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Friday, August 29, 2008

More talk about Israeli attack on Iran

But Israel does not yet have a military option, evidently.
Aug. 29, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Israel will not agree to allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons and if the grains start running out in the proverbial egg timer, Jerusalem will not hesitate to take whatever means necessary to prevent Iran from achieving its nuclear goals, the government has recently decided in a special discussion.

According to the Israeli daily Ma'ariv, whether the United States and Western countries will succeed in toppling the ayatollah regime diplomatically, through sanctions, or whether an American strike on Iran will eventually be decided upon, Jerusalem has put preparations for a separate, independent military strike by Israel in high gear.

So far, Israel has not received American authorization to use US-controlled Iraqi airspace, nor has the defense establishment been successful in securing the purchase of advanced US-made warplanes which could facilitate an Israeli strike.

The Americans have offered Israel permission to use a global early warning radar system, implying that the US is pushing Israel to settle for defensive measures only.

Because of Israel's lack of strategic depth, Jerusalem has consistently warned over the past years it will not settle for a 'wait and see' approach and retaliate in case of attack, but rather use preemption to prevent any risk of being hit in the first place.

Ephraim Sneh a veteran Labor MK which has left the party recently, has sent a document to both US presidential candidates, John McCain and Barack Obama. The eight-point document states that "there is no government in Jerusalem that would ever reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran. When it is clear Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, an Israeli military strike to prevent this will be seriously considered."

According to Ma'ariv, Sneh offered the two candidates the "sane, cheap and the only option that does not necessitate bloodshed." To prevent Iran's nuclear aspirations, Sneh wrote, "real" sanctions applied in concert by the US and Europe is necessary. A total embargo in spare parts for the oil industry and a total boycott of Iranian banks will topple, within a short time, the regime which is already pressured by a sloping economy and would be toppled by the Iranian people if they would have outside assistance.

The window of opportunity Sneh suggests is a year and a half to two years, until 2010.

Sneh also visited Switzerland and Austria last week in an attempt to lobby those two states. Both countries have announced massive long-term investments in Iranian gas and oil fields for the next decade.

"Talk of the Jewish Holocaust and Israel's security doesn't impress these guys," Sneh said wryly.

Hearing his hosts speak of their future investments, Sneh replied quietly "it's a shame, because Ido will light all this up." He was referring to Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, the recently appointed commander of the Israeli Air Force and the man most likely to be the one to orchestrate Israel's attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, should this become the necessity.

"Investing in Iran in 2008," Sneh told his Austrian hosts, "is like investing in Krups Steelworks in 1938, it's a high risk investment." The Austrians, according to Sneh, turned pale.

In related news, Israel Radio reported that Iran has finished installing an additional 4,000 centrifuges in the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. The Islamic Republic also announced it will install an additional 3,000 centrifuges in coming months.

The pan-Arabic Al Kuds al Arabi reported Friday that Iran has equipped Hizbullah with longer range missiles than those it had before the Second Lebanon War and also improved the terror group's targeting capabilities.

According to the report, which The Jerusalem Post could not verify independently, Hizbullah would begin a massive rocket onslaught on targets reaching deep into Israel's civilian underbelly in case the Jewish State would launch an attack on Iran.


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Israel needs to connect to the Diaspora

Zionism has been whacking away at the problem of Western Aliya since about 1920, with only limited success.

Erdan: Israel needs a 'mental shift' to bring olim, connect to Diaspora

Aug. 28, 2008

"Israel needs more aliya. That's our vision for the Jewish state, and it will make this country more successful," says Likud MK Gilad Erdan, co-chair with Kadima MK Yoel Hasson of the Knesset Caucus for Western Aliya.

Still, Erdan acknowledges, nearly all Jews living outside Israel reside in Western countries, and they aren't hurrying to make aliya. While organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh work diligently to connect olim to one another and to find jobs for them, and the Jewish Agency tries to bring immigrants in communal groups rather than as individuals, these recent improvements to the process have not brought aliya to the dramatic levels Erdan wants.

That's why aliya policy needs "a mental revolution. This can't come from the Knesset, but I think our caucus can create pressure on the next prime minister. We have to spread knowledge about Israel in the Diaspora. I'm not sure the Foreign Ministry, or even the Jewish Agency, have what it takes to teach about Israel and the Zionist dream in terms that can be heard in the US or Britain," he says.

The Knesset Caucus for Western Aliya was founded earlier this year, but has been relatively inactive as its chairmen were kept busy in senior positions in their respective parties. Hasson is the outgoing chairman of World Kadima and incoming coalition chairman, and Erdan served as chairman of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee until last week.

Now Erdan plans to become active in encouraging Western aliya. While he is impressed by the "excellent work" of private organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh and Ami, he believes that significantly increasing aliya - or at least creating a deeper connection between Israel and the Diaspora - will require a new effort.

"The Zionists said Israel is the only place in the world to which Jews could flee when they're hunted," he explains. "But in the English-speaking countries, especially in the US, this threat never materialized, and it doesn't look like it ever will."

At the same time, the mobilizing power of Israeli vulnerability is reduced. "Israel doesn't look anymore like a country in existential danger that needs a mobilized Diaspora to fight for it. Israel itself looks at its future differently now, so the feeling of emergency [among Diaspora Jews] is weaker."

Yet, while a sense of shared danger is disappearing in the Diaspora, there are other ways to connect to Jews in the West, he believes. "You don't establish a Knesset caucus unless there's some gap, something more that can be done."

Beyond the new "mental revolution," the caucus will investigate more concrete ways to connect to the Diaspora.

This involves making the experience of aliya more welcoming by removing bureaucratic obstacles, connecting olim to local communities and offering new financial incentives, he says.

"If you're a lawyer or an optometrist, for example, we want to make sure you can start working in your profession without being kept out by all sorts of professional guilds. To help with local problems, perhaps we could create a system where an MK could be an address for an area, or for a group of families. To get olim working in those first critical years, we need to offer employers a financial incentive through the National Insurance Institute to employ them," Erdan says.

These and other ideas will be examined in the coming months by the caucus.

"It's nice to think that all the world's Jews want to come to Israel, and that this is enough to bring them, but it's not true," he laments. "Surveys show that even among Israeli youth, Israel is no longer seen as fighting for its survival, and the world has turned into a global village offering them opportunities all over the world. But this country is strong, modern, and we can offer competitive incentives. This is the American model, and we don't have to be embarrassed to use it. Even if someone comes to us for the tax breaks, Israel will become his home down the road."

While Israel tries to teach about itself to the world's Jews, Israelis are themselves guilty of ignorance toward the Diaspora, Erdan admits. Having passed through all levels of the Israeli education system, "I myself only got to a general course on American history in my master's studies," he says.

Erdan laments that this ignorance prevents Israel from learning important lessons from the Diaspora. "When I was younger, in yeshiva, I was dead-set against Reform and Conservative Judaism. But then I went backpacking in the Far East, and I saw our kids going to Dharamsala [a northern Indian town that is the seat of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama] to find spirituality.

"Israel's religious parties only take care of their own, and the media constantly shows [the Orthodox sector] as getting more than its share of the pie, so our young people are antagonistic toward anything that smells like Judaism. Between that and the lack of Jewish studies in the education system, today a child growing up in a Jewish community in America knows more [about Judaism] than those being raised in the education system in Israel. This terrifies me. Without Judaism there won't be a state of Israel."

A traditional Jew, Erdan clarifies that "I'm not for adopting the Reform model, but [Israel should look at] the existence of other systems that allow people to connect to Judaism and study the beautiful sides of Jewish tradition. This is a good thing. I can't rule out that we should be studying the American educational model."


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Mahmoud Abbas insists on ROR, urges Lebanese discrimination against Palestinians

Everyone knows that a dog in Israel has more rights than a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon. It is natural for Mahmoud Abbas to try to ingratiate himself with the Lebanese and calm their fears that, horror of horrors, Palestinians might want to settle in Lebanon. But Abbas went on to insist that the Palestinians are seeking "Right of Return" to Israel, a solution that he knows Israel has to reject.
Ami Isseroff

[JTA] Mahmoud Abbas said he objects to the permanent resettlement of Palestinians in Lebanon. 

"The Palestinians have the right of return and this is an issue we are discussing with the Israelis," the Palestinian Authority president, meeting in Beirut on Thursday with Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, told reporters.

About 400,000 Palestinians live in 12 refugee camps in Lebanon. Most of them arrived in Lebanon in 1948 or are descendants of those refugees. The camps are a hotbed of ferment, with occasional outbursts of violence.

Abbas also called for a "comprehensive" solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict, including returning the Golan Heights to Syria and resolving the dispute between Israel and Lebanon over the border-area Shebaa Farms.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

BBC on McCartney Concert: Sir Paul to play Israel concert

Sir Paul to play Israel concert 
Sir Paul McCartney is to play a concert in Tel Aviv next month - 43 years after being banned from performing there.
Israel's government banned the Beatles in 1965, fearing they would corrupt young fans.
But earlier this year, Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to the UK, visited Liverpool and apologised to the band for the "misunderstanding".
The gig takes place on 25 September. "We can't wait to get out there and rock," said Sir Paul in a statement.
"I've heard so many great things about Tel Aviv and Israel, but hearing is one thing and experiencing it for yourself is another," he added.
"We are planning to have a great time and a great evening."
Sir Paul has played a number of special, one-off concerts around the world this year, including the Independence Concert in Kiev, Ukraine; in Liverpool as part of the city's European Capital of Culture celebrations; and in Quebec to help celebrate the Canadian city's 400th anniversary.
He is also due to make a rare live appearance with his dance music side project, The Fireman, on Jools Holland's BBC Two show when it returns on 16 September.

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Russia is Selling Hezbollah surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles

Russia is Selling Hezbollah surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles
By: Elias Bejjani

August 28/08

Hezbollah's Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah warned that his terrorist armed militia is now much, much, stronger than before the devastating war that took place in 2006 between his militia and Israel. He rhetorically and pompously alleged that his militia would destroy Israel if its army wages any attacks against Lebanon.
Nasrallah issued this threat last Saturday at a Boy Scout ceremony in Beirut, as a response to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's remark last week that "if Lebanon becomes a Hezbollah state, then we won't have any restrictions" in striking the country.  Olmert claimed that during the last war, Israel did not use all of its firepower because the enemy was Hezbollah and not its host country Lebanon.
Nasrallah would not have been in this threatening position if the free world countries, Arab nations and the UN General Council have been seriously addressing the numerous violations against the UNSCR Resolutions 1559 and 1701 Hezbollah, Syria and Iran committed.
Israel and the rest of the Middle East countries, as well as the USA and its European allies, are all fully aware that Hezbollah has been stockpiling all kinds of lethal weapons in its huge arsenal, and preparing for another war against Israel once the Iran masters instruct its leadership to instigate it.
Nasrallah, other prominent Hezbollah Military and religious dignitaries, as well as the Iranian Mullahs, are not keeping their hostile and aggressive schemes a secret. On the contrary they all have made them public and in crystal clear straightforward warnings and threatening messages. They have been saying loudly that in case Iran's nuclear facilities are attacked by Israel or the USA, Israel will be an actual target for Hezbollah's missiles.
One wonders why, for heaven's sake, all the free world countries and the UN are cajoling and appeasing this terrorist militia, and accordingly succumbing more and more to its threats and blackmails. They all with deadly silence have witnessed time after time Hezbollah's blatant infringements on all the UN Resolutions regarding Lebanon, especially UNSCR 1559 and UNSCR 1701 that stipulates the disarmament of this militia, and for the implementation of the Armistice Accord between Lebanon and Israel.

Not even one free world country lifted a finger when Hezbollah recently conquered West Beirut, and attempted to take over Mount Lebanon. And now they are again so indifferent while Hezbollah is adding to its arsenal Russian advanced surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles.
The Italian newspaper "Corriere della Sera" reported last week that Hezbollah's terrorist organization representatives visited Russia in early July, and signed a deal to purchase surface-to-air and anti-tank missiles. The newspaper stated that three high-ranking Hezbollah officials showed great interest to buy Russian weapons which have been effective in the recent 2006 war with Israel.
Noting that the three men entered Russia with Iranian passports, and visited the Sixth International Russian Weapon Exhibition under the status of distinguished guests.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper "Maariv", the Italian reporter who broke this piece of news stated that Hezbollah's representatives kept a very low profile during the visit, and did in fact sign a number of private contracts to buy air defense systems and anti-tank missiles after the exhibition was closed.

Very briefly, and without any personal opinion or analysis, this important report states openly that Hezbollah, the terrorist organization is violating clause eight of  the UNSCR 1701 which stated: "No sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government."

UNSCR 1701 clause eight :"
8. Calls for Israel and Lebanon to support a permanent ceasefire and a long-term solution based on the following principles and elements:
*Full respect for the Blue Line by both parties;
*security arrangements to prevent the resumption of hostilities, including the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani river of an area free of any armed *personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL as authorized in paragraph 11, deployed in this area;
*Full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords, and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), that require the disarmament of all armed *groups in Lebanon, so that, pursuant to the Lebanese cabinet decision of July 27, 2006, there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese state;
*No foreign forces in Lebanon without the consent of its government;
*No sales or supply of arms and related materiel to Lebanon except as authorized by its government;
Provision to the United Nations of all remaining maps of land mines in Lebanon in Israel's possession;
Click here to read the text of the UNSCR 1701 in both Arabic and English

Why are the UN and the Lebanese authorities turning a blind eye to this dangerous matter, which is a clear breach of UNSCR 1701 and Lebanese laws?
We call on the UN Security Council and the Lebanese government to open an immediate judicial inquiry into what was published in regards to the Hezbollah-Russian missile deal

Meanwhile Hezbollah that recently was given veto power in the newly appointed Lebanese government keeps openly and on daily basis carrying on its illegal activities at all levels and in all domains.
Hezbollah, the Iranian Army in Lebanon, is devouring Lebanon's institutions bit by bit through force, money, terrorism and intimidation, and enforcing day after day the Iranian Mullah's "Wilayat al-Faqih" religious-sectarian education, doctrine and culture.

In the same context of  Hezbollah's on going flagrant violations to all Lebanese and international laws, it has for the last two years been publishing media reports and announcements about the death of  its fighters "under the Martyrdom operations" tag.
Not even one of these mysterious reports and announcements indicated how, when and where these fighters "martyrs" were killed. The Lebanese Government, the Lebanese politicians, and the country's judiciary have all been keeping silent about this "Martyrdom" phenomenon. Meanwhile some reports stated lately that these so called "fighters" are dying either during training they are undergoing in Iran, or through guerrilla operations in Iraq against the US army.
The last of these mysterious reports was published by the Lebanese National Agency on August 23/08 under the title:" The Islamic Resistance carried a burial procession for a Martyr In Arab Saliem". The Arabic report stated that the "Islamic Resistance" and the Arab Saliem southern town residents participated in the burial procession that was carried out for "Martyr Jihadist", Ali Hassan Abu Zayied, who was killed while performing his Jihadist operation". The report did not say where, how or when this "Hezbollah Jihadist" was killed. 
In this same context, but in the regional realm, Jim Kouri, in a report he published in the "Renew America web site", wrote on August 23/08: "Coalition forces picked up two suspected associates of the Kataib Hezbollah criminal network during operations this morning in Baghdad's New Baghdad district, military officials reported during a teleconference with bloggers and Internet journalists. Acting on intelligence tips, coalition forces raided the home of a suspected Kataib Hezbollah propaganda expert who is believed to have uploaded more than 30 attack videos to the criminal ring's now-defunct Web site. Coalition forces entered the house, where they detained two of the wanted man's brothers, who are believed to be involved in his criminal enterprises. Coalition forces have detained more than 15 suspected members of Kataib Hezbollah in the last two months, officials said. Kataib Hezbollah is reported to receive funding, logistics, and weapons such as improvised rocket-assisted mortars from Iran. The group also is believed to receive guidance or direction from the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps". To read Jim Kouri's report Click here

The crucial question here, does Lebanon really has a functional and free Government and a Judiciary? If so, both and with no hesitation must prove their authority in practice by pursuing these critical reports with impartially, courage, seriousness, national conscience, and in full accordance with the country's law. The same applies to the UN General Council who should immediately look into the matter and address the UNSCR 1701 violations committed by Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

Meanwhile, we would like to bring to the attention of the Russian government that it is a signatory to all the key international resolutions on Lebanon, most important of them are resolutions 1559 and 1701. We also would like to remind the Russian Authorities that Russia is one of the most threatened nations in the world by terrorist organizations, and therefore should reconsider it positions, reassess its political middle east calculations, and fully refrain from arming those organizations and in particular Hezbollah..

Elias Bejjani

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New olim arrive in Israel for army service

New olim arrive in Israel for army service

Young Americans decide to come to Israel, join IDF. Nefesh B' Nefesh, Immigrant Absorption Ministry facilitate move
Liron Milshtein Published:  08.16.08, 08:39 / Israel Activism 

Forty-three young Jews from the US arrived in Israel this week, as part of a joint Nefesh B' Nefesh and Immigrant Absorption Ministry operation.

The group was sent to several kibbutzim across Israel, where the new Israelis will learn to speak Hebrew. In three months time they also intend to enlist in the IDF.
Other people might think it is a crazy thing to do, but if you live in Israel, you have to serve in the army, said 21-year-old Elan Bielski, who graduated from college just one day before making Aliya.
Bielski's family history can be made into a Hollywood movie: His grandfather, Zus Bielski and his two brothers formed the famed Bielski partisans during WWII. It was the largest group of Jewish partisans who fought against Nazi Germany, saving more than 1,200 of their brethren.
This family history, said young Bielski, was part of the reasons which inspired him to come to Israel.

Rachel Schneider, 18, has been thinking about coming to Israel since junior high. I'm here because I want to live in Israel, she said, adding her parents are planning to follow in her footsteps. Schneider intends to join the IDF and serve as an enlisted teacher.

