic goods. Only some people are allowed to leave Gaza for medical care, jobs abroad and the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.
Under a June truce deal which halted a deadly cycle of bruising Palestinian rocket attacks and deadly Israel airstrikes, Israel has pledged to ease the blockade, but Palestinians say the flow of goods into Gaza remains insufficient and there has been little improvement in the quality of life. Israel has periodically closed the cargo crossings in response to sporadic Palestinian rocket fire that violated the truce.
Earlier Saturday, the Free Gaza activist group accused Israel of sabotaging the mission, saying that Israel had jammed the boats' electronic communication systems.
"I can't think of any other reason or any other party with an interest," said Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, the group's spokeswoman in Israel. She accused Israel of jeopardizing the activists' safety, and appealed for international assistance.
Israel has denied interfering in the boats' communications.
In a statement, the activists said their communications systems had been jammed and scrambled and said they were victims of electronic piracy.
"We are not experienced sailors. As a results, there is concern about the health and safety of the people on board," the statement said.
"We are following the development and if they are looking for a provocation, we will know how to avoid it," Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Merkel said Saturday.
Another spokesman for the ministry, Aviv Shiron, said Friday that all options were being considered when asked whether Israel intended to use force to turn the boats away.
In Gaza City, meanwhile, a small boat zoomed off the coast waving a Palestinian flag as a crowd of activists and journalists gathered in the tiny fishing port hoping to glimpse the vessels.
"I brought the kids so if they [the activists] arrive, I can tell them welcome - and thank you for not forgetting us," said Jamila Hassan, a 42-year-old Gaza resident who brought along her 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter to the port.
Hamas policemen controlled traffic in and out of the Gaza City port in anticipation of the boats' arrival. Youths leaped off high rocks into deep water nearby. Two large tents were set up for people to watch the scene.
"Nobody thinks that these boats will break the siege in a practical way, but this is a moral message - what is happening [in Gaza] is illegal and inhumane, and must be halted," said Raji Sourani, a prominent human rights activist.
On Friday, organizer Paul Larudee said the group expected Israeli authorities to intercept the boats and arrest those on board. He said it was highly unlikely the Israeli navy would fire on them.
The boats departed after last-minute engine repairs to the Liberty, passenger safety drills and a final inspection of the vessels' hulls by Cyprus Marine Police divers. Group members sang a peace song in Arabic and formed the peace sign with their fingers before boarding the boats.

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What do do about Iran

Very possibly it is true, except that Khamenei may not be running the show in Iran.
Attack isn't the answer
By Karim Sadjadpour
As Israel contemplates military action to halt Iran's nuclear ambitions, it is essential to take a closer look at Iran's most powerful man - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - and his views toward the Jewish state. A clearer understanding of the precise challenge Iran poses should disabuse Israeli leaders of the idea that force is the best way to neutralize it.
Although Khamenei was an underwhelming compromise choice to be succeed Ayatollah Khomeini when he died in 1989, a confluence of factors has made him more confident and powerful now than ever. Externally, these include soaring oil prices, together with Iranian leverage in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. Internally, the country's most important institutions - the Revolutionary Guards, Guardian Council, presidency and parliament - are currently led by individuals who were either directly appointed by Khamenei or are unfailingly obsequious to him.
A careful study of Khamenei's writing and speeches may offer the most accurate reflection of Iranian domestic and foreign policy aims and actions over the past two decades. They depict a resolute leader with a remarkably consistent and coherent - though highly cynical and conspiratorial - worldview. Whether he is addressing foreign policy, agriculture or education, Khamenei rarely misses an opportunity to invoke the professed virtues of the 1979 revolution - justice, independence, self-sufficiency and Islam - and express his disdain for the ambitions of "global arrogance," the United States.
The issue that has featured most prominently in Khamenei's political discourse, however, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has long expressed an obsessive contempt for the Jewish state, articulating a two-pronged policy of armed resistance as the prelude to a political solution.
In explaining Iran's support for militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, Khamenei reasons that, "The Zionists have not pulled out of even a single square meter of occupied territories as a result of negotiations and will never do so in the future." At the same time, however, he has made an effort to qualify President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's belligerent statements, stating consistently that Tehran's goal is not Israel's military destruction, but its dissolution via a "popular referendum."
Speaking to a group of Muslim clerics two years ago, Khamenei explained that, "We believe that neither throwing the Jews into the sea nor putting the Palestinian land on fire is logical and reasonable. We have suggested that all native Palestinians, whether they are Muslims, Christians or Jews, be allowed to take part in a general referendum before the eyes of the world and decide on a Palestinian government. Any government that is the result of this referendum will be a legitimate government."
While Israeli leaders are unlikely to feel reassured knowing that Iran doesn't want to bomb Israel, only referendum it out of existence, this assessment of Khamenei's strategy should compel Israeli officials to question the efficacy of the oft-mentioned military option.
Plainly put, a military attack on Iran - whether carried out by the U.S. or by Israel - would augment, not diminish, the threat posed by Tehran. For one, it would only enhance Iran's reputation as the Muslim world's lone, brave, anti-imperialist nation, which defies both the Great Satan and its little brother. Ahmadinejad's popularity would soar to even greater heights on the Arab street, increasing the likelihood that such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah would grow more powerful.
What's more, an attack would likely aid Iran's moribund economy. When Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz vowed last June to attack Iran, oil prices skyrocketed $11 in one day, the annual equivalent of $10 billion in additional revenue to Iranian coffers. This allows Iran the luxury to continue pouring money into a costly nuclear program and putting ideological interests ahead of national ones.
But the greatest repercussions of an Israeli attack would be its effect on Iran domestically. At the political level, a military attack would rehabilitate and entrench Tehran's most radical elements - such as Ahmadinejad - for years to come. Using the pretext of a national security emergency, debate and dissent would be crushed. While at the moment Iran's nuclear ambitions are ambiguous, in the wake of a military offensive, Tehran's hardliners may well make plain their need for a nuclear weapon deterrent.
Repercussions would also be felt on a popular level. Until now, there has been no inherent reason for Iranians to pay much attention to the government's focus on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Iran has no borders with Israel, no Palestinian refugee problem, a long history of contentious relations with the Arab world, and the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel.
An Israeli attack would create a popular enmity toward the Jewish state that 29 years of Iranian government propaganda have failed to achieve. Even among the country's liberal elite, national pride will likely trump contempt for the government. Ahmad Batebi, a prominent student leader who recently escaped to the U.S. after spending most of the last decade imprisoned and tortured in Iran, declared that in the event of a military attack on Iran, he might well return to defend his country.
Ultimately, Israel's underlying problem with Iran is not its nuclear ambitions, but the nature of the Iranian regime. As long as the political status quo remains in Tehran, Israel will never be able to trust Iranian intentions, even if there is a nuclear agreement. For this reason, while Israel should do everything in its power to check Iran's nuclear ambitions peacefully, Israeli leaders should simultaneously champion U.S. and international policies that best expedite peaceful political reform in Tehran. While this may not provide a quick fix to the nuclear conundrum, by enhancing Iran's oil revenue, entrenching its most radical forces, alienating its population, and strengthening its regional support, an Israeli strike on Iran will only ensure that the Iranian government, and the Iranian people, will remain enemies of the Jewish state for years to come.
Karim Sadjadpour is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and director of its Iran Initiative.

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Islamic Jihad urges more kidnappings

The first fruits of the Hezbollah "prisoner exchange" are now ripening.  Everyone who supported this deal should be held responsible for the next kidnapping.
Last update - 17:36 23/08/2008    
 Islamic Jihad urges Palestinian groups to kidnap Israeli soldiers   By DPA 

The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement on Saturday called on all armed Palestinian groups to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
"Capturing Israeli soldiers is an open option for all military wings of the Palestinian factions," the al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad movement said in a statement.
The statement referred to a prisoner exchange that took place in July between Israel and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah group, in which Israel released five Lebanese prisoners in exchange for the remains of two Israeli soldiers captured in July 2006, saying such swaps "proved their effectiveness in forcing the Israeli governments to respond to the captors' demands."
The statement also praised the abduction of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006 by Hamas and two other Palestinian groups, saying that the operation was "clear evidence that the resistance groups are able to free the more than 11,000 prisoners Israel holds."
Hamas demands that Israel release 1,000 political prisoners, in addition to all the jailed women, children, elderly and sick Palestinians currently in Israeli jails.
The statement also criticized an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that took effect on June 19, calling for Israel to ease the blockade on the Palestinian territory, and for Palestinian militants in the Strip to cease firing rockets into Israeli territory.
"The lull provided security for the settlers who live around the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinians did not reap any benefits," the statement said.

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Biden - Good for Israel or not?

Is Joe Biden, Barack Obama's Vice Presidential running mate good for Israel or not? Absolutely maybe, but then again maybe not. Ynet news tells us:
Barack Obama's new running mate praises Israel In 2007 interview with 'Shalom TV'
Yitzhak Benhorin
Published:  08.23.08, 18:15 / Israel News
WASHINGTON – Senator Joe Biden, who was chosen by Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama to be his running mate in the upcoming US elections, has previously declared himself to be a Zionist. Calling Israel "the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East," he also revealed a Jewish connection in an interview last year.
During the interview conducted by the Jewish 'Shalom TV' Biden said, "I am a Zionist. You don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist." He also revealed that his son is married to a Jewish woman, of the Berger family from Delaware, and that he had participated in a Passover Seder at their house.

He added that "probably my most poignant Seder memory is not with the Bergers, but what happened right after I came back from meeting Golda Meir (in 1973). I had predicted that something was going on in Egypt. And I remember people talking about what it meant to them if Israel were actually defeated."
Biden presented himself as a friend to Israel, which he referred to as the US' greatest Middle East ally.
"Imagine our circumstance in the world were there no Israel. How many battleships would there be? How many troops would be stationed?" he asked.

