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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Report: Israel going to elections

A nasty surprise.
Livni to inform Peres of decision to hold general elections
Attila Somfalvi YNET Published: 10.25.08, 22:27 / Israel News

Kadima Chairwoman Tzipi Livni will announce on Sunday to President Shimon Peres her decision to hold general elections. This is after the efforts to form a government failed.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Dennis Ross on Obama and the Middle East

One is continually amazed by the ability of diplomats and politicians to say so little in so many words.

Last update - 12:57 24/10/2008

Dennis Ross on why he's working for Obama and how he'd talk to Iran

By Natasha Mozgovaya

WASHINGTON - Ahead of the American elections, Dennis Ross, the man who used to work as President Bill Clinton's envoy to the Middle East, has been busy "working" the shuls in Florida, a key battleground state in the presidential election. Aside from sitting on the boards of many different research institutes, Ross also acts as Democratic candidate Barack Obama's Middle East advisor. In addition, he is a leading contender - among some 300 candidates - for the post of secretary of state in an Obama government. This week he sat down and talked to Haaretz.

How was it in Florida? How did people react and what are the main concerns of the local Jewish community?

Ross: "When I was down there a few weeks ago, I think there were many more questions about Senator Obama than what I see among audiences today. The questions that are asked now show that people are beginning to decide that they want to go for him, and they want to be satisfied. I think there's a desire to understand the nature of his relationship to Israel, how he would approach Iran, and [what] he thinks about the peace process. I would say those are the three big questions I was asked in one form or another everywhere I went."

Assuming that the next president's capacity to deal with these issues will be limited because of national debt, two ongoing wars and the recent financial crisis, can he really promise anything - and keep his word?

"In the first instance, [Obama] views the issue of Iran as an urgent priority, because the Bush administration's approach to Iran has failed. I talk about how Obama wants to use our willingness to talk as a means to get others to actually apply more pressure on the Iranians, as a way to ensure the talks' success, but also because the talks themselves send a signal [to] those who fear [that] applying more pressure means you're descending toward a slippery slope of confrontation. This is a way of saying, 'Look, we're trying to see if there's a way to avoid that.' Preventing Iran from going nuclear is a very high priority for him, not only because it's such a threat to Israel, but because it's such a threat to the United States.

"On the question of Israel, I talk about what I saw during his trip to Israel, how I saw his understanding of the relationship with Israel - he would describe it as a commitment of the head and heart. He looks at Israel and sees us as being two countries with common values. But he also looks at Israel and sees that whatever threatens Israel also happens to threaten the United States. So we have a [common] interest, because we end up facing the same threats.

"Regarding the peace process, I think this is an issue where engagement is also crucial, but, much like Iran, it is an engagement without illusions. When you engage, you do so without illusions. But when you don't engage, you leave the way open for your adversaries to actually gain more. The Bush administration wanted to disengage for its first six years in office. [By doing so] they actually strengthened Hamas' hand, because Hamas' argument is [that] there is no possibility for peace. The least you want to do is show that there could be an alternative answer."

What kind of engagement might it be? The Israeli government isn't fond of being under pressure, and some people are very sensitive about the idea of talking to Iran, especially since the Iranian leadership is saying nasty things about Israel.

"Sure, that's why I started by saying that it's an engagement without illusions. With regard to the Iranians, we know that by not talking to Iran the U.S. did not improve the situation. Today Iran is a nuclear power - it doesn't have nuclear weapons yet, but in 2001 it was not yet able to convert uranium or uranium gas, it didn't have a single centrifuge. Now it's stockpiling highly enriched uranium. So the current approach of not talking hasn't worked. There's no guarantee that if you talk you'll succeed, but if you don't talk you will fail."

Does one talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

"You don't talk to Ahmadinejad. First of all, he's not the decision maker. When Senator Obama suggests that he would be prepared to meet with him, he says such a meeting first has to be prepared. What he means is that you have to coordinate with your allies - all your allies. Secondly, it means you have to check whether you can put together an agenda for a lower-level meeting. If it becomes clear that you can't put together such an agenda, then you don't hold a meeting at a high level - the presidential level - because it's not going to lead anywhere. But if you can produce something that you know will lead somewhere, then it's silly not to do that.

"And in terms of the peace process, if you don't engage, then by definition, Hamas becomes stronger. We've seen that. Senator Obama won't deal with a non-state actor like Hamas unless Hamas changes its position, unless it's prepared to recognize Israel, unless it makes it clear [that] it gives up on terror, unless it's prepared to recognize previous agreements. So as for non-state actors, he's not willing to deal with them. Engagement without illusion in the peace process means that the U.S. should play a role, the U.S. should be involved, the U.S. should do what it can to promote the peace process and build bridges where it can.

"At the end of the day his position is [that] we cannot impose peace, because an imposed peace isn't peace at all. He's more than willing to invest in the process, but, then again, how he does it and in what ways will depend very much on the circumstances, and obviously there are many other issues out there."

Do you believe Israel and the Palestinians can reach an agreement in the near future? Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she'll do her utmost to try and reach a framework agreement by the end of the Bush administration.

"I think that in the current circumstances, it's difficult to see that happening. It's important for the two sides to do what they can, but I think we need to be realistic as well."

Leaving the sidelines

Not everyone in Washington likes the Israeli talks with Syria. What do you think?

"The fact that Israel is negotiating indirectly with Syria through Turkey is a sign that Israel believes it's worth trying this approach, and I believe we should try it, too. I think it's a mistake not to. Too often when you don't talk - as I said before - you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Just because you make the effort doesn't mean you'll succeed. But at least you ought to see if you can do it, you ought to do it with your eyes open, without illusions, without naivete, but it's worth probing and testing."

Why and when did you decide to take on an active role in this campaign?

"I decided to take an active part in the campaign because I feel the stakes are so high. I looked at us, especially in the Middle East, and I think we've been on the sidelines everywhere except [in] Iraq. And when the U.S. is on the sidelines, U.S. interests suffer and I think Israel's interests suffer, too. I felt that I just didn't have the luxury of remaining on the sidelines and sitting this one out."

Some of America's image problems didn't start with the Bush administration. Is it possible to repair the damage?

"One of the problems of the last eight years is that too often we've staked out objectives that we could not achieve. The rest of the world watches and looks for several things. The first is whether we are effective in terms of what we do. Secondly they have to see that we don't just lecture, we also listen."

Can you define what constitutes an American interest right now?

"I think our interest at this point around the world is [that] we do have to contend with the radicalists, they do constitute a serious threat to us. But I think we have to realize who our natural partners are and how we can work with both them and our allies so we, in a sense, build our collective leverage against those who constitute threats to us. It's very clear that we have to restore our economic well-being, because you can't be strong internationally if you're not strong at home, and if you're not strong financially."

Is it about the stakes, or Obama's personality and policies?

"It's a combination. First, the stakes were so high, and I think he's also a unique talent. I've sat in on probably 100 meetings with our presidents - those I've worked for and their counterparts. I know what it takes to be an effective, good leader. I saw Senator Obama at work in meetings with leaders. His manner of operation shows me unquestionably that he's someone who grasps issues in their detail, but also strategically, and he understands how to deal with leaders in an effective way, from the standpoint of promoting America's interests and needs. It's a combination of the stakes but also of seeing in Senator Obama a transformational figure at a time when I think the United States needs a transformational figure."

If Obama wins and you are offered the post of secretary of state, would you accept the offer?

"I'm not assuming that. The truth of the matter is that I'm concentrating on helping him through November 4. Whatever happens after that - we'll see."

What in his character impressed you the most, and what does he lack as a leader?

"I think that what impressed me the most is that he has perspective. He's very thoughtful, he knows how to ask the right questions, and he doesn't jump to conclusions. He's careful with his judgments and he's not afraid to ask questions, because he's not afraid to have people ask him questions. I think he has a kind of personal character and the kind of temperament presidents need.

"I've worked on the National Security Council staff of Ronald Reagan's administration, so I was in that White House. I served in a senior State Department position under George H. W. Bush and then I was President Clinton's negotiator on the Middle East - so I've been around a few American presidents. I've witnessed decision processes, I've been around American presidents at times of crisis, and I think I have a pretty good sense of what it takes for someone to be effective as president - in terms of judgment capability, perspective and even wisdom. And I think Senator Obama brings all those to bear. That's why I find him enormously impressive and believe he is just the person we need at this time."

Some progressive groups have expressed disappointment with him, saying that some of his positions are actually more hawkish than those of President Bush. Suddenly his positions regarding Al-Qaida terrorists, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran are becoming harsher.

"I think he is quite realistic. Contrary to what was commonplace practice in the Bush administration, he doesn't let ideology blind or color his thinking. His assessments are based on looking at the world as it is and understanding the kinds of things we'll need to do to change the world where it needs to be changed."

Taking into account the possible "Bradley effect" [referring to the discrepancies between voter opinion polls and the outcome of U.S. election campaigns], the traditional low voting rate and other "unknowns" - do you think Obama will win?

"I certainly hope he will, and I'm cautiously optimistic."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama, McCain, Jews, Arabs Which candidate is good for whom?

Most of the hype about the candidates is just that - hype, as this article tells us. Very strangely, Jim Moran is the man who blamed the Iraq war on the Jews. That doesn't prevent him from running again, or vying for Jewish support.

by Jonathan Mark
Associate Editor

Every big-city Jewish and mainstream newspaper has steadily charted the Jewish vote in this presidential election, wondering at every step along the way if any Jew not voting for Sen. Barack Obama might secretly be motivated by his inner racist or Zionist doubt. Democratic supporters and Jewish leaders have reassured Jews, as best they could, that they know Obama, and he's really a "great friend of Israel."

Current polling suggests that most Jews are convinced, with almost 60 percent supporting Obama.

But how are Arab-Americans dealing with all that's known about Obama? Few major newspapers, Jewish or otherwise, have looked into that. According to a headline in The Detroit Free Press (Oct. 10), "Arab Americans Favor Obama By Wide Margin," with Arab-American Muslims supporting Obama over McCain 84-4 percent. But when Arab-American Christians are included, Obama's support drops to 54-33, even worse than Obama is doing among Jews. Obama is seriously "underperforming" among Arab-American Christians, says Zogby International, the pollsters. And when third-party candidates are added to the option, Obama's support among Arab-Americans drops to 46 percent, a full 14 points worse than he's doing among Jews. And yet, there are no articles that we've seen questioning whether Arab-Americans are racist, or that they are asking for promises and reassurance all their own.

According to the Arab-American Institute, sponsors of the poll, Arab-Americans make up 5 percent of the Michigan vote, and 2 percent of both the Ohio and Pennsylvania vote. There are 255,000 Arab-Americans in Florida, more than enough there, as in Ohio, to have made the difference in recent elections.

It's widely known that Sen. Joe Lieberman is campaigning for McCain in Florida, and Ed Koch is campaigning there for Obama, but who's campaigning for the Arab-American vote and what are they telling Arab-Americans?

According to the Palestine News Network (Oct. 10), at an AAI event in Arlington, Va., Republican Mark Ellmore (challenging Democratic Rep. Jim Moran's seat in Virginia's 8th Congressional District) told the crowd — in Arabic — that his wife is Palestinian and "my son is an Arab-American, [a] Palestinian-American serving in the United States Air Force."

Ellmore added, to applause and cheers, "We need to get back to the pre-`67 borders for the Palestinian people ... Arabs don't hate Jews, they hate Zionism."

Despite all the reports of Jewish racism in this campaign, there have been no reports of any Jewish campaigner, from either party, similarly using the word "hate" to so matter-of-factly refer to anyone.

Nevertheless, Ellmore says, "I stand with John McCain lockstep when it comes to American security," reported the Washington Post earlier in the campaign, while not reporting this Republican candidate's anti-Zionist attitude.

Meanwhile, Moran, the Democrat, said at the same AAI event, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "is at the heart of how so many people think of America, [it] defines America's values." The answer, said Moran, is divide Jerusalem and let "the Golan Heights be controlled by Syria. We can resolve this crisis, we can do that, [with] a president [Obama] that's determined to do that."

Back in 2006, the last time Moran ran, a blogger covering that race, reported, "Moran, depending on his audience, is sometimes pro-Israel."

Well, now, which is it?

