Well meaning Christians and Jews decided to have Iftar dinner (part of the Ramadan holiday) with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or maybe they were not so well meaning, since nobody can ignore who Ahmadinejad is and what he stands for.
Dinner with Ahmadinejad reminds me of an old joke about poor Pedro the Mexican peasant. One day little weak old Pedro was going along the road with his oxcart. A famous Mexican bandit, the Sonora Hombre, and his men came down the road at a gallop. They could not pass the laden oxcart.
"You," shouted the Hombre waving his gun and firing in the air, "get down off your cart."
Pedro got off the cart.
The Hombre pointed his gun at Pedro's temple and said, "You see the horse crap there? Eat it!"
Pedro reluctantly ate.
The Hombre and his men pushed the cart off the cliff, mounted their horses and went on their way.
A few weeks later, Pedro was in saloon in a small town.
Someone came in and yelled, "Vamenos Muchachos - the Sonora Hombre is coming! Vamenos!"
Pedro sat still.
The bartender said, "Aren't you afraid of the Sonora Hombre?"
"No, I know the Sonora Hombre. I am not afraid."
"You, Pedro, you know the Sonora Hombre?"
"Si, I know him. We had lunch together."
All this by way of introduction...
By Bruce Chilton
Thu. Oct 02, 2008
Iftar is a beautiful custom within the liturgical practice of Islam. During Ramadan, the month of fasting, sunset marks the time when food may be taken again. Families and communities offer meals for friends and neighbors, often inviting those who are not practicing Muslims to join with them in sharing special dishes. This can be a relaxed and congenial setting for interfaith dialogue, especially among those who have inherited the biblical tradition, those whom the Quran calls "the people of the book." The same chapter of the Quran that deals with how and when the fast should be broken also speaks of "the people of the book," and hospitality is deeply rooted in Islamic theology.
Iran's mission to the United Nations recently co-sponsored an Iftar at New York's Grand Hyatt hotel, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the featured guest. The meeting was co-hosted by Christian groups, most notably by the Mennonites, the Quakers and the World Council of Churches. The event had an ennobling theme, "Has not one God created us? The significance of religious contributions to peace."
The result, however, was anything but ennobling.
Many organizations — both Christian and non-Christian — had criticized the September 25 event in advance. Documented policies of religious oppression within Iran and the Islamic Republic's nuclear program provoked deep concern about the Iftar and engendered anger at its Christian co-sponsors.
The Mennonites and the Quakers survived the persecution of their leaders during the 16th and 17th centuries. Their response was to articulate clear theologies of pacifism, which remain influential to this day among all those who ponder the relationship between violence and morality. So what purpose did they believe they served in co-sponsoring Ahmadinejad's evening breakfast?
The event's Christian co-sponsors made it plain that they by no means wished to signal agreement with all of Ahmadinejad's policies and statements. Their intent was to treat him, not as a pariah, but rather as a leader with whom dialogue is necessary. Part of their agenda, as explained by the American Friends Service Committee, a prominent Quaker organization that co-hosted the Iftar, was to rebuke the Bush administration for what they regard as its confrontational posture toward Iran. And yet, Ahmadinejad, in his speech to the General Assembly two days earlier, was himself nothing if not confrontational toward the United States. "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road," he said. The Christian co-hosts of the Iftar dinner may or may not agree with this sort of rhetoric, but that was far from the only inflammatory passage in his speech.
Ahmadinejad has long been embroiled in controversy over his statements regarding the State of Israel. Some have argued that he has not exactly called for Israel to be wiped off the map, but merely wished for it to collapse, as the Soviet Union did. Either way, his feelings toward the Jewish state are undeniably ugly, and he made his hostility unmistakably clear in his General Assembly speech. "In Palestine, 60 years of carnage and invasion is still ongoing at the hands of some criminal and occupying Zionists," he said. His proposed solution was for a "free referendum" to set up a new state in order to replace the regime that, in his words, has "no way for it to get out of the cesspool created by itself and its supporters."
This is what Ahmadinejad had to say the day before his Iftar for peace. His remarks are consistent with his previous statements, but the juxtaposition of his speech and the Iftar only highlighted the irresponsibility of the event's Christian co-sponsors.
Christians can and do differ over the degree of support that Israel should be accorded, over how to respond to Iran's nuclear ambitions and over how the Islamic Republic of Iran should be treated. But in his speech to the United Nations the day before the Iftar, Ahmadinejad staked out a position that no theologically aware Christian can condone.
In terms reminiscent of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the antisemitic tract that poisoned Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, Ahmadinejad spoke out against what he called a "Zionist network," complaining that "they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner." This incitement to hatred complements Ahmadinejad's well-known proclivity to deny the reality of the Holocaust.
Moments come to Christians, as to other people of conscience, when they need to recognize that a person or a movement has set itself in direct opposition to their principles. Ahmadinejad has deliberately resorted to a tradition of hate speech whose intended consequence — proven repeatedly by hard experience — is violence against Jews. The pogroms of the Middle Ages, abetted by corrupt church leaders and a theology that endorsed murder, formed the background of Hitler's genocide.
No one can claim ignorance in regard to the consequences of the kind of antisemitism that Ahmadinejad has expressed. Christians of conscience need unequivocally to reject his position, and to cease supporting events that are little more than photo opportunities for an erratic politician who faces waning legitimacy abroad and dwindling support at home.
The Rev. Bruce Chilton is director of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College and chairs the Episcopal-Jewish Relations Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of New York. He is the author, most recently, of "Abraham's Curse: The Roots of Violence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam" (Doubleday).
Labels: Ahmadinejad, Anti-Zionism, Iran, Israel-2
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Thiis is the story of a Mossad spy - one of these scary, horrible people of the international Jewish conspiracy, who are supposed to have horns and tails and be responsible for the 9-11 attacks and all other ills in the world.
Yehudit Nessyahu was born in Holland in 1925, to a religious Zionist family. When she was 3 years old, the family moved to Belgium, where her father was in charge of the distribution of "certificates" (immigration permits for Palestine), fund-raising and the purchase of arms for the Haganah.
Yehudit attended the Balfour School in Tel Aviv, joined the Bnei Akiva youth movement and studied philosophy and history at the Hebrew University. During her time there, she was active in Yavneh, a religious student group . During the War of Independence, she enlisted in the IDF, and when the war was over she returned to her studies. In 1956, at the urging of Baruch Duvdevani, the Jewish Agency's director of aliya, she joined Misgeret, a clandestine organization that handled the immigration of Jews from Morocco.
"It all started because of my father, who was the first Jewish Agency emissary in North Africa for illegal aliyah in 1942," says Tirza Ben-Haim, 50. "He disguised himself as a French officer and began organizing the aliyah. When he came to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco for the first time, the people were living in cave-like dwellings. He asked to see the representatives of the village, went into a house with them and told them, 'I came here from Palestine to organize you. It won't happen now, but just know that I'm here to organize you.' They said, 'Fine,' and kept on with the conversation and when he walked out of there, the whole village was already waiting with their possessions on their backs, ready to go to Palestine. Of course, it took some more years until the people from that village came to Israel," she smiles.
"Yehudit basically traveled there to help him on behalf of the Jewish Aency." What was her motivation? Was she attracted to clandestine activity? "No," says Ruthie Ben-Haim emphatically. "Her drive was Zionism, pure and simple. The Land of Israel, the Jewish People and the need to bring here as many Jews as possible."
Nessyahu worked for about two and a half years to bring Moroccan Jews to Israel. In conversations with her nephew, Ben Davis, when he was preparing a "roots" project for school, she said that she had been in contact with members of the Moroccan police, from whom she sometimes received documents that she had to copy and then return. She would place the documents in a large shopping basket, hidden under various grocery items.
In Casablanca, she adopted the guise of a wealthy Dutchwoman from Indonesia. "In Morocco, she had a difficult problem because she wasn't supposed to be a Jew," continues Ben-Haim. "Her whole circle was non-Jews who ate pork and all kinds of treif. She was always religious and she said that sometimes, for days, since she couldn't eat anything else, she existed just on oranges, and that whenever one of the non-Jews took her out for a meal, she would say she was on a diet and could only eat salad. She was very strict about that."
But it wasn't always possible. "Sometimes you have to do things," says Ben-Haim. "When she needed to maintain her cover she would break a commandment. She didn't say exactly what she did, but when she had to, she ate pork. Everything was for the sake of the cause, for the Land of Israel and the Jewish People."
Eliezer Palmor of the Foreign Ministry, remembered that she told him that "on one of her missions to Morocco she almost gave herself away. In Europe they peel an orange the way you peel an apple, and she started peeling an orange in the special Israeli way: She cut off the top of the peel and sliced down the sides. As she was doing it, she caught herself and said, 'Oops, that's not right.'"
"That's a famous story," laugh the Ben-Haim sisters, recalling another anecdote that their aunt told them. "Sometime in the late 1950s she was at the airport in Alexandria. Someone suddenly appeared who knew her, from the university apparently, and shouted, 'Yehudit! What are you doing here? How are you?' and she, a little in shock, said, 'Um - you must be mistaken.' She said it was one of the most dangerous moments she ever had."
Near the end of the 1950s the activities of Misgeret were moved to the Mossad, and Nessyahu became a Mossad employee. Ephraim Halevy, the former Mossad chief, met her in 1961. He says he "doesn't like" the term "spy" and calls Nessyahu an "operative intelligence officer."
"She wasn't all that healthy. She had a serious eye disease, and despite this she performed with great courage," says Halevy. "There were women in such positions, but the number of women was relatively small compared to now. She wasn't a seductress and it wasn't the external physical aspects that caught people's interest, but she knew how to connect to people and gain their trust."
In 1960, Harel chose to include Nessyahu in the operation to capture Eichmann. In his book, "The House on Garibaldi Street," he called her "Dina Ron" and wrote: "She was chosen as a possible spouse on the assumption that she'd be able to manage the household for the days between Eichmann's capture and his transfer to Israel. She was new on the job, but had already taken part in a number of complicated operations. She was fluent in several languages, could effortlessly adopt different identities, and adapted without difficulty to whatever conditions she found herself in."
Minister Rafi Eitan, who was one of the commanders of the operation to capture Eichmann, said this week: "When I was the field commander, I was looking for a woman who could take on two identities and who had operational experience. I didn't know Yehudit before, Isser Harel introduced me to her. I found a woman who spoke a number of languages - Dutch, German and English - perfectly, and who looked Irish. She was just right for our needs."
"On the way [to Argentina] there was a problem with the plane and so I arrived 24 hours later than I was supposed to," Nessyahu wrote. "They'd arranged a number of meeting places and meeting times and told me that I'd meet with someone I knew, and so there was no need for passwords or identifying signs, as you usually have in clandestine activity. When I arrived in Buenos Aires, I went to one of the arranged meeting places and there I found Isser himself, who told me what the operation was and who this man was that we caught. That same day I moved into the house where we held him."
Nessyahu also wrote about Eichmann's capture before her arrival in Argentina: "When they 'took' him on the street, not far from his house, there was still a question about his identity, because none of the people who were directly involved in the operation knew him from before. We had pictures, but they were from his prime, in the SS uniform with a cap that hid half his face. In the intervening years that he'd been hiding in South America, he'd changed a lot and no one had actually seen him from close up. It was decided that this was the man and that they would 'take' him to a great extent on the basis of 'circumstantial evidence.' When they put him in the car, it was still necessary to conclusively identify him, to know that we really did take the right person. As soon as he was in the car, the doctor gave him an injection that caused mild disorientation, and the man who was responsible for determining his identity and who interrogated him during the days we were in the villa until the return home, called Eichmann's SS rank in the tone of a commander. Eichmann responded instinctively (and under the influence of the injection, of course. With that, the issue of identification was concluded as far as we were concerned."
Rafi Eitan, however, says that Eichmann was not given such an injection and that he was identified by his features and scars. He adds that Nessyahu and Mossad agent Yaakov Meidad were responsible for maintaining the apartments used by the Mossad in the operation. "She went out to do the shopping, appeared before the neighbors, took care of all the housekeeping and also helped us later in bringing him to Israel."
"I was the guy who could come in contact with foreign officials and, among other things, I rented the car that was used for the kidnapping," Meidad recounted this week. "I was supposed to look the part of her husband, we both kept up the house and she cooked and fed us, and Eichmann, kosher food. She was quiet. A good and intelligent girl."
Nessyahu wrote about Eichmann "There was a feeling that, after all, only a demonic, grandiose and fearsome personality could be responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of Jews to their death with one signature. There was a certain anxiety surrounding the encounter. Not because we were afraid of the man (After all, the situation had changed completely and he was in our hands), but we didn't know what to expect. After all, one doesn't easily meet with the Angel of Death's messenger on earth. There was an expectation of something dreadful, something grand and vast in its evil ...
"What we found was a pathetic little clerk who had no concept whatsoever of the historic significance of the deed. He just kept saying, 'I was only following orders,' 'I was just a small cog,' 'I never harmed a single person myself' and on and on.
"He realized right away that he was in the hands of the Israelis, even though we never admitted that at any point during the 10 days we were with him in the villa in the suburbs of Buenos Aires ... The whole time we were in the house in Buenos Aires, we never called him by name. We couldn't bring ourselves to pronounce the accursed name. We couldn't, mentally, see him as a human being, because someone who belongs to the human race is not capable of doing what he so gladly did."
Eichmann was flown to Israel and, once he landed, prime minister at the time, David Ben-Gurion, made a brief and dramatic announcement about it to the Knesset. "When the trial was about to begin, we received tickets for the opening day, on condition that we didn't enter together, that we didn't sit together or talk to one another, so there would be no chance of us being identified as having been involved in the operation," Nessyahu wrote. "We came separately to the building where the trial was held, we entered separately, we sat separately and we didn't speak to each other, we didn't act friendly, because those were the instructions. Still, when they brought in Eichmann and sat him in the glass booth, in the gallery where we were sitting, looks passed from one to the other, and we couldn't help but feel that we had indeed participated in a historic operation, in which the Jewish People brought to justice one of the greatest enemies in its calamity- and hardship-filled history.