He also called comments about Israel's connection to the war in Iraq "insulting", explaining that "if tomorrow, peace broke out between Israelis and Palestinians, does anybody think there wouldn't be a full-blown war in Iraq?"
Biden currently chairs the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, a post that Obama hopes will compensate for his own lack of experience in the global realm.
When it comes to the Iranian threat, it is not clear that the Obama-Biden combo will raise smiles in Jerusalem. Biden's past remarks have sparked criticism and have been described as "inconsistent." Biden has said more than once that he does not think that isolating Iran is the most efficient way to combat the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions, and he has even urged sensitivity to Iran's needs. He met with a senior Iranian official in Davos, which led his detractors to say that he was willing to negotiate with an extremist regime that supports terrorism. On the other hand, Biden has proclaimed that a nuclear Iran was "unacceptable."
Following Obama's announcement that he selected Biden, the Republican Jewish Coalition immediately issued a response, saying that with Biden, Obama's ticket was even more dangerous. Matthew Brooks, a senior coalition official, explained that Biden makes a vote for Obama an even bigger gamble for the Jewish community, adding that like Obama, Biden lacks a basic understanding of the threat Iran poses.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has traditionally been a haven for anti-Israel sentiment. It was the stamping ground of the late Senator Fulbright. The soft view of Iran is typical of State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee stands, though these tend to generally be the opposite of whatever the President holds.
The question may be of academic interest only, since vice presidents rarely have much influence on foreign policy or any policy, with the possible exception of Dick Cheney. John Nance Garner, FDRs first vice presidential running mate, admitted, "The vice-presidency isn't worth a pitcher of warm piss." FDR's last running mate was in for a surprise.
Ami Isseroff

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Israel continues to ease West Bank security

Despite Palestinian denials, evidently Israeli easing of restrictions and security checks in the West Bank is real enough and has been proceeding apace. It will continue as long as there is no terror threat. Inasmuch as the easing of security is not in the interest of extremists, that may not be very long.
August 21st, 2008

IDF SPOX: Crossing between Ramallah and its southern villages opened for free passage

As of today, August 21st, 2008, the Bir Nebala crossing, which connects Ramallah with villages to its south, will be open for free passage of Palestinian vehicles. It is the third crossing to be opened this month.

The crossing was opened following security assessments in the Central Command and as part of the relief plan authorized by the Minister of Defence, Mr. Ehud Barak, and the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi.

Approximately 100 IDF checkpoints were removed in the past months in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley. In addition, several major crossings were opened for free passage, improving the free movement of the Palestinian population. The Judea Junction crossing, which connects Hebron and the Tarqumiya crossing, was opened for free truck passage on August 7th, 2008 and the Ganot crossing, which connects Nablus and villages to its north, was opened for free passage of vehicles on August 9th, 2008.

Other recently opened crossings include: Rimonim crossing between the Jordan Valley and Ramallah; The Asira Ash-Shamaliyah checkpoint between the Nablus area and the northern Samaria; The A'rava crossing between Jericho and the Dead Sea area; The "Sheep Junction" crossing between Hebron and its northern villages.

The IDF will continue with the easing of restrictions for the benefit of the Palestinian civilian population who are unassociated with terrorism, while doing its utmost to combat terror infrastructures and maintain the security of Israeli civilians.

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Ahmadinejad: Israel will soon be removed

The Iranians had everyone confused when the Vice President said that Iran is a friend of all peoples including Israelis. Thanks to Ahmadinejad, the record is now clear. Of course, it was never really muddy, since the Vice President said Iran was a friend of the American PEOPLE and the Israeli PEOPLE. The states have to disappear, the people, those left alive, can remain.
Last update - 22:24 20/08/2008       
Ahmadinejad: Israel is a germ of corruption that will be removed
By The Associated Press
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling Israel a germ of corruption that will be removed soon in comments posted Wednesday on his presidential Web site.
The post appears to be part of an effort to defuse criticism by hard-liners over recent remarks made by a high-level official, who argued that Iran was a friend of Israel.
Last week, Iranian media quoted the country's Vice President Esfandiar Rahim Mashai as saying Iran were friends of all people in the world - even Israelis.

The comments were rare from a government official in Iran, whose president regularly calls for Israel's destruction. They sparked domestic criticism of Mashai, with some officials calling for his resignation.
In 2005, Ahmadinejad said he believed Israel should be wiped off the map.
On Tuesday, former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy told an American sponsored Arab satellite television network that Ahmadinejad's incendiary anti-Israel outbursts have united the international community against his country, thus serving a key Israeli interest.
"Ahmadinejad is our greatest gift," Halevy told the Arab language television network Al-Hurra. "We couldn't carry out a better operation at the Mossad than to put a guy like Ahmadinejad in power in Iran."
Halevy added that the Iranian president's extremist statements "proved to everyone that Iran of today is an Iran that is impossible to live with. [Ahmadinejad] unites the entire world against Iran."

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Can the Iranian nuke project be destroyed?

Alex Fishman argues that the Iranian nuclear project cannot be destroyed because they have developed a "giant infrastructure." But the fact is, they are only still developing it. They do not have an operational nuclear system or nuclear ballistic missile system. The Germans were developing a huge military infrastructure in 1937, but it was not ready yet. An early invasion would have found them unready, and probably would have toppled the Nazi regime. The problem is to find enough targets, which are carefully hidden, that are vital to the nuclear development project, and to gain international legitimacy for strikes that would probably involve numerous civilian casualties, as many of those targets are in populated areas for precisely that reason - to deter a strike.
Alex Fishman
Published:  08.18.08, 16:14 / Israel Opinion
It's not the new Iranian toy satellite that worries Israel's security experts. What bothers them much more is the fact that Iran's "space show" Sunday revealed yet another piece of this giant puzzle, which makes up the strategic threat being built before our eyes.

Every time another trace of what goes on in the Ayatollah kingdom is revealed, it turns out we're facing a giant infrastructure with many arms, starting from the uranium mines and culminating with a nuclear warhead. Those who believe this infrastructure can be destroyed in some kind of aerial strike or another are hallucinating. The regime in Tehran is the only one able to stop this project.
Between the mines and the nuclear labs there are tens of thousands of scientists and engineers, research institutes, and plants involved in producing ballistic missiles. And now, the Iranians exposed their space aspirations.
On Sunday, the Iranians in fact declared that they closed the circle: They already have ballistic missiles, they knows how to enrich uranium using centrifuges or lasers, they may also be advancing on the plutonium track, the plans for a nuclear warhead are already in the works, and now they made a public entry into the satellite era. The intelligence and communication satellites are aimed at serving Iran's nuclear arsenal and making it much more effective.
The satellite launched by the Iranians Sunday is really the beginning of the road. As long as they do not possess the technological capability to fire a 300-400 kg (roughly 650 – 880 pounds) satellite into space, they are still not members of this club. What we saw was the launch of a missile that did not explode upon firing or in the air. This doesn't say much about prospects of future success, but it's a start.

Constant Iranian progress
When Israel fired its intelligence satellites, it in fact showcased its technological capabilities, and its ability to independently produce high-quality missile systems and fire a satellite to a precise spot. This can hint to capabilities that Israel possesses, or not, when it comes to ground-to-ground missiles.

With the Iranians, it's the opposite process. They don't need to hint to anyone they have ballistic missiles: they already showed them. What's new here is the fact the Iranians are not stopping for a moment to build their strategic threat. If international pressures prompt a temporary break in one area - for example, developing nuclear warheads (as the Americans claim) - they boost the pace of progress in other areas, such a satellites, which is a completely legitimate track, or in less legitimate areas, such as uranium enrichment.

After all, ultimately all these tracks will come together at one point. Yet the Western world, captivated in a sort of repression or crazy denial, doesn't really believe it will happen.

This immense Iranian project cannot be stopped by bombing one facility or another. In the early 1980s, there was one core reactor that Iraq received from France. The moment it was destroyed, the project was eliminated. This time around, we are dealing with a monster being built before our eyes and the eyes of the world. Only intense international persuasion could, perhaps, take this project off track.

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Farid Ghadry - 7 Questions for Israel about Syria

Some of these are legitimate questions by Syrian oppositionist Ghadry, some are not. Syrians cannot blame Israel for the regime of Bashar Assad. If Bush administration officials think it is possible to eliminate Assad and produce a democratic regime, why don't they try it with American soldiers instead of giving advice to Israel? As for the certainty of an Islamist takeover in Syria, it is not Assad who advertises this, but Israeli and American intelligence who understand that it is so. The alternative would be something like the US occupation of Iraq. It is also inconceivable that a majority of Syrians would support any government that was installed by Israeli arms.

Syrian opposition leader Farid Ghadry has seven questions for Israeli government
Farid Ghadry Published:  08.21.08, 09:24 / Israel Opinion 
In the Middle East, we are reminded every day of the danger lurking behind indecisiveness. And none is more important when it comes to Israeli action, or sometimes lack of it. I recall when your Israeli Air Force buzzed Assad's summer palace in June of 2006 after Hizbullah kidnapped Israeli soldiers and prior to the war of 2006. Some within the Bush administration were saying that your actions at that time against Assad lacked the determination necessary to persuade a typical violent dictator, something that I personally agree with.

The 7 questions I have for your government:
1. If Israel had taken a more decisive action in 2006 against the Assad regime rather than disturb his sweet dreams, would Assad be today heading to Moscow to acquire the kinds of arms that would, for certainty, remove the edge and the much touted deterrent Israel needs for its security?
2. If your government had not stood in the way of regime change in Syria, or not listened to its allies, would Assad today be enjoying the glory of his ties to Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and now Russia at the expense of the Israeli society?
3. If the Syrian regime was internationally forced to morph into a friendlier environment, shared by secularists and Islamists, would Israel be better or worse off today?
4. If the minority Syrian Islamists shared power in Syria, as they do in Jordan, would Israel be threatened more so than under an Assad regime whose violence is a certainty and whose character flaws outweigh his admirable minority status?
5. If the government of Israel knows that the Ba'ath Party was born in the belly of Nazism, why would they tolerate the Ba'athists in Damascus until they have grown powerful enough to finish what the Nazis have started?
6. If Israel is a country of skeptical people, why does your government believe Assad when he says that Islamists will rule Syria after him?
7. If all indications are that Assad is uncooperative and his relations with countries wishing harm for Israel keep getting stronger, why is Israel still against regime change for Syria?
What I am afraid of is that the government of Israel is not learning fast enough from the lessons of its past mistakes. Thanks to Israeli peaceniks, peace overtures and action to cease Assad's isolation have emboldened him to the point of allowing a Russian Armada with nuclear weapons at Israel's doorsteps.
In 2005, the world was capable of helping change Syria forever but in the Middle East indecisiveness is much more dangerous than erroneous decisions. Even today, it is still a possibility, with much less costs to both the Syrian and Israeli societies, if the Israeli government does not interfere in the Syrian opposition efforts to build a democratic, free, and a peaceful Syria.
Farid Ghadry , Reform Party of Syria ( )

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shift in Iranian attitude to Israel - BESA

A long article with useful information and some extreme interpretations.