That Virginia district is surely not the only district in which this is going on, but even the best-informed Jews wouldn't know it by reading the papers. The Alexandria Times profiled Ellmore and didn't say a word about his belief that Syria should get the Golan. The political tide within the Arab-American community is rarely reported, outside blogs, occasional polls and the Arab media. Politicians can freely say one thing to Arab-Americans and simply cross the street to suddenly morph into a "great friend of Israel." You'd never know, would you?

During the primaries, The Los Angeles Times (April 10) headlined a lengthy article, "Allies Of Palestinians See A Friend In Barack Obama." Unlike most Jews, who couldn't tell you one sentence about what candidates are saying to Arab-American audiences, the L.A. Times reported that Arab-Americans knew full well the support for Israel that Obama has promised AIPAC, for example, but their personal experiences with Obama "have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say. Their belief is not drawn from Obama's speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago...."

Surely one can be receptive to both Israel and Palestine, and can say good and true things to both in private, but Israel and Palestine are not Finland and Denmark; there are limits to how receptive one can simultaneously be. Obama has chosen to publicly align with the Zionists, but the question is why Arab-Americans know so much more about what candidates are saying to us than we know about what the candidates are saying to them?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Philippe Karsenty and the story of Muhammad al Dura

The alleged killing of Palestinian boy Muhammad al-Dura by the Israeli army was used by the Palestinians to fan the flames of violence in 2000. Now it turns out that it may have been a total fabrication, with less relation to reality than the bogus Soviet boy hero, Pavlik Morozov. Thousands of people died in part because of the violence stirred up in the name of this boy. Al Dura became the poster boy of the so called Second Intifada.

If Philippe Karsenty is right, then al-Dura never died - a fantastic claim, but one that is backed by at least some evidence. This case deserves the attention of the Israeli government, whether they back the claims or refute them.

Ami Isseroff


Philippe Karsenty: "We Need to Expose the Muhammad al-Dura Hoax"

Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2008, pp. 57-65

Editors' preface:

Philippe Karsenty

Philippe Karsenty is the founder and president of Media-Ratings (, an online French media watchdog. In November 2004, he published an article entitled "Arlette Chabot and Charles Enderlin Must Be Fired Immediately,"[1] alleging that France 2, the television news station for which Chabot and Enderlin worked, violated journalistic standards by airing footage depicting as fact the alleged shooting of Muhammad al-Dura, a 12-year-old Palestinian boy, by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The Dura tapes showed a 12-year-old boy crouching behind his father while only one bullet whistles and pops in the background; it is clear now that during the fifty-five seconds of aired footage, the boy was not fired at and that, at the end of the film, he remained alive. Karsenty claimed the footage was staged by Palestinian cameraman Talal Abu Rahma, who staged similar scenes elsewhere in the eighteen minutes of the tape that Karsenty viewed.

After France 2 aired the clip as fact and then distributed the footage for free, other networks rebroadcast it. The death of Dura at the hands of the IDF became a cause célèbre throughout the Muslim world, inspiring violence and anti-Semitism.[2]

In the article, Karsenty also announced his readiness to defend his claims in court.[3] Chabot and Enderlin subsequently sued Karsenty for defamation in a French court of law.[4]

The French court, against the recommendation of the public prosecutor who had argued in favor of Karsenty's free speech rights, initially ruled in favor of Chabot and Enderlin and ordered Karsenty to pay a symbolic fine of one euro to each plaintiff, as well as a 1,000 euro fine and 3,000 euros in court costs.[5]

In September 2007, the Eleventh Chamber of the Appeals Court of Paris heard Karsenty's appeal. The judge demanded that France 2 turn over the twenty-seven minutes of raw footage. Enderlin, however, claimed he was not in possession of the rest of the tape. Three French journalists who were invited by France 2 to see the footage testified to seeing twenty-four minutes of film preceding the footage of Dura, in which young Palestinians are performing for the television cameras, falling and getting up when they think that no one is watching.[6] In the end, only eighteen minutes of the entire tape were shown in court, and none depicted Dura being killed. In fact, at the end of the footage shown in court, the boy is still clearly alive.[7]

Karsenty won his appeal on May 21, 2008.[8]

Brooke Goldstein conducted this interview with Karsenty in two parts, the first in New York City on October 4, 2007, and the second, by telephone on May 27, 2008, after Karsenty's victory.

The Lawsuit

Middle East Quarterly: What specifically led France 2 television to sue you for defamation?

Philippe Karsenty: The defamatory words were that the Muhammad al-Dura tapes are fakes, a hoax, that Charles Enderlin was misled, that he misled people, and that he should resign.

MEQ: What is defamation under French law?

Karsenty: Under French law, defamation is the inability to prove the truth of a statement at the time the statement was made. This means that even if France 2 apologizes now and admits fault, I could still not win my case because the court could determine that when I published my statements, I didn't have enough evidence to assert that what I was saying was true. This is an absurd system of law.

MEQ: So truth is not a defense to defamation?

Karsenty: Yes, truth is a defense to defamation, but it has to be a truth known and proven at the time the claim was made. The burden of proof is on the defendant's shoulders. If the Israeli government had sued France 2 for defamation, for example, the situation would have been reversed: France 2 would have had to defend its slander rather than accuse me of defamation.

MEQ: Why don't you sue France 2 for defamation or fraud? Why are you on the defensive?

Karsenty: That case had to be undertaken by the Israeli state, which did not take this opportunity. Shurat Hadin, an Israeli public interest law firm, tried to take away the press credentials of France 2, but the Israeli government refused, and the Israeli Supreme Court has yet to deliver a verdict on that case.

MEQ: Why?

Karsenty: Because the Israeli government, apparently, would rather appease its enemies than fight back.

MEQ: Could you file a lawsuit against France 2 for defamation against you and against the State of Israel?

Karsenty: Under French law, I wouldn't have standing since I was not the one who was defamed.

MEQ: In your first trial, the judge felt that there was no need to enter the Muhammad al-Dura tapes into evidence. What does this say about the right to discovery in French courts and their due process rules? How is the judge supposed to determine anything about the tapes if he does not care to see them?

Karsenty: The court said that since I hadn't seen the tapes at the time, the court should not take them into account. True, I didn't see the tapes, but I knew people who did and who told me of their content, which is why I felt comfortable coming to the conclusion that I did.

MEQ: Your conclusion, however, was based on hearsay.

Karsenty: My first conclusion was based on what I saw from the France 2 news report on Muhammad al-Dura, on allegations by Nahum Shahaf [an Israeli physicist and reservist with the optical intelligence unit of the IDF],[9] and on my subsequent investigation. What they aired to the public was ridiculous. In those minutes, Muhammad al-Dura showed no agony, and none of the actors were hit by any bullet.

MEQ: You said that the majority of the twenty-seven minutes not initially shown to the public are rushes and staged scenes. Laurence Trebucq, the new judge on appeal, ordered the tapes released but only within the court. Why doesn't she release the images to the general public?

Karsenty: We don't know yet.

MEQ: In the ruling against you in the lower court, the judge went against the recommendation of the public prosecutor who said there was no evidence that you acted with personal animosity, but the judge also seemed upset when he read the judgment against you, and he awarded the plaintiff very little. What does this say to you?

Karsenty: That the judge may have felt uncomfortable, received orders, and was not proud of what he was doing.

MEQ: Received orders from whom?

Karsenty: Perhaps instructions or advice from the justice minister or the people around him. By the way, the judges have no expertise in forensic science or ballistics, nor did they draw on any such expertise.

MEQ: Are you saying that the French courts are not independent judiciaries?

Karsenty: I am not saying that all judges are not so independent. All I am saying is that if you read the verdict that was published two years ago, it seems that it is not really an independent judgment.

MEQ: Was there corruption in your case?

Karsenty: Not at all. You don't need to buy people who are completely brainwashed. Charles Enderlin is like the capo di tutti capi; he is a godfather: he is a moral authority. I went against a case defended by the biggest guy in the Middle East journalism corporate world. Enderlin even used to give advice to diplomats. Let me give you an example: A French journalist told me that when Dominique de Villepin was foreign minister and went to Jerusalem, he gathered all the French correspondents at the embassy, and before his speech, he said, "What does Charles think?" It's unbelievable.

MEQ: So Charles Enderlin is the conscience of France when it comes to the Middle East, and you offended their conscience?

Karsenty: You said it, not me.

MEQ: Who is funding your case?

Karsenty: I funded it myself. I used to be a stockbroker, and then I began doing financial consulting with companies. I have also received honoraria for speeches in the United States.

MEQ: Other people have also said that the Muhammad al-Dura tapes are forgeries. Why did France 2 target you and only you?

Karsenty: Yes, Gerard Huber has said that;[10] James Fallows said that the boy was not killed by the IDF, but he did not say that the incident was staged.[11] The reason they targeted me is because at the time I published it, I had credibility through Media-Ratings [the media watchdog group Karsenty founded in 2004], and I had been invited to give comments about all sorts of topics and media inaccuracies.

What Happened to Muhammad al-Dura?

MEQ: There are different theories about the fate of Muhammad al-Dura. Some say he was killed by the Palestinians, and others say he is alive at the end of the tape but are not clear if he is alive now. What is your version of the incident?

Karsenty: We shouldn't talk about theories but about facts and evidence. At the end of the France 2 film, the boy is not dead. He is raising his elbow and looking at the cameraman. These images are available on Richard Landes' website and on Youtube.[12] If you look at the images, you will see that the boy is clearly not dead. There are no bullet wounds or blood. Those images were never broadcast in France, but they were shown in England on the BBC and in Arab countries. What amazes me is that nobody said, "Wait a minute. There is a problem here." It doesn't make sense. In a news report done one year after his son's alleged death, Dura's father says the first bullet hit his son on the right knee,[13] but the tape shows not a single drop of blood there; it is ridiculous. Nothing makes sense in his version, but nobody wanted to look at the images.

Israel's Silence

MEQ: Circumstantial evidence tends to support your case that the Muhammad al-Dura incident was a staged blood libel. For example, CNN refused cameraman Talal Abu Rahma's initial offer to sell the tapes because he would not guarantee them as real. The twenty-seven minutes of rushes looked staged and rehearsed. A Reuters cameraman recorded Rahma filming other staged events. On what basis did the lower court decide against you?

Karsenty: The Israeli government's refusal to question the tapes was important. The court had a letter from [then-]French president Jacques Chirac praising the journalistic integrity of Charles Enderlin. We both had witness testimony, but the plaintiffs brought Palestinians who testified that the Israelis shot at the father and son with planes, helicopters, and antitank missiles although there was no evidence of any of this on the tapes. Although the plaintiffs' witnesses sounded ridiculous, the judge said, "They testified, and we shouldn't dismiss it because they are Palestinian. They were there, and you were not."

MEQ: Why did Chirac write a letter to the court on behalf of Charles Enderlin?

Karsenty: Chirac wrote a letter commending Charles Enderlin and his attention to accuracy[14] in his latest book. Chirac's team knew this letter would be used at the trial, but the letter was not directly about the Muhammad al-Dura footage. Chirac did this to further his idea of France's politique-arabe.

MEQ: After the lower court ruled against you—in part because the Israeli government did not come to your defense—the IDF wrote to Charles Enderlin requesting that he hand over the footage and saying that the court's statement was not an accurate reflection of the IDF position, and that they wanted to see the tapes.[15] Was this a reaction to the court's decision or a 180-degree shift in Israel's public relations position?

Karsenty: We had been working desperately to get this letter from the IDF.

MEQ: What contributed to the change in Israeli governmental policy towards you?

Karsenty: When the government was fighting such a difficult campaign on the ground, it just wanted to put the Muhammad al-Dura affair behind it. But lies endure. If the good name of Israel is besmirched in this case, it will haunt the country for generations. Note that millions of people continue to believe in the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Muhammad al-Dura postage stamps already exist in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and Jordan. Squares in Morocco and Mali and streets in many cities are named for Dura. Daniel Pearl was beheaded with the image of Muhammad al-Dura behind him. We need to expose the Dura hoax now so our children needn't suffer for this lie.

MEQ: It's obvious that Jerusalem should respond. Why doesn't the Israeli government do something now?

Karsenty: Some people who weren't in the Israeli government at the time the mistake was made used their absence as an excuse: "Since we didn't do it, it's not our responsibility to fix it." For others, it's a question of ego. They don't want to admit that they made a mistake in the first place.

MEQ: Why is Daniel Seaman, director of the Israeli government press office, not listening to the public interest law firm Shurat Hadin and stripping France 2 of its press credentials?