Michael Basin, 22, already fluent in Hebrew, said that in his mind's eye only the best of the best join the IDF: "I want to serve in a combat unit because that's what Israel needs me to do. Suckers? I'm sorry for any Israeli who thinks we're suckers."
It's all in the name

Reasons for moving to Israel are often explicable. At times it's unavoidable, your name is your fate and 'sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name'. In new column, Liat Shpigler writes about her experiences as an old-new immigrant
Liat Shpigler
Published:  06.27.08, 17:17 / Israel Culture
My family always took the term "wandering Jew" quite literally and who was I to break the pattern? Born in Israel, raised in the States and then back to Israel 11 years ago, I learned there's nothing more important to the Jews than continuity. Before moving to Israel I lived two lives, winter, spring and fall in the States and summers in the holiest of lands.

As a "tourist" in Israel there were a few instances that stood out in my mind as "Israeli" and as foreign in relation to the sheltered suburbia life I lived as an American Jew in what I call a modern-day Jewish ghetto. Israel was language, it was hearing Hebrew at the airport checkout counter and feeling at home already.

Israel was special treatment, being isolated at the airport gate, guards at every direction making you wonder if you yourself are suspicious, it was accommodating, having to switch seats on the flight as to not offend the ultra-orthodox man sitting next to you.

Israel was also proud, since after waking up for breakfast (it's nice to be blessed with the natural ability to sleep on 12-hour international flights) and shortly thereafter seeing the bird's eye view of Tel-Aviv, there were no two ways to analyze the uproar of applause. People were literally thanking the pilot for landing at their destination of choice.

As a teenager Israel was being allowed to be outside until the wee hours of the night without a curfew, at least domestically it was safe. Israel was bold' it was a motorcyclist who stopped at a traffic light and had the audacity to tickle my foot through my open car window. It was also an old woman who could barely walk but could sure as heck cut in line at the movie theater.

All the above became more apparent after moving here and undergoing rigorous investigations by random people representing all walks of life. Here in Israel, your business is everyone's, from the taxi driver, to the shoe saleswoman, to the woman at the supermarket, to the bank teller and more.

So many mistaken concoctions for one name
This blatant honesty was and still is apparent in questions like, "How much money do you pay for rent? How much do you get paid at work? Why did you buy that car? Why did you cut your hair, you look so much better when it's long? Why would anyone in their right mind move to Israel?" Questions asked so rapidly that confusion leaves you no choice but to share your deepest secrets with a complete stranger. But is anyone a stranger here?
 I can't count the amount of times random people helped me here and how many times perfect strangers became close friends, quickly. Or, the innumerable amount of invitations I received for Shabbat and holiday dinners.

But it was also the fact that people understood the meaning of my name. Liat was not just a name that people uttered and mistakenly put an emphasis on the first syllable and not the second as they do in Hebrew. I mean I can understand mispronouncing Shpigler, but Liat – who knew there were so many mistaken concoctions for one name.

Shpigler, a.k.a. – Shipliger, Spiegler, Shpiegl, der Spiegl and so on and so forth was understandable. But here in Israel, people still haven't stopped asking me if I am related to the famous soccer player, Motaleh. (Sometimes I say I am for the kicks)
Liat means "you are mine" in basic Hebrew and everyone in Israel knows how to say it properly. In a course I took on Jewish folklore at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem one of my professors said a sentence in Latin that completely stuck. "Nomen est Omen" - your name is your fate.
 Or, according to Wikiquote, "Literally Name is omen, implying that the name is fitting for the object or person."
 Perhaps that is a factor in why a person would uproot themselves to a place where as the show Cheers ingeniously said, "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name."

Beauty, rudeness, paradoxes, defeats, triumphs
In actuality I came to Israel 11 years ago just to join the army and then to go back to school in the States. What makes a person stay after serving with 120 men in the Golani Brigade can be left to interpretation or can be summed up as a certain sense of belonging to the greater good. Israel has its way of crawling into your veins for better or for worse and this series of articles will discuss just that.
As an old-new immigrant to Israel, who has heard the question "why did you come here?" more than "what is your name?" I have immersed myself enough in the culture to feel one with it, and 11 years later am still shocked by the beauty, rudeness, paradoxes, defeats and triumphs enough to view it from the side.
Most importantly, I learned that you can't be an Israeli without cynicism and you can't be an American Jew without dreamily and romantically sticking in the "Z" word (shhh, be careful not to say Zionism in Israel). Because I am a little of both, both elements will be apparent.

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Marranos - Returning to Judaism

It took a long time - 500 years - but at least some of the Marranos, victims of the Inquisition forced to convert to Catholicism, are returning to Judaism and renewing their connection with the Jewish people. This movement is all the more remarkable because the rabbinical establishment has done little or nothing to encourage this movement. The Marranos must have lifted a collective eye-brow when they heard the Pope lecturing Muslims about compulsion in religion. It would be quite interesting to see a debate between a Marrano who had returned to Judaism, and a Jews for Jesus fanatic.

Delegation of 16 Europeans, whose ancestors were forced to convert to Catholicism during inquisition over 500 years ago, seek to renew their ties with Jewish people, state
Ynetnews Published:  08.27.08, 06:56 / Israel Jewish Scene 

A delegation of 16 Bnai Anousim from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France arrived in Israel over the weekend. Bnai Anousim (referred to as "Marranos" by historians) is the name for Mediterranean European Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism on pain of death during the Spanish Inquisition.
In the late 14th and 15th century, at the time of mass expulsions of Jews from Spain and Portugal, the Bnai Anousim remained behind, where they continued to preserve their Jewish identity and to practice the Jewish faith covertly.
As a result, this unique phenomenon is still evident even today, even though the Inquisition invested enormous efforts over the centuries to eradicate it.
The trip is being arranged by the Shavei Israel organization, a non-profit organization with the aim of strengthening ties between the State of Israel and the descendants of Jews around the world.
The organization is currently active in nine countries and provides assistance to a variety of different communities such as the Bnei Menashe of India, the Bnai Anousim in Spain, Portugal and South America, the Subbotnik Jews of Russia, the Jewish community of Kaifeng in China, descendants of Jews living in Poland, and others.
In the framework of their visit to Israel, the Bnai Anousim participants will travel across the country and visit places such as Jerusalem, Rachel's Tomb, Safed, Tiberias, Haifa, Beit Shearim, Kibbutz Lavi, and more. In addition, they will take part in special classes on Jewish history, culture and religion being held for them in Spanish and Portuguese as well as learn some Hebrew.

According to Shavei Israel founder and Chairman Michael Freund, large numbers of Bnai Anousim around the world have started to openly embrace their Jewish heritage in recent years and many are seeking to renew their connection with Israel and the Jewish people after centuries of preserving their identity in secret.
"This visit to Israel by a delegation of Bnai Anousim is part of the process of forging a renewed relationship with the Jewish people and the State of Israel. I believe that we have an historic and moral obligation to reach out to the Bnai Anousim and to assist them as much as we can," Freund said.

New phenomenon sweeps Portugal: Descendants of Marranos rediscover their Jewish roots and the Jewish faith. One Porto community undergoes mass conversion
Gabi Newman
Yosef Pero Philip is professor psychiatry at the University of Porto. Arieh Ben Avraham is a renowned film director. Yosef Eduardo Albas is a soccer player in Portugal's Second Division. All three men have recently converted to Judaism, observe the mitzvoth, and are distinctly proud of their Jewish heritage.

These three men are also representative of a noticeable recent trend among descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Marranos, that is Sephardic Jews forced to adopt the identity of Christians, who are now rediscovering their Jewish faith and reclaiming their ancient heritage en masse.

Rabbi Eliyahu Birnbaum of the "Shavei Israel" Foundation, which oversees the conversion process among these Marrano descendants, said that over the years individual Marranos have converted to Judaism , but now, thanks to the foundation's efforts, entire communities of Marrano offspring are converting to Judaism and reclaiming their ancient heritage.

"If you asked people in Israel, they would probably tell you that Marranos are merely a blurb on the annals of history, but here we see definitive proof that people still view themselves as Marranos and children of Marranos, and that this is a very real, spiritual phenomenon," said Rabbi Birnbaum.

Indeed, many Portuguese are now becoming reacquainted with their Jewish lineage. Aaron Ram, Israel's Ambassador to Portugal, told Ynet that "when people find out that I'm the Israeli ambassador, many end up telling me that they are Jewish, or rather that they are of Jewish descent. Many of these Marranos are not Jewish anymore, nor do they intend to convert, but they nevertheless mention their heritage with great pride. I would say that 10% of all Portuguese are offspring of Marranos of Jewish descent."
What led to this spiritual reawakening among these former Jews? The waning power of the church in both Spain and Portugal is a definite factor leading to this trend, as is the quest for belonging and identity so prevalent around the world today.

The Marano descendants in question tend to come from a high socio-economic background, and are typically well integrated into the Christian society that they live in. They claim that their return to their Jewish heritage does not invoke scorn or hatred in their peers, and that they are typically applauded for their resolve and bravery.


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Jewish Bloggers - Israel is a nice place to visit, why live here?

This is evidently a real quote:
"When people ask me if I'm making aliyah I say 'not yet' in Hebrew because I feel that this is the right answer for now," says Esther Kostnovitch, who runs blogs such as 'JDaters Anonymous' and 'My Urban Kvetch'.
"I am very much in favor of aliyah, but I feel that I write so much about Israel and take such an interest in Israel not least because I don't yet live here."
Nothing can spoil romance worse than marriage. Nothing can spoil Zionism worse than living in Israel, right? Wrong.
And the bloggers were supposedly all "Kosher" - though most Israelis are not really "kosher." But this article is encouragement that in fact, we are making a difference.
Ami Isseroff
Non-Kosher, Israeli Jewish blogger.
First Jewish bloggers summit convenes in capital

Kosher blog writers gather in Jerusalem for conference on Judaism, Zionism, aliyah with participation of blog-savvy MK Netanyahu, who encouraged participants to immigrate to Israel
Adar Shalev
Published:  08.22.08, 14:16 / Israel Activism
Around 200 Jewish bloggers of all ages from around the world gathered in Jerusalem on Wednesday in honor of the first Jewish Zionist blog convention, organized by Nefesh B'Nefesh, a foundation that promotes immigration to Israel from the US, Canada, and the UK.

Jewish patriots that currently reside outside of Israel named Jewlicious, West Bank Mama, Israpundit, and the like met in person for the first time since beginning their online journals. Six hundred other bloggers who couldn't make it to the event watched it live online.
On their way to make aliyah, 240 additional people also boarded the planes packed with bloggers. Renana Levine, one of the convention's organizers, said that Nefesh B'Nefesh has been responsible for the aliyah of around 15,000 people in its six short years of existence.

The foundation attempts to ease the new immigrants' inevitable clash with Israel's arduous bureaucracy and helps them to obtain employment. Currently their success is undisputable, as 94% of the olim who have so far arrived with the program are working citizens.

The organization decided to cooperate with the Jewish blogosphere upon discovering that there was no better way to promote Israel than through blogs. Their writers are not connected to any official agency, which makes them more reliable, and they describe their everyday lives normally, without bombs, camels, or other stereotypical images usually related to Israel.
There are cases in which people say they immigrated to Israel because of blogs, and I can mention Benji Levitt's blog, 'What Warzone', which has shattered a number of myths about camels and constant war in the streets. Because of him, at least three olim that we know of have arrived in Israel," Levine said.

The worldwide Jewish blogger community exists in a sphere almost totally disconnected from the Israeli and Arab blogger community, as the latter usually appear in spots such as Tapuz and Israblog, while the former use sites such as BlogPost, LiveJournal, and WordPress.

Within this sphere they discuss subjects such as modern Judaism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the appreciation of their ratings. The blogs incorporate old Yiddish and 'leet' (a type of internet argot), and many of the bloggers read the hip Jewish magazine 'Heeb' to keep up with the banter.

'This is your country'
Among the bloggers who spoke at the summit was former prime minister and current opposition leader, Knesset Member Benjamin Netanyahu, who posts his blog under a Creative Commons (CC) license, meaning anyone can use the contents he publishes. "I opened a blog and found it to be a great medium, but the problem is that it requires too much free time, or shadow writers," he said.

Netanyahu claimed that during his time as prime minister the internet's vast potential for the promotion of Israel throughout the world remained a vastly untapped resource, explaining that the web was not as influential then.

"Make aliyah, this is your country and your city – and it will remain this way," he told those present amid storming applause. But most of the bloggers who attended the conference had arrived in order to visit relatives or improve social ties rather than to relinquish their previous lives in the Diaspora.
"When people ask me if I'm making aliyah I say 'not yet' in Hebrew because I feel that this is the right answer for now," says Esther Kostnovitch, who runs blogs such as 'JDaters Anonymous' and 'My Urban Kvetch'.
"I am very much in favor of aliyah, but I feel that I write so much about Israel and take such an interest in Israel not least because I don't yet live here."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is Europe turning Muslim?

 Is this a description of reality or a gross exaggeration?
Wealthy Muslims are proceeding to buy Europe, as well as its conscience
Eitan Haber
Published:  08.27.08, 17:02 / Israel Opinion
In the coming days, tens of thousands of Israelis will be returning from their vacations abroad. After they unpack their suitcases and take out the perfumes they bought at the duty-free store, and after the kids go back to school, memories of their trip overseas will resurface.

And among other things, what they will remember is this: Veils. Plenty of veils. Black veils made of simple cloth, expensive veils made of silk, long veils, and short veils.
 Europe is putting on a veil over its face. For years now this has been the picture encountered by guests who arrive there for a brief moment (and who are more aware of these things) in the major streets of large cities, and also in small towns.

Yet it appears that an all-time record was broken this summer – but perhaps we are still far away from the record?

Money can buy almost anything
A common sight these days is a Filipino man following his veiled woman on the streets of Paris, London, Rome, and Berlin, while carrying her shopping bags. In large luxury stores, wealthy Muslim customers ask managers to keep other clients out of the store before proceeding to buy half of it, at times spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on one occasion. Muhammad is buying Europe.
Why should this be of interest to us and why is this important to us? We must internalize the realization that money can buy (almost) anything, and mostly Europe's conscience. For how long will we be able to keep referring to our values, the morals of our prophets, our Bible, and the Holocaust?
Perhaps it will not happen in this generation, but in the next generation Europe may certainly become a branch of African and Middle Eastern countries. And so, a seemingly minor phenomenon that got under way in the wake of the economic miracle in Europe following World War II – the decline in birthrates and the shortage of workers – has become increasingly serious in the 1980s.

Today, the Muslim population is exerting pressure on Europe, and indirectly on us as well. Ladies and gentleman, Europe is veiled.

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Reports: Hezbollah setting up bases in Venezuela

According to reports in Ha'aretz and LA Times, US and Israeli security officials fear that Hezbollah is setting up bases in Venezuela, with the cooperation of the Chavez regime.
Latin American involvement of the Hezbollah is not exactly a novelty. Deep Hezbollah entrenchment in Paraguay made possible the bombings in Argentina in revenge for the death of the former Hezbollah leader. Now officials fear the Hezbollah may use Venezuela as a base for a similar revenge attack for the death of Imad Moughnieh, the top Hezbollah terrorist responsible for the Argentinean bombings as well as murder of US troops in Lebanon in the 80s. There is no proof of Israeli involvement in the death of Moughnieh, which occurred in Damascus. Moughnieh's car blew up. For folks like that, such occurrences are properly classed as "death by natural causes." He had earned a lot of enemies.

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Jeff Halper arrested, releasted; Israel considering boarding Gaza boats

Israel may reverse its decision not to board the boats that entered Gaza illegally in support of the genocidal Hamas terrorist regime, as they have evidently taken with them 14 Palestinians who were denied exit from Gaza by Israel, presumably because of terrorist connections.
Israeli academic Jeff Halper, who had arrived on the boats, was arrested when he crossed into Israel, for illegally entering Gaza. Halper has never made any attempt to hide his ambition to destroy Israel and substitute a "secular democratic state" for it, using the occupation as an excuse. Halper was released on bail for some reason. While in Gaza, the illegal Hamas government, which took power by force, gave Halper Palestinian citizenship, of which he is quite proud.
Dr. Vaggelis Pissias, one of the organizers of the Free Gaza Movement, rejected Israel's right to stop the boats.

"We do not accept that Israel can stop these boats," Pissias said. "Palestinians have the same rights as all other peoples. Why is it that the only people in the Mediterranean without access to their own waters are the Palestinians?"
Well you see, Dr. Pissias, the Hamas government is illegal, and is effectively at war with Israel. Why didn't the Germans have access to passage through the Baltic in World War II?
Ami Isseroff

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Gulf times has this worrying news:

Gulf times has this worrying news:
Al Qaeda Seen Establishing Presence Inside Israel
Al Qaeda, long crowded out of the Palestinian territories by more localised armed groups, may be establishing a creeping presence inside Israel itself among its large Arab minority, experts say.
Over the past year the Shin Beth internal security agency has announced the arrest of four cells inspired by the ideology of Osama bin Laden's global terror network on jihadist websites and suspected of planning attacks.
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The most high-profile case was that of a Jerusalem student who allegedly sought advice on an Al Qaeda Internet forum on how to shoot down George W Bush's helicopter during the US president's visit to Israel in January.

An indictment filed last month alleges that Mohamed Najem, 24, from the town of Nazareth, frequently visited the Ekhlass website message board using the alias Mohamed of Sham, a Qur'anic name for Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.

The US-based SITE Intelligence Group, which specialises in penetrating and monitoring protected jihadist websites, intercepted his alleged postings.

"My brothers in Allah... How can a plane be shot down, and how can that be done? The planes of the dying Bush land and take off over a period of two days in an area close to my residence," read a January 10 message in Arabic.