"Ben-Gurion said that history was on trial here. I do not agree. History is a general, cold, estranged thing that does not feel what each Jew felt in those moments when the prosecutor stood up and began his opening statement: 'Here with me at this moment stand six million accusers ... ' In my view, the Jewish People did not put history on trial. The Jewish people, as Rabbi Levy Yitzhak of Berdichev said, turned to God with the question that every Jew carries in his heart like a burning wound that no amount of time will ever heal: 'Why?' God didn't answer ... "
Two years after the Eichmann operation, Nessyahu was involved in the Yossele Schumacher case, which gripped the nation. Schumacher, born in 1952 in the Soviet Union, moved to Israel with his parents at age 6. Because of financial difficulties, the parents handed him over to the care of his grandfather, Nachman Shtarkes, an ultra-Orthodox Jew from the Mea Shearim neighborhood. A year later, the parents asked for their child back, but the grandfather refused to hand him over, claiming that his daughter and her husband were planning to move back to Russia and convert. The Supreme Court ordered Shtarkes to return the boy by February 1960, but he still refused to reveal his whereabouts, even when imprisoned. In April 1960, Schumacher was declared "missing" and the question "Where's Yossele?" became a well-known expression in the country. In 1962, Ben-Gurion ordered Mossad chief Harel to try to locate the boy. Dozens of Mossad agents, including Nessyahu, were involved in the operation.
"She was chosen for the Yossele case because she was religious and Flemish," says Tirza Ben-Haim. "At first, they suspected that the boy had been smuggled to Europe and they sent her to infiltrate the Satmar community in Antwerp. Her cover story was that she was a religious young woman seeking a marriage match and it was a little risky, because her family came from there. She was hosted by a respected member of the community and she pretended she didn't understand Flemish and only knew a little Yiddish. She lived in their home for several months, and would sit there and act like she was studying when she was really listening in on their conversations. From their conversations, she gathered that the child had been passed on to a woman who had disguised him as a girl and transferred him from Belgium to the United States. This was a fantastic tip, because then they knew where he had been sent."
Mira Davis, Nessyahu's third niece: "She always said that when she talked with that Belgian family it was hard for her to remember what she was and wasn't supposed to know, and she had to be careful not to slip up. She recalled that once she was in the kitchen and they were talking about her pityingly, about what a shame it was that she was that old and still needed to get married, about how she looked, and she's sitting there having to pretend that she doesn't understand a word they're saying.
"Yehudit arranged for the family in Belgium to recommend her to the Satmar in New York, so she could gain entry there, too," says Davis. "By the time she arrived there, it was more or less known which family the boy was with." In the end, Schumacher was located in July 1962 with the Gertners, a Satmar family in Brooklyn, and returned to Israel to his parents.
The year that Schumacher was returned to Israel, Yehudit married Mordechai (Dukshi) Nessyahu, a former Mapam activist who became a visionary of the Labor Party. "She'd known him for years, since university," says Tirza Ben-Haim. "He came from a very interesting family. His mother was the daughter of a Hasidic rabbi and she ran away from home and decided to raise her son 'without God,' and it really took many years for Dukshi, who knew nothing of religion, and for Yehudit, a religious woman, to decide that it would work out anyway. One time, they were in New York with some friends who didn't know them that well and they were discussing ideology. She stated her view and he stated his. Then they discussed religion and each one stated his views. And then someone asked if they smoked and they both said no and everyone laughed that 'at least you have one thing in common.' Neither of them had a driver's license, either, by the way.
"They got along because they both knew exactly what they were getting into and they agreed to skip over the disagreements and live together in love and cooperation. Dukshi, for example, would make kiddush on Friday nights. Laughing a little, maybe, but he'd do it. And the minute he finished, he'd go turn on the television. Live and let live. On Yom Kippur, while she was fasting, she would serve food to the boys."
The couple's only son, Haim (Haimie), was born in 1964, when Nessyahu was 39. "When he was old enough for preschool, she had to decide which school system to put him in, religious or secular," says Ruthie Ben-Haim. "She asked a rabbi and when the rabbi understood how powerful the father's secularism was, he recommended that the child be in a secular system. And then she went to Haimie, who was 3, and asked him, 'What do you want to be? Religious or secular?' He asked her, 'What's that?' and she explained that a religious person keeps the mitzvot, and so on. He asked her, 'If I'm religious, can I go to Beit Oren on Shabbat?' That's where some of the Ben-Haim family lived. She told him, 'No,' and he said, 'Then I want to be secular.'"
As she raised her son, Nessyahu kept working her way up the Mossad ranks; in her last post there, in the 1970s, she was in charge of the organization's personnel division. In this role, she was the contact person for those arrested in the so-called Lillehammer Affair in Norway in 1973 - when Mossad agents assassinated Ahmed Bouchiki, a Moroccan-born waiter, mistaking him for Black September terrorist Ali Hassan Salameh.
Eliezer Palmor, author of the book "Parshat Lilhammer: miyomano shel me'urav lo shayakh" ("The Lillehammer Affair"), was sent on behalf of the Foreign Ministry to deal with the arrested men, and met frequently with Nessyahu. "I was asked to go and meet her in Stockholm," he says now. "The one who made the connection between us was the encoder at the embassy. I wasn't experienced in this sort of thing and I imagined I was going to meet the Mata Hari. I arrived at the hotel, and the door was opened by this very drab housewife sort of person. Nothing special. If you had seen her on the street, you never would imagine that she did the kind of work she did.
"She was the head of human resources in the Mossad; I was in continuous contact with her, and the updates on developments came through her. She would come from Oslo from time to time, and she was there during the trial, and I came to the hotel every day with attorney Erwin Shimron, who was asked to be the Israeli attorney behind the Norwegian attorneys. She was married to a Mapai ideologue and he also came once to try to influence the Norwegian prime minister, who was from Labor.
"We used to talk a lot during those extremely dull Oslo nights. She drank a cup of tea or coffee, maybe because she didn't quite believe me when I said that things were kosher. Yehudit was a woman with a very big heart and she gave her all to caring for the prisoner's families, worrying about those who were married with small children, and about the preparations for the day of their release."
Dina Eitan, the wife of Avraham Gehmer, who was one of the men arrested in Norway, remembers Nessyahu fondly. "When I met her she was about 50 and she impressed me as a very strong, intelligent and educated woman. Even though I wasn't in a great situation then, it was very pleasant to be in her company, and every meeting with her was very interesting. To help persuade the Norwegians to release the prisoners for humanitarian reasons, the Mossad tried to convince me to say that as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, it was too hard for me without Avraham. Today I think I made a mistake, but then I thought that I needed to emulate Avraham's heroism and that it wasn't seemly to use such excuses.
"When the prisoners came back from Norway, in May 1975," says Eitan, "Yehudit invited all of us to her home. Then we kept in touch for a while and would call one another sometimes. Every time I saw her, she would talk about her son with such admiration. He was her only child and her whole world."
In 1976, Nessyahu retired from the Mossad. "When I asked her why she was retiring, she said she had gone as far as she could and that they had nothing more to offer her. There were very few women in the Mossad who had advanced as far as she had," says Ruthie Ben-Haim.
At the urging of attorney Shimron, who had become a close and respected friend, she began to study law and later interned in his office. His son, David Shimron, said this week that he remembers Yehudit Nessyahu as "a very impressive, extraordinarily intelligent woman who was a voracious reader."
In addition to law, Nessyahu also studied accounting and was appointed director-general of the Hebrew Writers' Association. Meanwhile, she also became politically active and together with her brother Ephraim, helped found the Tehiya Party. Former MK Geula Cohen says: "She was what you call 'a character.' Someone really out of the ordinary. She had a simple way about her, but she had a talent for leadership. She had very firm ideas on a lot of subjects, whether to hold a conference or not, how to vote on this or that law. She was tremendously articulate. Her brother would meet with Rabbi Eliezer Waldman and with Hanan Porat and together they prepared the Tehiya platform, and she helped with it, too. She wasn't a member of the official secretariat, but in reality she was more than that. Yuval Ne'eman trusted her completely. While Ephraim was soft and gentle and didn't always think it was necessary to argue, she was a little tougher."
Despite her activity in various public spheres, Nessyahu assiduously shunned publicity. Palmor recalls that she "ran from the camera like it was the devil." Halevy says: "She was always very discreet and able to keep a secret. She never spoke about her work, nor was she interviewed." Ruthie Ben-Haim explains: "She always said: 'If one picture of me ends up in the wrong place, even innocently, someone could die.' That's why she refused to have her name mentioned explicitly. She was certain that there were people who had worked with her who could be hurt if her identity were revealed."
Tirza Ben-Haim adds: "Yehudit was never willing to write about the Mossad. She always said, 'There's still time,' but she always put it off. What I think is that, in her own mind, she remained a spy until the end."
The Nessyahus lived on Sderot Ben-Zion in Tel Aviv; their apartment was recently put up for sale. Yehudit's mother lived next door to them until she died. "She always said that we need to enjoy the house, not vice-versa," says Tirza Ben-Haim. "So it was a joyful house. We'd play soccer in the hallway there, Haimie's friends were always coming over. When he was in the army, they would come to leave their weapons there before going out. One friend whose parents left the city actually moved in there."
In 1994, Nessyahu joined her son and his girlfriend on a two-week trip to India. After she returned to Israel, Haimie, then 30, and his girlfriend continued on to Nepal. After his travels, he was planning on taking up a post-doctoral position in mathematics in the United States. "They went on a trek, came off the mountain, everything was fine and they went to sleep," says Ben-Haim. "Haimie woke up at six in the morning and asked his girlfriend, 'What time is it?' She told him he had another half hour to sleep. He turned over, and then she heard him gurgling. She tried to see what was wrong and saw that he had lost consciousness. They tried to revive him, but he died. Yehudit didn't want an autopsy because she said it wouldn't make any difference, it wouldn't bring him back to life if she knew what he died from. As a religious person she wanted to be as respectful as possible to the body. In her eulogy for Haimie, she wrote that she thanked God for the 30 years she had with him. That she wasn't angry, but that she couldn't understand."
The heartbreak was overwhelming. Mira Davis recalls: "Whenever tragedies happened in the family, when her father died abroad and when our brother died in Tanzania, she traveled to bring home the bodies. She'd say, 'I went to get everyone, but I couldn't bring my son home.' From then on, every year, on the anniversary, she would travel to Nepal, spend an hour or two in the hostel where he died and take a helicopter over his final route. She traveled alone. She wouldn't let anyone come with her. Every year with the same pilot. And then she'd return. In Katmandu, she established a library in her son's memory for the Israeli backpackers. It's located in Chabad House now."
Three years after her son's death, her husband died of an illness. Six years later, in August 2003, Yehudit Nessyahu passed away. "She wanted each year to be her last; she got to the point where she basically gave up," says Davis. "She kept in close touch with Haimie's girlfriend, studied languages and kept busy, but it really broke her. She kept on going, but on the inside she was broken and just waiting for the end."
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Palestinian Authority fears Hamas takeover attempt in West Bank Palestinian Authority
security forces in the West Bank have taken measures to prevent killings of leaders of the Palestinian Authority and its political power base, Fatah
party, by the Islamic group Hamas
, according to the London-based daily al-Sharq al-Awsat. The paper quoted Hamas members in the West Bank
as saying, "The oppression that the security services put on us will not last for long," The source added that the security forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "have not learned their lesson from what happened in Gaza," and intimated that a similar putsch is planned in the West Bank.
A senior Hamas leader in Gaza said the crackdown by pro-Abbas forces against Hamas members in the West Bank "will backfire."
Labels: Gaza, Palestinians
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Last update - 15:08 04/10/2008
North Korea supplying weapons of mass destruction to six Mideast states
Israel accused North Korea on Saturday of providing weapons of mass destruction to at least six Middle East countries that ignored arms-control commitments.
Israel's delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) David Danieli, spoke as the 145-nation assembly of the United Nations nuclear proliferation control agency adopted a resolution unanimously urging North Korea to reverse steps it has taken to revive its dormant atom bomb program.
Israel is the target of two hotly disputed Arab-sponsored draft resolutions in the assembly urging it to give up its alleged nuclear arms monopoly in the Middle East, join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and accept full IAEA inspections.
"At a time when the international community concentrates on North Korea's nuclear activities and its non-compliance with safeguards agreements, the Middle East is at the receiving end of North Korea's reckless practices," Israeli envoy David Danieli told the meeting.
"North Korea has long become a source of proliferation of dangerous weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles in the Middle East," he said.
"At least half a dozen countries in the region who do not even pay lip service to control regimes and are acting in bad faith regarding their stated policy and their undertakings regarding non-proliferation conventions have become eager recipients of North Korea mostly through black market and covert network channels," Danieli said, but did not name the six nations.
Western intelligence officials and non-proliferation experts have said that Iran, Syria, Libya and Iraq under Saddam Hussein were believed to have received North Korean military aid, some applicable to mass-destruction weaponry, in the past.
"No due attention is paid to this dark aspect of North Korean behavior which has become a matter of great concern to my government and others," Danieli said.
He said there was growing evidence that such states were "emulating the dangerous unlawful practices" of North Korea, which left the NPT in 2003 and developed atom bombs.
"[We] call the attention of the international community to these dangerous developments and their consequences," he said.
Iran is under IAEA investigation over intelligence allegations of secret atomic bomb research. Syria is under IAEA scrutiny over U.S. reports it had nearly completed a plutonium-producing reactor before Israeli warplanes bombed the site a year ago.
Iran and Syria deny the allegations. Libya scrapped a covert nuclear arms program in 2003.
U.S. envoy Chris Hill ended three days of meetings in North Korea on Friday meant to salvage the collapsing denuclearization deal, calling the talks substantive but not saying if he swayed Pyongyang to give up plans to restart its nuclear complex.
The resolution passed by the IAEA assembly underlined the need for denuclearization fully verifiable by IAEA inspectors - a demand resisted by Pyongyang. The demand is at the heart of disputes that have crippled its denuclearization deal with five powers.
