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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mustafa Latif-Aramesh : In Defence of the Six Day War

In Defence of the [1967] Six Day War
by Mustafa Latif-Aramesh

Preemption is within the law.

It isn't enough to read a United Nations General Assembly resolution and to conclude that Israel is an aggressor. It also isn't enough to read an article on Wikipedia. What a person must do is look under every stone and realise the dirt that lies beneath. The Six Day War, a war which unarguably set the agenda of Israel's future borders, is often used as example of Israel breaking international law, but this is truly a farce.

Customary international law (that is, the law set by what states do in lawful practice) stated, before the UN Charter, that there was a doctrine of self-defence which could be summarised thus: a state must comply with two conditions - 1) necessity, to the degree that the threat was "overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation"; and 2) proportionality, which "must be limited by that necessity, and kept clearly within it."

The UN Charter was then developed and Article 51 stated that nothing "shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs...." The key point that has caused debate in the law forum is whether or not this means that a state can exercise preemptive self-defence. One view is that the "right" that the article is talking about can only be used once an attack has happened. However, so-called counter-restrictionists say that, because of the aforementioned laws set in customary international law and the absence there of a clause that says "only if an armed attack occurs," it means preemption is within the law. This is also the most logical view to take. If the first interpretation of Article 51 is taken seriously, then Israel would be destroyed. We have seen the consequences of not preempting in 1973, when 2,000 Israelis died as a result of Arab aggression.

Keeping in mind the conditions of a defensive war, we can clearly see that Israel complies. The "necessity" condition can be seen in light of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser's actions and speeches, which fueled even more raids in Israel proper. President Nasser and his allies began their threats; one stated that civilian towns should be turned into "dust" and another asserted that that no "Jewish survivors" would be left. Nasser and his allies, of course, didn't just talk, they acted. Egypt then gave clear justification for acts of war (casus beli) when they blocked the Straits of Tiran, which violated the Laws of the Sea. A peace-keeping UN force was stationed in the Sinai; Nasser ordered them out, and Syria and Egypt massed their troops on the borders of Israel.

All of these actions, Nasser knew, "meant war" and one of his commanders stated "this is a declaration of war." Thus, Israel complied with "necessity"; Israel did not want its citizens to be killed and Egypt's provocative actions were clear signs of war. Israel then preempted with "proportionality," only striking the air force which could wipe its "Zionist existence." The war then spread to fronts outside the Israel-Egyptian one.

Israel sent several messages to Jordan saying it had no desire to fight with that state, even though the Old City of Jerusalem was under Jordanian occupation. Hostilities were then started by the Arab Legion; Israel could then act within its right of Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Anti-Israelis would then point to United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which states the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war." But this is in reference to a offensive war. As the former International Court of Justice Judge Stephen Schwebel notes, there is a difference "between aggressive conquest and defensive conquest, between the taking of territory legally held and the taking of territory illegally held." If one were to believe that 242 referred to Israel, it would contradict not only international law (the principal ex iniuria non oritur ius) but security interests, because it would assert that before "secure recognised boundaries" are set, a state may have back all the land which it could use for another attack.

Conclusively, Israel acted within international law and the land that it has seized from Jordan (namely, the West Bank) was won in a defensive war. No other country has better title to it, and the occupation will not end as long as it is essential to the security of Israel and until a peace deal has been signed.

Mustafa Latif-Aramesh is an Afghani who says he is "surprisingly, pro-Israeli."
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saudi Columnist: Why Do We Object to Occupation Only in Palestine?

Saudi Columnist: Why Do We Object to Occupation Only in Palestine? 

Friday , 28 November 2008

In light of the tension between the Gulf states and Iran following Iran's takeover of the three UAE islands in the Persian Gulf (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Moussa), columnist for the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Mash'al Al-Sudairi criticized the Arab world for its obsession with the Israeli occupation and its indifference to the occupation of other Arab territories - for example, the Turkish takeover of the Syrian Alexandretta district (currently Iskenderun), or the aforementioned occupation of the three islands.

Following are excerpts from Al-Sudairi's column: [1]

"There Is No Doubt That the Jewish Occupation of a Part of Palestine Constitutes Great Oppression..."

"Occupation is occupation is occupation, and oppression is oppression is oppression, regardless of the color, race or religion [of the occupier or oppressor]. During its modern history, the Arab nation has suffered both occupation and oppression...

"There is no doubt that the Jewish occupation of a part of Palestine constitutes great oppression, which we have not known how to deal with. When, in the early 1930s, we were offered 80 percent of Palestine, while the Jews were offered 20 percent, we rejected the offer. In the late 1940s, we were offered 49 percent of Palestine, and the Jews 51 percent, and we rejected that [offer], as well. Today, we are begging them to give us a mere 22 percent of what remains of Palestine after their complete occupation of it in 1967, and Israel is refusing to do so, offering us no more than 20 percent - as if they want to taunt and defeat us, and to remind us of the 1930s…

"I realize that political talk is annoying. However, what I am saying now has nothing to do with politics. I am [only] recounting the history of our self-inflicted blows, whose severity and harm we have not yet comprehended."

"Over Six Decades Ago... We [Began to] Talk of Nothing But Palestine... Which Exhausted All Our Resources, Abilities, Time, and Freedom"

"We started to dither over six decades ago - when we [began to] talk of nothing but Palestine and take an interest in nothing but the Palestinian cause, which exhausted all our resources, abilities, time and freedom. [At the same time], we were preoccupied with coups that occurred here and there, the murders, arrests, detentions and expulsions that took place here and there, and the civil wars, summits, arms deals, escapades, conferences, accusations, and treason allegations that were brought here and there.

"I am positive - [in fact, I am willing] to bet and even to swear by Allah - that if only 10 percent of the money that the Arab countries invested in arming their forces during the futile fighting [with Israel] had been invested in what was left of Palestine and its people, the West Bank and Gaza would now be enjoying a living standard higher than that of Singapore."

"Other Arab Countries Have Been Robbed of Parts of Their Territories... And We Never Uttered a Word of Protest"

"[Furthermore], with all the turmoil over the Palestinian issue, we have completely forgotten that other Arab countries have been robbed of parts of their territories, in broad daylight - and we never uttered a word of protest.

"Have we forgotten Alexandretta and how, after World War I, France formed an alliance with Turkey, and both mocked the United Nations [by] conducting a preposterous census among the residents of this district? Instead of dividing the district based on race, its population was divided on a sectarian basis. Since most of the Arabs of Alexandretta are Sunni, like the Turks, they were classified as Turks. [Moreover], not all of them are even Sunnis - some are Shi'ites, 'Alawis and Christian Syrians... In this way, Alexandretta, 95 percent of whose population was Arab, was taken away from [the Arabs and annexed to Turkey]. The same thing happened to the Al-Muhammara Emirate, the former 'Arabistan, which Britain gave to Iran on a 'tray of oil.' And now Iran has occupied the islands belonging to the UAE, exactly as it did in the Shah's era.

"What are you Arabs doing about these occupied territories?! Or perhaps it is permissible for a Muslim to occupy the land of his [Muslim] brother… Under these unhappy circumstances, I would like to ask 'the [achiever] of the divine victory,' [Hizbullah leader] Hassan Nasrallah: What do you call the Gulf - the 'Arab Gulf' or the 'Persian Gulf'? Who is the rightful sovereign of the three islands - do they belong to the Arab UAE or to the Islamic Republic of Iran?"


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 15, 2008.

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Eight Dead in Mumbai Chabad Center Attack

[29/11/08] Following discovery of two additional bodies, there are now eight dead in the Mumbai Chabad Center attack. More bodies may be discovered as police go through the booby trapped rooms. According to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, some of the bodies discovered earlier had been restrained and were dead for some hours. They were not killed in the rescue operation. Four of the victims have been identified: Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg (His name is also reported as "Noach") and his wife Rivka, and two Kashrut Supervisors, Leibish Teitlebaum from Brooklyn and Ben-Zion Croman, Israeli-American.  
In total 195 persons are so far counted dead in the attacks. More victims may be found. Indian police claimed the attack was over as the last of the gunmen were killed in the Taj Mahal hotel. The attacks were carred out, evidently, by ten terrorists who arrived by sea, of whom one has been caught, and by accomplices in Mumbai. Earlier reports claimed there were as many as thirty terrorists, a figure quoted by D.M. Ehud Barak in the Friday interview on Israel TV Channel 1.  
Israelis rescued from Mumbai complained that Indian authorities were extremely slow to react and get organized, and that Indian police beat escaping hostages, mistaking them for terrorists.
Israel offered all manner of help to Indian officials, D.M. Barak said, including assistance "that is inappropriate to detail here."
Israel's ambasssador to India, Mark Sofer, however, consistently dismissed reports that Israeli commandos took part in the operation
India has publicly refused Israeli offers of help, but there seems to be some quiet cooperation.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, said Friday that it was no coincidence the Chabad center had been attacked.
"There is no doubt, we know, that the targets the terrorists singled out were Jewish, Israeli targets and targets identified with the West, Americans and Britons," Livni said.
"Our world is under attack, it doesn't matter whether it happens in India or somewhere else," she added. "There are Islamic extremists who don't accept our existence or Western values."
Livni's remarks have been taken out of context to emphasize that she said Israelis were targeted.
"Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, the beloved directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Mumbai, were killed during one of the worst terrorist attacks to strike India in recent memory," the New York-based Chabad-Lubavitch Movement said in a statement.
Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, was born in Israel and moved to the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn with his parents when he was nine. His 28-year-old wife, born Rivka Rosenberg, was a native of Afula.
They arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to serve the small Jewish community there, running a synagogue and Torah classes, and assisting Jewish tourists to the seaside city.
"Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg made the ultimate sacrifice," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch, said in a statement.
"As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists."

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Rabbi Slain in Mumbai wanted to help Jews away from home

By now, there are more than 195 persons dead. Reuters has converted the terrorists to "militants."
Last update - 10:54 29/11/2008    
A Brooklyn-based rabbi and his wife who were killed in the siege on a Jewish center in Mumbai had gone to serve Jews living far from their roots, fearing only that he would not be able to help as many as possible.
Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka Holtzberg, were among the five hostages killed at the center and more than 120 people dead in Mumbai after the attacks by Islamist militants on luxury hotels and other sites in India's financial capital.
Their son Moshe, who turns 2 on Saturday, was rescued by a nanny and has been handed over to his mother's parents.
"After he got married he was looking to make an impact in the world, in the Jewish world, and in his case reach out to people who are really, really far away both literally and spiritually from their roots," said Rabbi Berel Wolvovsky of Maryland, a childhood friend of Gavriel Holtzberg.
"His fears were not fears of terrorism. His fears were of maybe not being able to help as many people as he'd like."
Gunmen attacked the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Community Center in Mumbai's Colaba district and took hostages, prompting Indian security forces to storm the center.
"The house was completely ruined from within, mainly from the explosions set off by the Indians," Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Channel 1 television.
"They found five bodies - two women and three men. Some of the bodies were tied up. To judge by the accompanying signs, some of the people were killed a good number of hours previously."
Holtzberg arrived in Mumbai in 2003 to run a synagogue and Torah classes as part of Chabad-Lubavitch Movement, which has thousands of emissaries around the world as serving as rabbis and de facto consuls.
"He was a real mensch (person of honor) and we will miss him very, very dearly," Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, who was in regular contact with Holtzberg from the New York headquarters, told reporters, his voice breaking with emotion.
Holtzberg, 29, was born in Israel and moved to Brooklyn with his parents at age 9. His 28-year-old wife, born Rivka Rosenberg, was a native of Afula, Israel.
Israeli officials say the Chabad center, tucked away on a narrow street, was targeted for being Jewish.
"Our world is under attack. There are extremist Muslim elements who do not accept our values or our existence," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in Jerusalem.
Chabad leader Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky told a news conference in New York the movement's work would continue.
"Nothing deters us," he said.

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Death toll in Mumbai attacks climbs to 155; gunbattles rage on at Taj hotel

Last update - 00:21 29/11/2008       
Death toll in Mumbai attacks climbs to 155; gunbattles rage on at Taj hotel
By Haaretz Staff and News Agencies
The number of dead in the city-wide terrorist attacks in the Indian financial capital Mumbai has reached at least 155, poice said Friday, while the French news agency AFP quoted an Indian cabinet minister as saying that the death toll could climb as high as 200 people.
A two-day siege by terrorists at a Jewish outreach center in Mumbai run by the Orthodox Chabad movement ended in tragedy Friday evening when it was confirmed that six hostages were found dead inside.
Commandos also cleared the Trident-Oberoi hotel and freed 143 hostages, among them four Israelis and other foreign tourists and businessmen who emerged with harrowing stories of the bloodshed inside. Two gunmen were killed.
But at least two or three gunmen were still fighting in the nearby Taj Mahal hotel, said Jyoti Krishna Dutt, head of the paramilitary National Security Guards. Officials had earlier believed only one militant was holed up there.
"In view of the firing and the positions they have occupied, I would say there are at least two or three of them," Dutt said on television as explosions and gunfire erupted regularly at the hotel. They may be holding hostages, other officials said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, five Israelis known to have been in the city have yet to make contact with officials. There is no information on their well-being.
One foreign member of the Oberoi hotel staff left holding a baby in his arms, others wept as police showed them photographs of dead relatives for identification.
As anger mounted, India blamed "elements" from Pakistan for the coordinated assault on its financial capital, which seemed designed to scare off foreign executives and tourists. Pakistan said the two countries faced a common enemy. Urging New Delhi not to play politics, it agreed to send its spy chief to share intelligence on the suicide attacks.
According to preliminary information, some elements in Pakistan are
responsible for Mumbai terror attacks, Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in the western city of Jodhpur.
"Proof cannot be disclosed at this time," he said, adding that Pakistan had assured New Delhi it would not allow its territory to be used for attacks against India. India has long accused Islamabad of allowing militant Muslim groups, particularly those fighting in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, to train and take shelter in Pakistan. Mukherjee's carefully phrased comments appeared to indicate he was accusing Pakistan-based groups of staging the attack, and not Pakistan itself.
Islamabad has long denied those accusations.
Earlier Friday, Pakistan's Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar, in Islamabad,
rejected any involvement by his country in the attacks: "I will say in very categoric terms that Pakistan is not involved in these gory incidents."
The British government, meanwhile, was investigating whether some of the
attackers could be British citizens with links to Pakistan or the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, a British security official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work.
The gunmen were well-prepared, apparently scouting some targets ahead of time and carrying large bags of almonds to keep up their energy.
"It's obvious they were trained somewhere ... Not everyone can handle the AK series of weapons or throw grenades like that," an unidentified member of India's Marine Commando unit told reporters, his face wrapped in a black mask. He said the men were very determined and remorseless and ready for a long siege. One backpack they found had 400 rounds of ammunition inside.
He said the Taj was filled with terrified civilians, making it very difficult for the commandos to fire on the gunmen.
"To try and avoid civilian casualties we had to be so much more careful," he said, adding that hotel was a grim sight. Bodies were strewn all over the place, and there was blood everywhere.
A U.S. investigative team was heading to Mumbai, a State Department official said Thursday evening, speaking on condition of anonymity because the U.S. and Indian governments were still working out final details.
India has been shaken repeatedly by terror attacks blamed on Muslim militants in recent years, but most were bombings striking crowded places: markets, street corners, parks. Mumbai - one of the most populated cities in the world with some 18 million people - was hit by a series of bombings in July 2006 that killed 187 people.
These attacks were more sophisticated - and more brazen.
They began at about 9:20 P.M. Wednesday, with shooters spraying gunfire across the Chhatrapati Shivaji railroad station, one of the world's busiest terminals.
For the next two hours, there was an attack roughly every 15 minutes - the Jewish center, a tourist restaurant, one hotel, then another, and two attacks on hospitals. There were 10 targets in all.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Israeli diplomat: Five hostages dead at Mumbai Chabad