From Omnipotence to Impotence: A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the "Zionist Regime"


Mideast Security and Policy Studies No. 78

From Omnipotence to Impotence: A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the "Zionist Regime"

Ze'ev Maghen

© The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies

Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, 52900, Israel

ISSN 0793-1042

August 2008

From Omnipotence to Impotence:

A Shift in the Iranian Portrayal of the "Zionist Regime"

Ze'ev Maghen•

In January 2006, the Iranian daily Jomhuriya Eslami carried the text of a speech delivered in Tehran's main mosque by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene'i. Attempting to defuse the diplomatic tension occasioned by newly elected President Ahmadinejad's call for Israel'sdestruction at the previous month's "World without Zionism"conference, Khamene'i concluded his uncharacteristically moderate sermon with the following ringing remarks: "We Iranians intend no harm to any nation, nor will we be the first to attack any nation. We do not deny the right of any polity in any place on God's earth to exist and prosper. We are a peace-loving country whose only wish is to live, and to let live, in peace."

Without missing a beat or evincing even a hint of irony, the reporter who had covered the event continued: "The congregation of worshippers, some seven thousand in number, expressed their unanimous support for the Supreme Leader's words by repeatedly chanting: marg bar Omrika, marg bar Esra'il – 'Death to America, Death to Israel!'"1

This is not as strange as it sounds. Chanting "Death to America, Death to Israel!" has been the way Iranians applaud for over a quarter of a century. When the soccer team of Esfahan scores a goal against the soccer team of Shiraz, the fans of the former team cheer wildly: "Death to America, Death to Israel!" At the end of an exquisitely performed sitar solo in a genteel concert hall in Tabriz, the audience shows its appreciation for the artist's virtuosity by loudly heapingimprecations upon "International Arrogance" (the USA) and "its Bastard Offspring" (the Jewish state). Even at the hajj, the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Iranian participants have increasingly replaced traditional pious ejaculations of labayk Allahumma labayk,la sharika laka, labayk ("I am at your service, O Lord, there is none like unto You!") with responsive Persian cursing sessions of the English- and Hebrew-speaking enemies of all that is holy. The ritual excoriation of the Great and Little Satans has become second nature in the Islamic Republic to such a degree that the newspaperman quoted above would not even think of noticing the boldfaced contradiction between Ayatollah Khamene'i's ostensibly pacific sentiments and the not-so-peaceful response they garnered from his listeners. Like the "daily two minute hate" of the "enemy of the people" Emmanuel Goldstein in George Orwell's 1984, such choreographed venom-spewing is the consciousness-molding mantra upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised.

What does such widespread and persistent indoctrination, imbibed ba shir-e-madar (cum lacte, with mother's milk) and drummed by rote into the consciousnesses of the Iranian citizenry throughout theirlives, mean for the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic? What should it mean for Israeli foreign policy? To listen to manyIranshenasan (Iran experts) the answer to both of these questions is: nothing. These observers buttress this claim with what boils down to two basic arguments. First, they demand – as diehard exponents of realpolitik have ever done – that we distinguish between image and reality, between ideology and strategy, between the fiery rhetoric of preachers and street-mobs and the sober goals of an eminently pragmatic regime. Indeed, they point out, even the purportedly impassioned chest-beaters of mosque and madrasa are only engaging in drone-like repetition of slogans that have long since lost all significance in their minds: they are just going through the motions.

"Sadly," writes Asia Times columnist Kaveh-ye-Afrasiabi, "the Israeli perspective on Iran appears fixated on the rhetoric, ignoring…the gap between mass-generated, largely symbolic rhetoric and the actual policy."
2 "Calls for Israel's destruction," maintains international relations expert Homayun-e-Esaghpour, "whether they emanate from the Iranian street or from the mouths of the political elite, must not be taken at face value. They are weary old catechisms, nothing more."3 BBC world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds announced that "the UK Foreign Office does not regard President Ahmadinejad's statement on Israel as indicating a new and ominous policy direction, but more as a sign of his inexperience and the very local focus of his government."4
The chief executive, in other words, is wet behind the ears and unschooled in the niceties of diplomacy, and his vitriol is, at any rate, primarily intended for domestic consumption.

Alternative, but no less "realistic," interpretations hold that Ahmadinejad's menacing proclamations are first and foremost a way to win friends and influence people in the Arab street, and/or – the most common assertion by far – ultimately a bargaining chip on the way to normalizing relations with Washington.
5 The vast majority of the Persian President's countrymen, at any rate, are believed by such pundits not to share his fiercely antagonistic outlook: "The Iranians we should listen to," explains Mark LeVine, "are not the 100,000 or so marchers in support of Ahmadinejad's remarks, but the tens of millions who had something better to do that day."6 Once we have accepted their thesis that the threats and execrations emanating from the mouths of the Iranian masses and leadership are so much sound and fury signifying nothing, and that in truth Iranian foreign policy decisions are governed by hard-headed, "rational" considerations no less than those of any other modern polity, the analysts go on to emphasize that there is no rational
reason for the eruption of hostilities between Iran and Israel. "There are no significant strategic conflicts between Iran and Israel that would force these two countries to go to war against each other," writes political science Professor Nader-e-Entessar.7 "Iran and Israel have no differences or occasions for getting into active hostilities, let alone a nuclear exchange," reassures Director of the Geneva Centre for Security Policy, Shahram-e-Chubin.8 As the above-cited Kaveh Afrasiabi puts it, "[I]t is difficult to find any expert on Iran's foreign affairs today who actually shares the view [that there exists a basis for] strategic conflict between Iran and Israel."9

Iran and Israel do not share a common border (this argument continues), and their national and economic interests are in no manner opposed to one another. Both countries have traditionally conceived their "frontline" adversaries to be Arab states, and thus their shared "enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend" approach (akin to Ben-Gurion's doctrine of "peripheral states") has thrown them into each other's arms time and time again, even after the Islamic revolution. Iranian saber-rattling against Israel, in other words, has no grounding in geostrategic reality. It is merely an elaborate bluff, a means toward achieving one or more other goals: either the distraction of the Iranian populace from the failures of the Islamic Revolution in general and the shortcomings of Ahmadinejad's socio-economic program in particular; or the return of Iran to the status of regional superpower (as under the Shah) and flagship of the no-longer-flagging Islamist movement (as under Khomeini); or (as is most commonly argued) the achievement of détente with the US in return for reining in the anti- Israel bellicosity. In the same way that many have asserted that Tehran's pursuit of nuclear weapons is, in the end, little more than a tool or bargaining chip, so with Iranian Israel-bashing: it is perceived by these commentators as nothing but propaganda and posturing, which the Iranians themselves do not take seriously; why, then, should the Israelis take it seriously?

A Question of Intent

The two closely related assessments of the "Iranian threat" that we have just reviewed may therefore be formulated thus: (1) the Iranian "national pastime" of vituperating Israel – and even President Ahmadinejad's recent and repeated demand that Israel be "completely wiped off the face of the earth" (mahv-e-kamel-e-Esra'il az safhe-ye ruzegar)10 – does not reflect any deeply-harbored sentiments or genuine intentions toward the Jewish State; and (2) what such consistent vilification does in fact reflect (besides pure habit) is a secondary ploy designed to realize primary domestic and/or international goals which, once they are achieved, will occasion the mitigation (if not the complete disappearance) of Iranian anti- Zionism. In what follows, I shall suggest counterpoints to these two propositions, and offer a different, less "optimistic" appraisal of the phenomena they address. I will argue that in each case, the conventional wisdom among policy analysts and Iran experts has got the matter half right – but not the important half.

The analysts claim that the daily drill of Israel-damning in Iran has become a tired exercise, a formalistic ceremony that is no longer accompanied by genuine passion or serious intent – and they are correct. This understanding is even reinforced by our own opening anecdote: oblivious to the content of their own words, and of the extent to which those words contradicted the moderate message Khamene'i was striving to convey, the thousands of mosque-goers mouthed the demand for the demise of America and Israel for the ten thousandth time in their lives.
11 And so in answer to the question, "Do the majority of Iranians really mean it?" we cannot but side with the analysts and reply: "No, they do not." Iran's regular anti-Israel sessions are not, for the most part, the product of bona fide, heart-felt hatred for the Jewish residents or even the Jewish government of the State of Israel. But herein lies the rub: for it is, in the end, often far more dangerous not to mean it than to mean it.
If Iranian citizens and their leaders actually harbored profound and seething hatred for Jews or Zionists, this – I will maintain – would bode far better for the State of Israel's future in the Middle East than the situation that currently obtains.

To understand this we must make a momentary detour into the realm of mass psychology. Fierce anger and hatred, of the excessive caliber required to kill, are highly intense, all-consuming emotions that cannot but subside rather quickly, otherwise the psyche of their bearer will combust and collapse. Moreover, emotion cuts both ways.

People who
hate – not those whose hatred is taught, and thus derives from ideological indoctrination designed specifically to dampen human emotions in the face of some Ultimate Truth, but people who truly and passionately hate – are more often than not just as capable of experiencing other strong emotions as well, like pity or empathy or remorse, and are liable to substitute one of these latter feelings for their anger or hatred if the circumstances warrant this.

For these and other reasons genuine anger and hatred, of the kind that people really "mean" and strongly feel, are inefficient tools for the creation and preservation of an atmosphere conducive to persistent persecution or mass murder. This is why the really horrific atrocities in human history – the enslavements, the inquisitions, the terrorisms, the genocides – have been perpetrated not in hot blood, but in cold blood: not as a result of immanent feeling, but in the name of transcendent ideology.