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It is a bit late in the day to set up this panel, which can't get to any of the evidence, probably doesn't have any forensic experts and has no authority in Israel or the Palestinian territories. But the original story about the Palestinian boy who was supposedly shot by Israelis was "trial by TV," so this panel is a fitting response.
Perhaps it should be an episode in "Boston Legal." Can they get Jill Hennessy to exhume the body and do the coroner's report?
Last update - 06:50 03/10/2008
By Adi Schwartz, Haaretz Correspondent
A new French committee will investigate the death of the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura, who, according to a French television report, was killed by Israel Defense Forces gunfire on September 30, 2000, the first day of the second intifada.
The committee, set up by the French public broadcasting authority, will examine the validity of the original television report in light of repeated accusations that it was deliberately falsified.
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The anti-Semitic ideology behind the these attacks is based on ignorance of how the banking system works. People believe, for example, that "Jews" own the Federal Reserve bank. An Internet film called Zeitgeist claims that the Federal Reserve system was created by international bankers (mentioning Morgenthau and Rothschild of course) in order to allow banks to charge interest and bilk innocent Americans.
Last update - 23:16 02/10/2008
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
The Anti-Defamation League reported Thursday a major upsurge in the number of anti-Semitic postings on the internet relating to the financial crisis engulfing the United States.
The Jewish-American organization cited hundreds of posts regarding the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers and other institutions affected by the subprime mortgage crisis. The messages railed against Jews in general, with some charging that Jews control the U.S. government and finance as part of a "Jew world order" and therefore are to blame for the economic turmoil.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, said: "We know from modern history that whenever there is a downturn in the global economy, there will be an upturn in the level of anti-Semitism and bigotry, and that is what we are seeing now."
The ADL reported that Anti-Jewish invective had also surfaced on a wide variety of blogs and conspiracy Web sites.
It said similar messages have also appeared on neo-Nazi and white supremacist Web sites and Internet forums, adding that such groups frequently seek to exploit current issues in an effort to spread anti-Semitism to potential recruits.
The organization monitors anti-Semitism on the Internet through its Center on Extremism.
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If this is a real offer, it is very important. However, it is doubtful that a minor official would be relegated to making an important offer like this one, after Iran has repeatedly declared it would never give up its enrichment program.
Last update - 22:03 02/10/2008
Iran would consider stopping sensitive uranium enrichment if guaranteed a supply of nuclear fuel from abroad, an Iranian official suggested on Thursday.
For that to happen, United Nations inspectors would have to verify Iran's disputed nuclear program is wholly peaceful and a range of international sanctions against Tehran be lifted. There is little prospect of either on the horizon.
Iran has previously brushed off big power offers of an assured foreign fuel supply, possibly via a production centre under the impartial control of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), if it renounced enrichment.
Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, said the reason why the Islamic Republic was enriching uranium was the lack of an legally binding international accord on security of fuel supply.
Asked if with such a deal Iran would shelve enrichment, he said that arrangement would be a first step but it would have to be implemented, and Iran would need to retain some enrichment as a contingency in case supplies were cut.
"This is a first step ..., then the next step is to see it really implemented," he told reporters at a Brussels conference.
If this were carried out, "then Iran would be able to reconsider the position that we have now. The situation would be different, we would have to see", Soltanieh said.
"Plus every country has to be cautious to have as a contingency plan a fuel reserve in case of interruption."
Iran is trying to master nuclear fuel-cycle technology that could yield electricity - its stated goal - or give it the capability to make atom bombs if the process is adjusted, which Israel and Western powers suspect is Tehran's underlying purpose.
On Wednesday, the former head of the U.S. weapons-hunting team in Iraq said Iran is two years to five years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon.
Tehran has defied UN resolutions demanding it suspend enrichment and withheld cooperation needed to resolve a UN nuclear watchdog probe into whether it researched ways to build bombs. Iran denies the charges but not given backup evidence.
Soltanieh also said the West was trying to humiliate Iran by seeking to prevent it doing nuclear research and development.
Speaking at a think-tank in New York, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran would not be dragged down an "unending road" in dealings with the IAEA, adding Washington was perpetuating a "huge lie" about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"For the United States, it is difficult to accept the peaceful nature of Iran's programme because once it accepts, it can no longer oppose," Mottaki told the Asia Society.
Iran says it has no intention of making atom bombs, noting its commitment to continued IAEA inspections of nuclear sites.
It also denies blocking the IAEA inquiry but says that inspectors, egged on Iran's arch-foe the United States, are seeking unacceptable access to purely conventional military sites whose exposure would jeopardise its security.
The IAEA and Western nations say Iran must grant such access to clear up intelligence allegations of military involvement in the nuclear program. More generally, Iran should stop limiting inspector movements to declared nuclear sites, they say.
"Iran [should] implement all transparency measures... required to build confidence... This will be good for Iran, good for the Middle East region and good for the world," IAEA Director Mohamed ElBaradei told the annual 145-nation assembly of the UN watchdog in Vienna this week.
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The old combat between Zionism and religion is being renewed on new terms. The claim that >Aliya to Israel weakens faith is problematic, though of course there are problems in integration of Russian immigrants. In effect, what the Rabbi says is that getting married is bad for love.
Immigrants lose their faith upon moving to Israel, asserts Rabbi Lazar ahead of holiday season. While Israeli society is to blame for this phenomenon, he says, it can be reversed if one moves back to Russia
Russia's Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar has harsh words for Israeli society, particularly the ultra-Orthodox community, in regards to its treatment of Russian Jews who immigrated to Israel.
In an interview to the European rabbinical publication 'Hanaaseh Vehanishma' ahead of Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Lazar was asked whether he encouraged immigration from Russia to Israel. "The grim reality is that many of the Jews who came to Israel have lost their grip on faith. Sadly, the haredi community did not embrace them," he replied.
Lazar went on to say that "some action is being taken regarding this matter, but barely. This is why we don't encourage immigration to Israel. Only when a Jew feels that he is strong enough and ready, only then do we give our blessing for him to immigrate."
Lazar recalled how, when he was visiting a Russian city, a local Jew asked him if he should immigrate to Israel. Lazar said he told the man that the Torah "is more interested in how we are as Jews than where we reside. So ask yourself - where can you maintain yourself spiritually? You mustn't immigrate when you are confused and insecure."
Who is to blame?
The answer, to Lazar at least, is clear. "The Israeli public is very distant towards Russian immigrants," he asserts. "It is true that at first Russians appear distant, but this is just their outer shell, on the inside the crave contact and acceptance. As soon as someone shows them true acceptance, they open up."
Lazar also discussed the image prevalent amongst Israelis of Russian immigrants. "The origin of this can be traced to undesirable acts carried out by immigrants who were not necessarily Jewish. It's a sad phenomenon."
Lazar believes that at least 40% of Russian immigrants to Israel are not Jewish. He evoked the memory of the late Chabad leader, Rabbi Menachem Shniarson, who encouraged Jewish immigration to Israel but also warned of gentile infiltration.
According to Lazar, those who return to Russia actually strengthened their Jewish faith. "There are 50,000 Jews who returned to Moscow alone. And I hear stories from them about how badly they were treated."
'Failed to see potential of Russian immigration'
Lazar says that the reason for the failure of Russian integration is the fact that the immigrants were not prepared for their new lives, as well as the cold shoulder they got from the haredi community. This, he said, pushed them into the embrace of Israel's secular public.
"The Israeli public failed to see the potential in the Russian immigration, they assumed that they were a sort of 'anti-Jewish' when in fact they were just Jews who were trying to reestablish connections to the religion after being cut off," said Lazar, who adds that it's not too late. "We can still rectify the situation and return them to the embrace of the Torah."
In the interview, Lazar pointed out what he thought to be the right approach to bring Russian immigrants in Israel closer to God. "When you approach a Russian immigrant, it's important to remember not to make him feel pressured or coerced to do something, that approach reminds him of the Soviet regime."
Lazar also commented on the Russian leadership. Since the collapse of the iron curtain, he says, Jews have been treated well in Russia. He does point out that the treatment became even better as soon as Vladimir Putin became president, which continues even today with his successor Dmitry Medvedev.
"He went out of his way to express sympathy towards Judaism, and he completely revolutionized many related fields," said Lazar, noting the directive issued by Putin that Yeshiva studies would be considered as academic.
Lazar wanted to emphasize that the Russian authorities officially recognize only the ultra-Orthodox communities. "The Jewish community that was here 50 years ago was Orthodox, and the Russian authorities recognize it as the original Judaism.
"Even the gentiles understand that religion is not meant to be divisive, and it's a shame that not all Jews understand this. The official recognition helps our struggle against Reform and Conservative sects, who seek to take over Judaism."
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The same technology might be useful for finding escape tunnels and underground bunkers.
US and Egyptian soldiers pair up in recent weeks in a project to uncover Palestinian weapons' smuggling tunnels; 42 tunnels discovered in less than a month
American soldiers have teamed up with Egyptian troops in the Sinai in recent weeks for an operation designed to uncover Palestinian weapons' smuggling tunnels underneath the Philadelphi Route, along the Egypt-Gaza border.
The operation has already yielded important fruits: Thanks to new, secret American-developed technology, the US Army's Corps of Engineers uncovered 42 tunnels running between Egypt and Gaza in less than a month, an unprecedented number in such a time span.
The joint American-Egyptian initiative was agreed upon half a year ago, during Defense Minister Ehud Barak's visit to Egypt. American experts arrived in the region a few weeks ago, making an effort to keep a low profile by using civilian dress.
The machinery that they brought with them, which probably relies on sonar in some way to identify underground tunnels, seems to be one of a kind. To date, it appears that Israel does not possess similar technology.
The recent rash of tunnel discoveries has appears to have Hamas worried. The Palestinian organization has taken to "nationalizing" certain "private" tunnels that were previously run by Rafah families. At this point in time, Hamas controls all underground activity in Gaza.
Additionally, the tunnel exposure project has led to heightened tension between Hamas and Egypt. An explosion in a Rafah tunnel, earlier this week, led to the deaths of five Palestinians from the same family who were inside it. Three Palestinians who were able to escape into Egypt through the tunnel were subsequently arrested.
The event led to mutual mud-slinging between Egypt and Hamas. The latter blamed the Egyptians for deliberately detonating the tunnel, a claim Egypt denies.
Despite the recent successes of the joint project, Hamas has managed to smuggle hundreds of explosives, RPGs and rifles into the Gaza strip.
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>Sad but true.
Amnesty's obsession with Israel
Amnesty persistently condemns Israel while ignoring suffering elsewhere
Yael Beck, Merav Fima
Even in a month when war raged in Georgia, Amnesty International continued to focus on the Gaza Strip, persistently blaming Israel for ongoing Palestinian hardship.
Amnesty, in fact, issued harsher condemnations of Israel than of any party to the Georgian conflict. With a ceasefire holding between Israel and Hamas, resulting in a period of calm, Amnesty stubbornly continued to spew hollow publications repeating outdated allegations.
Moreover, Amnesty took pride in its relentless criticism of Israel, while the rest of the world rightly concerned itself with the unfolding crisis in Georgia. In a press release, the organization boasted: "With the ceasefire holding, the suffering in Gaza has fallen off the international news agenda. However, Amnesty International members continue to campaign." This "explanation" merely highlights Amnesty's obsession with Israel, regardless of the reality on the ground.
Regular readers of Amnesty's material are not fooled by their non-stop publications condemning Israel and can easily discern that they seldom reveal anything new. Many of its press releases are identical, except for minor alterations. Amnesty's ulterior motive appears to be to maintain a constant production rate of material denouncing Israel, regardless of actual developments.
For example, Amnesty's distasteful decision to continue issuing condemnations of Israel during a period of intense intra-Palestinian fighting clearly illustrates the point. Unsurprisingly, Amnesty failed to mention, let alone praise, Israel's commendable acceptance of Fatah members fleeing from Hamas.
While devoting so many of its resources to Gaza, at a time of acute suffering and human rights abuses in Georgia, Amnesty International failed to provide effective coverage of the Georgian conflict. Although one would reasonably expect Amnesty to immediately respond with urgency to such a crisis, raising awareness for its victims, Amnesty preferred to focus on its usual target: Israel.
For instance, on August 12, 2008, the organization released a statement headlined "Trapped – collective punishment in Gaza." An expanded version was re-issued on August 27, 2008. As NGO Monitor analysis has demonstrated, the report lacks evidence and credibility, largely ignores the context of terrorism, exploits international legal terminology, and presents data in a highly selective and distorted manner.
Concurrently, Amnesty released a series of vague and neutral statements calling on all sides of the conflict in the Caucuses to avoid harming civilians, without assuming a clear stance, nor providing comprehensive reporting on the events.
Amnesty's scarce coverage of the war in Georgia is not the result of inaccessibility. Human Rights Watch managed to provide ongoing and insightful coverage, based on its delegation's observations. Such limp statements on Amnesty's part betray its commitment to the defense of every individual's human rights.
Disappointingly, Amnesty expressed less concern regarding the events in Georgia, despite the fact that a greater number of civilians were killed during that conflict than over the course of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. On that occasion, Amnesty rushed to condemn Israel in almost-daily publications. It did not hesitate to portray Israel as an aggressor and largely ignored the fact that civilians in northern Israel suffered a constant barrage of rockets launched by the Hizbullah terrorist organization.
Amnesty's lame response to the recent Georgian conflict, overshadowed by its focus on Israel, indicates that the Second Lebanon War simply served as an incentive for Amnesty to pursue its shameless Israel-bashing. Had its aversion to war been genuine, Amnesty would have responded as forcefully or even more vocally to the Georgian conflict.
Were it truly concerned with the universality of human rights, Amnesty would apply the same standards to all countries. Hence, Amnesty's aim appears clear: to persistently condemn Israel, even if it means neglecting those suffering in other, more pressing conflicts across the world.