Last update - 16:06 28/11/2008       
Israeli diplomat: Five hostages killed at Chabad center in Mumbai
By Anshel Pfeffer, Barak Ravid, Amos Harel and Yair Ettinger, Haaretz Correspondents, and News Agencies
The bodies of five hostages were found Friday after Indian security forces stormed the besieged Chabad centre in Mumbai, an Israeli
diplomat told Israeli television by telephone from the scene.
"The incident has not ended," Haim Choshen told Channel 2. "Five bodies of hostages have been found inside the Chabad House. We still don't know whose bodies."
India's National Security Guards chief said earlier that commandos found two bodies at the Chabad center, which appeared to be those of hostages.
Chabad first raised the alarm Wednesday night, when city-wide attacks began in Mumbai, saying it had failed to make contact with Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his Israeli wife, Rivki. At least 143 people have been killed and hundreds others wounded in the attacks, which appeared to target locations popular with foreigners.
Israel's ambassador to India, Mark Sofer, told Sky News on Friday evening that it was unclear how people had been inside the building when the siege began.
J.K. Dutt also told Indian television that the commandos had killed two militants in operations at the center.
"We have neutralised two terrorists," Dutt said. "Along with that we have also found two bodies. Those bodies appear to be of hostages."
The Israeli Orthodox rescue service ZAKA also said Friday that staff it had sent to Mumbai to help at the siege believed that hostages in the center had died.
"Apparently the hostages did not remain alive," the Zaka service said in a brief statement quoting its staff in Mumbai. It did identify the hostages nor say how many may have died. A rabbi and his wife had been believed to be held hostage.
Earlier a huge crowd of onlookers cheered as a group of Indian commandos left the center, prompting local television channels to announce the operation to dislodge the gunmen had ended.
Some people punched the air with their fists. Other commandos chatted on the roof of the building, looking relaxed.
The Mumbai police chief said the operation was still in its final stages, while Dutt said the third floor of the building had not been secured.
A short way across the city, frequent gunshots and explosions also rang out from the luxury Taj Mahal hotel as elite commandos fought cat-and-mouse battles with a lone gunmen.
The security forces blew a hole in the side of the Chabad building, hours after they were dropped by helicopter on the roof. Heavy gunfire and explosions were later heard at the site.
The building was cloaked with thick smoke after the blast, television pictures showed.
Sofer said earlier Friday he believed six or more Israeli nationals were still being held hostage by gunmen at the Chabad center.
"We are estimating, and it's pretty much an educated guess, somewhere around six, maybe a little bit more, but I don't have complete information on that," he told Times Now television.
"A couple of days ago an Indian caregiver managed to escape with a tiny baby belonging to the rabbi in Chabad House, but the rabbi and his wife are still inside."
According to the Foreign Ministry, 17 Israelis known to have been in the city have yet to make contact with officials. To this point, there is no information on their well-being.
Meanwhile, four Israelis were among the dozens of captives who were freed from the nearby Oberoi Hotel. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said Friday that the four have been accounted for and are in good health.
Heavily armed Indian commandos, their faces covered by balaclavas, rappelled from helicopters onto the roof of the Chabad center in what television reports said was an assault by the paramilitary National Security Guard to flush out the militants.
Sharpshooters in buildings opposite the headquarters of Chabad began shooting early Friday as a helicopter circled overhead. it about secular Israelis that so aggravates these American Jews, many themselves irreligious?
I think deep down it's jealousy. While the Jews in America and other communities have been grappling for decades with the question of how to define a Jewish identity that is not tied down only to religion, secular Israelis simply don't have that problem. Sure, many of them lack a lot of Jewish knowledge and they certainly are not very aware of the Jewish world outside Israel. But they're not very bothered about it, because for them every moment in Israel is passed within a Hebrew speaking Jewish environment.
And that's also why, as some of those interviewed by Rettig said, when secular Israelis go off to the United States, they are not usually very interested in getting to know the local Jewish community. They have lived all their lives among Jews; once they get out of Israel they are looking for something different.
Israel, the Zionist project, was founded exactly for that reason, to serve as a secular Jewish alternative to life in the Diaspora. And while it's far from perfect, for most Israelis, it is still a credible option. They are not blind to its shortcomings, but they are still content with living their Jewish lives here.
And at least on a sub-conscious level, this contentment is galling to many Jews in America and elsewhere, especially those who are struggling to come up with an alternative Jewish life of their own that will be sufficiently attractive to a disinterested young Jewish generation

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Orthodox Jews hiding child abuse

OK - so why did Michael Jackson convert to Islam?
In Israel there is a similar problem with ultraorthodox Jews:

This report below is about the US. "Orthodox" Jews, but one suspects that they really mean "Haredi" - ultra-orthodox.


Initiatives encouraging victims to come forward or offering support for those claiming they were molested encounter strong opposition, lead to death-threats in Orthodox community

Associated Press

It started as a radio program discussion about a taboo subject: child molestation among members of the insular world of Orthodox Jews.

Since he broached the subject on his radio show this summer, says a state assemblyman, dozens of people have come forward with stories about children being molested in the Orthodox community, which strictly follows Jewish law.

Dov Hikind says as many as four people a day have come to him over the past three months with painful accounts of secrets often kept for decades, accusing more than 60 individuals.

Hikind says he would eventually consider unmasking accused sexual predators but wants to focus now on setting up a broader framework for addressing the issue.

His campaign has set off a firestorm in the Orthodox community, where people are reluctant to involve secular authorities. One rabbi said he got death threats for speaking out.

"In our community, people don't talk about the things that they've come to my office" and revealed, said Hikind, himself an Orthodox Jew.

Among other faiths, the subject has meant turmoil in recent years for the Roman Catholic church. For decades, church leaders often transferred predatory clergy among parishes without telling parents or police. Victims have won millions in settlements from dioceses.

Hikind said he won't breach victims' trust by disclosing his private exchanges to prosecutors — or to a lawyer who subpoenaed him in a civil case against a school accused of concealing abuse.

However, he has been working on devising mechanisms within the Orthodox world for reporting sex abuse and sharing information on school staffers' previous positions. He aims to present a plan to rabbis this winter.

Cases handled quietly

Studies have found Orthodox Jews account for as much as 10% of Jews nationwide, and a far greater share in parts of the New York metro area. Some 37% of the more than 516,000 Jews in Brooklyn are Orthodox, according to the UJA-Federation of New York, a Jewish social-service group.

Critics have said sex abuse claims are sometimes handled quietly in Orthodox rabbinical courts, rather than being reported to authorities.

However, some sexual abuse cases involving Orthodox Jewish schools have spilled into the secular legal system in Brooklyn.

In one case, Rabbi Yehuda Kolko was charged with sexually abusing boys at an Orthodox school. He admitted no sexual wrongdoing but pleaded guilty in April to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge.

Kolko was sentenced to three years of probation and has been dismissed from the school, said his lawyer, Jeffrey Schwartz. The school's lawyer didn't immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

Six former students are suing the school, saying it covered up Kolko's misdeeds. Their lawyer subpoenaed Hikind this month, seeking to find out whether he learned anything relevant to the case during his impromptu fact-finding.

He said lawyers were assessing how to respond to the subpoena.

Plaintiffs' lawyer Michael Dowd said he was willing to safeguard victims' identities but is determined to pursue whatever information Hikind has.

"I don't question his motivation, but at the same time, I don't accept it as a reason" not to provide information that could expose child molesters, said Dowd, who won $11.4 million in damages last year for two people raped as teenagers by a Catholic youth minister on Long Island.

Hounded into quitting battle

Hikind said he encourages people who confide in him to talk to the authorities. But none will, he said, for fear of ostracism.

One rabbi and psychologist told Jewish media outlets he was hounded into quitting a task force on child molestation, days after Hikind appointed him to lead it in September; the panel is going on with other members. Another New York rabbi told the Daily News this month that vicious fliers and death-threat calls scared him into shutting down a sex abuse victims' hot line he had set up.

Some victims' advocates see little point in collecting information without bringing in law enforcement.

"The only way things are going to be cleaned up" is with authorities' involvement, said Vicki Polin, the founder of The Awareness Center, a Baltimore-based nonprofit group that works with victims of sexual abuse in Jewish communities.

But others praise Hikind's campaign.

"We can't achieve solutions without the public spotlight," said Elliot Pasik, an Orthodox attorney who represents plaintiffs in rabbi sex-abuse lawsuits unrelated to Kolko.

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What Israeli Jews don't get and what American Jews don't get

Another battle in the Jewish wars. See Jewish wars at the GA of United Jewish Communities for the previous one.
Who is right? The one who stops the wars is right, because everyone is hiding something, and everyone is being defensive about something.

Ami Isseroff

Last update - 05:22 28/11/2008
ANALYSIS / What American Jews don't get about Israelis
By Anshel Pfeffer
I am very sorry. I didn't attend last week's General Assembly of the United Jewish Communities, the annual jamboree of North American Jewish federations and organizations. But I have an excuse. My current duties in London meant that I had to cover President Shimon Peres' visit to Britain. No matter, this newspaper was well represented at the GA even without me. Not good enough apparently for many GA delegates. My colleague at the Jerusalem Post, Haviv Rettig, published last Friday an excoriating account of how the leaders of American Jewry were hurt and indignant at the way the Hebrew-speaking media (including the Hebrew edition of Haaretz) appeared to ignore their gathering, which was actually taking place in Jerusalem.

According to Rettig, and I have no reason to disbelieve him, the Americans were so angry that they "lashed out at the Israeli media and society for failing to notice - and learn from [them]." Rettig gathered the responses of the Jewish world reporters on Israel's main newspapers and also called me as an occasional writer on the Israel-Diaspora divide, but I was too busy catching my breath from trying to keep up with Peres' frenetic pace to answer.

Let me therefore use this opportunity to disassociate myself from the disparaging remarks of those reporters who did find the time to answer. Unlike them, I think Israel's media should be extensively covering the affairs of the Jewish world in its many locations and certainly that of the largest Jewish community on earth. (I find the demographers who claim that there are more Jews in the United States more credible than those who say that Israel has more, but that is stuff for another column.)

Let me therefore use this opportunity to disassociate myself from the disparaging remarks of those reporters who did find the time to answer. Unlike them, I think Israel's media should be extensively covering the affairs of the Jewish world in its many locations and certainly that of the largest Jewish community on earth. (I find the demographers who claim that there are more Jews in the United States more credible than those who say that Israel has more, but that is stuff for another column.)

But I would also have said that this is not just the media's fault, but simply a reflection of a much wider gulf existing between Israeli society and the Jews of the world. And though they shoulder a significant portion of the blame, Israelis are not the only ones to have widened this divide. As if to answer the charges, just two days later, Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's most popular tabloid, carried an interview with one of the grandest grandees of the American community, dedicating a full double spread to the fulminations of Edgar Bronfman. Bronfman has just published a book in which he explores the question of Jewish identity in the 21st century and was using the interview to have a go at the religious establishment for their rejection of those who are not halakhically Jewish and who call for the inclusion of anyone calling themselves Jews into the tribe.

Bronfman justified his stance by saying that "Judaism belongs to every Jew. There is no need to belong to any religious stream. No need for belief in God or ceremonies and prayers." All very conventional, but here he had to make this dig: "Many Israelis who describe themselves as secular are effectively cut off from their people's tradition."

I'm not sure Bronfman is the best person to carry this particular torch but I don't want to get in to that right now, nor ask why, in his 30 years as President of the World Jewish Congress, he didn't see fit to address this issue. I am bringing up the interview simply because it illustrates exactly what is it that American Jews don't get about Israelis.

Ironically, Bronfman's complaint against secular Israelis is identical to that made by those very rabbis he so vehemently attacked in his interview; they also believe that the secular Jews are ignorant and have separated themselves from tradition.

A similar view is expressed by some of those interviewed for the report in the Jerusalem Post on indifference to the GA. What is it about secular Israelis that so aggravates these American Jews, many themselves irreligious?
I think deep down it's jealousy. While the Jews in America and other communities have been grappling for decades with the question of how to define a Jewish identity that is not tied down only to religion, secular Israelis simply don't have that problem. Sure, many of them lack a lot of Jewish knowledge and they certainly are not very aware of the Jewish world outside Israel. But they're not very bothered about it, because for them every moment in Israel is passed within a Hebrew speaking Jewish environment.

And that's also why, as some of those interviewed by Rettig said, when secular Israelis go off to the United States, they are not usually very interested in getting to know the local Jewish community. They have lived all their lives among Jews; once they get out of Israel they are looking for something different.

Israel, the Zionist project, was founded exactly for that reason, to serve as a secular Jewish alternative to life in the Diaspora. And while it's far from perfect, for most Israelis, it is still a credible option. They are not blind to its shortcomings, but they are still content with living their Jewish lives here.

And at least on a sub-conscious level, this contentment is galling to many Jews in America and elsewhere, especially those who are struggling to come up with an alternative Jewish life of their own that will be sufficiently attractive to a disinterested young Jewish generation

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US Jews demonstrate to move US embassy in Jerusalem

Tjere is no chance Barack Obama will move the US embassy to Jerusalem. This is a promise that has been broken by several presidents, notably George Bush. However, it is important to keep this issue alive. It is an example of blatant and insulting discrimination and kow-towing to Arab oil interests and pressue.
Members of US Jewish Orthodox Union gather in Jerusalem near site earmarked by US to serve as its embassy in capital, call on president-elect to 'show support for Israel by moving the embassy here'
"President Obama likes using the word change. It is time for change. Now is the time to show support for Israel by moving the embassy here," Orthodox Union President Stephen Savitsky told AFP.
Former Israeli ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon said that if the US embassy were moved to Jerusalem, other countries would follow suit.
"When it moves its embassy to Jerusalem, other civilized states will move their embassies here," Ayalon said.
There are no embassies in Jerusalem. They are in the commercial capital Tel Aviv.

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Report - 4 Israeli hostages killed in Mumbai

Received the following communication:
From: Eli at MDA
 Sent: 27 November 2008 12:07
Subject: Breaking News

I just spoke to Yoni(Yogadovsky). It would seem that four Israeli hostages were  murdered. Their son and the India Nanny were allowed to leave unharmed.

 MDA is sending 2 Paramedics and possibly a further 4 if needed to treat Israelis who are hurt and bring back the bodies of those who were killed.

 An Israeli Doctor and a Nurse from the Rambam Hospital who are in India for a Medical Convention are now on their way to trace Israelis in the hospitals. They are accompanied by an Indian doctor who will assist  them.

 MDA is co-operating with the Indian Red Cross.

Waiting for more news

Eli Benson

 Chief Executive
Magen David Adom UK
Shield House
Harmony Way
 Off Victoria Road
 London NW4 2BZ

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Israeli spy executed in Iran: The war goes on

Another victim in the war
Ronen Bergman Published:  11.26.08, 01:56 / Israel Opinion 

The execution of Ali Ashtari, if we believe the Iranian publications on the affair, the indictment, and the confession, is yet another link in the endless chain of ongoing intelligence war pitting Israel against Iran. This war is not waged on the battlefield, and most of it is undertaken in secret, yet it is being waged every hour of every day, and at times it exacts casualties.

On Saturday, the person who paid with his life was someone who according to Iran's chief prosecutor was a "spy who caused immense damage to the defense and intelligence establishments in the country."
We can indeed characterize Ashtari's arrest was a failure. However, the fact that someone managed to recruit a person located at such important junction and used him to spy and cause damages to computerized systems attests to high capabilities and immense effort.
In the past five years, the Mossad has focused almost entirely on one objective. This objective is called Iran. All the rest has become marginal in the view of Mossad Director Meir Dagan. If Ashtari indeed worked for the Mossad, this is proof that the immense effort bore some fruit.
The plethora of information published by the Iranians shows that apparently this was not an attempt to get rid of someone after falsely accusing him of espionage. The information is commensurate with other operations undertaken by Western intelligence agencies using similar methods, including the planting of Trojan horses and tampering with advanced electronic equipment before it was used by the enemy's 
defense establishment.
According to the details that were published, Ashtari also tried to recruit figures involved in Iran's nuclear project on behalf of the Mossad. We can assume that if he managed to do so, these people are currently facing a big problem.
In the last three years, several reports were received from Iran regarding odd malfunctions at the army's computerized systems in respect to the nuclear project. Now all that is left is to identify the malfunction that led to the uncovering of poor Ashtari.

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Let my people... come

Thousands of Subbotnik Jews being refused permission to move to Israel
Michael Freund
Published:  11.27.08, 00:58 / Israel Opinion
Nearly 20 years may have passed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but it appears that there are still plenty of people who would like to continue to apply some of the more dubious policies employed by the Soviets.

Throughout Russia, there are thousands of Subbotnik Jews being refused permission to make Aliyah. Only this time, it is none other than the government of Israel that is refusing to permit them to immigrate.

The saga of the Subbotnik Jews began more than two centuries ago, when a group of Russian peasants decided to convert to Judaism. While the historical circumstances behind their decision remain unclear, one thing is beyond doubt: it required a great deal of courage to adopt Judaism under the Czar.

Not surprisingly, the Subbotnik Jews were made to pay an extremely heavy price, which climaxed with their forced expulsion to the far reaches of the empire by order of the cruel Czar Alexander I.
Nonetheless, despite the persecution to which they were subjected, they somehow managed to survive, even as they continued to cling tenaciously to the Jewish faith they had so bravely embraced.

During the period of the First Aliyah some 120 years ago, large numbers of Subbotnik Jews moved to Israel and quickly came to play a central 
role in the pioneering efforts to settle the land. Among their descendants can be found a variety of prominent figures, including former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael (Raful) Eitan; former Israel Police District Commander Alec Ron; and of course the legendary Alexander Zaid, who established the "Hashomer" Jewish self-defense organization a century ago. Thousands of other Subbotnik Jews moved to Israel over the ensuing decades, including in the great wave of Aliyah from Russia which took place during the 1990s.
Among those who stayed behind, life under Communism took its toll, and in recent years there has been a noticeable and worrisome wave of growing assimilation and intermarriage. And that is precisely why the State of Israel needs to move expeditiously to allow the remaining Subbotnik Jews to make Aliyah – before they assimilate completely and disappear as Jews.