Karsenty: Seaman is a great guy; ask him. You can imagine how much pressure the Israeli establishment has put on him.

MEQ: Do you think Israel and the United States are losing the information war?

Karsenty: What war? They've already lost because they didn't even bother to fight.

The French Media

MEQ: Is there any media accountability in France? Is there any independent monitoring?

Karsenty: They have a mediateur [ombudsman] working between France television and the public. When I called him, he covered up the lie but was then replaced four years later. I called his replacement, who at first was excited to meet me but later called to say his boss forbade the meeting. I met perhaps twenty people at France 2, from the very bottom to the very top, before the case came to court.

MEQ: What prevents someone at France 2 from destroying the tape?

Karsenty: I don't know if anyone besides France 2 has copies. Someone from Fox News compared this to the Nixon tapes. The odd thing is the Nixon tapes also had an eighteen-minute gap. It is going to be huge when we confirm that international media used staged and fake footage. When the truth comes out, it will be devastating—that is, if the truth really does come out. Rather than accept responsibility, France 2 may say that I did make my statements in good faith but that I didn't prove the tapes were staged. This may be how they sweep this episode under the rug.

MEQ: Do you think that the French media seek to appease the local Muslim population?

Karsenty: The media go well beyond appeasement to incitement.

MEQ: You are saying France 2 actually sought to incite violence against the Jewish population by airing the Muhammad al-Dura tapes?

Karsenty: Yes, it used this as a form of pressure on Israel. Chirac used the French Jews as hostages. He seemed to say to the State of Israel, "I have 600,000 Jews in France, and if you don't behave correctly towards the Palestinians, we will show this footage and the Jews of France will be assaulted."

MEQ: Do the French people think that this is just your issue or just a Jewish problem? Do they see the larger implications? Are they not insulted that their media is lying to them?

Karsenty: For the French, if it's in the newspaper or on television, it's true. But thanks to this story, things are changing.

MEQ: The French media consistently ignores your case. Why?

Karsenty: I call France the "little U.S.S.R." The difference between the Soviet Union and France, however, is that the Soviets knew they were being lied to while the French think they know the truth.

MEQ: Will Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency change the situation?

Karsenty: He is now responsible. France 2 is state-owned television, which makes Sarkozy its owner. He should have France 2 apologize to the world. I brought him all the documents in 2005. I met two of his advisers in April 2008, who agreed that the incident was fully staged. But Sarkozy hasn't responded to date.

MEQ: How independent is the French media?

Karsenty: Everyone in the private media depends on the state in one way or another, which explains why they refused to report on my trial, even after foreign media began to cover it. When it comes to foreign policy, there is no independence in either public or private media.

MEQ: Do you think the broader press knows they are guilty of over-reliance on Palestinian fixers?

Karsenty: Yes. But it would be revolutionary for them to admit that they are dealing with fixers who are liars. It is the same thing in Iraq and in most Middle East countries.

MEQ: Was there any variation in how the French press covered the case, in what little they did cover?

Karsenty: Most of the media have been against me. The biggest weekly in France, the Nouvel Observateur, issued a petition to support Enderlin's lies. Guess what? Hundreds of journalists, personalities, and simple people signed it.[16]

MEQ: Why does the French media have not only an anti-Israel and anti-U.S. agenda but also a pro-Arab agenda?

Karsenty: The French don't like Arabs at all. The proof? They mistreat them in France, but they feel guilty for the way they treated them in the colonies.

MEQ: Do you sense hostility to Jews?

Karsenty: Yes, the French will never forgive Jews for exposing French collaboration in the Holocaust. This is one motivation for depicting Israel as a Nazi state. It is the French way of saying "We behaved no worse than the Jews do now." It helps the French feel less responsible for their collaboration with the Nazis.

MEQ: What do you think is the future of French news reporting now that France is launching a CNN-like 24-hour news service? Will this network improve French journalism?

Karsenty: No. That would require a major cultural change. It is ironic that the French media complain about U.S. journalists embedding with the U.S. military in Iraq but don't recognize that they themselves have been embedded with the French government in Paris. There is certainly an incestuous relationship between the media and political individuals in Paris.


MEQ: You recently won your appeal?

Karsenty: Yes, we won the case completely; the court decision was clear. The court, however, did not have to rule that the tapes were staged but, rather, said that I could publish what I wanted because I had evidence that it was staged. The written arguments say that I am right, yet all of what the court said intrinsically supported my statement that the incident was staged.

MEQ: Did you get any award for damages, costs, or attorney's fees?

Karsenty: No. The whole process cost me money.

MEQ: Why?

Karsenty: Under the French system, I had to pay success fees to the lawyers, and I liked that. But because of the Israeli government's horrible reaction and attitude, I decided this will be my last fight for Israel. France 2 is even now appealing the verdict to the Supreme Court.

MEQ: What reaction?

Karsenty: The Israeli ambassador and other diplomats don't want this victory. The spokesman for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that I was a private individual and that the Israeli government didn't ask me to take on this battle, and so I had no right to ask that Israel come to my aid.[17]

MEQ: Has any French media covered your success?

Karsenty: At the beginning, no, of course not, but The Wall Street Journal had a huge piece on it.[18] There was also a short article in Le Monde.[19] Le Monde said that France 2 had lost but not that I had won. There is a difference. And now, Le Figaro published one editorial piece and a confidential note.[20] And we're expecting more to come.

MEQ: What do you think the effect of this decision will be on France 2 and French reporting on the Middle East?

Karsenty: Very little, because the French media is still covering up the lie and because the Israeli government doesn't want to use this victory to take a stand against the lies of the Western media. Things could change if Israeli diplomats were doing their job and if Sarkozy was doing his. He should force France 2 to admit to the fraud and apologize to the whole world.

MEQ: What are the implications of your case for French Jews and Muslims?

Karsenty: People who really care about the Arabs see that I am pro-Arab. Who suffers most in this war with Israel? Arabs. Incitement creates hatred. Chirac was not a friend of the Arab people; rather, he was their worst enemy. He was the best friend of Arab dictators because of business and political deals. Telling Arabs to stop wanting to die for lies helps them to have a better life, and this is also what I tried to do. The Muhammad al-Dura tapes were a lie that created much hatred and violence, contrary to the interests of Arab peoples.

MEQ: Do you see your suit helping to guarantee freedom of speech in France?

Karsenty: No. The French people don't care about this. They think they have freedom of speech because they live in a country where they are allowed to say Chirac is silly. They don't realize how uniform acceptable speech is on foreign issues.

MEQ: Have you considered a defamation suit against Charles Enderlin?

Karsenty: Many people and media outlets defamed me in order to influence the course of justice. I was thinking of suing them, but what is the point? The bottom line is that when I won the trial, instead of winning compensation, I was saddled with legal bills from my lawyers. For these past six years, I have taken physical risks, and it has been exhausting. If I sue them, it will just consume more time. I want to go back to business. And I also respect my adversaries' freedom of speech even when it means they're defaming me. We shouldn't fight defamation through lawsuits but with the truth.

MEQ: What next?

Karsenty: Ultimately, the case will not be solved in a court; it will be solved politically.

MEQ: In the court of public opinion?

Karsenty: No, by Sarkozy. He has to do something. Otherwise, I may have to undertake a campaign to show that Sarkozy doesn't want to reverse the state-sponsored anti-Semitism that Chirac initiated.

[1] "France 2: Arlette Chabot et Charles Enderlin doivent être démis de leurs fonctions immédiatement," Media-Ratings, Nov. 22, 2004.
[2] The Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2008.
[3] "Arlette Chabot et Charles Enderlin," Media-Ratings, Nov. 22, 2004.
[4] "France 2 Counters Accusations with Lawsuits," Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Boston, Jan. 18, 2007.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Denis Jeambar and Daniel Leconte, interview on French radio station RCJ, Feb. 1, 2005, in "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura, Anatomy of a French Media Scandal," CAMERA, May 21, 2008.
[7] JTA News Service, Nov. 15, 2007; Israel News Agency, Nov. 21, 2007; "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura."
[8] Associated Press, May 21, 2008; The Jerusalem Post, May 21, 2008.
[9] "Backgrounder: Mohammed al-Dura."
[10] Gerard Huber, "Misère de journalistes, misère de républicains," June 14, 2008, accessed June 24, 2008.
[11] James Fallows, "Who Shot Mohammed al-Dura?" Atlantic Monthly, June 2003.
[12] Richard Landes, Al Durah: The Birth of an Icon. What Happened? accessed June 24, 2008; "Al Dura Affair: The 10 Seconds Never Shown by France 2," Youtube, accessed June 24, 2008.
[13] "Personal Testimonies, Jamal Al Durra," transcript of online discussion on, Oct. 30, 2000,
[14] Chirac to Enderlin, Media-Ratings, Feb. 25, 2004, accessed June 11, 2008.
[15] The Jerusalem Post, Sept. 17, 2007.
[16] "Appel: Pour Charles Enderlin," Nouvel Observateur (Paris), June 23, 2008.
[17] The Media Line (New York), May 29, 2008.
[18] Nidra Poller, "A Hoax?" The Wall Street Journal, Europe, May 27, 2008; "Al-Durra Case Revisited," The Wall Street Journal, Europe, May 27, 2008.
[19] Le Monde (Paris), May 24, 2008.
[20] Ivan Rioufol, "Les médias, pouvoir intouchable?" Le Figaro (Paris), June 13, 2008.

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Another Gaza boat

Activist group announces it will hold voyage to Strip in one week similar to the one held in August, this time with MK Zahalka and a 'special package' in tow
Yael Levy
Published:  10.23.08, 01:18 / Israel News
International protesters say they are making a repeat voyage to Gaza to bring aid to Palestinians in defiance of Israel's blockade.
Free Gaza organizer Greta Berlin said 29 protesters will sail from Cyprus on October 28 for the estimated 24-hour trip to the Strip.

Berlin said Wednesday the group has converted a fishing boat to safely ferry the protesters and a symbolic shipment of medical aid to Gaza.
Passengers will include Irish Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead McGuire, Palestinian Legislative Council member Mustafa Barghouti and MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad).
Following the movement's announcement, Zahalka said, "I have received an offer to participate in the voyage. It's something I am seriously considering, but my final decision will only be ready tomorrow or the day after." 
Berlin said the protestors would be sailing in a fishing boat equipped with a "symbolic package" containing medical equipment and other aid for Palestinians living under siege, similarly to the previous voyages.

The organizer added that the voyage had been scheduled for September, but was postponed because the protestors did not want to arrive during the Ramadan.

Most recently, protesters sailed to Gaza in August on two boats to protest Israel's yearlong blockade of Gaza imposed after Hamas seized control of the Strip. The voyage was attended by 44 activists from 17 countries, including an American Holocaust survivor. The boats docked without IDF interference.
However even if no trouble is forthcoming upon their entrance into Gaza, activists can expect certain problems to arise on their way out of the territory. Following the previous sail, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's sister-in-law remained trapped in Gaza when both Israel and Egypt prevented her from crossing the borders.
AP contributed to this report

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Help working mothers raise children

These recommendations are important to consider for the Jewish community in North America as well. By the time they are about 35, only about 72% of Jewish women in the US are married, well below the national average. The reason is that women who pursue an academic or business career find it tough to fit in raising a family until it is nearly too late.
Payments for whom?
Sergio DellaPergola
Published:  10.23.08, 11:09 / Israel Opinion
Child allowances have reemerged as a central topic of political discourse especially since Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni started her efforts to form a new government. Shas sternly demands increased child payments, especially for the fourth child and above, as a condition for joining the coalition. On this one, Kadima and Labor rather stand with Benjamin Netanyahu, who during his tenure as finance minister significantly cut such allowances. With a recession in sight that most plausibly will generate more needy families, are child payments a necessary socioeconomic tool?
 Contrary to economic theories that set the pace in the United States until a few days ago, in Israel since time immemorial state and government do play a central role in balancing the fluxes of the free market. But, again from time immemorial, the question is what are the national priorities vis-?-vis the particular and opposed interests of different population sectors. These economic differences often reflect ideological tensions inherent in a pluralistic Israeli society.

No matter how frequently the topic has been raised in public discourse, there is in Israel a surprising ignorance regarding the actual task of child allowances as a social policy tool. At first sight, such payments are aimed at aiding families that want to provide their children with better if not optimal conditions in the early stages of life course. Some also believe that child allowances may be a tool to raise the birthrate and influence the country�s demographic balance. Is that so? Recent research on the attitudes of Israeli families toward childbearing and childrearing shows that the public is far more astute than our politicians would like us to believe.