The authors are researchers at NGO Monitor, www.ngo-monitor.org
Labels: Amnesty International, Anti-Zionism, Human Rights, NGOs
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U.S. approves sale of 25 F-35 fighter planes to Israel
By Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies , By Amos Harel, Yuval Azoulay and Natasha Mozgovaya
The United States government said Tuesday it had approved the sale to Israel of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and an option for 50 more in coming years, for a deal valued at up to $15.2 billion.
The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the deal is vital to U.S. national security interests to assist Israel as it develops and to maintain "a strong and ready self-defense capability."
Israel needs the aircraft built by the Lockheed Martin Corp to enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground defense, the agency said.
The DSCA notified Congress about the proposed sale before lawmakers head back to their districts for the November election. Lawmakers now have 30 days to block the sales, but such action is rare, since the agreements are usually carefully vetted beforehand.
The Israeli embassy in Washington made a concerted effort to have the deal approved by the current Congress, and a critical development in the legislation was achieved this weekend.
The next stage would be Israeli and American defense officials signing the agreement, enabling the provision of the aircraft by 2014.
The Pentagon agency said Israel wants to buy an initial 25 F-35s in the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) configuration, with an option to buy an additional 50 F-35 CTOL or Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) aircraft.
All aircraft would be equipped with either the F-135 engine built by Pratt and Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, or the F-136 engine being developed by General Electric Co. and Britain's Rolls-Royce.
Lockheed Martin said it welcomes the decision. "As the first potential foreign military sale of the F-35, this would be an important first step in expanding interest in the Joint Strike Fighter beyond the U.S. government and eight international F-35 partner nations," said Lockheed spokesman Tom Jurkowsky.
Earlier in September the Pentagon approved up to $330 million in three separate arms deals for Israel.
Top Israeli and U.S. officials met in Washington last month for the most senior bilateral high-tech talks between the two allies. Discussions focused in part on ensuring that sensitive technologies were not passed to third parties.
An Israeli embassy spokesman called the latest deal further proof of the countries' special relationship, as Israel is the first country outside NATO to receive the aircraft, each of which cost about $50 million.
The Israel Air Force is expected to send pilots to the U.S. to train on the planes once the sale is complete. Israel's military industry will also be involved in the aircraft's operation, providing various electronic support systems.
Acquisition of the plane represents a significant boost to Israel's security capabilities, as it can be used both for bombing missions and in aerial combat, possessing advanced stealth capabilities.
Senior security officials and the Israel Defense Forces General Staff expressed broad support for the sale, but some senior IDF officers expressed dissatisfaction with its timing. They said the sale should have been postponed by a year and the funds used to buy tank defense systems and armored personnel carriers, two elements they said are currently lacking among ground forces.
The F-35 can flying large distances without refueling and can cover the distance between Israel and Iran. It is designed to carry a variety of advanced weapons and radar devices.
The F-35 is considered the "last manned aircraft," as aviation experts believe aerial combat will be conducted largely by unmanned aircraft in the coming years. Its maiden flight was in December 2006.
Israel had expressed interest in acquiring the F-22, considered the only "fifth-generation" combat aircraft in the world, but was prevented from doing so by a U.S. Congress bill prohibiting its sale to any other countries in order to preserve the combat superiority of the U.S. Air Force.
While the F-22 uses a twin engine, the F-35 runs on a high-powered single engine designed by Pratt & Whitney.
Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is expected to complete its sale of 102 F-16 aircraft to Israel by the end of the year.
Labels: Defense, Israel-2, US Policy
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Another nuclear program to worry about....
Asharq Al-Awsat quotes Israeli officials as saying Damascus, with North Korea's help, constructing military nuclear plants according to Iranian model. 'Nuclear Syria red line that must not be crossed,' one source says
Published: 10.02.08, 11:06 / Israel News
Israeli security officials have accused Syria of resuming the construction of nuclear facilities in its territory for military purposes, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported Thursday.
In a briefing to reporters on Wednesday, Israeli military sources said the country would not allow a repeat of the Iranian model in Syria and would not wait for Damascus to complete the construction of a nuclear reactor before using all means at its disposal to stop the program.
According to the report, following last year's bombing of the alleged Syrian nuclear facility near Dir A-Zur, Damascus resumed the construction of a number of new plants. The Israeli military sources were quoted as saying that the Syrians are following the Iranian nuclear model, meaning the simultaneous construction of a number of nuclear facilities in different locations.
The sources said North Korea was behind the project, adding that experts from Pyongyang visited Syria last month to begin planning the project.
"The past year has seen three incidents indicating that Syria's nuclear armament is a red line that must not be crossed," Asharq Al-Awsat quoted one of the Israeli officials, who was apparently referring to the bombing at Dir A-Zur, the assassination of Syrian President Bashar Assad's top security advisor Brigadier General Mohammed Suleiman and Saturday's deadly car bomb explosion near a Syrian intelligence facility.
Israel believes General Suleiman was in charge of Syria's nuclear program and the cooperation with North Korea. The military officials also alluded to the possibility that Israel was operating inside Syria. Israel has never admitted to bombing the nuclear facility in Dir A-Zur.
According to one report, among those killed in Saturday's car bomb attack near Damascus was Brig.-Gen. George Gharbi, another top Syrian military official involved in the country's nuclear program, and his son, who held the rank of lieutenant.
Another report said the senior officer killed in the blast was Abed el-Karim Abbas, deputy head of the Palestine Division in Syrian intelligence.
The Italian news agency AKI quoted Syrian opposition figures as saying that Abbas was among the officers interrogated over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Asharq Al-Awsat further quoted western officials in Israel as saying that the car bomb attack has heightened tensions between Jerusalem and Damascus. Syria has not directly accused Israel of involvement in the attack, but hinted that the 'terrorists' came from abroad.
The western sources told the newspaper that Israel was looking to damage Syria's relations with a number of European countries.
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His guess is as good as any. The proposition that Iran should only be attacked after it uses nuclear weapons is not likely to be received warmly in Israel or by other possible targets.
Former head of American weapons-hunting team in Iraq warns Tehran already 80% of the way to nuclear weapon. 'You've got a clear record of country that is damned determined at some point to develop nuclear weapons,' says David Kay
Published: 10.02.08, 00:59 / Israel News
Iran is two years to five years away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon, the former head of the US weapons-hunting team in Iraq said Wednesday. But David Kay said the US should not consider bombing Iranian nuclear facilities unless the weapon was about to be transferred to a terrorist group.
Kay, who led the Iraq Survey Group from 2003 until early 2004, said the US should line up international support to pressure Iran to give up on a nuclear weapon, while also preparing for the strong possibility that effort will fail. Preparations could include offering security guarantees to Iran's neighbors and shoring up Middle East stability and economic growth.
Iran is 80 percent of the way to a nuclear weapon, Kay estimates, but the last 20 percent of development is the most difficult. He noted that Iran has worked on the program for 20 years without successfully producing a weapon.
"You've got a clear record of country that is damned determined at some point to develop nuclear weapons," Kay said in a talk at the Nixon Center. "The real question to ask is, `What are the political strategies we can follow now that can lessen the impact?'" of a nuclear Iran.
Iran denies it is seeking a weapon or hiding a bomb program behind its known drive to perfect nuclear technology that could be used to produce electricity. Estimates of Iran's progress vary. Western intelligence agencies generally agree that if Iran chose to, it could field a nuclear device within a few years. Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment program this year.
'Iran won't give up enrichment'
Kay said there is "virtually no possibility" Iran will give up its uranium enrichment program, which can be used to fuel civilian reactors for domestic energy use as well as make fissile material for warheads.
He dismissed the notion that a US or Israeli military strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure would be effective or useful. He said it would only delay the development of a weapon by one to two years at the most, and would unite Iran's people more firmly behind its leaders.
Kay would only advocate a military attack "if I found the Iranians had transferred a nuclear weapon to a third party, a terrorist organization or another state," or if it used a nuclear weapon in an attack.
The value of diplomatic outreach to Iran has been an issue in the current presidential campaign.
Democrat Barack Obama favors direct diplomacy. He says he would meet Iran's leaders without precondition but after the proper groundwork is laid. Obama also says he would intensify diplomatic pressure on Tehran before Israel feels the need to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities.
Republican John McCain favors tougher penalties and opposes direct high-level talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. McCain's vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, recently said in a CBS television interview that the US should not "second guess" Israel's "security efforts" against Iran.
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Last update - 12:07 02/10/2008
TASE opens to sharp losses as Senate okays $700B bailout By Tal Levy and Yuval Maoz, TheMarker and The Associated Press
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange opened to sharp losses Thursday, hours after the U.S. Senate approved a landmark $700 billion bailout package for the beleaguered American financial sector. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for approval.
In Tel Aviv, the TA-25 fell 3.1 percent to 858 points while the TA-100 dropped 3.6 percent to 774 points. The TA-Real Estate 15 Index recorded a 7.4 percent loss while the Tel Tech 15 lost 3.4 percent of its value.
The Senate approved the $700 billion bailout late Wednesday as opposition to the package among House Republican conservatives appeared to be softening, thanks partly to a provision increasing insurance for bank deposits.
Bailout was approved by a vote of 74 to 25. Both presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain voted in favor.
President Bush called on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the deal, saying in a written statement that, "With the improvements the Senate has made, I believe members of both parties in the House can support this legislation."
"The American people expect - and our economy demands - that the House pass this good bill this week and send it to my desk," Bush said, adding that the bill is "essential to the financial security of every American."
Congressional leaders from both parties said they were hopeful that a new version of the rescue plan could be cleared late this week after its stunning defeat that sparked a historic stock sell-off on Monday. House Democratic leaders tentatively planned a Friday vote.
One House Republican who joined two-thirds of his party's lawmakers Monday in voting 'no' indicated he was reconsidering his stance. Others were also pondering a switch, according to congressional officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not publicly committed to changing their votes.
Rep. John Shadegg, a leading conservative, told a radio station Wednesday that he would be inclined to vote in favor of the bill if it raised the cap on federal deposit insurance and changed a rule that forces companies to devalue assets on their balance sheets to reflect the price they can get on the market.
The revised package to be voted on in the Senate, which adds $100 billion in tax breaks for businesses and the middle class, temporarily increases the deposit insurance cap from the current $100,000 to $250,000. The Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday it was easing the accounting rules in some cases.
In a statement Wednesday, Rep. John Boehner, the Republican minority leader, called both a victory for House Republicans.
Congressional leaders said the changes should improve the package's chances - a message they hoped would not get lost on a convulsive Wall Street and global financial markets waiting for a solution to the crisis.
Some also saw heightened odds for the measure based on a flood of e-mails, calls and letters from constituents chiding Congress for inaction on the financial crisis. The feedback indicated greater public acceptance of the measure - if not a collective embrace - by voters about five weeks before the elections.
House Republican Whip Roy Blunt said calls and e-mails to congressional offices that were running about 90 percent against the measure earlier now are coming in at about a 50-50 pace.
Even a 50-50 proposition might have been attractive on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrials at times lost more than 200 points in their third triple-digit move this week. Credit markets remained extremely tight and stocks also fell on a report that an index of manufacturing activity fell significantly in September.
U.S. President George W. Bush planned to call lawmakers ahead of the crucial vote, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and his Republican rival, John McCain, planned to fly to Washington for the Senate vote, as did Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden, adding to the political intrigue, and the White House continued to lobby hard, both publicly and privately.
At the daily briefing Wednesday, spokesman Tony Fratto took the unusual step of citing the New York Times, as well as papers across the country that carried stories on the tightening credit squeeze on small businesses, municipal projects and jobs. "It is affecting real Americans out there," he said.
The legislation essentially would allow the government to buy bad mortgages and other devalued assets held by troubled financial institutions. If successful, advocates of the plan believe, that would help lift a major weight off the already sputtering national economy.
Officials in both parties predicted the measure would pass the Senate by a wide margin.
Behind the scenes, the president was conferring with Treasury chief Henry Paulson and Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to get an update and to plot strategy. The presidential spokesman told reporters that Bush's calls so far have all been very positive. "We feel that there's a sense of momentum," he said.
Fratto called the increased deposit insurance an important improvement to the bill, and also welcomed the added tax breaks, calling them helpful despite the White House's initial desire for a clean bill.
Scrambling to revive a package that met with bitter derision among constituents who viewed it as a giveaway to Wall Street, the Senate added a number of sweeteners designed to please rural lawmakers, including disaster aid for hurricane-battered states and money for rural schools.
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"Warning: The surgeon general of the Hezbollah has determined that visiting Syria may be hazardous to your health."
The scary thing is that the bombings are evidently the work of radical factions allied with Al-Qaeda, rather than Israel
. In the Middle East
, Hezbollah have become the moderates.
Lebanese media report organization has issued 'travel advisory' to its members following Mugniyah assassination, car bomb explosion in Damascus last Saturday. Senior Hamas members in Syrian capital on high alert as well
Published: 10.01.08, 12:27 / Israel News
Hizbullah has instructed its men, particularly senior members involved in the organization's security, to refrain completely from visiting Syria until further notice, Lebanese media reported Wednesday.
The instruction was issued following the explosion of a car bomb in Damascus last Saturday, which left 17 people dead, including a high-ranking military officer.
According to Lebanese media, Hizbullah asked its men to take precaution during their visits to the Syrian capital following the assassination of the organization's military leader, Imad Mugniyah. Now, following the car bomb, the request was changed to a stark instruction to halt all visits to Syria.
According to the report, for years Hizbullah viewed Syria as a safe place for its members, where there was no need for the strict precautions used in Lebanon, but now the organization has changed its perception and views Syria as a dangerous place.
The policy was changed after Hizbullah realized that Syria has become significantly penetrable for the activity of radical Islamic groups, and that the Syrian security organizations have failed to discover who was responsible for the car bomb explosion.
According to the report, Hamas leaders living in Damascus also decided to take unusual security measures following the Mugniyah assassination. In the past, Syria's security organizations were exclusively responsible for their safety.
The Syrian security organizations are experiencing problems on two levels, the report said. On the one hand, they are penetrable to radical Islamic groups which have entered Syria and settled in the country, and on the other hand, they are penetrable to foreign security organizations, leading to security concerns in Syria.