The Subbotnik Jews valiantly stood up to Czarist persecution and Soviet oppression just to remain Jews. Others were murdered by the Nazis because of their allegiance to the Law of Moses. And despite this, the government of Israel continues to display a shocking level of apathy regarding their fate, as it cruelly slams the door in their faces and now prevents them from making Aliyah.

The remaining members of the Subbotnik Jewish community, who are concentrated primarily in southern Russian and in eastern Siberia, are struggling valiantly to preserve their Jewish identity and to come home to Israel.

But despite the fact that hundreds of Subbotnik Jews from the Russian village of Vysoky have made Aliyah over the past decade, the Interior Ministry and Nativ, an arm of the Prime Minister's Office, have in recent years inexplicably begun placing obstacles in the path of those left behind.
A particularly painful example of the bureaucracy's callousness is the case of Lubov Gonchareva, a 48-year old resident of Vysoky and the mother of three children. Lubov's parents made Aliyah several years ago, were recognized as Jews by the Interior Ministry, and her mother even obtained a ruling from the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court recognizing her as Jewish.

Nevertheless, when Lubov herself submitted an application to make Aliyah four years ago, her request was denied on the grounds that her husband was not Jewish. Hence, she was told, she had "lost" the right to move to Israel, even though her parents were living as Jews and Israelis in Beit Shemesh, outside Jerusalem.

"I was born a Jew and I live as a Jew, as do my children," Lubov said recently as tears welled up in her eyes. "The State recognized my parents as Jews, so how can it now do this to me and to my children?" 
On Thursday, the justices of Israel's Supreme Court will have to decide Lubov's fate, as well as the fate of others like her, when they hear a petition filed on behalf of the Subbotnik Jews by Shavei Israel, the organization that I chair. Hopefully, the judges will recognize that we cannot turn our backs on the remnants of this very special community, particularly after all that it has endured.

For if we do so, the remnants of the Subbotnik Jews might be lost to the Jewish people forever – and for that history would surely never forgive us.
The writer is the Founder and Chairman of Shavei Israel ( - a Jerusalem-based organization that assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

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Abbas: Olmert agreed that East Jerusalem should be Palestinian-ruled


Ramallah – Ma'an Exclusive – Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has accepted that East Jerusalem should be placed under Palestian control, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.
In addition, Israel has recognized the existence of only 200,000 Palestinian refugees from the violence at its creation in 1948, Abbas said.
Abbas said this recognition took place in secret final-status negotiations with Israeli negotiators. Israel's acknowledgment of these refugees falls short of the list of 950,000 refugees the Palestinian Authority says were expelled in 1948, along with five million total refugees and their descendants, the Palestinian president claimed.
Abbas revealed this and other information about the negotiations with Israel and with his Palestinian rival, the Hamas movement, during a two-hour meeting with senior Fatah officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abbas said the Palestinian leadership takes the negotiations seriously: "Those who think that we sit with Israelis for sake of publicity; they are wrong."
"We armed ourselves with documents, maps, data and statistics ahead of each session and we have a fortified, professional expert negotiating team. We get prepared each time as if studying before class at school," he said.
Abbas said that he had rejected an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state that would include 92% of the land of the West Bank, saying that he would not accept any deal that left out even 1% of the land.
Abbas also explained that Israel had hesitated to make a firm commitment to the pre-1967 borders during the negotiations. However, in recent meetings, Israeli leaders had finally accepted that occupied East Jerusalem ought to be a part of the Palestinian State.
He said: "Whenever we asked them about the borders they had usually responded that they are not so sure. Only in the last two sessions they recognized those borders including East Jerusalem, as Olmert explained that a two-state solution is the best choice and Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem should be ruled by PA."
The president also recounted an anecdote about his first meeting with United States President George W. Bush. After presenting the US leader with a map of the West Bank showing the route of the separation wall and other Israeli installments, Bush became angry, throwing the maps in the face of an assistant.
"This way there won't be a Palestinian state and Israel is cutting off the road to a solution," Abbas reported Bush as saying.
Abbas said that when he went to Switzerland he was asked why he rejected Hamas' suggestion of a Palestinian state with temporary borders. He said he replied that he advised Hamas leader Isma'il Haniyeh at the time to stop making such suggestions, as he sees them as harmful to the negotiations with Israel.
He said Hamas's suggestion of a long-term truce with Israel would actually stabilize the current situation, with Palestinians controlling less than 60% of the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli wall remaining in place.
Abbas said that Hamas is damaging the Palestinian national cause out of anger of their exclusion from politics, "destroying the game because they are not allowed to play."
Blaming Hamas for the collapse of Palestinian internal talks, Abbas also criticized Israel for refusing to allow Palestinian political leaders from the West Bank representing Fatah, the PFLP, and the DFLP, to travel to the talks in Cairo.
Abbas said that three points must be accepted in order for the dialogue with Hamas to proceed: The presence of Arab forces to support Palestinian security forces, reform of the Palestinian government and simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.
Abbas also said that that the Palestinian prisoners slated for release by Israel before the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday include lawmakers and prisoners serving long sentences. 

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Christopher Hitchens reviews Denis MacShane on Anti-Semitism

Perhaps this is the highlight:
And meanwhile I would never expect to read the sort of criticism of Pakistan that I read every day about Israel. Yet of these two states, born at almost the same moment at the close of Britain's imperium, can it really be said that Israel is so much the greater offender in terms of democratic rights for citizens, invasions of neighbours like Afghanistan, oppressions of non-Punjabi minority inhabitants, massacres of co-religionists as in Bangladesh, and illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons? One can just about picture a worldwide campaign to redress the injustices of Pakistan, in which unions of British teachers and journalists would join with their own courageous boycotts, but I confess to a slight difficulty in picturing the same level of enthusiasm and commitment. There is some sense in which any challenge to what can be viewed as specifically Jewish power is more exciting and possibly more "transgressive", and we might be more honest if we admitted as much. Here's a thought experiment: you get an email telling you that all the Anglo-Saxons left the World Trade Center just an hour before the planes hit (not having merely stayed away with all the benefit of their advance warning, but having actually gone to all the trouble of turning up at 8 a.m. and trustingly assuming that the terror-strike would take place just on schedule and thus give them time to check their Rolexes for an orderly and early departure). See what I mean? It's just not such a thrilling hypothesis. When directed at the Jews, however, it at least adds insult to injury, and the true bigot knows that every little helps.
However, both MacShane and Hitchens operate from the naive and optimistic viewpoint that if only we can get a logically correct description of anti-Semitism, the anti-Semites will be convinced of the error of their ways, and the problem will disappear.
Ami Isseroff
November 19, 2008
The new anti-Semitism?
How ancient prejudice and outright hostility have re-emerged since the Nuremberg Trials
Christopher Hitchens

I was once introduced, in the Cosmos Club in Washington, to Willis Carto of the Liberty Lobby, a group frequently accused of being insufficiently philo-Semitic. Mr Carto unburdened himself of quite a long burst about the power of finance capital, whereupon our host, to lighten the atmosphere, said, "Come on Willis, you're sounding like Ezra Pound". "Ezra Pound!" exclaimed Mr Carto. "Why, I love that man's work. Except for all that goddam poetry!" I thought then that if one ever needed a working definition of an anti-Semite, it might perhaps be an individual who esteemed everything about Ezra Pound except his Cantos.
Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith has a different definition. For him, anti-Semitism is revealed not when someone criticizes the state of Israel, but when someone denies the right of Israel to exist. This, however, will not do, since many Orthodox Jews and Marxist Jews were opposed ab initio to the founding of a Jewish state, and indeed, for the first few years of the Zionist movement's existence, almost all its enemies were Jewish. (By the same token, the idea of a Levantine state into which European Jewry could be decanted often found favour with those who were not all fond of Jewry per se.)
The overt expression of anti-Semitic views has been extremely muted since the Nuremberg Trials, and the somewhat later decision of the Roman Catholic Church to withdraw its historic charge of "deicide" against the Jewish people as a whole. But the Labour MP Denis MacShane, who chaired an all-party commission of inquiry into the subject, argues that this most ancient and fierce of hatreds is undergoing a worldwide recrudescence. Rather dauntingly, he begins his book Globalising Hatred with a taxonomy of six distinct kinds of anti-Semitism, as compiled by the no less dauntingly named Professor Armin Pfahl-Traughber. The disease, it seems, can present as religious, social, political, racist, secondary or anti-Zionist, and of course these symptoms are not mutually exclusive and may often be found in clusters.
I would propose to begin more economically, by separating anti-Semitism from other forms of prejudice. One might certainly begin by distinguishing it from any too obvious stratification: MacShane likes to put the word "upper-class" in front of his main noun, but it was the great German socialist August Bebel who characterized anti-Jewish ranting as "the socialism of fools" and identified it as a perverted form of class resentment. This may have been slightly reductionist, as if to place a creepy and occult belief on all fours with more ordinary styles of xenophobia. British people who dislike Pakistanis, say, or Sinhalese who dislike Tamils, or Ulstermen who look down on Gaels, will tend to express themselves in fairly vulgar terms. The disliked ones are dirty and lazy, and have over-large families and a generally low cultural level. Anti-Semitism, by contrast, has something almost vicariously admiring about it. The targeted and hated tribe is believed to have awesome secret power and a positive genius for finance, as well as an ability to infiltrate and annex large swathes of professional life, such as the law and medicine. Not only this, but the Jew is seen as so protean as to have been – in the course of the past century alone – the covert engineer of both capitalism and Bolshevism. Examples of this combination of envy with paranoia are not difficult to locate: a recent New York Times report from Egypt described a settled conviction at all levels of society that, while nineteen Arabs could not have brought down the World Trade Center, the Israeli Mossad had the means, the method, the motive and the opportunity to do so. (One might pause to note the element of Arab self-hatred that is latent in this view.) When asked for proof, the believers point to the fact, which "everybody knows", that all the Jews employed in the Twin Towers left work shortly before the planes arrived. I have myself heard this alleged at elite dinner parties in Islamabad, and MacShane has heard it from educated Muslims in his own constituency of Rotherham.
Perhaps over-anxious not to single out these as if they were the only offenders, MacShane is careful to spread his net wide. Neo-fascists in Argentina and Germany, the British National Party, the anti-Israeli American academics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the demagogues of Radio Maria in Poland, the sneers of Alan Clark in his Diaries, the gibes of David Irving, and a few of the anti-Zionist positions taken by Noam Chomsky and Perry Anderson are all included in the trawl. Surely this is too indiscriminate, especially in the case of the last two named? More important, does it not run the risk of treating Islamist anti-Semitism as if it were merely one form of the malady among many?
In point of fact, there is only one area of the world where pure, old-fashioned undiluted Jew-hatred is preached from the pulpit, broadcast on the official airwaves, given high-level state sanction and taught in the schools. All across the Muslim Middle East and well into Muslim Asia, the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion are freely available, often disseminated by ruling circles as well as by insurgent and now quasi-government movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah. (Incidentally, it is wrong to call this toxic document a "forgery", since a forgery is a copy of something authentic. The Protocols are a mere fabrication, put together by Eastern Orthodox Christian fanatics in the pay of the tsarist secret police. Despite their suggestive name, they contain no mention of Israel or Zionism, as MacShane appears to think.)
When he does turn his attention to this region, however, MacShane's treatment of the lucubrations of Tariq Ramadan and Sayyid Qtub is fairly comprehensive. Not everybody will agree with his generally lenient approach to the state of Israel, but he does argue convincingly, with some telling quotations, that resentment at Israel's occupation of the West Bank simply cannot explain some of the more lurid formulations of Arab and Muslim propaganda. The fairly temperate Ghada Karmi, for example, speaks of Israel "encircling the Arab world" (my italics), while regional self-pity – a natural sibling of self-hatred by the way, as is self-righteousness – often blames all the ills of a backward and benighted region on arcane Jewish manipulations. The relatively recent history of Europe shows how fantastically dangerous such delusions can be, and MacShane is right to stress the comparison as well as the implications.
When all this is taken into account, though, I am not sure that he is correct in so often using the prefix "neo" to describe the resurgent phenomenon. The pseudo-intellectual and superstitious tropes of Judaeophobia are very much the same as they ever were. They involve the hatred of the countryside for the urban (and the urbane), the hatred of the provinces for the capital (and for capital), the disdain of the settled establishment for the subversive, and the visceral loathing of the tradition-minded "organic" community for the rootless and the cosmopolitan. In this, one can understand both the nastier moments that one may encounter in the study of T. S. Eliot and also the mentality of those Argentine fascists who tortured the Jewish editor and journalist, Jacobo Timerman. As Timerman recalled the obsessions of the death-squad Right in his imperishable book Prisoner without a Name: Cell without a number, his interrogators believed that "Argentina has three main enemies: Karl Marx, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of society; Sigmund Freud, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of the family; and Albert Einstein, because he tried to destroy the Christian concept of time and space". I went to look this up after I had read MacShane citing Argentine military men who to this day believe that there is a Jewish conspiracy to annex and Zionize the remoter areas of Patagonia, the better, presumably, to extend Protocol power to the Jew-free wastes of Antarctica.
"You catch it on the edge of a remark", as Harold Isaacs phrases it in Chariots of Fire. I have felt myself "catching" it quite a few times of late, as when chaps from the BBC insisted despite repeated correction on saying Paul "Vulfovitz" with a special emphasis, instead of pronouncing the name correctly the first time round, as the BBC used to train people to do. Writing about the same person, the American isolationist and Charles Lindbergh admirer Patrick J. Buchanan referred to him as playing Fagin to George Bush's Oliver Twist which, an arresting image as it certainly is, makes rather the same point in an only somewhat different way. And meanwhile I would never expect to read the sort of criticism of Pakistan that I read every day about Israel. Yet of these two states, born at almost the same moment at the close of Britain's imperium, can it really be said that Israel is so much the greater offender in terms of democratic rights for citizens, invasions of neighbours like Afghanistan, oppressions of non-Punjabi minority inhabitants, massacres of co-religionists as in Bangladesh, and illegal acquisition of nuclear weapons? One can just about picture a worldwide campaign to redress the injustices of Pakistan, in which unions of British teachers and journalists would join with their own courageous boycotts, but I confess to a slight difficulty in picturing the same level of enthusiasm and commitment. There is some sense in which any challenge to what can be viewed as specifically Jewish power is more exciting and possibly more "transgressive", and we might be more honest if we admitted as much. Here's a thought experiment: you get an email telling you that all the Anglo-Saxons left the World Trade Center just an hour before the planes hit (not having merely stayed away with all the benefit of their advance warning, but having actually gone to all the trouble of turning up at 8 a.m. and trustingly assuming that the terror-strike would take place just on schedule and thus give them time to check their Rolexes for an orderly and early departure). See what I mean? It's just not such a thrilling hypothesis. When directed at the Jews, however, it at least adds insult to injury, and the true bigot knows that every little helps.
"The bitch that bore him is on heat again", as Brecht has his closing speaker say about Hitler at the curtain of The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. The next nightmare will not take the same shape or form, but it will be sure to emit the same plain and unmistakable warnings. MacShane has done a service by giving us a handbook of the signs.
Denis MacShane
The new antisemitism
188pp. Orion. £12.99.
978 0 297 84473 0
Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book, God Is Not Great: The case against religion, appeared earlier this year.

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Settler Rabbi Arrested for Incitement

The Jerusalem Post

Rabbi Yigal Shandrapi, the head of Yeshuat Mordechai Yeshiva, is expected to be brought before the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court on Wednesday for a remand hearing, after police from the Judea and Samaria Division arrested him on Tuesday on suspicion of inciting Jewish youth to riot.

According to the allegations, Shandrapi incited the teenagers two separate cases, the most recent of which occurred two months ago at the Yad Yair outpost, in the West Bank. During that incident, soldiers described being attacked and said that their vehicles were damaged.

Meanwhile, nearly 40 Jewish youth reportedly rampaged through the streets of a Palestinian neighborhood in Hebron overnight Tuesday, puncturing car tires and shattering windows in Arab homes.

The youths were also suspected of spray-painting a Star of David on one of the houses in the area.

While no arrests had been made, police were investigating the incident.

Responding to the latest developments, the chairman of the Knesset Interior Committee, MK Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor), called on Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter to clamp down on the offenders.

"This is an additional crossing of a red line by organized, dangerous thugs, and it must be responded to with the utmost seriousness and gravity," Paz-Pines said. "The police must immediately initiate a thorough investigation and start a series of arrests in order to put an end to the 'Wild West' in Hebron, and to establish, without hesitation, the rule of law."

Meanwhile, Barak warned on Wednesday that if settlers do not voluntarily evacuate the dispute four-story building in Hebron, known as Beit Hashalom, the defense ministry will evacuate them by force.

Speaking during a tour of the IDF's Hebron brigade, Barak stressed that the evacuation would be carried out by police and that the IDF would provide surrounding support.