The economic framework is admittedly important in decisions about whether or when a new child will be born, under what conditions he or she will grow, and how will the existing sisters and brothers be affected. Variable level of child allowances indeed produced in the past some visible effects on the birthrate, though short-term and temporary. But the Israeli public does not demand money to be distributed to family by generic criteria and without controls.

Rather, the public demands three major child-oriented policy interventions:
    * Developing services directly aimed at early childhood care. This requires expanding the existing nursery and kindergarten facilities and a significant lowering of their costs through public subsidy of the child in attendance. Another idea is recognizing household help as a tax-deductible expense for working women.
    * Reducing the costs of education above early childhood, which are incredibly high for a country with �free� education. Education subsidy is necessary regardless of the child�s educational stream and framework, but with the clear proviso that subsidy will be given only to children that � among other materials � learn the basic tools that will help their personal human development and economic self-support later in life.
    * And nearly at no cost, providing more reasonable and friendly work conditions to working women. It is demonstrable that in Israel no inherent contradiction exists between attaining higher education, joining the labor force, making a successful career, and motherhood. But it is unjustifiable and immoral to pretend that all the monetary and social costs be borne by the women, as the situation is as of now.

Child payments, especially above the fourth, raise the melancholic prospect that a child might be born in Israel only to provide parents with some income increase. There is no way of knowing whether that income will be fully used to the benefit of the newborn. And more seriously, we do not know how that newborn will grow: to a life of adequate training, personal achievement and economic independence, or to poverty and permanent dependency on other transfer payments all along his or her existence.  
Childhood subsidy is a defensible social policy goal, provided it comes without intermediaries or strings attached. It is surely possible to solve the apparent conflict between preserving a decent standard of living and harnessing a growing family � particularly toward an approaching season of economic uncertainty. The solution stands in adequate infrastructures directly aimed at children and parenthood and not in transfer payments whose primary purpose is to embellish the political patrons of neediness.
The author holds the Shlomo Argov Chair in Israel-Diaspora Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is a Senior Fellow at the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute

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Another day, another Palestinian terror attack

Last update - 12:11 23/10/2008       
Palestinian stabs, seriously wounds two Israelis in Jerusalem
By Jonathan Lis, Haaretz Correspondent
A Palestinian was shot and neutralized after stabbing and seriously wounding two Israelis in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo on Thursday, police and emergency services said.
Police and the Magen David Adom ambulance service said the attacker wounded two people and was then shot by police.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two police officers on patrol in Gilo had stopped an Arab for questioning on the street when he pulled out a knife and stabbed one of them.
"The [wounded] policeman fired at the terrorist, but he continued to attack and stabbed a 60-year-old passerby, before he was apprehended," Rosenfeld said.
The Magen David ambulance service, revising its information that the Palestinian was killed, said he sustained moderate wounds. The policeman was listed in serious to moderate condition and the passerby suffered critical wounds.
About two months ago, an Israel Defense Forces soldier was lightly to moderately wounded when he was stabbed by a Palestinian near the Almog Junction north of the Dead Sea.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jew-Zionist plot creates financial crisis

Them Jews will get you every time, right? How could any self-respecting progressive disagree with this wonderful anti-Zionist sentiment?
... "Some might [disagree with me,] saying that Jewish money and the Jewish mind constitute the main nerve of the financial world and of the real estate investment [sector] in the U.S., and that it is therefore hardly likely that Zionism would destroy financial, real estate and investment institutions in which [Zionists] play an active role, whether as shareholders or executives, [merely in order] to embarrass the U.S. president and prevent him from fulfilling his promise to establish a Palestinian state, which... would jeopardize the continued existence of Israel.
"[However,] if the [Palestinian] state is established, it will be entitled to some of the money that has [heretofore] gone directly into Israel's pocket. [Indeed,] a large part of this money would go to Palestine, [both] for the purpose of rebuilding it, and in order to stamp out revolutionary ideas, and any notions the Palestinians might harbor regarding their religious and historical right to Palestine and regarding the right of return.
"[So] why is it illogical to assume that this is indeed what happened - especially considering [the fact that] the mind that used other people's money to plan and build the institutions that are [now] collapsing is capable of building others to replace them? [Moreover,] it owns media outlets of every description - [e.g.] newspapers and television stations, both land and satellite - which will cause people to [work with] these institutions and invest in them again, as if nothing ever happened.
"It must be mentioned that those who lost [money as a result of the economic crisis in the U.S.] are not those masterminds and capital owners [i.e. the Zionists], but rather the Arabs - [specifically] the moderately wealthy and the ordinary people - and also those who, [tempted by] the American dream, came to the U.S. from China, Europe, the Arab world, Russia, and from some of the Asian countries, and saved money in order to invest it and make a profit.
"[Moreover], one can suppose that the Zionists made a significant change in their plans, [and decided that] the time has come to transfer the Zionist strategic base from the U.S. to Europe, when the possibility arose that a black man, Barak Obama, would head the U.S. They have focused [their efforts] on East European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary.
"Among the signs [that support] this supposition is [the fact that] they brought to power French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is of Jewish origin and is sympathetic to the Jews. [They may also produce] another Sarkozy to replace the current prime minister of Britain, Gordon Brown, who is in the midst of a serious leadership crisis that may end his [political career], as happened to Margaret Thatcher. After Britain, they will attempt to press other governments into their service..."
( Al-Liwa (Lebanon), October 3, 2008; Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), October 5, 2008)
Now it is clear, right?
And here is another, from University Lecturer and Columnist Dr. Umayma Al-Jalahma:
... "One of these [forces] is the Rothschild family, owner of a global financial empire... I will describe here [several] fiscal plans that this financial octopus [has put into effect and] has exploited their outcomes - [plans] which were based on the destruction of countries and peoples.
"In 1815 the Battle of Waterloo between Britain and France took place, and in it Napoleon was defeated by the commander of the British army, [the Duke of] Wellington. It must be mentioned that the Rothschild family financed both sides, since it gave Napoleon 5,000,000 liras, while other sons of that family smuggled huge amounts of gold through France for Wellington's [use]. And why not? [In their eyes,] the end justifies the means, and their goal was to control the capital and thereby to control the world.
"Many historians have pointed out that immediately after the British victory, agents secretly sent word of this victory to the Rothschilds in Britain. The head of the family, Nathan Rothschild, concealed the news, spreading rumors of a French victory. [Then] he sold all his shares in the London stock exchange, and urged other shareholders associated with him to do the same. Within a few hours stock prices plummeted, and when the price reached five cents [a share], Nathan hurried to buy all the shares in the market at this low price. On the morrow, London awoke to the news of a British victory and of a financial crisis that brought all the shareholders to ruin. The price of the shares bought by Rothschild and his associates rose twentyfold within a few hours. A few years later, Nathan said of this deal: 'It was the best move I ever made.'
"The [Rothschilds] did not stop there, for they also wanted to take over the French financial markets. France, for its part, meant to borrow funds from French banks to cover the astronomical cost of its defeat... but the Rothschilds manipulated the prices of the French government bonds, which had been high the year before. [At that point, their price] began to fall for no apparent reason, and the Rothschilds came and bought them up by means of their agents in France.
"This family is still alive and making money; in fact, its influence is still growing, and now spans Europe, America, Japan and other [countries]. Whether it sits [openly] at the discussion table or hides behind the scenes, it has influence. Moreover, the active part it played in the advent of Zionism and in the occupation of Arab Palestine is clear to all..." ( Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), October 5, 2008. )
"If I were a Rothschild..." 
Ami Isseroff

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IAF officer and soldier die in training plane crash in Negev

Last update - 21:56 22/10/2008       
IAF officer and soldier die in training plane crash in Negev
By Yuval Azoulay and Zohar Blumenkrantz, Haaretz Correspondents and Haaretz Service
An Israel Air Force officer and an IAF cadet were killed on Wednesday when their light plane crashed in the northern Negev.
The plane, a Fuga Magister, crashed into the Tze'elim training ground about half an hour after its noon take-off. The IAF regularly uses the twin-engine aircraft (known as the "Tzukit") for training.
The victims of the crash were named as Captain Matan Asa, 24, of Yavne, and cadet Carmi Ilan, 19, of Herzliya.
Immediately after the accident, IAF Commander Udi Nahushtan ordered an investigative committee be established to determine the circumstances of the crash.
IAF Chief of Staff, Brigadier-General Yohanan Locker, said that the plane crew issued no warning signs before the crash. "During the seconds leading up the crash, no distress signals were received from the plane crew," Locker said.
"The air force investigated the accident and all avenues of inquiry are being examined at this stage," he added.
Local security officer Rafi Babian told Haaretz that the team dispatched to the scene following the crash saw "parts of a plane dispersed across 200 meters, and two bodies lying next to the [parts].|
A similar incident occurred in early September, when two IAF pilots were killed when their Cobra helicopter crashed in a training mission in the Jezreel Valley.
That crash marked the first helicopter accident since the Second Lebanon War two years ago, when three Apache helicopters were hit, two in a collision with each other and one following a technical malfunction.
One pilot was killed in that collision and two pilots were killed in the second crash.

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Iranian official: Iran proud to support Hezbollah, Hamas

Last update - 22:00 22/10/2008    
 Iranian official: Tehran proud of its support for Hezbollah, Hamas

Iranian speaker of parliament Ali Larijani on Wednesday declared that Iran was proud of its support for the Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah movements, rejecting claims that it could be considered support for terrorism.
He said the support was part of Iran's commitment in the region to assist its neighbors in fighting occupation, and he accused the United States, the West and Israel of contradicting the values of freedom and democracy.
"They are freedom fighters fighting to defend their country and independence, that is not terrorism," he said about Hamas and Hezbollah.

Larijani, who is on a two-day official visit to Bahrain, also accused the U.S. of trying to incite border and sectarian conflict among the countries of the region to use it as an excuse to increase military sales for what he said was an effort to re-take the oil sales revenues.
He reiterated Iran's call to neighbouring Gulf states not to allow U.S. and Western military bases to be erected on their soil, insisting that Iran was never a threat to its neighbors.
"It was the Americans who encouraged Saddam to attack Iran and despite some of the regional countries support for him we nevereza Rice in a personal manner, referring to her not having had children.
"The West needs to reconsider what they say. The top U.S. diplomat Condoleezza Rice, during the Israeli aggression against Lebanon which lasted 33 days, described the war as 'the birth pangs of a new Middle  East'," Larijani was quoted as saying by Al Wasat.
"As a woman who did not try the experience of pregnancy she seems to not have known that a birth needs longer time than that," he said.
Meanwhile the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that Larijani was due to travel to Iraq and Lebanon in the next few days.
Larijani will convey messages from Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Sistani to Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the daily quoted unnamed sources from Iran as saying.
The sources said that the letter carried by Larijani reveals Sistani's position on the security agreement between Iraq and the United States.
The report on the visit coincided with one published by the Iraqi Web site Almalaf on Wednesday that Nasrallah was poisoned last week and that his life was saved by Iranian doctors who were rushed to Lebanon to treat him.
The website quoted diplomatic sources in Beirut as saying that a particularly poisonous chemical substance was used against the Shi'ite militia leader.

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Hezbollah goes better with coke

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg - and it is hardly new - just a reminder of how these groups are financed.
From the Los Angeles Times

Colombian cocaine ring linked to Hezbollah

U.S. and Colombian officials say they have dismantled a South American-based drug ring that helped finance the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group.
By Chris Kraul and Sebastian Rotella

11:19 PM PDT, October 21, 2008

Reported from Bogota, Colombia and Madrid — U.S. and Colombian investigators have dismantled an international cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring that allegedly used part of its profits to finance Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based Shiite militia, officials said Tuesday.

Culminating a two-year investigation, authorities arrested at least 36 suspects in recent days, including an accused Lebanese kingpin in Bogota, the Colombian capital. Chekry Harb, who used the alias "Taliban," acted as the hub of an unusual and alarming alliance between South American cocaine traffickers and Middle Eastern militants, Colombian investigators allege.

Authorities accuse Harb of being a "world-class money launderer" whose ring washed hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from Panama to Hong Kong, while paying a percentage to Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States and Israel. Harb was charged with drug-related crimes in a sealed indictment filed in Miami in July, but terrorism-related charges have not been filed.