'Car bomb aimed at undermining stability'
Meanwhile, a Syrian security source reported that the country's security organizations have exposed the cell responsible for Saturday's attack. The source told Syrian newspaper al-Watan that all cell members were citizens of Arab states and none of them were Syrian.
According to the source, the car accidentally exploded in a neighborhood in south Damascus, and was actually meant to be detonated in a different place. The accident happened "due to reasons which will be revealed later on," the source said.
He added that "the investigation being conducted shows that the cell planned to undermine the security and stability in Syria through instructions it received by the elements financing it."
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The Bahraini Foreign minister may be the only sane diplomat in the Middle East, But in the land of the insane, the sane person is considered crazy. In calling for a regional organization that includes Israel, al Khalifa has taken an unimaginably great leap forward in historical terms. There are two problems with his suggestion: The first is that it won't happen. The second is that even if it would happen, the organization would be an enhanced version of the UN nightmare, since every country in the region would gang up against Israel, and generate resolutions about "human rights." In the land of the insane, the insane thing is the right thing to do, and sanity is a disastrous course.
There is no doubt that al Khalifa is sincere, since Bahrain is anxious about its neighbor Iran, but the result would not be good.
Foreign Minister al-Khalifa says Middle East nations should form regional organization that includes Israel and Iran to try to resolve their disputes
Published: 10.01.08, 13:52 / Israel News
Bahrain's foreign minister said in an interview published Wednesday that Middle East nations should form a regional organization that includes Israel and Iran, the Arab countries' top rivals, to try to resolve their disputes.
It was a rare call for Arab countries to create a broad grouping alongside Israel and Iran. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab nations that have peace deals with Israel and have diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. Other Arab nations have said they won't establish ties with Israel until it signs peace deals with the Palestinians and Syria.
Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheik Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa said in the interview with the Arab daily al-Hayat that a regional organization should be formed "even if we don't recognize each other."
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly a day earlier, Sheik Khaled called for such a Mideast organization to include countries "without exception."
'Why don't we all sit together?'
Asked by al-Hayat if it would include Israel, he replied, "with Israel, Turkey, Iran and Arab countries. Let them all sit together in one group. ... This is the only path to solve our problems."
"Why don't we all sit together even if we have differences and even if we don't recognize each other? Why not become one organization to overcome this difficult phase?" the paper quoted him as saying.
Few Arab governments are likely to accept a permanent regional forum with Israel. When the first Israeli-Palestinian peace deals were reached in the 1990s, Arab countries quickly quashed proposals that were floated that Israel be allowed to join the Arab League. Iran, which rejects the peace process with Israel, is even less likely to join a regional block with it.
Many Arab governments, dominated by Sunni Muslims, also view mainly Shiite and Persian Iran with suspicion, fearing it is trying to extend its influence in the Gulf and the rest of the region through its allies in Syria and Lebanon.
Bahrain - a pro-Western island nation with Sunni rulers and a Shiite majority - is a close US ally and hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet. Earlier this year, it appointed the Arab world's first Jewish ambassador as its envoy to Washington.
Continued (Permanent Link)
This reminds us of the story about the diamond engagement ring:
"Dear, are you sure this is a real diamond?"
"Well if it's not, I'm out $35.00"
In letter to President Ahmadinejad, Interior Minister Ali Kordan says he has pressed charges against person who claimed to represent Britain's prestigious university in Tehran as soon as he realized his degree was invalid
Published: 10.01.08, 08:01 / Israel News
Iran's Interior Minister Ali Kordan has admitted to holding a fake Oxford University degree which he thought was valid, coming clean after weeks of controversy, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.
"In a letter to the president on Saturday, Ali Kordan said he had pressed charges against the person who claimed to represent Oxford University in Tehran as soon as he realized his degree was fake," the government daily Iran said.
Pressure has been mounting on Kordan after Britain's prestigious university denied awarding him any qualification through a representative.
"Over the past eight years, I never doubted the validity of the degree and that's why I presented it in the course of the confidence vote," Kordan wrote in his letter to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The minister, who was appointed in August, said he approached Oxford University after MPs cast doubt on his degree, but "to my utter disbelief, the university did not confirm (the degree) when my representative went there."
The degree had been issued for his "managerial and executive experience and for submitting a thesis to Oxford University via a person who had opened an affiliate office in Tehran in English-language affairs," the minister said.
Kordan said his search for the intermediary had proven fruitless and that he had filed a complaint against the unnamed person on September 14.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Lethal Politics: Anti-Semitism as Human RightsBy Anne BAYEFSKYADC Gandel Oration -- Melbourne and Sydney, AustraliaJuly 6 and 8, 2008 Introduction Human rights have become a weapon. A potent force for denunciation and defeat – not in the hands of the abused, but in the hands of the abusers. Those powerful few who know little - and want even less - of freedom or equality.
In little over half a century since the horrors that nearly vanquished an entire people, humankind has come almost full circle. The victims of the Nazis – and the Jewish homeland which is their refuge and their strength – are cast as the neo-Nazis of the 21st century. Human rights are now human wrongs.
The saga of the hijacking and corruption of universal rights and freedoms is one of profound betrayal. It is a betrayal of the victims of the Holocaust, the United Nations – the promised international beacon that rose from their ashes, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights envisioned by Eleanor Roosevelt and René Cassin as the gold standard for never again.
This plight is not a result of a sole cataclysmic event but the consequence of individual abominations, gone unnoticed or unchallenged. Ironically, the setting for this treachery has been the UN itself. An individual resolution of the UN General Assembly, a report of a UN special investigator, a decision of the UN Human Rights Commission – year after year after year. International norms are said to be nurtured through a constructive process in which the accumulation of state practice crystallizes beliefs that mirror the collective wisdom of nations. What has emerged instead – powered by a global, 20 billion-a-year megaphone – is the collective depravity of an immoral majority.
This story begins with discrimination against the Jewish state. Discrimination is the building block of hate and the UN has already erected a fortress.
Since the late 1940's until it was abolished in 2006, the lead UN human rights body was the Human Rights Commission. Over its lifetime it passed more resolutions condemning Israel than any other country on earth. It adopted nothing, ever, on serial abusers such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Zimbabwe.
In 2006 the Commission was replaced by the Human Rights Council. In its short life the Council has directed almost 60% of its decisions condemning specific states at Israel alone. And nothing at all on 187 of the UN's other 191 members.
The Council has had eight regular sessions which cover human rights in all countries – and four special sessions devoted only to human rights violations by Israel.
The Council – as the Commission before it – has a limited agenda of less than a dozen subjects. One is reserved only for condemning Israel. And one is called "human rights issues of concern" for all other countries.
The Commission and the Council have created only one UN human rights investigator with a job description which has no term limit – the investigator on Israel. The few other country investigators must be renewed frequently – or not. In the past 15 months, the Council has refused to renew or continue investigations on four states with some of the worst records on the planet – Belarus, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran and Uzbekistan.
The mandate of the Council investigator on Israel denies any possibility of finding human rights violations by any actor in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but Israel. Its only purpose is "to investigate Israel's violations of the principles and bases of international law."
The UN has only one standing human rights committee which has no generic theme, like civil and political rights or children's rights. The UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting Human Rights is now in its 40th year of operation.
In 1975 the UN created a committee to implement its notorious Zionism is racism resolution. The resolution was rescinded in 1991. But the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People continues to sponsor events worldwide and year round.
There is only one whole UN secretariat Division devoted to a single group of people – the UN Division for Palestinian Rights. Created in 1977 it has a full-time staff of 16, while the number of UN staff for the entire Asia and Pacific Division is 22.
There is one refugee agency for Palestinian refugees. And one refugee agency assisting 26 million in the rest of the world.
The UN General Assembly has six subsidiary bodies which focus only on Palestinians. And none focusing on any other people anywhere.
There is only one UN online service dedicated to the claims of a single people – the enormous United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. It transmits reports, resolutions, speeches, publications and press releases on a daily basis around the world.
Member states of the UN are divided into five regional groups – key vehicles for negotiating resolutions, obtaining important positions, and sharing information. Only one UN member is not permitted to become a full member of any regional group – Israel.
There have been ten emergency sessions of the UN General Assembly in its history – six have been about Israel – and the last and tenth one is effectively in permanent session having been "reconvened" fifteen times since 1987. A million dead in Rwanda and two million dead over two decades in Sudan never prompted one emergency session.
In 2007 the UN General Assembly – as is routine – adopted 20 resolutions condemning Israel for human rights violations, while adopting just a single resolution each on only six other countries. And nothing, for instance, on the egregious violation of the most basic civil and political rights of more than a billion Chinese.
The only condemnation of a country-specific violation of women's rights anywhere made by the Commission on the Status of Women is its annual resolution on Palestinian women. Nothing, for example, directed at Iran despite its practice of burying women naked to the waist and stoning them to death for alleged adultery.
Taken together, the country subject to more human rights criticism across the UN system every year is Israel. Last year, it was condemned twice as often as Sudan – where millions are displaced, hundreds of thousands are dead in Darfur, and unfettered genocide and rape are the daily norm.
The meetings are webcast – the documents are translated into six languages – and the reports are accessible globally via the internet for free.
In UN circles, it is called protecting human rights. In reality, it is discrimination – antisemitism – in which the Jewish state is subjected to different treatment and held to different standards than all other nations. Given its reach and impact, the UN is therefore the largest global purveyor of antisemitism in the world today.
Israel emerges from this so-called human rights campaign demonized – a country engaged in heinous acts with the worst of intentions.
June 20th, 2008 at UN Headquarters in New York. The occasion is a day-long event entitled "Special meeting to mark sixty years of dispossession of Palestine refugees." A film – shown also at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris a few weeks earlier – is screened before a public audience in the main Economic and Social Council Chamber.
Produced by a Palestinian, the film was designed to draw parallels between the Nazis final solution and the Zionists design for Palestinians. It is commonly billed with these words: "…the late-19th century Zionists…drew up plans, put them into practice, then…used… force, often brutal."
Here is some of the script:
"Christians and Muslims alike…unite in their hatred of Zionism…I preferred to die as a martyr rather than be governed by the Jews …We were against the Jews…The number of Jews increased constantly…The children cried …The Hagana had no mercy, no pity. Zionists! They were Zionists!… The Jews were shooting at us, they were facing us…The Jews yelled "turn around you bastards, you dogs." They machine gunned us…They started killing people who were asleep…[We]…found a poor woman…pregnant. They had killed her and the baby came out of the womb. They started slaughtering them until morning."
This is how the UN marked the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. This is antisemitism as human rights.
Perhaps the most virulent "human rights" theme which emerges repeatedly is the allegation of Jewish racism. In a February 2007 report UN special investigator on Israel John Dugard wrote:
"The IDF inflicts serious bodily and mental harm on Palestinians…Palestinians throughout the OPT are denied freedom of movement. Can it seriously be denied that the purpose of such action is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them?"
UN reports analogize Israel to apartheid South Africa. The UN's 2001 Durban Racism Conference produced a Declaration claiming Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. Durban II – the next so-called "anti-racism" conference scheduled for 2009 is devoted to implementing that Declaration, and is therefore certain to include Israeli racism on its agenda.
Nobody cares that one-fifth of Israel's population is Arab with more democratic rights than in any Arab state. No one wants to hear that Arab states have essentially been rendered Judenrein following the creation of Israel, 850,000 Jews having been forced to flee. Though UN resolutions denounce Jews living in Arab-claimed territory as "Judaization," nowhere do people denounce "apartheid Palestine."
The Legitimization of Violence
What follows discrimination and demonization is all too familiar. A demonized adversary is a much easier target. In the name of resistance and struggle, Israeli civilians have become fair game.
On June 16, 2008 the UN Human Rights Council discussed the latest human rights report from Dugard on Israeli practices. He said: "a distinction must be drawn between acts of mindless terror…and acts committed in the course of a war of national liberation." The acts perpetrated upon Israeli civilians by Palestinians acting "against occupation" is the second kind of terror, the "inevitable consequence of occupation" and analogous to "the German occupation resisted by European countries in the Second World War." According to this major UN human rights authority figure, therefore, terrorizing Israelis is understandable and inevitable and their murderers are comparable to the liberators of Nazi Germany.
The European Union has a word for "drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis" – antisemitism.
Antisemitism as human rights
This is not academic exegesis. During the Human Rights Council discussions, Pakistan responded to Dugard's hate-mongering on behalf of the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference or OIC: "We must note the wise counsel of the special [investigator] to make distinction between mindless terror and acts committed in the course of war of national liberation against colonialism, apartheid or military occupation." As recently as four years ago, resolutions of the Human Rights Commission declared "the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples against foreign occupation and for self-determination" – (and incorporated by reference to an earlier General Assembly resolution) "by all available means, including armed struggle."
Denial of the Right of Self-Defense
The human right universe denies the Jewish state the existential entitlement to self-preservation. After all, why should the abuser have a right of self-defense against his victim?
Denying Israel an effective right of self-defense has become a centerpiece of international human rights and humanitarian law. Almost nothing that Israel does against its enemies is legitimate in the eyes of the human rights world. In UN and human rights NGO circles, the carefully targeted killing of combatants is extrajudicial execution. The building of a security fence on disputed territory, with a significant numbers of lives saved, violates international law. Checkpoints and barriers limiting movement among a population infiltrated by enemy combatants in a war zone are humiliating racist insults.
Targeting civilian infrastructure in response to thousands of rockets (which forced one million Israelis into bomb shelters for over three weeks and displaced 300,000) was not a legitimate action with a military objective in the middle of a war, but collective punishment. Incidental civilian casualties caused by Israel, of any number, in any context, whatever the target, are always disproportionate. Incidentally destroying crops in southern Lebanon in the course of responding to Hezbollah rockets violated international humanitarian law. In effect, despite a continuing state of war and the genocidal intent of the enemy combatants, Israel can't hit people, can't hit inanimate objects, can't even hit the ground.