The vast majority of Germans in WWII did not personally and passionately hate all Jews: they had never even met the men, women, children and infants whom they would eventually butcher in batch after human batch; how could they possibly harbor genuine feelings towards them in any direction? It wasn't for the most part real, immediate emotion but rather methodically and systematically drilled-in ideology that powered the German genocide machine. The enormous crime of the Germans is not that they murdered six million Jews because they hated them, but that they murdered six million Jews despite the fact that they didn't hate them.

The same holds true for the events of 11 September 2001.

Muhammad Atta, the ringleader of the terrorists that brought down the twin towers, did not
genuinely and fervently hate
every single individual working in the World Trade Center on that fateful day, let alone all of the passengers on the plane he commandeered: how could he? He had never met them, and they had never personally done anything to him. What's more, Atta had spent many years in the US preparing for his mission, during which time he rubbed elbows with all types of Americans. Is it plausible that he managed to maintain a constant boiling rage all day every day throughout that entire time toward every one of these acquaintances and all of their fellow countrymen, solely because of their national affiliation and/or the policies of their government? Could such a creature survive? Here again: it is not genuine, vehement hatred that we have to fear; it is training.

What is true for Nazi storm troopers and al-Q
a'ida operatives is true for today's fundamentalist Shi'ites. The Iranian tradition of condemning Israel is, for most of the population and even most of their leaders, little more than lip service: the hostility of the militant members of the Iranian population to Israel is never really the result of some current, identifiable, truly heinous act on the part of the Jewish state (although the purported crimes of Israel, such as the recent incursions into the Gaza Strip, are occasionally exploited as triggers of staged popular protests), and such hostility is thus also in no way a function of immediate, genuine, blood-boiling rage. It is, unfortunately, far more durable and deeply implanted than that. That Israel is the devil, the root of all evil, a criminal cancer that must be excised from the Muslim body politic – all of these are for Iranian Muslims eternal truths (not ephemeral feelings!) that have gradually, through endless mantra-like repetition, been installed down underneath
the level of conscious meaning, in the place where basic instincts, automatic assumptions and ontological verities reside.

When, with the passage of time, sincerely and zealously uttered mottos turn into weary and empty phraseology, we may say in many cases that they have cloyed in, and are consequently banished from, the active mind, only to burrow ever deeper into the recesses of the psyche, where they take root and remain dormant until circumstances require their reactivation. When the time is right – and that time is drawing near – the decades of propaganda pounded into the brains of Iranians (and Muslim populations from Algeria to Indonesia) will perform for the fundamentalists the same function that centuries of Christian antisemitism in Europe did for the Nazis: by casting an entire people as a pariah and parasitic infestation, by demonizing, delegitimizing and dehumanizing them at home, in school, in the mosque and in the media, the-quarter-of-a-century old routine of Israel-hatred (added to 1400 years of traditional Islamic anti-Semitism) will have prepared the moral ground in the minds of Iranians and their neighboring coreligionists for the (gradual or instantaneous) eradication of Israel. To sum up the point we have been making: ritual is not a phenomenon to be belittled but rather a force to be reckoned with, and the older and more "tired" it is, the more permanently rooted and powerful it often becomes. In short, the analysts, as we said, are correct in asserting that the Iranians do not really "mean it"; what they fail to realize is that is the very reason why they may well do it.

All Satans are not Equal

The second argument that we saw advanced by observers follows from the first: since Iranian verbal belligerence toward the "Zionist Regime" is not sincere, it must be a means toward a different end, and that end is eventually to barter a tempering of the Iranian position on Israel, and even support for the Middle East peace process, in exchange for full relations with, and major incentives from, Washington. As in the previous case, the analysts have got it half right. Today's Iranian leadership is not interested in trading recognition of and relations with Israel for a rapprochement with America; it is interested in trading recognition of and relations with America for a US abandonment of Israel. In this connection, we must grasp a crucial distinction between Iranian hostility to the Great Satan and Iranian hostility to the Little Satan, between "Death to America" and "Death to Israel." This distinction operates on two closely related levels of Iranian and Islamic perception.

First, from a tactical standpoint, it must be understood that in the eyes of the Iranians the Great Satan is…great. The leaders of the Islamic Republic, even the fiercest ideologues among them, harbor no illusions that the United States will be conquered for Islam in the near future, or at any time before the return of the Mahdi, the Shi'ite – and for centuries now also the pan-Muslim – messiah (it is true that President Ahmadinejad is closely affiliated,
inter alia
through his spiritual mentor Ayatollah Mesbah-e-Yazdi, with the ta'jiliyan or "hasteners" of the messianic advent and with the secret Hojatiyeh- Mahdaviyeh society which shares this goal, but even the outlook of Islamic apocalyptics, as we shall see, can be interpreted as not necessarily involving the immediate dismantling of major Christian polities).12 Israel, however, is another matter. More and more Iranian Islamists today – together with their zealous coreligionists in other Muslim countries – believe that the erasure of Israel from the map is a dream that can be realized in the here and now, whether in one fell swoop or through a relentless process of attrition and erosion. One indication of this is the proliferation of articles in the official Persian press – beginning in 2005 and continuing and burgeoning up to the present – which focus not, as in the past, on the infinite strength of the Jewish Lobby and the long arm and entrenched tentacles of the World Zionist Organization, but rather on the diametric antitheses of these phenomena: on every detectable crack, fault and breach in the Jewish national edifice.

Up until recently, the prevalent theme of the Iranian media's constant parade of feature stories on Jews/Israelis/Zionists has been the familiar exponential exaggeration of the power and influence of those groups.
13 Such traditional coverage has involved, for example, "histories" of the Jewish behind-the-scenes work to ensure that the United States and United Nations
(!) always support the Israeli agenda,14 as well as regular claims to the effect that the administration of the former entity "growls like a baboon whenever the Zionist lobby tugs at its tail"15 or even that Israel simply "runs American policy" (sahyonistha gardandegan-e-siyasat-e-amrika-and).16

It has also included in-depth "analyses" of how the Jewish cabal that built and still owns Hollywood has utilized the enormous potential of honar-ehaftom- donya ("the world's seventh art," i.e. cinema) in order to bolster the Zionist cause, inter alia by making movies that paint Islam in the darkest colors;17 "irrefutable testimony" showing that Jews control every single one of the "two thousand newspapers in America" and also "strive to weaken the cultures, [national] identities, economies and political independence of all the world's countries" (talash mikonand farhang, hoveyyat, eqtesad va-esteqlal-e-siyasi-yehar keshvari-ra dar jahan tad'if konand);18 "probing research" into the claim that the Israeli Mossad was behind the London bombings of July 2005 (as well as the New York attacks of 9/11);19 "documented proof" that Zionist money and pressure is indirectly responsibility for what is claimed to be the anti-Iranian bent of the hugely popular al- Jazira television network;20 "clear evidence" that Israel and American Jewry are the primary forces pushing the United States toward a fullscale invasion of Iran;21 "ample examples" of the "Jewish dictatorship over Europe";22 "strong arguments" to the effect that World Jewry was the force behind the mid-twentieth century Stalinist depredations;23 and even an in-depth "scholarly" exposé of the way in which the Jews carved Protestantism out of Catholicism in order to return Christianity to the Old Testament ethos and consequently to the notion of the Jews as Chosen People.24 These and literally hundreds of other treatments in the Iranian media portraying Israel and Jewry as the nearly almighty "hidden hand" seeking (and succeeding!) to undermine Islam at every turn have of late dwindled considerably, making way for a new and more confident focus designed to show Israel as a polity tottering on the brink of collapse.25

This novel approach is epitomized by President Ahmadinejad, whose repeated descriptions of Israel as a "rotten tree" and a "house of straw," as well as his "promise" to his constituents and to the rest of the Muslim world that "this shameful stain on the face of the land of Islam will soon be cleansed," have become a matter of public record (as has the earlier declaration of former president and current chairman of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Rafsanjani that a single nuclear bomb would serve to eradicate the Jewish state and solve the Arab-Israeli conflict).26 But the trend is far more widespread than one man. The Israeli evacuation of the Gaza settlements in the summer of 2006, for instance, has become a major symbol of Israeli weakness in Iranian eyes. "The Zionist regime retreats in the face of the slightest resistance," Hamshahri gloated in the wake of the completion of the "Disengagement" process (rejim-es ahyonisti ba saboktarin mobarezeh aqab neshini mikonad),27 the author of these lines thereby displaying his readiness even to belittle the force of Palestinian resistance in order to portray the weakness of the Israelis. "The willingness of the Zionists to leave their synagogues behind [in Gaza] demonstrates conclusively that they have no God (hich khoda nadarand) and therefore, of course, no religious connection to the Holy Land; they will now be easily ejected from all of occupied Palestine."28

The headline introducing a lengthy interview with Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah soon after the Gaza pullout read: "We, too, drove out the Israeli cowards" (ma niz Esra'iliha-ye-tarsan az marg-ra birun kardim).29 Referring to that earlier retreat, Ayatollah Khamene'i declared that "Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 'proved the justness of the Islamic struggle,' demonstrating that if Muslims put their trust in God 'victory will be certain.'"30 Israel's July 2006 incursion into Lebanon in response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers was described by the daily Ettela'at as "the beginning of the end of the Zionist regime" (aghazi-ye-bar payan hay'at-e-rezhim-es ahyonisti).31 Though the Iranians were initially shocked by the force of the Israeli reaction, and concerned that they had "shot their bolt" too soon, by the end of the hostilities in mid-August the Iranian press – like that of many other Middle Eastern countries – was exploiting the lack of a clear Israeli victory to describe the Jewish state as even weaker than they had presumed.