The suspects allegedly worked with a Colombian cartel and a paramilitary group to smuggle cocaine to the United States, Europe and the Middle East. Harb traveled extensively to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt and was in phone contact with Hezbollah figures, according to Colombian officials.

"The profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hezbollah," said Gladys Sanchez, lead investigator for the special prosecutor's office in Bogota, in an interview. "This is an example of how narco-trafficking is a theme of interest to all criminal organizations, the FARC, the paramilitaries and terrorists."

The FARC is the Spanish acronym for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration led the far-flung investigation, playing a central role in nailing down the Hezbollah connection, Sanchez said. U.S. officials in Bogota and Washington declined to discuss details of their evidence.

Iran, Hezbollah's longtime sponsor, and donations from the Lebanese diaspora are two sources for a multimillion-dollar budget that pays for the militia's armed and political wings and for social projects such as hospitals in Beirut. But investigations around the world have shown that Hezbollah also funds itself through drug dealing, arms trafficking, contraband smuggling and other rackets in the Americas, Africa and elsewhere.

Western anti-terrorism agents have expressed concern about an increasing Hezbollah presence in South America. The militia is accused of two major anti-Jewish bombings in Argentina in the 1990s. In June, the U.S. Treasury Department designated two Venezuelans of Lebanese descent, one a diplomat, as Hezbollah financiers and supporters.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's alliance with Iran raises fears that his country could become a base for Hezbollah activity, said U.S. and Israeli anti-terrorist officials who spoke anonymously because of the issue's sensitivity. Venezuela has strongly denied any links to terrorist activity.

Venezuela also serves as the corridor for a third of Colombian cocaine bound for the U.S. and Europe, including some loads moved by Harb's group, Colombian investigators said.

The case unveiled Tuesday began as a money laundering probe, but as agents followed the money they discovered the links between Harb and Hezbollah operatives, investigators said. Harb's group paid Hezbollah 12% of its profits, much of it in cash, the investigators said, without giving a dollar figure.

The inquiry grew into Operation Titan, a two-year case worked by Colombian and U.S. agents that has led to more than 130 arrests and the seizure of $23 million, Sanchez said. Investigators deployed 370 wiretaps and monitored 700,000 conversations.

"This case was brought about by putting undercover agents into the money laundering cycle," said a U.S. government official who was not authorized to comment publicly. "This has given us a window into the worldwide financial enterprise that by dotted lines links traffickers from South America and the United States to West Africa, Europe and Hong Kong."

The drugs were allegedly sent via Panama, Venezuela and Guatemala to the U.S., the Middle East and Europe.

Chinese police this year captured Oscar Cano Alazate, a Colombian accused of setting up dozens of front companies in Hong Kong to launder money for the group. Hong Kong and the Panama free-trade zone served as centers for a scheme whereby drug cash from the U.S. was funneled to firms that use it to buy goods, which are shipped to Colombia and sold to be turned back into cash, investigators said.

The group also used human couriers, fake businesses, international transfers and real estate transactions to launder the money in other locations, including Africa and Canada, Colombian officials said.

On Oct. 13, Colombian police arrested Harb, who lived on a resident's visa in Bogota with his family, after learning that he had an Air France ticket to Syria for the next day and becoming concerned that he might flee. They also arrested the other accused boss, Ali Mohamad Rahim, and Harb's brother, Zacaria, both Lebanese immigrants who had been living in Bogota. Chekry Harb is in his late 50s and Rahim in his early 40s, officials said.

Colombian officials said the three are among 15 of the suspects who will be extradited to the United States.

Harb's key suppliers in Bogota included leaders of the so-called Office of Envigado, according to Colombian authorities. The paramilitary drug trafficking organization headed by Diego Fernando Murillo, known as Don Berna, and other former foot soldiers of the late Medellin cartel boss Pablo Escobar has an international reach.

Kraul and Rotella are Times staff writers.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lebanon's refugees in Israel & the Lebanese Leaders' Questionable Credibility

Lebanon's refugees in Israel & the Lebanese Leaders' Questionable Credibility
By: Elias Bejjani*

October 22/08

We call on the Lebanese government and parliament to grant unconditional amnesty to the ex-members of the South Lebanon Army (SLA) who sought refuge in neighboring Israel with their families after the unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli troops from South Lebanon in May 2000 in accordance with the UN Resolution 425. A grant of amnesty is justified especially in light of the fact that (after Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon in accordance with the UN Resolution 1559) the Lebanese parliament passed in 2005 an amnesty law that pardoned numerous leaders and individuals in a bid to pave the way for a comprehensive national milieu of reconciliation among the country's mosaic, multicultural communities that compose Lebanese society?

In reality, the other Lebanese people throughout Lebanon have not endured the horrible injustice suffered by those Southern Lebanese citizens (Especially those living in the Southern security zone and Jezzine city).

For the last thirty years Lebanon's Southern citizens were and still are victims of alienation, assaults, persecution, expulsion and impoverishment, not only at the hands of terrorists and fundamentalist foreign and local militias, including the Iranian Army of Hezbollah, but most importantly as a result of complete abandonment by all successive Lebanese governments since 1975.

Lebanon's Southern citizens have been left to face all kinds of oppression alone since 1975. One wonders why the successive Lebanese governments and parliamentarians (since 2005) have declined to assume their national responsibilities regarding our refugees in Israel?

The Israeli government disarmed and forced the SLA militia to dismantle in 2000, just a few days before the withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon. Those SLA members who risked their lives and stayed in Lebanon were subjected to vigilantism and unfair trials, which resulted in harsh sentences and death penalties against more than 70 individuals. Others, who left Lebanon were sentenced in absentia and once they return to Lebanon will be arrested. Many of SLA's militia men are still deprived of their civil rights, while suffering persecution and poverty.

With the Israeli pullout in May 2000, nearly 6,500 Lebanese men, along with members of their families, left the South and escaped to Israel and other countries (USA, Australia, Canada, Germany, etc.), forced to leave their homes, villages, and all their properties in fear for their lives.

Before the Israeli withdrawal, Hezbollah waged a merciless and savage media campaign against them. The campaign was aired publicly on all local and international TV and radio stations. The most frightening threats were uttered by Hezbollah's General Secretary Sheik Nasrallah who savagely said, "We will enter their bedrooms, pierce their stomachs, slaughter them and slice their throats."

Since then about 4,000 of them have returned to Lebanon in successive waves during the last eight years. The Lebanese Army arrested the men who returned but let the women and children go. The men were interrogated, humiliated and the majority of them were sentenced to terms of imprisonment on charges of treason, collaboration, contacting an enemy and living in an enemy country. Their trials were a farce, biased and hasty. Many of those sentenced were stripped of their civil rights and forced to abandon their villages and cities. At the present time more than 2,500 remain in Israel, 500 of them have been granted Israeli citizenship and now run the risk of being imprisoned and charged with treason on returning home to Lebanon.

Numerous Lebanese MPs oppose amnesty. They allege, based on their sickening, selfish, psychotic and bizarre criteria--that the ex-SLA members have blood on their hands and should not be involved in any reconciliation process because they have been living in Israel for more than 8 years. They argue that such individuals could be tempted to spy for Israel. Those MPs who are patriotically alienated, hypocrites and Pharisees are sadly members in both, the pro-Lebanon and pro Syria-Iran political blocks (The 8th and the 14th March blocks).

Should former SLA members be pardoned like the rest of the numerous Lebanese militia leaders and members?

Yes, for sure. Not only that, but they should be decorated with medals of honor and welcomed back in their country as heroes. They did not betray Lebanon; they did not abandon their beloved land; they did not succumb to terrorists and terrorism and, in fact, they were the only organized Lebanese Militia that fought terrorists and terrorism since 1975, against the PLO, all the leftists, and Arabists in the early years and afterwards Hezbollah. Their fight was for peace, dignity, human rights and national identity.

The biased and inhumane stance of those against amnesty does not take in consideration that these people, our people of the South, have been forced to flee from their villages in 2000, out of fear that they might be subjected to reprisals on the part of those who accused them of having played the enemy's game.

Sheik Hassan Nasrallah and others deny the fact that SLA was composed of Lebanese citizens from all walks of life, religions and denominations. The Lebanese army helped in its formation in the mid seventies in a bid to defend the southern villages, cities and towns against terrorists and fundamentalists: the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization), leftists and Arabists in the seventies and eighties, and Hezbollah since 1982. The aim of all these organizations was--and continues to be--the destruction of Lebanon's freedoms, democracy and independence and the waging of a terrorist guerrilla war against Israel.

These criminal threats against Lebanon's own were real, clear, unequivocal and are well documented. Those who are now justifying the threats as legitimate war tactics should not dismiss the fact that during the last thirty years the Lebanese people suffered on the hands of Syria, PLO, Hezbollah and Arabists ugly massacres in many villages and cities, e.g. Ayshiya in the South, Kaa in Bekaa, in the capital Beirut, in Kehali, Ebadiea, Araya, Bmariem, in the Mount, and Damour in AlChouf  etc.

Addressing the Issue of our refugees in Israel was a taboo imposed by the Syrian occupier, and the fundamentalists before 2005. But now that Syria does not occupy Lebanon any more, this taboo must and should be washed out and the case re-opened.

We appeal to the Lebanese parliament and to all the Lebanese leadership, without exception, especially to the Christian parties to assume their national and moral responsibilities in regard to our refugees in Israel. We call for the formation of a judicial-parliamentary commission to study this bleeding issue and shed light on all its aspects.

We wonder about the standards of patriotism, collaboration and treason by which our Southern refugees are judged. We ask to be informed accurately on the destiny of those leaders, clergy men, politicians, officials, individuals and groups, especially Hezbollah, if we are to apply these same standards to them after we dissect their actions and their regional relationships and objectives along with all the atrocities their hands have committed, and they are plenty.

Most of those who tag SLA members as traitors are in fact criminals, kidnappers, terrorists and have committed notorious terrorist, anti-human acts of killing, persecution, kidnapping, thievery, bribery, collaboration with foreign powers, beheading and hanging of our fellow citizens.

Because a human must take a stand, the national and human duty requires that all Lebanese leaders and groups publicly declare their clear positions on the issues of our refugees in Israel and the Diaspora. Hidden ruses, internalizations, and clever wordings will not fool the Lebanese anymore; as it was stated in the Bible about halfhearted, Laodicean followers of God in the last days of earth's history: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth." (Revelation 3:15-16)

Because the tenants of justice presume that one is innocent until proven guilty, we advise those who have appointed themselves as judges, juries and hangmen, and who have started issuing judgments and verdicts according to their standards and beliefs to fear God and repent, because God is patient but not negligent, and with the Nazarene we tell them loudly; "Who amongst you has no sin, throw the first stone".

Lord, save our homeland, Lebanon, from evil and calamities.
Lord, return all our people to the land of the Cedars, proud and welcomed.
Lord, keep away the diseases of blindness and arrogance from our people.

*Elias Bejjani
Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.

Writer's LCCC Web Site:
Writers Face Book LCCC group


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Iran: youth still going to hang

This BBC report refutes an erroneous earlier item that claimed that Iran would stop hanging youths. Iran's interpretation of Sharia law mandates hanging of youthful offenders unless families of the victim commute the punishment.  "Just hanging out" has a different meaning in Iran.
A senior judicial figure in Iran has cast doubt on reports that Tehran will stop executing juveniles.
Deputy prosecutor general Hossein Zebhi told a newspaper that under Sharia law only a murder victim's family could commute a death sentence.
He had suggested last week that judges were being told to stop imposing the death penalty on young offenders.
Iran has been widely condemned for being one of the few remaining nations to execute offenders aged under 18.
Amnesty International says at least six youths have been executed in Iran this year alone.
Mr Zebhi was quoted by the daily Etemad-e Melli newspaper as saying: "The principle of retribution... is not up to the government, rather it is up to the private plaintiff."
"Only if the next of kin give their consent can there be a reduction in the punishment," he added.
Blood money
His earlier comments suggesting a possible ban on juvenile execution had been welcomed by human right campaigners, including Amnesty International.
Critics say Iran's practice of handing down the death penalty to juvenile offenders - those aged under 18 at the time of the crime - is explicitly banned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Tehran is a signatory.
Many convicted juvenile offenders have been on death row for years, as negotiations continue over whether victims' families will accept blood money - cash to avoid execution.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Iran sanction talks deadlocked

What did you expect?

