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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another dimension to Jewish wars: Diaspora Versus Israel

The Jewish wars are carried out in numerous dimensions: Lithuanian Jews versus Polish, Sephardic versus Ashkenasi (correct spelling it seems) Left Zionists vesus Right Zionists verus religious anti-Zionists versus Left Anti-Zionists versus the indifferent and assimilating. A new and growing dimension for friction: Diaspora  Zionist Jews  versus Israelis. A Jerusalem Post article indicates that the two groups hold each other in contempt more or less. American Jews lecture Israelis on our intolerance, and at the same time insist that we are only Jews if we do precisely whatever they do. Israelis likewise try to decide who is a Jew for Americans and insist that American Jews only think about money. Where did we hear that one before?

Continued (Permanent Link)

Syria: No more IAEA inspections

The mistake IAEA made, was publicizing their incriminating findings. Of course, if the inspections are about to reveal Syria's criminal intent, they will not allow more inspections. They would, of course, allow inspections if it had looked like they had exonerated Syria. But what is the point of allowing incriminating inspections?

Ami Isseroff

Syria: We won't allow another IAEA visit

Nov. 21, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

A senior Syrian official on Friday all but ruled out new visits by UN inspectors probing allegations that his country had a covert program that could be used to make nuclear weapons.

Syrian refusal to allow inspections could doom the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts to follow up US assertions that a site reportedly bombed by Israel last year was a nearly finished reactor that could have produced plutonium.

Syria allowed the IAEA to visit the site near the desert town of Al Kibar in June but has since turned down requests for more inspections.

"We will not allow another visit," said Ibrahim Othman, the head of Syria's atomic agency.

He said the IAEA had agreed with Syria that there would be only be one visit. The IAEA has said it agreed to make one initial visit, but has requested others.

The IAEA has said it suspects three other sites may have been nuclear-related and linked to the bombed location.

Othman described the three sites as (non-nuclear) "military bases" that could not be visited by outsiders, although higher Syrian authorities could decide otherwise.

An IAEA report this week heightened concerns about Al Kibar, saying that satellite imagery and other evidence showed it had the characteristics of a nuclear reactor. It also said that soil samples taken from the bombed site had a "significant number" of chemically processed natural uranium particles.

A senior UN official, who demanded anonymity because the information was restricted, said the findings were unusual for a facility that Syria alleges had no nuclear purpose, but Othman dismissed the findings.

"Collecting three (uranium) particles from the desert doesn't mean there is a reactor there," he told reporters on the sidelines of an IAEA meeting on Syria and Iran.

Gregory L. Schulte, the chief US delegate to the IAEA, said the IAEA report reinforced suspicions "that Syria was secretly building a nuclear reactor." The US has said it believes Syria was working on the reactor with North Korean help.

Iran, meanwhile, heaped scorn on US allegations that Tehran's advances in uranium enrichment was moving it closer to nuclear arms capability, saying US President George W. Bush was "dreaming" of any excuse to give Washington an excuse to provoke confrontation. The US has not ruled out military action unless Iran stops enrichment and heeds other UN Security Council demands.

For years, Iran has been the focus of international concerns that it might seek to develop nuclear arms. It has been under IAEA investigation since 2002 - and UN sanctions since 2006 - due to revelations of covert atomic activities, allegations that it had past plans to develop such weapons and its refusal to stop enrichment, which can produce both reactor fuel and fissile warhead material.

Schulte said Iran's defiance of the UN Security Council ban on enrichment is "deeply troubling because it is only a small step from the low enriched uranium that Iran is now stockpiling to the highly enriched uranium that Iran would need to build a bomb."

Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, its chief IAEA delegate, dismissed Schulte's allegations.

"Bush many times was dreaming I am sure" that Tehran would kick out IAEA inspectors and break out of the Nonproliferation Treaty as an excuse for confrontation, said Soltanieh - adding that was something his country would not do.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Hezbollah drills in South Lebanon, violating UN Security Council Res. 1701

'Hizbullah conducting drills in south'

Nov. 22, 2008

Hizbullah has begun a series of military exercises on Saturday morning in the area south of the Litani River, in southern Lebanon, despite such activities being in violation of United Nations Resolution 1701, Al-Arabiya television reported.

According to the reports, the maneuvers were conducted without the use of live weapons, and were meant to mimic a secret deployment of operatives in the mountains in the south of the country, near the border with Israel.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report. Hizbullah refused to comment about the exercises to the television station.

The UN Resolution 1701, which was passed in order to end the Second Lebanon War, called for a full cessation of hostilities, and demanded that all paramilitary forces vacate the area south of the Litani River.

Former head of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense subcommittee, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), used the report to take a political snipe at Knesset chairwoman Tzipi Livni.

"Hizbullah's exercises in south Lebanon show UN Resolution 1701, which was lauded at the time by [Foreign Minister] Tzipi Livni, in its flesh," Steinitz said.

"Today it is clear that the decisions and failures of [Prime Minister Ehud Olmert] and Livni only led to the strengthening of Hizbullah and the increase of the missile and terror threat on Israel," he said.


Continued (Permanent Link)

What happened in 1948?

Meir Zamir presents a controversial account of British intentions in the Israel War of Independence, insisting that the British were actively aiding the Arabs and obstructing the creation of the Jewish State. Though this is not accepted by most historians, it is backed by evidence presented by Ephraim Karsh and also by the role of the British in shaping the demands of the Bernadotte Plans.

It is a new dimension that is not covered in standard histories, including Benny Morris's latest book about the war (see Book Review: Benny Morris, 1948: The first Arab-Israeli War  )

Espionage and the Zionist endeavor

Nov. 20, 2008

On February 18, 1948, representatives of a Swiss company met secretly with Egyptian and Jordanian envoys in the office of Hector McNeill, the British minister of state for foreign affairs, to finalize the details of a $140 million arms deal. Considering the price of arms at the time, this was a major deal which, had it gone through, would have completely changed the military balance between the Arab states and the yet-to-be-established State of Israel. It was presented as a contract between the Swiss company Friedli and Kauffmann (Oerlikon) and the government of Ethiopia, but the true destinations of the arms were Egypt, Jordan and other Arab states.

The British Foreign Office, which mediated the deal, maintained the utmost secrecy, as its involvement contravened the UN resolution on partition and flouted the appeal by the UN Security Council for an embargo on arms sales to either Arabs or Jews. The United States, which was one of the first to comply with the UN embargo, would have undoubtedly reacted strongly if it had learned of Britain's double game.

Information on the "Swiss-Ethiopian" arms sale reached French Intelligence via the Jewish Agency. French agents subsequently followed the Swiss company's representatives on their travels between Geneva, London and Cairo and eavesdropped on their telephone conversations. The deal fell through, however, after the Swiss government learned the true destination of the arms and the Ethiopian government refused to comply so as not to re-export the arms to a third country. (On February 2, shots were fired at the Ethiopian consul general's car in Jerusalem.)

Documents on the deal, as well as on the shadow war that was going on at the time between the Hagana's secret service together with the French on the one hand, and the British on the other, were revealed during research conducted recently in archives in France. One major finding was that the French Intelligence had planted an agent in the Syrian Foreign Ministry who, from 1944 to 1949, provided it with copies of hundreds of original documents on Syria's foreign relations.

The French received copies of top-secret correspondence between the Syrian president, Shukri al-Quwatly, and the British, as well as Arab leaders, including King Farouk of Egypt, King Ibn-Saud of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah of Jordan and the Iraqi regent, Abd al-Ilah. They also received copies of telegrams from the Syrian embassies in London, Washington, Moscow, Paris and Arab capitals to the Foreign Ministry in Damascus.

From the documents of the secret British-Syrian correspondence, it can be concluded that Charles de Gaulle's accusations that Britain had deliberately engineered the crisis in Syria in the summer of 1945 to oust France from its mandate states of Syria and Lebanon was indeed justified. On May 29, with his capital under fire from the French forces, Quwatly had no choice but to sign a secret agreement with the British government according it a privileged military and economic status in Syria. Only then did the British army take action against the French.

French Intelligence also placed a mole in the British Legation in Beirut, which had become a center for British political and intelligence activities in the Middle East after World War II. The agent passed on copies of top-secret documents on British intelligence operations in the region, including names of agents, copies of receipts for bribery payments to Arab leaders and secret agreements by various Arab politicians to undertake to collaborate with the British.

For example, Mohsen al-Barazi, the Syrian president's private secretary, was a British agent who later became foreign minister and prime minister. He was handled by Walter Stirling, who operated in Damascus from 1946-1949 under the guise of a journalist for The Times of London. In November 1949 Stirling was shot by an unknown assailant in Damascus and severely wounded. Another informer was Ibn Saud's private doctor, who was handled by William Smart, a diplomat in the British Embassy in Cairo. The information received gave the French ample opportunity to blackmail Arab politicians and force them to collaborate with them.

The British Legation in Beirut was also the target of a joint operation by the Hagana (The Jewish Agency Defense Force) and French Intelligence. On December 15, 1947, about 20 Hagana fighters seized a British truck north of Acre carrying half a ton of documents from the British Legation in Beirut's archives and 12 sacks of diplomatic mail en route to Haifa Port and from there to England. The documents were returned to the British only after being thoroughly examined by the Hagana and a French intelligence officer who was dispatched to Tel Aviv.

SYRIAN AND British documents in the French archives provide a rare glimpse of the modus operandi of the British diplomats and intelligence officers in the Middle East, which is seldom seen in the British archives. After the war, British intelligence formed a chain of agents and informers around each of the Arab kings or presidents, including their trusted allies, the Hashemite sovereigns in Iraq and Jordan. For instance, copies of private letters from Jordanian Crown Prince Talal to his father King Abdullah, and from the latter to his nephew, the Iraqi regent Abd al-Ilah, reached the British Legation in Beirut, and subsequently French Intelligence.

The British exerted considerable influence behind the scenes in Arab politics after securing the secret collaboration of prominent Arab nationalist leaders such as Quwatly, his prime minister Jamil Mardam, the Lebanese prime minister Riyad al-Sulh, as well as Abd al-Rahman Azzam, the secretary-general of the Arab League. The British often acted indirectly in the highly-divided Arab world, particularly in the Jewish-Arab conflict in Palestine in 1947-1948, using their allies to conceal their involvement. For example, in July 1947, following a British request, Quwatly wrote to King Farouk of Egypt warning him not to collaborate with France as it was supporting the Zionists.

Sulh and Azzam were to play key roles in British covert activities in Palestine during the critical months between the UN partition resolution on November 29, 1947, and the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948. At the end of April and in early May 1948, Sulh mediated in an agreement between Jordan and Iraq on the one hand and Egypt on the other, on the invasion of the Jewish state. Azzam, who, according to French and Egyptian sources, was being bribed by the British, worked closely with Brigadier Iltyd Clayton, a shadowy personality. Clayton was officially a liaison officer to the Arab League, but behind the scenes he wielded considerable influence on British policy in the Middle East after the war. Azzam was instrumental in shaping the Arab policy in Palestine as the Arab League, in the absence of a Palestinian government, represented the Palestinian cause.

BRITAIN'S ROLE in the Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine in 1948 is still a subject of controversy among historians. In the 1980s, the release of documents in British archives did not dispel the controversy - on the contrary, it provoked even more. However, the documents in French archives reveal that in 1948, the British employed tactics against the Zionists similar to those they had used so successfully against the French in Syria and Lebanon three years previously. In both cases, the official policy of the cabinet in London was contradicted by the actions of the British diplomats and military and intelligence officers in the region. Whereas in London foreign minister Ernest Bevin was declaring Britain's intent to end its mandate in Palestine and maintain neutrality in the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, in the Middle East, British officials openly supported the Arabs and sought to prevent the establishment of the Jewish state.

Until now, historians have failed to find conclusive evidence in British archives either validating de Gaulle's accusations of a British conspiracy against France in Syria and Lebanon, or David Ben-Gurion's charges that the British strove to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state. (Apparently, the British are extremely efficient when it comes to concealing their dirty deeds.)

In 1947-1948, Britain's most pressing agenda in the Middle East was to conclude defense treaties with Arab states to secure its strategic position and economic interests (oil) in the region in face of the growing Soviet threat. The documents in the French archives attest to Britain's cynical use of the "communist" and "Zionist" cards to persuade reluctant Arab leaders - who were under pressure from their anti-British nationalist public - to realign themselves with the British Empire. British diplomats intentionally fanned fears of a third world war, in which the Middle East would become a battleground. Arab communist parties, they warned, were acting on Moscow's instructions to undermine the Arab regimes, just like the Soviet Union was doing in Eastern Europe.

From early 1948, British officials increasingly equated Zionism with communism. They warned that a Jewish state would become a center of communist influence, disrupting the social and economic order in the region. As the Cold War in Europe escalated, such claims had considerable impact even in the State Department and the Department of Defense in Washington.

British officials voiced these arguments at a meeting with their French counterparts in Paris in mid-February. They explained the dilemma facing their government in Palestine: Support for partition and the subsequent establishment of a Jewish state would turn the Arab world against Britain, while British endorsement of the Arab position would lead to a confrontation with the United States. (The UN resolution also envisaged a Palestinian state.) The main goal of the British policy at that time was indeed to solve this dilemma by persuading the US to realign its policy in the Middle East with that of Britain.

In an attempt to dissuade the French from supporting the Zionists, British diplomats repeatedly warned French officials of the dangers in a Jewish state becoming a center for communism in the Middle East. While admitting that Ben-Gurion was not pro-communist, they cautioned that he might be ousted by parties on the Left, whose influence in the Hagana was growing. Another argument used effectively by the British in their psychological warfare was that the Lehi - the anti-British Jewish underground group - had been infiltrated by Soviet agents.

IN THE aftermath of the UN partition resolution, the French identified two approaches toward the crisis in Palestine among British officials in the Middle East, which they termed the "Clayton" and "Glubb" approaches. The first argued that Britain should rely on an Iraqi-Syrian axis, forgoing the plan for a Greater Syria (comprising Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, under Abdullah), which was putting Britain in direct confrontation with Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

It advocated dividing up Palestine and using its various parts to coerce the Arab leaders into acquiescing in a defense alliance with Britain. Syria would receive Galilee; Iraq would gain access to the port of Haifa, where the pipelines of the Iraqi Oil Company terminated and a refinery was located; Jordan would receive the region known today as the West Bank and most parts of the Negev; Egypt would get the adjacent Palestinian region on the Mediterranean coast.

The Glubb approach, named after John Bagot Glubb, the British commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, argued that Britain should rely primarily on King Abdullah of Jordan and continue to promote the Greater Syria plan. Most of Palestine, therefore, would be incorporated into Jordan. In fact, both approaches envisaged either a Jewish autonomous entity within a greater Jordan, or a smaller Jewish state on the coast between Atlit (south of Haifa) and Tel Aviv that would clearly be unviable and would not endanger British or Arab interests.

Iraq's refusal to ratify its treaty with Britain in January 1948, after the regent, Abd al-Ilah, had to retreat in the face of large public demonstrations that led to hundreds of casualties, bolstered the Jordanian option. In February, the Jordanian prime minister traveled to London with Glubb, where he concluded a new Anglo-Jordanian treaty. But the Clayton formula was not dead yet. It was to be revived in the following months.

The failure of British efforts to convince the Iraqi regent to ratify the Anglo-Iraqi treaty, which was intended to serve as a precedent for treaties with other Arab countries, intensified the use the British made of the Zionist card. French reports describe in detail the repercussions of their failure in Iraq on British policy in Palestine. Ben-Gurion, who was kept well-informed by his top adviser on Arab affairs, Eliahu (Elias) Sasson, wrote in his war diary on March 7: "Clayton went to Syria - the British want to make Syria their base after failing in Iraq and Egypt. The situation in the Arab world is difficult - riots in Iraq and Britain is trying to concentrate Arab thoughts on Palestine."

Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency, and Moshe Sharett (Shertok), head of its Political Department, were well aware of the British double game. They were both receiving information not only from the Hagana's secret service, but also directly from the French. The information provided by the French in 1948, including from their agent in Damascus, was crucial for the two Zionist leaders in uncovering Britain's and the Arabs' secret plans in Palestine.

Clandestine Franco-Zionist collaboration, which began under General de Gaulle in the summer of 1945, became institutionalized and intimate under the Fourth Republic. A French memorandum on the eve of Sharett's visit to Paris in April 1946 to conclude a secret agreement defined the areas of possible collaboration with the Zionist movement, as follows: "The envisaged collaboration could operate in a very wide framework. It would be enough if there was an agreement in principle, upheld by a discrete connection, exchange of information and, at regular intervals, joint decisions on certain points of the policy to be followed. The object of this partnership, the Lebanese Christian, could be completely unaware of the understanding between his protectors.

It is clear that the Franco-Zionist collaboration could intervene in many other places besides the Levant, without ever being exposed: study of the development of political, social, cultural and economic trends in the Middle East, North African policy or international propaganda."

