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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Iran meddles in Syrian government to sabotage peace moves

Iran Orders Changes in Syrian Security

September 6, 2008 //RPS Staff// - Information received by RPS confirms that Iran has, from direct orders of Ayatollah Khameni, influenced the removal of Gen. Ali Mamlook of the State Security Services to be replaced by Gen. Hassan Khalouf. Khalouf has been lobbying with those who have advocated with the policy of peeling away from Iran.

Also removed was Gen. Amin Sharradeh who heads the Palestinian Branch of the Internal Security. Likewise, Sharradeh advocated peeling away from Iran in favor of close relations with the west. Gen. Mohammad Suleiman, who was killed mysteriously on August 1, coordinated many of his activities with Sharradeh.

Iran's influence over Syrian policies makes it impossible for Assad to adhere by any of the promises he is making to Sarkozy of France and to Israeli politicians in regard to his foreign policy. One by one, the men who have protecting his regime are murdered or sidelined by Iran and Hezbollah.

Reform Party of Syria | 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. | Washington | DC | 20004

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Hezbollah Completes Take-Over of Lebanese Mountains

Reform Party of Syria
Freedom - Democracy - Peace

Hezbollah Completes Take-Over of Lebanese Mountains
September 6, 2008 //RPS Staff// - In coordination with the Assad regime, in particular Mohammed Nassif Kheir Bek (Abou Wael), in addition to Iranian agents working directly within Hezbollah's rank and file, the renegade Hezbollah militia has quietly established positions in Kobayat and Founaydek mountain tops in Northern Lebanon in anticipation of an internal Lebanese war Assad of Syria has been preparing for using his own homegrown terrorists.

Hezbollah has also occupied the Sanneen mountain top, the highest in Lebanon and the Barook mountain top surrounding the Beirut-Damascus Highway and normally a Druze enclave.

Kobayat and Founaydek are known to be Christian enclaves in the north. Their strategic value, besides connecting Hezbollah's communications infrastructure, lies in their military commanding heights over Tripoli and surrounding areas. Yesterday, the March 14 coalition, warned against the drum beat of war sparked by what Assad said during his press conference with President Sarkozy of France to the effect that extremism in the north may force Syria to re-enter Lebanon. About two months ago, sectarian incidents erupted in Tripoli, which killed some 20 Lebanese when Sunni and Alawites clashed.
Analysts believe that the somewhat inexperienced administration of Sarkozy's new government believes the intelligence provided by its staff in Lebanon, which is mostly influenced by Syrian agents playing a double game. In the past, March 14 has accused Assad of stationing Fatah al-Islam in the North of Lebanon in order to create justification for Syrian forces to re-enter the country under the auspices of saving the international community from Islamic extremism.

According to reliable sources, Syria continues developing and arming Fatah al-Islam the same way it continues coordinating with the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq by sending Syrian military intelligence officers to fill the void left by their defeat by the US troops and the Iraqis.

The speed by which the international community is allowing Assad free reign of terror in Lebanon and Iraq is quite disturbing. Years of isolating the Assad regime with success is being dismantled by renegade policy makers within the Bush administration by taking advantage of noticeable absence in the White House and the distractions caused by US elections.

Reform Party of Syria | 1700 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W. | Washington | DC | 20004

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Report: US may oversee next round of Syrian Israeli talks

Actually, Israeli-Syrian talks were frozen in the time of Barak, and not in the time of Netanyahu, but rewriting history is part for the course. US participation is what Syria wants, so US participation it will get. Regrettably, Syria doesn't seem to be offering anything. It wants the Golan, but is unwilling to take the vital steps required for peace.
Sep. 6, 2008 Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
Israeli-Syrian peace talks, which have been reanimated several months ago with Turkish mediation after being frozen since the premiership of Likud's Binyamin Netanyahu, will continue in approximately two weeks supervised by a senior United States official, a European source staying in Tel Aviv told the London-based Asharq Alawsat Saturday.
An unnamed Israeli source quoted by Asharq confirmed the European official's statement and added that the European official arrived in Israel on Friday in order to brief Jerusalem on the results of a four-way summit held between French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
According to the source, the fifth round of Israeli-Syrian mediated talks will occur on September 18 and the main goal of the next round of talks is to make negotiations direct.
According to the Israeli official, the Israeli government wanted talks to be direct since their beginning, but Syria insists on maintaining the Turkish mediation so long as the US does not take part in the talks.
However, reports that David Welsh, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the US State Department will be dispatched to Istanbul oversee the talks have softened the Syrian stance.
"Nevertheless, the Syrians have conditioned direct negotiations on discussing the issue of borders immediately at the outset of talks," the Israel source was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Syria refused to confirm the report, but has indicated in recent weeks that while it considered American supervision over the talks as an essential condition, it did not view the current administration in Washington as one which wanted peace with Syria, and therefore no real progress will be made before the Americans elect a new president.
The Jerusalem Post could not independently confirm the veracity of Ashark Alawsat's report.

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Cynicism is not enough: UN to demand Israel pay for Lebanon war damage

The Lebanon war occurred because the UN failed to carry out the provisions of its own resolution 1559. Armed bandits, operating with the blessing of the Lebanese government, and having representatives in that government, kidnapped Israeli soldiers and rained rockets on Israel, killing and maiming civilians and destroying property and forest land.
Now the UN is going to ask Israel to pay for the war!
It is not possible to be cynical enough to avoid being surprised and disgusted by some of the things the UN does.  
That's outrageous!
Ami Isseroff
Lebanese media say Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to instruct Israel to take responsibility for environmental damages caused by 2006 war, including oil spill following bombing of Beirut power plant
Roee Nahmias
Published:  09.06.08, 13:15 / Israel News
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will demand that Israel pay Lebanon $1 billion in compensation over damages caused during the Jewish state's 2006 war against Hizbullah, Lebanese media reported Saturday.
According to the report, the sum, based on World Bank appraisals, is aimed at covering the environmental and material damages caused by the Second Lebanon War, to neighboring countries as well.

The fundamental part of the compensation demanded is for the damage caused to the Lebanese coast due to an oil spill following an Israeli bombing of a southern Beirut power plant, which the Lebanese said had caused "an ecological disaster."
According to the report, Ban plans to submit a report to the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month, stating that damage Israel caused to the oil reservoir polluted Lebanon's coast, and that the pollution spread to neighboring countries, especially Syria.
Ban further notes that the UN rehabilitation plan managed to clean some of the oil spill in several areas in northern Lebanon seashores.
 The oil spill, which was defined the greatest natural disaster in Lebanon's history, took place after Israel Air Force planes hit a power plant and caused some 110,000 oil barrels to leak into the Mediterranean Sea.

The report said that the UN wants Israel to compensate the countries harmed by the oil spill and restore the environmental situation along the Lebanon coast. The Jewish state has yet to respond to the demand, despite messages conveyed in August 2007.
About half a year ago, new agencies reported that the German government granted Lebanon 4.5 million euros (about $6.4 million) to help finance environmental projects and damage restoration activities following the war.

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Iranian film highlights plight of women

Fifth ever week-long International Women's Film Festival to begin in Rehovot on September 15. New documentary sparks analysis of female involvement in Iranian cinema
Tirza Kugler Published:  09.05.08, 08:16 / Israel Culture 
A new Iranian movie directed by a female director will be screened as part of the week- long festivities at the International Women's Film Festival in Rehovot.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran caused a retreat in the status of women in that country, pushing them to the social and cultural peripheries and placing them in literal and metaphorical hiding behind their curtain of veils.
Moreover, at the end of the 80's when the new wave of personal, realistic-poetic, socially conscious and humanistic film was at its height, women fought to play active roles as actresses and directors who desired to express their views, troubles and aspirations.
Cinematic activity by women within the religiously, culturally and manly ideology was made partially possible by the adoption of a complex system of modesty rules which befell the entire movie industry.
There were Muslim codes regarding appearance, honorable behavior, modest acting and directing and the goal was to dismember the connection between women's appearance in public and the connotations of a lack of ethicality and violence and pornography which were associated with film during the period of the Shah.
Maintenance of the limiting codes underwent a gradual liberalization process which developed in three stages; from a situation in which women were absent in film and until the prominent presence of women and their participation in all the cinematic creation processes.
The first phase was characterized by the concealment of veil-less and robe-less female characters from foreign and Iranian movies alike.
Prohibited parts were shortened, erased or blurred by means of official censors or those instilled personally by the directors.
In the second phase, women did appear on the big screen but as "ghosts;" secondary characters in the background, in passive roles and not as central characters able to spark or assist in developing the story.
Simultaneously, aesthetics and grammatical rules were developed which were based on gender and separation between the sexes and which determined rules regarding dress covering the entire body, prohibition of touch between the sexes and prevention of cross-gender eye contact.
The third phase in the 80's occurred during a period of relative liberalization and allowed women to be shown as characters on the screen and to reach greater independence as film producers themselves.
Women directors protest male norms

They attained more revealing screen time, exposure of their faces, their expressions and more dramatic appearances in central roles.
Instead of endangering, ignorant, helpless, submissive women used as objects by men, active women with personalities and desires began appearing.
Women directors started using film in order to asses their lives and problems in a critical fashion and make heard their protest against male norms.
One such film will be presented by the Israel Women's Network and the International Women's Film Festival as part of the one-week female movie celebrations to be held in Rehovot starting September 15.
The documentary Iranian film is entitled "Four Wives, One Man" (2008) and is directed by female director Nahid Persson.
The movie gives a detailed and concrete account of the lives and hopeless, dead-ended status of village women who are caught in a trap of polygamy and economic dependence on a breadwinning man.

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Iran rejects Sarkozy warning that it risks Israeli attack

Put this together with Peres's statement and one is struck by the fact that everyone except the Israelis seems to be convinced Israel is about to attack Iran, or wants to use that as a threat against Iran.
Tehran government spokesman accuses 'war-seeking Zionist regime' of threatening global peace but reiterates Islamic Republic's publicly stated view that it is not in a position to attack Iran
Published:  09.06.08, 12:23 / Israel News
Iran dismissed on Saturday a warning by France's president that the Islamic Republic was taking a dangerous gamble over its nuclear program because one day its arch-foe Israel could strike.
Government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham accused Israel of threatening global peace but reiterated Tehran's publicly stated view that it was not in a position to attack Iran.
 Western powers accuse Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter, of seeking the atom bomb under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran denies the charge, saying it only wants to master atomic technology in order to generate electricity.
The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if the dispute cannot be settled through diplomacy.
During a visit to Damascus on Thursday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Iran was "taking a major risk in continuing the process to obtain a military nuclear capacity." He added, "One day... we could find one morning that Israel has struck."
Iran's state broadcaster IRIB quoted Elham, the government spokesman, as saying in response to Sarkozy's statement, "These threats are because of weakness... and it reflects the reality and the war-seeking nature of the Zionist regime."