Iran sanction talks produce no result

Oct. 20, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Senior diplomats from six world powers discussed on Monday the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but they failed again to reach consensus on how or whether to continue, US officials said.

The talks among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - along with Germany came after the Chinese dropped objections to the consultations, the officials said. China had blocked the discussion for almost two weeks, apparently in retaliation for US arms sales to Taiwan.

The United States had been trying to organize the telephone conference call since the beginning of the month after the Security Council, in late September, passed a new resolution to reaffirm three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran but imposing no new penalties that the United States and its European allies had sought.

On the call, the diplomats said "they remain committed to the dual-track strategy and will remain in close contact on developments over the coming days and weeks," said deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He would not discuss details of the conversation.

The dual-track strategy is the main element of a slow-moving pressure campaign to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. It would offer to Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium but threatens sanctions if Teheran should continue to refuse, which it has done thus far.

Russia and China have balked at additional sanctions.

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Jews back Obama

Given the wide publicity received by reports that "Jews" back McCain, this result is surprising, though it shouldn't be. Jews back Obama by a wider margin than other "white" ethnic groups. That's a fact.
Last update - 22:04 20/10/2008       
NYU poll: Two-thirds of U.S. Jews back Obama over McCain
By Haaretz Service
A new poll commissioned by researchers at New York University reveals that American Jews favor Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama over his Republic rival, John McCain, by a 67 - 33 margin.
The survey, which sampled the opinions of over 3,000 respondents - half of them being Jewish - also found that Jews as an ethnic group will support Obama by almost 30 percent more than other white, non-Hispanic voters.
The poll sought to gauge the importance Jewish voters' attach to Israel as a consideration in whom they would vote for, with some surprising results. Of all the Jews surveyed who said that Israel is of "high" importance, 63 percent said they would vote for Obama. In constrast, just 42 percent of Jews who said Israel has "very high" importance intend on voting for Obama.
Not surprisingly, the Jewish vote swings heavily in McCain's favor among the Orthodox. According to the survey, the Arizona senator can count on support from 75 percent of Orthodox Jewish voters.
The poll was conducted this past September, when the gaps in poll numbers between Obama and McCain were smaller. Given the recent numbers heavily favoring Obama, the survey's authors project that the ratio of Jewish voters backing the Illinois Democrat would swell from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1.

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Israel coalition negotiations on borrowed time

Remember these child allowances when there is no money for defense. But Livni can form a government without Shas if necessary.
Last update - 15:09 20/10/2008       
Peres grants Livni extra two weeks to form coalition
By Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Staff
President Shimon Peres on Monday granted prime minister-designate, Kadima chair Tzipi Livni an extra two weeks to form a government coalition.
By law, the prime minister-designate may ask the president for an extension of two weeks, in addition to the four weeks initially given to form a coalition.
So far, Livni has initialed a coalition agreement with Labor; however, talks with the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties remain stalled.
On Sunday, Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef instructed party chairman Eli Yishai not to compromise on child allowance payments, as Kadima and Shas party negotiators ended their latest coalition talks without reaching an agreement. The sides will meet again after Tuesday's holiday of Simhat Torah.
Shas is insisting on allowances for "family payments" in 2009, at a cost of more than [a billion shekels]. Livni's negotiating team, including attorneys Israel Maimon and Yoram Rabad, presented the Shas negotiating team with a compromise during a lengthy meeting on Friday, but Shas appears unwilling to bend. Kadima has offered Shas an overall welfare package of around NIS 600 million, to be drawn from various budgetary sources.
Livni's associates said on Saturday that she intends to present her government on October 27, the day the Knesset's winter session begins. One scenario is that she will present a "narrow" coalition of 59 to 60 MKs, including Meretz and supported from the outside by UTJ, and work to bring Shas and UTJ into the coalition at a later date.
Sources close to Livni said the Kadima leader believes it is important to present the new government on the first day of the Knesset's winter session, but would continue her efforts to bring Shas and UTJ into the coalition in the remaining days.
A meeting may take place today between Shas and UTJ. Sunday night, the Shas team came to the home of Rabbi Yosef to discuss the talks with him. In attendance at the meeting were Yishai and Communications Minister Ariel Atias.
Senior Kadima officials said Saturday that Livni was willing to compromise on the allowances, but Shas did not seem to want to do so, and the question was whether they had decided not to enter a Livni coalition. "Shas is important for a wide and stable government, but we can't wait too long or compromise on the entire sum they want," a senior Kadima official said.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, chairman of the Labor Party, warned that the agreement between Labor and Kadima initialed last week might not be signed if Labor's demand for an additional representative on the Judicial Appointments Committee were not met.
Speaking in an interview on Channel 2 television, Barak hinted that he would not oppose Shas' budgetary demands, although he was against child allowances according to the old system.
Senior Labor Party members have been in talks with senior Shas representatives over the past few days to persuade them to join Livni's cabinet.

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Egyptian plan gives Hamas veto over peace agreements

It states:
Egypt also said Abbas should continue peace talks with Israel but that any deal needs approval from Hamas and other factions sworn to Israel's destruction.
So let's see. Israel makes concessions to the Palestinian Authority  (== "Fatah") . The Hamas says no, and then Israel must make more concessions. A better plan is to simply negotiate the peace treaty with the Hamas. Hamas of course, will accept no reasonable unity plan, because the plans are proposed by Egypt. Hamas is a pawn of Syria and Iran, who aren't going to let Egypt get credit for any unity deal. Hamas will also say "no" to any peace deal because that would be a success for the United States, and Iran can't allow that either.

Last update - 20:09 20/10/2008       
Egypt presents Fatah, Hamas with Palestinian unity proposal
By Reuters
Egypt on Monday called on rival Palestinian factions to form a unity government and restructure their security forces in a bid to end hostilities that have undermined efforts to reach a statehood deal.
Cairo presented a four-page proposal, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas, outlining steps the groups should take to end their power struggle.
Egypt also said Abbas should continue peace talks with Israel but that any deal needs approval from Hamas and other factions sworn to Israel's destruction.
Egypt drafted the proposal after a series of talks with 13 Palestinian factions. It will be discussed when the groups meet again in Cairo on November 9.
Previous Arab-led initiatives have failed to reconcile the bitter rivals.
The Egyptian proposal calls for the immediate formation of a Palestinian unity government and an agreement on when to hold national elections.
A previous unity government collapsed after Hamas routed Fatah forces to take control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government and appointed a Western-backed administration in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.
The groups also disagree on when to hold new elections, with Fatah calling for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held in 2010 and Hamas saying Abbas's term ends in January 2009. Cairo's proposal calls for simultaneous elections.
Egypt said that Hamas and Fatah security forces should be removed from factional politics and be operated at a national level.
The proposal also said any peace deal Abbas reaches with Israel should be brought to a national referendum or presented to a restructured Palestinian Liberation Organization that includes Hamas and other factions that oppose the peace process.

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IAEA's El Baradei: Iran not close to nukes

Of course, "close" is a relative concept....  

IAEA chief: Iran not close to developing nuclear weapons
By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press
The head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency said on Monday that Iran remains far from acquiring capabilities to develop nuclear weapons.
In an interview broadcast on Channel 10, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammed ElBaradei, said the Islamic Republic is still lacking the key components to produce an atomic weapon.
"They do not have even the nuclear material, the raw unenriched uranium to develop one nuclear weapon if they decide to do so," ElBaradei said. "Even if you decide to walk out tomorrow from the non-proliferation treaty and you go into a lot of scenarios, we're still not going to see Iran tomorrow having nuclear weapons."
Senior diplomats from six world powers on Monday discussed the possibility of imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, but they failed anew to reach a consensus on how or whether to proceed, U.S. officials said.
The high-level talks among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States - along with Germany, came after the Chinese dropped objections to the consultations, the officials said. China had blocked the discussion for nearly two weeks, apparently in retaliation for U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The United States had been trying to organize the telephone conference call since the beginning of the month after the Security Council, in late September, passed a new resolution reaffirming three previous rounds of sanctions on Iran but imposing no new penalties that the U.S. and its European allies had sought.
On the call, the diplomats said "they remain committed to the dual-track strategy and will remain in close contact on developments over the coming days and weeks," said deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood. He declined to discuss details of the conversation.
The dual-track strategy is the main element of a slow-moving pressure campaign to persuade Iran to give up objectionable parts of its nuclear program. It calls for offering Iran incentives to stop enriching uranium but imposing sanctions if Tehran refuses, which it has thus far done.
Russia and China have balked at additional sanctions.

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Israeli police arrent 9 for attacks on Arabs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem

Those who perpetrate these attacks are shaming Zionism and Israel. They are engaging in pointless hooliganism and undermining the fabric of Israeli society. They are acting as gentiles once did to Jews.
Last update - 15:52 20/10/2008       
Police arrest 9 Jews over recent assaults on Arabs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
By Jonathan Lis and Yuval Goren, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters
Police have arrested nine Jews suspected of recent assaults against Arabs in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, including several firebombings that set some homes ablaze.
Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said six Jews were arrested on Monday on suspicion of involvement in firebombings of Arab homes in the Hatikva neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv. The attacks, which took place roughly five days ago, caused damage but no injuries.
The remands of two of the suspects, both minors, were extended by four days by a juvenile court in Tel Aviv. The remands of three other suspects were extended by three days. All six suspects deny involvement in the acts.
Police sources said that additional suspects have not yet been arrested, and that one of the minors had been briefly detained roughly one month ago on suspicion of attempting to carry out a similar offense. The same sources expressed fears that such incidents are on the rise in Tel Aviv.
Police arrested three other Jews on Sunday after scuffles with Arabs in Jerusalem, where a garbage truck driven by an Arab was stoned on Bar Ilan Street. The driver was treated at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem for minor injuries.
A total of seven Arabs were injured in clashes with Jews in Jerusalem on Sunday. In a pre-dawn incident, six Arabs were injured in a brawl with a group of Jewish youth.
Jerusalem mayor Uri Lupolianski Sunday criticized the stone-throwing.
"This is the behavior of hooligans, and these loose canons must be judged severely," he said. He added that the incident would not damage the fabric of life in the city.
The violence coincided with rioting last week in the northern city of Acre, where tensions between Jews and Arabs flared after an Arab resident of the city drove into a Jewish neighbourhood on Yom Kippur, when traffic largely comes to a halt.

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Making us proud to be Zionists

Bradley Burston reminds us that this month marked the birthday of Daniel Pearl. Remember? He was the journalist who was kidnapped by extremists in Pakistan while pursuing an investigation of terrorism. 
Pearl was 38, and about to become a father for the first time. He was also a passionate musician, a true believer in bridging diverse cultures with music, and a fervent and far-reaching practitioner of that belief. After nine days in captivity, Danny Pearl was beheaded by his barbaric captors because he was Jewish. The beheading was filmed.  The next day, his friend George Pehlivanian, who was guest conductor that night of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, dedicated the performance to Daniel Pearl and "to the triumph of hope over despair." By his birthday, October 10, musicians around the world had begun to take part in World Music Days, dedicating them to Daniel Pearl's faith in shared humanity and the universal power of music.
What do you do when your son or your husband is murdered by barbarians? Become a suicide bomber? The Pearl family started the Daniel Pearl foundation to promote cross-cultural understanding. Make no mistake - Judea Pearl, Daniel's father, is a proud and outspoken Zionist. Zionism is not a stranger to peace.
We must all be grateful to the Pearl family for showing us the right way to be Zionists and for making us proud to be Zionists and Jews.
Some congregations will remember Danny Pearl and also Gilad Shalit, captive now nearly 850 days, in dedicating the hakafot of Simchat Torah.
How about yours? .
Ami Isseroff

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Iranian danger in South America

Gabriel Calabrese points out the increasing danger for Israel and the United States emanating from the alliance between Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Iran. Actually, Iran has been subverting South American countries for a while. Their Hezbollah bases in South America made possible the attack on the Buenos Aires Jewish Center and on the Israeli embassy. They have converted a large group of Indians to Shia Islam as well.