The memorandum reveals that one of the main goals of France's secret collaboration with the Zionists was protection of the Christians in Lebanon. In fact, in May 1946, the French were secretly involved in promoting an agreement between the Jewish Agency and the Maronite Church. The French were also involved behind the scenes in an agreement concluded that year between the Jewish Agency and the Egyptian prime minister, Ismail Sidqi, on a two-state solution in Palestine.

THE FRANCO-ZIONIST collaboration was based on shared interests. Apart from taking vengeance on the British for their role in expelling them from Syria and Lebanon, the French were extremely concerned about British subversion in North Africa. Syrian Foreign Ministry documents reveal that British officials in Cairo were directly involved in undermining France's position in North Africa and even pressed Arab leaders to act against the French there. Arab League secretary-general Azzam collaborated closely with Clayton in these activities. When French officials complained at their meeting with the British in mid-February 1948 about Clayton's subversive activities in French North Africa, the British response was evasive.

It is understandable, therefore, that in discussions in French military circles on whether France should support the establishment of a Jewish state, it was argued that an Arab victory in Palestine would strengthen Syria, the center of anti-French activity, as well as the Arab League, and threaten France's position in North Africa.

For its part, an alliance with France was essential for the Zionist movement, as it would facilitate illegal immigration and the purchase of arms, and help in the propaganda campaign, as it had in the Exodus affair.

The French, however, were extremely anxious to conceal their collaboration with the Jewish Agency in clandestine activities. France, which was undergoing acute political and economic crises and desperately needed Britain's support to regain its position as a great power, could not afford to antagonize the British by openly collaborating with the Zionists. Moreover, the French feared a reaction in the Arab world, where they still had considerable political, economic and cultural interests, as well as among the Muslims in North Africa, if their support of the Jewish cause was revealed.

The French Intelligence Service took extraordinary steps not to endanger its agent in Damascus and was extremely cautious with the information it relayed to the head of the Jewish Agency. Only a handful of people in the Jewish Agency were involved in the clandestine collaboration with the French, and even fewer were aware of the true source of the information on the Arab and British secret plans provided by the French. So far, it has been possible to establish that only Ben-Gurion; Sharett; Reuven Shiloah (Zaslany), Ben-Gurion's chief intelligence adviser; Eliahu Sasson, Ben-Gurion's top adviser on Arab affairs; Morris Fischer, the Jewish Agency representative in Paris (who was formerly an intelligence officer in de Gaulle's Free France in Syria and Lebanon); Tuvia Arazi, head of the Hagana's secret service in Haifa; and Eliahu Epstein (Elath), who served in the Jewish Agency's office in the US, were involved.

Sasson, head of the Arab Section in the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, was a key player in this secret collaboration with the French from 1946-1949. Intelligence information from the French was relayed mainly through him directly to Ben-Gurion during the critical months from December 1947 until May 1948. Born in Damascus, Sasson, who joined the Jewish Agency in 1933, was an entire intelligence organization in himself. His role in the establishment of the State of Israel is yet to be revealed, as these activities were conducted in utmost secrecy.

Reports by French officers of their meetings with him provide only a glimpse of his clandestine activities. He had intimate knowledge of the complex Arab arena and knew personally many of the Arab leaders. It was no coincidence that among Ben-Gurion's advisers on Arab affairs, he was the only one who warned early on that the Arab states would go to war and that King Abdullah, caught in a British snare, would be unable to conclude an agreement with the Jewish Agency on the partition of Palestine.

Sasson stayed in besieged Jerusalem until April 1948 to maintain his contacts with the French consulate, through which information arrived from Beirut and Paris. Only when the consulate came under constant Arab fire, which disrupted its operations, did he move to Tel Aviv. In fact, the French were convinced that the British had an inkling of what was going on and were behind the shelling of their compound, which continued throughout the war. In early May, Sasson traveled to Paris, where he had direct access to intelligence information acquired by the French from their agents in the Middle East. He remained there until 1949, renewing his contacts with Arab officials. He was also involved in the cease-fire negotiations in Rhodes.

IN DISCUSSIONS with their French counterparts in February and March 1948, British diplomats were confident that the US would withdraw its support for a Jewish state in light of the Arabs' violent resistance and military successes. Britain, they argued, would again be asked to play a central role in Palestine. On one occasion, a British diplomat remarked that the besieged Jewish city of Jerusalem, whose 100,000 inhabitants lacked food and water, might surrender to the Arabs, forcing Ben-Gurion to resign. He might be replaced by a more moderate leader such as Yehuda Magnes, president of the Hebrew University, who would accept a compromise solution such as a binational state.

British and Arab expectations were reinforced by growing opposition to the UN partition resolution in the US State Department and Department of Defense. But their hopes were dashed in April, after the Hagana's counterattack and the occupation of the mixed towns of Tiberias, Safed, Jaffa, Acre and Haifa. This was a clear message to the Arab states, Britain, the United States and the UN that the Jews in Palestine were determined to win the war and establish their own independent sovereign state.

As tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees streamed across their borders and public demands for immediate military intervention intensified, the Arab leaders were trapped between the expectations raised by their declarations of an imminent victory and the realization that their countries were ill prepared for an all-out confrontation. Egyptian army commanders warned King Farouk that they lacked sufficient arms and ammunition for a war in Palestine, while the Lebanese premier, Sulh, later admitted: "If the Jews want to take Beirut, they can take it with no difficulty."

In these critical weeks at the end of April and early May, Britain was to make its most underhanded move in its entire controversial policy in Palestine, when it deliberately manipulated and urged the Arab leaders to go to war against the Jewish state.

Asked by a French officer on his country's stand on a possible all-out confrontation between the Jews and the Arab states, a high-ranking British officer responded that Britain would not necessarily see such a conflict as a bad thing. An Arab victory would strengthen Britain's influence and prestige in the Arab world, while a defeat would weaken the Arab states, whose leaders would be have to turn to Britain for support.

Such views were prevalent at the time among many British officials in both the Middle East and the Foreign Office. Arab officials made similar charges. For example, after Golda Meir's meeting with King Abdullah on May 11, in the Jewish Agency's last attempt to persuade the Jordanian sovereign not to go to war, Muhammad al-Zubati, his private secretary, told Ezra Danin, who accompanied Meir as a translator, that "it was the British who were pushing him [the king] and involving the Iraqis too, because the Iraqis had refused to sign a treaty and the British therefore wanted to send them to the front so that they would be beaten and brought to their knees."

In fact, before the Arab invasion, the British army command was confident that the Jewish defense forces, exhausted by more than five months of civil war, would be unable to withstand an all-out offensive by the Arab states' regular armies. The British nevertheless wanted to ensure an Arab victory.

SHORTLY AFTER the Arab forces invaded the newly established State of Israel, the French ambassador and the military attaché in Cairo reported that King Farouk decided to take part in the invasion only after receiving assurances from the British that they would secretly provide arms and ammunition to the Egyptian army from their depots in the Suez Canal zone. They also reported that Azzam was instrumental in persuading the king and his reluctant prime minister, Mahmud Fahmi al-Nuqrashi, to change their stand. French diplomats in Cairo also reported that British officers stationed in Libya were helping volunteers from French North Africa to join the war in Palestine. The French documents seen so far do not clarify what the British officials in Cairo promised Farouk to obtain his agreement to go to war.

An intelligence report prepared by the French military attaché in Beirut on May 11 sheds new light on direct British involvement in the war in Palestine. The report, which was clearly based on inside information, reveals details of the discussions in the Arab League's political and military committees convened in Damascus on the eve of the invasion. For the first time, we have confirmation of British intervention in the planning of the Arab invasion, including the last-minute change of the commander of the joint Arab forces.

The report highlights the Arab leaders' hesitation to go to war and confirms that most of them were willing to endorse the last-minute American initiative to delay the British evacuation by 10 days in order to continue diplomatic efforts to prevent an all-out war. It reveals that the Arab leaders were willing to agree to this initiative, but were forced to fall in line with Abdullah's decision to go to war. The British government, in fact, which had not only rejected the American appeal but had brought forward the evacuation of its troops from Palestine to May 14, was behind Abdullah's stand.

French documents reinforce allegations made by Israeli leaders at the time that Britain had left little choice for Abdullah but to go to war. Indeed, the attack of the Arab Legion on the four Jewish settlements of the Etzion Bloc south of Jerusalem on the morning of May 12, upon the instructions of its British commander, Glubb Pasha, had a clear political motive: to demonstrate the Legion's military superiority to the wavering Arab leaders, including Abdullah himself. (Scores of the settlers who had surrendered were murdered and 320 of the survivors were taken as prisoners of war to Amman the following day.)

The French attache's report explains the last-minute change in the command of the Arab forces and its invasion plan. The original plan had called for the occupation of Haifa by joint Iraqi-Jordanian forces and for the Syrian forces to invade Galilee from Bint Jbail in Lebanon. In the revised plan, Tel Aviv was the main target and was to be attacked by the Egyptian army from the south. The Jordanian Arab Legion was to renew the siege on Jewish Jerusalem and advance westwards on Tel Aviv through the Arab cities of Lydda and Ramle.

The Iraqi and Syrian forces were given a secondary role. The Syrian brigade, which was already in Nabatiyeh, near Bint Jbail, was forced at the last minute to move to Kuneitra, in the Golan Heights, losing precious time. This change in the Arabs' strategy was the outcome of the British success in persuading Abdullah and Farouk to collaborate.

The first part of the report was encoded and wired from Beirut to the French consulate in Jerusalem on May 12 omitting details that could have revealed that the French had inside information. The same evening it was passed on to Shiloah, Ben-Gurion's chief intelligence adviser, with a comment added by the Israeli liaison officers: "The information on the Arab forces was sent to us by our French friends in Beirut. Their reports are usually accurate."

The information received from the French was crucial. Three days before the Arab invasion, Ben-Gurion learned of the Arab decision to attack the new state; Egypt's intention to join the attack; the size of the Arab forces involved; the directions of the attacks; the nature of the offensive; that Tel Aviv was to be the main target and was to be bombed from the air. It can be ascertained from previous occasions that on the following day a French intelligence officer was sent from Beirut to Haifa to update the Israelis face to face.

Apart from the report received from Beirut, Ben-Gurion almost certainly received information from the French through Moshe Sharett. Sharett had left New York on May 9 aboard an Air France flight to Paris, continued via Athens, and arrived in Tel Aviv late in the evening of May 11. His daughter, Yael, who accompanied him, recalls that he was met at the airport by several "familiar faces," one of whom was Sasson, who, as mentioned above, had arrived in Paris in early May to speed up the evaluation and transfer to Ben-Gurion and Sharett of the intelligence information received in Paris from Beirut. The meeting was probably used to brief Sharett on last-minute decisions taken by the Arab leaders in Damascus.

Late at night on May 12, 10 of the 13 members of the provisional Israeli government, by a majority of six to four, made the historic decision to establish an independent Jewish state, named Israel. On May 14, at a ceremony held at the Tel Aviv Museum, Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The following day, the Arab forces invaded.

On November 7, 1945, Constantine Zurayk, a diplomat in the Syrian Embassy in Washington, informed his Foreign Ministry in Damascus of a conversation he had with an American State Department official, who stressed that whereas the United States was striving for a friendly agreement between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, Britain was exploiting the conflict there to secure its control over the Arab world and wouldn't stop until there was bloodshed in Palestine. Two and a half years later, his warning came true.

The writer is a professor in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Haniyeh promises Gaza truce to go on, if Israel complies

Last update - 20:36 21/11/2008       
Haniyeh: If Israel abides by truce, so will Palestinian groups
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
Palestinian armed groups in Gaza remain committed to a truce with Israel if Jerusalem reciprocates, Hamas's Gaza leader said on Friday, even as militants launched more attacks from the coastal territory.
"I have met with armed factions over the past two days and they stated their position clearly: they are committed to calm as long as (Israel) abides by it," said Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas's most senior representative in Gaza.
A Qassam rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip exploded in an industrial area south of the Negev city of Ashkelon on Friday, Israel Polcie said.
There were no injuries reported in the incident, which came as weeks of traded violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip threatened to unravel a 5-month-old cease-fire.
Haniyeh, who was speaking after Friday prayers in Gaza, also sought to calm tensions which have arisen with Egypt following a breakdown of reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah which the Egyptians have been mediating.
"In day-to-day relations there may be differences, this is true, but it does not mean that there is a strategic tension with our brothers in Egypt," Haniyeh said.
Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair called on both sides to end the violence and said the five-month-old truce has been "crucial" in providing security to Israelis and Palestinians.
"The only lasting solution to the desperate situation in Gaza will require an end to terrorist attacks, continued restraint, and the opening of the crossings," Blair said in a statement.
Earlier Friday, Palestinian militants fired two mortar shells at an Israel Defenses Forces patrol near the Kissufim crossing between Israel and Gaza. There were no injuries in the attack, which was claimed by the Popular Resistance Committeees.
After some two weeks of rocket barrages by the dozens, Hamas has said it stopped firing rockets and is working to rein in the smaller groups. One Qassasm rocket hit the western Negev Thursday.
The Israel Air Force has responded to the rockets with air strikes of its own, killing a number of militants in recent weeks.
The Israel Defense Forces has kept crossings into Gaza mostly shut over the last few weeks because of the ongoing rocket fire.
Israel has allowed a trickle of key supplies into Gaza over the course of the truce, but has much stricter about the openings since the flurry of rocket fire resumed on November 4.
The closure has caused shortages of basic goods and fuel for Gaza's 1.4
million Palestinian resident.

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Jews and Muslims fight race hate together in USA

If this is on the level, it is wonderful, isn't it? Can we include Christians and atheists in this too? How about Hindus? They seem to get a bad rap in the Ibrahimic faiths, no?  
Last update - 11:58 21/11/2008       
U.S. Jews, Muslims launch unprecedented drive against anti-Semitism, xenophobia
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
Dozens of synagogues and mosques across the United States and Canada are to take part in a first-of-its-kind three-day joint public relations campaign against anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim xenophobia beginning on Friday.
The initiative, which was given the code-name "Twinning," calls for close cooperation between rabbis and imams based in some of the largest cities in North America, including Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Palm Beach, St. Louis, and Washington DC.
Organizers say the venture, which will encompass an estimated 100,000 Jews and Muslims, will feature rabbis appearing before Muslim congregants in mosques while imams address Jewish worshipers at synagogues. In addition, workshops and symposiums will be held to examine ways to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic hatred.
The event comes two weeks after Saudi King Abdullah appeared at an UN-sponsored interfaith conference in New York during which the monarch called for religious leaders to promote greater tolerance and moderation.
The event is the brainchild of Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, an organization devoted to improving ties between the Jewish and Muslim communities in the United States.
Schneier told Haaretz the venture was launched with the acknowledgement that the fight against extremism and radical Islam needs to be waged within Islam, thus requiring others to strengthen the moderate elements within Islam.

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Taglit: Assimilation is the number one enemy of the Jewish people

By Haaretz Staff
The major threat facing the Jewish people is not anti-Semitism but assimilation, says CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, Gidi Mark. And while Taglit sponsors free trips to Israel for thousands of young Jews every year, Mark says, thousands more are slipping through the cracks.
"We have been witnessing over the last 20 years a huge decline in the demographic of young Jews around the world and in North America in particular," Mark told Haaretz this week. "To date, Taglit-Birthright Israel has been almost the only - or at least the main - bridge connecting young Jews to Israel, and for many of them, also to their own Jewish identity."
Every year, thousands of Jewish youths aged 18-26 who have never been on an organized trip to Israel take part in Taglit's programs - for many, it is their first exposure to Israel and Judaism. According to Mark, the trip allows Jewish youth to see Israel in its reality, rather than through the filtered lens of the media.