Barak also harshly criticized the recent violence and said that any harm inflicted on a soldier or policeman or anyone who represented the state of Israel was a "grave incident which expands the rift which is already harming the gentle fabric of democracy in Israel."

Barak said Israel must "arrest these attackers, punish them with all the severity of the law, since their actions are aimed at undermining the authority of the State."

The defense minister, toured the area with IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni.

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Settler violence

The article states:

In relative terms, the violence perpetrated by radical elements among the Jewish settler movement pales in comparison to the well-orchestrated, highly public, popularly supported lethal attacks of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This fringe group of Jewish extremists has so far not carried out a fatal terrorist attack, while Islamist groups have killed hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians.
I am not sure it is so. Settlers killed a Prime Minister. That is pretty serious even compared to some of the things that the Palestinians do. Settlers carried out several fatal attacks and were convicted for doing them as I remember. They also tried to bomb a Palestinian girls' school. They got caught that time, but give them an "E" for effort. Moreover, each time they beat a Palestinian or level an olive grove or stone Palestinian kids on the way to school, they are doing far more damage to the state of Israel than a suicide bomber, for they are ruining our good name and turning us into a chaotic state of hoodlums.
Nor is it any use explaining that these people are "just a fringe." After all, that is the same excuse used by every violent movement, including the Palestinians. "We don't believe that. We don't support violence. They are just a fringe - outside agitators. Of course, we can understand their point of view." The same excuses were used for Ku Klux Klan violence in the United States. The fact is, no Kach people, State of Judea, Hamas, KKK or any other extremists could exist for long if others in their society did not support them and give them shelter and funds.
These people are an embarrassment to Zionism and a blot on the image and good name of the Jewish people. They are not serving any positive purpose and what they do is inexcusable. Anyone who cooperates with such people, gives them shelter or fails to report them is a traitor to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
Ami Isseroff  

Violence by Extremists in the Jewish Settler Movement: A Rising Challenge

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
November 24, 2008

Thirteen years after the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli security officials are expressing heightened concern that a new wave of violent extremism among fringe elements in the Jewish settler movement threatens not only Palestinian civilians, but also Israeli national security and the future of any potential peace diplomacy.

Recent Trends in Violence by a Settler Fringe

The vast majority of the approximately 300,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements are law-abiding citizens. An extremist fringe element within the settler movement, however, has been responsible for a substantial increase in violent incidents. According to a November 2008 report by Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, security officials recorded 675 cases of violent activity perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and Israeli security forces from January to November 2008. These incidents include assault, causing damage to property, trespassing, violating orders, using a weapon, and "causing death."

Prosecutors opened 515 of these criminal cases so far this year, an increase of 11 percent from 2007. Of these, 13 involved what the newspaper termed "left wing anarchists," while 502 involved "right wing radicals." The majority of alleged perpetrators were adults with no prior criminal record and were not, as widely assumed, teenagers. Of these, 197 people were jailed and 105 indictments filed, compared to 61 in 2007. Israeli officials are disturbed by the focus on Israel Defense Forces (IDF) personnel involved in dismantling settlement outposts; at times, they are being attacked or held at knifepoint.

This violence appears to be part of a deliberate campaign by a committed core of fringe settlers to prevent the dismantlement of settlements and outposts. They are using a strategy called the "price tag," which is a retaliation for government efforts challenging the settlement enterprise in the West Bank. Largely perpetrated by members of the "hilltop youth" -- a loosely organized group of belligerent young settlers -- this tactic attempts to pin down troops in various locations by blocking traffic, setting fields on fire, throwing rocks, and other acts of small-scale violence against local Palestinians and members of the Israeli security forces.

The price-tag strategy concerns Israeli authorities, since it encourages the radical fringe to take the law into its own hands, as demonstrated by the reprisal on the Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibliya on September 13. Riled by the stabbing of a young boy during a botched robbery in their settlement, about 150 Jewish settlers from Yitzhar stormed the village, damaged and set fire to property, and shot Palestinian residents. The raid's violence and lawlessness shocked Israeli leaders; Prime Minister Ehud Olmert condemned the attack as a "pogrom." More ominously, Israeli Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) chief Yuval Diskin has warned the cabinet that the radical fringe perceives the price-tag policy as successful and that the group is threatening to expand the use of violence outside the West Bank.

Pipe Bomb Attack

The September 25 pipe bomb attack on Israeli professor and prominent peace activist Zeev Sternhell outside his Jerusalem home suggests that some extremists may already be engaging in price-tag attacks in Israel proper. Although Rabin's assassin was a lone gunman acting on the extremist ideology of unorganized fellow travelers, the Sternhell attack appears to have been the result of an organized group of right-wing extremists seeking to incite like-minded individuals to action.

According to Israeli public security minister Avi Dichter, the bombing was believed to be an ideologically motivated terrorist act perpetrated by radical Jewish extremists intent on killing Sternhell. In Sternhell's neighborhood, investigators found pamphlets, signed the "Army of Liberators," offering 1.1 million shekels (roughly $320,000) to anyone who kills a member of Peace Now, a left-wing Israeli group. The pamphlet stated, "The State of Israel, our 2000-year-old dream, has become a nightmare. This country is ruled by a mob of wicked people, haters of the Torah who want to erase the laws of God. . . The state of Israel has become our enemy. . . The time has come to set up a state of Jewish law in Judea and Samaria. The time has come for the Kingdom of Judea."

The pamphlet echoes long-stated fringe propaganda, but Israeli security officials fear it represents an extremist threat that has evolved since the days of the Temple Mount Underground (a Jewish terrorist group that plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock mosque in the early 1980s). Although the perpetrators of this attack have not been identified, security forces state that a new, organized Jewish underground may be responsible for the bombing and could be planning additional strikes.

A Rising Threat

The threat of violent extremism among the fringes of the settler movement tends to be cyclical, based closely on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and unilateral Israeli government efforts to dismantle settlements and outposts. For example, the Yediot Aharonot article noted that the ISA recorded 300 strands of intelligence relating to extremist threats on people or public institutions during the July 2000 peace talks at Camp David, when Jerusalem was a centerpiece of negotiations. The number of such threats fell to 100 in the year after the Camp David talks, but in 2005, with the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza looming, the number rose again to 150. Authorities have not indicated how many possible threats they face today, but Diskin has assessed that the fringe elements are "preparing for war."

While violent extremism among the fringe of the settler movement is not a new phenomenon (see PolicyWatch # 470), Israeli authorities state that the most recent threat represents a new dynamic. According to Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of the IDF Central Command, the number of settlers willing to use violence against the state has grown exponentially, from a handful to hundreds. According to General Shamni, "In the past, only a few dozen individuals were implicated in [attacks against Palestinians and Israeli soldiers]. Today, we are talking about several hundred people -- a very significant change." General Shamni warns that "an extreme incident could happen at any time. These people are conspiring against the Palestinians and against the [Israeli] security forces."

Following the experience of Israel's unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip -- Hamas's subsequent electoral victory, its military takeover of Gaza, and its use of northern Gaza as a launchpad for mortar and rocket attacks against southern Israel -- Israeli officials fear that the lesson learned by these fringe extremists in the settler movement is that withdrawal from any West Bank hilltop or community must bear a significant cost, or price tag, for Israeli security forces, decisionmakers, and those, like Sternhell, who support such policies. Shamni, for example, cited recent cases in which the radicals sicced a dog on an Israeli reserve commander, broke a deputy battalion commander's arm, and slashed the tires of reservist vehicles.

The outgoing Israeli government has recently spoken out against the rising violence, with Olmert stating, "An evil wind of extremism, of hate, of maliciousness, of violence, of losing control, of lawbreaking, of contempt for the institutions of state, is passing through certain sections of the Israeli public." Although the extent to which this violence represents the beginning of a new Jewish extremist underground is uncertain, the Shin Bet found "a very high willingness [among radicals]. . . to use violence -- not just stones, but live weapons -- in order to prevent or halt a diplomatic process."


In relative terms, the violence perpetrated by radical elements among the Jewish settler movement pales in comparison to the well-orchestrated, highly public, popularly supported lethal attacks of radical Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. This fringe group of Jewish extremists has so far not carried out a fatal terrorist attack, while Islamist groups have killed hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps most importantly, the leaders of Israel's government and society repudiate these Jewish extremists, whereas Islamist groups are celebrated in popular media, supported by official institutions, and funded by governments throughout the Middle East.

This sense of proportionality, however, does not obscure the fact that Israeli security officials are increasingly concerned about the trajectory of recent events. This concern points to the substantial increase in the organization of the extremist elements within the settler movement and their willingness to use force to advance their goals. With the likelihood of Israeli-Palestinian reengagement in early 2009, Israeli security officials will surely devote additional attention and much-needed manpower to this potential threat.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Palestinian Forces try to calm Hebron

Ethan Bronner
The New York Times
November 24, 2008

It was a scene that revealed both its medieval origins and its contemporary significance. On one side of the concrete schoolyard sat the Rajabi clan, wearing their finest kaffiyeh headdresses. On the other side were the Ajnounis, similarly decked out.

These ancient Hebron families had been feuding in the lawlessness of this city, leaving nine dead in recent months. Yet here they were last week, brought together by the newly installed Palestinian security forces, and being obliged to reconcile.

Some 2,000 men sitting on plastic chairs looked on as a judge read the ruling — 9.5 kilograms of gold or $210,000, $70,000 now and the rest in four monthly payments to the Rajabis. Old men rose, signed their names and embraced. Wads of cash held by rubber bands were produced. The audience burst into applause.

Hebron, the West Bank's most explosive city, with a combustible mix of hard-line Jewish settlers and Palestinian militants from Hamas and other groups, is undergoing a shake-up through the introduction of hundreds of Palestinian security officers who over the past month have stopped car thefts, foiled drug deals and arrested scores of Hamas gunmen, even seizing explosives and suicide belts. They have also focused on quality-of-life issues like fighting clans and the sales of outdated food and medicine by criminal gangs.

The Palestinian commander, Brig. Gen. Sameh al-Sifi, has dubbed the deployment Homeland Rising. And while that may seem a lofty name for a law-and-order operation, he has a point. The injection of the newly trained security forces into Israeli-occupied Hebron is, both sides agree, a significant step if there is ever to be a Palestinian state.

"Our leadership wants us to foil terrorists," General Sifi, 62, said in an interview. "There will be no legal weapons here except those used by the Palestinian Authority. My ambition is the same as that of my Israeli counterpart — to see our grandchildren enjoying their lives like the rest of the world."

A senior Israeli officer in Hebron said of General Sifi: "He's a very serious guy. I'd happily take him into our army."

After years of rancor, despair and false starts, something significant seems to be happening in Israeli-Palestinian security relations.

This is the second phase of a plan to install in the West Bank a Palestinian security force sponsored by the United States and trained by Jordan. The first, begun in May in the northern area of Jenin, has been widely praised. But Jenin was selected as a pilot partly because it has neither Hamas nor Jewish settlers in any significant numbers. Yet here too the deployment is going better than expected.

"Some of the communities and neighborhoods in Hebron haven't seen a policeman since 1967," noted Dov Schwartz, aide to Gen. Keith Dayton, the United States security coordinator in the West Bank. "People have turned over criminals, drug dealers and militants. This isn't some temporary crackdown. It is a sustained and determined effort."

But it is one that will test the Israeli-Palestinian peace process like perhaps no other.

The Bible says that Abraham lived and bought property here to bury his wife, the matriarch Sarah, and that it was David's capital before Jerusalem, so observant Jews view Hebron as rightfully Jewish forever.

Indeed, nearly as much as Jerusalem, Hebron is, as the Haaretz newspaper writer Nadav Shragai put it recently, a fault line between Israelis "for whom the future of our sons is more important than the graves of our forefathers" and those who are convinced that there is no future for their sons in a place that is without the graves of their forefathers — "no physical-existential future, and most of all no spiritual future."

The Jewish settlers here — there are only 700 in the separated and heavily guarded center of the city, but a total of 12,000 around the area of 600,000 Palestinians — are among the most combative in the West Bank.

Last week, a group of them, told by the Israeli Supreme Court to leave a building, defaced a Muslim cemetery and mosque, drawing Stars of David in blue ink, writing "Muhammad is a pig" and scrawling the slogan of their radical movement — "price tag," a policy of exacting a price for any attempt to rein settlers in.

David Wilder, spokesman for the Jews of Hebron, condemned the defacing but said it was the result of endless provocation and expressed surprise that it did not happen more often. He called the new Palestinian security force "armed terrorists in uniform" and said it was "inconceivable that we could be making the same mistake again, letting armed Arabs into the center of Hebron."

Mr. Wilder was referring to what happened eight years ago when the Palestinian police turned their guns on Israelis in the second intifada and Israel responded with enormous force, destroying most of the nascent Palestinian infrastructure and reoccupying much of the West Bank. The current security cooperation is an attempt to try again as leaders of both nations assert that a two-state solution is the only way forward.

It is complicated not only by settlers but also by the internal Palestinian tensions between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and the militant Hamas group, which runs Gaza and rejects Israel's existence. Efforts to reconcile the two groups are faltering, and the continued arrest of Hamas gunmen here by Palestinian troops has increased tensions.

A recent day spent with the new Palestinian security services revealed the range of their work.

For example, they have filled warehouses with outdated food — canned meat, chocolates, baby formula — and medicine, seized from Palestinian gangs who buy the goods at cut price from Israelis and then stamp new dates on them to sell them to local shops and hospitals. The gang leaders, some with Hamas links, are awaiting trial.

General Sifi says the arrests are not political but aimed at any group that considers itself above the law. By shutting down criminal gangs, he says, the ground for terrorism becomes infertile. But from its power base in Gaza, Hamas views things differently and threatens revenge.

Word of the change is spreading fast among Palestinians in the Hebron area — a quarter of the West Bank population and its economic center.

"Forget politics, I am happy about one thing — that now there is law and order here, that you feel more secure," said Zein Abu Shkhedem, a 67-year-old tailor, when asked his view of the change as he sat in his shop. "I heard about the reconciliation and the expired food and drugs."

General Sifi said his security officers had even been greeted by residents with sweets and rice. Outside of his office are dozens of recovered Israeli vehicles, including a cement mixer, on their way back to Israeli authorities. He agrees with Mr. Wilder, the settler spokesman, about one thing: the intifada was an error.

"The main mistake was that Palestinian forces used their weapons, and as a result the Israelis dealt with us like an army facing an army," he said. "Today the settlers want to provoke us, but we will not be provoked. Our forces have clear and firm instructions — don't give in to provocation."

The Israeli officer in Hebron, who spoke on condition of anonymity but with full permission of the army, said that he and General Sifi often sat with maps to coordinate activity, and that they were especially careful about settlers. "Any place near an Israeli settlement, we put a line on a map and they don't cross it," the officer said of the Palestinian forces. "They have been very disciplined so far."

General Sifi has lived in the West Bank for only a few years. Born in a village near Jerusalem — destroyed in Israel's independence war — he spent his life in exile wandering the Arab world with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The father of two sons — an engineer and an accountant — and five daughters, General Sifi said he had been among the most fervent backers of armed struggle for most of his life. But in the past decade, that changed. "I started to realize that Israel cannot be abolished," he said, "and that political and diplomatic work was required for us to get our homeland within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital."

Referring to the decades of Palestinian employment throughout the region, he added: "We helped build all the Arab countries. Why shouldn't we build our own?"

Officials say the next stage in the rollout will be in Bethlehem, in time for Christmas.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Holy Land Foundation conviction gives American Muslims Pause

ATFP is doing the right thing. We cannot blame innocent people who wanted to help the poor and got  swindled to inadvertantly support terrorism. We can on the other hand, certainly blame those who continue to yell "discrimination" and "Islamophobia" even when it was crystal clear that Holy Land supports Hamas.

U.S. Muslims Taken Aback by a Charity's Conviction

The New York Times
November 25, 2008

American Muslim groups responded with uncustomary silence on Tuesday to the news that leaders of a Muslim charity shut down by the federal government had been convicted in a retrial of money laundering, tax fraud and supporting terrorism.

The case against the charity, the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, had long revealed a divide among Muslim Americans, leaders say. Some saw the prosecution of the foundation primarily as evidence of anti-Muslim bias by the American government, while others suspected that the charity might indeed have operated as an overly politicized money funnel for Hamas in the 1990s.

The federal government declared Hamas to be a terrorist group in 1995. When the government shuttered Holy Land, which was based in a suburb of Dallas, and seized its assets in 2001, it was said to be the largest Muslim charity in the United States.

"I do believe the community was divided, and I believe the community will continue to be divided," said Dr. Ziad J. Asali, a retired physician who is the founder and president of the American Task Force on Palestine, an advocacy group in Washington that supports a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

The jury's conviction of five Holy Land leaders on all 108 criminal counts took many Muslim leaders by surprise because a previous trial last year ended in a hung jury.

"So far, the reaction has been one of shock more than anything else," said Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, president of the Minaret of Freedom Institute, an advocacy group based in Bethesda, Md. "Even the people who are usually very quick to comment on events, positively or negatively, are so stunned by this that they seem to be at a loss for words."