Elham added, "This regime is not big enough and does not have the capacity to want to think about a war with Iran."
He said Israel "uses every chance to threaten global security and peace."
The UN Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions against Iran over its failure to heed calls to suspend uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for power plants or nuclear weapons if refined further.

Israel, long assumed to have its own atomic arsenal, has sworn to prevent Iran from emerging as a nuclear-armed power.
Speculation about a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities has risen since Israel staged an air force exercise in June which was reported to be a simulation of a strike against Iran. Iran says it would hit back if attacked.

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Jordan fears plan to send Arab forces to Gaza

An old Jordanian fear is Egyptian annexation of Gaza.
Jordan objects to sending pan-Arab forces to Gaza Strip
[IBA] A senior Jordanian official says his country is concerned about a proposal to send Arab forces to the Gaza Strip in order to stabilize the security situation there.

The source said that Amman is concerned the initiative could advance a broader plan by Israel for Egyptians to annex the Gaza Strip, and for Jordan to assume security and administrative responsibility for the West Bank.

A Kol Yisrael reporter says the proposal was recently raised by Egypt's foreign minister in various media interviews. Egypt is a member of the Arab League.

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Syrian Disabled go without Wheelchairs

The article states:
As in many countries in the region, people with disabilities in Syria suffer from discrimination and lack of rights and health care that would improve their quality of life, say advocates for the disabled.
Not in Israel. Think about it. It is unimaginable that disabled people should go without wheelchairs.
Ami Isseroff  
Although Syria has made strides in helping the disabled, it needs to do more to provide services, health care and rights to people with disabilities, according to local experts.

As in many countries in the region, people with disabilities in Syria suffer from discrimination and lack of rights and health care that would improve their quality of life, say advocates for the disabled.

Syrians with disabilities have few opportunities, and those who are in wheelchairs find it difficult to move around because of the lack of accessible buildings and public areas.

"A very small percentage of handicapped are able to study and work because [the disabled as a group] are regarded as totally helpless," said May Abu Ghazala, coordinator for the integration of the handicapped at the ministry of education.

"For example, many people believe that a physically handicapped person is mentally retarded," said Ghazala, who suffered from polio as a child.

Since the 1940s, children with disabilities have received assistance such as basic staples like milk. In recent years, the authorities have paid more attention to people with disabilities by creating a special council to provide support - a move welcomed by the United Nations. In addition, Asma al-Assad, the wife of President Bashar al-Assad, has received praise for aiding the handicapped.

But critics say the council has not yet been able to effect enough change on the ground. and disabled issues in Syria are not a high enough priority.

Since there are no statistics on the number of people with disabilities, it is difficult to ensure aid reaches them, said Shawqi Ghanim, an advocate for the handicapped who works at the Autism Society, a group based in al-Lathiqiya in northwestern Syria.

Syria also lacks strong initiatives to support the disabled, according to experts.

"Laws issued regarding work rights and the integration of the handicapped haven't been effective until now because they aren't binding," said Ghanim.

People living with disabilities in Syria often face social and physical isolation, as well as discrimination. And families say they have few resources to support them.

Ghalia, a 40-year-old housewife and mother of two in Al-Lathiqiya, a coastal city in northwestern Syria, said she struggles to care for her two boys who are paralysed. While they have had some opportunities to study and receive physical therapy, they lack one basic necessity - wheelchairs.

Ghalia, who asked that her last name not be used, said her husband works abroad to support the family.

Caring for her sons, the oldest of whom is now 12, has taken its toll on her, she said. Her back went out last year after carrying them, and she now has difficulty even standing in the kitchen to cook for the family.

Over the past five years, "early intervention" has become a popular phrase among Syrian advocates for the disabled. This approach, which is widely used in western nations for more than 20 years, emphasises diagnosing and treating disabilities at an early stage in a person's life.

A national centre for early intervention opened earlier this summer in al-Lathiqiya.

Experts say that while the approach should improve people's lives, social acceptance is just as important - and equally challenging to achieve.

"The community's ignorance is a reality, and is a big barrier to working on disabled issues," said Ghanim.

"Early intervention to rehabilitate the handicapped is a preliminary step to integrating them," he maintained. "The community must be prepared to accept the idea of integrating the handicapped."

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists.)

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Syria News Briefing is produced as part of IWPR's training work to support democracy and reform in Syria by strengthening independent media, civil society and human rights groups; and assist minority and youth participation in public life.

The opinions expressed in IWPR's Syria News Briefing are those of Syrian analysts and do not necessarily represent those of the publication or of IWPR.
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Syria and Russia




With an eye to winning more support from Russia, Damascus has enthusiastically backed Moscow as it spars with the international community over the conflict with Georgia, according to Syrian political analysts.

Syria was one of the few countries to offer strong public backing to Russia as it came under fire from the United States and the European Union for its military intervention in Georgia last month.

The growing relationship between Damascus and Moscow, which encompasses talk of arms purchases and increased trade, has raised concerns in western countries and Israel about Russia's intentions in the region.

"The relationship is very important to Syria for two reasons - firstly, to acquire weapons, because Russia is the only country in the world that will supply arms to Syria. Secondly, to gain Russia's political support, especially in the [United Nations] Security Council," said Damascus-based writer and political analyst Husain al-Odat.

President Bashar al-Assad reportedly asked for anti-aircraft and surface-to-surface missiles, as well as other weapons, in a meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev last month. Analysts believe their meeting, which occurred during Russia's short battle with Georgia, was strategically timed.

According to al-Odat, Assad chose this moment to visit the country because he was "banking on the rise of Russia" in the wake of the conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Stronger ties with Damascus would "reinforce Russia's role in the Middle East and throughout the world", he added.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was only prepared to give Syria "defensive weapons that would not upset the regional balance of power".

But his assurances did not ease concerns in Israel, and the country's prime minister Ehud Olmert will head to Moscow later this month to discourage the Russians from selling weapons to Syria.

In an interview with the French news agency AFP on September 3, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor accused Syria of "exacerbating the diplomatic tension between Russia and Europe".

Australia this week delayed the finalisation of an agreement to sell one billion US dollars' worth of uranium to Russia, in part because of concerns that the nuclear material might be sold on to Syria and Iran.

Political analysts in Damascus say that as Moscow's relations with European Union, the United States and NATO sour over Georgia, Syria has thrown its weight behind Russia in the hope that it will rise again as a superpower to counter US influence in the Middle East.

Official and pro-government media newspapers have backed the idea of Russia regaining its role as a world power, and Assad has indicated that Syria would welcome a greater Russian role in Middle East peace negotiations.

Analysts say that realistically, Damascus is not expecting the balance of global power to shift in Russia's favour in the near future, although Russian support could prove useful as Syria tries to defend itself against accusations that backs terrorism and is attempting to build nuclear weapons.

This week, Syria is hosting a four-nation summit involving Qatar, Turkey and France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit will be the first paid by a western head of state in five years.

Sarkozy will then visit Russia on September 8, as the European Union considers what measures to take against the country.

Analysts in Syria say that despite Moscow's confrontation with the West and the improvement in Syrian-Russian ties, neither country has an interest in building a bilateral axis at the expense of its ties with the west.

One writer, who did not want to be named, argued that Syria would need the support of both the West and Russia if it was to have a political and economic future. In addition, he noted that Russian support had not saved Damascus from international isolation in the past.

He argued that both Moscow and Damascus were using the current pre-election limbo in the US to manoeuvre for more power.

Al-Odat commented that for its part, "Russia has no illusions about its military and economic capacity, and doesn't want to get involved in hostile policies towards Europe and the US. Nor does Syria want to ruin its newly-revived relations with Europe, and also a potential relationship with the US after the presidential election."

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists.)

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Bergman book: French allowed terrorist Moughniyeh to escape

David Horovitz , THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 5, 2008
Aware that some members of both the American and the Israel intelligence community were not entirely convinced that President Bashar Assad was building a nuclear facility in the summer of 2007, Israel in mid-August sent 12 members of the Sayeret Matkal commando unit into Syria in two helicopters to collect soil samples outside the nuclear site. But the commandos' mission was almost exposed when a Syrian patrol drove past the landing site where the helicopters were parked.

This is one of the dramatic revelations contained in a new book by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman that is being published next week in the US.

The daring mission to Syria was a success, Bergman writes. "The results provided clear-cut proof of the joint nuclear project." The following month, the Israel Air Force destroyed the facility.

Also in the book, The Secret War with Iran, Bergman claims that US Vice President Richard Cheney contacted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert after the release of the controversial US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program late last year to tell him that the US had "not discarded" the possibility "of an American military operation against Iranian nuclear targets."

Bergman writes that the Mossad's assessment, as of May this year, is that President George W. Bush, "out of religious and ideological motives, will order a strike."

Elsewhere in the book, Bergman provides details of a familiar charge that France deliberately chose not to arrest Hizbullah terror mastermind Imad Mughniyeh when he passed through Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport in the mid-1980s, because it feared that stopping him would prompt further terrorism against its interests.

Mughniyeh, who in 1983 had orchestrated simultaneous truck bombings against French paratroopers and the US Marine barracks in Beirut, in which 58 French soldiers and 241 Marines were killed, was a prime target for Western intelligence agencies at the time - and, indeed, for the next 20 years. Indicted by Argentina over the 1992 and 1994 Israel embassy and Jewish community office bombings and regarded as the brains behind Hizbullah's strategy in the Second Lebanon War, Mughniyeh was finally killed in Damascus last February. Nobody has taken responsibility for his death.

Israel is currently warning businessmen overseas to guard against Hizbullah attempts to avenge his death by carrying out kidnappings; at least two such attempts are said to have recently been foiled.

According to Bergman, Mughniyeh was traveling from Lebanon to Sudan, to meet with Iranian intelligence officials and mujahideen veterans from Afghanistan, and made a stopover at Charles de Gaulle. "The CIA had supplied the French with details of the fake passport Mughniyeh was using," Bergman writes. "Nevertheless, and despite a positive identification made by the Americans at the airport, the French never detained him, claiming 'that he had managed to slip away.'"