"Most of the information that our participants get in their image of Israel is through television news or Internet news and the only way to show them the real picture is to take them through the screen, take them to Israel, and show them the reality," he said. "You can't get a clear picture than this one."
"The 10-day trip is a springboard for tens of thousands of [Jewish youths] who felt alienated before and who felt distanced from the State of Israel to look for more meaning and connection to their Jewish identity and to the State of Israel," he said, adding: "The educational trip to Israel is perhaps the strongest single most effective in terms of changing attitude over a short time."
Participants on the trips are brought from 52 countries around the world. In addition, thousands of Israelis - most of them soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces - join the program each year. This enables the Diaspora participants to encounter the country through the eyes of their Israeli counterparts, said Mark.
"One of the many innovations of Taglit-Birthright Israel is the standardized encounter with Israeli peers, which is called mifgash in Hebrew," said Mark. "Participants have the opportunity to get their impression of Israel through an uncensored 24 hours a day meeting with Israeli peers."
According to Mark, the Israeli participants are just as excited to take part in the program. It provides them "with a rare opportunity to feel they are a part of the Jewish people with a sense of responsibility and connectedness," he said. "There is a wait list in the IDF."
While participants on the 10-day trip may "not know the whole complexity of Israel as someone here for two years," Mark said, it gives them more than the "20 second" news clips they would otherwise be receiving. He believes the trip itself has provided many with the impetus to immigrate to Israel. "Today there are over 10,000 alumni who live in Israel in addition to the 30,000 Israelis."
While there are tens of thousands of Birthright Israel alumni from around the world, Mark said that thousands more miss out on the opportunity because the resources of the program are limited.
"We discovered that most of the registrants from North America who cannot go because of our limited resources don't bother to reapply and they are lost, in many aspects, to the organized Jewish community," he said. "These people are unlikely to try to connect again."
"The ones who apply and we don't take, we don't have the resources to engage them again, because we are under constant surplus of demand by young Jews," he went on. "Taglit has created a revolution because until not more than 10 years ago there were millions of dollars in subsisdies for trips to Israel waiting for young Jews to apply and go to Israel without much demand. And now with huge demand we don't have enough funds to cater to this need.
"We need to remember that tens of thousands of applicants who do not go on Birthright Israel will never apply again, not only to go to Israel but to any Jewish activity. Now, more than ever, this bridge that we have built towards a better Jewish future must be strengthened," he said.
Mark said that Taglit hopes to continue its programming for as long as possible. "We believe this is exactly what the Jewish people need to avoid assimilation. We are not yet there in the magnitude and scope that we need to in order to stop the demographic danger, but we know this is one of the best solutions."
"Ninety-five percent of our participants register on Birthright based on recommendation of friends, and that says everything. We have 20,000 alumni and 400,000 parents and 800,000 grandparents," he said. "I think we touch almost every Jewish family around the world in one way or another and whenever you mentioned Birthright Israel you get a lot of support - I hope this turns into financial support, to increase the scope of our program into a much bigger picture."
Taglit benefits not just the young participants, but Jewish communities on the whole and the Israeli economy as well, said Mark.
"It is now accepted around all sectors that believe Birthright Israel is the most successful project in the Jewish people because it has both an impact on the participants, on the communities and on the Israeli economy," he said.
"Taglit has introduced to the Israeli economy over $350 million, with hundreds of thousands of employees, hundreds of thousands of hotel beds, and the use of buses and tour guides," Mark added. "We have become a major sector in the tourism industry in Israel, which is considered the best potential locomotive to create growth, especially these days, supporting Birthright is a combination of supporting both local communities and the State of Israel.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Experts: Iran has enough low leverl enriched uranium for nukes

According to experts quoted by the New York Times, Iran has enough enriched Uranium to make a nuclear weapon. This seems to be true and not true. Iran always had enough uranium to make a bomb, if it could be purified. It now has about 630 KG of low enriched uranium. This may be 5% to 20% U-235. According to the IAEA report, we are talking about 5% enriched Uranium. Critical mass for a bomb is about 50 kg of (presumably pure or highly enriched) U-235 according to Wikipeda. In 630 KG of 5% enriched uranium there are only 31.5 KG of enriched Uranium. With 20% enriched uranium, you would require at least 400 KG.
But if a different (implosion) design is used, they might be able to make a bomb with as little as 20 pounds of uranium (less than 10 KG):
However, less widely known is that uranium can be used in the different type of bomb design that was tested in New Mexico and dropped on Nagasaki. This other approach, the implosion design, must be used if the fuel is plutonium. (Because of its differing, more temperamental nuclear properties, plutonium in a gun bomb would predetonate, or fizzle.) An implosion bomb is a much more subtle and delicate thing, harder to construct from scratch than a gun bomb. However, an implosion bomb can indeed be fueled by weapons grade uranium instead of plutonium. Sources estimate that an implosion design U-235 bomb would need only twenty pounds of fuel, instead of forty. This is because the implosion approach assembles a super-critical mass more efficiently. The barrier to WMD implementation has just been cut in half. Not good news. (See here)
And the same source claims:
More sophisticated implosion designs do more than simply collapse a hollow sphere into a solid one. They achieve such a strong and perfectly shaped implosive force that the solid sphere is actually compressed. Compression into a volume as small as one-fourth that of unstressed solid metal has been reported. In other words, the density of the bomb fuel is as much as quadrupled. Because of the physics involved, this higher density requires less total weight of fuel for a large atomic explosion to occur. The degree of reduction in the amount of fuel required by such a compression-implosion device is classified. I make a semi-educated guess that if the bomb quadruples the density, the weight of fuel needed might be cut in half. If so, ten pounds of weapons grade U-235 would achieve a yield of several kilotons, maybe even a dozen - Hiroshima-scale devastation with only one quarter the fuel. Or, viewed differently, four times as numerous an arsenal for the same amount of fuel. Frightening thoughts.
Iran Said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon
Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.
The figures detailing Iran's progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country's main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.
Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.
"They clearly have enough material for a bomb," said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. "They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that's another matter."
Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.
While some Iranian officials have threatened to bar inspectors in the past, the country has made no such moves, and many experts inside the Bush administration and the I.A.E.A. believe it will avoid the risk of attempting "nuclear breakout" until it possessed a larger uranium supply.
Even so, for President-elect Barack Obama, the report underscores the magnitude of the problem that he will inherit Jan. 20: an Iranian nuclear program that has not only solved many technical problems of uranium enrichment, but that can also now credibly claim to possess enough material to make a weapon if negotiations with Europe and the United States break down.
American intelligence agencies have said Iran could make a bomb between 2009 and 2015. A national intelligence estimate made public late last year concluded that around the end of 2003, after long effort, Iran had halted work on an actual weapon. But enriching uranium, and obtaining enough material to build a weapon, is considered the most difficult part of the process.
Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile "underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option."
In the report to its board, the atomic agency said Iran's main enrichment plant was now feeding uranium into about 3,800 centrifuges — machines that spin incredibly fast to enrich the element into nuclear fuel. That count is the same as in the agency's last quarterly report, in September. Iran began installing the centrifuges in early 2007. But the new report's total of 630 kilograms — an increase of about 150 — shows that Iran has been making progress in accumulating material to make nuclear fuel.
That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said.
"They have a weapon's worth," Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that tracks atomic arsenals, said in an interview.
He said the amount was suitable for a relatively advanced implosion-type weapon like the one dropped on Nagasaki. Its core, he added, would be about the size of a grapefruit. He said a cruder design would require about twice as much weapon-grade fuel.
"It's a virtual milestone," Dr. Cochran said of Iran's stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about "where they're going."
The agency's report made no mention of the possible military implications of the size of Iran's stockpile. And some experts said the milestone was still months away. In an analysis of the I.A.E.A. report, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, estimated that Iran had not yet reached the mark but would "within a few months." It added that other analysts estimated it might take as much as a year.
Whatever the exact date, it added, "Iran is progressing" toward the ability to quickly make enough weapon-grade uranium for a warhead.
Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist, cautioned that the Iranian stockpile fell slightly short of what international officials conservatively estimate as the minimum threatening amount of nuclear fuel. "They're very close," he said of the Iranians in an interview. "If it isn't tomorrow, it's soon," probably a matter of months.
In its report, the I.A.E.A., which is based in Vienna, said Iran was working hard to roughly double its number of operating centrifuges.
A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.
The atomic energy agency said Iran was continuing to evade questions about its suspected work on nuclear warheads. In a separate report released Wednesday, the agency said, as expected, that it had found ambiguous traces of uranium at a suspected Syrian reactor site bombed by Israel last year.
"While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use," the report said, the building's features "along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site." Syria has said the uranium came from Israeli bombs.

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As oil falls below $50 a barrel, greedy OPEC tries to create a scarcity

The price of oil, which skyrocketed to bring down the economic house of cards, is now headed south. For the Middle East, this is of great significance. Economies of oil rich Arab states geared their budgets and spending to $100 a barrel prices. Most will fall into deficit if the price remains at $50. Iran is at a deficit since the price fell below $90. OPEC attempts to limit production in order to pay for bare necessities like artificial islands and ski parks in the desert will fail. Nobody has the money for expensive oil.
November 21, 2008

Oil Falls Below $50, Lowest Price Since January 2007

LONDON — Oil plunged below $50 a barrel on Thursday, deepening losses over the previous four sessions as battered financial markets reflected ever lower confidence in the world economy and evidence mounted of falling fuel demand.

Crude oil in New York trading fell $3.71, to $49.91 a barrel, the weakest level since January 2007.

As economic slowdown has destroyed fuel demand, oil companies plan to store millions of barrels of oil in the hope economics will improve.

Oil has lost about two-thirds of its value since July's record above $147, in part because a global credit crunch has made investors pull their money out of riskier assets.

The falls on oil have mirrored weakness on equity markets, which dropped again on Thursday when European stocks hit their lowest level since March 2003.

"Weakness in stocks reflects weakness in the economy at the moment looking forward, but I think the general trend in oil is lower anyway," Sucden's head of research Michael Davies said. "It's a bit of a chicken or egg thing. Everything's moving together, it's hard to say what's leading."

Oil differs from other commodity markets in that producer group the Organization of the Petroleum exporting Countries can intervene to curb supplies, in theory providing support for prices.

Since early September, OPEC has said it will remove around 2 million barrels per day from international markets, but the market has taken the view falling demand is a bigger factor than tightening supply.

Deutsche Bank said on Wednesday oil could fall to as low as $40 a barrel next year.


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Abdullah II warns: Gaza action could snowball into Jordanian instability

If it is supposed to be a secret, who leaked it and why?
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak paid a secret visit to Jordan Tuesday, where King Abdullah asked them to avoid green-lighting IDF action in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported Thursday.
Quoting a "senior diplomatic official" in Jerusalem, the radio said Abdullah told the two that any Israeli action in the Strip could snowball into instability in Jordan, many of whose citizens are Palestinians or of Palestinian origin.
According to Israel Army Radio, Olmert and Barak told the Hashemite monarch that Israel could not sit back for long while Gaza militants continued to fire missiles and mortars at southern Israel.
Olmert and Barak are coming in for increasing pressure in Israel to launch some sort of ground operation in the Gaza Strip, as a truce with Gaza militias has all but formally collapsed, in wake of Palestinian missile attacks and Israel Air Force strikes against missile-launching teams.

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Polls show right will win Israeli election

Three polls show the right bloc would win the Israeli elections if held today.
"Right Bloc":  Likud, Yisrael Beiteynu Jewish Home (NRP and National Uniion)
"Left -Center"
Kadima Labor Meretz
            Right        Left
Poll 1        51        41
Poll 2        47        41
Poll 3        48        45
(Apologies in advance if the above is not aligned).
With the Shas party (10-13) and United Torah Judaism, the right has a winning coalition in any case and doesn't need to form a National Unity Government.
A fairly large percentage are still undecided.
Dr. Ami Isseroff
3 polls Likud 32-34, Kadima 23-28, Labor 8-10
Dr. Aaron Lerner Date 20 November 2008

Poll #1 Telephone poll of a representative sample of 536 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by Maagar Mohot Survey Institute
(headed by Professor Yitzchak Katz for Israel Radio's Hakol Diburim (It's All Talk) 19 November 2008.28% undecided with undecided allocated proportionally.

Poll #2  Telephone poll of a representative sample of 500 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by Dahaf 19 November 2008 and published in Yediot Ahronot on 20 November.

Poll #3 Telephone poll of a representative sample of 488 adult Israelis (including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by Dialog poll under the supervision
of Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University on 18 November 2009 published in Haaretz on 20 November

#1  #2 #3
23  26 28  [29] Kadima headed by Livni
08  08 10  [19] Labor
34  32 34  [12] Likud
13  11 10  [12] Shas
10  09 10  [11] Yisrael Beteinu
07  06 04  [09] "Jewish Home" (previously Nat'l Union/NRP)
05  07 06  [06] Yahadut Hatorah
10  07 07  [05] Meretz
01  03 00  [00] Green Party
00  00 00  [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
00  00 00  [07] Retirees Party
09  11 11  [10] Arab parties
00  00 00  [00] Meimad
00  00 00  [00] Strong Israel (Efraim Sneh)
00  00 00  [00] Hatikvah (Eldad)

Additional Poll#1 Maagar Mohot  details crosstabilation

How would vote today according to who voted for in 2003:
Column #1 = voted Labor in 2003
Column #2 = voted Likud in 2003
Column #3 = voted Kadima in 2003
Column #4 = total sample

For example, 26% of those who voted for Kadima in 2003 will vote for Likud
While 6% of people who voted Likud in 2003 don't know how they wil vote, 21%
of those who voted Likud in 2003 haven't decided how to vote.

#1--- #2-- #3-- #4
28% 13% 33% 14% Kadima headed by Livni
37% 00% 10% 05% Labor
02% 67% 26% 20% Likud
00% 04% 03% 08% Shas
02% 04% 03% 06% Yisrael Beteinu
00% 02% 00% 04% "Jewish Home" (previously Nat'l Union/NRP)
00% 00% 00% 03% Yahadut Hatorah
06% 02% 04% 06% Meretz
00% 00% 00% 01% Green Party
00% 00% 00% 00% Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
00% 02% 00% 00% Retirees Party
00% 00% 00% 05% Arab parties
00% 00% 00% 00% Meimad
00% 00% 00% 00% Strong Israel (Efraim Sneh)
00% 00% 00% 00% Hatikvah (Eldad)
25% 06% 21% 28% Don't know

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

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Letter to the Editor / Museum of Tolerance is a beacon of light, not a wall

Regarding Bradley Burston's article "Dividing Jerusalem, one wall at a time"
Bradley Burston criticizes the Museum of Tolerance project in Jerusalem claiming it would be "dividing Jerusalem one wall at a time" because it is being built atop an ancient Muslim cemetery.
What he deliberately hides from his readers is that the land was given to the Simon Wiesenthal Center by the government of Israel and the City of Jerusalem, who presented petitions to the Supreme Court in support of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.
He also obscures the fact that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is not building on the nearby Mamilla cemetery, but on the adjacent site which, for nearly a half-century, served as Jerusalem's municipal car park where every day hundreds of Jews, Christians and Muslims parked their cars. Electric cable and sewer lines were laid below the ground.
During all this time, not a single Muslim group or individual, including today's most vociferous critics said a word in protest although as they argued before the Court they knew all along it was a cemetery, yet kept silent for a half-century.
As the Supreme Court concluded in its ruling, "Israel is a small strip of land, of great antiquity, with a history that extends over thousands of years... In our case, the area of the museum compound was separated from the Muslim Mamilla cemetery as long ago as the 1960s, and it was classified as an open public area... and it was made available for various kinds of planning activity. A multi-storey car park was built on it, a road was paved on it, and plans were made to construct multi-storey buildings on it."
"For decades this area was not regarded as a cemetery by the general public or by the Muslim community... no one denied this position. Not only was the compound not identified as an area with religious sanctity... but it was the subject of planning for various purposes throughout decades, without any objection for reasons of the sanctity of the site."
Furthermore, what Bradley Burston ignores is that when the design was completed, the model was on display at Jerusalem City Hall and newspaper ads were taken out and posted in the Hebrew and Arab press - again, no protest from any Muslim group whatsoever.
They were silent because, as the High Court said, "...the area has not been classified as a cemetery for decades." The bones found during construction were between 300 and 400 years old. They were unaccompanied by a single marker, monument, or tombstone, family name or religion.
Imagine the chaos to society if, after fifty years of designation for public use, land would be changed and reverted to what it may have been four or five centuries ago.
Muslim scholars and religious leaders have dealt with such issues for centuries and, in seeking to resolve such difficulties, ruled that a cemetery not in use for 37 years is considered mundras - an abandoned cemetery that has lost its sanctity.
In fact, because the whole area was regarded as mundras, in 1946, the mufti of Jerusalem planned to build a Muslim university on the entire Mamilla cemetery (now Independence Park). We submitted the architectural plans and drawings of that proposed university to the Supreme Court. Today, the concept of mundras is widely sanctioned and practiced throughout the Arab world, in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian territories.
While Judaism does not have a mundras concept, the Supreme Court, in its decision notes, "That despite the Jewish religious law prohibitions ... to prevent the removal of graves or building on top of them, in practice, in cases where public needs required this, an agreed Jewish law solution has usually been found, and this allowed the building to be carried out in a way that minimized...the violation of the graves... Jewish religious law also allows, as we have said, the removal of graves in a dignified manner. Balanced solutions of this kind were also proposed by the respondents (Simon Wiesenthal Center), and they even agreed to pay all the expenses involved in them."
It is important to note that the Sheikh initiated the proceedings before the High Court because he saw this as a land grab in the center of Jerusalem. The Court immediately ordered mediation between the parties to be conducted by former court president Meir Shamgar. Our Center was very sensitive to the issue and offered numerous compromises, but they were all rejected out-of-hand by Sheikh Salah, who refused to even meet to discuss them. He insisted that the Court rule on the matter.
Now, after over two years in the Courts, the Supreme Court has handed down a 119-page unanimous verdict in favor of the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. Sheikh Salah and his defenders, who eagerly sought the Court's relief, are now agitating against its decision because they lost.
It is not those who lie beneath the ground who threaten the stability of the Middle East. It is the intolerance of extremists above the ground and those with an agenda who impede any prospects for civility and respect.
In the end, the Supreme Court in its verdict, gave the best reasons for the need of a Museum of Tolerance, "The importance and benefit of realizing the plan to build the Museum of Tolerance in the center of the city of Jerusalem are very great. The Museum of Tolerance embodies an ideal of establishing a spiritual center that will spread a message of human tolerance between peoples, between sectors of the population and between man and his fellow-man."
The establishment of the museum is likely to make an important national contribution to the whole country, in which no center has yet been built with the purpose of addressing the issue of tolerance in all its aspects, and to bring about the assimilation of this idea among the general public."
"The location of the museum in the center of Jerusalem has special significance, since it is a city that has a special ethical significance for three religions and an ancient history, which is unique to human civilization."