According to Shin Beth, Najem was one of six Israeli Arabs and East Jerusalem Palestinians who planned how "to apply the movement's ideology".
The six, who face severe charges, have denied belonging to Al Qaeda or planning to launch attacks.

"They might have browsed certain websites, but that does not make them members of an illegal movement," said Lea Tsemel, a lawyer representing the alleged leader of the ring, 21-year-old Yusef Sumeirin, from occupied East Jerusalem.

"They are religious Muslims whose beliefs might be similar to some of Al Qaeda's views, but they were never accepted into the organisation and did not plan any attack," she added.

In another case, Israeli authorities last month detained two Bedouins from the southern town of Rahat suspected of planning attacks on airports, skyscrapers and military bases after joining Al Qaeda online forums.

"In recent months there have been several arrests in Israel that involved mainly Al Qaeda recruitment and planning over the Internet," a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Although the Palestinian cause figures strongly in Al Qaeda's rhetoric the group has never successfully attacked Israel, although it did carry out twin attacks against Israeli targets in the Kenyan city of Mombassa in November 2002.

Al Qaeda never developed much of a following in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where it has been mostly crowded out by older groups such as the late Yasser Arafat's secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas movement.

While Hamas and Islamic Jihad focus exclusively on battling Israel, they also reject Al Qaeda's vision of a global jihad, precluding any kind of alliance.

"Radical Palestinian groups differ very much from Al Qaeda and in fact try not to be part of Al Qaeda's ideology. In that regard, the groups have different Internet forums, and often these forums are very critical of one another," SITE Intelligence Group director Rita Katz said.

Mutual animosity among the various Islamist groups has endured despite Hamas's seizure of Gaza, she said.

"In recent years we have noticed many new trends in regard to Al Qaeda's activities in Israel. Hamas is no longer part of the global jihad, and is actually considered by Al Qaeda leadership as an enemy," Katz said in an e-mail.

Israeli security officials fear Al Qaeda may manage to recruit Israeli Arabs who have in the past largely avoided the more traditional Palestinian armed groups.

The country's population of more than 7mn includes about 1.2mn Arabs, the descendants of Palestinians who remained in the Jewish state following its creation in 1948.

Experts say that Al Qaeda's network has grown throughout Israel and that the recent indictments should not be seen as isolated cases.

Shay Arbel, a senior researcher for Terrogence, an Israeli firm that specialises in analysing jihadist websites, said that the recent years have seen a sharp rise in the number of Israeli Arabs visiting the Al Qaeda forums.

Gaining access to such sites is possible only after passing a rigorous online test which includes a request for newcomers to present detailed ideas for attacks, Arbel said.

Gulf Times 

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Egypt cops stop Copts from repairing church: right group

Egypt Police Prevent Copts from Repairing Church: Rights Group  

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) claimed that Egyptian police used violence on August 17 prevent villagers from repairing the only church in their area, a rights group said on Monday, warning of a rise in sectarian tension as a result.

"A policeman assigned to guard the Archangel Michael Church in Deshasha, in Bani Soueif province south of Cairo, hit three women while they were taking sand into the church to fix the floor which was cracked as result of water collection underneath," the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) stated.

Subsequently, rumors spread in the village that Copts had locked up the policeman inside the church, beaten him and torn his clothes, leading to the brief arrests of several Copts and to threats of retaliation from Muslim villagers, the group claimed.

"The worrying rise in sectarian tension that we have seen in Deshasha is a direct result of violations committed by the police," EIPR director Hossam Bahgat said.

"This incident must be investigated and those responsible held accountable."

Egyptian law allows the repair of churches without a prior permit, but church officials notify provincial authorities in writing, in advance. However, officials of the Archangel Michael Church claimed that the state security police (Mukhabarat) have prevented repair from being carried out at the church for the past 11 years.

The church is the oldest in the region, built in 1895 according to clerics. It was last renovated in 1930 and serves 100 Christian families in the Deshasha village.

"The Archangel Michael Church in Deshasha is but one example of the futility of any efforts to reform and unify construction and renovation laws for places of worship so long as security agents continue to violate existing laws in a discriminatory manner and with complete impunity," EIPR said.

Egypt's Copts -- the largest Christian community in the Middle East -- account for about 10 percent of the country's 76 million inhabitants and suffer from documented  systematic discrimination and harassment.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New U.S. Poll: 63 Percent of U.S. Voters Support Military Action Against Iran if Diplomacy Fails

New U.S. Poll: 63 Percent of U.S. Voters Support Military Action Against
Iran if Diplomacy Fails

According to a new poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg
Quinlan Rosner Research and commissioned by The Israel Project:

87 percent of American voters say if Iran developed nuclear weapons it would pose a threat to the U.S.;
90 percent say if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, it would share the technology or materials with terrorist organizations;
81 percent say the international community should try to prevent Iran from further nuclear research;
62 percent feel there is still an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons;
55 percent say they would approve of the United States and its allies making targeted strikes against Iran's nuclear weapons facilities;
63 percent say if diplomacy fails, they would approve of Israel taking targeted military action against Iran's nuclear sites to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon;

69 percent say America should be a supporter of Israel and only six percent say America should be a supporter of the Palestinians.

Washington, D.C. - A new bipartisan poll commissioned by The Israel Project (TIP) shows that Americans across the political spectrum see the Iranian regime as a threat to the U.S. Fully 85 percent of Democrats and 97 percent of Republicans believe Iran represents a serious threat to the U.S.

A total of 91 percent of American voters agree Iran poses a threat to Israel; the percentage jumps even higher - to 96 percent - when respondents were asked whether a nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat to Israel. Another 83 percent view this threat as serious. Similarly, 87 percent of American
voters say a nuclear-armed Iran poses a threat to the U.S.

Fully 90 percent of Americans believe Iran will likely share nuclear technology or materials with terrorist organizations if it obtained nuclear weapons. Additionally, 80 percent of Americans say it is likely Iran would use nuclear weapons if it acquired them. American voters oppose Iran's development of a civilian nuclear research program, with 71 percent of the public strongly in favor of international efforts to prevent such a program.

Among those polled, 62 percent say an opportunity to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran still exists. However, 55 percent of Americans would approve of the U.S. and its allies making targeted conventional military strikes against Iran's nuclear weapons facilities, with nearly a third of Americans strongly approving of such action. In addition, if economic and diplomatic action does not stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology, and Iran acquires medium-range missiles and a nuclear capability, 63 percent of  Americans say they would also approve of Israel taking targeted military action against Iran's nuclear sites.

The poll shows that negative feelings about Iran are rising in the U.S. and Germany: 77 percent of likely American voters hold an unfavorable attitude toward Iran, and 64 percent of Germans view Iran unfavorably. Moreover, attitudes toward Iran are consistently negative in the UK, with 39 percent of the British public holding a negative view of Iran.

"Americans, the British and the Germans worry about the direct threat to Israel from Iran and fear Iran's potential to share nuclear technology with terrorist groups," said Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. "All countries want diplomacy over military action to address this threat. The Germans oppose military action for historical and cultural reasons and the British do not want another Iraq. Yet the Americans are more open to military action, especially if a diplomatic solution fails to become a

Said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project, "The threat of a nuclear Iran isn't a Democratic issue or a Republican issue - it's a concern for all peace-loving people who don't want to live under the constant threat of a nuclear attack by an unstable regime and its terrorist proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Let us not forget that Iran is the world's largest state sponsor of terror and continually threatens to attack the U.S. and Europe."

Mizrahi also said the international community needs to work harder to keep Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from realizing his goal of gaining nuclear capabilities, particularly as he threatens to annihilate Israel and trigger a catastrophic war between countries in the Middle East and the West. "The nuclear clock is ticking faster than the diplomatic clock and time is running out," Mizrahi said.

Threats by Iran's president to wipe Israel off the map and Iran's funding, training and arming of terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas worry Americans, the British, and Germans. Iran's threats against Israel and its promises to share nuclear technology with terrorist groups are of particular concern to Americans and Germans.

American support for Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians is at an all-time high of 69 percent, and only six percent support the Palestinians. Americans say they feel close to Israel, ranking it only behind Canada and the UK. Israel's image has steadily increased among German opinion elites during the past two years, as 40 percent now view Israel favorably.

The national survey of 800 U.S. likely voters was conducted by telephone July 23-27, 2008. The national omnibus surveys of 1,001 German adults and 229 opinion elites and 995 UK adults and 158 opinion elites were conducted July 18-22, 2008. The surveys were commissioned by The Israel Project and carried out by Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies and Stan Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. The margin of error for the U.S. poll is +/- 3.5 percent; the margin of error for the UK and German polls is +/- 3 percent.

Earlier this week, The Israel Project launched a major TV and print campaign at the Democratic National Convention in hopes of pushing for diplomatic and economic measures that can help prevent war. The ad, which will also air during the Republican convention next week, will focus on the threat of a nuclear Iran. The Israel Project does not rate or endorse any candidates.


The Israel Project is an international non-profit organization devoted to
educating the press and the public about Israel while promoting security,
freedom and peace. The Israel Project provides journalists, leaders and
opinion-makers accurate information about Israel. The Israel Project is not
related to any government or government agency.

 Board of Advisors: Sen. Evan Bayh (IN), Sen. Ben Cardin (MD), Sen. Saxby
Chambliss (GA), Sen. Tom Coburn (OK), Sen. Norm Coleman (MN), Sen. Susan
Collins (ME), Sen. Judd Gregg (NH), Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT), Sen. Ben Nelson
(NE), Sen. Gordon Smith (OR), Sen. Arlen Specter (PA), Sen. Ron Wyden (OR),
Rep. Rob Andrews (NJ), Rep. Shelley Berkley (NV), Rep. Tom Davis (VA), Rep.
Eliot Engel (NY), Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ), Rep. Jon Porter (NV), Rep. John
Sarbanes (MD), Rep. Jim Saxton (NJ), Rep. Brad Sherman (CA), Rep. Joe Wilson
(SC), Actor and Director Ron Silver

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Does the US support the Palestinian position?

Palestinians have been insisting on a peace settlement that would deny Israeli national rights in East Jerusalem. According to an Al Quds report, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice gave Palestinians to understand that she supports this position. A great deal may have been lost in translation, but the report certainly deserves a followup. It is likely that the report meant to say less than it said, and that Ms Rice also meant to say, or really did say, less than she is quoted as saying.
According to the [slightly edited]  google translation of the report in Al Quds, Jerusalem: 
Jerusalem - A high-level Palestinian source in the Palestinian Presidential Office told Al Quds that the American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice touched for the first time during talks yesterday with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah ono [evidently "on] the need to establish a Palestinian state on the borders of June 67.

The source said that "Rice touched for the first time during her meeting with the two sides to the issue of borders in June 1967, including the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and parts of the Dead Sea." [Sounds like the Palestinian position]

The source added that "this is a kind of development and clear [clarification?] by the U.S. administration about the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis."

He explained that Rice urged the parties to hold meetings daily and intensive secret between them to reach a formula acceptable to both parties, and that it will pursue every course of meetings to be held between Palestinian and Israeli sides.

The source confirmed that Rice asked the two sides to agreed [agree]  with each other to make limited adjustments on [should be "to'" the 67 borders and requested action on the issue of Jerusalem [ambiguous statement about Jerusalem] and to reach understandings with respect religious sites and also the security and administrative arrangements concerning the relationship between the two parts of the city east and west.[assumed control of East Jerusalem by Palestinians evidently].


It was the official spokesman for the Palestinian presidency Nabil Abu Rudeineh who revealed that Rice had raised "new ideas" concerning the peace process during her meeting with Abbas in Ramallah yesterday. [was Abu Rudeineh also the mysterious 'source'?]

Hat tip - IMRA

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Official sources: Abbas may meet Olmert on Sunday

The headline and the article are a tiny bit different. Read carefully! Can you spot the one word difference?
Official sources: Abbas to meet Olmert on Sunday

    RAMALLAH, Aug. 27, 2008  (Xinhua) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert may meet on Sunday, Palestinian sources said on Wednesday.

    The sources said that the Palestinian and the Israeli officials hold contacts to arrange for the meeting which will be the second between the two men this month.

    In the meeting, Abbas and Olmert will discuss the movement of peace talks over the final-status issues such as the border, water, refugee, security and the state of Jerusalem. [not clear how Xinhua knows what will be discussed]
    They will also talk about the U.S.-backed Road Map peace plan, mainly the Israeli obligations of halting settlement activities on the occupied Palestinian land, according to the sources. [are we sure those are the main issues that will be discussed? According to which sources?]
    The negotiations are aimed at reaching a deal enabling the creation of a Palestinian statehood alongside Israel. But the continuation of the settlement activities blocks the progress of the talks and makes it difficult to reach the deal before the end of this year.
    On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Abbas at his office in Ramallah where she "proposed new ideas related to the peace process," according to Nabil Abu Rdineh, the spokesman for the Palestinian presidency.
    Abu Rdineh did not reveal the new offers but said "the coming weeks will be very decisive."

    On Thursday, Abbas will pay an official visit to Lebanon, his office said.

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Israel and Palestinian Authority protest Jordanian cuddling up to Hamas

According to an AP story, Israeli Embassy spokesman Itai Bardov in Amman called Jordan's contacts with  Hamas "unhelpful to the peace process.

"We're against any negotiations with Hamas because we regard it as a terrorist movement," he said. "We should find ways to strengthen the Palestinian Authority instead of legitimizing Hamas, which made an illegal military coup in Gaza."
The Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas agrees. Abbas sent  interior minister, Abdel Razak Yehiye, to Jordan last week to "find out what the Jordanians are up to and if their contacts with Hamas meant dropping support for the Palestinian Authority," according to anonymous Palestinian official in Amman. Needless to say, the United States is not happy either.
Jordan has been cuddling up to Hamas of late, a strange phenomenon noted in several places and given different interpretations. Rami Khoury, writing in the Daily Star, asserted that it is a sign Jordan believes the day of the PLO are numbered, and that the PLO is unpopular according to its polls. That is strange, because the polls seem to show Palestinians prefer the Fatah to the Hamas by about 2 to 1. Jordan's behavior is even stranger considering it has always been a client state of the United States and Britain, supporters of the PLO. But then again, Jordan has been
A different interpretation is offered by AP. They quote former Jordanian parliament speaker Abdul-Latif Arabiyat as saying  "We're at a crossroads and Jordan must protect itself and its national

According to the AP story, which does not give sources, Jordan fears that the possible failure of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks backed by the Bush administration, which leaves office early next year, could embolden Hamas in the neighboring West Bank, as well as Muslim extremists in Jordan and across the Mideast. Quiet contacts with Hamas could mollify any fallout for Jordan if that happens.

Also, according to AP, Jordan is worried a failure of talks will revive Israeli hardliner calls for ejecting West Bank Palestinians to Jordan or for parts of the West Bank to form a confederation with the kingdom as an alternative to an independent state.

Of course, the way to ensure the talks fail is to legitimize Hamas, so the whole AP-Jordanian aplogetics fall apart.

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More Iranian threats to 'Zionist Entity' and US

A Reuters news story notes that Iran's Republican Guard has announed that the  "Zionist Entity"  is in range of their  missiles. According to the story, Iran could hit back with missiles if Israel attacked it and could also rely on allies in the region (meaning Hezbollah in Lebanon)  to strike, as stated by the commander of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday.
The commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari told Mehr News agency, "Our strategic calculations show that if the Zionist regime wants to make the smallest move against our interests, either independently or with America, in the shortest time all the territories under the Zionist regime's control will become unsafe."
"That country is completely in the range of the Islamic Republic's missiles. The missile capabilities of our armed forces is such that the Zionist regime, with all its capabilities, would not be able to confront it," he added.
The Guards are an 'ideologically motivated' (meaning "religious fanatic") arm of Iran's military with an independent command structure from the regular armed forces. They have their own land, sea and air units. Though Reuters did not discuss the issue, the prospect of nuclear weapons in the hands of these fanatics is not appetizing.
"The Israelis know that if they take action against Iran definitely the capabilities that the Islamic world and especially the Shi'ite world has in the region would deliver a hard blow to them," Jafari said. No doubt he was referring to the Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Iranian funded Islamic Jihad. The Reuters article incorrectly included Hamas as part of the "Shi'ite" world (all those Muslims look the same to them). Hamas might join in the fun, but they are Sunni Arabs.
Jafari also said U.S. troops were vulnerable because of their presence in the region. Washington has troops based in Iran's neighbours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and naval forces in the Gulf, along which Iran has a long coastline.
"The presence of these forces enables Iran to harm America's interests in different ways...not even using its missile capability," he said.

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Gaza Medical Workers strike against Hamas

An article by the Palestinian Ma'an news tells us that "Medical workers in Gaza declare open ended strike against Hamas."
According to Maan -  Nablus - Ma'an - The Palestinian union of medical professionals  declared a total strike in the Gaza Strip following the reported firing of more than 40 union members from their jobs in the Strip, the latest in a series of labor actions against the de facto government of Gaza.

Ma'an claims that union sources told them that the open-ended strike will protest the "violent practices" of the Hamas-led government in Gaza.

The union is urging its members to stop work in hospitals affiliated with the Hamas-run government and instead donate their services to nongovernmental hospitals that treat people for free, Ma'an writes.

According to Ma'an, earlier the Palestinian union of civil servants threatened to go on strike in all ministries in the Gaza Strip in protests against the ruling Hamas  movement's policy of "dismissing and marginalizing large numbers of

Ma'an quotes union Secretary Mu'in Ansawi as saying, "That indicates only their [Hamas']  inability to run public sector foundations as well as their inclination to eliminate the other side and not recognize his existence."