US intelligence "never credited this excuse for a moment," Bergman continues, "believing that the French had let him get away on purpose, for fear of the fate of French hostages in Beirut."

He also quotes the IDF's former Military Intelligence officer David Barkai, who was in charge of the "Mughniyeh file," as saying: "The French were the champions at this kind of thing. After [Hizbullah] snatched some Frenchmen in Lebanon, the French Foreign Ministry bought peace through quiet agreements with Hizbullah. I know of at least two cases where they closed their eyes to blatant terrorist activity, just so that their interests would not be harmed."

In further sections of the book relating to Mughniyeh, Hizbullah and Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, Bergman claims that the Hizbullah terror chief served as "a major connection point" between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida and Iran, and as a source of inspiration for bin Laden, whose attacks he helped facilitate. Bergman describes a pivotal meeting the two men held in Khartoum, at which the murderously experienced Mughniyeh described for the impressionable bin Laden "the enormous effect of the suicide attacks against the Americans and the French in the early 1980s in Lebanon."

In the wake of this meeting, Bergman writes, basing his account on a witness's testimony to the FBI, "Hizbullah supplied al-Qaida with explosives instruction, and Iran used Hizbullah to provide bin Laden with bombs. Much of the al-Qaida training was carried out in camps in Iran."

Bergman's new book is an expanded and updated English version of last year's Hebrew bestseller The Point of No Return.

The English book, published by Free Press, also repeats the Hebrew volume's claim - which is disputed by other sources - that Russian S-300 missiles have already been supplied to Iran and are deployed to help protect various Iranian nuclear facilities.


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Head of Jews for Jesus: Terrorism is God's punishment of Israel

Jews For Jesus head David Brickner claimed that terrorist attacks on Israel are punishment for failure of the Jews to accept Jesus as savior. Evidently, this is his idea of Christian mercy and compassion. Brickner also remarked that Jews are intractably rebellious and hence cursed. Brickner should know, as he is a prime example of the sort of revolting Jew who is obviously going to incurr divine wrath, not to mention the wrath of decent people everywhere. The remarks were apparently made at Sarah Palin's church, though it is not clear that she was there. Brickner and other such "Jews" have apparently been preaching this sort of thing for quite a while, but the remarks got publicity because Palin was chosen as the Republican party nominee for Vice President.   See here 

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Maj Gen Moshe Ivri-Sukenik: Israel not prepared for next war

Major General (res.) Moshe Ivri-Sukenik, who resigned as commander of the Israel Defense Forces' Northern Command earlier this year,  has sharply criticized IDF training and readiness.
Sukenik was commander of the IDF's ground forces several years ago. After the Lebanon war he led the investigation into battles by Division 162. Sukenik was asked to return to the ranks and command the Northern Command, but he resigned in January, in part to protest what he calls the insufficient allocation of funds for training the land forces.

Sukenik spoke in Ramat Efal at a conference on the land war in Lebanon on Thursday.
"After a year at the Corps, I told a forum of the most senior ranks in the army [the General Staff] that it is not taking things seriously. We are not training sufficiently. We are not giving people the minimum means to succeed," Sukenik said.
Since the war a major effort has been taken to restore the ground forces' readiness, but this is not enough, he said.
"I did what I could to restore knowledge. It will take time for the IDF to recover from the wounds of the war .... Now they are once more talking about cuts in the defense budget. The easiest thing to do is to cut training budgets, because that is where there is big money. The result is that next year, after the cut, the readiness level will once more be low," Sukenik said.
Describing the army before the war as having "rusted," he said about one division: "Would you believe they did not have maps of the Golan Heights? They had no operational plans on a critical front. Their plans were for an entirely different front. This is the sort of vertigo the IDF found itself in."
Sukenik blames the war's failures on the conduct of the senior officers, and the confusion in the orders given. "The soldiers in the field heard in the media and in the Knesset that there would not be a ground offensive. 'We can end this with the air force,' they said. In the end it trickles down and has an effect. I say with authority: 70 to 80 percent of responsibility for the results [of the war] lie with the command and the General Staff. The gaps in readiness are not a pleasant thing, but in the end these led to only 10 to 15 percent of the final results."
Sukenik described the results of the war as "embarrassing" and said he accepted the invitation to lead an in-house probe of the performance of a division because he wanted to understand "what had happened to the most skilled group. Why did they behave this way? These are the best people we have."
He also criticized the erosion in ground forces' preparedness in the years prior to the war, and he himself accepted blame because he was a member of the General Staff.
"People did not understand what a mountainous passage means. An armored battalion goes into a mountainous passage [during the war] without an engineers APC [armored personnel carrier], without bulldozers - and they think that's okay. Things that used to be maxims evaporated. In the air force there is a someone leading a flight of aircraft. If he does not practice twice a month, he is not ready," Sukenik said.
"Everything is written in orders. In the ground forces the company commander is always ready, even if he has not trained all his life. This is not something you learn on the Web .... A battalion goes on a three-week training session in a year - and they trained for deployment in the Gaza Strip or Nablus, not for a major war. Unfortunately this is still not sufficiently understood. A battalion commander needs to know how to defend and attack on the Golan heights."

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Israel develops smart GPS-guided mortar shell

Defense industry develops GPS mortar shell

Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST Sep. 2, 2008
Implementing the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, Israel Military Industries has designed a mortar shell that uses a satellite guidance system to accurately hit its target.

The 120mm mortar shell is in the final stages of development by IMI and the American Raytheon defense company. The shell has a range of 10 kilometers and with the GPS system hits targets within a three-meter radius.

The built-in guidance system also allows operators to direct the mortar shell to its target with a laser-honing device.

Officials said the "smart mortar" would improve infantry units' ability to neutralize enemy forces that were positioned out of sight. Since the shell is especially accurate, IMI CEO Avi Felder said military units would be able to carry fewer mortar shells into battle while achieving the same level of
lethality as in the past.

The new mortar shell was unveiled on Tuesday at a press conference held at IMI headquarters in Ramat Hasaharon ahead of the government-owned defense industry's 75th anniversary next week.

In 2007, IMI had $575 million in sales, and forecasts for 2008 are that the company will take in $676m., Felder said. It is currently investing $85m. in research and development per year.

One of the company's key products that is currently undergoing final testing is the Iron Fist active protection system for tanks and armored personnel carriers. IMI says it can neutralize all anti-tank threats, including kinetic (those without explosive charges) shells fired by enemy tanks.

Iron Fist is in its final stages of testing, according to Felder, and will be installed on the IDF's new Namer APCs by the end of the year. It will likely become fully operational by the end of the decade.

The IDF plans to install Rafael Defense Systems' Trophy active protection system on Merkava tanks in 2009.

The Iron Fist consists of a radar and passive optical system that detects incoming threats and destroys them within a fraction of a second using a combustible blast interceptor. Unlike the Trophy, which fires off a large number of projectiles, the Iron Fist intercepts incoming threats by using a
rocket the shape of a mortar shell that destroys the threat with a blast that crushes its soft components or deflects the missile or kinetic projectile in flight.

Felder said several countries had expressed interest in the Iron Fist and that IMI planned to hold a series of simulations for foreign military officers in the coming months.


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Is Syria Serious?

What does Mr. Assad want, and more important, what do we want? Are we really willing to give up the Golan Heights in return for a "peace" like we have with Egypt? Will it really neutralize the threat of Syria permanently?
What Mr. Assad wants, like what everybody wants, is to buy cheap and sell dear, to play off both ends against the middle, to have his peace and eat it. Assad is certainly a good Levantine trader, as his father war. But what is he selling and what are we buying? His merchandise may be defective, and his coins may be counterfeit. The record of the Syrian regime, as the editors point out, is far from encouraging.
The editors write:
IT IS IN Israel's long-term interest to have a peace treaty with Syria - but not at any price. The extent of any withdrawal must parallel the depth of the peace offered.
Not exactly. It was a good phrase when Rabin coined it, but it doesn't apply really. For removing X number of missiles from Lebanon, Israel should not be giving up Y square meters of Golan territory. Even if Assad promises to wipe out Hezbollah entirely, break all ties with Iran and goes straight, we should not be giving up the Galil, and probably not even ceding demilitarized zones that Syria took by force in 1948. Peace must be based on reasonable principles. A peace treaty that establishes the wrong principles is not in Israel's interest. Given the shaky nature of Syrian regimes, it is also a bit naive to talk about long term interests. If we give up the Golan for peace, and then Assad is replaced in a Muslim Brotherhood coup, we will have no peace and no Golan. Yet at the same time, we cannot very well ignore sincere overtures for peace.
Is an appearance in Jerusalem by Assad really the most important thing? If Assad really wants peace, he will offer borders that Israel can live with. Look at the map. All of the Golan in total is a tiny drop in the Syrian land mass. But what held up the peace treaty until now was Syrian insistence on getting a few meters of territory that do not belong to them, and controlling the sea of Galilee. Giving up that demand is probably all that is really needed for peace, and it is more important than Assad's charming presence in Jerusalem, unless Assad is prepared to declare East Jerusalem to be part of Israel. He will not do that, will he?
Ami Isseroff
Sep. 3, 2008
Something is afoot in Syria, though to judge its significance is a matter of no small complexity. Yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Damascus on the first visit by a Western leader to Syria since the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. He is joined there today by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Qatari Emir Hamad bin Khalifa for a summit meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Sarkozy's visit comes on the heels of Damascus's declared intention to open an embassy in Beirut for the first time, thereby recognizing Lebanon as something other than Greater Syria. The summit also comes after news that another round of indirect talks between Israel and Syria is set to begin on Sunday.
In an interview on Tuesday with France-3 television, meanwhile, Assad declared that the indirect negotiations with Israel have brought "the possibility of peace," although the two countries still have quite a way to go toward that goal. "Today, we can only say that we have opened the door to peace," he said.
IT IS IN Israel's long-term interest to have a peace treaty with Syria - but not at any price. The extent of any withdrawal must parallel the depth of the peace offered.
Yet we can't help but ponder why Assad's rhetoric veers so unsteadily between belligerence and conciliation.
Israel must be clear-eyed, first of all, on the nature of the Syrian regime, which happens to be engaged in brisk military build-up and procurement. According to Military Intelligence's head of research, Brig.- Gen. Yossi Baidatz, as of June 2007, Syria was "accelerating military acquisition." In late 2006, the US State Department's assistant secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, John C. Rood, testified that Syria was engaged in research and development for an offensive biological warfare program.
Damascus is also a long-standing state sponsor of terrorism, hosting Hamas and other extremist Palestinian organizations. It has not only shipped Iranian weapons to Hizbullah but also supplied it with Russian-made military equipment such as the Kornet anti-tank missile and its own 220mm anti-personnel rockets. Syria has also played a key role as the source of foreign fighters and insurgents infiltrating Iraq.
Although a Kuwaiti newspaper reported this week that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal had left Damascus for Sudan because of Syria's interest in moving along the diplomatic talks with Israel, Jerusalem officials have challenged the claim.
If Assad is making conciliatory sounds now, therefore, perhaps it's not because he has abandoned a belligerent posture, but because it serves his interests and deflects pressure. This, indeed, is a long-established pattern.
In 2004, after the UN passed Security Council Resolution 1559 calling for Syrian departure from Lebanon, the Damascus leadership mentioned the possibility of negotiations with Israel. The next year, just after the Hariri assassination, as the US and France, among others, severed diplomatic ties with Damascus, Assad once again brought up peace with Israel.
Now Assad is once more under intense pressure. Some of it is economic, stemming from a growing fiscal deficit, rising food prices and the ongoing depletion of oil reserves. In April, budgetary problems forced the country to end its traditional gasoline subsidies.
Some of the pressure on Assad comes from human rights groups appalled by the increased repression in Syria. Twelve activists, including Riad Seif, a former member of parliament, are currently on trial for attending a meeting of opposition groups last December. An independent press remains nonexistent.
Most significant of all, however, are the increased political pressures on Syria's Alawite ruling clique. After suffering the great embarrassments of Israel's bombing of an alleged North Korean-supplied nuclear facility in September 2007 and the assassination - five months later, and still unexplained - in Damascus of Hizbullah operations chief Imad Mughniyeh, Assad's regime now fears the international tribunal tasked with prosecuting Hariri's murderers.
Could it be that Assad is once again dangling the possibility of peace with Israel as a way to renew contacts with Washington and Paris and end his international isolation?
Then again, he may be sincere. If so, he should come to Jerusalem, or invite our premier to Damascus, and lay out his peace vision.