Rabbi Marvin Hier
Founder and Dean
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Museum of Toleranc

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Poll: Springtime for Bibi and Likud, Winter for Labor and Kadima

Last update - 03:31 20/11/2008       
Latest poll gives Likud big edge over Kadima
By Yossi Verter
Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud have had a good three weeks, with no major slips, with brand new faces and with a good press, while Kadima is bleeding and Labor is disintegrating.
The opinion polls are responding in kind: Likud opened a large, decisive lead of six MKs over Kadima. The right-wing bloc, led by Likud, is also firming up in comparison to previous polls, with 64 MKs versus 56 for the center-left. In effect, the right is much stronger than the center left, since its count also includes 11 MKs from the Arab parties: They will not be asked to join the governing coalition and in the current political climate their only use will be as part of a "preventive bloc" in the Knesset.
These numbers are from a Haaretz-Dialog poll of a representative sample of the Israeli public conducted Tuesday under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University's statistics department. The main question is whether the significant improvement in the Likud's showing is temporary, the inevitable result of the parade of new players presented by Netanyahu to the media at the rate of one a week - Benny Begin, Dan Meridor, Assaf Hefet and Moshe Ya'alon - or the start of a genuine trend. Only time will tell.
Just three weeks ago, most of the polls predicted a draw between Kadima and Likud, and a near-draw between the blocs. Now Likud is racing forward and is nearing the results of the 2003 election, when Ariel Sharon, who was very popular at the time, scooped up 38 Knesset seats for his party.
But the achievement (in the opinion polls, for now) of Netanyahu is much greater: He is less popular than Sharon was, more controversial than Sharon was, and today's Likud is the post-2005 split Likud; Sharon's Likud of 2003 was whole then, and Kadima was just a twinkle in Haim Ramon's eye.
Once more it must be noted that we are at the start of the campaign. The gloves are still on, Netanyahu has not yet been worked over by Kadima or by Labor. Things could definitely change. But it's clear that the mood on the Israeli street is plainly in Likud's favor. Labor isn't in the game. It's battling against Shas and Yisrael Beiteinu for the position of fifth-largest party. Potentially, it could lose additional Knesset seats to the new leftist movement coalescing around Meretz to become Israel's sixth-largest party, and that is likely to spell the end of the Labor Party. In Tuesday's poll, Meretz gained two seats over the poll carried out three weeks ago, going from five seats to seven, merely for being talked about and without anything significant happening.
This week, former army chief of staff Lieutenant General (res.) Moshe Ya'alon joined Likud. The poll examined his suitability for the post of defense minister compared to Defense Minister Ehud Barak (Labor) and former defense minister Shaul Mofaz (Kadima). Mofaz and Barak are leading by a nose with just a slight edge to Mofaz and Ya'alon in third place. More could have been expected from Ya'alon: After all, this was his week. The spotlight was on him, Barak is unpopular, and it was also a week of Qassams in Sderot, Ashkelon and the Gaza-border communities. That probably did not help Barak's numbers any.
The full survey will be published in Week's End on Friday.

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Israel sells arms to Libya, Iraq

The fact that Israel sells arms to Arab and Muslim countries that are officially at war with it has many aspects. For example, what about the famous Arab boycott and all the calls to Boycott Israel?
However the issue is not new. In the 90s, it was discovered that an Israeli, Nachum Manbar had been selling poison gass to Iran. A local comedian (Gidi Gov) remarked, "It's a good deal. First we sell them the gas, and then we will get it back." Gidi Gov did not know that in the 80s Israel's Soltam factory sold munitions to Iran. as well. The sales were stopped by then defense Minister Itzhak Rabin when it was discovered that we were indeed getting it back: Hezbollah mortar shells were identified as "Blue and White" - made in Israel.  
Last update - 09:25 20/11/2008       
Defense Min. turns blind eye as Israelis sell arms to enemies
By Yossi Melman
Israeli arms dealers have negotiated and sold military equipment to a number of countries defined by Israeli law as enemy states in recent years with the full acknowledgment and approval of the Defense Ministry, Haaretz has learned.
The ministry has okayed negotiations and sales between Israeli dealers and several Arab states including Iraq, Libya and Yemen, say the sources.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently approved the Tel Aviv District State Prosecutor's Office decision to close an investigation against dual Israel-U.S. citizen Shlomi Michaels, whose company, the Kurdistan Development Organization (KODO), was suspected of illegal arms deals with Iraq.
A police spokesman confirmed they had opened an investigation into Michaels dealings in 2006. Michael's company Kodo used to be partly owned by former MK Dani Yatom, who is also a former head of the Mossad secret service. The police spokesman stressed that at no point in the investigation was Yatom questioned or considered a suspect. Yatom said that he severed his ties to the company in 2002, when he was elected to the Knesset, and before the company began its dealings in Iraq. Michaels, a former member of the elite Yamam police unit, emigrated to the U.S., where he started Kodo, which is registered as a company in Switzerland.
The investigation began on the basis of information that equipment manufactured by Israeli companies like Magal Motorola and Tadiran were being used in the construction of an airport in the city of Arbil, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, and that Kodo's security advisers were training local Kurdish militias. Laura Rozen wrote this week in Mother Jones, a U.S. weekly, that Kodo was vying for a 20 percent stake of a $300 million budget. Its activity in the Kurdish territory ended after it received information that Iranian agents might try to harm Israelis.
Police began investigating the company after it discovered it did not receive approval from the Defense Ministry to operate in Iraq, which is still technically in a state of war with Israel. The ministry's former director general, Amos Yaron, told police he had approved the company's dealings.
Haaretz recently learned that the Defense Ministry allowed Israeli dealers to sell flak jackets to Libya and weapons to Yemen. In the past, the ministry allowed the Israel Aerospace Industries to enter negotiations with Yemen over its Mig-fighter planes but the deal fell through.
According to a 1939 law drafted under the British Mandate as a way to supervise trade with Nazi Germany, the Finance Ministry is charged with defining countries as enemy states. However, any government ministry may de facto approve trade deals with enemy states based on its own definition of the term.
"International law or Israeli law is not clear over the definition of an enemy state," Ehud Keinan, the deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Ministry, admitted in 1999. Iraq's classification as an enemy state was removed after the U.S. invasion of the country in 2003. Since then Israeli companies have supplied the U.S. army in Iraq with drones and ammunition.
The Defense Ministry spokesman responded that "the Defense Ministry obeys the law but does not comment on defense industry trade."

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Settlers on rampage in Hebron

The settlers are ostensibly in the West Bank in order to promote Israeli security. Evidently it is not so. So why are the settlers in the West Bank?
Last update - 11:56 20/11/2008       
Violent clashes erupt at Hebron house slated for evacuation
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Violent clashes erupted late Wednesday and early Thursday between settler activists and Israeli security forces at a disputed house slated for evacuation in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The High Court on Sunday ordered the settlers to vacate the house, after they forged ownership documents. The settlers were given until noon Wednesday to evacuate voluntarily, a deadline that expired without heed.
The Defense Ministry said it would avoid the use of force in the evacuation and would try to urge the settlers to leave on their own accord.
By late Wednesday, the house was still not evacuated and the settlers' protests grew hotter throughout the city.
During the protests, some settlers began to attack Palestinian locals while others wounded an IDF soldier by spraying turpentine at him as he tried to stop them from throwing stones at Palestinians.
Activists also punctured the tires of police and military jeeps stationed nearby.
The settlers also scribbled graffiti around Hebron, including spraying 'Mohammed Pig' on the walls of a local mosque and on Palestinian homes nearby.
Mouatassem Daana, a Palestinian resident of Hebron, said he saw settlers gathered near the building "writing demeaning graffiti on the wall of the mosque insulting the Prophet Mohammad" and breaking windows.
An IDF spokesman said settlers also vandalized a cemetery near the mosque. Solders were "working to remove the graffiti and repair the damage" to the mosque and a cemetery, the spokesman said.
"We take such incidents seriously," he added.
The Judea and Samaria Police Department was to hold consultations on Thursday to determine how best to deal with the settlers' violence.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also expected to meet with security officials for consultations on carrying out the evacuation in accordance with the High Court orders.
However, government legal aides said Wednesday that despite the three-day deadline, the Israel Police and Israel Defense Forces actually have more than 30 days to comply with the High Court decision.
Government legal aides are expected to submit their interpretation of the court's ruling Thursday to Barak.
"I call on everybody involved [in the affair] to act responsibly and in accordance with the state's essence and judicial institutions," Barak said Wednesday in an interview with Army Radio. "It's the fundamentals of the country and we will insist on it."
The security establishment originally believed that the court's ruling required it to evacuate the settlers within a month. However, because the occupation of the house began a year ago, it is not deemed as "new" and the state is thereby not required to abide by the law concerning recently discovered squatters that they be vacated within a month's time.
The Defense Minister's bureau said it has begun talks with settler leaders regarding the evacuation of the house despite slim chances of reaching a deal to that effect.
The house, which has come to be known as either the "Peace House," "Beit Hameriva" ("The House of Contention") or "The Brown House," is located near the Worshipers Way, a strategic locale from the settlers' perspective.
The acquisition of additional houses nearby would help settlers strengthen their position in the area.
Hebron has been a flashpoint of Israeli-Palestinian violence in recent years. Some 650 settlers live in fortified enclaves guarded by Israeli troops in the heart of the city of 180,000 Palestinians.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Al-Qaeda: Obama is a baddie Jew lover

The Arab and Muslim world has generally come up with some ludicrous criticisms of the United States.
Last update - 16:39 19/11/2008       
Al Qaida No. 2: Obama guilty of betraying Muslim roots in backing Israel
By Reuters
Al Qaeda's second-in-command urged Muslims to continue attacks on "criminal" America and slammed U.S. president-elect Barack Obama for vowing to back Israel during his campaign.
Ayman al-Zawahri warned Obama that he would fail if he followed the policies of President George W. Bush, according to an audio tape published on Wednesday by the SITE Institute, a U.S. organization that monitors Islamic militant groups.
"America, the criminal, trespassing crusader, continues to be the same as ever, so we must continue to harm it, in order for it to come to its senses," Zawahri said in a message to Muslims across the world.
"Its (America's) criminal, expansionist Crusader project in your lands has only been neutralised by the sacrifices of your sons, the mujahideen."
Zawahri also criticised Obama for what he described as turning his back on his Islamic roots.
"The Muslim nation received with extreme bitterness your hypocritical ... stance towards Israel," he said. "You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand with the enemies of Muslims.

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IAEA: Syrian site was nukoid

So let's see, what is that has traces of uranium and lots of water pumping stations??
Last update - 22:04 19/11/2008       
IAEA: Syria site bombed by Israel bore features of nuclear reactor
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
A Syrian complex bombed by Israel bore features that would resemble those of an undeclared nuclear reactor and Syria must cooperate more with UN inspectors to let them draw conclusions, a watchdog report said on Wednesday.
According to the report, nuclear inspectors took samples from the site, which was bombed by Israel Air Force jets in September 2007, on their lone visit in June 2008. Lab results showed traces of uranium, according to the report, which stressed that the traces had undergone chemical processes.
The report states that the high number of water pumping installations was sufficient to serve a nuclear facility that would be built near the Euphrates River.
The International Atomic Energy Agency report stresses that Syria refuses to produce documents in relation to the site as it is required to do. The report accuses Syria of denying access for further inspections to the site as well as three other locations believed to be tied to the construction of the suspected reactor.
The report explicitly states the site was bombed by Israel even though Israel has never confirmed this publicly. An American intelligence report, which was released earlier this year and cited photographs which suggested the building resembled a North Korean nuclear reactor, also did not mention Israel as the party which carried out the bombing.
Obtained by Reuters, the report said "significant" amounts of uranium particles were found at the site by inspectors who checked it in June but it was not enough to prove a reactor was there and further investigation was needed.
The confidential IAEA report said the UN watchdog would ask Syria to show debris and equipment it whisked away from the site after the September 2007 Israeli air raid. Washington says the target was a nascent reactor meant to produce plutonium for atomic bombs. Syria denies this.

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Israel will boycott son of Durban returns anti-Zionism conference

How sad that an event that should bring hope will instead be used by reactionary regimes to spread hate. There is one person who could change this - US President Elect Barack Obama.
Israel to boycott Durban II anti-racism conference
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent Last update - 14:02 19/11/2008

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced Wednesday that Israel has decided to boycott the United Nations "Durban II" conference on human rights set to be held in Geneva this spring, fearing it would be used once again as a forum for anti-Israeli sentiment.

"The documents prepared for the conference indicate that it is turning once again into an anti-Israeli tribunal, singling out and delegitimizing the State of Israel," Livni told Jewish-American leaders at the UJC General Assembly in Jerusalem.

"The conference has nothing to do with fighting racism," she said. "In view of this situation, I decided that Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the Durban II conference."

The foreign minister also called on the international community "not to participate in a conference which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism under the banner of a fight against racism."

Livni had said in February that Israel would botcott the meet, following assessment by the Foreign Ministry, and other Western governments, that it would be impossible to prevent the conference from turning into a festival of anti-Israeli attacks.

South Africa hosted the first Durban conference in the summer of 2001 under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was titled "The World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," but most of the discussions revolved around Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

The United States and Israel responded by lowering the level of their diplomatic representation and eventually quit the conference, which culminated in a resolution equating Zionism and racism.

That conference also provided a framework for a global convention of non-governmental organizations, which became a platform for delegitimizing

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Europe must be good for the Jews

Old fisherman's joke:
"Good river for fish?"
"Must be. None of them want to come out."
Despite all the complaints of anti-Semitism, Europe must be good for the Jews. None of them want to come out.
Dramatic surge in violent attacks against Jews registered throughout Europe in recent months, as neo-Nazis once again blame Jews for global crisis
Eldad Beck
Published:  11.19.08, 11:11 / Israel Jewish Scene
BERLIN – The global economic crisis, which is beginning to be clearly felt across Europe, has brought with it another concerning phenomenon – a rise in anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic assaults throughout the continent.

This week a pig's head was hung on a Magen David at the entrance gate to the Jewish cemetery in the city of Goethe in East Germany, with a banner saying "Six million lies" placed alongside it. In other countries synagogue windows were smashed, Jews were attacked on the streets and calls not to buy from Jews were made.

Since the beginning of the year, 800 anti-Semitic incidents have been registered in Germany, a rise of dozens of percents compared to last year. The head of the Jewish community's council in the country said that not a week goes by without a Jewish cemetery being desecrated.

'Violence becoming a routine thing'
In Hungary, one of the countries which were particularly affected by the financial crisis, the rise in anti-Semitism has been dramatic and the number of hate crimes against Jews grew by dozens of percents this year, according to Israel's Ambassador to Hungary Aliza Ben-Nun.
When the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht was marked last week, the windows of a synagogue in Debrecen, the second largest city in the country, were smashed. During the High Holidays, bands of uniformed members of Hungary's extreme right gathered around synagogues in Budapest and intimidated shul-goers by their presence.

"Such violent incidents are becoming a routine thing," Ben-Nun said. "The members of the far right are becoming more and more confident. There are many more incidents of graveyard desecration, spraying anti-Semitic graffiti and verbal and physical assaults."

The increase in violent attacks against Jews, as well as immigrants, can be seen throughout Central Europe. Three men were arrested in Prague in the beginning of the week on suspicion they threw rocks at a Jewish resident. In Basel, Switzerland, a sign was posted on the window of a kosher grocery store reading, "Swiss, protect yourselves, don't buy from Jews."

Was Economic crisis the trigger?
Can the growth in anti-Semitism be attributed to the economic crisis? "It's too early to give a scientific answer," said Prof. Yehuda Bauer, the scientific advisor of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum. "But I can say that once there is an economic crisis, the anti-Semitic images of the greedy, exploiting Jew surface. This is a regular pattern, according to which at a time of financial hardship, anti-Semitic stereotypes begin to put down roots."