Ma'an reminds us that a pro-Fatah Palestinian teachers union has been on strike in Gaza this week against what they see as politicized hiring and firing practices on the part of Hamas

It should be noted that the Palestinian General Federation of Labor Unions affiliated with Fatah recently signed an agreement with the Israeli Histadrut, pledging dialogue and cooperation on labor issues. Previously, the federation had evidently been the initiator of numerous boycott Israel initiatives in Europe.

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IAF buys bomb-proof material for bombed runways

According to the Jerusalem Post story:
Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 27, 2008

The Israel Air Force has purchased a unique material that can be laid on bombed-out runways within minutes to enable fighter jets to take off with barely any delay, defense officials revealed Tuesday.

Until now, the IAF had been dependent on asphalt companies to repave damaged runways. The new solution can allow a base to resume operations within minutes.

The air force recently conducted a number of tests with the new material, including the takeoff of fully-loaded fighter jets.

A top IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post the decision to buy the material was made in line with the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, when more than 4,000 Hizbullah rockets pounded Israel.

The IAF was concerned that Syria and Hizbullah would target air bases in an effort to neutralize Israel's fighter-jet capability, the officer said.

"Our assumption is that we will be under a heavy barrage of missiles in a future conflict," the officer said. "This applies to all of the air force bases - in the South and the North."

For this reason, the IAF is also considering purchasing several Joint Strike Fighters, which have vertical-takeoff capability. The IDF has announced plans to purchase at least 25 F-35 jets with the option to purchase dozens more.

The decision to consider the vertical-takeoff airplane, the F-35B, was made due to an understanding that in time of war Israeli bases and runways would be heavily targeted by enemy missiles.

Also Tuesday, the Israel Air Force's official magazine reported on a new avionics system installed in F-15I fighter jets that enables pilots to drop several smart bombs simultaneously. Smart bombs, or precision-guided munitions, are guided weapons intended to maximize damage to the target while minimizing civilian damage.

The F-15I is Israel's most advanced bomber and has a range of over 4,000 kilometers with the ability to reach speeds of up to Mach 2.5. The plane can carry an assortment of missiles.

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Anti-Zionism and censorship: Truth and consequences at Harry's Place

Anti-"Zionists" have managed to shut down a Web site, Harry's Place, for the crime of telling the truth. We kid you not.

Next time you read that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, and next time you hear that the Zionist conspiracy is "muzzling" criticism of Israel" remember this one.

An "anti-racist" boycott Israel activist in the notorious BRICUP faction of the British UCU posted a link to the Web site of former KKK Grand Wizard and even more notorious fascist racist David Duke. Jerusalem Post had the story.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Delich's introduction to the David Duke screed read:

Delich's message was in support of a colleague who backs the boycott call. It reads: "John, in support to your link this may be a long but also an interesting reading: No comment necessary. The facts are speaking for themselves, Jenna."

Read the rest: UCU anti-Zionists, Harry's Place, censorship and anti-Zionism vs Anti-Semitism

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Obama: World must press Iran before Israel gets desperate

Barack Obama evidently did not say "World must press Iran before Israel strikes." Read the fine print. It is really hard to know what Obama or McCain or anyone would really do when push comes to shove. Probably not a great deal. Obama's promise to "get sanctions in place" is problematic, since the Russians and Chinese are reluctant to support such sanctions, and nobody wants the price of oil to go up. Neither Obama nor McCain seem to recognize that Iran is not about Israel, and it is not just about nuclear weapons.
Last update - 10:13 26/08/2008       
Obama: World must press Iran before Israel strikes
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
DAVENPORT, Iowa - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said on Monday that the world must increase pressure on Iran over its nuclear program before Israel feels it has its "back to the wall."
"My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we've mobilized the world community to go after Iran's program in a serious way, to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation," Obama said in response to a voter's question at a campaign event in Iowa. "We've got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall."
Obama was asked whether Israel felt it had a "green light" to take military action against Iran if the United States and its allies did not soon demonstrate progress on containing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. "I don't want to speculate on whether or not Israel feels like it has a green light or not, because that would be speculation," he replied. "What is not speculation is that we have to act much more forcefully and effectively on the world stage to contain Iran's nuclear capabilities."
A nuclear Iran, he explained, would change the rules of the game throughout the Middle East.
In the past, Obama had criticized his main rival for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Clinton, for her tough talk on Iran, terming it reminiscent of statements by U.S. President George Bush. But recently, faced with a tough-talking Republican rival, Senator John McCain, and growing criticism of what detractors term a penchant for "making nice" to rogue regimes, he has been toughening his rhetoric as well.
Obama also referred to Israel as one of America's closest allies in his response. He spent two nights in Israel in July as part of a week-long overseas tour, and met with several Israeli officials.
Yoav Stern adds: In addition to its nuclear program, Israel is also concerned about Iran's ongoing supply of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Tehran sees Hezbollah as its front line of defense against Israel and an important part of its deterrent against an Israeli attack.
However, Iran believes the fact that the Lebanese border has been quiet for two years now undermines Hezbollah's deterrent ability, and may therefore be interested in heating up the border in the near future.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abbas admits peace negotiations beneficial

Palestinians have constantly complained about the fruitlessness of negotiations, but Mahmoud Abbas admits:
"These efforts haven't been for nothing. We would have stopped it if it was pointless. There are benefits that I hope will show in the future."

 Last update - 20:14 26/08/2008       
Abbas: We can't lose another 7 years searching for peace
By News Agencies
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday urged the United States to push forward with peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, warning against wasting more time in the search for a solution.
"We shouldn't lose another seven years searching for solutions," said Abbas, referring to the time that has elapsed since peace negotiations between the sides broke down in 2001 during the second intifada.
Abbas expressed his hope that after U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office, the new administration "will continue what we have begun, and what we have reached."
He added: "These efforts haven't been for nothing. We would have stopped it if it was pointless. There are benefits that I hope will show in the future."
Abbas' statements came during a meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Ramallah on Tuesday, in which she called on Israel to end West Bank settlement construction, calling it "not helpful" to the peace process.
The U.S. is trying to broker a deal that would establish an independent
Palestinian state living in peace with Israel. The Palestinians claim the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along with east Jerusalem as its capital.
Rice called on Israel on Tuesday not to undermine peace negotiations with the Palestinians after a Peace Now report found it had nearly doubled Jewish settlement construction in the last year.
Rice is visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority in hopes of furthering the announced goal of brokering a Mideast peace deal by the end of the year, but she offered few signs of progress.
Speaking alongside her Israeli counterpart, Rice said she was heartened that talks launched at a U.S.-sponsored peace conference last November were serious and intensive.
The sides had hoped to reach a final peace deal before Bush leaves office in January, but have acknowledged that target is unlikely to be met. Rice made no mention of the timeline on Tuesday.
Rice is on her seventh trip to the region since talks were relaunched. While Israel and the Palestinians say all key issues have been under discussion, there has been no word on agreements or breakthroughs.
The talks have been complicated by the impending departure of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has announced he will step down to battle a corruption investigation, and the Hamas militant group's control of the Gaza Strip.
Israel says it cannot carry out any deal until Abbas regains control of Gaza from Hamas, which violently seized power in the coastal area in June 2007. It also says Abbas' moderate government, which rules from the West Bank, is not doing enough against militants operating in areas under his control.
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have complained about continued Israeli construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem - areas the Palestinians claim for a future independent state.
Under the road map, the international peace plan that serves as the basis of the peace talks, Israel promised to halt all settlement construction. But it has continued to build thousands of homes in areas it hopes to retain under a final peace deal.
Rice said the Israeli construction has threatened to undermine the talks.
"I think that it is no secret, and I've said it to my Israeli counterparts, that I don't think the settlement activity is helpful to the process," she said. "What we need now are steps that enhance confidence between the parties and ... anything that undermines confidence between the parties ought to be avoided."

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UN admits smuggling from Syria to Lebanon

 Last update - 07:47 26/08/2008       
UN: Lebanon-Syria border still wide open to smugglers
By Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern
Lebanon's eastern border with Syria is wide open to smugglers, according to a report submitted to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday by a task force he appointed to study the issue.
The report harshly criticizes both Lebanon and Syria, saying there has been no improvement over the past year despite promises by both countries to address the issue.
Israel has long claimed that weapons from Iran and Syria flow freely across this border to Hezbollah, despite the embargo on such shipments imposed by Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. This smuggling, Israel says, has given Hezbollah an arsenal that is both qualitatively and quantitatively superior to what it had before that war, and may even include sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles.
In addition, Hezbollah has built a network of sophisticated underground bunkers in some 150 villages throughout south Lebanon in recent months. These bunkers can hold up to 15 fighters, plus rockets and rocket launchers, and in the event of war with Israel, could serve either as missile-launching bases or as ambushes for Israeli ground troops. Neither the UN forces in Lebanon nor the Lebanese Army has done anything to stop construction of these bunkers.
The task force, appointed about 18 months ago, published a previous report in June 2007, which said that neither Syria nor Lebanon was doing anything to stop the smuggling. The current report reiterates this conclusion.
At the official border crossings, it said, the equipment is outdated, the personnel are poorly trained, and the inspections are inadequate to detect smuggling. There are also several well-known unofficial border crossings, which is where much of the smuggling occurs, and the task force found no impediments to reaching these locations.
At Lebanon's airport and ports, it added, the situation is better, but still unsatisfactory.

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Israelis abroad make excuses

Roi Ben Yehuda is an Israeli, or ex-Israeli, who lives in Spain and writes frequently for Ha'aretz. He previously (see 'Epiphany in a Spanish neo-Nazi bookstore,' Haaretz June 15, 2008) alleged that a Neo-Nazi Book shop is selling anti-Semitic materials in Barcelona. He further alleged that "just about everywhere he looked" he saw swastikas and anti-Nazi graffit. These claims were made by no-one else to my knowledge. They made Barcelona sound like a description of Berlin in 1932. This assertion could not be verified by a friend living in Spain. She notes that the sale of such materials is forbidden by Spanish law and that she did not see much graffiti in or posters of the type described in Barcelona. Perhaps others can enlighten us. Roi's story about Nazi bookstores and graffiti in Spain is therefore dubious, to say the least.

Roi's latest article tells us that many people, including apparently himself, believe that you can be an Israeli living in Spain or the United States or some other country. (See "Why Jews can have more than one home," Haaretz August 26, 2008). As Roi notes, there are as many as 600,000 such "Israelis" living in the United States.

This concept of "Israeli Lite" is shared by many Israelis living abroad. But the truth is that most people can have only one home and are not happy with split identities. You can be an Israeli with Spanish or American citizenship or an American with ties to Israel, but you cannot really be both an American and an Israeli at the same time.

If you live and work in the United States or Spain, your children will learn Spanish or English, and not Hebrew, and they will be Spanish or American. It is not likely they will be Israeli. Sooner or later, they or their children or their grandchildren are going to decide they are not Israelis. Roi is going to find himself less and less Israeli the longer he lives in Spain.

Everyone must make their own choices, but I am fascinated by the phenomenon of Jews who insist on living in various European countries: Spain, Poland, Germany, and also insist on complaining about anti-Semitism in those countries. All those countries have a history of anti-Semitism of course. If you live in France, expect good wine. If you live in Spain or Poland, expect the characteristic specialties of those countries.

In my view, living in Spain and complaining about anti-Semitism is like eating ripe Camembert and complaining about the taste. Often, these claims are clearly exaggerated, as happened in a hoax letter circulated about French anti-Semitism. Is anti-Semitic persecution a part of the "Jewishness" of these folks?

Roi is entitled to his opinion. The question is, why Ha'aretz wants to publish it.

More interesting is the question of why Sara Miller of Ha'aretz, as well as Roi Ben Yehuda himself sent me letters trying to tell me what I can and cannot write about Roi Ben Yehuda and claiming that what I wrote was 'libelous.' Of course, Ha'aretz would be justifiably upset if someone tried to censor them. What I wrote can scarcely be libelous unless there is indeed a major Nazi revival in Barcelona, which no other journalist has reported. Nor did anyone else report that everywhere they looked in Barcelona there are Swastikas. And if it is "libelous," what are we to make of the writings of Gideon Levi, Amira Hass and Yitzhak Laor about Israelis and Zionists? Is Ha'aretz prepared to guarantee that every accusation they make is absolutely grounded in fact and provable in a court of law?

As I have no desire for legal problems with Ha'aretz, the article is duly altered, but the message is the same.
Ami Isseroff

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Barak tells Mubarak: Egypt is central to freeing Gilad Shalit

Is this a wise admission?
Last update - 17:37 26/08/2008    
 Barak to Mubarak: Egypt is central factor in return of Shalit
 By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters  

Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Egyptian President Husni Mubarak on Tuesday that Israel views Egypt as a central factor in the return of kidnapped Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was abducted by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in 2006. Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas for his release have apparently reached a standstill.
"We hope it will not take very long before we see concrete intensive negotiations leading to [Shalit's] release," Barak said at the meeting in Alexandria. He stressed that the release of the abducted soldier occupies a place of prime importance on Israel's national agenda.
The pair also discussed the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and efforts by Egypt to curb arms smuggling into the coastal strip.
Barak said that Egyptian authorities had cracked down on smuggling across the border into the Gaza Strip in recent weeks but the measures were still not enough.
Gazans have been using tunnels to bring in money and weapons as well as high-value consumer goods such as cigarettes.
Egypt has discovered dozens of tunnels and recently started filling them with water, gases and explosives to prevent them being reused. At least eight Palestinians have died as a result.
"There is a certain improvement in this arena in the last few weeks. The measures have been tightened but the results are still far from satisfying because there are still smuggling tunnels," Barak told reporters after the talks.
"We raised our expectations that even more will be done in order to close it both on the ground and on the sea," he added.
On the issue of the cease-fire, Barak told Mubarak that Israel will not accept any violation of it, even sporadic or isolated ones, and added that while Egypt's efforts to curb the smuggling of arms from Sinai into the Gaza Strip are bearing fruit, additional steps must be taken to reduce the amount of weaponry smuggled into the coastal territory.
Vilnai: No real progress made on deal for Shalit
Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai, who accompanied Barak to Egypt, told Haaretz before the meeting that Israel ascribes great importance to its ties with Egypt, and to Cairo's efforts to keep the Gaza border quiet. However, he acknowledged, no real progress has been made on a deal for Shalit.
"I had hoped that after two months of a truce [with Hamas], our situation [regarding Shalit] would be better," he said. "Unfortunately, that hasn't happened so far."
On Monday, Vilnai visited the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza, which reopened this week after a four-month closure. It was shut down in April after Hamas launched a massive attack on the crossing that involved several trucks laden with explosives. The attack killed 13 Israeli soldiers and seriously damaged the crossing.
During the four months, cargo had to cross through the Sufa checkpoint instead. Now, Sufa has been closed, and cargo shipments are again going through Kerem Shalom.
The rebuilt crossing was relocated to a point 500 meters from the border, with the goal of preventing another attack like that in April. Various other safety features, lessons of numerous previous attacks on the border crossings, were also added. The work cost some NIS 4.5 million.
According to Vilnai, about 110 cargo trucks a day are currently entering Gaza - roughly double the average before the truce began. However, this is still significantly less than the number of trucks that entered the Strip before Hamas seized control of it last year.
Despite the truce, Palestinians fired another Qassam rocket at Israel yesterday. It landed in an open area of the Negev and caused no damage.
Normally, Israel responds to such violations by briefly shutting the border crossings. However, due to his planned visit to Egypt Tuesday, Barak was still considering as of Monday night whether to do so Tuesday as well or whether to let the incident pass without a response.
Also Monday, the defense establishment began installing mini-shelters in Sderot that people can hide inside if caught in the open when a rocket is fired.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Fair Witness Condemns America Magazine Article on Bethlehem


Fair Witness Condemns America Magazine Article on Bethlehem

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East strongly condemns an article about Israel's security barrier in the latest edition of America Magazine.

In what has become a routine distortion of facts when it comes to America's coverage of the Arab/Israeli conflict, the article "Bethlehem's Wall" argues that Israel's "real purpose" for building the barrier (which for 95% of its length is a fence, not the looming concrete wall pictured in America) was not security but rather a land grab.

"Anyone fluent in recent Middle East history understands that this accusation makes no sense," says Rev. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. "Prior to the Second Intifada there was no security barrier. On September 29, 2000, Palestinian terrorists started coming into Israel blowing themselves up and killing Israeli civilians. There were 162 terror attacks in Jerusalem from 2000 to 2001. But it was not until March 2002, when 139 Israelis -- many of them children -- were killed in one month alone, that the Israeli government realized it had no choice but to protect its citizens from this savagery," adds Father Loughran. "The attempt by America to shrug this off as a 'guise' for building the security barrier is transparent and deeply offensive. What other government would sit back and allow terrorists to blow up its civilian population in buses, streets, cafes and shopping malls"?

"Being critical of Israel's ill-conceived policy of continued settlement building is appropriate. But downplaying the brutality of the Second Intifada by calling it a 'guise' the Israelis used for building the security barrier reveals a profound bias against the Jewish state that has no place in journalism, much less religious journalism," says Rev. Dr. Peter Pettit, Director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College.

"The Christian exodus from Bethlehem is the result of a combination of factors including a corrupt and ineffective Palestinian Authority, growing Islamic extremism and the Israeli occupation," notes Rev. Dr. Bruce Chilton, the Bernard Iddings Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College in Annandale, New York. "America's editors need to search their consciences in regard to their habit of blaming Israel alone for the tragedy of the Middle East."

Sr. Ruth Lautt, OP, Esq.