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Israeli firemen training in France rescue drowning girl

Israel is not just about conflict folks.  
Firemen exercising water rescue strategies spot kayak overturning in raging current, jump in to save drowning girl
Raanan Ben-Zur
Published:  09.04.08, 01:05 / Israel News
A team of Israeli firemen performing rescue drills in France saved the life of a local girl found drowning in a river Wednesday. The firemen rushed to pull her out when the kayak in which she was paddling turned over in the water.

The men are in France conducting drills focusing on rescue missions in water and high places. They arrived at the Mieux River to practice in its strong current; however the practice soon became a reality.

"We were on the river bank preparing for water rescue. The current was strong, and families were paddling it in kayaks, one of which held a 10-year old girl," Oren Shishatzki, of the Petah Tikva fire station said.

Suddenly the firemen noticed that the girl had turned over, and that her head was in the water below the kayak. The strong current pushed her towards the rocks near the bank.

The Israeli firemen did not lose their cool, however, and rushed to her aid. "Two immediately jumped in, and
swam to the overturned kayak," Shishatzki said. "The kayak couldn't be righted, so they dove under the water, released the girl, and pulled her out onto the bank."
The girl emerged unscathed, and thanked the firemen for saving her life. "She was surprised and wouldn't stop thanking us," Shishatzki recalled.
Due to the strong current, the girl's family could not bring their own kayak to a halt, but arrived later to pick up their grateful daughter.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Archeologists uncover wall of Second Temple Era Jerusalem

A Reuters article tells us that  archaeologists have revealed a 2,100-year-old Jerusalem perimeter wall - along with beer bottles left behind by 19th century British and American explorers who first discovered the stone defenses.
The wall, on Mount Zion at the southern edge of Jerusalem's Old City, dates back to the Second Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.
Archeological evidence of this kind assumes a national significance because in recent years Palestinian leaders and some anthropologists like Nadia Abu al-Hajj have challenged Israeli national claims to Jewish sovereignty of Jerusalem in ancient times. Arafat in particular, amazed Bill Clinton and others by insisting that the Jews had no historic claim to Jeruslaem. Prior to the rise of Palestinian Arab nationalism, the entire Western world as well as the Islamic religion had assumed that the ancient Jewish kindgoms and sovereignty in Jerusalem were established fact, based no only on biblical accounts in the Old and New Testaments, but on archeological finds such as the water tunnel and tablet of King Hezekiah dating from 700 BC and mentioned in Old Testament book of II Kings and the book of Chronicles (see Hezekiah's Tunnel) and on accounts of Greek and Roman historians. Discounting all such evidence, academics such as al Hajj, who was recent awarded tenure for her research claims, insist that the Palestinian "narrative" has an equal claim to validity. Muslims claim a right to Jerusalem because according to one reading of the Qur'an, the prophet Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on his horse in one night. They assert that Muhammad tethered his horse on the retaining wall of the destroyed temple, which the Jews call the Western or Wailing wall and the Muslims now call al-Buraq. The Caliph Umar built the Dome of the Rock on the alleged site of the Second Temple, and a later Caliph built the Masjid al Aqsa (the "furthest mosque") next to it, naming it after the Mosque that was named in the Al-Isra ("night Journey") chapter of the Qur'an. However, early Muslims scholars did not identify the site of al Aqsa as being in Jerusalem. 
Jerusalem was neglected under successive Turkish rulers, but received new significance as a holy place with the rise of the Nazi Palestinian Grand Mufti Hajj Amin El Husseini. Husseini originated the device of claiming that the Jews were plotting to destroy the Muslim mosques, in order to stir up pogroms against the Jews of Palestine.
During Israel's  War of Independence, the Old city of Jerusalem was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Jordan Legion. During the 19 year illegal occupation of Jerusalem by the Jordanians, no Jews were allowed to live there. On this   
Yehiel Zelinger, head of the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, said the location of the wall indicated that Jerusalem had expanded to the south at the time, reaching its largest size in biblical times.
The 3 meter high wall was not supported by any mortar or other bonding material. It formed part of a 6 KM long (3.5 mile)  fortification around the city, he said.
The present Crusader-built wall around Jerusalem's Old City is 2.5 (about 4 KM)  miles in circumference.
The ancient wall on Mount Zion had disappeared beneath the surface by the time a similar stone barrier, also uncovered in the dig, was built more than 250 years later. However, the new wall followed almost exactly the same path.
"During these two periods, Jerusalem was the center... to the Jews during the Second Temple Period and to pilgrims from the Christian world [during the Byzantine Period]," Zelinger said.
British archaeologists surveyed the site in the 19th century, leaving behind a shoe and and beer and wine bottles, which Zelinger's team found and put on display Wednesday. The bottles had assumed a charming green patina.
No evidence of specifically Jewish ancient materials was announced.  

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Barak: Arab areas in Jerusalem could be Palestinian capital

Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem could become the capital of a future Palestinian state as part of a final peace agreement. This is no different from the formula he offered in 2000. Palestinians continue to insist that Israel has no national rights whatever in East Jerusalem. The late Yasser Arafat amazed American politicians by claiming repeatedly that there had been no Jewish presence in Jerusalem in antiquity. Archeological finds give evidence of the Jewish monarchy as early as King Hezekiah in 700 BC and ancient writers commonly referred to Jerusalem as the former Jewish capital, but Palestinian leaders pretend this evidence does not exist. Arafat's views were frequently seconded by the former Mufti of Jerusalem, Ikremah Sabri.
Prior to 1948, about 5,000 Jews lived in the Jewish quarter of the Old City. The community underwent attrition due to Arab riots in 1929 and 1936. In 1948, the entire community was ethnically cleansed by the Transjordan Legion under the supervision of British officers. East Jerusalem was also the site of the original campus of the Hebrew University, which was reconstituted after 1967. Arab media however, ignore the Jewish connection to East Jerusalem in modern times as well as ancient, and commonly refer to it as "Arab East Jerusalem" on the basis of the 19 year illegal Jordanian occupation.
East Jerusalem is also the site of Masjid Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock, important Muslim holy places.
Fatah leaders have been promising a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem since the signing of the Oslo accords, though Israel never undertook to cede all of Jerusalem or any of it as part of a peace setltement.
"We can find a formula under which certain neighborhoods, heavily-populated Arab neighborhoods, could become, in a peace agreement, part of the Palestinian capital that, of course, will include also the neighboring villages around Jerusalem," Barak told Al-Jazeera television.
"I'm not sure whether the gaps are close enough," Barak said when asked if a deal was possible this year.
Officially, Israel is not discussing Jerusalem with the Palestinians at all, since the non-Zionist ultraorthodox Shas party insisted they would leave the coalition if any concessions were offered in Jerusalem. Orthodox and ultraorthodox Jews in the United States and Israel, rather than Zionists, are the chief opposition to Israeli compromise on the issue. As long as the Palestinians remain intent on excluding Israel entirely from East Jerusalem, the issue of Israeli compromise is a moot point.
Ami Isseroff

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The Israeli Home Front:

The INSS article (The Civilian Front: In Search of the Right Positioning)  by Meir Elran about the home front in Israel raises a very important issue, but it also shows that the author, and perhaps the government, have not learned all the real and somewhat unpleasant lessons of the Second Lebanon War,
The problem was not just organizational and bureaucratic and budgetary as the author seems to think. It is not a matter of the right bureaucrats or the right gadgets only, and the problem is in large part not due to the new nature of the threat. The author hints at the real problem when he writes:
The absence of clear leadership of the civilian front is not just a matter of budget.
In general, the problem is indeed not just a matter of budget, nor is the lack of clear leadership limited to the civilian front, nor is it just a problem of bad government. Government reflects society though it also affects society. Israel lacks all the things that Meir Elran points out because of an underlying problem. The lack of progress in remedying problems since the Second Lebanon war is pervasive. It is not due to many coincidental single point failures. It indicates a more basic malaise.
The ability of citizens to withstand attack is a vital strategic asset, a lesson demonstrated in Britain and the USSR in World War II. For most of Israel's history, the staunch forebearance of Israeli civilianss has been one of our greatest and most important assets. Israel underwent bombing and shelling of civilian populations since 1948. The Egyptians bombed Tel Aviv , and the Jordanians and Arab irregulars shelled Jerusalem and many other places in the Israel War of Independence. Whole communities were wiped out, or withstood pounding by massed artillery and air attacks, but the spirit of the people never broke. On May 15, 1948, Ben-Gurion broadcast to the United States. The Egyptian bombs could be heard in the background. Afterwards, Ben Gurion toured Tel Aviv and watched the anxious subdued citizens cleaning up and looking for survivors. He said "Eyleh Ya'amdu" - these will stand.
During and prior to the Six day war communities in northern Israel were subject to massive Syrian bombardment. There was no question of panic. The Palestinians who planned the violence that began in 2000 were likewise convinced that a few suicide bombings would cause Israelis to panic and sue for peace. They found they were grievously mistaken. A good part of this exemplary behavior was due to the conviction that the Israeli government was doing everything possible to ensure the safety of its citizens and the defense of the country. This unwritten contract is the basis of every society in times of emergency.
Since then however, something may have changed. In the Second Lebanon War, there was a problem of morale that did not exist in any previous war, of a magnitude much greater than the reaction to Iraqi Scud attacks in 1991, the reaction to the "Intifada II" or any other other crisis.  This psychological problem was bigger than any objective issue. It became an objective issue.  Foreign observers pointed out that Israel's relatively low casualty rate was due in part to our excellent civil defense mechanisms, but Israelis complain about poor civil defense. We expect more from our government and our army than is customary in other countries. The complaint was not just about objective hardship, but about failure of the government and the IDF to live up to the contract.  
Of course, the shelters could have been better, and in some cases there really was a problem of negligence. But the big problem was fear and panic. FDR said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," and this applies to Israel as well. Because of the panic, municipal workers abandoned their posts, and this made it difficult to organize basic services and rescure efforts in some places. The panic was also spread deliberately by cynical media manipulation. One TV channel showed a hysterical woman getting into a taxi with her baby, crying and screaming. One time it was news perhaps. But the channel showed this footage over and over, creating the impression of massive panic.
The government, for its part, behaved irresponsibly. Because no war was declared (to save money evidently as well as supposedly to prevent panic) no emergency measures were in place. There was no plan to unite all the TV and radio stations into a single emergency network. There were no  emergency orders to keep municipal workers at their posts. In this situation, the only real resource should have been the fortitude and level-headedness of the Israeli people. Too many, unfortunately, lost their cool, perhaps because they sensed that the leadership was incompetent and insensitive.
Likewise in Sderot and all over the Western Negev, the government has failed to provide for reasonable civil defense and failed to take measures to eliminate the threat of rocket attacks. Pressure from civilians under bombardment forced the government to conclude a disadvantageous truce with the repugnant Hamas, a truce that could be broken at any time. Israel can't invade Gaza among other reasons, because the invasion would subject civilians to a huge rocket barrage, and the civilians are not physically or psychologically ready to withstand this barrage. As the Hamas is improving their armory, it is likely that when the fighting is renewed larger and more destructive rockets will target not only Sderot and kibbutzim, but large towns such as Ashkelon and Ashdod. In the absence of any realistic defense, the rockets will create an intolerable situation. Investing in military toys like the Iron Dome system is not a complete or adequate solution. Iron Dome is expensive and won't be effective for all types of rockets and for mortar fire.
It is really not possible to legislate and organize dedication, patriotism and calmness in a crisis, and allocating more money and making more committees can only be of limited use in this context. Nor is it possible to legislate courageous, wise and competent government.  However, clear legislation and efficient automatic mechanisms can help to prevent panic and can substitute for inexperienced, incompetent or faint hearted leaders. The population of Jerusalem in 1948 were not all steely eyed Zionist patriots. Their resolution was ensured by administrative measures and by the resolute leadership of Dov Yosef, mayor of Jerusalem and by the orders of Ben Gurion.
We are not always blessed with such leaders. The law should ensure that any such conflict is declared a war or emergency situation automatically, not as the result of an arbitrary government decision. The law should ensure heavy penalties and disbarment from further public employment for anyone who leaves their post. The law should ensure that all media are united in a single network, and should provide an efficient mechanism for correcting problems like the locked shelters of Safed, which mysteriously remained padlocked for many days despite repated compaints. Sometimes the "mechanism" needed is only a hammer and screwdriver to break open a padlock. Some initiative should also be shown by citizens.
The other very practical measures that Meir Elran recommends are very important. They require money. It is no secret that very little has been done to correct the problems uncovered over two years ago in the Lebanon war, or to reinforce the towns and kibbutzim around Gaza, because funds are allocated elsewhere and nobody really cares anyway. The ultraorthodox are more adamant about funding for their Yeshivot, so the Yeshivot get the funding that could go for shelters and civil defense measures. But even with the best preparation, the home front will only be as strong as the fortitude of the civilians and their resolution to keep calm in adversity.
All of the foregoing relates to wars that may occur with enemies who have relatively innocuous weapons, as was the case in the Lebanon War. It would be a grave error, though a common one, to prepare for the previous war. We have to assume that at the very least, as Mr. Nasrallah promises, Hezbollah rockets will be able to reach Tel Aviv and the center of Israel. If we are to be really prepared, we have to undertake the renovation or construction of tens of thousands of shelters.  Add to this the possibility of nuclear or chemical warfare, and the really huge potential demands of civil defense become obvious, and perhaps unmanageable. If large sums are expended on defense and their is no war, then critics will insist that money was wasted, as they did say regarding the distribution of gas masks in Israel. For that matter, when there was no war for a few years, people began insisting that defense is a waste of money, and the funds would better be spent on their own favorite projects. But really, it seems better to "waste" money on nuclear shelters and measures to combat chemical and biological warfare then to be caught without them when they are needed.
Elran wrote:
The prime minister was right in suggesting that "we do not have to frighten ourselves too much about threats." But at the same time, the present period of relative tranquility must be exploited to prepare for the effective response needed on the civilian home front as well as on the military front.
The Prime Minister doesn't seem to be worried about threats at all, and certainly there is no danger he will be too frightened. If he lived in Sderot or Kiriat Shmona, he might at least be frightened enough to do something about it.
Ami Isseroff
 INSS Insight No. 70, September 2, 2008
Elran, Meir

The Second Lebanon War led to an important if belated update of Israel's national security concept. The continual Hizbollah bombardment of Israeli population centers in the summer of 2006 was a wake-up call for the Israeli public and its decision makers, reminding them that the home front is an active front and to a large degree of equal significance to the military front. It is now more evident than ever before that the results of future wars between Israel and its enemies will depend not only on what evolves on the military front, but also on what happens on the home front. The growing strength of Israel's enemies (Hamas in the Palestinian arena, Hizbollah on the Lebanese front, Syria, and Iran further afield) has changed its nature and to a considerable extent now rests on different types of high trajectory weapon systems. The threat thus centers on the civilian front no less than on the direct engagement between armed forces. The question is whether Israel is preparing itself adequately for this different threat.

During an official visit to the IDF Home Front Command on August 19, 2008, Prime Minister Olmert underscored the government's recognition of the significance of the future threat and the necessary response: "Future wars . . . will be different than those of the past, even than the Second Lebanon War. There will no longer [be] a situation in which the war is handled on some distant anonymous front, while life goes on as usual in the big cities. The war will also come to the cities and homes of Israel's citizens, and our enemy's goal will be to attack the home front."


Preparing the home front requires a substantial investment of financial and organizational resources that, as they derive from a single pool of government resources, necessarily compete with those granted to the IDF for preparations on the military front. In the absence of public information about the makeup of the defense budget, it is not possible to suggest an alternate balance of allocations between the military and the home fronts. Furthermore, readiness of the home front requires large chunks of the defense budget, particularly in the area of active defense, as well as budgets from many other government ministries, local authorities, and NGOs. The strength of the traditional security concept, which continues to give priority to IDF capabilities on the military front, is reflected in numerous areas, including the ongoing disagreement over budget allocations for sheltering the Gaza periphery; the failure to implement the resolution on the redistribution in 2009 of protection kits against non-conventional attacks; and the controversy over the issue of national passive defense in general (bearing in mind PM Olmert's remark "we won't shelter ourselves to death," and the proposed cutback in the 2009 budget for civilian defense against non-conventional weapons).


Investments in traditional military fields have important implications for the strength of the civilian front. They contribute to the strengthening of deterrence and early warning elements and improve the capabilities to repel, attack, and force a rapid decision. As the prime minister noted in his visit to the Home Front Command, "Israel will focus on . . . as quick and as decisive a conclusion as possible of the battle. . . . So it is with any country that wants to attack us. What we will be responsible for is to bring about a quick conclusion, at minimal costs, while utilizing our relative advantages." Yet Olmert did not address the question of what will happen to the civilian population if the IDF is unable to achieve a quick and decisive victory. The answer to this question depends in part on allocations for strengthening civil defense.


Israel lacks a body with a professional capacity to recommend to the cabinet the proper balance of allocations needed for the wide spectrum of national security components, which include vital elements of civil defense that are dispersed among different ministries and agencies. This critical shortcoming demands a proper structural response. Until this happens, the numerous civil organs that are responsible for the home front will lag in the competition with the IDF on budget allocations and in closing the gap between legitimate needs and necessary investments.


The absence of clear leadership of the civilian front is not just a matter of budget. Israel lacks an established and recognized system to provide a suitable response to two key issues: the first, on the strategic level, is the lack of a mechanism to set priorities for preparing the home front for emergencies, including allocating appropriate resources, setting standards, and supervising their actual implementation, while creating a common language for all the agencies engaged in this field. In this context, the establishment of the National Emergency Authority (NEA) in the Ministry of Defense is an important step in the right direction, but it is still too early to say whether it will be able to command authority and impose its decisions on the other organs.


The second issue, on the operative level, is the lack of an effective control system on the ground, capable of deploying rapidly and managing disasters. This is especially critical, given the extensive damage likely in the absence of an orderly and accepted mechanism. The number of agencies involved in disaster management creates a serious problem in effective preparation, control, and response. There appears to be a great deal of confusion, particularly over who controls the local scene. There is still no consensus that the only body capable of leading this challenging task is the local authority. True, some local authorities are too weak and would in their current state find it difficult to rise to the challenge. Others have already assumed the responsibility and demonstrated impressive capabilities. Yet whatever the case, only those that deal with the citizens in routine times and are thoroughly familiar with the arena can manage the system during emergencies. The state must recognize this and translate this recognition into policy. This means placing the responsibility for handling a mass disaster on the local authorities, which must take charge of all other elements, including the Home Front Command, Israel Police, branches of government ministries, health systems, and volunteer organizations. Each of these entities has a vital role in handling the threat, dealing with the population, and making advance preparations, but there must be a clear coordinator. The local authority, notwithstanding its limitations, is the most suitable candidate for this position. Yet the PM's remarks that "during battle [the Home Front Command] will have to create the correct balance between providing services to the civilian population, creating the correct atmosphere of calm and activating the local administration" indicate  that the government has not yet embraced this approach.