Mr. Ahmad said the verdict would further confuse donors to Islamic charities, many of whom have been wary of giving to Islamic groups since Sept. 11.

"It seems to give a green light for further intimidation of Muslim charities," he said. "It makes people even more unsure of what they are supposed to do to avoid having a problem."

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the government designated dozens of Muslim charities, mostly international relief agencies, as financiers of terrorism. Muslim groups struggled for years to persuade the Treasury Department to produce some kind of seal of approval for legitimate charities that adhered strictly to humanitarian work. For Muslims, giving to charity is a religious obligation.

Part of the reason for the silence from Muslim leaders on Tuesday, some of them said, is that the government publicly named more than 300 individuals and American Muslim organizations as "unindicted co-conspirators," without allowing them to hear the evidence against them or defend themselves in court.

The American Civil Liberties Union is representing two of those groups, the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust, in trying to get a judge to strike their names from the list.

Hina Shamsi, a lawyer with the National Security Project of the A.C.L.U., said, "The Islamic Society of North America does a lot of outreach and interfaith dialogue, and works in cooperation with the F.B.I., and yet, as a result of this stigma, its reputation has been deeply harmed."

"The irony is obviously that this is the very community whose cooperation the government most needs for effective counterterrorism," she added.

Since the indictment of the Holy Land leaders, Muslim organizations have been working with the government to create mechanisms to ensure that humanitarian aid to Palestinians is not diverted to terrorism.

The American Task Force on Palestine recently created the American Charities for Palestine, and signed an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development in August, Dr. Asali said.

Under the agreement, American Charities will only make donations to educational and health institutions in the Palestinian occupied territories that have been vetted and approved by Usaid, Dr. Asali said. He just returned from taking the first donation, of 1,000 laptop computers, to Palestinian students.

"We wanted to be able to go to the donors and say, if you donate to this entity you don't have to worry about someone accusing you of terrorism," Dr. Asali said.


Continued (Permanent Link)

BINA Aims to Create Israel's National Spirit

BINA Aims to Create Israel's National Spirit
By David J. Steiner
(Editor's note: Ameinu and BINA, an Israeli organization, have recently agreed on a partnership which will both support BINA's work in Israel and bring their style of Jewish study combined with social action to the American Jewish community. We will publish a full description of the relationship in the future but in the meantime this article provides an introduction to the organization and its leader.)
Touted as "the future Israel," by Israel's Education Minister Professor Yuli Tamir, the Israeli organization BINA's  name originates with Israel's national poet Chaim Nachman Bialik and is a Hebrew acronym that loosely translates as "the place of creating Israel's national spirit." BINA is truly the creative Jewish spirit Israel needs. The only catch is that the future can't wait.
Before Ameinu decided to work with BINA and its Secular Yeshiva in South Tel-Aviv, I had already become friends with Eran Baruch the secretary of the organization. Eran, a former kibbutznik and military reserve duty general, is also a scholar and gentleman. His vision for a Jewish Israel, instead of just a state of Jews, is articulated in everything he does at the helm of the organization.  Eran teaches, travels the world raising funds and has built a team of educators and supporters which includes MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, Tel-Aviv Mayor Ron Chuldai and author Amos Oz. Eran has also penetrated the Israeli education system where BINA educators reach thousands of Jewish Israeli students every school year.
So what is BINA? It is an organization which, self declaredly aspires to, "strengthen Israel as a democratic, pluralistic society, stressing [the] humanistic aspects of Judaism." It addresses these goals through Jewish study, social action work and community leadership. It is also an answer to
 a crisis in Israeli Jewish identity that culminated in the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin thirteen years ago and hasn't subsided. According to BINA, "there is no longer a common Jewish narrative and value system in Israel." 
One could argue that there has never been a monolithic narrative or value system to the Jewish people, but the modern Jewish state definitely needs more BINAs if it doesn't want to repeat the violent fractures that occurred among our people after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Presently, you don't need to open up a history book to read examples of a fractured Jewish nation. Just open the Israeli newspapers where you can read about settlers cursing the IDF soldiers who are defending them by saying they hope "Gilad Shalit happens to [them]" a reference to the kidnapped Israeli soldier held in Gaza. Or worse, the citizens of the self declared State of Shomron who pipe bombed the home of Israel prize winner, Professor Zeev Sternhell, and announced a $300,000 bounty for the murder of the Peace Now leadership.
Still, BINA is on the cutting edge of Jewish engagement with the needs of the state from a completely humanistic perspective. When I visited the Secular Yeshiva which BINA operates in South Tel-Aviv, I learned about the Passover seder the students held for the hundreds of Sudanese refugee survivors of the atrocities in the Darfur region of their country. I saw acclaimed writer and educator Ari Elon teaching Torah to American rabbinical students from various streams of Judaism with his specifically academic approach and I watched as young secular Tel-Avivis engaged in Jewish study during their summer vacation. Amazing!
The pinnacle of my engagement with BINA was Tisha B'Av when I went to Tzavta, the famous Tel-Aviv concert hall, to participate in a creative reading of the book of Lamentations, Eicha. The first big impression I got was the room full of participants without a kippa in sight. These people didn't come out of religious requirement. They came with kavana, intention, to explore what they lament in their lives and the life of their country. Next was the reading which started in a traditional Mizrachi melody. Israel is the embodiment of Jewish pluralism. Jews come from all over the globe to live together, and a lion's share comes from Arab countries. Putting their nusach, melody, first was a matter of respect for an often disrespected plurality of Israelis.
Between chapters we were presented with varying understandings of what a sacrifice means. Tisha Bi'Av is the holiday that commemorates the destruction (Hebrew word: sacrifice) of the Temples in Jerusalem, and the organizers of the evening gave numerous ways to make relevant what sacrifice means today. One presenter sang two songs he wrote about the personal sacrifice of experiencing cancer repeatedly in his mere forty years. Dancers translated the sacrifice of family found in the story of Yehudah and Tamar into performance art, and somebody bemoaned the loss of Yiddish culture by singing a nearly lost Yiddish ballad.
Most interesting to me was the sports fan who shared the despair thousands of HaPoel Tel-Aviv fans felt when they demolished Ussishkin Stadium. As a Chicago Cubs fan, I found it easy to imagine the anguish I would feel if a wrecking ball made its way toward my beloved temple, Wrigley Field, and I'm sure my feelings are shared by those Yankee fans who recently lost their stadium.
By collaborating in this Tisha B'Av program with Beit Tifila Yisraeli and ALMA, two other secular Jewish organizations, BINA presented itself as part of the new assertion of Jews who want to take back their Judaism from the Orthodox establishment in Israel. This assertion could not come at a better time. For years there has been the question of the demographic threat to Israel's existence as a Jewish democracy, and now the new "clear and present danger" has reached the foreground of Israeli society. Is this a Jewish state? Does the state behave Jewishly? Is Judaism central to Jewish Israeli citizenship?
I am thrilled that Ameinu, the place of my Jewish roots from Habonim Labor Zionist youth through adulthood, has chosen to support BINA because I believe that this represents an organizational transformation for us from seeing the Jewish nature of the state as dependent on solving existential problems to a new look at the conflict that says we cannot move beyond where we are without going back to the Jewishness of our existence. As Chaim Yavin, Israel's Walter Cronkite said in his brilliant documentary – Land of the Settlers – the way we are behaving [toward our Palestinian neighbors] is not Jewish. Hopefully, by putting Judaism at the center of our existence, we will be more successful at solving our existential challenges. This is what BINA is doing, and Ameinu's support is just what they need to expedite this transformation.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Conversion Crisis

Israel has enacted a secular conversion law, but it is not really enough. We have several hundred thousand people who are being kept out of Israeli society for no reason.
Israeli Conversion Crisis
By Rabbi Vernon Kurtz

In the Book of Psalms, Chapter 119, Verse 26 it states:
"It is time to act for the Lord, for they have violated your teaching."
 I would like to suggest that the conversion crisis, and I want to call it a crisis, that is now affecting the State of Israel, and in particular the Aliyah of Jews from the Former Soviet Union, is a violation of the teaching of G-d and it behooves us to insure that it does not continue.
 I do not wish to give a Halakhic discourse about leniencies concerning the possibility of conversion to Judaism under traditional Jewish law.  There are many leniencies that are present in Jewish law that can be used by the Rabbinate in Israel to accelerate the conversion of many Jews from the Former Soviet Union who wish to join our faith and our people.  There are individuals from scholarly circles in Israel and the Diaspora and scholars of Halakha who can show case after case where Rabbis in rabbinic courts understood the exigencies of the moment and made decisions for the benefit of the Jewish people and its faith.  Unfortunately, the rabbinate in Israel which has become Haredi, ultra Orthodox, is not of that ilk.  Its tendency to push stringencies in the law to the point beyond what is necessary and the tendency of the population of the State of Israel, including government authorities, to accept those decisions, has created a moment in Jewish history where our values are being destroyed and our people are being torn asunder. 
"It is time to act for the Lord, for they have violated your teaching."
 Approximately 300,000 out of 1.2 million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union who have made Aliyah under the Law of Return since 1990 are not Halakhically Jewish.  Through the efforts of The Joint Conversion Institute of the Jewish Studies set up by The Neiman Commission in 1998 and the National Conversion Authority, which has been supported by the Prime Minister of the State of Israel and by the Jewish Agency, some have gone through conversion.  However, not anywhere near enough.  When The Neiman Commission originally met it was agreed upon by all three religious streams the Prime Minister's office and the Jewish Agency for Israel that courses would be established wherein members of all the streams would be the teachers.  Thus, was established the Institute for Jewish Studies.  It was also agreed the final conversion would be done by an Orthodox court of Jewish law.  Both the Conservative and Reform Movements, against the better judgments of many and against their principles, agreed to this plan for the benefit of Klal Yisrael.  Unfortunately, the Chief Rabbinate never signed onto the agreement and it therefore was never put into action.
 I wish to publicly state that I want to commend the work and the effort of Professor Yaakov Neiman, the work of The Institute's Board, Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom, Rabbi Haim Drukman, Rabbi Moshe Klein, as well as General Eliezer Stern of The Nativ Program in the Army.  With good faith they have attempted to move forward on this issue but have been stymied by the rejection of the Orthodox rabbinic courts and sometimes by the government authorities who have talked the talk, but who have not followed through with the promises that were made.
 Recently, articles in Moment Magazine and Hadassah Magazine outlined for the Jewish public in laypeople's terms the difficulty of converting in Israel.  There are many stories of individuals who came to The Joint Conversion Institute and were ready to join with our people and our faith.  Even after their period of study they were rejected by the Orthodox rabbinic courts many times on either circumstantial evidence or the setting of unrealistic expectations.  It can be shown that conversion in Jewish law does not need to be held up by great stringencies.  In a book just now translated into English entitled Transforming Identity:  The Ritual Transformation from Gentile to Jew – Structure and Meaning, Israeli scholars Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar demonstrate through a close examination of rabbinic sources that Rabbi Yitzhak Schmelkes of Lvov, who at that time tendered what was a revolutionary responsum, stated that conversion entailed a 100% commitment to all the Mitzvot.
Unfortunately, many Ashkenazic rabbis, mostly Haredi, have followed that opinion.  But, there is an entire spectrum of opinion - Sephardic rabbis and other Ashkenazic rabbis - who do not follow that particular stringency.  Instead, following Mamonidies and many other significant rabbinic sources, they show that Kabbalat Mitzvot does not mean acceptance of all the commandments, but instead acceptance of the Halakhic system and its rewards and punishments.
 What is at stake?  What is at stake is the very fabric of Israeli society.  There are 300,000 non-Halakhic citizens of the State of Israel who pay taxes, vote, send their children to Israeli educational institutions and serve in the Army and this number will only grow over a period of time as they have children and their children have children for generations to come.  Unless these people are brought under the wings of the Divine Presence, we will end up with a society in which interfaith marriages may become not only possible but sometimes highly probable.  As someone who works in the Diaspora and whose main issue is that Jews marry Jews and establish Jewish families, it is preposterous, it is absurd, it is dangerous to realize that in the State of Israel this kind of situation could occur as well.
 No, not every person who comes from the Former Soviet Union wants to convert to Judaism.  But, unless and until we become a welcoming community; unless and until we use the Halakhic leniencies that are present in our tradition; unless and until we understand the crisis that is right now occurring in Israeli society, we are seeing right before our eyes the possible destruction of Israeli/Jewish identity in the State of Israel.
 What are the ramifications?  We have people who fight for the State of Israel and die for the State of Israel and yet cannot be buried in Jewish cemeteries; even though they consider themselves if not Jewish, at least, full Israelis.   We have people who would be willing to rejoin the Jewish people after their families have been slaughtered in the Shoah and decimated by a Soviet regime which wanted to annihilate Jewish religious and cultural identity, who now come to the State of Israel wanting to rejoin our people and are rejected wholeheartedly.  We have individuals who are willing to throw in their lot with the Jewish people who are stonewalled by Haredi influence in the State of Israel threatening the fabric of the society that has been created in the State.
 What is to be done?  I speak as a Conservative rabbi who wants his denomination's conversions accepted in the State of Israel.  I speak for colleagues who take conversion very seriously and want to be seen as full rabbis in the Jewish State.  I speak for colleagues who with a great deal of Mesirut Nefesh, self-sacrifice, are willing to work to bring these people under the wings of the Divine Presence.  We have never given up our desire to have our conversions accepted and we never will and the Israeli Supreme Court has continuously backed the recognition of our converts.  However, for the purpose of Klal Yisrael, we have been willing to accept a decision for the betterment of the entire Jewish people and work with colleagues and like-minded people on behalf of The Joint Conversion Institute.  Unfortunately, in the crisis we now find ourselves, that work is being curtailed and decimated.  I need only mention the annulment of the conversions of Rabbi Haim Drukman as but one example of the Haredi rabbinate's attempt to undermine the entire Institute.
 As a Conservative rabbi in a Diaspora, as one who believes in Klal Yisrael, I am pleased to hear that Orthodox rabbis both in the United States and in Israel have begun to raise their voices at the unacceptability of the present situation.  I encourage them to fight together with us against the Haredization of the rabbinate and their own Orthodox practices.  I contended a number of years ago in speaking with leaders of The Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Modern Orthodox rabbinic group in the Diaspora, that the Israeli rabbinate had already regarded the Conservative and Reform rabbinates as heretics, but their real purpose was now to destroy the Modern Orthodox rabbinate, as well.  Unfortunately, the RCA has capitulated to the demands of the Israeli rabbinate regarding what is a proper conversion, even in the Orthodox rabbinate, in the Diaspora.  They have attempted to silence the voice of Modern Orthodoxy and, as I stated a number of years ago, to push them out of the decision-making process of Halakhic Judaism if not around the world, at least in the State of Israel.
 It is time for the Jewish Agency for Israel, it is time for the Federation system in North America, and it is time for all Jews who believe that:  "Out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem," that it shall be a Torah, a teaching, a law which is "A tree of life for those who grasp it.  Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its tasks are peace," to stand up and protest these decisions.
 It is time for us to say enough is enough and to demand of the current and next Prime Minister of the State of Israel and all political parties not to accept the present situation.  Politics as usual with the mixture of religion thrown in is unacceptable.  It destroys politics and religion.   It is time for Jews of goodwill to sit down and break the monopoly of the Chief Rabbinate which has currently sent more people away from Judaism than bringing them closer to it.  It is time for us to use all appropriate Halakhic means to reach out to those individuals who wish to join us in faith and in peoplehood and bring them under the wings of the Divine Presence.  And it is time for the Unity of the Jewish People Committee of the Jewish Agency to take a tough and principled stand on this issue.
 I believe it can be done.  It has been shown with Ethopian Jewry and the B'nai Menashe as two examples that when there is a will there is a way.  I believe it must be done.  As Rabbi Natan states at the end of the Mishna Berakhot basing himself on our verse:
"They have violated your teaching, it is a time to work for the Lord."
 I pray that that time be now before it is too late for this generation and subsequent generations in the State of Israel, to whom Judaism is attractive, can be welcoming and may be a path for coming closer to G-d and feeling part of the Jewish people worldwide, to settle this issue for the good of Klal Yisrael and to raise the glory of Torah in our lifetime.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Human Rights in Iran: Culture Ministry Closes Tehran Gallery

This news will be welcomed no doubt by all the right thinking progressive forces. All the works have been removed because they contradict Islamic codes. This is in line with the recent UN resolution that forbids blasphemy. A great victory for the forces of light and reason.
Culture Ministry Closes Tehran Gallery
News number: 870906088014:17 | 2008-11-26
TEHRAN (FNA)- Tehran's Asar Gallery was closed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The decision to close the galley was made as it was playing host to an exhibition by Iranian photographer Peyman Hushmandzadeh.

"All the works have been removed from the gallery for their contradictions to Islamic codes and social values as well as for its negligence of sanctities," the ministry's Center for Visual Arts announced on Tuesday, MNA reported.