Consider the case of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantissi. The governing instrument of the elected representatives of the Palestinian people – the 1988 Hamas Covenant – states: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." "There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad." With genocide as a frame of reference, Yassin and Rantissi exhorted their followers to violence, instigated suicide bombings, and in Rantissi's words "freed the hand of the brigades to do whatever they want against the brothers of monkeys and pigs." By the time Israel killed each of them with a missile attack upon their vehicles, there had been at least 425 Hamas attacks killing 377 Israelis and wounding 2,076 in less than three and a half years. Four civilians were killed with Yassin, none with Rantissi.
The UN response? UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned Israel's actions as "assassinations" and illegal "extrajudicial killings" – a charge which is potent – and totally false. Yassin and Rantissi were combatants in a war and not entitled to judicial process before being targeted. They were also unlawful combatants, seeking to make themselves indistinguishable from the civilian population. International Committee of the Red Cross manuals state that civilians who take a direct part in hostilities forfeit their immunity from attack. In addition to the fact that Yassin and Rantisi were not entitled to judicial process, such a process was not an option for Israel without risking many more Israeli and Palestinian lives. The real legal limit in targeting combatants, according to the Geneva Conventions, is the rule of proportionality – the "incidental loss of civilian life" must not be "excessive." This test was satisfied in the case of Israel's actions, civilian casualties having been kept to a minimum. And yet in today's world of human rights, killing antisemitic leaders at the apex of their genocidal campaign, which had successfully terrorized 5.5 million people, was a violation of the human rights of the homicidal antisemites.
There is another sense in which the Geneva Conventions are misread only when applied to Israel. The freedom of movement and associated rights of Palestinians are limited, but the question is: by whom? If an armed robber takes a hostage and in the course of the crime the hostage is killed by police, the law states that the death of the hostage has been caused by the robber, not the police. For if there had been no armed robbery, the hostage would not have been harmed. If there were no terrorism, there would be no need for barriers and checkpoints. The Palestinian civilian population is hostage to the terrorists and killers among them. Israel's actions, like those of the police officer, are taken in fulfillment of its legal responsibilities to protect its citizens from violent and illegal behavior. And the Geneva Conventions specifically refuses to grant immunity to terrorists or military targets using civilians as human shields.
This is the law of self-defense – except in the case of Israel. In 2004 the UN's International Court of Justice decided that Israel's security fence violated international law by a series of contortions written for a party of one. They held that there is no right of self-defense under the U.N. Charter when terrorists are not state actors, when they operate across disputed borders, and when the measures are not forcible such as the building of a wall. The Egyptian judge even affirmed a "right of resistance" on the grounds that "violence breeds violence." In short, the Court emasculated Israel's right of self-defense, notwithstanding that the U.N. Charter was not intended to be a suicide pact.
The Absence of Human Rights
The bottom line is that for all practical purposes Israelis don't have human rights.
On June 16, 2008 the Human Rights Council discussed whether the mandate of the special investigator on Israel should be expanded to permit him to consider violations of the human rights of Israelis. The Jordanian Ambassador objected. He explained:
"there is a false impression here of a kind of symmetry that we are dealing with human rights….but we …[ought] not to fall into this symmetry… of… equating the victim and the victimizer or the oppressed and the oppressors…[or] the root causes and … the symptoms. The violation of human rights by Palestinian groups…is used as a pretext… or to confuse the issue…"
The newly appointed UN investigator Richard Falk is a man who has accused Israel of "genocidal tendencies," "associate[s] the treatment of Palestinians with th[e]…criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity" and is unconvinced that the events of 9/11 were not a Bush Administration plot. Falk therefore reassured the Jordanian Ambassador:
"…we are dealing with the suffering of the Palestinian people and secondarily of the victimizing of…Israelis..."
The absence of symmetry (the notion that Israelis have human rights too) is found across the human rights world.
Through suicide-bombing, kidnapping, rocket attacks, murder, and butchery of all kinds, Palestinian and other terrorists touch the lives of Israelis while praying, studying, working, shopping, eating, driving, sleeping – living. If the human rights of Israeli Jews were part of the equation, the list of rights violated by terrorism and war would be a long one:
* the right to life,
* the right not to be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment,
* the right to equality and freedom from persecution, ??security of the person,
* the right to health and well-being,
* the right to safe working conditions,
* the right to work,
* freedom from incitement to violence or war,
* freedom of religion,
* the right to the protection of the family,
* the right to the protection of the child,
* the right to education,
* freedom of movement,
* freedom of association,
* the right to an adequate standard of living, and
* the right to self-determination.
Add to this list: genocide – the commission of "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group," ethnic cleansing – the effort to "render…an area ethnically homogeneous by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups from the area" and the suicide-bomber's crime against humanity.
And yet, in judging the legality of Israel's security fence the World Court never attempted to balance these individual rights of Israelis against the list produced of Palestinian rights. Their trick – no doubt a common one – was to place a lengthy list of Palestinian rights on one side and Israeli "military exigencies," "national security" and "public order" – all faceless beneficiaries – on the other. Having weighted one half of the scale, the human rights weapon of the 21st century becomes a monstrous swindle.
Over and over again, the human rights of Israeli Jews seem to vanish. UN headquarters hosted an exhibit last November with a contribution depicting Israel's security barrier adorned with flowers and accompanied by the words "the flowers climb and hide its ugliness." The aesthetics of Jewish men, women and children blown apart in the absence of a barrier was nowhere to be found.
The Human Rights Council recently commissioned a report on the limitations placed on Palestinian access to religious sites in the territories, but refused to permit consideration of Israeli access to Jewish holy sites in the same places.
On every November 29th, the anniversary of the day on which the General Assembly voted to adopt the partition of the British Palestine Mandate and celebrated in 1947 by Holocaust survivors everywhere, the UN holds an Annual Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. Secretary-General Annan called it "a day of mourning and a day of grief." Just two flags are flown inside UN headquarters in commemoration – the flag of the United Nations and the Palestinian flag.
Rights which do not exist cannot be violated. So it is, that in its entire history the United Nations General Assembly has never adopted a resolution dedicated to condemning antisemitism or called for the production of a report dedicated to antisemitism in contrast to special reports on discrimination against "Muslim and Arab peoples" and "Islamophobia." On the contrary, in human rights circles the definition of antisemitism is hotly disputed.
The reasons are not subtle. Jew-haters have a vested interest in denying Jewhatred.
On April 22, 2008 the Algerian ambassador told the Durban II preparatory committee: "antisemitism…targets…Arabs who are also Semites, and by extension, the whole Muslim community." Pakistan said "Islamophobia is also a crude form of antisemitism."
After all, if the phenomenon can be appropriated, Jewish victimhood will disappear.
But Muslim states are not the only ones feigning confusion about antisemitism. Human rights authorities are nervous about addressing antisemitism primarily because they want to avoid any connection with Zionism and those troublesome human rights of Israelis.
Driving a wedge between Jews and Israel is now a prime activity for antisemites and their human rights cohorts. 'Some of my best friends are Jews. It's just Jewish self-determination I have a problem with.'
Ironically, the current method of avoiding a connection between demonizing Israelis and antisemitism, is to focus on the Holocaust. The general idea is to manifest concern – half a century too late – for Jews that died 60 years ago and then to deny the antisemitism of murdering Jews in a Jewish state today.
When the European Union refused to support a General Assembly resolution on antisemitism (on the alleged grounds that it wouldn't garner consensus), Israel pushed for a Holocaust resolution. It was adopted in November 2005, minus the word "antisemitism," though it did mention the Jewish people along with "countless members of other minorities."
Since January 2006 there has been a Holocaust Remembrance Day at the UN on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Setting aside the constant struggle to ensure that the Day and related activities commemorate the uniqueness of the war against the Jews – the real battleground is over disassociating Israel from the lessons of the Holocaust.
Today, there is a permanent display on the Holocaust at UN Headquarters which contains a timeline from 1933, and Hitler's ascendancy to power, to May 2007 and the appointment of a UN Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities. Nowhere is the creation of the state of Israel mentioned in either the timeline or the exhibit – as if the birth and well-being of Israel is not the central remedial lesson of the Holocaust.
The Destruction of the Jewish State
Rendering asunder Jews and Israel brings this human rights playbook to its inexorable conclusion – the call for the destruction of the Jewish state in the name of human rights.
The argument for demolition is twofold. First, the Jewish state is corrupt. In the words of an invited expert to a public meeting at the UN in New York just two weeks ago:
"Israel demands that the international community recognize Israel as a Jewish state…The implications are…that Palestinian citizens of Israel will never enjoy equal rights because they're not Jews…The imperative of Zionism…is to create a land without a people and replace it with the Jewish people…[We must] recognize the untenable nature of the system of dispossession and discrimination that Zionism has introduced…The days of a Zionist Israel are numbered."
This wasn't just the "expert's" view. The Chairman of the UN Committee hosting the event, the Ambassador of Senegal, thanked the speaker for her "captivating statement" and "valuable knowledge." The end of Israel is allegedly a corrective necessity of the state's inherently corrupt raison d'être.
Second, Israel has a corrupting influence on others. The 2008 annual report of Amnesty International, states:
"The international human rights system has been slow to develop in the Middle East and North Africa…[where] the Universal Declaration of Human Rights' references to non-discrimination…jar…with legal and customary systems…Such concerns, however, might have been overcome were it not for…the creation of the state of Israel and the resulting dispossession of the Palestinian population. The building of a Jewish state in the midst of the Arab Muslim world had a cataclysmic effect, setting off effectively a continuing state of war between Israel and its Arab neighbours."
In other words, the presence of a comparatively tiny number of Jews with control over their own destiny is responsible for the failure of the vast Middle East and North African nations to end their egregious treatments of their own peoples.
This game is obviously impossible for Israelis to win. The mere existence of a Jewish state is the real problem. This is antisemitism masquerading as human rights.
What follows this alleged corruption is a cacophony of players who are provided a UN platform to clamor for the political and economic strangulation of Israel through boycotts, divestment, and sanctions.
Never mind that the real corruption is that of the UN Charter itself – whose very essence is defiled by mounting the destruction of a member state under UN auspices.
Changing the Status Quo
At every step in this story, from discrimination to the clamor for the destruction of the state of Israel, it would have been possible for decent people, non-governmental organizations and democratic states to refuse to turn the page. Instead, a series of fallacies have stood in the way of the necessary confrontation with the human rights gamers.
Fallacy #1: Israel deserves the attention and the criticism, even if other states are wrongly ignored. The discrimination and double-standards are unfortunate but not fatal.
The Response: At the end of March 2007 British soldier and kidnap victim Faye Turney was in Iran - stripped to her underwear, caged in a tiny, freezing cell and led to believe her death was imminent. At exactly the same time, the UN's lead human rights agency – the Human Rights Council – made two moves. It adopted yet another resolution calling for "the dispatching of…urgent fact-finding missions" to Israel. And its President made the following statement: "the Human Rights Council has in closed meetings examined the human rights situation in…Iran…[and] decided to discontinue the consideration of the human rights situation in…Iran…Members of the…Council should make no reference in the public debate to the confidential decisions and material concerning" Iran.
The inequality of Jews cannot be quarantined. It perverts priorities and purposes.
Fairness, equality and human dignity cannot be built on the inequality of the few.
According to the UN Charter, international peace and security are premised on the equality of all nations large and small, while human dignity is inseparable from the equality of all men and women. Equality is an end in itself. The discrimination and demonization of the Jewish state and the Jewish people is not just an extraneous flaw. It subverts the very foundation of the human rights movement.
Fallacy #2: Israel does not deserve the discrimination and the nature and extent of the condemnation, but poor treatment of Israel is a price worth paying for progress on other fronts.
The Response: The Global Advocacy Director for the NGO Human Rights Watch, Peggy Hicks, and I had an online debate sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations after the first two sessions of the Human Rights Council. Hicks wrote (in July 2006 and the middle of the Lebanon war): "There are legitimate concerns at the Council's handling of the situation in Gaza, and its decision to focus on that crisis to the exclusion of other pressing situations. It would be a mistake, however, to judge the Council on the basis of its actions on the occupied Palestinian territories…" In other words, treating the Jewish state differently than all other countries is a problem only for a small proportion of the world's population. For Jews to denounce the whole just because they are given the short end of the stick would be narrow-minded, callous and parochial.
Human Rights Watch's behavior at the Durban I racism conference took this argument to its logical conclusion. As the representative of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists at Durban, I personally beseeched the representative of Human Rights Watch – to support a vote against the NGO Zionism is Racism declaration. They refused – for the alleged greater good then too.
The same approach was never suggested by human rights organizations to South African blacks and the anti-apartheid movement – for good reason. The road to hell is paved with the cries of the insignificant, the marginal and irrelevant.
Fallacy #3: Jewish complaints are an attempt to protect Israel from any criticism. Jews shout antisemitism to avoid legitimate scrutiny.
The Response: Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch told the Jerusalem Post: "there is a cottage industry of people out there who try to accuse of bias those who criticize Israel's human-rights record not because the criticisms are unwarranted but as a way of simply defending Israel from any criticism." Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said: "…some regard any criticism of Israel as anti-semitic." But "Israel's supporters" should not "use the charge of antisemitism to stifle legitimate discussion." And the Deputy Director of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber recently wrote about my criticism of his racist Israel allegations: "I assume that the picque…comes from her ideological conviction that any discussion of Israel's human rights record is simply unacceptable."
Such gibberish is the proverbial straw man. That Israel can do no wrong and deserves no criticism is a fiction never uttered by anyone, anywhere. There is a difference between legitimate criticism and the application of standards applied nowhere else.
Fallacy #4: Anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. There is a constant effort to urge the Jewish diaspora to forsake their brethren in favor of the global brotherhood of man.
The Response: The anti-Zionism in human rights circles is not enigmatic. As we have heard: Judaization is a crime; the Jewishness of a Jewish state is wrong; Zionists stole the land by gratuitously slaughtering pregnant women; murderous Israeli soldiers seek to oppress; Jews want racial domination over Palestinians; Israel is engaged in apartheid; and the ultimate slander, Israelis are analogous to Nazis. Martin Luther King recognized hate when he heard it, and stated in a now famous 1968 appearance at Harvard: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism."