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Arab states face deficits if oil price declines to reasonable levels

Supporting them in the style to which they are accustomed means getting oil back up to the inflationary and unrealistic levels that helped cause the world financial crisis.
GCC states face abrupt decline in surpluses
Reuters - 19 November, 2008

Gulf Arab countries could witness an abrupt decline in external surpluses next year if oil prices average $ 50 a barrel, with the emirate of Dubai being most vulnerable to a downturn, Citigroup said yesterday.

With oil at $ 50, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar would all post external trade deficits in 2009, Citigroup said in a research note.

"In effect, this means the members of the GCC will have to dig into their overseas wealth to keep their economies moving," the bank said.

Oil stood near $ 56 a barrel yesterday, down more than 50 percent since hitting a record above $ 147 in July.

Citigroup said Saudi Arabia's deficit could hit 28 percent of the gross domestic product, compared with a surplus of 30 percent this year, when oil prices should average $ 99 a barrel.

Kuwait would be the only member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to post an external surplus, it said.

Dubai, the commercial and retail hub of the Gulf region, would be "most vulnerable" to a downturn, Citigroup added.

"Two specific concerns are Dubai's real estate sector and how it will refinance the debt it has built up in recent years," the bank said, adding
it expected a correction in Dubai real estate prices and consolidation of its companies.

A Gulf plan to launch a single currency "are even less likely now than they were six months ago," Citigroup added.

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15 Gazan fishermen released; three ISM terror groupies still held by Israel

It was only a matter of time before Israel arrested ISM terror groupies flocking to Gaza. But it is not clear why they chose to arrest those who guard fishing boats, rather than those arriving on various international craft. The fishing craft are one means of smuggling weapons into Gaza.
The two UK MPs who criticized the arrests are the sort who are apt to compare Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto.
15 Gazan fishermen released; three internationals still in custody
Date: 19 / 11 / 2008  Time:  10:11

Bethlehem – Ma'an – Fifteen Palestinian fishermen who were seized by Israeli naval forces off the coast of Gaza were released on Wednesday.
The fishermen were arrested along with three international volunteers in Palestinian territorial waters on Tuesday. The three foreign nationals, and the boats, have yet to be released.
According to the pro-Palestinian International Solidarity Movement, the foreigners, Andrew Muncie from Scotland, Darlene Wallach from the United States and Vittorio Arrigoni from Italy, are still being held at in Ben Gurion detention facility and are facing deportation.
Two British politicians condemned the arrests on Tuesday night.
"I have contacted Foreign Minster Mark Malloch Brown and asked him to take action to challenge these arrests and demand the release particularly of the UK citizen," said MP Clare Short.
"If there is to be any hope of peace in the Middle East, international law must be upheld. This means that the siege of Gaza must be lifted and the constant attacks by the Israeli navy on Gazan fishermen halted," added Short.
"The time has come for the international community, and especially the European Union to take action against Israel's consistent breaking of international law. The EU-Israel Association Agreement should be suspended until israel complies with this law," said Baroness Jennifer Tonge.
Short and Tonge were among a group of European parliamentarians who sailed to Gaza earlier this month in defiance of the Israeli blockade of the territory.
The international volunteers, who also sailed to the Strip, are part of a program of accompaniment for Gazan fishermen who face frequent harassment from the Israeli Navy.

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Hossein Derakhshan - Iranian blogger who visited Israel arrested for spying

Blogging can be a dangerous business. Derakhshan was generally a voice of reason. Why did he return to Iran?
Last update - 21:18 18/11/2008       
Iranian blogger who visited Israel arrested for spying
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Hossein Derakhshan, the Iranian blogger who visited Israel in 2007, was recently arrested in Teheran upon his return from Canada. The Iranian blogger, who also holds Canadian citizenship, admitted to being involved in espionage for Israel, the Iranian news Website Jahan News reported Monday.
Jahan News is affiliated with the Iranian intelligence community.
The report, citing "credible sources", revealed that Derakhshan's confession included several "intricate" points. The site noted that Derakhshan attended various conventions in Israel, and quoted Haaretz and Jerusalem Post articles stating that Derakhshan is a friend of Israel.
Following his visit to Israel last year, there was a change of tone in Derakhshan's blog posts, which had previously been supportive of Israel. Derakhshan even commended Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad occasionally, and recently expressed his support in the arrest of several Iranian citizens on political grounds.
Iranian expert Meir Javedanfar wrote Tuesday that prior to his return to Iran, Derakhshan criticized former Iranian president Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani and added that his arrest may be the result of power struggles within the Iranian regime.

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Arab League "frustrated and angry" after collapse of Palestinian unity talks

You better believe it.
Arab League "frustrated and angry" at collapse of Palestinian unity talks
Date: 19 / 11 / 2008  Time:  10:59

Cairo – Ma'an – The Arab League leadership was "frustrated and angry" at the collapse of Palestinian reconciliation talks the League helped to organize earlier this month, a senior official told Ma'an on Tuesday.
Mohammed Sbeih, the Assistant to the Secretary General on Palestine Affairs at the Arab League, said that restoring Palestinian political unity is a higher priority for the organization even than ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
The remark was the most pointed expression to date of the frustration felt by the meeting's sponsors.
The talks between Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah, which were scheduled to begin on 9 November, were cancelled when Hamas withdrew the day before, protesting a campaign of a arrests against Hamas members in the West Bank.
In an interview in his office in Cairo, Sbeih said the League would continue its efforts to bring Fatah, Hamas, and the other Palestinian factions together. Arab foreign ministers plan to take up the Palestinian issue at a meeting on 26 November.
The Arab League is exerting "large efforts trying to preserve some international accords because of this disagreement which causes lots of losses in the Palestinian and Arab cause," said Sbeih.
"We believe that this is the most dangerous situation Palestine has ever faced," he added.
With regard to dialogue, he said: "The Arab League sees no other option besides dialogue and the Secretary General, Amr Moussa, had previously met with the factions and he frequently meets with President Mahmoud Abbas. Frankly, such disagreements are not convincing. The boat is sinking deeper in the sea and still [Palestinian] brothers are feuding."
Still, he said, the League would not "force" Palestinians to accept a resolution of their civil conflict, but warned that in the current situation the gap between leaders in the West Bank and those in Gaza is likely to widen.

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Report: Israel arrests ISM activists in Gaza waters

This was only a matter of time.
    GAZA, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Israeli naval forces on Tuesday held 15 Palestinian fishermen and three international activists offshore to the west of Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said.
    The three campaigners, Andrew Muncie from Scotland, Vittorio Arrigoni from Italy and Dalin Gulack from the United States, are members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), according to the sources.
    Fedaa Qastal, ISM coordinator in Gaza, confirmed that the Israeli gunboats intercepted the Palestinian fishing boats at 7 mile offshore and ordered the boats' engines to turn off before arresting the campaigners and the fishermen.
    The activists used to accompany the fishermen to encourage them sailing beyond two nautical miles, the last point at which Israel allows the Palestinian fishermen to reach.
    Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Islamic Hamas movement won parliamentary elections in 2006 and tightened the closure last year after Hamas seized security installations in the territory by force.
    Meanwhile, Israeli forces also detained 32 Palestinians during raids into several towns in the West Bank.
    Most of the arrests took place in Hebron and Nablus, according to Palestinian security sources.
    The new arrests occurred one day after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met in Jerusalem Monday to discuss peace talks between the two sides, during which Olmert promised to release 250 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture.
Editor: S Zhang 

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Hamas: Prepared to confront Israel - or not?

Hamas is sending up contradictory smoke signals. The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades are making war like noises, whle Mahmoud Zahar wants to maintain the truce. Zahar is a hardliner controlled by Iran or Syria - if he wants calm, there will be calm, most likely.   
Last update - 10:14 19/11/2008       
Hamas: We're prepared to end cease-fire and confront Israel
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
Hamas' military wing announced Tuesday it was "prepared for a confrontation with Israel" and for the end of the cease-fire with Israel. But political sources said the cease-fire was expected to go on.
Hamas' Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades threatened to "turn the cease-fire tables on the heads of the Zionists," they said in a statement. Abu Obeida, the alias of a spokesman for the military wing, threatened that Hamas would "retaliate fiercely" should Israel resume its targeted-killings policy, as some defense officials have said were advisable after the cease-fire.
By contrast, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a Hamas leader in Gaza, said that since the cease-fire was not a unilateral move, both sides should honor their part.
Meanwhile, in what could be seen as an indication of relative calm in the area, the Gaza regional division of the Israel Defense Forces received a new commander Tuesday in a military ceremony near the border with the Strip.
The ceremony in which Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg replaced Moshe Tamir was supposed to take place last week, but was postponed because of Palestinian rocket fire. Tamir was replaced as commander of the regional division deployed around Gaza after having served for two years and three months.
Militants fired rockets from the Strip into Israel Tuesday as well, but in a lower frequency than last week, when hostilities threatened to quash the cease-fire, which is due to expire next month. The Popular Resistance Committees and the Popular Front assumed responsibility for the rocket fire.
Three Qassam rockets exploded Tuesday in an open field in the northern Negev. Militants later fired mortar rounds at an IDF force operating near the fence on the Palestinian side of the border. No casualties or damage to property were reported in either incident.
The IDF Spokesman said the soldiers were searching for explosive devices which militants had placed to detonate near IDF patrols.
Military sources said they believed that Hamas was not directly behind the rocket fire and hostilities, but rather one or some of the smaller Palestinian militant movements. The officers think Hamas is pressuring smaller Palestinian factions in an attempt to preserve the cease-fire.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How much does a Bill Clinton speech cost?

In the old days, you could get Bill Clinton speeches for free, just by watching television. I bet Monica got a few too. This report from the Daily Beast says he gets paid fabulous sums for giving speeches:

While his accounts are being scrutinized by Obama's search committee, a Kuwaiti report indicates Bill Clinton reaped $500,000 for a single speech there Sunday.

The National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) has paid $500,000 to Bill Clinton for a single lecture he delivered in Kuwait City on Sunday on his assessment of Barack Obama's foreign and economic policies. It was delivered the day after the Kuwaiti stock market resumed trading after it was suspended by order of a Kuwaiti court on Thursday to avoid a total collapse.

Without mentioning reports that Clinton's finances were coming under close scrutiny as his wife, Hillary Clinton, is being vetted for the job of secretary of state, the Arab-language Kuwaiti newspaper Awan published a front-page story under the headline "Clinton's lecture at NBK cost $500,000."

Delivered before "a packed audience" and attended by local dignitaries, ambassadors, and senior officials, Clinton offered advice to the president-elect on the world financial crisis, urging him to continue to pump liquidity into the American system until confidence came back, according to a press release by the National Bank of Kuwait, which organized the event at the Sheraton Hotel.

$500,000 would be a high fee, even for Bill Clinton. In 2006 he averaged almost a speech a day, at an average of about $140,000 a speech.

He has earned far more per speech, particularly from Middle Eastern or foreign organizations wishing to hear his views on a range of topics. The Dabbagh investment firm in Saudi Arabia paid $600,000 for two speeches, and China's JingJi Real Estate Development Group paid $200,000 for a single speech. The Mito City Political Research Group in Japan paid him $400,000 in 2002 for a single speech....

ARGH! But We can be sure he is not alone. Is he being paid for speeches, or for influence he can provide? After all, I can provide the same advice for free, and so can you.


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Shaykh: Holocaust Denial Undermines Islam

Only excerpts of this fine article are provided here. Click the link to read the whole thing.
Holocaust Denial Undermines Islam
By Shaykh Hamza Yusuf

This article originally appeared in Tikkun Magazine.

Islam, at its advent, developed a sophisticated methodology for the validation of truth claims. One of the greatest achievements of the Islamic scholastic tradition is 'ilm ar-rijaal, the science of narrators... Its formulators established a rigid set of criteria to validate the truth claims of those who asserted they saw or heard the Prophet do or say such-and-such. Reports were grouped into two categories: ahad, or solitary reports in which one or a few people claimed to have heard or seen something, and mutawatir, or multiply-transmitted reports narrated in numbers large enough to preclude collusive fabrication. The solitary reports must meet many criteria before being accepted as sound statements that nonetheless contain... On the other hand, firmly established multiply-transmitted reports, in numbers that rule out collusion, are taken as uncontestable fact.

The Quran, the seventh century book narrated by Muhammad, is considered mutawatir, and thus epistemologically undeniable. Whether one believes it is from God or not is another matter, but the Quran in its current form is the same Quran the Prophet taught to his companions more than 1,400 years ago; untold numbers in each generation of Muslims have transmitted the same recitation, making it infallible in its historicity and accuracy. Islamic scholars accepted multiply-transmitted reports from Muslims and people of other faiths. Upon this epistemological foundation rests the Muslim faith. Creedal matters are deemed valid only if they are buttressed by multiply-transmitted traditions that can be traced back to the Prophet. Although Islamic jurisprudence is largely based upon solitary evidence (hence the differences of opinion in the various schools), the Quran and the creed of Islam are both founded upon multiple narratives that achieve an undeniable status. Early Muslim scholars would certainly consider much of our current knowledge of history to have achieved such status. For instance, there is consensus among historians that the Normans invaded England in 1066; too many accounts of this momentous event exist and have been recounted in each generation through multiple sources. In the case of any solitary original source, healthy skepticism is warranted. When Lee Harvey Oswald claimed to be a patsy, it led to an entire field of conspiracy studies among Kennedy assassination buffs. Did he act alone or didn't he? That aspect of the event is debatable. But was John F. Kennedy shot on November, 22, 1963 in a motorcade at Dealey Plaza in Dallas? Far too many accounts of that tragic event exist; to deny it is simply to deny reality and have one's sanity questioned.
Much of what we know about the world and what we accept as truth comes from multiply-transmitted accounts. Let's say I claim that Australia doesn't exist and is merely a figment of our imagination, that its origins lie in a whimsical cartographer in the Middle Ages who decided that such a large ocean needed a land mass. And, when confronted with people who claim to be from Australia and can prove it, I dismiss them as part of a conspiracy of cartographers who wish to perpetuate the myth of their forbearer. I would be laughed at, or ignored, or deemed "certifiable." While this example seems absurd, many people actually believe things just as fatuous and far-fetched.

Holocaust denial is one such example. As one who has read some Holocaust denial literature, with the poorly reproduced pictures and claims of the orchestration of these scenes in collusion with the U.S. government, I can attest to the tragic gullibility of people who take such literature as historical truth. To return to the Kennedy assassination, if one reads Mark Lane's version that a rogue element within the CIA killed Kennedy, the "facts" seem overwhelming. But if one reads another version that the Mafia killed Kennedy because of his failure to return Cuba to the gambling lords of Italian America, the "facts" also seem overwhelming. Finally, one can read the version that Mossad killed Kennedy because he wanted to force nuclear inspections in Israel, and again the "facts" seem conclusive. Each of these accounts is presented with utter certainty by the "researchers." In the end, reality is manipulated to meet the needs of the mythologist.
...those who present alternative versions of "reality" tend to reject everything that does not suit their theory, and cherry-pick and interpret everything—facts, innuendos or "coincidences"—that does.

In the case of the Holocaust, the facts are clear and transmitted from multiple sources. Tens of thousands of Jewish and other individuals who survived the death camps and other horrors of Nazi Germany lived to tell of it. Nazis were brought to trial, evidence was presented in court, and they were convicted. Mass graves were found, and gas chambers were discovered, which were clearly not delicing rooms as some callously claimed. The ovens exist and cannot be reduced to an efficient way of preventing cholera outbreaks or disposing of victims of starvation. I have personally met many Holocaust survivors and their children. I have seen tattoos...  That a "conference" examining the historicity of the Holocaust should take place in a Muslim country hosted by a Muslim head of state is particularly tragic and, in my estimation, undermines the historicity of the faith of the people of that state.

In our inherent contradictions as humans, and in order to validate our own pain, we deny the pain of others. But it is in acknowledging the pain of others that we achieve fully our humanity. A close friend of mine, a professor of religion in a Muslim country for many years, recently told me that his wife, an English teacher in that country, had wanted to use Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a text for her Muslim pupils. But the school administrators repeatedly denied her request because they deemed it inappropriate reading for young Muslims. It is sad that the current political morass in the Middle East has led to this intolerable refusal to confront a people's collective suffering. Perhaps in acknowledging that immense past of Jewish suffering, in which the Holocaust is only the most heinous chapter, Muslims can better help the Jewish community to understand the current Muslim pain in Palestine, Iraq and other places. In finding out about others, we encourage others to find out about us. It would greatly help our Jewish brethren to know the historical facts of Jewish experience in the Muslim world, which are often heartening and humanizing and very different from their European experience. In our mutual edification, we grow together.

Tikkun Magazine, 2007.