The exhibition had been organized without any previous agreement with the center, the center added.

All art shows should be authorized by the center, which is an affiliate of the Culture Ministry.

The center's director is officially the curator of the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Taglit (Birthright) versus Jews for Jesus

Without getting into the merits or demerits of Jews for Jesus, there is a very bizarre aspect to this issue not mentioned in the article. Birthright allows anti-Zionists from the Birthright unplugged group to travel to Israel. These people then return to the United States and generate anti-Israel propaganda based on their trip. As far as I know, Birthright Israel still refuses to screen out such people.

Taglit screening out Messianic Jews

Nov. 25, 2008

Trip organizers for Birthright have begun screening American candidates interested in free trips to Israel to prevent Messianic Jews from participating.

A questionnaire of a Birthright (Taglit) trip organizer that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post includes a question regarding applicants' religious faith.

Under a category entitled "eligibility rules," applicants are asked to declare that they are Jewish.

They are also asked to declare that "I do not subscribe to any beliefs or follow any practices which may be in any way associated with Messianic Judaism, Jews for Jesus or Hebrew Christians."

The questionnaire stipulates that if the applicant lies about any of the questions that confirm eligibility he or she will be immediately dismissed from the program and will lose a $250 deposit. In addition, he or she might be obligated to pay the full cost of the trip - valued at $2,500 to $3,000 - paid by Birthright.

Messianic Jews are often Jewish by lineage and/or identify themselves with the Jewish people, but believe that Jesus is the messiah. Most celebrate the Jewish holidays and study Jewish texts in addition to the New Testament.

Attorney Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides legal counsel to Messianic Jews in Israel, called the screening practice "blatant, ridiculous discrimination" and "a shame."

"Instead of drawing children of Messianic Jewish families closer to their Jewish roots, they are excluding them from participating," he said.

Myers said that as far as he could tell, the practice of asking questions about belief in Jesus was new.

"As recently as this past summer, Messianic Jews who took part in Birthright trips were not asked these questions," he said.

Taglit-Birthright's CEO, Gidi Mark, said in a statement, "Contemporary Jewish life has many diverse criteria for being Jewish and Taglit-Birthright Israel has followed the broadest guidelines used by the contemporary community."

"There is unanimity in Jewish life that individuals who may be from Jewish lineage or family life and who choose the Messianic path (and in so doing accept the Christian belief in Jesus) have chosen a path that separates them from the accepted parameters of Jewishness in contemporary Jewish society.

"Such a choice is regarded as analogous to freely converting out of normative Jewish belief systems. This is not a denial of their origins, nor is it about the quality of their beliefs. It is simply an agreed upon formula that certain acts categorically separate individuals from what are agreed-upon parameters of Jewishness in this age.

"Taglit-Birthright Israel follows these accepted parameters of contemporary Jewish life and for that reason 'Messianics' are not within Taglit-Birthright Israel parameters."

Mark added that the exclusion of Messianic Jews was not a new policy. Rather it has been Taglit-Birthright's policy since its founding and was a part of the agreement with its funding partners.

"People who opt out of what constitutes being Jewish according to the accepted Jewish denominations should not be eligible for Taglit-Birthright's gift," he said.

The father of a boy who was kicked off a Birthright trip several years ago after organizers discovered he believed that Jesus was the messiah spoke with the Post on condition of anonymity, fearing that his son would be prevented from immigrating to Israel.

By law, someone born to a Jewish mother who adopts another religion forfeits his or her right to automatic Israeli citizenship. However, someone who is not Jewish according to Halacha but is still eligible for Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return does not lose that right as a result of adopting another religion.

"The truth is I feel sorry for them [Birthright-Taglit]," said the father, who immigrated to Israel with his family after his son was kicked off the Birthright trip.

"They are closed-eyed and closed-minded. If my son had told them that he was a Buddhist, an atheist or a homosexual they would have no problem. Belief that Yeshua [Jesus] is the savior is the dividing line.

"Birthright assumes there is an overarching parameter for defining who is a Jew. But I think a lot of Israelis would feel more comfortable with me than with a haredi from Mea She'arim.

"I don't understand their fear. Isn't it still a wonderful thing to bring a Jew closer to the land of Israel? Are we the boogeyman? Are they afraid we are going to come and steal their children away or something?"

The father said that he and his family celebrate all the Jewish holidays, light Shabbat candles, make Kiddush, and attend services at their local Messianic synagogue.

"The only thing different is that I read the New Testament and I believe that Yeshua is the messiah."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Olmert denies US pressure not to strike Iran, or does he?

Olmert said:
"I can't recall that anyone in the [U.S.] administration, including in the last couple of days, advised me or any of my official representatives not to take any action that we will deem necessary for the fundamental security of the state of Israel, and that includes Iran," Olmert said.
The oracle of Delphi has spoken.
Last update - 20:37 25/11/2008       
Olmert: U.S. never advised Israel to use restraint against Iran
By Haaretz Service
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday the United States has not advised Israel to restrain itself from taking any action it deemed necessary against Iran's nuclear program.
But the outgoing Israeli leader, who held farewell talks with U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday, stopped short, in a briefing to reporters, of making any threat to strike Iran.
"I can't recall that anyone in the [U.S.] administration, including in the last couple of days, advised me or any of my official representatives not to take any action that we will deem necessary for the fundamental security of the state of Israel, and that includes Iran," Olmert said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Tuesday that Iran has been sneaking terror elements into South America with the intention of expanding its field of ideological, political and economic activity, Israel Radio reported.
During talks in Jerusalem with her El Salvadoran counterpart, Marisol Argueta de Barillas, Livni said that the ties between South American guerilla movements and Iranian terror organizations have been sharpening and could be easily observed.
She added that Iran was constantly seeking political assistance from states around the world to break the international sanctions placed against it over its contentious nuclear program.
The Foreign Ministry said in an evaluation released last year that it was concerned about Iran's activities in South America, including a high number of embassy officials who could be taking part in terror.
While on a visit to Tehran earlier this month, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a letter from President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva proposing the two leaders meet. A Brazilian Foreign Ministry official said the letter was not a formal invitation, rather a suggestion that talks begin for a presidential visit.
The defense establishment has for years seen the border areas between Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil as a focus of Iranian and Hezbollah terror. Iran, meanwhile, has opened embassies in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Chile, and increased commercial ties and visits by senior officials. Iran has also enlarged its missions in Venezuela, Uruguay, Mexico and Colombia.
The Foreign Ministry said in its 2007 evaluation that these embassies have an "astronomical number" of diplomats, in no proportion to their needs. In Nicaragua, for example, there are 30 Iranian diplomats, with a similar number in Venezuela and other countries. Israel fears that these are intelligence operatives also involved in terror.
Jerusalem is also concerned at the emerging alliance between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, particularly with regard to uranium and oil sales.
Israel has told some Latin American countries that Iran is endangering world peace through terror and its nuclear program. Some of the countries share Israel's concerns and have asked for intelligence and counter-terror assistance.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Christmas Cheer for West Bank Palestinians

Be prepared for the seasonal articles about the Jews persecuting Christians in Bethlehem, and the sad Christmas there.
Please note:
The Palestinian Authority has registered impressive growth in incoming tourism: according to statistics released by the Civil Administration in the West Bank, about 1,123,000 tourists have visited Bethlehem and Jericho during the first nine months of 2008, record numbers since the period before the intifada. This represents a 96.5% increase in the numbers of tourists visiting Bethlehem and 42.3% increase in the numbers visiting Jericho (compared to the same period in 2007).
According to the estimates of the Tourism Ministry, two million Christians will visit Israel in 2008, of whom 1 million are pilgrims. Most pilgrims enter through the Bethlehem crossing and visit the city.
Record incoming tourism to the Palestinian Authority in 2008

The Ministry of Tourism reports an increase of 96.5% in visitors to
Bethlehem during January-September 2008 (compared to same period last year),
and an increase of 42.3% in visits to Jericho

(Communicated by the Ministry of Tourism Spokesperson)
24 November 2008

The Palestinian Authority has registered impressive growth in incoming tourism: according to statistics released by the Civil Administration in the West Bank, about 1,123,000 tourists have visited Bethlehem and Jericho during the first nine months of 2008, record numbers since the period before the intifada. This represents a 96.5% increase in the numbers of tourists visiting Bethlehem and 42.3% increase in the numbers visiting Jericho (compared to the same period in 2007).

The Tourism Ministry and the Civil Administration attribute this important increase to the significant improvement in the security situation in the West Bank in general and the Palestinian Authority areas in particular during the last two years and to the easing of movement restrictions for residents and tourists crossing between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

The Tourism Ministry attaches great importance to efficient operation of the border crossings between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while communicating to the relevant tourism personnel around the world that movement between tourism sites in Israel and the Palestinian Authority is easy, accessible and safe. Over a year ago, the ministry even established representation at the Bethlehem crossing to help with the smooth passage of Palestinian tourists, as well as those from East Jerusalem, and other tourists, both individuals and groups.

Tourism Minister Ruhama Avraham-Balila:  "Tourism stimulates economic growth and therefore represents a challenge and a mutual interest to the two nations. We have succeeded in restoring a sense of security to tourists in Israel and now we must work together to market the tourist destinations in Israel and the Palestinian Authority as attractive and appealing, for the sake of both our nations. We must work together to facilitate the tourists' access through the border crossings, in accordance with the directions of the security personnel and make sure that their contact with both security and bureaucratic personnel is pleasant and courteous."

Head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, Brigadier-General Yoav Mordechai, noted that "the dramatic growth in tourists visiting Bethlehem and Jericho has provided a boost to the Palestinian economy. We are expecting even greater numbers in advance of the upcoming Christmas period and we anticipate that a new record will be achieved, since the period
preceding the violence of the year 2000."

According to the estimates of the Tourism Ministry, two million Christians will visit Israel in 2008, of whom 1 million are pilgrims. Most pilgrims enter through the Bethlehem crossing and visit the city.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Fatah remembered to condemn Syria for hosting Hamas

This was a long time in coming. Among pro-Palestinians, only Robert Malley and Brent Scowcroft may remain as Syria fans.
Ami Isseroff
Fatah condemns Syria for hosting Hamas
Date: 25 / 11 / 2008  Time:  14:19
Ramallah – Ma'an – Fatah slammed Syria for allowing Hamas to attend a conference on Palestinian refugees' right of return on Tuesday.
"I don't understand how those mutineers are welcome in Damascus after they rebelled against Palestinian legitimacy," said Fatah spokesperson Ahmad Abd-Ar-Rahman referring to the Arab International Forum on the Right of Return.
"Palestinian decisions will remain in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) despite attempts to control it by masters of [Syria-based Hamas leader] Khalid Mash'al. They will not succeed in their attempts to lift Hamas from the lowest level it fell to in the Gaza Strip," Abd-ar-Rahman added.
Mash'al, the director of Hamas' political bureau, has his offices in Damascus.
Abd-Ar-Rahman described Syria's actions as 'rudely intervening' and stated that circumventing 'Palestinian legitimacy' must come to an end.
In response to a question about Hamas banning the Fatah movement in Gaza and persecuting its members, he said, "Fatah will remain until the Palestinian dream of statehood with Jerusalem as its capital, comes true."
He said Fatah has succeeded in rescuing the Palestinian people from "inprisonment, dependence and containment," countering occupation as well as establishing the first Palestinian National Authority in history, he explained. Thus, he added, "conspiracies will never exterminate it."
In response to Khalid Mash'al's accusation that Fatah has abandoned armed struggle against Israel, Abd-Ar-Rahman asked, "Where is the rifle which represents such awareness?"
"Hamas staged a coup in the Gaza Strip upon receiving directives from the outside and funding from black gold [oil from the Gulf States]. Their goal was a cheap one of continuing intervention in internal Palestinian affairs by Arab and regional players," he stated.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Shas: Compensation for Jewish Refugees from Arab countries

Last update - 11:46 25/11/2008    
 Shas to seek payout for Jews deported from Arab countries  By Barak Ravid

Shas is launching a campaign to seek compensation for Jewish refugees who came to Israel from Arab states. The campaign, part of the ultra-Orthodox party's election platform, counters Palestinian demands for the right of return of their refugees.
"Israel must state that no peace agreement would be implemented without solving the problem of the Jews from Middle Eastern states, with an emphasis on restituting their property, which is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars," Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen, of Shas, said Monday at Bar-Ilan University.
Part of Shas' plan consists of tracking down and registering Jewish property in Arab states, as a basis for future negotiations or agreements regarding the compensation for the Jewish refugees.
Cohen told Haaretz Monday that there are some 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab states, most of whom are living in Israel.
"It must be proclaimed that any system of compensating Palestinian refugees as part of a peace agreement will include a parallel one to compensate the Jewish refugees," he said.
The issue was raised in Israel's negotiations with the Palestinian Authority during Prime Minister Ehud Barak's term, including at the Camp David conference in July 2000. Today Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan (Pensioners Party) is in charge of the issue.
Cohen's move is meant to appeal to Shas' voters, most of whom have their origins or ancestry in Muslim lands, ahead of the elections. He outlined the party's plan in his address yesterday, beginning with the need to define the refugee problem as a multi-national issue, one that affected hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from North Africa and the Persian Gulf.
"The uprooted Jews' problem is equal to, if not greater than, the Palestinnian refugees' problem," Cohen said.
Israel will make it clear in negotiations with the Palestinians and in international forums that "a just solution to the refugee problem," as defined in UN Security Council Resolution 194, includes the Jewish refugees as well, he said.
Cohen suggests that the Foreign Ministry start a public campaign in the UN and European countries.
"Since 1947, the Security Council has adopted 126 resolutions regarding the Palestinian refugees, but passed no resolution about the Jews from Arab states, although their numbers are similar," he said.
"The international community assisted the Palestinian refugees with billions of dollars, while the Jews from Arab states received no help or compensation."
In April of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution conditioning any help or compensation for Palestinian refugees on similar help or compensation to Jews from Arab states.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Why the original Holy Land Foundation Trial failed to convict