Iran increasingly seeking to extend its sphere of influence to Latin America
Gabriel Calabrese Published:  10.19.08, 18:38 / Israel Opinion 

The world community is waiting in anticipation to see the next American president's stance on confronting Iran's nuclear threat. Yet it appears that Tehran has decided not to wait and has moved on its own to develop a means of attacking the US from its own backyard.
While the Latin American Left has consistently complained about North American interference in Venezuela's domestic affairs, it has completely ignored the dangerous infiltration of Iran's radical regime.
Over the past six years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has allowed Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to increasingly meddle in his country's affairs. Putting Venezuela at the center of a new, troublesome initiative, shaping Latin America's future is part of Iran's strategic gamble against the West.
Traditionally considered a "zone of peace," Latin America is mutating into a new sanctuary for those who sympathize with radical Islam.
Hugo Chávez opened Latin America's doors to Iran's fundamentalist regime, sealing the alliance through 11 meetings with Ahmadinejad
and visiting Tehran on six occasions since assuming power. Chávez is a principal champion of Iran's nuclear ambitions and has routinely supported radical groups in the Middle East, even calling Israel's 2006 military offensive in Lebanon a "new Holocaust." But Chávez has not only supported extremist ideologies far from his own country, as some unscrupulous politicians have done in the past: he has woven these movements directly into the Venezuelan landscape.
One of those groups is Hizbullah-Venezuela, which has grown by taking advantage of the discontent and marginalization of indigenous communities. The vacuum that was created after Chávez expelled Christian Evangelicals from the country is used by Hizbullah to indoctrinate the Indian community of Wayuu-Guagira.
One of its leaders, ex-Marxist Teodoro Rafael Darnot, now claims to bring about the kingdom of God in Venezuela through his activities, and works with the Chavez government. The motto appearing on Hizbullah-Venezuela's website states: "The brief enjoyment of life on earth is selfish. The other life is better for those who follow Allah." While Venezuela remains a Christian cultural zone, the government's cooperation with Iran reflects strategic desires, and does not reflect any Venezuelan demographic change.
Iranian threat growing far broader than Mideast
Last November Chávez proposed to his "ideological friend" Ahmadinejad a plan to build a joint "anti-imperialist" army to fight the "Great Satan" and defend the nations from a possible US attack. He also called Iran "a friend to trust" during the sixth Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas summit (ALBA) that took place in Caracas. During the summit, Chávez praised Ahmadinejad's promises to share Iranian scientific developments with Latin America. They also agreed to invest billions of dollars in every country that cuts its ties with the US. "This fund, my brother," Chávez said, "will become a mechanism for liberation."
Confirming the foreseeable repercussions that such statements may trigger, journalist Patricia Poleo reported on July 9 that Venezuelans of Arab ancestry are being recruited under the auspices of Tarek el Ayssami, Venezuela's vice-minister of the interior, for combat training in Hizbullah camps in south Lebanon.
These developments imply a serious shift of alliances in Latin America. Iran and Hizbulllah are now present in the Tri-Border Area that binds Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguacu (Brazil); They operate at Maicao in Colombia, in Margarita Island in Venezuela, at Monkey Point in Nicaragua as well as in Bolivia and Ecuador. Chávez's sympathy toward the leftist terrorist group FARC is switching to radical organizations of Islamic backgrounds.
Leftist radical groups are realizing that, after all, their goals are not much different to the ones proposed by Islamic fanatical organizations, and are ready to leave their communist façade and adopt a set of beliefs seemingly in total contradiction to their former causes as long as they provide them the elements and means to overthrow democratic societies.
As a result of North American inattention to its own hemisphere, Iran is finding a new proxy for its global aspirations; without the need to "export" any terrorists, Iran is growing them on Latin American soil. Ahmadinejad has traveled to Latin America three more times than Bush has, leading some Latin American countries to seek a separate accommodation with Iran.
The Iranian threat is growing far broader than the Middle East and will be at the forefront of the next US Administration, no matter which government gets elected. Iran's sphere of influence is systematically filling the gap wherever liberal democracies are leaving a vacuum, be it Gaza, Lebanon, or Venezuela. Unless there is an active policy to counter Iranian strategy, the so- called axis of evil may gain a new member: Venezuela.
Gabriel Calabrese is completing his studies in international relations and Latin American studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Calabrese is doing a traineeship at the Foreign Ministry of Israel and is currently in Washington, D.C. where he is completing an internship at The Israel Project, a strategic communications organization

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Israel mulling Lebanon non-aggression treaty - but Lebanon won't mull back

Israel is "mulling" a treaty with Lebanon. They didn't ask the Lebanese however. I bet the Hezbollah may object. This is a bit like my friend who was "almost married" several times. Only the girl was not willing!   
 Last update - 10:03 20/10/2008       
Israel mulling non-aggression treaty with Lebanon
By Barak Ravid
The Foreign Ministry is examining an initiative aimed at reaching a long-term non-belligerence pact with Lebanon to prevent renewed fighting along the northern border.
The initiative was first revealed two weeks ago during a strategic discussion over the future of the Middle East peace process that was held as part of the ministry's evaluation of regional developments.
The evaluation is the first of its kind, and was initiated by ministry director-general Aharon Abramovich, and later supported by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.
Livni's close advisers and senior ministry officials participated in the discussion. Given the officials' close relationship with Livni, the evaluation's recommendations are likely to turn into official policy should she succeed in forming a government.
Eran Etzion, the head of the Foreign Ministry's political planning section, said a full peace agreement with Lebanon can only come in the wake of a similar deal with Syria. Still, he said, Israel can try to advance on a separate political track with Lebanon, the end result of which could be a long-term non-belligerence pact.
The agreement would be signed by both governments, and its focus would be a reciprocal agreement on the route of the border between the two countries. The deal would include a solution to the dispute over the Shaba Farms border area and the divided village of Ghajar, as well as a number of small border adjustments demanded by Lebanon.
The recommendation would provide for a coordination apparatus between the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese army, as well as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) over border patrols and other monitoring activities.
Israel is expected to ask Lebanon to significantly reduce Hezbollah's weapons stores, and to extend the Lebanese army's authority across the entire country, with a special emphasis on the area south of the Litani River, which is the closest area to Israel. In return, an agreement would have to be reached over Israeli overflights in Lebanese airspace.
The discussion also dealt with the Syrian and Palestinian diplomatic tracks, and officials present argued over which track should receive first priority.
Those in favor of dealing with Syria first agreed that the only tenable option on that track would involve negotiations over a final-status agreement with an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Supporters of this strategy said an agreement with Syria would be easier to reach than with the Palestinians, the chances for its success are greater and the strategic dividend Israel would receive is bigger. They also said such a deal would greatly change the balance of power in the region by removing the threat posed to Israel by the Syrian army, placing distance between Damascus and Iran and possibly engendering a deal with Lebanon.
Supporters of the "Palestinians first" strategy argued, however, that without solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem will be unable to advance peace talks with even a single moderate Arab state.
One official subscribing to this view said, "Every Arab person we talk to says the central issue that bothers him, and that they give priority to over everything else, is the Palestinian issue."


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

New project aims to return buyers to Western Negev

As part of campaign, some 1,000 businesses in Sderot, Gaza vicinity communities to offer their services to private people, companies across country
Shmulik Hadad
Published:  10.15.08, 07:26 / Israel Activism
Despite the relative calm prevailing in Gaza vicinity communities these days, local businesses have yet to recover from the rocket barrages which hit the area only a few months ago.

In light of the difficult situation, the "Buying with Love from Sderot and the Gaza Vicinity" project was scheduled to be launched Wednesday with the aim of advancing the purchase of products from business owners in the area.
As part of the project, some 1,000 business owners will offer their services to private people and companies across Israel.

The campaign, which will last three months, will be accompanied by television, radio and internet ads.

Those interested in locating a business owner in the area can do so through a website launched by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry under the banner "Buying with Love".

"One will be able to find any service provider – artists, carpentry workshops, grocery stores, etc," said the project's manager, Colonel (Res.) Yossi Gilad. "In fact, any person who visits the website will try and find the service provider, and if he doesn't, we'll help him.

"The prices will be extremely reasonable, the service will be excellent, and in general we call on the residents to arrive in Sderot and the area during the mid-holidays, stay in local guesthouses and east in local restaurants, and just tour the place and get to know it."

Shimon Edri, who is in charge of Sderot's business development unit, added that "our main problem is to bring back those buyers who left the service providers in Sderot and moved to other places. Now they are there because they got used to it, or perhaps because they believe that the worst is still ahead of us."

The project's management explained that the region's residents and businesses are not asking for donations, but for help through purchases.

"The real and great force is in the hands of each and every one of us," explained an official involved in the project.

"Only half an hour from Tel Aviv you will be able to find a special region which is equal in its beauty to northern Israel and filled with tourist attractions and guesthouses of the highest quality. The businesses provide a variety of services and products, some unique to the region itself."

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Is the pope snubbing Israel over Pope Pius XII issue

This headline Pope snubs Israel over Yad Vashem inscription says one thing, but the article below says the opposite:
Gumpel's statement, which was quoted extensively by the Italian media on Saturday, has since been rejected by the Vatican
So the answer to the question, is apparently "no."

As Vatican fights for beatification of WWII pope, cardinal announces Holy See won't visit Israel until inscription asserting Pius XII ignored Holocaust during war is removed
Anat Shalev
Published:  10.18.08, 20:35 / Israel News
Jesuit Father Peter Gumpel, a Vatican cardinal, said Pope Benedict XVI would not travel to Israel so long as Yad Vashem continues to display an inscription by the image of Pope Pius XII asserting that the latter failed to raise his voice against the extermination of Europe's Jews during the Holocaust.
 Gumpel's statement, which was quoted extensively by the Italian media on Saturday, has since been rejected by the Vatican.
The Rev. was referring to an invitation extended to the Holy See by Israel. A papal visit can involve several long months to arrange.
Gumpel was quoted as saying that while the Catholic Church seeks a positive relationship with Israel, such ties can only be built on reciprocation.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman for domestic media, Yossi Levi, confirmed Jerusalem had issued a response following the Italian reports. "We do not interfere in the beatification of popes, but we do indeed have something to say about the historic role played by Pius XII," said Levy.
"So long as the Vatican refuses to allow historians into its archives, that painful question will remain unanswered. We want to continue the excellent dialogue we have with the Vatican, and the Pope is a welcome guest. We do not see Gumpel's statement as representative of the Holy See."
Following the Vatican's clarification the Foreign Affairs Ministry added: "Father Gumpel's words found no 
audience in the Vatican, and the clarification issued by the Vatican has put this matter to rest as far as we are concerned."
On Friday however France's main Jewish organization warned that efforts to beatify Pius XII would deal "a severe blow" to relations between Catholics and Jews.
"Pope Pius XII, worried about burning his bridges with Germany, never made a clear statement denouncing the singular monstrosity of the extermination of millions of Jews. Moreover, he did not do so after the war either, which is profoundly shocking," the organization, Conseil Representatif des Institutions juives de France (CRIF), said in a statement.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Orlev wants to end (some) religious coercion

Within the compass of his narrow understanding, MK Orlev has made a courageous and important statement. But it is hardly enough. His assumption that "Jewish Identity" is coexistensive with religious law as he interprets is presumptuous and arrogant. It is not up to him to decide what is "Jewish Identity" or to assign grades for it. In a real democracy, religious people don't get to decide who is a Jew.  Moreover, he misses the point that in a democracy, no legislation at all should be made to enforce religious observance, which is a matter of conscience.  Orlev is not going to favor civil marriages or secular Jewish conversions, is he?
In the current situation, Israel, which has more religious freedom than any other country in the Middle East, is condemned as a theocracy. Men who fight and die for Israel as Jews must be buried in non-Jewish cemeteries,  couples who want to get married have to sneak off to Cyprus. The pinnacle of absurdity was reached when Zionist reform Rabbi Yoffe was insulted and told he is not a rabbi by, of all people, the notorious ex-president of Israel, Moshe Katsav.  Religious coercion and intolerance has exhausted Israel as well as itself.
Ami Isseroff
National Religious Party chairman believes religious laws must be used to form State's Jewish identity only in rare cases. 'Attempt to impose values through verbal violence or coalitional aggression will lead to opposite result,' he says
Kobi Nahshoni
Published:  10.19.08, 07:35 / Israel Jewish Scene
Forming the State's Jewish identity through Knesset legislation appears to have exhausted itself and must be used only in rare and special cases which have no other solution, National Religious Party Chairman Zevulun Orlev said in a recent publication.

According to the Knesset member, "The main road we must focus on at this time is the way of education, information, dialogue and conviction."