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IAF Gen. Nechushtan: 'All Options Are on the Table'

"All options are on the table." Some day, we should be allowed to see this table with all the options on it. It must be a big table.
Nothing much new here, or is there?  Nechushtan has wisely downgraded the infamous Dahiya Doctrine (see The Dahiya Strategy and Gaza: Unlessons of the Second Lebanon War  )
He also wisely said, and Spiegal was honest enough to quote:

SPIEGEL: Will a military strike take place if the international sanctions do not prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

Nehushtan: This is a political decision. But if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table.

So maybe he didn't understand correctly. What is really new is the hint that Israel has all the technological problems solved:

SPIEGEL: Iran's nuclear facilities are spread around the country and are partly located underground. Is it even technically possible to destroy them?

Nehushtan: Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question.

It would be much better however, if Israeli generals simply didn't talk about this question.
Ami Isseroff

'All Options Are on the Table'
SPIEGEL (Germany) 11/17/2008

'All Options Are on the Table'

In order to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear bomb, the Israeli army is preparing itself for a possible military strike on Iran. "We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us," Israeli Air Force Major General Ido Nehushtan tells SPIEGEL in an exclusive interview.

SPIEGEL: What does the Iranian nuclear program mean for the Israeli Air Force?

Nehushtan: The Iranian regime ist not only a problem for the Air Force or the State of Israel. It is a problem for the entire free world. It is shameful that 70 years after the Reichskristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) there are still heads of state who call for the destruction of our people. History teaches us that we have to take those announcements seriously. And we take them very seriously.

A satellite image of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment plant in Iran: The regime in Tehran is a "problem for the entire free world."

A satellite image of the Natanz Uranium Enrichment plant in Iran: The regime in Tehran is a "problem for the entire free world."

SPIEGEL: Will a military strike take place if the international sanctions do not prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb?

Nehushtan: This is a political decision. But if I understand it correctly, all options are on the table.

SPIEGEL: The Israeli Air Force is ready for it?

Nehushtan: The Air Force is a very robust and flexible force. We are ready to do whatever is demanded of us.

SPIEGEL: Iran's nuclear facilities are spread around the country and are partly located underground. Is it even technically possible to destroy them?

Nehushtan: Please understand that I do not want to get into details. I can only say this: It is not a technical or logistical question.

SPIEGEL: Is technology the main advantage that the Israelis have over their enemies?

Nehushtan: Modern technology is one thing, but the biggest advantage we have is our soldiers and officers. Israel is a small country. We neither have a big population nor natural resources. Our biggest asset is our human resources. And it is the Air Force that makes best use of it.

SPIEGEL: What is your biggest challenge in cooperation between the Air Force and those on the ground?

Israeli Air Force Major General Ido Nehushtan: Hezbollah is not a fringe terror organization, it is part of the Lebanese government.
Amit Shabi / Laif

Israeli Air Force Major General Ido Nehushtan: Hezbollah is not a fringe terror organization, it is part of the Lebanese government.

Nehushtan: We have to interlock the various forces more with each other. The Air Force, for example, must better support the ground forces. That is a lesson we learned from the Lebanon War in 2006.

SPIEGEL: In 2006 the Israeli army attacked mainly Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon or south Beirut. Will that change the next time?

Nehushtan: In any case, Hezbollah has been part of the Lebanese government since this spring. It is not a fringe terror organization -- it is supported by the state. Militarily, Hezbollah is stronger than the regular Lebanese army. If they attack us, we might react differently.

SPIEGEL: Dozens of rockets could reach Israeli soil without problem; the same is true for the Qassam rockets being made in the Gaza Strip. Why hasn't Israel developed more effective protection against these weapons?

Nehushtan: Each type of rocket requires a different defense system. Up until today, only the "Arrow" System, is functioning. It can intercept ballistic missiles. In order to defend ourselves against the short-range rockets of Hamas and Hezbollah, we are building the "Iron Dome" system. In response to the threat of medium-range rockets, we are developing a system called "David's Sling". This is all very expensive. It is like an insurance policy: You pay a lot, even if nothing happens. But if something then does happen, then you are satisfied with the investment.

Interview conducted by SPIEGEL Middle East correspondent Christoph Schult.

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Report: Red Tape stymies IDF system to detect Gaza Rockets

But, like what if they just shoot the blimp?
Photo of blimp

IDF system not deployed over red tape Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST Nov. 18, 2008

The IDF recently acquired an advanced system capable of pinpointing rocket-launching crews and hitting them, but is not using it, Israel Radio reported Monday overnight.

The system, an observation blimp nicknamed HILA, hovers at the height of up to one kilometer and can work in daylight and during the night. It is equipped with both cameras and radars and is operated from the ground.

It is capable of quickly acquire [acquiring? Inews]  short-term intelligence, such as the location of terrorists and rocket launchers, which can be conveyed to combat troops practically in real time. It is also capable of following troop movements, thus alerting them to dangers within their radius.

However, operating the HILA system costs NIS 8 million a year, and currently the IDF's Southern Command and Ground Forces' Command are in a dispute which of the branches is to finance its deployment.

HILA was developed for general intelligence purposes but can serve as a substitute to the Iron Dome system until development of the latter is finished. The system was tested successfully two months ago, Israel Radio reported.

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

Continued (Permanent Link)

Secular conversion comes to Israel

This little buried item is of great importance to many people I know, and if it is true, it could be a landmark for the Jewish people. It is an idea whose time has come.

Last update - 09:19 16/11/2008

 Courts to perform secular conversions which bypass rabbinate 

The Knesset caucus for secular Judaism and organizations from all streams of Judaism have created a coalition of conversion courts independent from the Chief Rabbinate. The coalition, which was approved last week, is being coordinated by PANIM for Jewish Renaissance, an advocacy group for pluralistic Judaism.

The goal is to create two new tracks in Israel for conversions to Judaism, one secular and one national-religious, both independent from the Chief Rabbinate. These come on top of the conversion courts of the Reform and Conservative movements, which produce about 300 converts a year.

Converts of the new coalition will not be permitted to marry through the rabbinate, but rather in accordance with a ruling by the High Court of Justice that these converts will be registered as Jews in the Interior Ministry's Population Registry.
One of the coalition's main innovations is the inclusion of Ne'emanei Torah Vaavodah, a moderate Orthodox movement, in a forum that recognizes Reform, Conservative and secular conversion. The chairman of Ne'emanei Torah Vaavodah, Yonatan Ben Harosh, said at the forum's latest meeting that his movement plans to establish independent conversion courts "in close cooperation with two other organizations: Mavoi Satum (Dead End) and Kolech, Jewish Woman's Voice."

The forum's founding document explains that "300,000 of the immigrants to Israel who are eligible under the Law of Return are not recognized in Israel as Jews in the Population Registry. Most have integrated into Israel and have forged a covenant of fate but are not accepted by us into the Jewish people, with all that entails: the stripping of citizenship rights, alienation and rejection."

The organizations in the forum say that "the opportunity given by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel by the state to respond to the challenge of conversion in Israel has been exhausted. [The rabbinate's] monopoly must be taken away from it."

The main obstacle to mass conversion is the demand by the Chief Rabbinate and Conversion Administration that converts conduct a religiously observant lifestyle and send their children to religious schools. The crisis between the national-religious public and the government's conversion system was created by a ruling by the Great Rabbinical Court seeking to void even conversions carried out by the head of the administration, Rabbi Haim Druckman.

The Reform and Conservative movements, like the Conversion Administration, require potential converts to complete hundreds of hours of instruction in Judaism. The secular Judaism institutions might very well do the same, but they will not demand that converts change their lifestyle.

The secular Knesset caucus is headed by outgoing Meretz MK Yossi Beilin, a pioneer of the idea of secular conversion. Currently the only secular organization initiating a secular conversion process is Tmura, the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Rabbi Sivan Maas, a director and assistant dean of Tmura, said the organization's first conversion course is scheduled to begin in January.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center told Haaretz that the organizations recognize that a secular convert is part of the Jewish people. However, secular converts who want to join a Reform congregation may be asked to make up for gaps in their conversion.

Yelena Vaganov, 46, immigrated from Russia two years ago and is preparing for her conversion at Haifa's Or Hadash Reform congregation. She views this as joining the Jewish people. She says she heard about Reform conversion from her life partner, an immigrant who converted to Judaism in South Africa.

Yelena says she wants to convert because "I want a family that is more Jewish because I always felt Jewish, and that's why I'm in Israel. It's more harmonious for me." Her father, she says, was a Jew, and when she was a child he took her to events in the Jewish community. "During World War II he was a boy, and his whole family was killed. That's another reason why it's important to me to be Jewish."

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Horse's mouth: James Zogby reveals all about Rahm Emanuel and Arab rumors

Zogby is an Arab-American and no friend of Israel. He is evidently a decent and honest man.  He has seen fit to debunk some (not all) of the nonsensical rumors manufactured by wingnuts and Mullah groupies about Rahm Emanuel.
Thank you James Zogby.
Ami Isseroff

Dr. James J. Zogby (c)
Arab American Institute 
    On November 5th, my office sent an email to tens of thousands of our members and contacts congratulating President-elect Barack Obama. In our message, we noted the historic transformation his victory represented and commended the thousands of Arab Americans who participated in this winning campaign.

    The initial and near universal response was heartwarming, with many sharing moving anecdotes of their campaign experiences, their reactions to the victory, and their hopes for change.

    One day and one announcement later, the tide turned.

    With the naming of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as Obama's White House Chief of Staff, the euphoria of some, not all, turned to despair. The emails and calls to my office were both troubled and troubling because much of the reaction was based on misinformation and because of what the entire episode revealed about the larger political dynamics involved.
    First, the facts.
    Rahm Emanuel is a brilliant strategist and a practitioner of hard-ball politics who in campaigns, his time in the Clinton White House, and more recently in Congress has demonstrated that he knows how to get a job done. Because there will be critical legislation the President-elect will need to move through Congress, from an economic recovery package and health care reform to a comprehensive approach to alternative energy, Obama has tapped Emanuel for his proven political skills. It is that simple.

    This, of course, was neither the content nor the concerns raised by the emails I received. Some charged that Emanuel was an Israeli citizen or a dual U.S.-Israeli national (he is neither, he was born in Chicago in 1959); or, they alleged that he served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and lost his finger confronting a Syrian tank during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon (he did not serve in the IDF, and lost his finger in a freak accident while working as a teenager in an Arby's restaurant). A few accused Emanuel of skipping U.S. military service to join the IDF in 1991 (also not true - in the midst of the 1991 Gulf War, while U.S. forces were manning Patriot missile batteries in Israel and the Arab Gulf, Emanuel volunteered for a few weeks, as a civilian, doing maintenance on Israeli vehicles). The most recent story alleges that Rahm Emanuel was fired from the White House in 1998 after being implicated by the FBI, together with Monica Lewinsky, in a Mossad plot to spy on then-President Clinton (a total fabrication, compliments of a shady character who claims to have been a U.S. intelligence official and is a purveyor of many bizarre tales).

    That stories such as these have been circulating, and have taken hold, is as reprehensible as the "Barack Obama is a secret Muslim/Manchurian candidate" tale, or the anti-Arab anti-Muslim canards to which I and many of my colleagues have been subjected over the years.

    Putting aside the fiction or, more accurately, the slanderous myths, the truth is that Emanuel is an effective leader in Congress. He is a strong supporter of Israel. But then, how many members of Congress are not?

    Emanuel is Jewish and his father is an Israeli. Arab Americans should be especially sensitive to attacks on anyone based on religion or ethnicity. He has worked closely with and is liked by the Arab American Members of Congress from both parties, and he was the architect of the 1993 White House lawn signing ceremony for the Oslo Accords that brought Arab Americans and American Jews together. When, in 1994, Rahm accepted my invitation to a luncheon with Arab American community leaders, those who met him were impressed by his openness and honesty.

    Beyond these facts, however, there are two concerns that must be addressed.

    It is deeply troubling how quickly, for some, the excitement of Barack Obama's victory was eclipsed by cynicism and suspicion, and how receptive some were to wild tales. This could only occur, on one level, because the victory itself was not understood. If it had been, the excitement would have been tempered by an appreciation of political realities.

    Obama's victory, no doubt, demonstrated that change is possible - but incremental change. Pressures remain, from the right and the left as well as the interest groups of all sorts that continue to have influence, limiting political options. The economy is in free-fall and, after eight years of Bush neglect and recklessness, dangers abound in the world. An Obama victory doesn't alter those realities. And so our excitement was justified, but our euphoria should never have taken us so high as to lose our grounding and understanding of the limits of what is possible.

    My concern is that, for some, the need for change became so great as to make them susceptible to wild swings - from unrealistic expectations to unwarranted despair and, therefore, to become prone to believe the worst.

    But the fault here should be shared. I am concerned by the slowness of the Obama camp to respond more quickly or effectively to address the situation. Modern political operations have learned the need to confront false stories, to manage perception, and to anticipate problems -- and, here, the Obama team had been especially masterful.

    During the campaign, for example, they repeatedly demonstrated how tuned-in they were to public perception - and in particular to matters that might have created discomfort in the Jewish community. They knew that these stories needed to be shot down quickly. (American Muslims understood much of this, despite feeling slighted, at times.) But in this most recent instance, the Obama camp displayed both inattentiveness and tone-deafness to Arab misperceptions about who Rahm Emanuel is, and what role he will play. (Aside from the flap over the comments made by Rahm's father, for which Rahm, himself, has now profoundly apologized.) As a result, the situation festered.

    The campaign is now over, and the President-elect is playing on a world stage with more than one audience at stake. And in the Middle East, especially, sensitivities are as great and (perceived) sleights are felt as acutely as they are among any people in the world. With feelings having been rubbed raw by decades of U.S. policy miscues, with U.S. favorability ratings at all-time lows, and with extremists preying off resentment and fear - perceptions matter.

    If we are to succeed in making changes in U.S.-Arab relations - and I believe that an Obama Administration can - greater attentiveness and sensitivity is in order.

    Bottom line - there are lessons to learn and work to be done. Arabs and Arab Americans need to ground their expectations in political realities and be wary of slanderous attacks smacking of anti-Semitism, and U.S. political leadership must learn to be as attentive to Arab sensitivities as they are to the concerns of others.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Suspected Lebanon spy made frequent visits to Israel

Last update - 11:16 18/11/2008
 Report: Suspected Lebanon spy made frequent visits to Israel 
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent 
A Lebanese citizen who was recently arrested over espionage charges made frequent visits to Israel during which he was trained in espionage techniques, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported on Tuesday.

The suspected spy, who has been identified as Ali Jarrah, was taught on the trips how to operate surveillance equipment and a radio transmitter, according to the paper.

The report stated that Jarrah's Mossad espionage agency handler would contact him via his mobile phone and ask him to travel to neighboring countries such as Jordan, Egypt and Cyprus. Jarrah would receive there a fake Israeli passport, which he used to enter Israel.

During the visits, which usually lasted for one or two days, the Mossad would pay for Jarrah to stay in a hotel, according to the daily.

About two weeks ago, Al-Akhbar reported that Jarrah is suspected of monitoring the movements of senior Hezbollah officials.

The newspaper also said that he was arrested in July by Hezbollah, before being transferred to the custody of the Beirut authorities.

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Israel MI Chief - Obama - Good for Israel

"Iran will do anything not to be cornered into the position of Iraq or North Korea," he said at an annual lecture in honor of late Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Dayan. "Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the crisis."
Yadlin - who had served as IDF military attache to Washington and as head of the National Defense College - said the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was being received "with a sigh of relief in the Middle East, with cautious hope for peace."
Not quite the assessment some people would expect.
Last update - 12:29 18/11/2008       
MI Chief: U.S. can halt Iran nuclear program with dialogue
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Barack Obama's election as U.S. president and the world financial crisis present an opportunity to halt the Iranian nuclear drive through diplomacy, Military Intelligence head Amos Yadlin said Monday.
Iran, for example, has been stung by lower global oil prices in recent months.
Obama's election also sets the stage to apply international pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear aspirations, Yadlin said. He stressed that he is not opposed to direct talks between the United States and Iran, saying that "dialogue is not appeasement."
"Iran will do anything not to be cornered into the position of Iraq or North Korea," he said at an annual lecture in honor of late Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Dayan. "Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the crisis."
Concerns by moderate Sunni regimes in the Middle East about the Iranian nuclear program were an encouraging sign, Yadlin added. But Iran is continuing its efforts - albeit cautiously - to develop offensive nuclear capabilities. This is being done stealthily to avoid attracting attention, he said.
Yadlin, who spoke at the lecture at Tel Aviv University, also said Israel's military deterrent power had not been as strong since 2000. He predicted "a low probability" for a calculated attack on Israel by one of its neighbors.
By contrast, the likelihood of small-scale attacks is very high and could escalate into a bigger conflict after Israel responded, he said.
Yadlin also addressed peace talks with Syria, revealing for the first time assessments he shared with decision-makers. He said Damascus might make peace with Israel, but only if Israel gave in to all of Syria's demands. He said that even then, Syria would not cut its ties with terror groups.
Syrian President Bashar Assad is nonetheless interested in peace, Yadlin added, for an asking price which is well known - Israeli withdrawal from territories captured during the 1967 Six-Day War and a U.S. package that will guarantee the Assad regime's stability and provide it with financial and military support.
Referring to Hamas-ruled Gaza, Yadlin said Israel could deal with two Palestinian entities, working toward peace with moderates in the West Bank while confronting Islamic militants in the Strip.
The past year has yielded some positive developments in the Middle East, in contrast to the "two difficult years" before, Yadlin said. He cited the first signs of American success in stabilizing Iraq, including the difficulties of Jihadist organizations there such as Al-Qaida.
Yadlin - who had served as IDF military attache to Washington and as head of the National Defense College - said the end of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was being received "with a sigh of relief in the Middle East, with cautious hope for peace."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Gaza - looks like the truce is over.