National Director

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East

475 Riverside Drive, Ste 1960
New York, NY 10115

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Israel government passes budget under pressure

One Ha'aretz headline for this story was "Government passes budget after Olmert threatens to resign." It is not clear if the budget has been cut or increased. The budget is in NIS - Shkalim, not dollars. The value of the dollar has fallen over 20% since last year, so if the shekel amount stays the same, it is more dollars.
The problem with delaying defence expenditures until next year, as Mr Bar-on wants, is that he would also have to obtain the consent of Mr. Hassan Nasrallah not to start a war in 2009. Nasrallah is not in the coalition.
Nobody mentions that about NIS 2 billion could be added to the defense budget by eliminating subsidies for anti-Zionist Yeshivot that have no justification in the national agenda.
Nobody mentions either that all the Israeli budgets of recent years have starved higher education in a disastrous way. A yeshiva student studies tuition free for his entire life. An engineer or a chemist or a doctor must pay huge tuitition fees for his or her training, generally undertaken after service in the IDF. This is surely a suicidal policy.
Nobody mentions that Israel has neglected infrastructure such as roads, as well as the Arab sector.
But Kadima leaders seem to have agreed to a charade in which they pass a meaningless "symbolic" budget now, and then revise it after the Kadima elections. Given the political realities, it is more likely that increases in the budget will go to subsidies for large families, a favorite Shas party project, rather than to vitally needed infrastructure or higher education or improvements in the so-called "Arab sector," which includes Druze who serve in the IDF and vote for Mofaz and Netanyahu.
Ami Isseroff

 Last update - 10:48 25/08/2008       
Mofaz aides on budget: Livni buckled again under pressure
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Kadima, Budget, Ehud Olmert
Associates of Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz on Monday criticized Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, his main rival in for the Kadima party leadership, for voting in favor of the 2009 budget.
"Again she compromised, again she conformed, again she didn't withstand the pressure and didn't decide what needed to be decided," sources close to Mofaz said of Livni.
The government passed the budget early Monday, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert managed to secure a 13 to 12 majority in the cabinet in favor.

The sources said Livni has argued in the past that the budget was "not good" and needed to be changed, but that in the end she did not manage to reach the right decision, and voted in favor.
A deadlock Sunday on the budget vote that lasted for more than 13 hours was reportedly only broken when Olmert threatened to submit his resignation to President Shimon Peres, a move that would have brought down the government, forcing new elections.
By the end of a series of meetings Sunday, it appeared that Olmert would be hard-pressed to reach the majority necessary to pass the budget, after six Labor MKs and four Shas MKs announced that they would vote against the budget.
Vice Premier Haim Ramon (Kadima) abstained from voting.
The main sticking points during the meetings concerned how much would be cut from the promised increase in the defense budget.
The Finance Ministry had proposed two alternatives: A NIS 2.1 billion cut from defense, which would enable smaller decreases in health and welfare, or a NIS 0.9 billion cut, which would require more significant slashes from health and welfare. However, the Defense Ministry not only opposed any cut whatsoever, but demanded an added NIS 2 billion - spread over two years - to compensate for the falling dollar and for the rising prices of fuel, food and other necessities.
Because of next month's Kadima party primary, and the possibility of early elections thereafter, Sunday's debate was even more politicized than usual. Mofaz, one of the two front-runners in the primary, demanded that any decisions on the defense budget be postponed until a new government is formed after the primary. But his main rival, Livni, demanded that the budget be approved Sunday night.
Labor, for its part, reiterated its demand that the budget be expanded rather than cut. In addition, Labor, Shas and the Pensioners all demanded increased funding for projects close to their hearts.
At 7 P.M., a meeting between treasury officials and the Pensioners' ministers ended without results. A subsequent meeting between Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who is also head of the Labor Party, was similarly fruitless.
Almost every minister demanded a budget increase for his or her own ministry. Furthermore, representatives of various government agencies, such as the police and the prisons service, came to the meeting to explain their own needs for extra funding.
Nevertheless, defense was the main sticking point. Finance and Defense Ministry officials negotiated for hours, in parallel with the cabinet discussions, with Barak and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On occasionally joining in. But few points of agreement surfaced.
The treasury adamantly opposed compensating defense for rising prices, while defense officials equally adamantly opposed any delay in implementing the Brodet Commission's recommendations for a multiyear budget increase, which the cabinet itself approved just last year.
In his speech to the cabinet, Bar-On pointed out that both of his proposals for cutting the defense budget would still mean that next year's budget in that realm would be higher than this year's in line with the Brodet recommendations. However, part of the increase originally slated for this year would be postponed to next year.
Olmert had opened the session by vowing that whatever happened, the meeting would finish with a vote.
"If we had unlimited funds, there is no doubt that we could all have a very nice party with the budget," he added. "But that isn't the case. There will be no increase in either expenditures or the deficit [beyond what appears in the budget proposal]."
Terming opponents of the budget "loud-mouths, barbarians and interested parties," he continued by saying: "2009 is liable to be very difficult. We must exercise restraint, stability and caution. The economy is liable to deteriorate. The cost of the instant gratification of increased expenditures is liable to be [long-term] loss ... The economy must not be subjected to electioneering games."
Livni echoed this message, adding: "Domestic politics must not be allowed to influence our votes or the economy's stability. Deferring a vote [on the budget] will broadcast a negative message to the economy. Whoever is elected in [the primary in] Kadima can make changes in the budget."

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Israel releases 199 Palestinian Prisoners, in gesture to Abbas

The prisoner release has been roundly attacked as endangering Israeli lives.
 Last update - 11:08 25/08/2008       
Israel releases 199 jailed Palestinians, in gesture to Abbas
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters
Israel released 199 Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank at 9:30 A.M. Monday, as a gesture of good will to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israel Prison Service took the prisoners from Ofer Prison, close to Jerusalem, to the Beituniya checkpoint near Ramallah, Israel Radio reported. Upon their arrival, Abbas was to welcome them at a formal ceremony in his Muqata headquarters in the West Bank city.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said of the release that, "It's not easy to release prisoners, especially prisoners that were involved directly in terrorist acts against innocent civilians."
Likud MK Gilad Erdan on Monday blasted the move as a stupid and contemptible act, saying that "killers of Israel" were being released by a failed government as a present to a weak.
The state responded Sunday to appeals against the prisoner release by saying that only the cabinet has the authority to revoke such a decision.
Last week the cabinet voted in favor of the release, which includes two prisoners convicted of murdering Israelis - both of whom have served nearly 30 years of their sentence - plus 197 convicted of lesser crimes, including attempted murder.
Also Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is arriving in the region for talks on the peace process.
Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said last week that the release of the prisoners "creates pressure on Hamas and is likely to accelerate the negotiations over [captive soldier] Gilad Shalit."
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 ministers except Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter; all but Mofaz approved the release of the other 197.
These include 26 people sentenced to terms of 10 to 16 years for attempted murder - i.e., shooting attacks or bombings - as well as many convicted of lesser crimes, 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 freeing another prisoner - the only one on the original list of names who comes 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.

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Israel is not going to stop the Gaza boats from leaving

 Last update - 08:28 25/08/2008       
Israel not planning to detain activists' boats leaving Gaza
By Amos Harel
Israel is not currently planning to stop or inspect two boats full of left-wing activists when they leave Gaza, because there is no intelligence indicating that the activists plan to smuggle wanted terrorists out of the Strip.
The activists do apparently plan to smuggle out two students who received Fulbright scholarships in the United States, but were denied U.S. visas on security grounds. However, the defense establishment's current thinking is that a clash over this issue would simply play into the activists' hands by generating media attention.
At Washington's request, Israel has already allowed five other Fulbright scholars to leave Gaza.
The decision not to stop the boats from reaching Gaza was made last Wednesday night in a phone call between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. But as of the weekend, defense officials had still not ruled out stopping the boats for inspection when they leave the Strip, for fear that wanted terrorists may escape on them.
Wednesday's decision followed several weeks in which the defense establishment had explored various options for preventing the boats from docking, including diplomatic efforts to persuade Cyprus to prevent them from sailing - which failed - and nonviolent means of persuading the boats to turn around before reaching Gaza. Throughout these discussions, however, defense officials had expressed opposition to using force, reasoning that a well-publicized clash between the Israel Defense Forces and unarmed activists was exactly what the latter wanted.
IDF officers explained to Haaretz that there were no grounds for using force, because the boats presented no security risk: None of the activists was known to be involved in terrorist activity, and intelligence assessments deemed them unlikely to try to smuggle arms into Gaza. Indeed, if Israel had a coast guard, the IDF would not have been involved at all in the incident, since the issue is purely one of law and order, they said.
The General Staff therefore concluded that forcibly preventing the boats from landing would be a mistake, and would merely play into the activists' hands. That recommendation was endorsed by Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, and later by Barak.
However, defense sources stressed, this does not mean Israel will respond in the same way to other such attempts. "The Palestinians shouldn't think we'll enable them to bring in another 'Karine A' in the future," said one, referring to the ship laden with weapons that the navy intercepted en route to Gaza in 2002.
DPA adds: Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa praised the boat activists Sunday for successfully challenging Israel's blockade on Gaza. "These Palestinian supporters who have endured hardship to deliver their message to the world and to express their objection to the harsh siege on Gaza, deserve every support and appreciation," Moussa said in a statement. He added that he hoped they would spark a broader movement to defy the blockade by Arab and international activists.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Islam and Saudi Arabia, champions of dialogue?

Islam and Saudi Arabia, champions of dialogue?

Samir Khalil Samir
Saturday 23 August 2008
The Saudi king takes more steps to show openness towards Christians, Jews and other religions. The most urgent reason is to rectify Islam's violent image but also stems from a new attitude towards inter-faith dialogue towards the People of the Book (Jews, Muslims and Christians), but also atheists, Hindus and Buddhists.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The Muslim world is showing increasing signs that it wants to engage others in dialogue. Greater tolerance is increasingly visible in Muslim countries, signs like the opening of a new church in Kuwait or one in Qatar, greater openness towards the Vatican, the letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars to Benedict XVI, the creation of a joint Islamic-Catholic commission; Saudi King Abdullah's visit to the Holy See . . . .
More signs of openness and tolerance have come from the Saudi monarch himself like the intra-Muslim meeting in Makkah (4-6 June 2008) and the inter-faith conference in Madrid (16-18 July 2008) as a start to inter-faith dialogue, one that includes Jews as well.
Dialogue seems to be the order of the day in a religion that since 11 September 2001 and the attack against New York's twin towers has come to be regarded by the general public as the most intolerant religion. What is going on? Here is the analysis of Islam expert Fr Samir Khalil Samir.
I am certain that all these signals mean that something is changing and there are political and religious reasons for it. In this case the union between the two is not necessarily a bad thing.
First of all, religion has become an important factor in international politics. The whole world is in turmoil; all sorts of shocks seem to be produced by religion or anti-religious atheism. Whatever the case may be, religion is challenging past ideas and positions.
Let us take the collapse of Communism. It was a shock that pushed many people to ask themselves whether religion was the opium of the masses or its opposite, namely that ideology was the real opium of the masses. We also see this in China, thanks to news reported by AsiaNews for example, and the reaction and differences in the world over the issue of Buddhism in Tibet, over Nepal or Myanmar. In India fanatical Hindu and ultranationalists groups are pitted against other (Christian and Muslim) communities . . . .
Islam's new image
In Europe Islam has unsettled the way Europeans look at religion. In France everyone was untroubled by French secularism based on the dogma of the absolute separation between faith and life with religion as a private affair. Now people realise that the link between faith and public life is still strong in Islam and this undermines some certainties in modern secularism. Along with this "discovery" has come religious fanaticism. For political and cultural reasons this has manifested itself with an unprecedented level of violence that was never reached in the past in the Muslim world.
Plus interest in the Muslim world has to do with its numbers since a billion and more people have a huge weight on world politics and demographics.
Similarly, there are pressures and violence in the Jewish world as a result of the collusion between Zionism and politics. Likewise among Hindus Hinduism and Indian identity are seen as one and the same.
Correcting Islam's (bad) image
For years now in the Muslim world, at the meetings of the Arab League, at those of the World Islamic League, endless debates have focused on violence and terrorism in order to assert that neither has anything to do with Islam, that Islam is a religion of tolerance, etc.
Yet at the same time ministers from Muslim countries have claimed that their main task is to fight this same terrorism rooted in fundamentalism (the literal, de-contextualised interpretation of the Qur'an and the Sunnah, i.e. the traditions associated with the prophet) and in Muslim religious radicalism.
Unfortunately, all decisions taken so far have not led to a decline in terrorism, which remains alive and well; perhaps because one of the causes of Islamic radicalism is precisely that corruption, dictatorship and social injustice are so pervasive in Muslim politics. This might explain why Muslim political leaders, especially presidents and kings, are in favour of change. "If we want to defend Islam from the negative image that it is acquiring around the world we cannot go on like this. We must positively show that Islam is a religion of peace and dialogue," they say.
The drive for dialogue thus rises from this attempt to show a new image of Islam.
According to a recent survey in the United States, 45 per cento of Americans view Islam as the most threatening religion that exists; in 2005 they were 36 per cent. If surveys were conducted in Europe we would probably get the same results.
Even in the Muslim world, albeit not openly, everyone knows that armed and militant form of Islam is the most terrible thing. In the Muslim world people have come to realise that Islam must protect itself against its own bad image.
This happened first at the 2005 Makkah conference (7-8 December) when Muslim government said "enough is enough!" and opted to fight Islam's negative image and Islamophobia.
A word like Islamophobia has spread far and wide. For Muslims fear of Islam is a mistake, an unfair reaction. And yet it is true that much of today's violence can be traced back to Islam, at least to its radical variety.
In Europe there is Christophobia, which might be even worse than Islamophobia. Still in the last few years Muslims and Europeans in Spain have come together to condemn Islamophobia. Even a UN document condemned Islamophobia (bit it said nothing about the contemptuous attitude towards all religions) . . . .
One common thread that comes up all the time in the Makkah and Madrid documents is as follows. We [Muslims] must fight against the false image that the (Western) media convey about us. No mention is made of "Islamic terrorism." Thus for those who drafted the Makkah document, terrorism is not Islamic, even if people blame Muslims for violence.
Faced with such a situation Saudi King Abdullah has begun to act. In his meeting with the Pope last 6 November, he made an important statement in which he called for openness to engage Christians and Jews in dialogue as well as a willingness to cooperate with these religions on matters of the ethics and spirituality.1 It is interesting to note that whilst participating Muslim countries addressed Muslims at the Makkah meeting (4-6 June 2008) on inter-Muslim dialogue, they also tried to speak and open up to the entire world.
Muslims for 'dialogue'
In the final declaration of the Makkah conference dialogue is justified as "central to Islam" because it was used by the prophet Muhammad. "Dialogue represents an authentic Qur'anic methodology and a prophetic tradition through which the prophets communicated with their people. The biography of the Prophet Muhammad presents a clear methodology in this regard through the dialogue of the Prophet and the Christians of Najran"2 as well as "his correspondence with great emperors and monarchs;"3 hence the statement that "dialogue is one of the most important mediums of spreading Islam throughout the world." At face value such words are charged with much ambiguity. In order to convince Muslim countries that there is value in dialogue, the participants in the Makkah conference refer back to what the prophet did, and a bit disingenuously, confess that this serves the purpose of spreading Islam a little bit more.
The "Madinah society that was established by the Prophet is the optimal model of positive coexistence of the followers of divine messages,"4 says the Makkah document; words that are heavy with meaning. The optimal model of coexistence of the people of the Book (Jews, Christians and Sabians) is thus that structure, the precursor of the Dhimmi system.
It is clear that the Muslim world cannot free itself of the idealised model of the 7th century. This leads to contradictions such as what to do with atheists who are present in our modern societies. In Muhammad's times atheists were fought and they could either submit to Islam or be killed.
Of course, none of this was mentioned in Madrid in the presence of representatives of other religions. But in Makkah, among Muslims, this is language that was used. Is it doublespeak or "pedagogical' discourses?
It must be said that in the 7th century such coexistence had some positive aspects, but it was based on a political pact, not a religious one.
At present the issue is how to leave behind the 7th century Islamic system, which lasted through the Middle Ages, in order to build a new one of living together. Short of this the term "dialogue" remains ambiguous.
Some openness
Out of Makkah came a 12-point document. The first two are about rectifying Islam's bad image, in a defensive mode. The third point is interesting because it "deals with challenges and offers solutions to humanity's problems which are seen as the result of abandoning religion and estrangement from its principles."
This is an idea that we Christians share but which must be closely looked at in all its nuances. The document for example emphasises that problems are "result of abandoning religion", but no one should forget that some problems are associated with bad interpretations of religion. Card Jean-Louis Tauran, who was invited to Makkah and Madrid, made a reference to this aspect in his final address when he said: "Religion is accused of being the cause of violence. Religion is not the cause of violence; the cause is its [violent] use by its followers". Modern society is not only afflicted by the decline of religion but also by the deformation and politicisation of religion. This has not yet been understood in the Muslim world.
The fourth point refers to human rights, namely the need to "support and defend the right causes in relation to human rights violations." This, too, sounds very good, but it is essential that we define "human rights," and accept the current universal definition. I refer here to the fact that in the Muslim world on several occasions human rights have been seen through Muslim eyes as in an Islamic charter, an Arab charter, etc. This means that for Islam there are no universal human rights. By contrast, I think it would be a good idea to take a closer look at what human rights are.
The document moves on to the clash of civilisation. The sixth point calls for the rejection of accusations that Islam is "the enemy of contemporary civilisation." Accusations come however in different sizes; if a certain type of Islam sees itself as the enemy of modern civilisation, then the accusations are accurate.
According to the former, "such accusations lead to the hatred of Islam". Once again we are back to the idea of "Islamophobia", Islam's self-victimisation, which has become a fixation in today's Muslim world. As long as Muslims think that way, there will be no self-criticism and thus no in-depth reform.
Point seven is a good one because it calls for "learning to know people of other faiths and other cultures and establish common principles that allow for peaceful coexistence and provide human society with security."
This is certainly something positive but it should have come at the beginning of the document. Perhaps those who drafted it psychologically felt it more important to respond to the criticism that Muslim world makes at the rest of the world, in order to later start building more solid bridges for dialogue.
Point number eight focuses on "mutual cooperation in spreading ethical values, truth, benevolence and peace to challenge hegemony, exploitation, moral degenerations, harm to the family and other evils that threaten society." This is good as long as it is understood that such characteristics are not exclusive to any one group but are in fact found in all societies, in the West and in the Muslim world.
Point 11 looks at "understanding human cultures and civilisations", a well-meaning idea calling upon Muslims "to take part in agreements between humanity's civilisations to protect peace in the world."
Point number 12 looks again at ecumenism within Islam, namely the "interaction and communication with the followers of [different] Islamic schools of thought to reach the unity of the Muslim Ummah and weaken fanaticism and antagonism." The point on intra-Muslim fanaticism is a very strong one, especially if we consider that Saudi Arabia, main backer of the Makkah and Madrid conferences, is the stronghold of Wahhabism, a religious movement that has tried to exclude all other Islamic interpretations, whether Sunni or Shia. Perhaps this is an attempt by King Abdullah himself to push his own community towards greater tolerance.
Invited to Madrid
The Makkah meeting set the stage for the Madrid conference. In looking at the latter I should like to make a few remarks.
First of all let us take a look at the participants. More than 200 of the 288 who were invited showed up. But who were they? They were people with social and political functions, not strictly religious figures.
For instance, in the case of Belgium, three people were invited: two orthodox metropolitans and Abdul Aziz Muhammad Yahya, director of the Islamic Centre of Belgium; in short no Catholics, but a couple of Orthodox (who can hardly be said to be representative of Belgium).
In the case of France the list is surprising. Altogether 11 people were invited. No liberal Muslim was among the Muslims invited; instead we had the director general of UNESCO, four rabbis, and a representative of the Armenian Church. Not a single Catholic bishop or cardinal. I wonder what criteria were used to come up with that list.
On the other hand, many people came from the United States and Great Britain, 56 and 46 respectively, including many rabbis.
I can only guess that people with cultural ties to the English-speaking world drew up the list of invitations.
There were people from other religions as well, but Catholics were picked by and large from those who tend to hold an idealistic view of Islam and are never critical of it. Famous Catholic scholars like John Esposito of Georgetown University were among the participants as were many of those who during Islamic-Christian meetings always take the side of Islam.
I wonder whether for the future it would not be better to have people drawn from a wider spectrum, letting each religious group choose whom to send; this way participants could actually be representative of a real community.
Even for the Middle East, the choice of participants was unbalanced. A small country like Lebanon had nine representatives, like Spain, but not people as important for dialogue as Orthodox Bishop Georges Khodr. From Syria only one person came, a bishop (a former student of mine). From Sudan came Gabriel Zubeir Wako, the archbishop of Khartoum, know for his resolve, a choice that is something of an exception.
Generally speaking I think that the meeting had one main concern, Islam's image. Only famous people were invited, like Tony Blair, or people who would not make waves for Islam.
Except for the opening ceremony, the Madrid meeting was in camera and thus little is known about its conclusions. I did try though to vet the reactions of some participants.
Cardinal Tauran's thoughts
I was very touched by Cardinal Tauran's final address when he quoted the Pope's encouragement, convinced that "dialogue based on love and truth is the best path to bring happiness and harmony to the peoples of the earth."
Cardinal Tauran said that he was happily surprised by two facts that emerged during the meeting:
1) "we have made our rich traditions and thoughts to the members of the other communities to which we belong;"
2) believers are something precious, a gift to society.
He added that it "is imperative that religious freedom include the possibility of believers to actively take part in the public debate by being given social, political and cultural responsibilities."
This is very close to Muslim perceptions with regards to Western secularism. His focus is in line with what Benedict XVI has very often said.
For Cardinal Tauran dialogue has three simple but important objectives:
a) increase mutual awareness;
b) encourage the study of religion in an objective manner;
c) train people to engage in inter-faith dialogue.
In cardinal Tauran's concluding address there is something else that I personally deem important. In it the prelate said: "I don't mean that all religions are equal but that all those who seek God have equal dignity." This is an unambiguous distinction.
Often Christians and Muslims are into wishy-washy "ecumenism." Ultimately people end up believing that the two religions are equal and that conversion from one to the other is either unnecessary or secondary. Instead for him religions are not equal.
Then again saying that "those who seek God have equal dignity" is an important point in the Islamic-Christian dialogue. It means that all people of good will have equal dignity; every believer, not only Muslims, Christians and Jews (as it seems in the Muslim world).
From this point of view, one positive thing that came out of Madrid meeting was the fact that members of all religions were present and that conference sponsor was the king of Arabia. For that reason I think that this event will have an important impact on the dialogue between religions.
But the most important step in this meeting was the invitation of rabbis. Some rabbis, like two from the 'Shalom Center' in the United States, were very enthused for being able to talk freely during the meeting. It was a giant step forward in modern history. I believe that at this point in time the Muslim world is tired of the situation of endless war in which the Middle East and Islam are mired, namely the open wound that is the Palestinian problem to the entire Muslim world.
But it was not without ambiguities; for instance few women took part in the event (only one Spanish Muslim woman actually gave an address). Still the step was an important one. And every step with which we build world peace, especially between East and West, is welcome.
1. Cf AsiaNews, 6 November 2007, Pope and King Abdullah talk about inter-faith dialogue and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
2. Najran is located in southern Arabia where Christians concluded a deal with Muhammad and his group. However, the agreement was ambiguous, at least as an example of dialogue since it was an act of submission. Christians could keep their life, hierarchy, etc., but every year had to pay a tribute in the form of camels, cloth, slaves, etc. This shows how questionable it is to idealise matters that concern Muhammad.
3. The quote here is also curious. The prophet said: "I invite you in the name of Allah to submit to Islam," etc. It is hard to see this as an example of dialogue.
4. This point is also ambiguous. If in Madinah Muhammad founded the first Islamic society ruled by the Qur'an, he also made a pact of submission with local Jews after slaying hundreds of them.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslim Liberal: No More War