Zionism, or Jewish statehood, is the realization of the self-determination of the Jewish people. In their historical homeland. Continually inhabited, in fewer and greater numbers due to circumstances beyond their control. For thousands of years. In today's human rights universe, however, Jewish statehood and self-determination is an inherent evil destined to oppress and harm the well-being of those amongst them, and debilitating to the advancement of the people of other nations. That Jews are a people incapable of self-government compatible with democratic rights and freedoms – the only people on earth suffering from this inescapable affliction – is a lie. It is also antisemitism.
Fallacy #5: The outcomes of UN human rights mechanisms may not be to our liking, but that is international democracy at work. It is not for the West to dictate right answers to the rest of the globe.
The Response: In the course of his failed reform efforts, Secretary-General Kofi Annan complained: "we all have to admit that the [security] council can be more democratic and more representative…There is a democracy deficit in the UN governance that has to be corrected." What he didn't advocate by way of reform was that Council members actually be democratic. On the contrary, what democracy means at the UN is idealizing the General Assembly, where less than half of the 192 members are fully free democracies. The Chinese explained such bogus global democracy in a 2005 paper this way: "the General Assembly is an important body of democratic decision-making" and the "UN [must] observe the following principles…non-interference in internal affairs." In other words, tyranny is as likely to emerge from the UN majority as right answers.
What has in fact surfaced, from the majority of countries who have in common a desire to avoid external scrutiny, is an aversion to universal rights. Self-styled global "democrats" flaunt instead, moral, cultural and religious particularities. The practical implications of such priorities are exemplified by Saudi Arabia, a current member of the UN Human Rights Council. The Saudi Vice-Minister for Human Rights told the Council in March "…human rights principles ensured the respect for peoples identities, peoples who refused to be dictated and who held on to their special cultures." Saudi human rights reports therefore say: "Lawmaking in an Islamic state proceeds from the Islamic Shariah...Islam holds that full likeness between men and women is contrary to the reality of their being..." Accordingly, last year a Saudi court sentenced a 19-year old woman to prison and 200 lashes after she had been gang-raped, for the crime of having been found by the rapists in a car with a male friend who was not her relative. This is "cultural particularities" at work.
On June 16th at the Human Rights Council an NGO pointed to practices in Islamic states, such as honor killings, marriage of very young girls, and the stoning of women, and urged Islamic religious authorities to play a leadership role in ending these practices.
Representatives of Islamic states – Egypt, Iran, Pakistan – immediately objected to the statement as an "attempt to link bad practices" to Islam. The President then ruled that henceforth any "evaluation of a religious creed, law or document" would never be permitted at the Council.
Global democracy in action is the tyranny of non-democracies.
Fallacy #6: Western democracies – including Israel – are the real enemies of human rights.
The Response: The foes of human rights know that the best defense is a good offence – so rather than addressing those who violate human rights in the name of Islam, they allege the real problem is the bigotry of non-Muslims. They are not talking about isolated and certainly wrong incidents of xenophobia – they speak of a deliberate global Western-inspired plot against the whole of Islam. They call it Islamophobia. As Egypt told the Human Rights Council last September, with regards to the Danish cartoons affair:
"…the offensive publication of portraits of the Prophet Mohamed…lead to, not only hurting the religious feelings of more than a billion people, but also their freedom of religion and their right to respect of their religion."
The freedom of religion of a billion people has been gravely harmed by a few cartoons in a remote newspaper? These kinds of remarks – now daily fodder in the human rights world – are nothing short of lethal demagoguery.
The human rights offensive reaches a high-water mark when it comes to Israel. Pakistan articulated the mindset before the Human Rights Council on June 16th:
"Israel's forcible occupation is the root cause of all human rights issues in the Palestinian territories."
Not the terrorists who deliberately operate in the midst of a civilian population, using their family and friends as human shields. Not the bigots who feed their children – in schools, on television, in textbooks – the daily bread of intolerance and hate for their neighbors. Not the Arab nations that have cynically kept Palestinians as refugees for three generations instead of offering them citizenship and its benefits. Not the war launched by Arab states that rejected the UN partition plan and the creation of Israel in 1948. And not all the wars and attempts at annihilation that rejectionist forces have launched ever since.
But then one might expect the killers to blame their victims for their own demise.
Fallacy #7: The glass is half full and not half empty. There is progress in the human rights world. Look how far we've come since the Nuremberg Tribunals and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was first adopted.
The Response: How far indeed. Genocide in Rwanda and Sudan without intervention. Millions of women suffering genital mutilation. Billions without elementary democratic freedoms. And Jews without human rights.
The Nuremberg Tribunals taught us crimes are not committed by abstract entities, but today just naming and shaming abusers is widely criticized as uncooperative and counter-productive.
The stranglehold of cultural relativism ensures that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights could never be adopted today.
Fallacy #8: The UN is a harmless talking shop. At worst it is a place to blow off steam. Dialogue is always good.
The Response: Iranian President Ahmadinejad would agree. In the late 1990's Iran initiated the idea of a "Dialogue among Civilizations." Naturally, Iranian authorities consider their own regime – in which stoning, public hanging, and cross-amputation of feet and hands are legally-sanctioned punishments – as one of those civilizations.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour experienced the idea of a cost-free dialogue with Iran first-hand. Last September she visited Tehran to attend a "Human Rights and Cultural Diversity" conference. She sat in the front row for Ahmadinejad's speech, during which he said:
"…it is a right for the most righteous to be considered as the best humans….[S]ome powers…think of nothing but destroying the traditions and customs of different nations in the world in order to keep them under their illegal sway…The…story of Palestinians has been going on for the last 60 years. The usurper Zionist regime has continued to exist through murder…[B]y the grace of God Almighty…the nuclear issue is closed…[T]he Non-Aligned Movement's struggle against…racism, Zionism…has to be praised and lauded."
The day after she listened attentively and held dialogues with his officials, the regime executed 21 people, stringing up the bodies on cranes in public places. Arbour had lent an enemy of human rights credibility and thereby encouraged his pathological behavior, rather than inhibited it. In other words, talk isn't cheap at all.
Moreover, many international actors evidently cannot talk and walk at the same time. It has been over five years since the International Atomic Energy Agency first reported that Tehran had failed to comply with its obligations under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. Since that time there have been a few baby steps by the Security Council, while the jawing continues between European Union representatives and Iran.
In the meantime, the genocidal plans of Ahmadinejad loom ever larger. A civilized dialogue with an anti-civilization regime has brought us closer to a military confrontation, not farther away – as the military option fast becomes the only means to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Fallacy #9: And last, but not least: The corruption of the human rights world may leave Israel the worse off, but the rest of us have been spared.
The Response: The lessons of the Holocaust have in fact never been learnt. The fate of Israel does, and will, affect all freedom-loving people.
When the World Court found the UN Charter's self-defense provisions did not apply to non-state actors, the ability of every democratic society to combat terrorism was diminished.
In 2007 the UN human rights regime put Israel at the top of its list of offenders, but the United States was fourth – tied with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Australia was 20th, criticized more frequently for human rights violations than Syria at 21 and Libya and Zimbabwe at 22.
Because the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference believe blowing up Israelis and Americans in the name of self-determination is not terrorism, they have successfully blocked the adoption of a comprehensive convention against terrorism and prevented the UN's lead counter terrorism agency – the Counter-Terrorism Committee – to this day from naming a single terrorist, terrorist organization, or state sponsor of terrorism.
When the centerpiece of the UN's anti-racism agenda – the Durban conference – was hijacked to promote a Zionism-is-racism campaign, the credibility of all anti-racism efforts at the UN suffered. Durban II will not only be bad for Jews; it will be an attack on freedom of expression, period.
Pakistan declared this past April at the Durban preparatory conference: "the most serious manifestation of racism is the democratic legitimization of racism and xenophobia." The inversion of human rights has come full circle, having manufactured not only the Israeli Nazi but also the democratic fascist.
UN investigator Dugard made the Orwellian nature of the human rights world particularly plain when he said in a 2007 report:
"For years the occupation of Palestine and apartheid in South Africa vied for attention…In 1994 apartheid came to an end…the OPT has become a test for the West, a test by which its commitment to human rights is to be judged. If the West fails this test, it can hardly expect the developing world to address human rights violations seriously in its own countries…"
In other words, why should Sudan stop genocide? Why should Zimbabwe stop murdering its own people? Why should China grant anybody freedom of speech? According to the human rights intelligensia, unless and until the Jewish state is rendered defenseless or defeated, the protection of the human rights of the 6 billion people in the developing world is on hold.
Israel – as Jewish scapegoats have been over the centuries – is the ultimate diversionary tactic.
Antisemitism has become the bread and butter of the human rights movement – as much to the detriment of the movement as to Jews. The enemies of human rights have taken control of the global mechanisms created to oppose them. The global institution intended to lead and inspire has been morally neutered. And solutions for vast numbers of victims of human rights abuse are in abeyance until a Jewish state disappears.
Jews, however, cannot change the ending of this saga alone. Democracies must be convinced to reject moral relativism; name, shame, and sanction the real villains; deny global platforms to the opponents of equality and dignity; use the label antisemitism every time it fits; and stand with Israel against the antisemitism that masquerades as human rights.
Human rights are the most powerful ideological currency of our time. Unless the free people of this earth take back the nomenclature, the institutions and the implementation tools of human rights, I fear we will witness the destruction of Israel, if not by lethal force, then by lethal politics.
* Ann BAYEFSKY is Director, Touro Center for Human; Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute; Professor, York University. Rights and the Holocaust.
* ADC is the Anti-Defamation Commission of B'nai B'rith in Australia.
Labels: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, United Nations
Continued (Permanent Link)
The obvious solution to the problem of the Palestinian presidency is to hold new elections. That is not going happen most likely, and that spells trouble ahead for Israel as well as the Palestinians.
Hamas is planning to declare one of its top officials as interim president of the Palestinian Authority after Mahmoud Abbas's term in office expires in January 2009, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip said Sunday.
The officials told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas would not recognize Abbas as president of the PA after that date. "We will remove his pictures from all the public institutions," said one official. "Until now, our policy has been not to challenge Abbas's legitimacy as the elected leader of the Palestinian Authority."
But, the Hamas official warned, his movement was determined to see Abbas step down in January. "If he wants to seek another term in office, he should run in new elections. By announcing that he will stay in power for another year, Abbas is acting in violation of the Palestinian Basic Law."
Hamas insists that Abbas's term expires in January 2009, while the PA president points to 2010. Abbas, who was elected for four years in January 2005, argues that the Palestinian Legislative Council [PLC] amended an election law that same year so as to call for holding parliamentary and presidential elections together. The current Hamas-dominated parliament was elected in January 2006.
Earlier this year, the PA-controlled Ministry of Justice in Ramallah decided that Abbas's term would be extended until January 25, 2010, to coincide with the end of the term of the PLC.
Dismissing the announcement as a "flagrant violation of the Palestinian Basic Law," Hamas said the purported amendment of the election law was itself illegal. Hamas spokesmen explained that according to the Basic Law, the PA president's term cannot be extended because it is limited to four years.
According to a senior Hamas official, his movement is planning to name Ahmed Bahr, the acting speaker of the PLC, as interim president next January. "The Palestinian law calls for the speaker of the parliament to serve as interim president until new elections are held," he said. "When Yasser Arafat died, the former speaker of the parliament, Rouhi Fattouh, took over for two months."
Bahr, who is one of the top leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, said Sunday he was prepared to serve as acting PA president in January. "Abbas would not be able to remain in office after January," he said. "If he wants, he can run in the new elections. But in the meantime, I will be filling in for him."
Bahr warned Abbas against the "serious repercussions" of his decision to stay in office beyond January. "If he insists on violating the law, he will consolidate the state of schism in the Palestinian arena," he cautioned. "He has no right to steal the post of president against the will of the people."
Bahr said he did not rule out the possibility that Abbas, with the help of Israel, would wage a major offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in January. He added that even if some Arab countries continued to deal with Abbas as president of the PA after January 2009, Hamas would not accept him.
PA officials in Ramallah scoffed at Bahr's remarks, saying he was not even the speaker of the PLC. "Bahr forgot that he's only the acting speaker of the parliament and that the speaker is Abdel Aziz Dweik [who is currently in Israeli jail]," said one official. "In any case, Bahr represents a movement that has trampled the law under its foot."
Another PA official told the Post that Abbas has formed a special panel of legal experts to find a way to allow him to extend his term beyond January 2009. "The president has no intention to step down in January," he said. "The law allows him to stay for another year."
The row over Abbas's tenure is expected to be at the top of the agenda in the upcoming talks between the various Palestinian factions in Cairo. All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, have agreed to hold "national dialogue" talks in the Egyptian capital early next month. The talks are primarily aimed at ending the ongoing Hamas-Fatah dispute and ending Hamas's exclusive rule in the Gaza Strip.
The Egyptians are hoping to solve the crisis over Abbas's term before the end of the year so as to avoid a further deterioration in the Hamas-Fatah power struggle.
PA officials said President Hosni Mubarak supported Abbas's stance and was trying to persuade Hamas not to challenge the PA president in January. Abbas has also sought the backing of the Arab League for his plan to remain in power for an additional year.
The Egyptians are also hoping to convince Hamas to accept a proposal to deploy Arab troops in the Gaza Strip and to form a new Palestinian government that would be dominated by independent figures. Both ideas have thus far been totally rejected by Hamas, which also remains strongly opposed to Abbas's efforts to extend his term by another year.
Continued (Permanent Link)
Police: Bedouin boy killed in Jordan Valley played with bullet
Efrat Weiss YNET Published: 09.29.08, 11:39 / Israel News
The police said Monday that an autopsy on the body of the Bedouin boy found near the village of Gitit in the Jordan Rift Valley reveals that he died after losing a lost of blood as a result of playing with a 40-millimeter bullet.
Palestinians claimed Sunday that the boy, who works as a shepherd, was shot by settlers.