Now that the Holy Land Foundation has been convicted (See Holy Land Foundation Convicted) , it is interesting to recall that the original trial did not end in a guily verdict because of the bullying of one biased juror.
 William Neal's stridency may have changed the trial's outcome. Neal even claimed credit for steering jurors away from convictions in a recent radio interview. Until now, he has been the sole source for public perception of the deliberations and the government's case.
There are several versions of this story, none of which made it to the big newspapers. All the different versions have about the same story. One juror bullied the others into submission, and the government case was not well presented. That's not the first time government attorneys did a poor job.  
The new verdict has assumed a symbolic importance that is larger than the specific case iteself, because groups like CAIR and various terror groupies touted the original mistrial as "proof" that the government was conducting a witch hunt against the hapless and wonderful Muslim charity. They were collecting money for widows and orphans you see.
Well yes, but they were widows and orphans of suicide bombers.
They were collecting money for education, you see.
Well yes, but the schools they fund are teaching Jihad.
"What big teeth you have, Grandma!"
Holy Land Foundation should've hired Alan Dershowitz. He can get anyone off.
Ami Isseroff
by Michael Fechter
IPT News
December 10, 2007
DALLAS – She felt the men were guilty and tried to explain why to the 11 other jurors. When she finished, one juror spoke up in an angry tone.
"If you're going by the evidence in this room," she recalls him snapping, "then you need to go home."
The terrorism-support trial of five Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF) officials, which began July 24, already had been stressful for 49-year-old Kristina Williams. She had lost her job two weeks into it. Now during deliberations, she felt bullied and intimidated virtually every time she voiced an opinion.
"When I'd get off the jury I'd come home every night and basically cry because I felt like every time I spoke I would get knocked down, criticized, one way or the other for something pertaining to the way I voted," Williams said in an exclusive interview.
While several jurors favored acquittals, just one out of the 12 did most of the knocking down. In fact, interviews with three HLF jurors - speaking publicly for the first time - suggest that juror William Neal's stridency may have changed the trial's outcome. Neal even claimed credit for steering jurors away from convictions in a recent radio interview. Until now, he has been the sole source for public perception of the deliberations and the government's case.
The three jurors interviewed by the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) showed the Neal-created perception as skewed. All three jurors say they disagree with his views of the evidence and the prosecution's case. To them, it seems clear that Neal made up his mind going into the jury room and refused to consider any argument in favor of guilt. He preferred to read the court's instructions rather than look at exhibits in evidence, they said. And his often snide manner intimidated and bullied those who disagreed with him.
The effect this had on the case is clear. When a juror walked out in frustration after just four days of deliberations, it followed a confrontation with Neal. When another juror briefly refused to cast a vote, it was after a confrontation with Neal. Williams broke down several times during the 19 days jurors spent locked in debate. Each incident followed what she felt was an attack by Neal.
In an interview with the IPT Dec. 3, Neal said he had no regrets. He disputed only some parts of the other jurors' stories – he said he can't remember telling Williams to go home if she was relying on the evidence in the jury room -- but stopped short of saying it didn't happen.
"We had so many conversations they tend to blend together," he said.
The defendants were accused of illegally routing more than $12 million in support to the terrorist group Hamas through a series of charities, known as zakat committees. Prosecutors said those committees are controlled by Hamas. Defense attorneys argued HLF simply helped out Palestinians living in desperate poverty and provided support to widows and orphans regardless of whether they served Hamas.
Interestingly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas effectively sided with prosecutors recently by claiming he was closing down 92 charities he said had been taken over by Hamas.
The HLF trial ran for six weeks. Then jurors deliberated 19 days. One defendant, Mohamed El-Mezain, was acquitted on all but one count against him – participating in a conspiracy to provide material support to Hamas. Jurors did not reach a unanimous verdict on that count and El-Mezain is facing a retrial for conspiracy.
Initially, it appeared others had been acquitted on multiple counts, but then two jurors stunned the courtroom: When U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish polled the jury, a standard practice, Williams and a juror named Gail said they did not agree with the verdicts. Curiously, Neal joined them, later saying he wanted deliberations to continue. He believed jurors gave up too soon.
Judge Fish was left with no choice but to declare a mistrial, and did so Oct. 22. Attorneys on both sides are gearing up for a second trial in 2008.
"The jury room was a mess"
Williams describes a factionalized jury room, with those favoring guilty verdicts trying to explain their reasoning only to have those favoring acquittals shoot them down. Many times, jurors could not agree whether evidence was useful to them. Williams pointed to some that she thought was. When she did, she said Neal snapped back: "Go back to sleep, you're not important."
Another time, Williams and other jurors thought it would help to view photographs copied onto a videotape in evidence to see who had attended a pivotal meeting on scuttling Middle East peace hopes. Neal argued it was a waste of time and talked the group out of it.
That's because videotapes sometimes covered hours, Neal said, and jurors had no way to pinpoint the 30-second segment they were shown during the trial.
A second juror corroborates Williams' account. That juror spoke to the IPT only on the condition that the juror's name is not used. The juror didn't care if the defendants knew it. Neal, however, was someone the juror did not want to deal with again.
A third juror, Sylvester Holmes, also spoke publicly for the first time in an IPT interview. He and his two colleagues agreed that their arguments for conviction were dismissed out of hand. Sometimes they were told "that's not evidence." Other times, the argument didn't meet Neal's interpretation of the court's instructions. Or, he simply repeated arguments offered by defense attorneys.
The three jurors interviewed were far from agreement on the verdicts. Holmes believed in guilt on all counts. Williams could not convict on charges involving some specific transactions but felt all five defendants were guilty of conspiracy to support Hamas. The unnamed juror who spoke with IPT was convinced only HLF executive director Shukri Abu Baker and Chairman Ghassan Elashi were guilty of conspiracy. But all three say that Neal bullied and intimidated those who disagreed with him, stifling true discussion of the case.
"He took control of that jury room," Holmes said. "You just look at the case. The jury room was a mess."
Among the examples cited:
Arguments for conviction met with immediate scorn and ridicule. At times, Neal raised his voice, cursed or otherwise belittled them for what they said. A handful of jurors called for an immediate break after he hollered "f*** your opinion" to a female juror.
Williams said she felt pressured by a majority of jurors into voting to acquit defendant Mufid Abdulqader. To them, Abdulqader was a bit player with no control over HLF money. Later, however, Williams said she saw receipts showing HLF paid Abdulqader's travel expenses to attend a fundraiser. Already convinced there was a conspiracy to support Hamas, she decided that Abdulqader was a part of it. But the other jurors refused to let her change her vote on conspiracy counts, saying Abdulqader's verdict form already had been signed and put away. Deliberations continued for at least another week after Williams' request was rejected. That's what prompted her to speak up when the judge polled the jury.
In a case featuring more than 80 videotape and audio recordings, jurors did not watch one video or listen to one tape during the 19 days of deliberations. Those who wanted to examine the exhibits were told it was a waste of time and printed transcripts were sufficient.
It is in this context that one juror named Gail refused to vote several days into deliberations. "People kept saying not guilty because they kept saying there was no evidence," the unnamed juror interviewed by IPT remembered about Gail. "She'd seen evidence herself and she felt they weren't taking the time to look at the evidence. They kept saying there's no evidence and she just got tired of hearing that."
Williams agreed that the juror named Gail just gave up at that moment. "She said 'I'm just tired. I'm just ready for this to be over with.'"
Holmes got so frustrated that he walked out, forcing deliberations to start over when an alternate took his place. That deprived those favoring a guilty verdict of an ally. He wrote to the court saying he did not "feel that I can give the defendant's (sic) justice. Due to the circumstance in this case, I ask to be dismiss (sic) for this case."
Holmes, a supervisor at a recycling plant, said he thought all the defendants were guilty but saw no point in arguing further. "I felt they were wasting my time," he said.
Neal's Account of the Deliberations
Neal, a graphic artist, apparently felt the same way about others wasting his time. He was interviewed by Dallas radio and television stations within days of the trial and by the Dallas Morning News. Thus far, his assertions have provided the only detailed insider assessment about the prosecution case.
Neal made his disdain clear two days after the mistrial in an interview on Dallas radio station KRLD.
"A lot of the jurors couldn't even say words that had four syllables," Neal said on the Ernie and Jay show on KRLD 1080 AM. "They just picked the jury based on socio-economical reasons. A lot of these people are blue collar, you know, working UPS, working food, cafeteria cashier. You had people [from] secluded lifestyles. They had no idea of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They had no idea about worldly affairs. To get them and you show them bombs and show them kids – that's not our lifestyle so we've got to vote them guilty because of that. That's the whole reason."
The Dallas Morning News noted Neal "also had difficulty calling Hamas a terrorist group. 'Part of it does terrorist acts, but it's a political movement. It's an uprising.'"
He reinforced that assessment in the IPT interview, saying he read the Hamas charter twice during deliberations. "They haven't always been a bombing kind of group," he said.
Hamas' first actions involved shootings and stabbings. Its preamble to the charter includes this: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it."
So, to Neal, what is Hamas?
"It is marked as a terrorist organization. My personal viewpoint, I didn't know too much before. I see it as a political struggle. Our country was founded on a terrorist act. The Boston Tea Party wasn't a tea party, dude. It was a rebellion against the king's wrath. They fought back against an oppressive government."
He argues that prosecutors never proved that Palestinian charities, the zakat committees, were controlled by Hamas. HLF routed its money to the committees. Absent that proof of Hamas control, Neal reasons, the defendants can't be convicted. Within hours of the mistrial, he told reporters the government's case "was strung together with macaroni noodles."
"There were so many gaps in the evidence, I could drive a truck through it," he told the Morning News.
That, the three other jurors interviewed said, was not the case. Neal simply refused to consider it as valid evidence. Even at the end, a majority favored convicting Baker and Elashi, Williams and the unnamed juror reported.
The evidence
There wasn't one single exhibit that swayed the jurors interviewed. Rather, each placed exhibits in the broader context of statements and activities by the defendants. Baker, they said, was shown to have lied repeatedly about his attitude toward Hamas. The defendants privately discussed Hamas activities, from a bombing that defendant Abdelrahman Odeh described as "a beautiful operation," to the 1997 arrests in Brooklyn of three alleged Hamas members accused of plotting another bombing.
Williams was struck by transcripts of a secret gathering of Hamas members and supporters in Philadelphia in 1993. They met in the wake of the Oslo peace accord, which they feared threatened to marginalize Hamas politically and which eventually could lead to a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which they opposed.
At one point, Shukri Abu Baker tells the others "war is deception." That, combined with other false statements, swayed Williams.
"That was pretty intense for me, that, why would he say that? I know he said it at the Philadelphia meeting. And if it's a charity set up, then why is he saying that? And plus there was Hamas leaders there, and they showed tapes of Hamas leaders," she said.
A January 1995 call from Abdelrahman Odeh to fellow defendant Mohamed El-Mezain entered into evidence at the trial stuck with the unnamed juror. Odeh wanted to alert El-Mezain about a Hamas bombing. El-Mezain hadn't heard about it yet and could not understand the radio report Odeh played over the telephone.
"What is important is that they carried out an operation," Odeh said. Eighteen people were dead and 60 others injured. Odeh called El-Mezain again a little more than a year later to report Yehya Ayyash, the infamous Hamas bomb-maker known as "the Engineer," had been killed by the Israelis.
Then there was evidence introduced at trial concerning fundraising conference calls HLF organized in which speakers repeatedly praised Hamas. In January 1997, one such call featured Mohamed Siam, a prominent Hamas member, and Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal al-Hilbawi. Hilbawi praised "the steadfast" and named Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmad Yassin, the Hamas bomb-maker Yehya Ayyash and Hamas founder Mousa Abu Marzook as those helping the Islamic world move "from weakness to strength and to the love of martyrdom."
"A legitimate foundation wouldn't do that," the unnamed juror said. But those favoring acquittal argued that HLF officials were not the ones who made the comments even if they were the ones benefiting from the money raised.
"They're the ones who brought these people in and who let them talk in raising this money," the juror said.
The juror also was struck by a 1997 conversation admitted as evidence between Baker and Elashi, in which they discussed the Brooklyn arrests of three men alleged to be plotting a Hamas-connected bombing in the United States. Baker insisted that the suspects had nothing to do with Hamas, whatever they had done; adding that Hamas leader Abel Aziz Al-Rantissi had already issued a denial.
Still, Baker expressed concern that the incident could be damaging:
Sh: I just wanted to tell you because it seems that whoever, the guy in New York, this dog, tried to tie it to parties…Don't be surprised if the fabrication gets bigger than that. They would keep on publishing confessions that…er, which are nonsense. They cannot get us by law, they will try to get us by fabrication, man.
The unnamed juror found that incriminating, wondering why Baker and Elashi would be so concerned about Hamas being falsely blamed for a plot if Baker and Elashi had nothing to do with the organization.
Neal saw that call differently. To him, the call had no significance because between references to the Brooklyn arrests, Baker and Elashi spent several minutes discussing a van Elashi wanted to buy. That section may not have been read to jurors in court. But when he read it during deliberations, Neal accused prosecutors of trying to misrepresent defendants' statements.
"…[T]hey left [that] out conveniently to show the other side of the fence," he told WFAA television. "Take one sentence that says Hamas. Well did you know they were talking about a van in the two sentences before that? No because you just completely want to talk about Hamas."
In his interviews, Neal expressed deep skepticism of virtually every aspect of the government's case. He believed little, if anything, of what he heard from prosecution witnesses. Expert witness Matt Levitt wasn't credible, in Neal's view, because he had testified in a series of similar trials. Levitt has extensively studied Hamas' infrastructure and tactics and authored the book, Hamas: Politics, Charity, and Terrorism in the Service of Jihad.
And Neal believed nothing he heard from an Israeli intelligence officer who testified under a pseudonym. "Avi" provided evidence Israel seized during raids of HLF offices in the West Bank and explained how some zakat committee officials were tied to Hamas.
"So you've got this guy who works for the Israeli government, who's gonna name names. That's his job. His job is to find Palestinians who are Hamas or troublemakers or whatever. I expect him to name names. He admitted in open court that he's being paid to be here. So that's completely biased. All the prosecution witnesses were all biased because they've been doing this for 13 years," Neal said on the Ernie and Jay show.
In the IPT interview, he questioned why Hamas was designated a terrorist group.
"The Israeli government is one of our friends. It's a close ally and a lot of our political actions go in favor of Israel. If they'd have been in favor of the Palestinians we wouldn't be hearing about these things. There was probably a lot of pressure" on the United States to designate Hamas as a terrorist group and pass legislation outlawing transactions with it.
Defense arguments, in contrast, were embraced by Neal. He used them to rebut Williams when she put stock in a videotape exhibit that she said haunted her during the trial. It showed a skit in which defendant Mufid Abdulqader portrayed a Hamas member who kills an Israeli police officer. The skit was performed at a fundraiser for the Islamic Association for Palestine. The IAP, like HLF, was part of the Muslim Brotherhood's "Palestine Committee," which prosecutors say worked to benefit Hamas.
"I am Hamas, O dear ones," Abdelqader said. "And I am Hamas, O dear ones. In midst of fire, they throw me. And I am Hamas, O dear ones. In midst of fire, they throw me. I swear to wipe out the name of the Zionist. And protect my land, Palestine. And you must get out."
Neal dismissed the skit as meaningless. It was an exercise of free speech, he said, echoing defense attorneys. But to Williams, it showed knowledge of the ultimate objective.
"He's doing a skit raising money for the committees but he's doing it as a Hamas terrorist. If you're raising money, I wouldn't think you would be making Hamas look good. You would try to be helping the charities for the poor Palestinians that are poor and lost their loved ones or are under whatever circumstances whether they're martyrs or innocent bystanders."
When defendant Abdelrahman Odeh singled out the son of a slain Hamas bomb-maker for support, Neal told jurors who found that incriminating that they were wrong. The child shouldn't suffer because of the father's sins, he said, again repeating a defense argument.
Williams and the unnamed juror argued it wasn't about the child; rather, the fact that Odeh made a specific request to support the son of Hamas martyr Yehya Ayyash was telling.
"I don't know why Ayyash's kid was so important," Williams said. "Odeh made it a point of saying 'This is who I'm going to support.' He didn't hide the fact that he supported Ayyash. And it was obvious Ayyash's son was the son of the major bomb maker of the Hamas."
To Neal, the specific nature of Odeh's action had no deeper significance. "It shows he's supporting an orphaned kid who happens to be the kid of a Hamas bomb maker. It's their religion to give to charity," he said. He seemed to view each exhibit in isolation, refusing to connect it with other evidence that might show a pattern of behavior.
After the mistrial, Neal told WFAA television the other jurors lacked sophistication and accused prosecutors of manipulating their credulity.
"If you're ignorant or you have no idea about any culture or you have no idea about a certain way of life or you don't know that Hamas was once a political – and it still is a political figure – you know, they still do political things. And if you're going to sit there and show bomb belts, and you're going to show what they're doing to the, you know, in their homeland – why didn't they show us what – I know it's not important in the case but at the same token you could show what Israeli people are doing to Palestinian people," Neal said.
In one interview, Neal indicated prosecutors may have falsely believed he would be sympathetic to them. His father works in the military, he said on the Ernie and Jay show.
"My answers [to the questionnaire] looked like I was a pro-American, you know, flag-waving American. I mean, I am, but they thought I was not going to be able to think for myself and just go on the facts that these were Muslims and these were, you know some of the defendants were not American citizens."
Neal told the IPT he went into deliberations with no opinion and wanted to see where the evidence took him. The other jurors never knew how he was voting on secret ballots, he said. Neal told interviewers it was the other jurors who had their minds made up before deliberations started, that it was their refusal to budge that dragged out deliberations.
That's just wrong, the anonymous juror said.
"If he believed not guilty across the board, if he wanted to talk about the case, that was fine. But he shouldn't have said stuff that wasn't true," the juror said. Asked to clarify, the juror said, "He talks a lot about people not changing their minds. I changed my mind throughout the deliberations on several defendants. I guarantee you he never changed his mind throughout. He was at not guilty from the time he sat in there."
Williams, Neal said, was often confused and disorganized. In his view, she "was there for the check," he said on Ernie and Jay. "She lost her job during this case so she was there for vacation and checks. She was flim-flamming all over the place."
Kristina Williams
In court, Williams says, she paid close attention. She filled three binders with notes from testimony and exhibits. Under the court's direction, she wasn't allowed to read from those notes during deliberations, but they did help her remember certain points and find exhibits from dozens of boxes stuffed into the jury room.
On Thursday, Oct. 18, jurors came to an agreement that further deliberations were pointless and they notified U.S. District Judge A. Joe Fish. There were unanimous decisions on some counts, deadlocks on others.
Fish was out of town and the verdict forms, indicating acquittals for defendants Mohammed El-Mezain, Mufid Abdulqader and Abdelrahman Odeh, were sealed until Fish returned Monday morning. Then, as is standard practice, the judge polled the jury – asking each whether they agreed with the verdicts.
Williams stunned the courtroom and her fellow jurors by saying no. She had already written to the court that morning asking whether they would be polled. If not, "I would like to give my statement while the court reporter is there," she wrote.
She said she had succumbed to pressure in voting to acquit Abdulqader on the conspiracy counts. Later, she recalled, she found evidence she felt proved his guilt on conspiracy.
"They [other jurors] said, 'We've already voted on him. We can't go back and change our vote,'" Williams said. On this point, Neal agrees with Williams' account.
Fish initially sent jurors back to see if more deliberations were possible. Williams said several other jurors were angry with her. "The foreperson was very embarrassed that it came to this. And I come out and I told them, 'I told you I found some evidence on Abdulqader but you guys didn't want to hear it.' I says 'I told you I wanted to change my vote to guilty and you told me we couldn't do it … I told you I didn't like my vote when we voted.' They told me, 'Krissy just shut up and go back to sleep.'"
Williams denies ever sleeping during deliberations. There were times, she said, when she closed her eyes due to tension or fatigue, but she stayed awake. The unnamed juror said it did appear Williams dozed off a few times, but that came in "periods of silence" when jurors were waiting for someone to dig out an exhibit.
Other jurors disagreed with her on the case, Williams said. But they did so without attacking or belittling. For those jurors, Williams said, the evidence simply fell short. They were not sufficiently convinced that the zakat committees were part of Hamas.
Williams was convinced, pointing to a 1991 letter introduced at the trial that was addressed to defendant Shukri Abu Baker. It listed the committees and detailed which were "ours" and how many representatives worked there. Some jurors dismissed the letter due to its age, but Williams looked at it in conjunction with the testimony of "Avi" and FBI agent Robert Miranda. She felt their testimony further tied zakat committee members and HLF guest speakers to Hamas.
In some cases, Miranda was able to show the speakers' telephone or fax numbers traced back to known Hamas offices. For example, at least seven speakers used by HLF to raise money had the same telephone number as Hamas spokesman Ibrahim Ghosheh. Miranda found the number on a 1995 letter Ghosheh had written to U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch protesting American detention of Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook.
It seemed to Williams that, short of a check written from HLF directly to Hamas, jurors were not going to convict.
"These people were smarter than that to just come out and write the word Hamas on a check. I think they knew what they were doing," she said. "They were just smarter than that to be that obvious that they were supporting Hamas. Some of the jurors, they wanted to see the word Hamas on a check. Sure, I would have loved to see Hamas on a check. It's just realistic. I think these people were just that smart."
The 1991 letter listing zakat committee connections was contradicted by other exhibits, Neal said. Oftentimes those documents were undated, making it impossible to determine when those whom HLF considered "ours" were present. Agent Miranda's testimony was barely discussed, he said.
The Common Thread
When things got heated, the one constant was Neal's involvement, the three other jurors interviewed say. Williams remembers one confrontation that prompted other jurors to demand a break to let tempers cool. A woman juror was going toe to toe with Neal, Williams said. At one point, she explained something and said "that is my opinion."
"Well f*** your opinion," Neal hollered back at her.
That tenor made it difficult on some days for her to commute to court from her home about 25 miles south of Dallas, Williams said. "There were just some days where I just didn't want to go in because of one juror and I wasn't the only one who felt that way."
All disputes aside, there is one comment from Neal on which all the jurors might find agreement: "Honestly," he said on Ernie and Jay, "if I hadn't been on that jury this would have been a different case."