What the Iranian media has begun to refer to as "the defeat of the Jerusalem-occupying regime in both Gaza and southern Lebanon (in 2000 and 2006)" is regularly coupled with another perceived indication of increasing Israeli feebleness and trepidation: the security fence. Ayatollah Khamene'
i recently described said barrier as "a symbol of the impotence of the Zionists and of their inability to rein in the Intifada," adding that "the Islamic nation is fully capable of deciding the fate of Palestine here and now."32 The spread of suicide operations has sown "terror and panic" (tars va-
vahshat) amongst the Israelis, which is why they have retreated behind a ghetto wall, as their trembling forebears did.33 But it is the metaphorical walls separating the different sectors and camps inside Israeli society that receive the greatest amount of coverage. The Iranian press delights in every instance – real, imagined or exaggerated – of internecine Jewish conflict, including that between Ashkenazim and Sephardim, religious Israelis and secular Israelis, new immigrants and old immigrants, right-wingers and left-wingers, reform and conservative, Zionist, non-Zionist, anti- Zionist and "post-Zionist" (this, too, represents a volte face of sorts: in the past the prevailing Muslim fundamentalist – and Arab nationalist – tendency was specifically to lump all types of Jews together and dismiss any distinctions between them as smokescreens for their diabolical conspiracies). One article in the daily Javan – entitled "Post-Zionism and the Identity Crisis in Israel" – pits "extremist Jews" (yahudiyan-e-efrati, i.e. nationalists, settlers) against "religious Jews" (yahudiyan-e-madhhabi, i.e. ultra-orthodox nonnationalists), and delves into its own (not altogether inaccurate) version of what divides these two persuasions;34 another article describes the large numbers of Russian immigrants to Israel who have not managed to integrate and have either joined "Jews for Jesus" or various Satanic and even Neo-Nazi cults, or have left the country for good;35 and yet another discusses the intricacies of recent Israeli political maneuvering and includes a photograph of Shimon Peres and Amir Peretz talking in an office. "Note that Peres is wearing a suit and tie," writes the author of this lengthy essay, "whereas Peretz is not even wearing a jacket and has his shirt open. This is the traditional method of showing disrespect in Israel, whose politicians all hate one another with a vicious hatred."36 La yuqatilunakum jami'an, echoed Ayatollah Khamene'i in a recent speech to Tehran university students, quoting the 14th verse of the 59th chapter of the Qur'an in reference to the Jews of Madina, tahsabuhum jami'an waqulubuhum shatta – "[The Jews] will not fight against you in one body; you think they are united, but their hearts are divided."37

The new Iranian view of Israel as more flimsy façade than fearsome foe is, in fact, not entirely new. Ayatollah Khomeini himself portrayed the Jewish state as weak and divided, calling it Esra'il dar moqabel-e-Esra'il, "Israel against Israel." "If the Muslims were only united," he had continued, "and each one of them took a bucket of water and poured it out onto Israel, this straw state that is already eating itself alive would be washed away in no time."38 It is no coincidence that the rise to power of Ahmadinejad, who sees and paints himself in many ways as the renewer of Khomeini's revolutionary ideology and zeal, coincides with a resurgence of the belief that Israel's end is near. "The Zionist entity," proclaimed the president most recently, "has reached a dead end and is in a process of precipitate decline…All of the conditions are ripe for its removal." This will be accomplished, he added, by an "explosion of Muslim rage."39

Three weeks after the eruption of hostilities between Hizballah and Israel in the summer of 2006, General Secretary of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad-e-Jannati upped Khomeini and whipped up the audience of his Friday mosque sermon with the assertion – first uttered by Egypt's Ahmad Sa'id on the brink of the Six Day War – that all the Muslims need do is spit, and Israel will drown.40 This shift in the Iranian perception of the Jewish state from Potemkin village to potent nemesis and back again is a salient illustration of Efraim Karsh's argument that "the traits associated with Jews [in Islamic tradition] make a paradoxical mixture: they are seen as both domineering and wretched, both haughty and low."41 Karsh immediately adds that "such is the age-old Muslim stereotype – as it is, mutatis mutandis, the Christian." One of the differences between the Muslim and Christian positions alluded to in Karsh's "mutatis mutandis" should be briefly reviewed before we proceed.

It has long (and correctly) been argued that major elements of modern Muslim anti-Semitism have been imported into Islamic lands from Christian Europe, and this holds especially true for the perception of Jews as a powerful international cabal. The Jews as a group not just to be hated but to be feared is a notion that held sway for centuries, and in many locales continues to hold sway, in the Christian West. In contrast, though introduced into Muslim collective consciousness only relatively recently, this outlook on the Jewish people is already waning in the Islamic world. Many factors may account for the failure of the image of the almighty International Jew to strike deep roots and maintain itself in the contemporary Muslim
but one of these factors is, to the present writer's mind, paramount.

There is an uncanny correlation between the role accorded Jews by Christian and Islamic scripture during the formative period of what Mircea Eliade would term each of these religion's "sacred time." The premier political-military enemies of Jesus in the New Testament were the pagan Romans. On the other hand, his increasingly meddlesome ideological-religious enemies were the Jews: those Scribes and Pharisees (Hypocrites!) who would not cease peppering the would-be Savior with questions deliberately intended to trip him up. Muhammad's political-military adversaries were his own disowned pagan Quraysh tribe stationed back in Mecca, whence they launched three successive campaigns against the Prophet's nascent faith-community in Madina. But Muhammad's real trouble came from his pestering ideological-religious antagonists, the (genuine or imaginary) Jewish tribes of Medina – as well as the munafiqun or "hypocrites," who are closely identified by Muslim tradition with the Jews – who made the Apostle's spiritual-intellectual life extremely difficult with their incessant legal and theological badgering. The similarity in the description of Jewish subversive activity and the reactions to it in the traditions of the two religions is almost eerie, and may explain much. However, no less significant for our purposes here is the following difference between the denouements of the two classical narratives: in the Evangel the Jews "win," and succeed in having Jesus crucified and most of his immediate followers executed or banished. In the Qur'anic-Hadithic story Muhammad wins, vanquishing his Jewish foes, executing some and banishing the remainder from Madina (and eventually, under his immediate successors, from Arabia altogether). This formative Islamic experience, which was largely responsible for the despisal – as opposed to the fear – of the Jew over most of Muslim history, may have much to do with the new confidence of the latter-day fundamentalists in their ability to eliminate Israel.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Beijing Olympics: Israeli sailor Shahar Tzuberi wins Olympic bronze medal

Every Israeli victory has to honor the memory of our athletes, murdered by terrorists in the 1972 Olympics at Munich.

Shahar Tzuberi lives up to expectations, wins Israel its first Olympic medal in Beijing Games after ranking third in men's RS:X windsurfing sail

Nadav Tzantziper, Qingdao

Israeli sailor Shahar Tzuberi won an Olympic bronze medal Wednesday, after finishing his 10th RS:X windsurfing sail at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in third place.

Olympic RS:X gold went to New Zealand's Tom Ashley, with France taking the silver.

Despite an ominous start to the final sail, in which the surfers had to go back to the starting line due to a disqualification by the Greek surfer – who lost 20 points – Tzuberi was able to make up for lost time and gain the lead; finishing the crucial final race – which allows for a double score – in second place, ranking third overall. 

The favorite. Tzuberi in action (Photo: Getty Images) 


The 19-year-old surfer from Eilat was considered one of the Israeli Olympic team's best hopes for a medal.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was among the first to congratulate Tzuberi after his triumph. "You have no idea how excited we all are for you," he told the 19-year-old.

This is Israel's third Olympic sailing medal. Israeli sailor Gal Fridman won the bronze medal in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and the gold at the 2004 Athens Games.

Tzuberi's teammate Maayan Davidovitz finished her 10th and last RS:X windsurfing sail in the sixth place, ranking 10th overall.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas threatens to murder kidnapped Israeli Gilad Shalit

This barbaric threat can only be countered by spelling out the truth - all of Gaza are hostages for Gilad Shalit's life.
 Last update - 11:49 20/08/2008       
Hamas threatens to turn Shalit into 'second Ron Arad'
By Haaretz Service
Hamas has warned that abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will face a fate as uncertain as that of missing airman Ron Arad if Israel continues to tarry on negotiations for a prisoner exchange, Army Radio reported on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the Gaza-based militant group made the comment on Wednesday, during an exercise simulating the capture of Israeli soldiers, the radio said.

Egypt has been mediating negotiations for the release of Shalit, who has been held captive in the Gaza Strip since he was snatched by militants in a 2006 cross-border raid.
Israel has received some signs of life from the missing soldier, but the negotiations have for the most part been kept mum.
Israel this week agreed to release 199 Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank as a gesture of goodwill to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The prisoners slated for release include two with "blood on their hands," convicted of carrying out terror attacks in Israel.
Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet on Monday that the release of these prisoners "creates pressure on Hamas and is likely to accelerate the negotiations over Gilad Shalit."
However, he added, "the gesture will not make Hamas more flexible about its demands, because the organization sees that Israel is releasing prisoners with blood on their hands, which merely causes Hamas to harden its position."
According to a government source, Shin Bet representatives spoke in favor of the gesture to Abbas, on the grounds that it would pressure Hamas to conclude a deal for Shalit's return.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Jordan breaches agreement with Israel, releases terrorist murderers

This speaks for itself, doesn't it?
 Last update - 12:35 20/08/2008       
Jordan frees four prisoners handed over by Israel last year
By Reuters
Jordan, under public pressure after a recent Hezbollah-Israel prisoner swap deal, on Wednesday freed four inmates handed over by Israel last year to finish their sentences at home, officials said.
The move has angered Israeli diplomats who say it breaches the terms of a deal last July when the four - who were serving life sentences for killing Israelis - were to spend 18 months in a local prison before their release.
The four - Sultan Ajlouni, Amin Sanae and Khaled and Yousef Abu Ghaleon - were convicted of two separate cross border incidents in which two Israelis were killed, officials say.
Jordanian officials at the time said the deal was a breakthrough after years of negotiations with successive Israeli governments opposed to handing over Arab inmates deemed to have "blood on their hands."
They insist the deal allows an immediate release of the prisoners if Israel agreed to free Palestinians or Arabs serving life sentences for militant attacks in any future prisoner swap with Hezbollah or Hamas.
The Jordanians were convicted in Israel after infiltrating from the kingdom to the occupied West Bank in 1991 and staging attacks against army outposts and Jewish settlers.
Jerusalem accepted the deal as a gesture to Amman which in 1994 became the second Arab country after Egypt to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
The release reduces the pressure on the government, criticised by some independent politicians and the Islamist-led opposition for agreeing to the deal they see as humiliating.
Many Jordanians see the prisoners as heroes resisting Israel's occupation of Arab land. The Islamist-led opposition are lobbying for the release of another 30 Jordanians held in Israeli prisons on security related charges.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza - Training to be a suicide bomber

How do you train to be a suicide bomber? This evokes the following cartoon image: 

Ha'aretz story:
[Video at site]
The cease-fire agreement struck between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip has brought a semblance of calm to the region, but neither side has stopped preparing for the possible renewal of violence.