Although the growing awareness of the centrality of the civilian front reflects progress towards a more balanced national defense concept, and although the establishment of the NEA and other practical measures serve as steps in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before the civilian front is properly positioned to deal with the growing threats. The prime minister was right in suggesting that "we do not have to frighten ourselves too much about threats." But at the same time, the present period of relative tranquility must be exploited to prepare for the effective response needed on the civilian home front as well as on the military front.


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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Report: Holland believes Iran to be attacked soon

Dutch newspaper reports intelligence service recently suspended successful operation in Islamic republic following estimate that US army will decide to launch airstrike against Iranian targets in coming weeks
Published:  09.01.08, 09:06 / Israel News
Holland's military intelligence service (AIVD) recently suspended an intelligence operation aimed at infiltrating and sabotaging the Iranian weapon manufacturing industry following estimates that the United States plans to attack the Islamic republic in the coming weeks, according to a report by Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, quoted by media worldwide Monday.
The report stated that the operation, deemed successful, was recently halted due to preparations for an American airstrike in Iran. The Dutch believe that the bombed targets will include the locations of their espionage operation.
Knowledgeable sources told the Dutch newspaper that a senior agent was recently removed from the country "due to the belief that the US is about to make a decision within weeks on a strike in Iran using unmanned aircraft."
According to the report, the information obtained by Holland due to its operation in Iran was shared with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
 The Bush administration has not ruled out the possibility of attacking Iran should Tehran continue to ignore the international community's demand to suspend its uranium enrichment.

A top Iranian general warned Saturday that any attack on his country would lead to a world war, according to the Mehr news agency.

"The unbridled greediness of the American and Zionist leadership is pushing the world to the edge of the cliff," Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said in relation to the crises in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Georgia, "should such a (conflict) erupt, the phony and artificial regimes will be annihilated."
Earlier last week, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, said that Israel would not dare launch an attack on Iran for fear of the Islamic Republic's missile array and the support of its Islamic allies in the region.
"In the event of an attack against Iran, the Israelis know that with the capabilities that the Islamic world and the Shiite world have in the region, they will suffer deadly strikes," the Mehr news agency quoted Jafari as saying, in an apparent reference to Hizbullah.

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Report: Syria evicts Hamas head

According to Al Rai of Kuwait, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal has departed from Damascus Syria's request and will live in Sudan. Evidently this was due to Syria's desire to advance indirect peace talks with Israel.
Al Rai quoted Palestinians who claimed that the move was part of a secret deal between Meshal and the Syrian authorities. Meshal has been working out of Damascus since his expulsion from Jordan about ten years ago.
Some Israelis believe that the move shows a serious desire on Syria's part to advance negotiations, but there is no real evidence that the move actually took place. A Damascus-based anonymous Hamas official denied the report, saying "media reports that Hamas' politburo chief, Khaled Meshal, and other members will move to Sudan are false."

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Cartoons for peace

Cartooning in the cause of peace
By Karin Kloosterman  
August 26, 2008

It might not look like it on CNN, but the majority of people who live in Israel and the region - Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens along with Palestinians - are rooting for peace. There are dozens of projects bringing Arabs and Jews together to show the positive face of the Middle East: Israel has Interns for Peace, Chefs for Peace, Belly Dancers for Peace, bloggers, musicians and even dentists in the name of peace.
One of the latest projects to land in Israel is Cartooning for Peace, founded by famous French political satirist, Jean Plantureux (Plantu). This past June, cartoonists from around the world gathered in Israel and the Palestinian Authority at four simultaneous exhibitions in Ramallah, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and Holon.
The artists met to share how cartooning can be used as a means for peaceful dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as others in the region including Turks, Algerians and Egyptians. Participants also included Japanese, Americans, and French citizens.
Selected cartoonists, such as Plantu, who works for French paper Le Monde, were present at the event where the artists got a chance to present their work and participate in master classes attended by an audience that included diplomats. The meet was supported in part by the Peres Center for Peace in Israel.
A founding member of Cartooning for Peace, Israeli political cartoonist Michel Kichka, spoke with ISRAEL21c about the importance of the event: "Cartooning for Peace, or any other professional meeting gives you opportunities to talk," he says. "We are trying to put together people who, let's say, have a common understanding of what should be done with cartoons, or more correctly, what should not be done."
Commenting on the recent attacks on cartoonists in Europe, Kichka, who is originally from Belgium, says he personally believes that offending a person's religious beliefs is the lowest form of cartooning, but that the furore showed there is a long way to go in achieving public understanding of a cartoonist's right to free speech.
When cartoonists meet, says Kichka, "We learn nothing can be taken for granted. There is still a fight that has be done. Democracy is not something that should be taken for granted. The freedom of speech should not be taken for granted. We have to fight for it... Even when you mean to be liberal and positive, anything you say [as a cartoonist] can be turned against you."
When the members from Cartooning for Peace gather, it allows people who normally don't meet each other to participate in panels and debates, says Kichka. This last meeting in Israel wasn't the first time he's met with Arab and Palestinian cartoonists, however.
And although it is important for Israelis and the Arab world to meet, it is also important for regional cartoonists to be in touch with Americans, Japanese and other representing nations among the group. Says Kichka, "Through them we understand their culture, country and concerns and can feel how much we have in common and how similar is our fight."
Aliza Savir, deputy director general of the Peres Center, said her organization helped the cartoonists arrange entry permits to Israel and other details. She tells ISRAEL21c: "Humanization of the other side is crucial for any good relations between Jews and Arabs in the future."
Kichka said this past opportunity in Israel, "allowed us to understand what it means to be a cartoonist in a different country, whether in a country with heavy censorship or a democracy in which dissenters deal with sensitive issues. Each cartoonist brought his own experience with him and together we've put together something unique."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Arafat killed US diplomats, but US continued to negotiate with PLO

A story in Ha'aretz reveals that the CIA knew that Yasser Arafat had ordered the murder of the Ambassador and his deputy in Khartoum, Sudan, but Henry Kissinger  instructed the CIA to continue diplomatic contacts with Yasser Arafat's PLO before the Yom Kippur war. At the time, the US insisted it would not negotiate with the PLO. Later it claimed the negotiations concerned only security. In fact, there were secret diplomatic negotiations.
Diplomatic negotiations were held between Robert Ames of the CIA and the head of the Fatah's security apparatus, Ali Hassan Salameh, who was also the commander of the Fatah's Black September organization. Salameh was killed in Beirut in 1979 in an operation conducted by the Mossad and naval commandos.

Ames,  head of the CIA's Middle Eastern department, was killed in an Iranian-ordered attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983. 

Helms' documents reveal that Arafat sent Salameh to the talks without hiding his responsibility for killing American diplomats in Khartoum in March 1973. Ames also agreed to Salameh's requests and asked Washington about various diplomatic issues, such as the Nixon administration's intentions relating to Palestinian interests.

Salameh told Ames that the PLO was working to topple King Hussein and establish a Palestinian state in Jordan. Unperturbed, Washington responded that if the Palestinians want to negotiate a settlement, the U.S. would be happy to hear their proposals, but the toppling of existing governments through the use of force did not seem to be the most promising way.

Arafat threatened, via Ames, that he would burn Beirut if the Lebanese government acted against the PLO.
The newly-released material also describes the Egyptian initiative in the spring of 1973 to plead with the U.S., through Iranian channels, to reach an arrangement with Israel "on the basis of the Rogers plan," a withdrawal from the occupied territories captured in 1967 and placing them under international supervision. The Rogers plan did not promise, nor did Egypt offer, peace with Israel, though the Ha'aretz article mentions a "peace agreement."  

The documents also reveal that the US and others knew quite a bit about the planned Yom Kippur war well in advance. The Shah of Iran evidently knew of Egyptian attack plans, and recommended to Egyptian foreign minister Muhammad Hassan al-Zayyat that Egypt content itself with an artillery barrage against Israeli positions on the Suez Canal instead of an attack crossing the canal.

In a telegram Helms sent Kissinger - then Richard Nixon's National Security Advisor - on July 5, 1973, Helms reported that King Hussein of Jordan told him that Jordanian intelligence had learned of a Syrian attack to recapture the Golan Heights originally planned for June, that had been delayed but could take place at any time. One of the Jordanian intelligence sources was the commander of a Syrian armored brigade, and the Jordanians had obtained a copy of the battle plans, which had been coordinated with Egypt and Iraq.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Revolution in US Aliya - Aliya to be run by Nefesh b' Nefesh

This revolution in Aliya (emigration to Israel) from North America has been a while in coming. The down side is that with the loss of competition, Nefesh Benefesh will become less efficient and motivated.

It is significant that Zionist organizations are learning the value of the Internet.

Ami Isseroff


US aliya ceded to Nefesh B'Nefesh

Sep. 1, 2008

For the first time in its history, the Jewish Agency for Israel has ceded its function of promoting aliya to a private organization.

According to an agreement signed on August 22 but only announced on Sunday, aliya promotion in the United States and Canada will be handled by the private Nefesh B'Nefesh organization. The Jewish Agency will maintain sole rights to determine eligibility and to open files in official Israeli agencies, but this function will be made accessible through the NBN Web site.

The agreement marks a shift of responsibility from the large, history-laden Jewish Agency, whose leadership is appointed by political coalitions of Zionist groups in the World Zionist Organization, to a tech-savvy organization utilizing up-to-date business models and marketing strategies.

According to officials in the Jewish Agency, the shift will include largely dismantling the network of 12 aliya shlichim (emissaries) in North America, "redeploying" a few of them and focusing on Internet-based marketing and communications methods utilized by Nefesh B'Nefesh for aliya promotion.

The new cooperation has effectively established a "one-stop shop" for Americans and Canadians interested in aliya, according to a press release put out by the two organizations.

The agreement comes after months of a bitter turf war between the organizations. Even the latest press release was delayed for several days due to disagreement over its phrasing.

The agreement is viewed by officials in both organizations as a "victory" for Nefesh B'Nefesh, which has taken over the implementation of aliya policy in North America from an organization that has held a de facto monopoly over all aspects of aliya worldwide since its founding in 1929.