Those who excoriate all Islam indiscriminately should keep in mind that they are undermining the struggle of Muslim moderates and liberals, who are trying to bring about reform.
Kuwaiti Liberal to Arabs and Muslims: Stop Worldwide Bloodshed

On May 26, 2008, the liberal website Middle East Transparent(1) posted an article by Kuwaiti liberal Khalil 'Ali Haidar criticizing the culture of war in the Arab and Muslim world and the slogans that perpetuate it.

The following are excerpts from the article:

"Half a Century of Conflagration – Wars and Struggle in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, North Africa, Iraq and the [Persian] Gulf"

"Forty, 50, 60 years of bloodshed and tanks, of wars and resistance, of destroyed buildings and lost ideals, of weeping and wailing, of the murdered and the displaced. Over half a century of wars, demonstrations, shops set on fire, airplanes blown up, revolutions… Glory to the Arabs and disgrace upon their enemies.

"Over half a century of compulsory military service, of the allocation of millions [of dollars] for weapons that will never be used – and if they are, then only to add to destruction. [Over half a century] of neglecting all aspects of civilian life, political stability, and economic development for the sake of defending the honor of the nation, foiling enemy schemes, facing conspiracies, and thousands of other false catchwords.

"Half a century of conflagration – wars and struggle in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, North Africa, Iraq and the [Persian] Gulf; wars that last many years and claim tens and [even] hundreds of thousands of victims; wars that end quickly but cause losses of millions and billions [of dollars]. The youth of the nation are called to arms, and the mind of the nation is enchained by the demands of struggle. All [other] countries progress and develop, while the Arabs and the Muslims move from one war to another, from one crisis to another, from one terrorist act to another, from one front to another, from one jihadist and Islamist group to another...

"The Moroccan [man] slaps in his own face with the bombings in Casablanca. A bereaved Algerian woman weeps over her sons and brothers, who were murdered by da'wa and jihad groups and thrown into a bottomless pit. Egypt oscillates between [heeding] a call for war and a call for peace, between those who want to build tens of thousands of schools and factories and those who want to send tens of thousands of jihad fighters to Lebanon.

"Sudan has ended the war in the south and is already embroiled in the Darfur war… Righteous resistance is destroying Iraq's future, as terrorist forces become [increasingly] expert at blowing up markets and murdering people. Dozens of highly dangerous organizations threaten various Gulf states, Iraq, Egypt, and the entire Arab world. [And all this is] in spite of international forces, which are combating terrorist activities and monitoring [the movements of] thousands of Arabs and Muslims."

"Lebanon Used to Be a Lovely Rose, a Blooming Oasis in the Desert – Overnight, It was Transformed Into a [Wasteland] Of Ruins, [Running With] Blood and Tears"

"Lebanon used to be a lovely rose, a blooming oasis in the desert. Overnight, it was transformed into a [wasteland] of ruins, [running with] blood and tears… The Arabs and the Muslims ignored the destruction, war, and death in Lebanon. To them, the most important thing is the honor of the nation, its solid position, the resistance, the struggle against the new Middle East plan, and a thousand other false new slogans. This is what the Arabs and the Muslims shouted in 1948 in the face of sensible Palestinians, in 1974 to the sane among the Egyptians, in 1990 to the Kuwaitis, in 2003 to the Iraqis, and today are shouting to the Lebanese. At demonstrations everyone is yelling: We don't care about destruction; we don't care about death, let the war continue another ten or even a thousand years."

"Ours is a Nation That Has Engraved Its Name in Death, Bloodshed, and Gunpowder"

"Ours is a nation that has engraved its name in death, bloodshed, and gunpowder. The truth is that we have an enormous quantity of these [commodities], and for some time now, we have been dealing them out to others and exporting them to Europe and the U.S.… I would like to say that I want to surrender my weapon to the nearest [center] for the collection of weapons and ammunition. I want to say that people in the Arab world and in the countries of the Muslim world have had enough bloodshed, violence, murder, scenes of explosions and destruction, and of wailing women, striking themselves [as a sign of mourning].

"I would like to shout to the Arabs and the Muslims: Oh, people! Enough! Oh, [champions] of war, struggle, jihad, and honor! Enough! Life in our homeland has been destroyed. By the doors of the embassies of the French and British, against whose colonialism we fought, stand crowds of young people belonging to the new generation, who are applying for entry visas. The U.S., whose flag we burn at every demonstration, is the one safeguarding peace in the countries of the Arab and Muslim world, as well as in many Third World countries…

"We do not want to stand firm on the resistance front.

"We do not want to have our lives destroyed, our homes reduced to ruins, our children killed, our bridges torn down, our wives widowed, our blood spilled in your incessant wars, which you launch rashly and from which you withdraw without having learned any lessons."

"We Want Peace and Quiet to Prevail in Our Country for the Next Fifty Years"

"We want peace and quiet to prevail in our country for the next 50 years; we will try to live in tranquility, security, and peace. We want our seedlings to grow, [our cattle's] udders to be filled with milk, our trees to yield fruit, our products to sell. We want our youth to have higher education, our schools, universities, and banks to burgeon, our cities and markets to grow, and us to enjoy life. We want to restore our cultural honor and our reputation as seekers of peace and wellbeing, which was trampled by your riders and your chariots [of war].

"We want no war, no warfare, no death and destruction; we don't want a blood-soaked, exploding world. Oh, [champions] of war, jihad and resistance! We don't want this blood-soaked, exploding world that is oozing misery, adversity, and destruction – a world where at every corner one can hear the wails of bereaved women, the screams of frightened children imploring for help, or the groans of the wounded who are about to die. We do't want it, we don't want it…

"We don't want [it anymore]!"

(1), May 26, 2008.

source: Memri

Continued (Permanent Link)

Musharraf resigned, why is Bashir waiting?

Musharraf resigned, why is Bashir waiting?

By Mahgoub El-Tigani
Friday 22 August 2008

In Egypt, the official al-Ahram Printing House refused to print an issue of the left wing "al-Badil" because of a cartoon on the resignation of president... Musharraf. Another issue was banned as it contained accusations that the fire which destroyed the parliament building was intended to destroy files on major corruption cases.

In Khartoum,police arrested a bus driver for painting the word "Okambo" on his bus! In the meantime, authorities confiscated the printed copies of Sudan Tribune for the last four days, accusing it of "going over the limits" (!) and "charging president Beshir with crimes". Such as in the following editorial:


August 19, 2008 - The Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf resigned "to spare Pakistan from a dangerous power struggle." This resignation might as well save his face from a parliamentary impeachment strongly planned by the opposition.

Ironically, the seizure of political power by the army chief in 1999 was "justified" by the need to salvage the nation from "corruption, terrorism, and civilian chaos." Following nine years of power struggles between the general and his people, however, the chief's resignation took place to save Pakistan from "a dangerous power struggle"!

The fact of the matter is that Musharraf coup has been harshly received from the start to the end with roars of protest by a majority of the Pakistani people that resisted the military politics and finally managed to force the dictator to quit the presidency.

Apparently, the resignation will help the democratically elected parliament to carry out constitutional plans to adjust the presidency to a national popular agenda based on consistent removal of presidential powers over the Judiciary and the legislature to stabilize the democratic state of Pakistan.

True, the Musharraf supporters might struggle to reinstate a presidential authoritative system of rule vis-à-vis the parliamentary controlled government. Such attempts, however, might hardly succeed because of the pragmatic nature of the Musharraf coalition, which also characterizes the triumphant opposition groups that forced the president to resign in the first place.

For the same reason, the Msharraf strongly-opposed groups, especially the anti-secularist Islamic groups, of which a sizeable ethno-regional segment of Pakistan is organically related to the Afghan armed movements, will have to come to terms with the constitutional body of the Pakistani system of rule to survive as a political entity.

All in all, the non-constitutional acts, whether by a military coup or by acts of terrorism across the border, will cease to exist only by a stable popular democratic rule supported by sustainable development programs to alleviate poverty in Pakistan and the neighboring nations more than any military or ideological dispute.

Expectedly, the international role Musharraf strongly played to combat terrorism throughout the difficult years of his reign might resume under tight judicial and legislative powers of a democratic government accountable to the people that brought it to the seats of power.

It will be interesting to watch the development of the Pakistani economy and security affairs under the anticipated system of popular democratic rule, compared to the Musharraf presidential governance.


The Sudanese presidential experience under the former dictator Ja'far Nimeiri (1971-1985), especially the years embodying his "religious" alliance with the Brotherhood (1978-1985), and the succeeding "Islamic" government of his kindred Bashir (1989 to the present) seems quite different from that of Musharraf.

True, the army officers who destroyed the former elected governments of Pakistan and the Sudan justified their non-constitutional actions by a common claim, that the democratic government was "chaotic;" hence the army's intervention "to maintain the security and national unity and to boost the economy."

The military governments of Sudan, nonetheless, were never challenged by terrorist groups; on the contrary, the civilian populations of Sudan have been terrorized by succeeding military regimes with civil wars in almost all regions of the country to subdue popular resisting movements.

The Sudanese government's attacks on people included a state-incited scourge of enslavement followed by well-documented acts of genocide for which President Bashir is currently indicted by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

The case of Pakistan indicates the determining role that free elections play to check, balance, and stabilize the power struggle between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary branches of democratic governance. Of prominent significance, President Musharraf allowed the opposition to compete with his state-party and other allies in fair elections by which the opposition gained influential representation in the parliament.

Although Musharraf abused the presidency to repress the independence of the judiciary to fix his own power, his desperate search for constitutional legitimacy to combat international terrorism forced him to realize the national realities of Pakistan, modify his stands, abandon the decisive post of army chief, and finally surrender to the elected Will of People.

In the case of Sudan, Bashir continues to rule over a police state managed by costly military and security bureaucracies supported by hand-picked Brotherhood parliamentarians in the National Assembly. Moreover, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), an internationally recognized treaty body to bring about democratic transition in Sudan, empowered the Bashir presidency and its ideologues, the NIF/NCP, at expense of the democratic opposition.

Unlike the case of Musharraf resignation, this absolute monopoly of power relations by the Brotherhood junta, which has been amazingly supported by the CPA partisan provisions, blocked the necessary opening for the democratic opposition to influence effectively the state affairs vis-à-vis the anti-democratic junta.

Differently from the Musharraf political alliance in Pakistan, the Bashir presidency has been consistently oriented by the Brotherhood international and national institutions (specifically, the Islamic Call and the NIF/NCP organizations); hence, the president's lacking of successful initiatives or presidential decisions apart from the dogmatic adventurers and strategists of his political clan.

Thus enabled to overrule the National Assembly, the executive, and the judiciary since January 2005 up to this moment, the Bashir-Brotherhood dictatorship was never able to mask its repressive nature since it has been using and abusing the 51% CPA majority vote to interrupt the peace process, obstruct fair sharing in power and authority with the South, expand rape and genocide in Darfur, and harass the democratic opposition in the North.

In nationalist terms, the case of Sudan is not comparable to Pakistan: Whereas Musharraf prepared a save clause in his relations with the opposition to secure reasonable withdrawal within the advancement of democratic rule in his nation, the Sudanese dictator excluded persistently the democratic opposition from active participation in national decision making, which brought the country to a real impasse, subjected the president to international indictment, and escalated poorly calculated confrontations with the international order.


The NIF/NCP caliber often claims major credits concerning "the peace, development, and international dynamism" their ruling regime "established as a legitimate authority of the Islamic Movement (the Muslim Brotherhood's)," irrespective of any formal constitutional obligation.

Most recently, the presidential adviser leader of the NIF/NCP parliamentarians in the National Council Ghazi Salahaddin affirmed "the great success of his government in the peace making and peace keeping process in Darfur and in South Sudan, and the massive development projects accomplished in different parts of the country."

"We, the Islamic Movement, built a New Sudan with new political deals that never existed before… The political reconciliation nowadays occurring had no precedent… The leap in the living standards and the national unity; and the Arab, African and Islamic solidarity with us testify to the high levels of achievement in our national and foreign policies, regardless of difficulties and problems," emphasized the presidential adviser (Jazeera T.V., August 2008).