In Gaza, Islamic Jihad members recently offered TV cameras a rare glimpse into training undergone by women who are prepared to carry out suicide attacks should the Israel Defense Forces reinvade the coastal territory.

The women take as an example Fatma Al-Najar, a 57-year-old grandmother who blew herself up in Gaza in 2006, wounding three soldiers.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Free the Arab Prisoners Now!

It is illuminating that Hezbollah becaome Lebanese "heroes" by freeing one terrorist from Israeli jails through a campaign of kidnappings that cost Lebanon over a thousand dead in the Second Lebanon War, while at the same time no Lebanese party has dared to lift a finger to free the Lebanese who have simply disappeared in Syria.
What is wrong with this picture?
Ami Isseroff

Dilemma of the Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails
By: Elias Bejjani
August 19/08

Like parrots, the Syrian Baathist regime's officials keep rhetorically insisting that there are no arbitrarily Lebanese detainees incarcerated in their notorious and Nazi like jails. 
Logically and legally these false allegations and big lies cannot be acceptable unless a United Nations team is formed to investigate the whole matter without any kind of involvement or pressure from both the Lebanese and Syrian authorities. 
For thirty long painful years families of the detainees and Human rights organizations have been calling for the release of all the Lebanese detainees (700 -1000) arbitrarily held in Syria's jails and for the end of this human tragedy. Unfortunately their calls have fallen on deaf ears, complete disregard for laws, disrespect for human dignity, and stony-like consciousness.

The Free people of Lebanon are extremely concerned and frustrated because of the way that their officials have been handling this humanitarian calamity. The Syrian and Lebanese officials' conduct is mostly characterized by complete disregard for human rights, and an apparent shameful contempt for the dignity of the Lebanese citizens.  
Concerned  Lebanese citizens are wondering for how long these officials are going to keep pretending that this predicament does not exist?
Do they really think it will disappear and die without clear knowledge of the fate and whereabouts of each and every detainee?  
The newly elected Lebanese president Michel Suleiman has paid last week an important visit to Syria and met Syria's ruler Bashar Al Assad. The detainees' file topped his agenda as was officially announced.
Unfortunately Suleiman returned home empty handed. Knowing the Syrian regime's vicious mentality of camouflaging and elusiveness, that was not a surprise. The joint Syrian- Lebanese statement that was released after the visit stated that the detainees' file will be dealt with by joint committees. 

It is worth mentioning that committees in Lebanon's and Syria's political dictionaries denotes to graves where taboo files are usually buried.

For the last 30 years this on-going human tragedy has been advocated for locally, regionally and world wide through the highest level of diplomacy.  These efforts forced Damascus in year 2000 to comply partially with the issue and release 54 detainees. Sine then very few releases took place.

Human rights' atrocities inflicted by the Syrian regime on the Lebanese peaceful citizens are not new; they have been unfolding on almost a daily basis during the years of the horrible Syrian occupation (1976-2005) of Lebanon.
The Syrian invading army had fought vigorously with many Lebanese and Palestinian factions, groups and parties. Its Intelligence Services had abducted many citizens from all across Lebanon. Some were abducted for being members of parties opposing the Syrian hegemony, while others for taking up an armed struggle against them. In addition, hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and citizens are still currently held arbitrarily in Syrian Nazi-like jails for years without any knowledge of their whereabouts.
The procedures used by the Syrian army and intelligence to abduct Lebanese citizens are as follows:
1-Directly kidnapped by the Syrian forces in Lebanon and transferred to Syria.
2-Indirectly kidnapped by militias and armed individuals collaborating with Syria.
3-Held by Lebanese internal security and then handed over to the Syrians illegally.

According to a pile of testimonies delivered by Lebanese citizens released from Syrian jails and documented by Human Rights' Organizations, the abducted went through the same routine criminal interrogative procedures. After being arrested and questioned for hours or days at times under torture and abuse, they are either let go, or transferred to Syria for more questioning, lasting at times for months or years.  They could be held indefinitely unless someone with some political clout intervene on their behalf and set up their release.
However, a great number of the detainees remain held for questioning for years. Once the questioning is over the detainees are transferred to one of the many notorious Syrian jails without any kind of trial nor the presence of a lawyer. They then undergo a series of torture and abuse that differs in intensity according to their charges.
They are stripped of their names and instead given numbers. Those who dare to utter their names are harshly punished.  Their detention is kept secret, and no information whatsoever is given to the detainees' families, to the Red Cross or to the Human Rights International organizations.
For the last 30 years Syria has continuously refused to allow the Read Cross or any of the international Human Rights' organizations to visit its jails. The Syrian authorities has also been adamantly refusing to issue a list with the names of the detainees held in its jails.

The detention conditions in all the Syrian jails is far from humane.  The rooms are dark with no sunlight. No proper sanitation facilities; detainees have to relieve themselves inside the room. Very poor hygienic conditions, food is the left over crumbs and very few lucky detainees escape malnutrition, asthma, heart problems, cancer, tuberculoses and many other health threatening diseases.
Charges inflicted on the detainees were always the same; collaboration with Israelis against Syria, or spying for an opposition party such as the Lebanese forces, Free Patriotic Movement and other Lebanese opposition groups. Such atrocities have never been reported that bad anywhere in the whole world according to statements issued by lawyers and scholars worldwide.

The security agreement signed between Lebanon and Syria under the so-called brotherhood collaboration does give in any of its articles the Syrian army any right to abduct or jail any Lebanese for questioning inside or outside Lebanon.
According to an earlier Lebanese-Syrian agreement drafted in 1951, Lebanon reserves the right to reject the extradition of any individual to the Syrian authorities even if he was a Syrian citizen. The individual will have to undergo his trial in Lebanon in compliance with its laws. All agreements signed between Syria and Lebanon do not allow such Syrian atrocities.  All the practices that the Syrian army and its intelligence services had conducted in Lebanon are illegal and were practiced against all local and international laws.
The Syrian regime will not put an end to this 30 year ongoing dilemma unless the whole file is referred to the United Nations. This regime knows no mercy and pressure is the only language that its officials comprehend. Accordingly, we call on the Lebanese officials, politicians and human rights NGOs to work seriously on handing over this file to the United Nations. All free world countries should come to the rescue of our living Lebanese victims in those notorious jails and spare no effort in pressuring the Syrian regime to put an end to this human dilemma.
Elias Bejjani

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Iran building more nuclear power plants

 Last update - 13:46 19/08/2008       
Report: Iran set to build more nuclear plants
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service
Iran's official news agency reported Tuesday that the Islamic republic was preparing to build more nuclear power plants.
Tuesday's IRNA news agency report quoted Ahmad Fayyazbakhsh, the head of a state-owned nuclear energy production company as saying "my company signed agreements with other domestic firms to find locations to build new nuclear power plants."
He added that the process could take about 13 months.
Iran has previously announced plans to build six more nuclear power plants by 2021.
The country is building its first nuclear power plant in the southern port of Bushehr with the help of Russia. It is expected to begin operating later this year.
The U.S. suspects Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing weapons. Iran denies this, saying it's for generating electricity.
Earlier this week, the head of the Iranian air force said that Iran has increased the range of its warplanes, allowing them to fly as far as Israel and back without refueling.
Iranian state TV quoted air force chief General Ahmad Mighani as saying Iranian warplanes can now fly 3,000 kilometers without refueling.
The report did not refer to Israel by name, but Mighani's remarks come at a time of back-and-forth speculation regarding a possible military confrontation between Iran and Israel, with U.S. involvement.
Last week, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had tested a naval weapon that could destroy any vessel in a range of 300 km. Iran last month tested nine medium and long-range missiles it claimed were updated versions of its Shihab-3, capable of striking Israel.
Also last week, Haaretz reported that the American administration had rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
The report was denied by an Israeli official, who said that U.S.-Israeli arms deals were conducted without consideration of the Iranian threat.
Meanwhile Sunday, Iranian state television reported that Iran on Saturday had test launched a rocket it plans to use to carry a research satellite into orbit.
Saturday's test of the two-stage rocket, called the Safir-e Omid, or Ambassador of Peace, was successful, state TV said, broadcasting images of the nighttime launch.
The rocket released equipment that beamed flight data back to ground control, said Reza Taghipoor, the head of Iran's Space Agency, in a live television interview.
Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. Iranian officials also point to America's use of satellites to monitor Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar abilities for their security.
Iran hopes to launch four more satellites by 2010, the government has said.
Iran, which refuses to recognize Israel, has missiles that can reach 2,500kilometer meaning it could hit Israel and U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

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Middle East: Georgia on everyone's mind

In the Middle East, many of us have Georgia on our minds. A flood of articles have tried to read various meanings into the Russian invasion of Georgia for the Middle East. It will take a while to sort the wheat from the chaff.

For Israelis, the most obvious lesson is supposedly that the US abandoned its ally, Georgia, when the going got tough, as Yoel Marcus notes. However, firstly, those who have been following my writing know that I have been warning about Israeli over-dependence on the United States for a long time (eg United States Mandate for Palestine). The folly of relying exclusively on a single foreign ally is self-evident, and does not need illustration. On the other hand, the Russians are supposedly withdrawing from Georgia (though the withdrawal is not so evident). The opera is not over until the fat lady sings. Who is to say that US and NATO pressure did not help to bring about this withdrawal, if it happens? It should also be noted that despite prior Israeli support for Georgia, Israel was not very forthcoming with military or other practical aid in the present crisis. One is reminded of the proverb about people who live in glass houses.