Looks like the Tahidiyeh in Gaza may be over. Not with a bang, but with several - and a whimper.
Last update - 12:23 18/11/2008

Palestinians: IDF tanks roll into the southern Gaza Strip 

By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press 

Israel Defense Forces tanks forged into the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, drawing rocket and mortar fire from Palestinian militants, militant groups said, intensifying violence that has chipped away at a tenuous cease-fire.

Israel and Hamas have been trading fire for two weeks after nearly five months of relative quiet. The June 19 truce is due to expire next month, and both sides might be trying to dictate more favorable terms in anticipation of the agreement's renewal.
The tanks, backed by a bulldozer and military jeep, rumbled about a half a kilometer deep into the tiny seaside strip, residents and Gaza security officials said. Residents said they leveled lands along the border east of the city of Rafah. It was the first ground action in a week.

The IDF described the activity as a routine operation to uncover explosive devices near the border fence in the southern Gaza Strip. It said two mortars were fired at troops, causing no injuries or damage.

The tanks did not respond to the Palestinian fire.

By the army's count, militants have fired more than 140 rockets and mortars at Israel since the truce began unraveling.

At least 17 militants have been killed over the past two weeks, and Israel in an effort to squelch the rocket fire, has kept cargo crossings into Gaza clamped shut for the most part, drastically restricting vital supplies.

Both Israel and leaders of Gaza's ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement have said they hoped the Egyptian-brokered truce could be preserved. But a small, Hamas-allied group said they consider the truce to have broken down, and Israel has threatened to hit hard if the rocket fire persists.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry accused Israel of subverting the truce.

"We call on the Palestinian factions to meet to begin an immediate re-evaluation of the calm," spokesman Ihab al-Ghussein said.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Obama and Israel: Potential Friction

INSS Insight No. 79, November 16, 2008
Bart, Roni
Regardless of the perpetual question whether it is good or bad for the Jews, many Israelis are undoubtedly glad that Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. They regard his election as an American and universal affirmation of equality and overcoming of prejudice. Nor should any Israeli alarm aroused by an African-American candidate once labeled – incorrectly – as Muslim who is tainted by his connections with anti-Semitic individuals and by his distance from the hawkish faction of American Jews be heeded. Obama is committed to Israel – its existence, security, and prosperity – on the basis of the Judeo-Christian heritage, the democratic values of the two countries, and common strategic interests. Two key issues on the political agenda, however, constitute a potential source of friction between the US administration and Israel's next government, which will be formed after the February 2009 elections.
The inclination of the president-elect and the Democrats in general to engage in dialogue with their opponents in the international arena surfaces poignantly in the question of Iran. Obama has called for direct talks with Iran, not contingent on Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment. He thereby deviated not only from the policy of the Bush administration, but also that of the Europeans (it is possible that this was the motive for leaking the French president's opposition to the "naïve" position of the Democratic candidate). Obama regards Iran as a regional and global threat whose possession of nuclear weapons is "unacceptable." Thus does he not rule out a military option, which according to his approach will benefit from broader support only after the US has already demonstrated that it has made every possible diplomatic effort. On the other hand, he has criticized not only the Republicans for bellicose and aggressive rhetoric, but also Senator Hillary Clinton. In interviews, Obama has been unwilling to address the possibility that diplomacy and sanctions will fail, and rejects escalated "saber-rattling" and "cowboy diplomacy" rhetoric as long as a serious and direct effort has not been exhausted. This is another sign of a more Democratic-European-"Western" approach, which is likely to weaken the latent military threat, and therefore also the effectiveness of diplomacy.
The potential friction with Israel on this issue could be heard several days after the US elections in comments by Israeli foreign minister and prime ministerial candidate Tzipi Livni. She explained that in the Middle East, willingness to engage in direct and unconditional talks after failing to pressure through sanctions would be interpreted as weakness. In an answer to an explicit question whether Israel supports this policy, Livni answered that it did not (Binyamin Netanyahu, also running for prime minister, would seemingly agree with her on this point). At this stage, it is still unclear how the president-elect intends to combine an attempt at direct dialogue with the more intensive effort at sanctions that he promised, and the chances of success in these attempts are decidedly uncertain. On the other hand, a long time will likely pass before Iran suspends or halts its nuclear program, or before the Obama administration recognizes that these processes have exhausted their usefulness. Iran has already demonstrated its great expertise in both dragging out negotiations and in exploiting this extra time for the achievement of technological progress. It will be very difficult for the Israeli government to wait patiently for an indefinite period, particularly when the next US president appears to be the most dovish since President Carter in his willingness to use force.
Where the basic elements of US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are concerned, Obama is positioned in the heart of the traditional pro-Israeli consensus in the US. He supports a two-state solution. He is committed to making every effort to help Israel achieve peace, but will not impose a settlement on it. He opposes the "right of return," and rules out Hamas as a negotiating partner until it meets the international community's well-known conditions. However, Obama's overall record paints a less rosy picture from Israel's viewpoint.
First, his veteran team of advisors (in contrast to Dennis Ross and others, who joined at a later stage) is composed of people with liberal positions, who focus on human rights, global development, and international cooperation. This posture generally regards Israel's intransigence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (backed by the excessive power of the pro-Israeli lobby) as the main problem in the Middle East, rather than radical Islam or Iran. Second, Obama's public statements reflect a significantly more evenhanded position than the general American political map. He was the only candidate in either party that did not express support for the separation fence, which he chose to describe as "another example of the neglect of this administration in brokering peace." Obama used the phrase "cycle of violence" instead of the accepted wording among supporters of Israel, "Palestinian violence and Israeli response." Thirdly, after the failure of the Camp David summit, he criticized the Clinton administration for its unconditional and one-sided support of Israel. Obama currently regards the Clinton parameters, which exceeded the Camp David positions, as a point of departure for a permanent settlement. Finally, where the diplomatic process is concerned (the roadmap and/or Annapolis), Obama said that his administration would ask Israel to share responsibility for changing the status quo, and would help "Israelis to identify and strengthen those partners who are truly committed to peace." This is a diplomatic expression for the idea of exerting pressure, which also indicates his principal direction. Indeed, when Obama talks about concrete measures, he lists only demands of Israel, such as alleviating pressure on Palestinian daily life and freezing settlements. He mentions no demands of the Palestinians, such as fighting terrorism or democratic governmental reforms.
All this suggests that as part of his general view of American global priorities, Obama is more attentive to Palestinian rights than Israel's security needs. He will probably bring a greater sense of urgency to the diplomatic process, with less patience for Israeli foot-dragging in fulfilling its obligations in the diplomatic process. This creates potential friction with not only a Netanyahu government, but likewise with a Livni government.
In addition, it can be expected that the Obama administration will enthusiastically support negotiations between Israel and Syria, if Israel's next government wishes to continue the talks. Indeed, herein lies the president-elect's basic diplomatic approach; he himself wishes to engage in dialogue with Syria, mostly about Iraq and Iran. He has also explicitly stated that if Israel decides that its national interest lies in talking with Syria, it is the duty of the US to lend a hand in the matter. In the bilateral sphere, a continuation of very good relations can also be expected. The administration will likely not initiate a cut in aid, despite the economic crisis. Obama has said that he will not cut foreign aid in general, but will refrain from increasing it. It cannot be ruled out, however, that Congress will insist on reducing foreign aid (and cut aid to Israel in the process).
Were Israel not beginning an election campaign, the Israeli government could take advantage of the next five months to influence the new US administration before and during the formulation of its policy. In actuality, the opposite will occur: when the new Israeli government takes office five months from now, the Obama administration will to a great degree have already crystallized its expectations from the new Israeli government. The first meeting between the president and the prime minister will almost certainly be excellent, but sources of friction on the Iranian and Palestinian issues already exist.     

Continued (Permanent Link)

Rabbis against Judaism

We all know about Rabbis against Israel and Zionism. But here is a new one - Rabbis against Judaism and Jews. The important thing for them, is not to help the Jewish people, but to expand their egos and their influence. Feh.
'Rabbis stunt Europe's Jewish growth'
Nov. 16, 2008
At a Conference of European Rabbis in Prague last week, rabbis from Europe's smallest Jewish communities said the current policy of the European Orthodox establishment was limiting the growth of small communities at a time when interest in Judaism is being rekindled among assimilated Jews and their non-Jewish descendants.
"If I can start to convert observant people who have already been coming to my synagogue for the past five years, I can have a minyan," explained Rabbi Kotel Dadon of Zagreb.
Instead, he told hundreds of assembled Orthodox rabbis from across Europe, he faced a catch-22 that is keeping his community from growing.
Only with conversions can he build a viable community, but the poskim (halachic decisors) and batei din (rabbinic courts) of Europe won't convert someone living in a community that lacks the institutions necessary for Jewish life, such as the schools, ritual baths and kosher slaughterhouses required for an observant lifestyle.
Most prominent among these poskim is England's Rabbi Chanoch HaCohen Ehrentreu, who sat a few meters from Dadon as he and many other rabbis - from Budapest, Zurich, Helsinki and elsewhere - explained their difficulties and sought advice.
"The question is whether Croatia has an infrastructure for Judaism," explained a rabbi familiar with Ehrentreu's opinion. "What is conversion? It's an acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot. If [the aspiring convert] doesn't know what mitzvot are, or cannot fulfill them, how can he accept them?"
Former French chief rabbi Joseph Sitruk agreed. "To convert someone who will be the lone Jew in his area is to put a stumbling block before the blind. How can you keep Torah and mitzvot alone?" he asked.
"Conversion can be the salvation of a community, or its destruction," said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow. "If it is done according to law and custom, the convert can be the strongest link in the community, but if [the convert] continues to behave like a Gentile, sending the message to our youth that it's permissible to be Gentile, to marry Gentiles, this will destroy a community."
But the rabbis from the struggling communities did not come to Prague to rail against the senior rabbinic leadership of European Orthodoxy, but to beseech its help.
"They are my beth din," said a rabbi from a tiny Balkan community. "We need a beth din to have a communal life. I can't grow the community without them. So I must convince them to help me. That's what I'm doing here."
According to the Conference of European Rabbis, these requests are not falling on deaf ears.
"The CER will soon go to Zagreb with Rabbi Ehrentreu," said Rabbi Aba Dunner, executive director of the CER. "We know Rabbi Dadon wants to build a mikveh and create a Jewish atmosphere in the city. We're going to help," he promised.
Another complaint of Europe's rabbis was perhaps more surprising. Many Israelis attended the conference, including chief rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yona Metzger. The Israelis held the more conservative position throughout, and came to be seen by many participants as unhelpful.
One organizer said that the many Israeli participants "were more trouble than they're worth.
Next year, we're considering not inviting the Israelis."
The CER was meant to deal with European problems, said rabbis at the conference, and the Israeli rabbinate's push to standardize conversion under its authority worldwide has met with much resistance both in the US and Europe.
"In Europe we could get a consensus of opinion [on conversion] to which most of Orthodoxy would agree," said one of Europe's most senior rabbinic figures. "But I don't think you'll ever get an international consensus on conversion."
"Right now, unity is not possible," agreed Belgian chief rabbi Albert Guigui. "The Jews of Brussels are not the same as the Jews of Bnei Brak. Perhaps we need to establish consistent guidelines in all countries to preserve the principles" of Orthodox conversion.
At the conference's concluding meeting, former French chief rabbi Sitruk read a decision of the CER, according to which "Conversions will be done in Europe solely by dayanim [rabbinic judges] approved by the standing rabbinic courts of Europe, in cooperation with the [umbrella] European Beth Din headed by Rabbi Ehrentreu."
The message was clear, said conference organizers: conversions in Europe will not be opened to Israeli influence.
Some 250 local Jewish communities were represented at the Prague gathering, hailing from Gibraltar to Glasgow to Tbilisi. The conference is meant to help European Orthodox rabbis network, learn together and share experience and expertise - to "synchronize," in the words of one participant.

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The real existential threat to Israel and the Jewish people

Jerusalem Post may have put the wrong headline on this article.
Perhaps the most important thing Olmert said was:
He described the "weakening affinity" of Diaspora youth, the "distancing of the future generations from the most basic principles of the Jewish faith," and falling Jewish birth rates as existential threats on par with the nuclear threat from Iran, terrorism and the financial crisis.
Think about it.
Ami Isseroff
Olmert: US must take lead against Iran
Nov. 16, 2008
The United States must take the lead in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the opening of the General Assembly of the umbrella body of North American Jewish Communities in Jerusalem Sunday night.
Iran has not given up its "devious goals," Olmert said - listing its quest for nuclear weapons, its pursuit of regional hegemony and its support for terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority.
"We must unite our forces, led by the international community, led by the United States of America," he said, calling for bilateral and international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
"Each and every one of us needs to play a role - lobby your government, lead your organization or identify a project that can exert additional pressure on Iran," he said. "It must become more costly to Iran to pursue nuclear weapons than to give [them] up."
"Iran cannot become nuclear. Israel cannot afford it. The Jewish people cannot afford it. Countries in the Middle East cannot afford it. The free world must not accept it," he said. "Our voice must be loud and clear, without hesitation, without weakness. Together, we can meet this challenge."
Olmert said that under his leadership, Israel would maintain its commitment to "serious and meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians and with Syria, which started, and which continue, and which I believe are essential for the future well-being and security of the State of Israel."
"As long as I am prime minister, I will spare no effort to make the necessary progress to advance the peace process," he said. "Peace with our neighbors should be the inheritance we provide to our future generations. It is within reach."
Olmert spoke at the annual assembly of the UJC umbrella organization of North American Jewish communities, noting that he had hosted the last General Assembly in Jerusalem as the mayor of the city, which he described as "this great and eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
Event officials estimated that 4,000 people would participate in this week's activities. The main auditorium at Jerusalem's convention center was full, though overflow rooms equipped with video feeds of Olmert's speech stood empty during his talk.
"Although this is most likely my last appearance before this distinguished crowd as the prime minister of the State of Israel, this is by no means good-bye," Olmert said, telling the crowd he planned to maintain a role in public discussion over the future of the Jewish people.
He described the "weakening affinity" of Diaspora youth, the "distancing of the future generations from the most basic principles of the Jewish faith," and falling Jewish birth rates as existential threats on par with the nuclear threat from Iran, terrorism and the financial crisis.
"Today, 60 years after the proclamation of the State of Israel, we can say the Jewish people across the world have become the project of the State of Israel," Olmert said, appealing to the assembled Americans and Canadians to come live in Israel by emphasizing the possibility of romance.
"Live here for a while, I mean, live here forever, sure, but at least live here for a while, perhaps you will meet your life partner," Olmert said, grinning at a crowd of Taglit-Birthright participants who waved Israeli flags.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's economic miracle