Continued (Permanent Link)
What did you expect
Iran said on Monday it would not halt sensitive nuclear work as demanded by the UN Security Council in its latest resolution on Tehran's atomic programme that the West believes is aimed at making warheads.
The UN Security Council passed a resolution on Saturday ordering the Islamic republic to halt uranium enrichment, the part of the nuclear programme that most worries the West because it has both civilian and military uses. (Reuters)
Continued (Permanent Link)
Every day there may be a different "culprit." If Al-Qaeda people are convicted, is it because they really did it, or because Syria does not want to admit it was Lebanese who did it? Al-Qaeda is a "good" enemy to have, because then you can show the Americans that you need support from the West to stop Al-Qaeda.
Government newspaper Tishrin reports initial investigation revealed fundamental organization responsible for car bomb killed 17 people in Syrian capital
Published: 09.29.08, 09:12 / Israel News
An initial investigation into Saturday's fatal attack in Damascus revealed that a radical Islamic organization was responsible for the car bomb which killed 17 people.
The government newspaper Tishrin reported Monday that Syrian security officials believe the booby-trapped car was brought into Syrian territory a day before the attack through the country's border with a neighboring Arab state. The paper did not mention the name of the other country.
A number of radical Islam activists were arrested after the explosion. The Tishrin report indicates that Islamic elements outside Syria were behind the attack which shocked the country and followed a series of assassinations on Syrian soil.
Syrian papers on Sunday hinted at foreign involvement in the car bombing. So far, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Syrian government has refrained from clearly pointing the finger at anyone.
Saturday's 200 kilogram car bomb near a Syrian security complex on the southern outskirts of the capital was the biggest and deadliest attack to occur in the country since the 1980s when authorities fought an uprising by Muslim militants.
The government-owned daily al-Thawra claimed in an editorial Sunday that recent attacks in Syria were planned outside the country, but did not mention any names.
However, the comment came a week after Syria massed thousands of troops north of its borders with neighboring Lebanon. Syria says the deployment is meant to curb smuggling, but President Bashar Assad has warned recently that "extremist forces" were operating in northern Lebanon and destabilizing his country.
He was apparently referring to Sunni militants who have clashed for months with pro-Syrian gunmen in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
Tishrin said the bombing was carried out by some parties it said were angered by Syria's "victorious return to the international arena after the desperate attempts to isolate, besiege and punish it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Continued (Permanent Link)
Rumors and counter rumors will continue until (if) a coalition is formed. It is part of the game.
Livni denies offering Mofaz FM position
Sep. 28, 2008
Shelly Paz , THE JERUSALEM POST
New Kadima leader Tzipi Livni denied on Sunday reports claiming she called Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz on Saturday and told him he was needed in the government she is now forming.
"The chairman of Kadima does not yet bother with the portfolios of the day after, she has certainly not made any propositions. This is true regarding everyone, including Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz," a Livni spokesman said.
According to the report, this was the first time Livni and Mofaz, who competed for the Kadima leadership on September 17, had spoken since Mofaz called her to congratulate her on her victory in the vote.
Livni reportedly told Mofaz that her offer to appoint him as a minister in the future government was still valid and that she would like to see him working alongside her.
Sources close to Mofaz told The Jerusalem Post Saturday he was planning to be back after Rosh Hashana from the time-out he took after the loss to Livni.
The sources said further that it seemed like Mofaz would accept Livni's suggestion and that he would want to serve as foreign minister as well as deputy premier, or take the Finance portfolio.
But Mofaz's spokesman put out a statement late Saturday night saying that while there had been a conversation between Livni and Mofaz, they had not spoken about political matters and they did not discuss the issue of portfolios.
Livni is scheduled to meet with Shas chairman Eli Yishai on Sunday for further discussions on the terms for his party's entrance to the coalition.
Last week it was reported that Shas's demand for raising child allowances might be accepted, but in a different format, such as one that would channel funds only to parents in the weaker sectors of the population.
The two parties appointed representatives - David Glass and Yohanan Stessman for Shas, and Yoram Raved and Amir Goldstein for Kadima - to conduct the negotiations.
Livni is expected to meet with Labor chairman Ehud Barak for the third time later this week, though the upcoming holidays will now interfere with her efforts to quickly form a coalition.
Sources close to the two revealed to the Post that Livni and Barak had held daily telephone conversations in addition to the two meetings they held last week.
Both Livni and Barak appointed representatives last Sunday to hold more intensive negotiations, former coalition chairman Efi Oshaya for Labor and former cabinet secretary Yisrael Maimon for Kadima. Oshaya and Maimon's talks, which were reported by sources close to the discussions to be going in "the right direction," were kept secret from the leaders' advisers and staff.
But the Maimon-Oshaya channel broke down last week when Maimon refused Barak's demand to raise the framework of the state budget by 2.5 percent to boost Defense Ministry spending and benefits for pensioners, university students and immigrants.
Barak's requests to head Israel's negotiating team with Syria and to block the reforms of Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann were rejected by Maimon as well.
Continued (Permanent Link)
This report mentions three different scenarios. Under one of them, not mentioning which one, one in four Israeli citizens will be an Arab in 2030, there will be 7.2 million Jews and 2.4 million "Arabs." It is not clear if or how this takes into account the non-Jewish citizens who are not Arabs - there are quite a few of these.
In 22 years, one of every four citizens to be Arab, according to Central Bureau of Statistics
Published: 03.25.08, 20:01 / Israel News
By 2030 Arabs will account for one out of every four citizens of Israel, according to a forecast published by Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) on Tuesday.
The forecast featured three possible scenarios - high, medium, and low based on different variables that may affect population growth such as death rate, immigration, and fertility. According to the low alternative, in 2030 Israel's population will be 9.6 million, and according to the high alternative 10.6 million. The forecast was based on population estimates from late 2005.
According to CBS, the population's ageing process in Israel will intensify, and the relative portion of elderly citizens over age 65 is foreseen to constitute 14%, or 1.4 million people, as opposed to 10% in 2005, according to the middle alternative.
In contrast, the relative portion of 0-14 year-old citizens is expected to decrease from 28% to 25%, though their numbers should increase from two million to 2.5 million.
According to the forecast, the Jewish population is expected to comprise 7.2 million people, up from from the 5.3 million counted in 2005. However, in terms of overall percentage this number represents 4% decrease.
Meanwhile, the Arab population is expected to number 2.4 million people in 2030, an increase from 1.4 million in 2005.
Continued (Permanent Link)
London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper says senior military officer is among 17 fatalities of car bomb which rocked Syrian capital. Attack believed to be meant for city's intelligence services building
Published: 09.28.08, 10:56 / Israel News
A high-ranking Syrian military officer was killed in the car bomb explosion which struck Damascus on Saturday, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Sunday.
Seventeen people were killed Saturday morning when a car bomb exploded in the Syrian capital. The blast, which Syria's interior minister dubbed a "terror attack", occurred at an intersection leading to the Sit Zeinab shrine, popular with Shiite pilgrims from Iran and Lebanon.
According to the al-Sharq al-Awsat report, the car bomb was meant to hit a Syrian intelligence services building, located near Damascus' international airport, where Syria's "Palestinian directorate" is believed to be located.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem was quick to assign blame Saturday, saying Israel was the one which stood to gain the most from the attack.
"Unfortunately, in the years following the American war on terror, terror has managed to spread even further. Such incidents can take place anywhere and do not indicate that there was a security breach," he said.
The terror attack in Syria was condemned by the US, Europe and the Arab world.
Syria has known several assassinations and assassination attempts in the past few months, most recently that of Hisham el-Badni, secretary to Khaled Mashaal, Hamas' political leader, who according to reports was gunned down in a Damascus street, in broad daylight.
July saw another top Syrian official killed, as Brigadier General Mohammad Suleiman, a senior aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad, who was gunned down by a sniper.
Continued (Permanent Link)
There are two problems with the analysis below. The first is that according to Israel TV Channel 1, there was a getaway vehicle waiting to rescue the driver of the booby trapped vehicle. If so, it is not likely to have been a work accident. The second problem is that the attempt may not have failed, as the blast reportedly killed a key officer (see here )
The most likely candidates for perpetrators of the blast are Palestinians, since the branch of Syrian Intelligence that was targetted is the Palestinian branch, and there is no love lost between Syria and the Fatah movement.
Syria is cooperating with Al Qaeda to inject them into Lebanon, and therefore there is no reason for Al Qaeda to attack Syrian targets, especially not the Palestinian branch of Syrian Intelligence.
Syria, once considered one of region's most stable states, increasingly vulnerable
Published: 09.28.08, 11:17 / Israel Opinion
A car bomb blast in south Beirut on December 22, 1994 killed Fouad Mugniyah, Imad Mugniyah's brother. Three other people were killed in the explosion. At least 15 people sustained serious wounds.
Imad Mugniyah, who thought that the fact someone bothered to kill his brother was suspicious, did not show up at the funeral. In Lebanon, the killing was attributed to Israel, which according to foreign sources hoped to kill Imad Mugniyah during the funeral.
On Saturday, following reports about the huge blast that shook Damascus, and while trying to guess who was behind it, someone mentioned the abovementioned incident. He brought it up in response to the argument that Israel would not be detonating car bombs or in other words, a very non- surgical strike in order to achieve operational aims at the heart of enemy territory.
One thing is certain: There is no dull moment for our northern neighbor. It turns out that the state once considered one of the most stable in the Middle East where leaders always made sure to respond aggressively to any display of opposition, and where streets are replete with secret agents is particularly vulnerable. And so, President Bashar Assad is losing more and more points in Arab and international public opinion and is being portrayed as someone unable to control developments on his own turf.
So who could have been behind the explosion? On the face of it, this appears to be some kind of mishap or work accident, as according to the reports at least it doesn't seem like the blast was not aimed at a specific target. If we are indeed dealing with an accident, it might be a Syrian shipment (to Hizbullah, for example) that was handled negligently. This is a problematic assumption as there is no information about arms or ammunition depots in that area.
Syrian opposition sources claim this was a work accident by Syrian security authorities. They argue that the branch specializing in building car bombs packed the vehicle with explosives, but the car blew up because of a technical mishap en route to its destination.
Is al-Qaeda involved?
Various Arab sources immediately blamed Israel's Mossad. On the face of it, this appears to be no more than a conditioned reflex. At the same time, the area where the explosion took place is a hub of Iranian activity: It is home to offices of Iranian agencies and organizations, including intelligence elements from Tehran.
Iran's intelligence in Damascus is of immense importance, as it is responsible for part of the coordination with Hizbullah. We can assume that had Israeli intelligence paid attention to what goes on in Damascus, this area would merit special attention.
Another possibility is that this was an act perpetrated by Lebanese elements that object to the ongoing Syrian involvement in their country, despite the seeming withdrawal. A conspiracy theory presented on a global Jihad forum Saturday suggested that the Syrian government carried out the bombing in order to justify a Syrian operation in Lebanon against Syria's rivals.
Yet another possibility is that we are dealing with a Syrian opposition group that sought to embarrass the regime or kill someone specific.
Who else may be behind the blast? The news of the latest blow to Assad's prestige prompted great joy on websites affiliated with al-Qaeda that are very hostile to the regime in Damascus. Al-Qaeda has already proven its operational capabilities in the Syrian capital when it attempted to target the American embassy there in 2006.
Continued (Permanent Link)
According to the report, there are just 100,000 Jews more this year than there were last year:
The report, based on research performed by Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, noted that Rosh Hashana 2008 sees 13.3 million Jews living around the world, as opposed to 13.2 million on the eve 2007's Jewish New Year.
But the numbers do not exactly add up:
According to the data, 2008 saw a rise in the number of Jews living in Israel, as 70,000 new Israeli's were inducted in the state. The situation in the Diaspora indicated the opposite trend, as 2008 saw the number of Diaspora Jews decrease from 7.8 million to 7.75 million.
If there are 70,000 more Jews in Israel, but 50 million less Jews abroad, that would be a net increase of 20,000. Even if there really are 100,000 more Jews, that is a net increase of just 0.7%.
The most interesting bit of datum may be this:
The smallest Jewish community was found to be in Afghanistan, numbering just one man.
This man is the keeper of the Kabul synagogue. His wife and daughter are in Holon. He lives in abject poverty and opens the synagogue once or twice a year for interested Israelis who may visit, and lives on their donations. This is the urgent and important career that keeps him in Afghanistan! This story epitomizes the life story of many Jews around the world.
Jewish Agency report published on eve of High Holidays indicates increase in number of Jews choosing to live in Israel, decrease in number of Diaspora Jews. Reports attributes latter to troubling rise in assimilation
Yael Branovsky Published: 09.28.08, 07:14 / Israel Jewish Scene
The Jewish Agency published its annual report numbering Jewish communities around the world on Thursday, indicating an increase in the numbers of Jews worldwide.
The report, based on research performed by Prof. Sergio Della Pergola of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, noted that Rosh Hashana 2008 sees 13.3 million Jews living around the world, as opposed to 13.2 million on the eve 2007's Jewish New Year.
The report's count included all those listed or declaring themselves to be of the Jewish faith and holding no other religious denomination.
According to the data, 2008 saw a rise in the number of Jews living in Israel, as 70,000 new Israeli's were inducted in the state. The situation in the Diaspora indicated the opposite trend, as 2008 saw the number of Diaspora Jews decrease from 7.8 million to 7.75 million.
Israel, naturally, is the largest Jewish community, followed by the US, where 5.3 million Jews currently reside. The US is followed by France (490,000 Jews), Canada (375, 000), the UK (295,000), Russia (215,000), Argentina (183,000), Germany (120,000), Australia (107,000) and Brazil, where the Jewish community numbers 96,000 people.
The smallest Jewish community was found to be in Afghanistan, numbering just one man.
The Jewish Agency's report further noted that one of the reasons less Jews are found in Diaspora is the fact that assimilation is on the rise. Jewish Agency Chairman Zeev Bielski warned the situation poses "a clear danger to the Jewish people.
Continued (Permanent Link)
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