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Security Services: Israeli prisoner release pressures Hamas

The conclusions below are precisely the same as those voiced in an Ha'aretz analysis the other day. The question is, whether Hamas and Fateh are intentionally or inadvertantly playing "good cop, bad cop" with Israel.
Anything that supports Fatah hurts Hamas of course. Anything that is given to one side is the basis for demands by the other side for equal treatment.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 08:48 19/08/2008       
Shin Bet: Release of Palestinian prisoners puts pressure on Hamas
By Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters
Israel's release of 199 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture of goodwill to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "creates pressure on Hamas and is likely to accelerate the negotiations over Gilad Shalit," Shin Bet security service chief Yuval Diskin told the cabinet on Monday.
However, he added, "the gesture will not make Hamas more flexible about its demands, because the organization sees that Israel is releasing prisoners with blood on their hands, which merely causes Hamas to harden its position."
Diskin's assessment was presented ahead of the cabinet's vote on the prisoner release, which includes two prisoners convicted of murdering Israelis - both of whom have already spent nearly 30 years in jail - plus 197 convicted of lesser offenses, including attempted murder. The prisoners will be released next week, apparently on the day U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives.
According to a government source, Shin Bet representatives spoke in favor of the move, on the grounds that it would pressure Hamas to conclude a deal for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
"Hamas is looking despairingly at how, despite the fact that it holds Shalit, it is not succeeding in bringing about a prisoner release, while Abu Mazen [Abbas], who is conducting negotiations with Israel, is securing a prisoner release," the official said. "It's enough to see Hamas' response to the government's decision to understand the pressure the organization is under."
The cabinet held three separate votes on the prisoner issue. The release of the two prisoners with "blood on their hands" was approved by all the ministers except Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, and all but Mofaz approved the release of the other 197. These include 26 people who were sentenced to terms of 10 to 16 years for attempted murder - i.e., shooting attacks or bombings - as well as many convicted of lesser offenses, such as aiding more senior terrorists, illegal weapons possession or membership in a terrorist organization.
The third vote, held at Dichter's request, related to an additional prisoner, the only one on the original list of names to come from Gaza. Dichter argued that no Gazans should be released until Shalit is freed, and the other ministers accepted this position, voting to strike him from the list.
The two convicted murderers to be released are Mohammed Abu Ali-Yata and Sayed al-Ataba. Abu Ali-Yata, who serves as a lawmaker from Abbas' Fatah party, has been incarcerated since 1980 for killing an Israeli settler in the West Bank. He was later sentenced to a second life term for killing a Palestinian in jail whom he accused of collaborating with Israel. Al-Ataba, the longest-serving prisoner held by Israel, is widely viewed by Palestinians as a symbol of the prisoners. He was convicted in the late 1970s of planting bombs in open-air markets in Petah Tikva and Tel Aviv, as well as on buses.
About half of the prisoners on the release list were to have completed their sentences next year, but 43 had at least five more years to serve. Four of the detainees are women. None belong to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and all were assessed by the Shin Bet as being unlikely to resume terrorist activity.
During the cabinet debate, an argument erupted between Mofaz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mofaz charged that, "A prisoner release is not interpreted as a gesture, but as weakness." Israel, he added, has released hundreds of prisoners in recent months, "but Abu Mazen's situation hasn't changed." Thus instead of more such gestures, he said, Israel should focus on bringing Shalit home.
Olmert retorted that, "Releasing prisoners as a gesture does not attest to weakness, but to strength." He added: "Prisoner exchange deals attest to weakness far more than does a move made in a manner and at a time convenient to us, with the goal of strengthening moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority."
Abbas had repeatedly requested a prisoner release, saying that by releasing prisoners to Hezbollah last month in exchange for the bodies of two kidnapped soldiers, and planning to release more to Hamas in exchange for Shalit, all the while refusing to release prisoners to him, Israel was dealing a death blow to those in the PA who favor dialogue with it.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a spokesman for Abbas, said the inclusion of long-serving prisoners in the current release would bolster the president's credibility with the public.
The timing of the current release was chosen in the hopes that it would be long enough after the swap with Hezbollah and long enough before the expected swap with Hamas to dispel any thoughts that it was connected to either, and make it clear that this was Abbas' achievement.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Seal from the reign of Zedekiah found in Jerusalem Archeological Dig

Palestinian spokesmen including Yasser Arafat himself were often wont to claim that there is no archeological evidence for Jewish habitation of Jerusalem in ancient times. This absurd and ignorant claim is belied by the tablet found in Hezekiah's Tunnel, dating from 700 BC and comemorating the tunnel built by that king to bring water to the city during a siege, precisely as described in the book of kings and in the chronicles of the kings of Israel. Additional finds continue to confirm the ancient Jewish presence, though nothing as old as the tablet in Hezekiah's tunnel has been found.

Unique biblical discovery at City of David excavation site

A 2,600 year old clay seal impression bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur, a minister in the court of King Zedekiah, has recently been uncovered completely intact during archeological excavations in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, located just below the walls of the Old City. The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1).

2,600 year old clay seal impression bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur      (Photo: Gabi Laron, Institute of Archeology, Hebrew University. Courtesy of Dr. Eilat Mazar)

A 2,600 year old clay seal impression, or bulla, bearing the name Gedaliah ben Pashur has recently been uncovered completely intact during archeological excavations in Jerusalem's ancient City of David, located just below the walls of the Old City near the Dung Gate. The name appears in the Book of Jeremiah (38:1) together with that of Yehuchal ben Shelemayahu, whose name was found on an identical clay bulla in the same area in 2005. The two men were ministers in the court of King Zedekiah, the last king to rule in Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple.

According to Dr. Eilat Mazar of the Hebrew University  who is leading the dig, this is the first time in the annals of Israeli archeology that two clay bullae with two Biblical names that appear in the same verse in the Bible have been unearthed in the same location. 

"It is not very often that such a discovery happens in which real figures of the past shake off the dust of history and so vividly revive the stories of the Bible," Mazar noted.

The first bulla was uncovered inside an impressive stone structure, which Mazar believes to be the Palace of David, while the second bulla was found at the foot of the external wall of the same structure, under a tower that was built in the days of Nehemiah.

Both bullae, clearly preserved, measuring 1 cm. in diameter each and lettered in ancient Hebrew, were found among the debris of the destruction of the First Temple period (8th to 6th centuries BCE).

Dr. Eilat Mazar recently completed the third phase of her excavation of what she believes to be King David's palace at the City of David site. More finds are expected as archeologists continue to sift through the rubble from the dig, which was sponsored by the Ir David (City of David) Foundation together with the Israel Antiquities Authority, the Hebrew University, and the Shalem Center.

The City of David is the original hilltop upon which King David dedicated ancient Jerusalem as his capital 3,000 years ago. Deep underground, the City of David is revealing some of the most exciting archeological finds of the ancient world, while above ground, the site is a vibrant center of activity and popular tourist attraction for families, complete with visitor's center, 3D exhibition and guided tours through the excavations that include Warren's Shaft, ancient water systems such as Hezekiah's Tunnel and the Second Temple Shiloah pool. During the busy summer and festival periods, the site offers added family-friendly attractions, festivals, concerts, guided tours etc.

The award-winning website of the City of David  is available in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Hebrew.:


Continued (Permanent Link)

Navy to turn back boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists

Aug. 18, 2008
The navy has been ordered to turn back two boats carrying 44 pro-Palestinian foreign activists who are attempting to "break the siege of Gaza," The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Officials said the navy had a number of options in dealing with the boats, which have set out from Crete, en route to Gaza, via a stop-over in Cyprus. The boats are due to approach the Strip in the second half of this week.
Israeli officials said Sunday that the Mediterranean waters around Gaza fell under Israeli sovereignty due to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Gaza has also been declared a combat zone, giving the navy the legal right to patrol the sea around the Strip, the officials said.
The officials dismissed the claim by the Free Gaza Movement organization, which organized the boats, that they were on a humanitarian journey. They said Hamas was keen to exploit the boats to undermine Israel's blockade of Gaza.
The boats are expected to pass from international waters into waters within Gaza territory, unload equipment and pick up Palestinians living in the Strip, before setting sail again. A confrontation was not expected as the activists have stated they were not seeking a standoff, the Israeli officials said.
Speaking from Cyprus last week, Free Gaza spokeswoman Gretta Berlin said the activists "do not intend to turn around" if confronted by the navy.
"Why should we turn around? Israel doesn't own that property. We have been invited by the people of Gaza," she said.
"We'll stand in line, link arms, and tell them they're not wanted," Berlin added.
Israeli officials did note that Gazan fishing boats had access to the waters.
The boat journey was largely a publicity stunt, the Israeli officials said, adding that its organizers were hungry for international and Israeli media attention. So far, the Israeli media had shown the most interest in the boats, the officials added.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement, Ramzi Kysia, has claimed that a member of the movement, Lauren Booth, received a threatening phone call at her home in France on Thursday.
"An anonymous man called my home in France as my daughters played hide and seek in the garden. This stranger spoke to my husband, warning him that 'your wife is in great danger. These ships will be blown up.' My husband asked how it was this person had obtained our private home number. No response was forthcoming, but the illicit threats carried on," Booth said in a message posted on the group's Web site.

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The strange case of the one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict


Lately it has become the fashion to threaten that if Israel does not agree to Palestinian peace terms, a one-state solution or a binational state will be the only solutions, or to put these solutions forward as the best solutions.

Ahmed Qurei made this threat not long ago:

The Palestinian leadership has been working on establishing a Palestinian state within the '67 borders," Qureia said.

"If Israel continues to oppose making this a reality, then the Palestinian demand for the Palestinian people and its leadership [would be] one state, a binational state," he added at the meeting held in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Sari Nusseibeh noted with much less enthusiasm that such a "solution" would have to be considered. He told Akiva Eldar in a Haaretz interview:

"I still favor a two-state solution and will continue to do so, but to the extent that you discover it's not practical anymore or that it's not going to happen, you start to think about what the alternatives are...

Nusseibeh says the struggle for a one-state solution could take a form similar to some of the nonviolent struggles waged by oppressed ethnic groups in other places.

"We can fight for equal rights, rights of existence, return and equality, and we could take it slowly over the years and there could be a peaceful movement - like in South Africa," he notes. "I think one should maybe begin on the Palestinian side, to begin a debate, to reengage in the idea of one state."

Nusseibeh, who apparently disregards Israeli rights in Jerusalem entirely, also bases his thesis on the assumption that Palestinians have given up on the demand for return of refugees as he has proposed. From that point of view, the Palestinian proposals appear to be a reasonable choice for Israel, and the alternative one state solution would be a less desirable one. An alternative for Israel to fear in fact. But the Palestinian Authority insists that they have not given up the demand for refugee "rights" and Israel is not going to abrogate all national rights in East Jerusalem, and Israel may have in mind quite a different "one state solution." 