His message to the religious public is that "we won't be able to bestow the values of Judaism through verbal violence, coalitional aggression, and definitely not through physical violence. This way we may, God forbid, achieve the opposite result."

In an article published in the Sukkot holiday edition of the "Shabbat Beshivto" synagogue bulletin, Orlev admits that the road he is suggesting is longer, but he believes that "this is the default option we have left."

The NRP chairman discussed the question "legislation or education?", ruling that the first option, as a key tool in forming the Jewish identity, is no longer right.

"Facts show that most of the Jewish people show a positive link to the Jewish heritage," he explains. "On the other hand, unfortunately, facts point to an expansion and a deepening of the alienation and rift between religious and secular."
'High Court interprets law incorrectly'
Orlev also points to technical difficulties in the old method, writing that "it appears that instead of having a completely clear legislation, there are problems in implementing the law.

"In certain cases there is simply no enforcement – the Working and Rest Hours Act on Shabbat and Jewish holidays, for example. And in other instances, the High Court interprets the law in a way which is not in line with the legislator's intention, like allowing same-sex couples to adopt a child.
"All the components of the Sukkot holiday are aimed at this matter – one bundle of the four species, with each having a different taste and smell," MK Orlev concludes.
"Shaking the palm branch to the four points of the compass, sacrificing 70 bulls for the 70 nations of the world – all these point to patience and tolerance, pleasantness, truth and peace which should be taken to bring Judaism closer and make the public fond of it."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gilad Shalit Protestors block Kerem Shalom Crossing

The unrelenting pressure that drove Israel to make a bad deal with the Hezbollah is now starting for Gilad Shalit. The Israeli government is caught between a rock and a hard place. All evidence indicates that Shalit is alive, unlike the case of the Hezbollah hostages. Making a deal however will legitimize the Hamas and will probably involve release of about 1,000 prisoners, including the notorious Marwan Barghouti. Leaving Shalit in Hamas hands however, gives them a hostage who may be used cynically for all varieties of extortion, and it creates steady and increasing pressure on the government from concerned parents and citizens. If Israel does not make a deal and Shalit dies in captivity, there is sure to be an enormous public outcry.
Ami Isseroff
Dozens of people calling for release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit stop trucks carrying goods from entering Gaza, set tires on fire, in protest of decision to allow supplies into Strip while negotiations stagnated. Defense Minister Barak: Rally may raise price demanded for captive
Ilana Curiel
Latest Update:  10.19.08, 10:43 / Israel News
Struggle for Gilad Shalit's release reaches entrance to Gaza Strip. Dozens of protestors blocked the Kerem Shalom goods crossing for three hours on Sunday morning, stopping dozens of trucks from entering the Gaza Strip and raising signs reading, "Gilad is still alive."

The demonstrators, who also set tires on fire, were protesting the decision to allow goods into the Gaza Strip while the negotiations for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit are stagnated.

"We are with Gilad Shalit. As far as we are concerned, the goods can go to hell. The main thinis that he returns home," said Ahmed Fawzi, a truck driver from Rahat.

Another driver joined him by saying, "The closing of the crossing hurts our livelihood, but it worth it if Gilad returns."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticized the protestors in an interview with Army Radio, saying that "the demonstrations require thought, as we should think about signaling to the other side in a way that will not raise the price rather than drop it.
"As for the demonstration itself, I understand these people. As an IDF chief of staff and a person who commanded fighters for decades, I feel the need to bring Gilad home safe. It's an issue which I lose sleep over night after night. Not one day goes by without me dealing with this issue."

'No more'
Shalit's family members were expected to take part in a mass rally scheduled to be held in the area Sunday afternoon.
Yoel Marshak, head of the United Kibbutz Movement's Special Assignments Division and one of the rally's organizers, said that "this situation cannot continue.
"The cry will go out from here – no more," said Marshak. "Come here to make it clear to the entire world, to the Red Cross and Hamas, that we are unwilling to continue a situation in which we don't know whether Gilad Shalit is alive or dead, whether he is in need of medication or is sitting in a dark pit. This is our condition for opening the crossing."
Buma Inbar, a bereaved father from the central community of Neveh Monoson, also arrived at the Kerem Shalom goods crossing.
"My son was killed in Lebanon in 1995," he said. "I don't want to compare, but I'm in a situation which is final and I have no hope. I don't want the Shalit family to be in my situation, and I'm ready to do everything for their son to be released.
"As a bereaved father, I came to the conclusion several years ago that the value of human life in our country is lesser than in the territories. Those who really know what human life is are people like us, people who come from bereavement. I would be happy to see this feeling shared by the entire people of Israel."
During Sunday afternoon's rally, a letter written by parents from Shalit's hometown of Mitzpe Hila will be sent to Gazan parents whose sons are imprisoned in Israeli jails.
"We understand you pain as parents whose sons, that which is most precious to them, is being held on our side… we promise, for our part at least, to do as much as we can to try and influence our leadership, in the hopes that you will do the same," write the parents, calling on their Palestinian counterparts to rise above the conflict in the effort to bring the sons home.
Shimshon Liebman, Shalit's neighbor and one of the letter's initiators, said that "we assume there are parents on the other side waiting for their children to be released.

"If they want their children, they should also pressure the authorities there. If they don't do it, we will do all we can in order to disrupt and for the other side to feel it. We decided to hold the protest right next to the fence and not in Jerusalem or the Rabin Square."
Towards the afternoon, a convoy of vehicles, accompanied by some 60 small airplanes, will converge on the spot where Shalit was kidnapped from. Gilad's father, Noam Shalit, is slated to address the crowd. Several Knesset members will also attend the event.
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped into the Gaza Strip 848 days ago.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Claim: Arab who incited Acco riots fled to Palestinian Authority

Shimon Lankry says man responsible for inciting Yom Kippur riots in northern city has escaped from Israel. Police continue pursuing guilty parties with 78 people arrested, four indictments filed so far
Ahiya Raved
Published:  10.19.08, 13:21 / Israel News
Akko Mayor Shimon Lankry said Sunday that "the man who announced at the city's mosques that there were peopled injured in the city's eastern neighborhoods, thereby igniting the riots on Yom Kippur Eve, has fled to the territories." 
Speaking at a press conference announcing the a $200,000 donation made to the city by the Jewish Agency and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Lankry noted that another man, suspected of driving youths from Akko's Old City to the eastern neighborhood, had also fled the police.
The Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, demanded over the weekend that Akko's Arabs residents, who suffered severe property damage during the riots, be recognized by the Treasury victims of hostilities and compensated accordingly.
More than 100 vehicles, 80 stores and 30 homes were damaged during the riots, and five houses were burnt to the ground. Property owners – both Jewish and Arab – would be unable to claim restitution for the damages unless the State deems them victims of hostilities.
Police forces arrested three Akko Jews on Friday, on suspicion of vandalizing cars during the riots. Seventy-eight arrests have been made since the onset of the riots and four suspects have already been indicted for vandalism, disorderly conduct and arson.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Zionist plot to help the world and help Judaism and Israel

Here is a way to combine Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) with activism in the Jewish community. It is meant as a way to help the third world, and also to bring bring Jews in the United States back to Judaism and closer to Israel. See Rescuing American Jews: What is to be done? for a grim overview of the situation of the American Jewish community, which desperately needs its own repair).
Tikkun Olam is not in conflict with Judaism or Zionism and never was. Tikkun Olam is an integral part of Judaism and Zionism. Projects like this one - building Judaism and Zionism by improving the lives of others - are a major concern of the "Israel Lobby" and the sinister Zionist conspiracy.
By Rachel Neiman  
October 16, 2008
Helping the developing world is perhaps the biggest challenge of the new century and, at this point in history, one of the most disheartening. Despite decades of effort on the part of governments, organizations and individuals, in the long run many aid programs have perhaps done more harm than good. To paraphrase the old adage: most aid efforts have focused on giving people a fish, rather than teaching them to fish. And while the Israeli government, through aid arm MASHAV, has long been helping the developing world learn to fish, Israeli and Jewish non-government organizations (NGOs) have mainly focused on Israel, its immediate neighbors, and the Jewish community.
Time for a change, says Yonatan Glaser, founder and director of educational NGO B'Tzedek. "Up until now, efforts to revitalize Jewish institutions have been very inward focused. I think you've got to be worthy to appear worthy. I think that's where young Jewish and Israeli people are today: they want to build their own identities, a community and a communal life. Paradoxically these can be strengthened by going overseas. By being outwardly focused we will do some of that inward revitalization."
B'Tzedek has partnered with another Israeli NGO, Brit Olam, to create LIFE, a nine-month learning program for college graduates from the Jewish world and their Israeli peers (aged 21-30) that will train participants in effective social action which can change policy by sending them to the developing world.
Early this November, starting with an initial one month training period in Israel that will include looking at case studies of community, rural and urban development and social change, the first group of LIFE interns will depart for internships in Hyderabad, India for four months, after which they will return to Israel for a second four-month internship. So far, 12 people have registered and a few more slots are still open. A shorter option, ending in the spring, also exists.
The period in India will begin an in-country orientation at Hyderabad. Glaser tells ISRAEL21c: "During that time the group will be together in that city. We will cover practical issues like safety, food, health and program issues like introduction to the local NGOs, staff roles, and policy context of the internship positions."
Subsequently, group members will transition into internship positions, ranging from policy and program-development based positions in the headquarters of organizations, to more program delivery oriented positions in small villages. Internships will be for the full working week with occasional breaks for group seminars, weekend programs and short trips to become acquainted with other places.
"One of the reasons for starting in India is because India has this mixture of high tech and tradition," explains Glaser. "There is an infrastructure that speaks the kind of language we're speaking and is enthusiastic about the service learning model."
Self-esteem and civic responsibility
Service learning combines service to the community with student learning to improve both student and community. As students participate in their community service projects to actively meet the needs of communities, they develop practical skills, self-esteem, and a sense of civic responsibility.
The ultimate goal, Glaser says, is for participants to develop their vision of social justice and their leadership abilities, adding that the program also requires participants to pay attention to their inner selves. This will include time for personal reflection, meditation and sessions with the Israeli Training Center for Mind-Body Skills. The Israeli Center is connected to the Washington-based Center for Mind-Body Medicine, a non-profit educational organization which works to create a more compassionate, open-minded, and effective model of health care and health education.
Glaser explains that the workshops train people "in well-known methods of stress control that enable participants to become more self-aware of, and able to manage, their emotional reactions to stressful situations." The group will also engage in learning about Jewish values, "as the basis for a rich and rightful inner life which is, after all, the basis for how we carry ourselves externally."
LIFE's overseas partner in India is a major NGO, the Byrraju Foundation, which is funded by the Satyam group, a high-tech concern. Glaser explains that the foundation serves over one million people and provides a basket of 40 services in 200 villages.
The organization works in a number of fields from livelihood (job training, cottage industries),to rural tourism (mapping infrastructure or devising a marketing strategy), women's empowerment, school education (teaching English as part of a portfolio of skills) health issues (delivering ECGs to small villages, for example), farming, and water - a major issue in these villages.
Says Glaser: "One of the things I'm very excited about is that the participants will get insight into how to develop and deliver a program so that it's appropriate to the end-user - for example, how to present HIV in a culturally sensitive way. We'll be giving them training in intercultural relations, right through to what programs the government and NGOs are putting into place."
The last week in India will be an intensive seminar and meetings with key figures in the social services, social change and government in the region in which participants have been living and working.
Once back in Israel, the group will study Hebrew at an intensive language study program. This period begins with a two-week re-entry and orientation period. The mornings will be taken up with an intensive ulpan (Hebrew study program) and the afternoons with (first week) unpacking the Indian period and planning for a community event for program partners and (second week) preparing for the Israeli internships and starting the ongoing learning program that includes lectures, meetings and participant-programmed activities.
"People will join LIFE for diverse reasons: for career development, for Jewish and personal growth, for the global social justice dimension, for the intense experience with Jews from other parts of the Jewish world," says Glaser. "We think that all these reasons are fine and believe that the unique combination of these elements make LIFE a peerless opportunity."
Glaser hopes that by next year, LIFE groups will intern in Africa as well as India. "We are at an advanced stage of discussions with NGOs in Africa and fully expect to partner with them. For us, the goals are a safe and successful placement in which you are able to add value to the local community and have a rich learning experience. These are the primary conditions for LIFE to succeed."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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