Israel: The history of an economic miracle
Nov. 17, 2008
In Israel at 60, we are witness to an economy which has proven its prowess and competitiveness on the global scale, as evidenced by a shekel which is one of the world's strongest currencies, backed by a surplus in the balance of payments.
A closer look at many of Israel's companies shows numerous examples of the successful transformation from local enterprise to multinational firm. While one used to speak exclusively about hi-tech and startups, today one sees Israelis involved in all sorts of ventures, displaying impressive managerial and entrepreneurial skill.
Last year, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange chose five companies traded on the exchange that exemplify the trend towards global excellence. Teva, the world's largest generic drug maker, is headquartered in Israel, while Strauss Group, which began as a family dairy, has expanded to Latin America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Elbit, a defense electronics maker, understanding that countries purchase arms only from "local" companies, set up international subsidiaries. Ormat, the geothermal energy producer, has manufacturing and research centers in the country while the actual power plants are built overseas, and Israel Chemicals exports the country's natural resources around the world.
Aside from manufacturing and hi-tech, Israelis are also active overseas in real estate, with Israeli magnates involved in projects in London, Toronto, Eastern Europe and the US. And bankers, lawyers and accountants are intimately involved in overseas dealings.
This article will deal with the miraculous transformation of Israel's economy over the past two or three decades.
"The lost decade"
Israel underwent a wrenching economic crisis in the early 1980's whose roots were in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the ensuing oil embargo but which continued until 1985. This "lost decade" of the Israeli economy saw near-zero per capita growth, inflation at dozens or even hundreds of points a year, and terrifying deficit and national debt levels. During this time, both the business sector and the quasi-governmental sector (health insurance, pension plans, kibbutzim) became completely inefficient and almost entirely dependant on the government, which at the time accounted for 70% of GDP.
Israeli industry received generous credit subsidies and tariff protection, while the financial sector was largely nationalized (with "special [government] bonds" receiving large tax breaks) while the markets were all but closed. Israelis generally refrained from foreign commerce, while foreign investors shied from commitments in the politically and economically unstable atmosphere.
At that point, the popular joke had it that the only way to make a small fortune in Israel was to come here with a large one.
By the height of the crisis, in 1984-5, Israel was a total economic failure, requiring two major reforms to get the country back on track.
Stabilization program - 1985
The stabilization program passed by the government in 1985 managed to rein-in inflation from some 400% to a more manageable 20%, stabilized the balance of payments, but most importantly brought the deficit down from 15% of GDP to a surplus of 1%. By 1986, government expenditures had been cut back, and the government was legally prohibited from printing money to cover deficits, forcing it to rely on publicly traded bonds.
The massive reduction in spending forced the private and quasi-public sectors to become more efficient, as the government could no longer be relied on to provide funding. The years 1985-90 saw the private sector make great strides in efficiency and worker productivity while the labor unions were weakened and management was given the capability to fire employees at its own discretion.
Market liberalization 1991-2004
In 1991, Israel made a major strategic decision to gradually open the sectors of consumer goods, currency and investment to international competition.
Customs were slowly decreased to the point that the effective tariff protection today is less than one percent. Meanwhile, currency markets and, later, investments were also liberalized, and in 2004 Israel equalized taxation on foreign and domestic investment.
The liberalization of financial markets was finalized with the advancement of the stock exchange, as all financial instruments, including retirement funds, were made completely market-dependent. Such areas as telecommunications, the port system and the banking system were privatized.
The effects of globalization
Over the past five years, the Israeli market has become totally globalized, and the success has been impressive. The Israeli entrepreneur and businessman have taken full advantage of the possibilities of global commerce. The government has kept to policies of a stable budget, debt reduction and low inflation, while foreign investors have begun viewing Israel as a prime investment target.
The country's success can also be seen in its performance in leading economic indicators: Number one in per capita R&D investment, and number one in startups, per capita. The business sector is also ranked very high (8th in the world) in measures of creativity and business savvy, as well as technological-readiness, widespread higher education and more.
Challenges ahead
Despite these impressive achievements, Israel faces serious economic challenges, primarily from the ongoing global financial crisis, which seriously affects globalized economies like Israel. Israel will face a test of fire for the entrepreneurial and commercial skills of its business leadership. Another challenge is the reform of the public sector, which, while financially stable, has shown poor results in such areas as educational achievement (40 in a ranking of 57 countries), infrastructure and environmental protection. The social inequality in Israel's workforce is one of the worst in the world, and there is a low level of economic participation.
The revamping of the public sector is critical to the nation's economic success - it is one of our key challenges in the coming years.
Yoram Gabbai is the chairman of the board of Peilim Investments and a former head of the State Revenue Administration in the Ministry of Finance.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Missile warning system under development & UAVs to Russia

Two interesting developments. Israel and Germany are developing a (not so) secret (anymore) system for detecting nuclear warheads, and Israel may sell UAVs to Russia.  If Israel is developing a nuclear missile warning system, then someone doesn't believe Israel can stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Israel selling Russia UAVs is a good deal - We sell them to the Russians, and then the Syrians will send them back to Israel...
What is not emphasized is that Israel will sell Russia only a few UAVs. Russia will have had the benefit, for free, of all the expensive Research and Development that went into the UAVs, and then they will make their own UAVs based on the Israeli design. Great deal, right?
Ami Isseroff
Israel, Germany reportedly develop missile warning system
Nov. 17, 2008
Working in secret, Israel and Germany have jointly developed a nuclear missile detection system, according to the Defense News Web site.
Code-named Project Bluebird, the system is based on the prototype of an aerial infrared sensor designed to identify a nuclear-tipped missile speeding toward a target amid a cluster of decoy missiles.
Military planners work under the assumption that in a nuclear strike, decoy missiles could be launched along with those carrying nuclear warheads to confuse and overwhelm missile defense shields. According to the sources, Project Bluebird is designed to avert such a scenario.
On November 3, Defense News published details of the program and cited a German defense official as confirming its existence. According to the Web site, the system's infrared sensor has already been tested aboard a business jet.
Defense News quoted a Pentagon official as saying that "the escalating Iranian nuclear threat and the possibility that Teheran will one day equip ballistic missiles with decoys and maneuvering warheads" have pushed Jerusalem to seek American backing to deploy the sensor on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). This would make it an operational part of Israel's national missile defense network - the Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile system.
"The Israelis want an additional sensor in the air, and since Bluebird is only a demonstrator, they want to replace it with an operational sensor on a UAV," said a Pentagon source cited by Defense News.
Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at Tel Aviv University's Institute of National Security Studies, said Project Bluebird should not be viewed as a sign that Israel had accepted the inevitability of a nuclear Iran.
"It's not surprising that Israel is working on this," Landau said, adding that the scenario of "multiple missiles fired at Israel and the issue of a decoy needs to be taken into account.
"In terms of the political and strategic ramifications, one should not to jump to conclusions or connect the dots where they shouldn't be connected. There's no indication here of a level of faith in the international community's ability to stop Iran's nuclear program," she said.
"Israel's missile defense program is a very long-term program," Landau continued. "Generally speaking, Israel is heavily invested in a missile defense system and is planning for future scenarios. Israel is correctly planning for all options in the specific case of the Iranian nuclear threat, and this should not be seen as a message that Israel believes that diplomatic efforts, or a military strike, won't be able to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
"I would rather interpret it as saying that this is one option [a nuclear armed Iran] that we need to prepare for. Hopefully, the international community can stop the program, but all scenarios need preparing for."
Meanwhile, an Israeli military industry source has confirmed a November 13 story from a Russian news agency, according to which Moscow is contemplating the purchase of Israeli UAVs.
According to RIA Novosti, a Russian lawmaker from the lower house's defense committee said the option was on the table.
"I would assume the UAVs [under consideration] would be produced by Israel Aerospace Industries and Elbit," an Israeli defense industry source told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Middle East analyst Meir Javedanfar said that if such a sale went through, it would represent a historic landmark for Israeli-Russian relations and might present Israel with leverage over Russia's Middle East policies, especially the sale of weapons to Iran. Moscow is due to deliver the advanced S-300 air defense system to Teheran in the near future.
"I don't think this is going to all of the sudden bring an overnight change," Javedanfar said, "but it would be a chance to enhance the political interests of Israel.
"If this sale is successful, Israel could have more allies in the Kremlin, something which is very necessary for Jerusalem in trying to convince the Russians to synthesize Israel's concerns about the Iranian nuclear program, and hopefully to participate in sanctions. Israel would have a bigger voice in Moscow," he said.
An approved sale would also be a "huge breakthrough for Israel's aeronautical industry," Javedanfar said. "That a superpower such as Russia now wants to rely on sophisticated Israeli technology for its defense sources would be something that would [have been] hard to believe 25 years ago. This would be a huge marketing coup for Israel."
This article can also be read at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Is the government "holding the IDF back?"

It doesn't look like the Israeli government is "holding back" the IDF, does it? Of course, generals should keep out of politics, whatever side they take. But the cliche about warmongering Israeli generals just ain't so.
Last update - 08:11 17/11/2008       
IDF officers slam top ministers for Gaza 'war-mongering'
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Yanir Yagna
Senior Israel Defense Forces officers criticized certain cabinet ministers on Sunday for beating the drum for military action in the Gaza Strip.
The General Staff officers called for weighing more aggressive action against Hamas if the rocket fire into the Negev from the strip continued. However, they do not support reoccupying the territory at this stage. Top IDF brass also expressed concern that some politicians were trying to drag the IDF into the political debate.
Meanwhile, the fighting in Gaza continued Sunday: The IDF killed four Palestinians from the small Hamas-allied group, the Popular Resistance Committees, who were about to launch Qassams, and a Sderot man sustained minor injuries when a Qassam landed near his home.
A spokesman for the group, Abu Mujahid, said the tahadiyeh (lull) with Israel was over as a result of the killing of four of its men. He said the organization's response would not not stop at firing Qassams or mortar bombs, hinting at a resumption of suicide attacks against Israelis.
IDF officers expressed surprise at recent news reports stating that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had instructed IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi to prepare for an operation in Gaza. "What plans does the prime minister mean?" one officer asked, "the ones we presented to him two weeks ago or the ones he saw a month ago? All of the operational plans regarding Gaza were presented to the cabinet and the security cabinet a long time ago. The ministers are very familiar with them, they're the ones who must decide what to do."
The officers cautioned against "war-mongering" senior officials, claiming they only encouraged Hamas to escalate. Their remarks were targeted specifically at Vice Prime Minister Haim Ramon, who said over the weekend that Israel's policy in Gaza was causing serious damage and denounced the "paralysis" imposed by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, warning that Israel would pay a heavy price for its restraint in Gaza.
Both Barak and Ashkenazi want to avoid a broad operation in the Strip at this point, although the latter seems willing to support a slightly more aggressive policy if the rockets keep exploding. Officials in Barak's bureau said Sunday that they believed Hamas was now trying to curtail the rocket fire, partly due to Egyptian pressure.
A Sderot man sustained mild shrapnel injuries to his arm when a Qassam fell on a home Sunday evening. Four others were treated for shock. When the rocket fell, Motti Turjeman was building a bomb shelter. "I went out for coffee with the workers when suddenly we heard the air raid siren. We ran to the stairwell and heard a huge explosion. The Qassam fell five meters away, near the doghouse. I was sure the dog died and suddenly I saw him, alive, by a miracle, but apparently he became deaf," Turjeman said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Did Muhammad exist?

A German convert to Islam who is a professor of theology has come up with the interesting theory that Muhammad did not exist.
MÜNSTER, Germany -- Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany's first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn't like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.
So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.
If that is his theory, an obvious question is why doesn't he unconvert? More interesting is the reaction of the German university, which forbade him from teaching Islam! If an American theologian came up with a theory that Jesus didn't exist, can we imagine the uproar that would occur if was not allowed to teach it?
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Obama plan: Adopt the Saudi Initiative??

As this report comes from the Sunday TImes, home of many canards, it must be treated with skepticism. These same reporters wrote in the Sunday Times repeatedly that Israel was about to attack Iran. Uzi Mahnaimi is famous for perpetrating the hoax that Israel had developed a secret ethnic bomb that could kill Arabs and spare Jews.
There are several errors in the first paragraphs of this.
1 - The Arab Peace Initiative (Saudi Peace Plan)   does not give Israel veto over return of refugees.
2- The Saudi peace plan is not about peace with Muslim countries. It is a plan of the Arab League, which does not include several Muslim countries such as Iran.
3- It is doubtful that Zippy Tzipi Livni really embraces this plan.
The "bottom line" however, is whether or not Obama really embraces it.
Ami Isseroff
Barack Obama links Israel peace plan to 1967 borders deal
Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv and Sarah Baxter The Sunday Times November 16, 2008

Barack Obama is to pursue an ambitious peace plan in the Middle East involving the recognition of Israel by the Arab world in exchange for its withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, according to sources close to America's

Obama intends to throw his support behind a 2002 Saudi peace initiative endorsed by the Arab League and backed by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister and leader of the ruling Kadima party.

The proposal gives Israel an effective veto on the return of Arab refugees expelled in 1948 while requiring it to restore the Golan Heights to Syria and allow the Palestinians to establish a state capital in east Jerusalem.

On a visit to the Middle East last July, the president-elect said privately it would be "crazy" for Israel to refuse a deal that could "give them peace with the Muslim world", according to a senior Obama adviser.
.... (do you really want to read the rest of this?)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Antisemitism: Wanna meet a hot Jewess?

In the late 19th century, as a likely lad, the British author Somerset Maugham wrote a diary that fantasized about hot Jewish women and venal and crafty Jewish men. It seems that since then, not much has changed in Blighty. Oxford students held a party inviting students to bring "pretty Jewish girls" and one fellow showed up holding a moneybag. See Report: Oxford students face anti-Semitism charges over 'pretty Jewish girls' party.
The image of the Jew or Jewess dies hard. Anti-Semitism is not going away.
What is strange, is that while non-Jews are attracted to Jewish girls, Jewish men are often far more interested in non-Jewish girls.
The report says:
Yair Zivan, from the Union of Jewish Students, told The Daily Mail "the actions of a few individuals have caused real offence to Jewish students. UJS is appalled that in 2008 old myths and anti-Semitic stereotypes are still appearing amongst supposedly educated students."
Mr Zivan, from your name, I perceive that you are or were one of us. But why are you surprised? It is like moving to antarctica and being surprised that it is cold. If you like  Anti-Semitism you'll love the  Diaspora. If there was no Anti-Semitism it wouldn't be the Diaspora, would it? It is like saying you like Venice, but they should get rid of all those silly canals. If you don't like bitter, don't eat quinine. Anti-Semitism is an essential feature of  Diaspora life. Without it, it would not be the Diaspora. If you really don't want anti-Semitism, don't live in the Diaspora.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel: Clueless in Gaza?

As violence escalaes in Gaza, it seems ever more clear that Israel did not have a "plan B" in case (or when) the cease fire fell apart. If Israel doesn't have a plan, why is it shooting at Palestinians rather than trying to hold the truce. If Israel does have a plan, where is it? Ha'aretz focuses on a narrow issue - the border area that Israel tries to keep sterile. But it is clear that if that issue did not exist, Hamas would find a different issue. The point is that they are always going to be pushing the envelope
Headline 1:
Last update - 10:08 16/11/2008       
Palestinians: IAF Gaza strike kills 4 militants; 2 Qassams hit Negev
By Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Yanir Yagna, Haaretz Correspondents and News Agencies
An Israel Air Force strike killed four Palestinians launching mortars at Israel from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, Palestinian officials said, just hours after another group of militants struck Israel in a separate rocket attack.
The violence was the latest in a surge of spiraling clashes that have rocked a 5-month-old truce between Israel and Gaza's militant Hamas rulers.
The militants killed in the airstrike were from a small Hamas-allied group known as the Popular Resistance Committees. A spokesman for the group calling himself Abu Attaya said the four were firing mortars into Israel when they were killed.
The IDF said the airstrike targeted a rocket squad in northern Gaza.
Palestinians launched two rockets earlier in the day into Israel, hitting near a community on the Israel-Gaza border. No one was hurt, the military said.
According to the military's count, Palestinians have sent more than 170 rockets and mortars flying at Israel since the violence resumed nearly two weeks ago. IDF troops have killed 15 militants, and two more died in unclear circumstances. No civilians have been killed on either side.
Meanwhile, Israel is keeping its crossings into Gaza shut because of the ongoing rocket fire, barring badly needed goods and fuel from entering the impoverished territory. United Nations food supplies in Gaza have been depleted and the fuel cutoff has led to power shortages.
IDF spokesman Peter Lerner said officials would decide later Sunday whether to reopen them. International pressure to crack open the passages has been mounting.
Headline 2:
ANALYSIS / Hamas is calling the shots as Israel's leaders bicker
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents
As things looked Saturday night, it seems Hamas can confidently tack on a few advantage points recently accumulated in its conflict with Israel in the Gaza Strip. The massive barrage of Qassam rockets (as well as, in recent days, Katyushas and Grads) completely removed from Palestinian discourse criticism of the organization, which recently left reconciliation talks with Fatah.
Hamas has successfully conveyed the message that it has overpowered Israel and will soon be able to return to the cease-fire [tahadiyeh] from an advantageous position.
On Saturday night, after 24 hours without rockets, it seems that chances are growing of the cease-fire going back into effect. Still, in light of similar estimates being proven false in recent days, it is still too early to determine whether Hamas will remain loyal to its word and impose discipline on its members and the smaller Palestinian factions.
Israeli policy is clearer. Despite Minister Haim Ramon's recent declaration that the tahadiyeh is "dead," it appears that a large-scale military operation in the Strip is still not in the offing.
On Saturday night, Defense Minister Ehud Barak criticized both Prime Minister Olmert and Ramon, and by implication Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, for what he called the rush to the 2006 Second Lebanon War.
If turns out that the tahadiyeh may drag on for another month or month and a half, we can already count on the largest stumbling blocks that could lead to its fall.
This could come in the form of a clash around an area of several hundred meters in Palestinian territory, whose off-limit status to armed groups the Israel Defense Forces wants returned. Last week Hamas militants responded to the IDF killing four of their number near the security fence by firing Katyushas at Ashkelon. Such will likely be their response in the future as well.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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