"We are pleased to have formalized a working agreement with the Jewish Agency, and are eager to continue facilitating and promoting North American aliya in our new enhanced capacity," said Nefesh B'Nefesh co-founder Tony Gelbart. "This agreement will enable Nefesh B'Nefesh to further fulfill our mission of making aliya as seamless and successful as possible."

"The Jewish Agency is confident that as a result of this cooperation with Nefesh B'Nefesh, aliya from North America will grow," Jewish Agency chairman Ze'ev Bielski said.

Despite the apparent loss of turf, a senior Jewish Agency official told The Jerusalem Post that the agency's leadership believed the move would be beneficial for their organization.

"It's a big change. We know it, and we're still learning about it," the official said. "We've gotten used to being a monopoly where no one else touches aliya. Now, suddenly we're cooperating with a local organization."

The Jewish Agency is "an organization built on consensus that tends to be very conservative," he said, but its ultimate commitment to increasing aliya has forced it to recognize that "Nefesh B'Nefesh has taken the idea of a friendlier and more efficient process to a very advanced level."

The new cooperation will mean that olim won't face "two different organizations, which is confusing," the official said, "but one [aliya application] form with both our logos, one information system. It's a collaborative venture."

According to Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland President Stephen Hoffman, who together with UJA Federation of New York chief executive John Ruskay and Washington, DC, mediator Kenneth Feinberg brought the two organizations together to hammer out the agreement, the final result is a "win-win situation."

"The only issue here was, is there a better way to do the job? If there is, and somebody is pouring new money into it, it's a huge win."

According to Hoffman, the work of Nefesh B'Nefesh has changed the debate over aliya in the United States. Whereas American Jewish leaders used to argue that aliya "was not something [the US Jewish community] had a big interest in," the tech-savvy, customer-oriented operating style of Nefesh B'Nefesh "has got federations saying that this is something different. Suddenly we do have people who want to make aliya. They've created a buzz about it. We've gone from aliya in the West being an ideological battle to being an enthusiastic choice that's being offered to people."

The new excitement surrounding aliya has not yet translated into significant increases in the number of immigrants. According to figures compiled by Prof. Chaim Waxman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, American aliya has accounted for 2,335 olim in 2007, a dramatic rise from the 1,237 who came in 2000, but not much higher than the 2,253 of 1995.

But Nefesh B'Nefesh can point to a 98-percent retention rate among olim who come with the organization. This is achieved by a combination of factors. NBN will only accept olim who have visited Israel before deciding to immigrate to the country, those who are not fleeing financial or other sorts of "crises," and those whose personal situation - "on a case by case basis," according to an organization official - make a successful absorption more likely. In the new agreement, those who are eligible for aliya but are not accepted by Nefesh B'Nefesh will register with the Jewish Agency but still be brought to Israel on NBN-organized flights.

The organization also operates a comprehensive support network in Israel which helps the new arrivals find work and connect socially. It offers many olim who immigrate through the organization loans that are turned into grants after a number of years in the country. Perhaps most importantly, according to the olim themselves, Nefesh B'Nefesh workers and volunteers help the immigrants navigate the complicated Israeli bureaucracy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saif al Din - Number 1 wanted terrorist

Ronen Bergman last fingered Imad Moughniyeh as #1 terrorist in 2006. He knows whereof he speaks. You never heard of Saif al Din, right? Neither did I. Read and learn.
One of world's most wanted terrorists, author of al-Qaeda bomb-making manual, is only known by photo of his hands. International intelligence community believes man responsible for killing, maiming hundreds of people was born in Palestinian territories
Ronen Bergman Published:  08.31.08, 20:48 / Israel News 
"I know this bomb from somewhere," mumbled the intelligence expert studying recent photos from a Damascus blast. After racking his brain and going through some files trying to remember where he had seen a combination of explosives rigged to gas tanks, it finally hit him – it was the trademark of Saif al-Din ("Sword of the Faith") – one of the world's most notorious and wanted terrorists to date.
In September of 2006, an al-Qaeda affiliated terror group attempted to carry out an attack on the US Embassy in Damascus. The footage taken of the intended scene included photos of the mass explosive device, which was placed in the most structurally-vulnerable point of the building; waiting to bring it down on its inhabitants. The footage left no room for error – the device was one of the explosives developed for al-Qaeda by Saif al-Din. It was the vigilance of the Syrian and American security guards that prevented a catastrophe, saving dozens of lives, if not more.
Saif al-Din has been the focus of a worldwide manhunt for the past two years, with dismal results. The international intelligence community doesn't even know what he looks like and all they have to go on is a picture of his hands. In a world that allows one to run his whole life through an online browser, essentially never leaving the house, one cannot be too surprised that the man responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan is little more than a virtual character in cyberspace.
The mystery surrounding Saif al-Din has turned him into a living legend among legions of Jihad fans. The man, on his part, has made no mistakes so far; leaving no trace which may lead to an unexpected visit by a hitman: There is no known address, no known associates or affiliations, not so much a blurry image of his face. All the international intelligence community has to go on is the image of his hands, which appear in an instructional video – "bomb-making 101" – designed to teach eager terrorist-wannabes how to make explosive devices that can cause maximum casualties.
Humble beginnings
Saif al-Din got off to a humble start when it comes to performing international acts of terror. Some five years ago, a Jihad activist logged on to a Hamas forum and introduced a series of lessons on bomb-making. "These instructions are meant for (Islamic) Jihad warriors. They must be applied on the heretics and Jews. I am here to praise Allah's commands and will not he held responsible if this is used against any other Muslim," he wrote.
The seemingly ephemeral post was to become one of Jihad's most ambitious and dangers online adventures, granting the man behind the avatar unprecedented fame and recognition.
The man's chosen cyber alter ego, "Saif al-Din", carries a deep religious significance in Islam. Considered one of the religion's ancient mythological characters, Saif al-Din was a 16-year old boy when he converted to Islam against his family's wishes. He soon became famous for his pious lifestyle and strong Muslim beliefs, and according to tradition was given the name Saif al-Din by the Prophet Muhammad himself. Saif al-Din was killed is one of Islam's early jihads, at the age of 23. The Prophet himself is believed to have buried his follower. Saif al-Din then became one of Islam's most highly regarded figures, hailed as the most shining example of a muslin believer.
The virtual entity dubbed Saif al-Din first appeared in cyberspace in 2003, in a Hamas forum considered a relatively minor one, since it was dedicated to local conflicts. He began his Internet venture independently, believed to be motivated by his religious devotion alone. His early posts are indicative of both research and operational methods unsupported – financially or otherwise – by any external group. According to the posts, he would buy books and read various documents with the intent of distributing his newfound knowledge in favor of his "Mujahedin brethren," i.e. – Jihad warriors and extreme Islamists worldwide.
Although believed not to reside in the Palestinian Authority, Saif al-Din focuses many of his posts on the Palestinian problem, often saying he hopes Palestinians will use the knowledge he provides to "build a device which would facilitate the liberation of Palestine from the Israeli occupation."
Terrorism 101
The highly sophisticated level of Saif al-Din's posts soon made him an authority figure among the forum's participants. His random posts were soon complied into the first addition of his official writings – "Saif al-Din's illustrated encyclopedia of explosives" – gaining him worldwide fame, and notoriety, in similar forums. It wasn't long before the global Jihad took notice.
Saif al-Din's first few official publications under the Jihad's banner were signed "your brother Saif al-Din, transcendent paradise brigades." Others were singed "the world Islamic front for Jihad against Jews and crusaders." The latter, formed in 1998, is believed to be the name given to the group under which Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement joined forces.
The affiliation between Saif al-Din and al-Qaeda has become obvious over the past few years, when his posts began sporting photos of Osama Bin Laden and other prominent al-Qaeda and Jihad figures; and their publications began crediting him; but they share the fear of being tracked down, and rarely post personal messages in public forums.
The most recent message detected was posted when one of al-Qaeda's senior technical experts, dubbed the "Hawk," was killed in Iraq: "The Hawk flies no more," wrote one of the forum's participants. "Can someone please get in touch with Saif al-Din and tell him his dear fried and colleague has died a martyr's death?"
The people frequenting the forum are well aware of each other's respective "expertise," and have been discussing the creation of a virtual training camp for guerilla warfare, so that "warriors" intending to leave for Iraq could receive weapons and explosives training. Saif al-Din was to run the show.
The operative's guide to terrorism galaxy
Gadi Aviran, founder and chief intelligence officer at Terrogence – a company which specializes in intelligence gathering for the international intelligence community – believes Saif al-Din really does know what he is talking about.

"Saif al-Din demonstrates high levels of proficiency, probably based on vast experience in manufacturing improvised explosives, manufacturing advanced explosives and coming up with various scenarios for incorporating them in acts of terror," he says. "Most notable is his ability to relay complicated matters in layman's terms, so terrorists who aren't as proficient as he is would be able to apply them.
"Saif al-Din has been instrumental in the creation of a database considered a reliable source of information by Jihad operatives when planning attacks. This information is made available through the forums, and if they find it lacking, they post a question and await the professional answer that soon follows."
Right off the bat, Saif al-Din made it clear that he is here to kill as many "heretics" as he can; and that unlike other Jihad followers, he has no intention of engaging in complex debates on various religious decrees and what is and isn't the right thing to do.
"My dear brothers," he writes in chapter five of the illustrated encyclopedia of explosives, "I have no official training in this science so your theoretical questions in chemistry are of little interest to me, at least at this time. I have studied from what I have seen and done and from those I trust...I am just a man seeking knowledge, one who wants to pass on the knowledge he already has to this handful of good men here online, without misleading them or giving them any information that may cause them harm."
No one knows exactly where Saif al-Din received his basic training in guerilla warfare. According to one conjecture, he is a former Hamas man who was deported to Lebanon in 1992, only to be trained by Hizbullah, Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and Iranian intelligence specialists. Another "graduate" of the same class in the infamous "engineer" – Yahya Ayyash – who later became instrumental in devising Hamas' deadly terror attacks on Israel between 1995 and 1996.