Continued at Palestine & Israel: One state and binational state 'solutions' are frauds 


Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

FBI to investigate Talansky

The investigation of Talansky by the FBI puts the entire affair in a different light. Talansky offered to continue his testimony against Ehud Olmert only if granted immunity from the FBI. The entire affair may have been Talansky's ploy to get himself off the hook in the United States. In any case, if it turns out that Talansky is even more shady then was thought previously, it may be very hard to make a convincing case against Olmert based on Talansky's evidence.
If the FBI would not have been alerted to Talansky's testimony without the Israeli investigation, then we have to ask why Talansky risked investigation to come forward. The world being what it is, it is not likely that a character like Talansky would risk jail because of a moral imperative to fight corruption in Israel.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 02:39 18/08/2008       
Israel Police: FBI probe of Talansky comes as no surprise
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) into the conduct of Jewish American businessman Morris Talansky, a key figure in the corruption probe currently underway against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, came as no surprise to Israel's police investigators.
Senior police officials said Sunday that it is customary for the FBI to become involved in Israeli investigations being conducted within the U.S.
Olmert is being investigated for allegations that he accepted illicit funds over many years from Talansky. In his preliminary deposition in Jerusalem on May 27, Talansky testified that he gave Olmert $150,000, mostly in cash, for political campaigns and travel expenses. He denied receiving anything in return for the cash, which was allegedly conveyed in envelopes through third parties.
Superintendents Tzachi Havkin and Lior Rice, who set out some two months ago to conduct parts of the investigation in the U.S., personally met with FBI representatives during their stay. The police have classified the investigators' activities in Washington, New York and Las Vegas as top secret, though most of the material they gathered has already been handed over to the prosecution and to Olmert's attorneys.
Police officials declined to divulge details of the investigation or the names of the individuals questioned in the U.S.
"It was fairly clear to us that it was merely a matter of time before the U.S. would launch an investigation into Talansky," a police official said. "No one knew when the investigation would be launched, but the case materials certainly raised suspicions regarding Talansky's conduct. We mustn't forget that Morris Talansky is considered a suspect in the case and that the legal system in the U.S. is viewed as very tough on anything having to do with the transfer of money to politicians, and especially foreign politicians."
Since the onset of the investigation the police and the prosecution have operated on the assumption that Talansky is not entirely innocent, and that there is a significant gap between his claims of innocent money transfers to Olmert, and his actual reasons for giving Olmert the money.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: New warplanes can reach Israel without refueling

Last update - 22:36 17/08/2008    
The head of the Iranian air force said Sunday that Iran has increased the range of its warplanes, allowing them to fly as far as Israel and back without refueling.
Iranian state TV quoted air force chief General Ahmad Mighani as saying Iranian warplanes can now fly 3,000 kilometers without refueling.
Mighani did not specify the type of the aircraft type or explain how the range had been extended.
Israel is approximately 1,000 kilometers from Iran.
Such a range could be achieved by using external fuel tanks attached to the wings or fuselage that can be released when empty.
Sunday's report did not refer to Israel by name, but Mighani's remarks come at a time of back-and-forth speculation regarding a possible military confrontation between Iran and Israel, with U.S. involvement.
The Israel Air Force carried out a drill in June which U.S. officials described as a possible rehearsal for a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Iran last month tested nine medium and long-range missiles it claimed were updated versions of its Shihab-3, capable of striking Israel. Last week, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they had tested a naval weapon that could destroy any vessel in a range of 300 km
Also last week, Haaretz reported that the American administration had rejected an Israeli request for military equipment and support that would improve Israel's ability to attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
The report was denied by an Israeli official, who said that U.S.-Israeli arms deals were conducted without consideration of the Iranian threat.
Meanwhile Sunday, Iranian state television reported that Iran on Saturday had test launched a rocket it plans to use to carry a research satellite into orbit.
Saturday's test of the two-stage rocket, called the Safir-e Omid, or Ambassador of Peace, was successful, state TV said, broadcasting images of the nighttime launch.
The rocket released equipment that beamed flight data back to ground control, said Reza Taghipoor, the head of Iran's Space Agency, in a live television interview.
Iran has long held the goal of developing a space program.
In 2005, it launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow, which appears to be the main partner in transferring space technology to Iran.
Iran first tested a rocket it said was capable of delivering a satellite in February, saying that trial was also successful. It said then that it planned two more test launches before attempting to put its first domestically built satellite into orbit.
The country's fledgling space program, like its nuclear program, has provoked unease abroad. The same technology used to put satellites into space can also be used to deliver warheads.
The United States called the February 4 launch just another troubling development, saying it was a cause for concern about Iran's continuing development of medium- and long-range missiles.
Despite the anxiety over Iran's space program, it is not exactly clear how developed it is.
Iran has said it wants to put its own satellites into orbit to monitor natural disasters in the earthquake-prone nation and improve its telecommunications. Iranian officials also point to America's use of satellites to monitor Afghanistan and Iraq and say they need similar abilities for their security.
Iran hopes to launch four more satellites by 2010, the government has said.
Iran, which refuses to recognize Israel, has missiles that can reach 2,500 kilometer meaning it could hit Israel and U.S. military bases in the Gulf.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel may use force to halt boat trying to break Gaza siege

 Last update - 15:12 17/08/2008    
Israel may use force to halt boat trying to break Gaza siege
By Amos Harel
Defense officials favor forcefully blocking two boats which a group of U.S.-based activists plan to sail to Gaza to protest what they call "the Israeli siege on the Strip," Haaretz has learned.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Israel is within its rights to use force against the seafarers.
The subject of the Greek-flagged boats which the Free Gaza group said it would sail from Cyprus to Gaza this week prompted defense officials to hold a series of discussions; they said allowing the ships to reach the Gaza coastline could create a dangerous precedent. But the Israel Navy has not yet received any instructions on how to treat the vessels.
According to some officials, Hamas is keen to exploit the initiative by the activists - including Israeli professor and activist Jeff Halper - for its political needs, and could try to greet the seafarers with fishing boats.
The officials believe that Hamas views the drive as an opportunity to underscore the suffering of the civilian population because of Israel's policies. A position paper by the Foreign Ministry's legal department says Israel has the right to use force against the demonstrators as part of the Oslo Accords, which names Israel as responsible for Gaza's territorial waters.
An official in Jerusalem said the Foreign Ministry's paper means that security forces could detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza's territorial waters, arrest the passengers and haul the ship to Israel, where the detainees could be interrogated.
The organizers have reportedly raised almost $300,000 to finance the operation and recruited 60 people to sail on the ship. These include activists from several countries as well as journalists.
In conversations with their Israeli counterparts, Cypriot officials have expressed concerns about the boat departing from their shores, but say they can do nothing to prevent it. According to the information that has reached Israel, however, Cyprus is not the only point of departure under consideration; the ship might also sail from Turkey or Alexandria in Egypt.

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Israel to release 200 Palestinian prisoners to Palestinian Authority

For those who cannot read the signals - the Israeli government did a prisoner exchange deal with Hezbollah and they concluded a lull agreement with the Hamas. The extremists all "got something" while the moderate US backed government of Mahmoud Abbas got nothing. Evidently, the US put pressure on Israel to show some concrete results of the talks with the Palestinian Authority.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 14:10 17/08/2008       
Cabinet okays release of 200 Palestinian prisoners to PA

By Barak Ravid and Shahar Ilan, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service

The cabinet on Sunday approved the release of close to 200 Palestinian prisonersas a gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Among those slated for released include two prisoners thought to have "blood on their hands."
One of the Palestinians expected to be freed is said to have dispatched terrorists to carry out an attack while the other attempted to carry out an attack of his own.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, an Abbas aide, called the move "a step in the right direction" as Israel and the Palestinians pursue a statehood deal by January in U.S.-sponsored talks, but said "thousands, not hundreds" of prisoners should be set free.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the cabinet voted to release about 200 Palestinian prisoners as a confidence-building measure aimed at bolstering Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and strengthening moderates.
A government official said the release would be carried out around August 25, before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the leading Kadima candidate to succeed Olmert, said the release showed Palestinians that dialogue, not violence, achieved the best results.
A release list has not been finalised but would include long-serving inmates, women and children, and two prisoners involved in attacks on Israelis before the 1993 Oslo peace deal, the official said.
In the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad welcomed the
gesture, but said Israel should release even larger numbers of prisoners.]
"We welcome the release of any Palestinian prisoner. It is considered a victory for Palestinians," he told The Associated Press during a tour of the northern village of Tubas. "We ask Israel to change its conditions for releasing prisoners and we ask for the release of all prisoners without exception."
From the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri called for prisoners from his group to be included in the release. He said freeing only those from Abbas's Fatah faction would be "an attempt to strengthen Palestinian internal divisions."
Palestinian officials said Abbas had requested that the group include Said Atabeh, a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine jailed in 1977 and the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israel.
Israel released 429 Palestinians as a gesture to Abbas after the resumption of peace negotiations in November at a conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Months of meetings, closely shepherded by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have produced little visible progress on key issues such as control of Jerusalem and the future of millions of Palestinian refugees.

Continued (Permanent Link)

New PRC rocket 'can reach Ashdod'

New PRC rocket 'can reach Ashdod' Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 15, 2008

The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in the Gaza Strip have announced that they are in possession of "Nasser-4" rockets that have a range of 25 kilometers and pose a threat to Ashdod.

Senior activists in the organization claimed that the rocket was far more lethal than the current "Nasser-3" model.

The group said that it would launch the new rockets at Israel if the latter attempted to reoccupy Gaza.

"We have been under siege for the last two years," Ibrahim Dahman, a senior PRC activist told CNN. "The only thing left is for them to invade and kill us."

The unveiling of the new rockets is a "clear violation" of the truce with Israel, Prime Minister's Office spokesman Mark Regev told CNN.

"The cease-fire that was negotiated through Egypt was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can't use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip," Regev added.

He said that Israel reserves "the right to act, if need be, to protect ourselves. We don't want this current quiet just to be the quiet before the storm."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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