Observers have often questioned the tone of confidence in the NIF/NCP official statements or personal opinions whenever asked to comment on the increased misery among the Sudanese due to the Chinese-Russian oil deals for arms sales to the Brotherhood militias and army troops, or the unabated struggle between the government and the United Nations about the political and humanitarian crises in Darfur.

Another questionable mode of the government's response centers on the elusive attitude of the ruling party and its president to water down the impact of the escalated crises, as they pretend to adopt "nationalist stands" versus "foreign intervention," etc., without any real steps to enable the Sudanese large opposition body to participate in the conflict resolution.

It is possible that some Muslim audiences might be carried by religious sentiments to sympathize with the Brotherhood's Jazeera interviews. But the Sudanese popular movement is quite aware of the government's responses and its 'ulama (scholars) and media efforts to deceive the public: "It is the same cheating nature of the al-Jabha (i.e., the NIF/NCP) that the country knew for decades before the 1989's military coup."

Most recently, the al-Harak al-Islamiya (another name for the NIF/NCP Brotherhood) vowed to enforce the same policies that ravaged the country by civil wars and suppressed the opposition by security laws in the next post-elections era. The commitment of the al-Haraka to implement the same exclusionary policies might explain the immediate NCP negativity towards the announced candidacy of the First Vice President, Mr. Salva Kiir, in the upcoming presidential elections.

The Brotherhood partisan plans in the name of a state-enforced Islamic Call over Sudan are well-documented in an official publication most recently issued by the Supreme Council of Islamic Call about the International Expert-Group's Scholarly Forum on Islamic Call in the Sudan held in Khartoum, 13-15 February, 2008, "under the auspices of President Marshal Omer al-Bashir."

Without a word to condemn in the strongest terms possible the criminality of the ruling junta in Darfur, according to the Qur'an and the Sunna, the Forum refers intensively to the sacred verses of the Holy Qur'an and the Hadith that guarantee justice, equality, religious co-existence, and the good life for all humans in peace.

Society is composed of "individuals, groups, clans, tribes, institutions, organizations, associations, and voluntary societies such as scholarly assemblies, literary and cultural groups, and community service as the natural constituencies of society."

And yet, the notion of society "definitely doesn't include parties or the groups that renegade from the social order or the formations alien to the concept of the [Islamic] Umma" (Issues of Originating Islamic Call: p. 14).

This flat exclusion of all political parties, other than those committed to the "purpose and orientation of the government's Islamic Call," is consistent with the practical practices and post-elections plans of the NIF/NCP governance.

Guided by these anti-nationalist teachings of their Islamic Movement, the NIF/NCP ruling elites will most likely unify their factions in the upcoming elections (specifically the Turabi and the Bashir groups), as many observers noted recently, regardless of the apparent media shows of hostilities between the two ideologues.

The NIF/NCP "Guardian of Islamic Call in Sudan, the most authoritative body of the supreme Musli Umma (nation)," on behalf of the other Haraka Islamiya organizations all over the world, has been targeting the Muslim Sufi constituencies of the Ansar and the Khatmiya, that antagonize the Brotherhood alien ideology. The NIF/NCP, however, continues to weaken the political parties of these Sufi groups, the Umma and the Democratic Unionists.

All other parties, namely the secularists who are not committed to the Islamic Call in public or private activities, are categorically placed under the Forum's definition, "as formations alien to the concept of the Umma,"

This non-constitutional polarization of the Sudanese society divides the Sudanese nation into a dual system of citizenship by which only those adherents to the NIF/NCP Islamic Call (technically political ideology) enjoy full benefits and rights versus the rest of the repressed population. It is the real enforceable law of the NIF/NCP, which controls the state and inhibits any real transition to democratic rule in the country.


Would the al-Harak exclusionary policies ensure the regime's striving to monopolize the political power in the post-elections period?

A major fact is the Brotherhood determination to sustain the CPA privileged formula for the NIF/NCP. The same formula of the Islamic Call governance will continue to engineer, gear, and overrule the formal institutions of the State, if the Bashir-led regime wins the next elections.

That is why Bashir has been strongly supported by the al-Haraka al-Islamiya, especially the Egyptian and the Jordanian groups, Palestinian Hamas, members of the Islamic Conference, and others with complete disregard to the criminal rule of their Sudanese Brothern and the deep political and cultural hostilities between the Sudanese spiritual orientations and the Brotherhood dogma.

Little wonder, the Musharraf responsible resignation to save Pakistan the risks of national crises had he stayed in power has been happily received by the NIF/NCP allies, at the time Bashir's most genuine indictment by the ICC for the most heinous crimes committed under his direct command against humanity and the Muslim population of Darfur still receives irresponsible reactions from the so-called "Islamic" entities.

Bashir will never act as Musharraf did simply because the former is supported blindly by a dogmatic ruling elite blind to all objective criticisms, adamantly deceptive, ultimately non-democratic, and irrevocably committed to abuse Islam as it writes and talks in the name of the Holy Qur'an and the Prophet's Hadith while applying exactly the opposite.

It suffices to mention the massacre of the Armed Forces in April (Ramadan 1990), the large scale acts of genocide and forced displacement in the South, Eastern Sudan, and Darfur, and the ongoing suppression of the Manasir and the Nuba of the Northern region.


The concluding words of the Minister of Guidance and Religious Endowments at the Forum are self-evident: "The Islamic Project in the Sudan resembled a sincere intellectual effort to introduce the Project of Economic and Social Renaissance by the Principles of Islam…"

"Put on siege and fought against in an unprecedented manner, the Project was able to confront gallantly the Atlantic Project and to manifest its presence in the international and regional arenas, debating, arguing, and putting forward its defense and thesis" (The Forum's 7th Panel, The Horizon of Islamic Call in The Sudan, p. 4).

The spokesperson for the Haraka affirms: "The Project engaged in military battles while offering at the same time ideas for peace and conflict resolution. The Project was able to handle both soft and harsh diplomacy, and was able to rescind international resolutions one after another."

Similar to the presidential adviser's speech to the Jazeera T.V., the Islamic Call minister ascertains: "The Islamic Project presented a political project on the formula of diversity by a constitution, a contract based on citizenship, justice, freedoms, and division of power and wealth that incites the building of political coalitions, national reconciliations, and the practice of a government founded on Shura [consultation], democracy, and the respect of the free choice of the people."

This dual governance of the Islamic Call minister over the Interim Constitution of the Sudan by the same and one state-party is the causal reason for the perpetuated misery of the country. The minister and his scholarly expert group ignored the most fundamental fact about Islamic Call, that it is a genuine community-based activity free of authority patronage, according to the true mission of Islam and the centuries history of Sudan.

KNOWING THE TRUE ISLAM IS TOP AGENDA The Sudanese people with their diverse religions and spiritual orientations have never succumbed to the succeeding police-states, including the al-Haraka al-Islamiya authoritative rule.

A nation deeply rooted in community life and the love of individual and public freedoms, especially the free-will of each single individual to choose her/his own religiosity, will inevitably force the Haraka president and his beneficiaries and external allies to give way to a free government faithful to the Constitution above all partisan projects or ideological claims.

The Umma Party and the Democratic Unionist Party would have to collaborate closely with one another to strengthen political ties with the democratic groups of Sudan vis-à-vis the ruling elite. Historically known as the largest Muslim constituencies of the country, these two parties must take a principled public stand against the NIF/NCP deceptive plans and the abusive management of the State under the manipulative banners and strategies of the Haraka.

The need to differentiate between the genuine principles of Islam, which support in multiple ways the fundamental rights and civil freedoms and emphasize the dominance of justice, social equality, and the rule of law on the one hand, and the political manipulation of these sacred principles by the NIF/NCP ruling junta and its Islamic Call to monopolize power and wealth at expense of the vast majority of people is top agenda.

This enlightening campaign should go hand in hand with the parties' deep concerns with the next elections. Equally importantly, the secularist organizations in the country should raise the necessary awareness about the CPA and the Interim Constitution.

All civil society groups, furthermore, should coordinate their workaday activities to respect constitutionality of the CPA in the public domain, the most important obligation on all political groups, especially the opposition and the ruling parties.

To help the Sudanese to ensure a stable and democratic rule in the national and regional levels of governance, the International Community, in general, and the CPA Friends, in particular, is urged to show the strongest support possible to the People of Sudan in their ongoing struggles to establish the permanent and just peace with a non-discriminatory democratic state.

* The author is a sociologist at the Department of Social Work & Sociology in Tennessee State University, Nashville TN, USA. He can be reached at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Evening in Jerusalem

From the New York Times
August 17, 2008
Evening in Jerusalem
I was her eldest grandson and her first grandchild to marry, but when I went to Jerusalem in August 2001, it had been 14 years since I last saw my grandmother. We almost didn't go: Arab-Israeli violence in the weeks before my wife and I left made for a drumbeat of headlines and bloody photos in American newspapers. I felt foolish for worrying. But then on the third day of our visit, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive inside a Sbarro pizzeria. Fifteen people were killed. "We're not going out anymore," my wife declared. So instead of heading to the cafes or restaurants, we spent our evenings inside, with Savta, or Grandma, Miryam.
My father had rented an apartment for the summer in Jerusalem's leafy Rehavia district, where years earlier his mother cleaned houses. Now we made the reverse commute, walking to Savta's apartment in a spare building in Katamonim, the Kurdish neighborhood where she had lived for nearly a half-century.
The night of our first visit, we climbed the faintly lighted steps and found her on the couch, alone with her thoughts. I leaned over to kiss her forehead and slipped my arms around her brittle frame. She looked up at me, her eyes flickering with warm light. Then came that strange music: Aramaic. She was among the last native speakers of this ancient language, now on the verge of extinction. "Is she blessing us?" I asked my father. I had never understood her incantations, daisy chains of mystical-sounding words I always imagined scrawled in hieroglyphics. "She says she can't believe you're really here," he said. "When she saw you walk in, she said it was like the coming of the Messiah." I swallowed hard.
I grew up in West Los Angeles in the 1980s, a skateboarder and rock drummer; Kurdish Iraq, where my grandmother gave birth to my father at age 16, might as well have been the moon. In the many years since we last saw each other, my grandmother and I seldom spoke. My father would hand me the phone on my visits home to Los Angeles, and I would listen as a stream of Aramaic blessings crossed 10 time zones. "Just say amen every so often," my father whispered.
For four nights that August, we sat across from her on the couch and asked her about growing up in Zakho, her dusty hometown in northern Iraq. With my father serving as translator, she let us inside a life of a few triumphs and many miseries. Her mother died in childbirth when Miryam was a little girl, she said, leaving her to a cruel stepmother. Her father married her to a first cousin she scarcely knew. When Miryam had trouble feeding her firstborn, a girl named Rifqa, she and my grandfather gave the baby to a wet nurse. But the wet nurse disappeared, and the baby girl was never seen again. Three of Savta's children had moved away to America, and we gathered that my grandfather, who died 13 years earlier, had grown distant long before that.
On the fourth night, we told her we couldn't come the next day: my uncle Uri was going to take us on a tour of Arab-Israeli villages near his farming co-op up north.
"I don't think you should go," Savta said, flapping her hand as if shooing demons. "It's not safe." We didn't understand her stridency. I supposed it was just a grandmother's nature to worry. But when we got up to say our goodbyes, something possessed her: She pulled herself up by her walker and followed us out the door, into the hallway and all the way to the stairs. It was a journey that by rights she did not have the strength to make.
Blessings tumbled from her lips as the walker's aluminum legs scraped against the stone floor. "May God watch over you," she said. And then, to my wife and me: "May you have a son in nine months." We were in the street and could still hear this determined woman calling out to us, and to God.
The next morning, the phone rang early. I heard my father speaking softly in the other room. Then came a knock on the bedroom door. "Savta died last night," he said. "A neighbor found her on the couch this morning."
My aunts and uncles were quick to assign meaning to her death. Miryam, they said, died to stop our dangerous trip north. At the time, it seemed poetic, ennobling. But I have come to see in my grandmother's protests something more human.
It had been years since anyone cared enough to ask about her life, my aunt told me later. Our interest made her feel loved, admired, even. For a few short days she was the center of a family, and then we said we were leaving. We'd be gone just a day, we told her. But that's what people always said, wasn't it? Very soon, she knew, it would be for longer. Very soon we'd be back in America, where old grandmothers and their stories tend to melt into thin air.
Ariel Sabar is author of "My Father's Paradise: A Son's Search for his Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq," due out next month. This essay is adapted from the book.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syrians suppress Kurdish protest in Qamoshli

Qamoshli is in northwest Syria, which has a large concentration of Kurds who are denied national rights. It has been the site of various disturbances in the past few years.
BREAKING NEWS: Syrian Authorities Prevent a Large March in Qamoshli
Washington DC - August 24, 2008//RPS Staff// -- RPS has learned from sources within Syria that a march of unity by many different Kurdish political organizations in northern Syria in support of Mashaal Tammo who has disappeared 10 days ago was prevented by the Syrian security.

Up to 2,000 military and security personnel have surrounded the house of Tammo where the demonstrators were heading. Many were dispersed using various inhuman methods but about 200 of the demonstrators managed to confront the authorities with chants of unity for Tammo.
Mashaal Tammo heads the Kurdish Future Movement and is regarded by many with respect and admiration for his work. It is believed that the Assad regime saw danger in his charisma and secular position that would trample upon their attempt at making only the rising voices of Islamists be heard.
No one knows if Tammo is still alive or has been killed by the Assad regime.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Praise for supporters of Hamas from Arab League

The "humanitarians" who broke the siege did so in support of the illegal rule of the genocidal Hamas.
This minor detail is neglected in news reports. Likewise neglected is the detail that the EU, the United States and Egypt evidently support the "siege" which is only designed to prevent the infiltration of arms and terrorists. If Egypt did not support the so-called siege, they could open the Rafah crossings, and if the EU wanted to break the siege, they would not have withdrawn their monitors after Hamas seized power by brute force in Gaza. Since the boats are carrying Israeli citizens who broke Israeli law, Israel evidently has the right to stop and search them on the high seas.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 15:26 24/08/2008       
Arab League chief praises activists who challenged Gaza siege
By Barak Ravid
Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa on Sunday praised pro-Palestinian peace activists who sailed from Cyprus and successfully broke through an Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.
"These Palestinian supporters who have endured hardship to deliver their message to the world and to express their objection to the harsh siege on Gaza deserve every support and appreciation," Mussa said in a statement.
Despite an Israel Defense Forces plan to halt boats bearing left-wing activists on their way to Gaza, the government decided to permit the boats to reach Gaza shores in order to avoid a public relations disaster.
Senior political sources in Jerusalem said that the fact that Israel allowed the boats to reach Gaza "took the wind out of the sails of the left-wing activists who were seeking to create a provocation."
Several discussions were held last week on this matter. At the time, the IDF raised the idea of forcibly preventing the boats from reaching Gaza. The army officers suggested stopping the boats at sea and towing them to the Ashdod port for inspection, where the activists on board would be detained for interrogation.
However, after further consultation, it was decided on Friday to avoid a confrontation and to allow the boats to reach the Gaza Strip. In the wake of that decision, urgent directives were sent to Israel's embassies around the world regarding the stance they should take concerning this event.
"These are professional provocateurs and we did not want to cooperate with that on the open seas," a senior political source in Jerusalem said. "Instead of letting the entire international press obsess about this for a week, the boats received almost no coverage, simply because there was no confrontation."
Haaretz has learned that before the boats sailed, Israel attempted dialogue with the organizers. After the activists said their goal was to bring medical equipment to Gaza, the Foreign Ministry sent them a letter offering to help transfer the humanitarian aid if the boats would not sail.
Discussions will be held in the next few days on whether to stop the boats for inspection once they leave Gaza. Israeli officials are worried they might be used to smuggle wanted Palestinians out of the coastal strip. "They've got a reputation for protecting terrorists and acting as human shields," the political source said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran to build second nuke plant - What is the purpose of Non-proliferation agreements?

It seems pretty certain now that Iran is set to build a second nuclear power plant, though the first one at Bushehr is not yet operational.
It is also certain, despite the US National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is going about the business of creating nuclear weapons. This is shown by the reply to IAEA inquiries about the subject:
Iran has been holding several rounds of talks with senior IAEA officials for clarification about intelligence reports that suggested Iran illicitly tried to design atomic bombs. Iran has said it is not the IAEA's job to delve into such allegations.
Asked about the talks, Saeedi said: "Iran will try to answer the agency's questions within the framework of its commitments. Our ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency are continuing and are on the basis of our legal commitments."
If it is not the purpose of the IAEA and the non-proliferation agreements to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, than what might be the possible purpose?
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 17:29 24/08/2008       
Iran building second nuclear plant, says top Iranian official
By Reuters
A senior Iranian atomic official said Sunday that Iran has chosen the site for and started designing a new 360 megawatt nuclear power plant.
Iran has yet to complete construction of its first nuclear power plant and has previously sent conflicting signals about the state of work on a planned second plant. An Iranian official said this year construction work had already begun.
The Islamic Republic is embroiled in a dispute over its nuclear plans, which the West says are to build atomic warheads but Tehran insists are aimed at generating electricity.
"We are involved in the design phase of this power station," the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, Mohammad Saeedi, said, referring to plans for a second plant to be built in the area of Darkhovin in southwest Iran.
"Gradually the complementary design phase and its building will begin," Saeedi said of the 360 megawatt plant, in comments carried by the official IRNA news agency.
"The site has been chosen and the preparation process is under way," he added.
The country's first nuclear power plant, with 1,000 megawatt capacity, is being built by Russia in the port city of Bushehr. Iran has said it wants to build nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 20,000 megawatt by 2020.
Iranian officials say Iran, which sits on the world's second biggest reserves of gas and oil respectively, wants nuclear energy so it can export more of its hydrocarbons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which carries out routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities, has mentioned the Darkhovin project in previous reports on Iran.
Bushehr power plant has been hit by years of delays. Russia delivered fuel for the plant this year. The head of Russia's nuclear energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, is expected to visit Iran in September to discuss a start up date, IRNA reported.
Asked about Kiriyenko's visit, Saeedi said: "We are negotiating in order to determine the time of his trip to Iran."
Iran has been holding several rounds of talks with senior IAEA officials for clarification about intelligence reports that suggested Iran illicitly tried to design atomic bombs. Iran has said it is not the IAEA's job to delve into such allegations.
Asked about the talks, Saeedi said: "Iran will try to answer the agency's questions within the framework of its commitments. Our ties with the International Atomic Energy Agency are continuing and are on the basis of our legal commitments."