Saif al-Din's knowledge has become increasingly extensive over the years, with much of his deadly expertise obtained – according to his own statements – through experiments and overt sources. His uncanny ability to research information and turn abstract theories into operational facts have allowed him to write the three dissertations he is most famous for: "Saif al-Din's illustrated encyclopedia of explosives" – which spans five volumes; "Answers to the Mujahedin's questions," and the four-part  "Intellectual and personal advancement of the Mujahedin."
Saif al-Din's publications span thousands of pages that provide step-by-step illustrated instruction on how to carry out an attack on civilian targets. Ranging from complex technical assignments such as how to get hold of ammonium nitrate (a key component in the manufacturing of explosives) and assembling your very own car bomb, to purely operational tasks, the likes of gathering intelligence and concealing one's identity and plans to avoid detection – all written in language even the most dunce of Jihadists could understand.
Practice makes perfect
Unlike his fellow cyberspace Jihadists, Saif al-Din is a man of action. He does not waste time on ornate greetings or elaborate prologs – he gets right down to business, offering his readers a short introduction before going ahead with the demonstrations. 
"Today we will learn about the practical uses of chemicals… such as their temperature and combustibility and the best ways of mixing them together," he begins his lesson. Once the basics are out of the way, he goes on to the logistics: "In order to effectively destroy a building you must first know how it is constructed – bricks, steel etc, - because every building has different (shock) tolerance…"
Saif al-Din is also a known patron of several chemistry websites, aimed at the genre's enthusiasts, who usually engage in innocent discussions about various compounds and the composition and use of various chemicals, oblivious to the fact that one of them is using the information they so generously share to make explosives.
A modest man, yet acutely aware of the importance of intellectual property, Saif al-Din has only one request of his pupils: "Dear brothers, I hope that in every website or forum you feature this information on, you will remember to credit Saif al-Din's encyclopedia.
Origins of Evil
A large part of the information used by Saif al-Din comes from online research, but this is not your run of the mill Google search: The FBI investigators who probed the Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995 – which left 168 people dead – and Timothy McVeigh's involvement in it, may be surprised to know of the extensive use al-Din makes of classified material they entered into evidence during McVeigh's trial.
Saif al-Din has been able to get his hands on the sketches illustrating the best possible positioning of the explosives in the truck used in the bombing, so that the detonation would create an accurate, massive blast; and is using them as instructional blueprints in his teachings, without so much as a feeble attempt to conceal their origin. They even sport the "confidential" watermark embedded on FBI documents.
A source familiar with the investigation of Saif al-Din believes the manner in which the documents are presented is aimed to achieve three goals: The first – to distribute information about a lethal terror attack; the second – to increase Jihadists' motivation, since the attack struck at the heart of Jihad's archenemy – the US; and third – to ridicule the security measures taken by US Intelligence, which he has been so effortlessly able to breach.
Saif al-Din uses the Oklahoma City bombing in order to teach his followers about the kind of truck they should use in a similar attack, the amounts of explosives required to take out a building of the size, and the magnitude of the shockwave that follows such an explosion. "The numbers marking the quantities (of explosives) are only estimates," he cautions; "if a Jihad warrior can get his hands on more explosives, there is nothing wrong in using bigger quantities to ensure the destruction of heretics everywhere."
Classified material from the interrogation of al-Qaeda's Dhiren Barot, who was arrested on suspicion of planning terror attacks in the US and the UK, has also found its way to his tutorials. Barot, who was fortunately arrested before any of the attacks he planned were carried out, had several atrocities in the works, ranging from booby-trapped limousines to radioactive charges, set to explode near Wall Street. Security footage of Barot casing various locations to plant his bombs are now available online as part of Saif al-Din's teachings.
Blueprints to mayhem

Shai Arbel of Terrogence has devoted the better part of the past three years to following Saif al-Din's online activity. "He's very savvy and he knows how to exploit the Internet for his needs," he says. "Some of the material he uses is based on Western sources – commercial publications, footage from past experiments and videos from P2P file sharing sites… his biggest contribution is his ability to get hold of rough material, translate it, process it and post it online in a way that allows Jihadists with no special training to make use of it."
An example of just how applicable Saif al-Din's teachings are was evident in the failed attempt to attack the US embassy in Damascus. During the attack, four Jihadists attempted to force their way into the building by opening fire at security guards and hurling grenades at the entrance. The attack was contained because the car bomb parked near the embassy failed to go off, allowing the security guards to return fire, kill three of their assailants and wound the fourth.

"The car bomb contained several gas-based explosive devices, rigged with pipe bombs. The structure of the devices was highly unusual and their design was similar to one shown in material we know Saif al-Din had relayed to his followers," added Aviran. Since 2006, several explosive devices found in scenes of foiled terror attacka in the UK and Scotland have been traced back to the same method of rigging gas tanks to explosives in a very specific manner.

Series of operational errors? Scene of 2004 Madrid bombing (Photo: Reuters)
Saif al-Din's contribution goes beyond the logistics of planning a terror attack. As time passed, he began to devote much of his time to analyzing past terror attacks. Among his subject matters, for example, was the 2004 Madrid bombing: Saif a-Din explores all aspects of the bombing in his posts, from the location through to the weapons of choice, while detailing everything he believe was done wrong.
"When you read this analysis, don't think for one minute that we (Jihad) doubt this blessed attack's legitimacy, or the blessed death of our enemies. This is still one of the most successful operations since the attacks on New York and Washington… nevertheless, one of the critical errors mentioned here, which took place in the planning stages, led to the martyr's death of many of the cell's members and prompted the Spanish security forces to boast about their so-called 'capabilities' in apprehending the Jihad cell. We must review the reasons that led to this result, while keeping in mind that it was Allah's wish."

Among the errors counted in the analysis, al-Din went on to note the terrorists' involvement with local Spanish criminal elements, which led to the cell's exposur, the misuse of a cellular phone as the device's trigger, leaving fingerprints on various components, and so on.
International manhunt
It is exactly these kinds of posts, says Aviran, that have made Saif al-Din the foremost source of online information for Jihad warriors when it comes to weapons manufacturing. "They know they can ask him just about anything and that he will find a way to give then an answer."
The international intelligence community aside, the West's police forces are well aware of the operational ramifications Saif al-Din's posts carry. In his last Q&A post, for example, he was asked about the potential effect of using chlorine gas as part of an explosive device. He answers was as follows: "Enclosed is an illustration of the gas cloud that may follow an explosion involving large quantities of chlorine gas over, let's say, London. According to initial assessments, a gas dispersion like that can kill up to 7,000 heretics (…) especially if such an explosion were to take place in east London, taking into consideration weather and wind conditions and the fact that it is a highly populated area."

This answer, posted on one of Jihad's secret online forums, was brought to the attention of MI5, which immediately alerted the Scotland Yard. London Police was immediately put on its highest state of alert, flooding the city with mass forces in order to gather intelligence, but to no avail.
The conclusion eventually reached was that the post was a stunt – an attempt by Saif al-Din to check how closely his posts were monitored, as well as an attempt to see what steps would be taken to protect London from any such threat.
Ghosts of cyberspace
Saif al-Din is extremely careful about concealing and protecting his identity, avoiding any personal questions and saying he does so for his own personal safety. It is believed he logs on to the various forums using several aliases and is known for refusing to send any kind of private message, for fear it may be intercepted. The only thing consistent about his posts is his signature phrase – "don't forget to pray for us." 
As Saif al-Din became a celebrity of sorts, and with the ever-increasing fear of exposure, he began keeping his personal appearances in various forums to a minimum. Since 2005, he has only made rare appearances online, posting the following message: "For many important reasons I cannot log on to more than one forum a day, or stay online for too long. This is why I entrust you, my brothers, with the mission (of distributing the teachings) should this forum fail to ensure it… you will have my gratitude, appreciation and thanks and may Allah's blessing be upon you."
Instead of making personal appearances, Saif al-Din has began using mediators, who post his teachings and relay any questions his followers may have. The identity of these mediators remains unknown, and it is likely that some of them are aliases used by al-Din himself.

No one knows exactly where Saif al-Din is operating from. Analysis of several of the images he posted and several slips of the tongue have led the international community to think he resides somewhere in Europe.
"Saif al-Din is your classic arch-villain of the Internet era, concludes Adi Angel of Terrogence. "He has worldwide influence and he operates from an undisclosed location and under and alias. His posts are relevant to all (terror) operatives regardless of their affiliation or geographic location, and he himself is an independent contactor, obligated to no organizational hierarchy whose tracking may lead to him being captured.
"Despite the extensive use he makes of the Internet he has left little to no clues as to who he is or where he operates from. He's in the wind."

Continued (Permanent Link)

anti - Israel Trashing of Google Earth maps made more difficult

A Jerusalem Post story tells us quite a bit about how the Web can be misused, and how this is slowly changing. One person can make a big difference. Other user generated materials like Wikipedia are vulnerable to the same sort of distortion, and should be vulnerable to the same sort of law suits. Thameen Derby, the vandal mentioned in the article is just one guy. Palestine Remembered Web site was made by one guy as well, at least at first.
User-generated anti-Israel markings on Google Earth to have to go through new filter
Haviv Rettig , THE JERUSALEM POST Aug. 31, 2008

A new super-layer of geographic information in the popular Google Earth program now requires corroboration before user-generated content can be added to the default map display. The move means that anti-Israel markings placed by a Jenin resident are no longer visible to users when they first open the program.

Google was criticized in recent months for a series of orange markings overlaying the satellite map of Israel that were labeled "Nakba - The Palestinian Catastrophe." These were placed by Jenin resident Thameen Darby, and clicking on them led to the anti-Israel Web site Palestine Remembered.

Google may also be facing a libel suit in the US by the city of Kiryat Yam, which the map incorrectly claimed was built on the remains of the Arab village of Ghawarina.

While Google has defended its willingness to accept user-generated content placed over the satellite maps, the new layer, which was announced earlier this month, has made it dramatically more difficult for a single person to change the default information appearing on the program's satellite maps.

The layer (or collection of information and markings placed over the satellite map) through which Darby made his markings was called "Google Earth Community," and was the product of a user-moderated online community.

The problem, according to Google Earth's critics, was that this user-generated layer was displayed over the map of Israel by default.

Now Google has rolled out the new "Places" layer, which aggregates information from several sources, including Wikipedia, YouTube, the picture site Panoramio and the original Google Earth Community to present a richer multimedia layer over satellite maps worldwide.

Key to the new layer are special algorithms that corroborate information received through one source with the other sources. According to a company statement, this will make "it easier for users to learn about a given place through photos, videos, and annotations contributed by users around the world."

But it will also allow Google Earth to automatically corroborate any information received from users before displaying it on the default layer. Only information appearing in more than a single source will be displayed in this layer.

The company has not removed any layers or information. All layers, whether the massive Google Earth Community or small ones such as those showing a tourist's journey, local information in local languages or even historical maps, can still be displayed by choosing those layers in a menu sitting beside the map

Continued (Permanent Link)

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