Continued (Permanent Link)

The problem of Hezbollah

Hezbollah represents a strategic threat because of their alliance with Iran. Israel would have to find a way to deal with Hezbollah so that in the event of a confrontation with Iran we do not face a war on several fronts.
The threat becomes more material as Hezbollah assumes control of the Lebanese government.
The prospect that Hezbollah could receive nuclear weapons from Iran at some time in the future is unappetizing to say the least.
The good news is that the assertion by Nasrallah that the next victory over Israel will be indisputable is an admission that the Second Lebanon War was not a decisive victory as he often claims.
Ami Isseroff
 Last update - 18:17 24/08/2008       
Nasrallah: Hezbollah's next victory over Israel will be indisputable
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and News Agencies
Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said on Sunday that the Lebanon-based militant group would respond in a firm and decisive manner to any future Israeli aggression against Lebanon, and that its future victory over Israel would be "indisputable."
Nasrallah warned that the results and repercussions of another war will exceed that of the 34-day Second Lebanon War, which took place in the summer of 2006.
More than 1,200 Lebanese - most of them civilians - were killed in the 2006 war, which began after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others in a cross-border raid. [the "captured" soldiers were dead - A.I.]
Nasrallah's televised remarks, aired on Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television at a graduation ceremony, came after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last Tuesday that Israel would "unleash all its force" if Hezbollah guerillas attacked again.
Olmert said Israel would utilize the massive firepower at its disposal if Lebanon were to become a terrorist state under the domination of Hezbollah.
Nasrallah responded Sunday, saying, "I tell you as someone who knows the resistance [Hezbollah] and its arsenal, and its quantitative and qualitative development following the July 2006 war... The Zionists will think not one thousand times but tens of thousands of times before they attack Lebanon."
Meanwhile, the head of Hezbollah's parliamentary bloc on Sunday said that Israel will be targeted by thousands of rockets if it attacks Iran.
There has been speculation that either the United States or Israel could attack Iran's nuclear facilities, although both have said force should be a last recourse in curbing Tehran's nuclear program, which they suspect aims to build atomic weapons.
Iran, which says its nuclear program is aimed at generating electricity, is the main backer of Hezbollah.
"The first shot fired from the Zionist entity toward Iran will be met by a response of 11,000 rockets in the direction of the Zionist entity. This is what military leaders in the Islamic republic have confirmed," said the Hezbollah official Mohammed Raad. His remarks were reported by Lebanon's National News Agency.
Hezbollah has not said what it would do in the event of a conflict between Iran and Israel. Analysts count Hezbollah, which shares Iran's Shi'ite Islamist ideology, as a major asset for the Islamic republic in the event of conflict.
Tehran has said it will respond severely to any attack. Israel staged an air force exercise in June that triggered speculation about a possible assault on its nuclear sites.
Both Hezbollah and Israel have said the group has expanded its missile capability since the 2006 conflict

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dilemmas of releasing Palestinian prisoners

The dilemmas of prisoner release faced by Israel that are not mentioned here include: Prisoners who are not released in shows of good will to support moderates often have to be released in shameful ransom deals to free Israeli kidnap victims or retrieve bodies of Israeli prisoners. Those prisoners who are released to the Palestinian authority are not going to be released to Hamas when Israel ransoms kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, an event that seems inevitable. A major reason for the advancing careers of prisoners as detailed in the article is that prison is an incubation ground for political and military leaders. Marwan Barghouti's success was achieved in part not in spite of his incarcerations, but because of them. The prisoner issue is used by the Palestinians as a way to stir up popular support for "resistance" (terror). 

It is not as simple as discussed below, but the considerations mentioned certainly must have weight in deciding on prisoner releases. 

Ami isseroff   

Jerusalem Issue Brief

Institute for Contemporary Affairs

founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Vol. 8, No. 8     24 August 2008

Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price

Nadav Shragai

  • The Israeli Cabinet approved on August 17 the release of almost 200 Palestinian security prisoners as a "goodwill gesture" to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The list includes several prisoners "with blood on their hands," who, by definition, were involved in the murder of Israelis. 
  • According to an informal estimate by Israeli security bodies, about 50 percent of the terrorists freed for any reason whatsoever returned to the path of terror, either as perpetrator, planner, or accomplice. In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded. 
  • Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners and five other prisoners in return for Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was held captive by Hizbullah, and for the bodies of three soldiers kidnapped on Mount Dov. According to Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Tzahi Hanegbi, from the date of the deal on January 29, 2004, until April 17, 2007, those freed in the deal had murdered 35 Israelis. 
  • An investigation by the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel revealed that at least 30 of the terrorist attacks perpetrated since 2000 were committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations. Many were freed in the framework of goodwill gestures because they were defined by Israel as "without blood on their hands." The bloody swath cut by these terrorists claimed the life of 177 persons, with many others wounded and made invalids.   


Another "Goodwill Gesture"

In anticipation of the return to the Middle East of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Israeli Cabinet approved on August 17 the release of almost 200 Palestinian security prisoners as a "goodwill gesture" to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. The list includes several prisoners "with blood on their hands," who, by definition, were involved in the murder of Israelis.

Since 1985 the State of Israel has freed over 10,000 Palestinians who were serving prison sentences for hostile activity or terror actions, and this resulted in the murder and death of hundreds of Israeli citizens. Some of the Palestinian terrorists were freed in the framework of deals with terror organizations that involved the exchange of a few isolated Israelis who were taken captive by the terrorists, for hundreds and thousands of terrorists. Another portion were freed in the framework of what were termed diplomatic "goodwill gestures." Sometimes the terrorists were freed because their prison terms had been concluded or shortened.1

According to an informal estimate by Israeli security bodies, about 50 percent of the terrorists freed for any reason whatsoever returned to the path of terror, either as a perpetrator,  planner or accomplice. In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded.2 In the case of the Jibril deal in 1985, the Israel Defense Ministry determined that 114 out of the 238 who were released returned to terrorism. During 1993-1999, 6,912 terrorists were freed in the wake of various diplomatic agreements, and 854 of them (12.4 percent) returned to terrorist activity, carried out terrorist attacks, murdered or planned to harm Israeli citizens, and were reincarcerated.3

Israel freed 400 Palestinian prisoners and five other prisoners in return for Elhanan Tannenbaum, who was held captive by Hizbullah, and for the bodies of three soldiers kidnapped on Mount Dov. The deal was transacted in Cologne, Germany, on January 29, 2004. According to the information provided by Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi, the chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, from that date and until April 17, 2007, those freed in the Tannenbaum deal had murdered 35 Israelis.4

A comprehensive investigation recently conducted by the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel revealed that at least 30 of the terrorist attacks perpetrated since 2000 were committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations. Many were freed in the framework of deals, understandings, or goodwill gestures because they were defined by Israel as "without blood on their hands." The bloody swath cut by these terrorists claimed the life of 177 persons, with many others wounded and made invalids. These statistics have been informally confirmed by security officials.5

Victims and Murderers

Dr. David Applebaum, head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Shaarei Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and his 20-year-old daughter Nava, were murdered by a suicide bomber on September 9, 2003, when they went to Café Hillel on Emek Refaim Street in central Jerusalem. Nava was to be married the next day. The murderer, Ramez Sali Abu Salim, from Rantis, northwest of Ramallah, had been freed from an Israeli prison in 2002. He was rearrested a few months later, but was freed again on February 20, 2003. Seven months later he was sent by the Hamas command in Ramallah to commit a terror attack in the heart of Jerusalem.

Also killed in this terror attack were Alon Mizrachi, 20; Gila Moshe, 40; Yehiel Emil Toubol, 50; David Shimon Avizdris, 51; and Shafik Yihya Karem, 22, from Beit Hanina. An additional 60 people were wounded.

The famous Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israeli prison for five acts of murder, was arrested for the first time in 1976 for hostile activity. After being freed, he became one of the leaders of the first intifada in 1987. Arrested again by Israel, he was expelled to Jordan. Permitted to return in the framework of the Oslo agreements (1994), he became the general secretary of the Fatah organization on the West Bank. With the start of the second intifada, Barghouti became the leader of the Tanzim, which was responsible for many terror attacks against Israelis. Some were carried out under the name of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. In April 2002 he was arrested, placed on trial, and in May 2004 he was convicted of five acts of murder. The prosecution waived 21 additional murder charges and 33 other charges.6

Sheikh Ahmed Yasin was first arrested in 1983, after guns were seized in his home. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison for holding weapons, establishing a military organization and calling for the liquidation of the State of Israel, but was freed by Israel 1985 in the framework of the Jibril deal.7 In 1987 Yasin established and headed the terror organization Hamas. In 1989 he ordered the killing of Palestinians suspected of collaboration with the IDF and the Israel Security Agency, and he subsequently commanded the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers. For these crimes, Yasin was given a life sentence. He was freed in 1997 as part of an agreement between Israel and Jordan after the botched assassination attempt by the Mossad on Khaled Mashaal in Jordan. After his release, Yasin resumed preaching violence and terror, and the IDF and the Israel Security Agency reported to the government t hat Yasin was involved in planning terrorist attacks on the operative level. On March 22, 2004, he was killed by missiles fired by Israel Air Force combat helicopters.8

Freed Murderers Kill Again

Abdullah Abd Al-Kadr Kawasme was originally arrested in 1988, following the murder of policeman Nissim Toledano, and was exiled together with 400 Hamas and Jihad activists. Upon his return to Israel, he was imprisoned and charged with membership in Hamas and involvement in hostile terrorist activity, and was released in 1994. He was responsible for many terrorist attacks including the infiltration into the community of Adura on April 27, 2002, where four people were killed, including five-year-old Danielle Shefi. Kawasme was also responsible for the infiltration of the community of Carmei Tzur on August 6, 2002, in which three people were murdered; two suicide bombings carried out in tandem in Jerusalem on May 18, 2003, in which six people were killed and 20 wounded; and a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in June 2003 in which 17 people were killed and 105 were wounded. Kawasme was killed by the IDF on June 21, 2 003.

Karim Ratteb Younis Awis was serving a life sentence for causing the death of a collaborator, but was released in a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians. On November 27, 2001, he dispatched two terrorists who opened fire on civilians at the central bus station in Afula, murdering Michal Mor and Noam Guzofsky and wounding an additional 84 people.9

Nasser Abu Hameid, who had been given five life sentences for the murder of five collaborators, was released in September 1999 in the framework of the Sharm el Sheikh Agreement. After the outbreak of the second intifada, he was documented mutilating the corpses of IDF reserve soldiers Vadim Norzitz and Yossi Avrahami. In December 2000 he murdered Binyamin and Talia Kahane near Givat Zeev. In February 2002 he was involved in plotting the terrorist attack in which policewoman Galit Arbiv was murdered in Neve Yaakov, and he commanded the murder of Gadi Rejwan in the Atarot industrial zone in northern Jerusalem. In March 2002 he was responsible for a terror bombing at the Seafood Restaurant where Eliyahu Dahan, Yossi Havi, and policeman Salim Barakat were murdered. In December 2002 he was sentenced to seven life terms for the murder of seven Israelis and was convicted of 12 counts of attempted murder and addition al crimes.

Abbas ibn Muhammad Mustafa Alsayd was released in 1996 after three years in prison for directing disturbances in Tulkarm. He was responsible for many terror attacks and in September 2005 he was convicted of murdering 35 people and wounding hundreds in the terror attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya on the eve of Passover, March 27, 2002, and at the HaSharon Mall in Netanya on May 18, 2001.10

Matsab Hashalmon was released from jail as part of the "Tennenbaum deal" on January 29, 2004. Three months later he recruited suicide terrorists Ahmed Kawasme and Nissim Jaabari, who blew themselves up on August 31, 2004, on two buses in Beersheba, killing 16 civilians and wounding scores of others.

Iyad Sawalha headed the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Samaria. He was imprisoned for two years for his involvement in the murder of collaborators and was freed in 1998 in the wake of the Oslo Accords. On June 5, 2002, he was responsible for blowing up a bus at Megiddo junction where 17 people were murdered and another 42 were wounded. On October 21, 2002, he was responsible for detonating an explosive-laden jeep near a bus at Karkur, leaving 14 people murdered and scores wounded.

The list of freed terrorists and their victims goes on and on.

Israel's Dilemma

The Victims of Arab Terror International has appealed many times to the High Court of Justice against the freeing of terrorists, but all the petitions have been rejected. In one of the petitions (High Court of Justice case 914/04), Supreme Court Justice Edmund Levi expressed the dilemma that he finds himself in as a justice and as an Israeli citizen when confronted with the freeing of terrorists, and their reversion to the path of terror.

This is not the very first time that by virtue of agreements it signed, the State of Israel frees terrorists who sowed death and destruction in our midst. After every such prisoner release, the hope reverberated in many hearts that this time a change would ensue and those freed would no longer return to the path of terror and could possibly even serve as ambassadors for disseminating the idea of peaceful coexistence. It would seem that there is no need to elaborate to what extent this hope was in vain, and it might be more fittingly defined as a false illusion. If we needed further proof that those freed were not intent on peace, one can find it in the bloody events that have accompanied us since October 2000. Many of those whom Israel had in the past set free participated in these horrific events. These incidents have taken their toll in human life, sometimes as an everyday occurrence, and altered the li ves of the wounded victims' families from top to bottom. I saw myself forced to concur with the decision of my colleagues, and with trembling hand I added my signature, and with the sole hope that beats inside me, namely that those who adopted the decision and have a complete picture before them and whose shoulders bear the responsibility to ensure the safety and security of Israeli citizens were persuaded that the decision that they adopted was the correct one, despite the terrible risk involved for all of us in the freeing of the miscreants.11


Hundreds have been murdered and many more wounded in terrorist attacks perpetrated by terrorists who have been freed from Israeli prisons.

There needs to be a change in the "rules" that have crystallized in recent years where thousands of terrorists are released in return for isolated kidnap victims. This will limit the damage, for fewer freed terrorists will be free to return to the path of terror. One should not pay any price in order to bring about the release of kidnap victims or captives.

Furthermore, the terrorists that Israel frees in return for captives should not be freed into the West Bank, but abroad, as was done in certain cases in the past. This will make it harder for them to injure residents of the State of Israel.

*     *     *


1. From a discussion with a military source.

2. From a discussion with a military source.

3. According to a senior figure in Central Command.

4. Confirmed by Knesset member Tzahi Hanegbi to the writer.

5. For further details, see the full investigation on the Almagor Terror Victims Association website

6. The security report, the reports of the Almagor organization, and the verdict and sentence handed down against Barghouti.

7. The Jibril deal involved an exchange of captives that took place on May 21, 1985, between the Government of Israel headed by Shimon Peres and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, a terrorist organization headed by Ahmed Jibril. In the framework of the exchange, 1,150 prisoners and security detainees who were imprisoned in Israel were freed in exchange for the return of three Israeli captives: Hezi Shai, Yosef Grof and Nissim Salem, who had been taken captive by Jibril's organization at the time of the First Lebanon War. The deal was supported by all the ministers in the Israeli government, both from the Labor Party and the Likud, with the sole exception of Yizhak Navon. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners were freed in the territories and most of them, as almost all the security bodies concur today, constituted the backbone of the leadership for the first intifada that erupted three years later.

8. From newspaper reports and a security report summing up the incident.

9. From the sentence of the military court in Beit El, file 3478/02: "The crimes for which the accused is paying the penalty today, demonstrate that the gesture extended to them was not justified and that it led to the killing of additional innocent citizens. The danger posed by the accused was clear after he had already been convicted of murder in the past. The need to keep them at a distance from human civilization forever was also self-evident. After his release, the accused demonstrated that the gesture was unjustified and the steep price for this was paid by many Israeli families."

10. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report on the terrorist attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya from March 2004, as well as a report by the Almagor organization.

11. High Court of Justice 914/04, Victims of Arab Terror International against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 2004 (1) pp. 781-783.

*     *     *

Nadav Shragai is the author of At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995); and "Jerusalem is Not the Problem, It is the Solution," in Mister Prime Minister: Jerusalem, ed. Moshe Amirav (Carmel and the Florsheimer Institute, 2005). He has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz since 1983. His previous studies for the Jerusalem Center include Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - How to Meet the Demographic Challenge without Subtracting Arab Neighborhoods (Hebrew, 2008; English, forthcoming); "The Latest Damage to Antiquities on the Temple Mount" (February 2008); and "The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case" (December 2007).

This Jerusalem Issue Brief is available online at:

Dore Gold, Publisher; Yaacov Amidror, ICA Chairman; Dan Diker, ICA Director; Mark Ami-El, Managing Editor. Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (Registered Amuta), 13 Tel-Hai St., Jerusalem, Israel; Tel. 972-2-561-9281, Fax. 972-2-561-9112, Email: In U.S.A.: Center for Jewish Community Studies, 5800 Park Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215; Tel. 410-664-5222; Fax 410-664-1228. Website: © Copyright. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the Board of Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affai rs.

The Institute for Contemporary Affairs (ICA) is dedicated

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