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Justice for the Middle East: Holy Land Foundation Convicted

It is hard to understand how they were NOT convicted the first time around. The "humanitarian" nature of Hamas has been amply illustrated by now.
November 25, 2008
Five Convicted in Terrorism Financing Trial

DALLAS — On their second try, federal prosecutors won sweeping convictions Monday against five leaders of a Muslim charity in a retrial of the largest terrorism-financing case in the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The five defendants, all leaders of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, based in Richardson, a Dallas suburb, were convicted on all 108 criminal counts against them, including support of terrorism, money laundering and tax fraud. The group was accused of funneling millions of dollars to the Palestinian militant group Hamas, an Islamist organization the government declared to be a terrorist group in 1995.
"Money is the lifeblood of terrorism," Richard B. Roper, the United States attorney whose office prosecuted the case, said Monday in a statement. "The jury's decision demonstrates that U.S. citizens will not tolerate those who provide financial support to terrorist organizations."
The defendants argued that the Holy Land Foundation, once the largest Muslim charity in the United States, was engaged in legitimate humanitarian aid for community welfare programs and Palestinian orphans.
The jury, which deliberated for eight days, reached a starkly different result than the jury in the first trial, which ended in a mistrial on most charges in October 2007, after nearly two months of testimony and 19 days of deliberations.
The government shuttered the Holy Land Foundation in December 2001 and seized its assets, a move President Bush heralded at the time as "another step in the war on terrorism."
The charity's leaders — Ghassan Elashi, Shukri Abu-Baker, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad El-Mezain — were not accused in the 2004 indictment of directly financing suicide bombings or terrorist violence. Instead, they accused of illegally contributing to Hamas after the United States designated it a terrorist group.
The defendants could be sentenced to 15 years on each count of supporting a terrorist group, and 20 years on each count of money laundering. Leaders of the foundation, which is now defunct, might also have to forfeit millions of dollars.
Khalil Meek, a longtime spokesman for a coalition of Holy Land Foundation supporters called Hungry for Justice, which includes national Muslim and civil rights groups, said supporters were "devastated" by the verdict.
"We respect the jury's decision, but we disagree and we think the defendants are completely innocent," Mr. Meek said. "For the last two years we've watched this trial unfold, and we have yet to see any evidence of a criminal act introduced to a jury. This jury found that humanitarian aid is a crime."
He added, "We intend to appeal the verdict, and we remain convinced that we will win."
The prosecutor, Barry Jonas, told jurors in closing arguments last week that they should not be deceived by the foundation's cover of humanitarian work, describing the charities it financed as terrorist recruitment centers that were part of a "womb to the tomb" cycle.
After the mistrial last year, critics said the government had offered a weak, complicated case and had failed to recognize that juries were not as quick to convict Muslim defendants accused of supporting terrorism as they had once been. Prosecutors spent more time in the second trial explaining the complexities of the case and painting a clearer picture of the money trail. They also dropped many of the original charges.
"Today's verdicts are important milestones in America's efforts against financiers of terrorism," Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. Mr. Rowan added that the prosecution "demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups."
Nancy Hollander, a lawyer from Albuquerque who represented Mr. Abu-Baker, said the defendants would appeal based on a number of issues, including the anonymous testimony of an expert, which she said was a first.
"Our clients were not even allowed to review their own statements because they were classified — statements that they made over the course of many years that the government wiretapped," Ms. Hollander said. "They were not allowed to go back and review them. There were statements from alleged co-conspirators that included handwritten notes. Nobody knew who wrote them; nobody knew when they were written. There are a plethora of issues."
Noor Elashi, a 23-year-old writer who is the daughter of Ghassan Elashi, said she was "heartbroken" that jurors had accepted what she called the fear-mongering of the prosecution.
"I am utterly shocked at this outcome," Ms. Elashi said. "This is a truly low point for the United States of America." She said supporters would not rest until the verdict was overturned.
"My dad is a law-abiding citizen who was persecuted for his humanitarian work in Palestine and his political beliefs," Ms. Elashi said. "Today I did not shed a single tear. My dad's smile was radiant. That's because he saved lives, and now he's paying the price."
According to, a Web site that calls itself the voice of the defendants' relatives and friends, the foundation "simply provided food, clothes, shelter, medical supplies and education to the suffering people in Palestine and other countries."

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Syria honors terrorist murderer Samir Kuntar

Syria confers highest medal on Kuntar
Nov. 24, 2008
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Syrian President Bashar Assad has awarded murderer Samir Kuntar the country's highest medal for spending nearly three decades in an Israeli jail.
The Syrian News Agency said Kuntar, who murdered a young girl and her father, received the Syrian Order of Merit during a meeting with Assad in Damascus Monday.
On the same day, the country rejected US allegations that it is allowing terrorist networks to use its territory to attack Iraq.
US Embassy Charge d'Affaires Maura Connelly told a security conference of Iraq's neighbors held in Syria Sunday that terrorist groups continue to receive weapons, training, funding and guidance from abroad. She was apparently referring to Syria and Iran.
Washington has repeatedly accused both countries of allowing terrorists to cross into Iraq. In October, US forces raided a Syrian village over the border from Iraq in an operation that Washington said targeted an al-Qaida in Iraq leader.
A Japanese delegate who attended Sunday's conference quoted Connelly as saying in a closed session that "Syria is supporting and giving a safe haven to terrorist networks." The delegate spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
After the October 26 raid, American officials issued similarly tough statements, saying US forces were prepared to act if other nations did not. Syria protested the incursion and said eight civilians were killed.
"We strongly reject this talk," Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmed Arnous told The Associated Press Monday. "Syria doesn't accept such allegations, as it was among the first countries to work with the international community to combat terrorism."
In her public remarks Sunday, Connelly said terrorist groups driven out of Iraq continue to pose a threat and called on neighbors not to tolerate them. Specifically, she advocated joint training exercises to improve information sharing.

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Zionist quotes - what Zionists really said

This article is very important in trying to understand the attitude of Zionists to the Arab-Jewish conflict. Quotes invented or taken out of context by new historians have been used to try to prove that Transfer was part of Zionist ideology or that Zionism ignored the Arabs.
Early Zionists and Arabs
by Judea Pearl
Middle East Quarterly
Fall 2008, pp. 67-71

Many Arab officials and Israeli "New Historians" describe early Zionist attitudes toward the Arab population of Palestine as dismissive or arrogant. Books and pamphlets from the time tell a different story.
Ben-Gurion: Our Arab Brethren
During World War I, Israel's future first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, spent three years in New York, exiled from Palestine "for conspiring against Ottoman rule." He devoted most of his time to organizing the He-Halutz youth movement with Yitzhak Ben Zvi, but he also published, a few months before issuance of the Balfour Declaration, an interesting treatise: "On the Origin of the Falahin," [1] the Arab peasants in Palestine. In this work, Ben-Gurion, the scholar and historian, argued that the falahin are descendants of Jews who remained in Palestine after the Roman expulsion and who later converted to Islam:
The logical, self-evident conclusion of all the above is as follows: The agricultural community that the Arabs found in Eretz Israel in the 7th century was none other than the Hebrew farmers that remained on their land despite all the persecution and oppression of the Roman and Byzantine emperors. Some of them accepted Christianity, at least on the surface, but many held on to their ancestral faith and occasionally revolted against their Christian oppressors. After the Arab conquest, the Arabic language and Muslim religion spread gradually among the countrymen. In his essay "Ancient Names in Palestine and Syria in Our Times," Dr. George Kampmeyer proves, based on historico-linguistic analysis, that for a certain period of time, both Aramaic and Arabic were in use and only slowly did the former give way to the latter.
The greater majority and main structures of the Muslim falahin in western Eretz Israel present to us one racial strand and a whole ethnic unit, and there is no doubt that much Jewish blood flows in their veins—the blood of those Jewish farmers, "lay persons," who chose in the travesty of times to abandon their faith in order to remain on their land.
Ben-Gurion's theory may not withstand modern DNA analysis, but his essay reveals a genuine attempt to establish an ancestral kinship with the Arab population and to bridge cultural and religious divides.
Ben-Gurion: Palestinian Arab Rights
In 1918, Israel Zangwill, an on-again, off-again member of the Zionist movement and author of the influential novel Children of the Ghetto,[2] wrote an article suggesting that the Arabs should be persuaded to "trek" from Palestine.[3] Ben-Gurion was quick to distance the Zionist movement from any such notion. In an article published that year in the Yiddish-language newspaper Yiddishe Kemper, Ben-Gurion ridiculed Zangwill:
Eretz Israel is not an empty country ... West of Jordan alone houses three quarter of a million people. On no account must we injure the rights of the inhabitants. Only "Ghetto Dreamers" like Zangwill can imagine that Eretz Israel will be given to the Jews with the added right of dispossessing the current inhabitants of the country. This is not the mission of Zionism. Had Zionism to aspire to inherit the place of these inhabitants—it would be nothing but a dangerous utopia and an empty, damaging and reactionary dream … Not to take from others—but to build the ruins. [We claim] no rights on our past—but on our future. Not the preservation of historic inheritance—but the creation of new national assets—this is the core claim and right of the Hebrew nation in its country. [4]
Weizmann: Arab Glory and Arab Rights

In 1918, the British government sent Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), the future first president of Israel and a key player behind the Balfour Declaration, to Palestine to advise on the future development of the country. There, he met with Arab and Armenian representatives and delivered the following speech in the house of the High Commissioner in Jerusalem:

With heartfelt admiration and great interest we are viewing today the current war of liberation conducted by the ancient Arabic nation. We see how the scattered Arab forces are being united under the good will of Western governments and other peace-loving nations, and how, from the mist of war there emerge new and immense political possibilities. We see again the formation of a strong and united Arab political body, freshly renovated and aiming to renovate the great tradition of Arab science and literature that are so close to our heart. This kinship found its glorious expression particularly in the Spanish period of the Hebrew-Arabic development when our greatest authors wrote and thought in the Arabic language, as well as in Hebrew.[5]
Perhaps anticipating future criticism that Zionism, while promising Palestinians human and civil rights, denied them national rights, Weizmann wrote in the newspaper Ha'aretz:
If indeed there is among the Arabs a national movement, we must relate to it with the utmost seriousness ... The Arabs are concerned about two issues: 1. The Jews will soon come in their millions and conquer the country and chase out the Arabs ... Responsible Zionists never said and never wished such things. 2. There is no place in Eretz Israel for a large number of inhabitants. This is total ignorance. It is enough to notice what is happening now in Tunis, Tangier, and California to realize that there is a vast space here for a great work of many Jews, without touching even one Arab.[6]
Ben-Gurion: Palestinian Self-Determination

In November 1930, about a year after the Arab riots that led to the Hebron massacre, Ben-Gurion addressed the First Congress of Hebrew Workers and delivered a lecture entitled "The Foreign Policy of the Hebrew Nation." In this lecture, later published in Ben-Gurion's first book, We and Our Neighbors,[7] he not only acknowledged the national aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs but also recognized Arab self-determination as an inalienable right, regardless of its impact on the Zionist plan.
There is in the world a principle called "the right for self-determination." We have always and everywhere been its worshipers and champions. We have defended that right for every nation, every part of a nation, and every collective of people. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Arab people in Eretz Israel have this right. And this right is not limited by or conditional upon the result of its influence on us and our interests. We ought not to diminish the Arabs' freedom for self-determination for fear that it would present difficulties to our own mission. The entire moral core encapsulated in the Zionist idea is the notion that a nation—every nation—is its own purpose and not a tool for the purposes of other nations. And in the same way that we want the Jewish people to be master of its own affairs, capable of determining its historical destiny without being dependent on the will—even good will—of other nations, so, too, we must seek for the Arabs…
The characteristic feature of a political movement is its ability to rally the masses behind it. In this sense, there is no doubt that we are witnessing a political movement. And we should not dismiss it, our way should not be through the [British] government …
We should not attempt to turn the Arabs into Zionists. I do not see why an Arab need be a Zionist. But we must explain to him what Zionism is, what it aspires to achieve, on what it rests, what its power and promises are and what its attitude is toward the Arabs in this land and the Arab nation in our neighborhood. It is imperative that the Arab knows that we have not come here to dispossess him, to subjugate him, or to worsen his condition. The Arab must know that Zionism is not an accidental, temporary phenomenon but a historical imperative, that it relies on the needs and strength of the entire Jewish nation, and that it is impossible to dismiss or silence it …
In much the same way that we need to educate the Arab public to understand our interest, so also we need to educate our public to understand the Arabs and work toward decent neighborly relations ... mutual recognition is prerequisite to mutual understanding.
The total Arab rejection of his overtures, followed by the bloody riots of 1936-39, eroded Ben-Gurion's confidence in achieving Arab understanding through education and cooperation. It remains an interesting exercise, though, to imagine what the Middle East would be like today had Arab leadership reciprocated with some recognition, however mild, of the Jewish right to self-determination.
Jabotinsky before the Holocaust

Ze'ev Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion's rival, garnered a reputation as an advocate of an "iron wall" approach toward the Arabs. Yet, even he expressed respect for Arab nationalism and explained Arab fears of reciprocating Ben-Gurion's offer. Not only does Jabotinsky's article "The Arabs of Eretz Israel"[8] dispel the myth of Zionist denial and naïveté, but it also disproves the popular notion that Arabs feared dispossession by Jewish immigrants:
There is no point talking about the possibility that the Arabs in Eretz Israel would consent to the Zionist plan while we are a minority here. I express it with such confidence not because I enjoy disappointing decent people but, simply, to save them disappointments: All these decent people, except those blind from birth, have understood already that this is something that is utterly illogical—to obtain the Arabs' consent and goodwill to turn Eretz Israel from an Arabic country to a country with Jewish majority.
Every indigenous people, regardless of whether it is primitive or advanced, views its country as a national home and aspires to be and remain its sole and eternal landlord; it does not voluntarily agree to accommodate, not only new landlords, but even new partners or new participants. And our most misleading argument would be if we rely on the fact that our agricultural settlements bring them economical advantages; though this is an undisputed truth, there is no nation in the world that sold its national aspirations for bread and butter.[9]
Many of us still think in full honesty that a terrible misunderstanding has occurred, that the Arabs did not understand us, and that this is the reason why they oppose us; but if only we could explain to them how benevolent our intentions, they would stretch their hands back to us. This is a mistake that has been proven so again and again. I will bring one such incident. Several years ago, when the late Nahum Sokolov visited Eretz Israel, and he was one of the most moderate and diplomatic Zionists at that time, he delivered an elaborate speech on this misunderstanding. He explained clearly how mistaken Arabs are in thinking that we wish to steal their property or dispossess them or oppress them. "We do not even want to have a Jewish government; we want merely a government representing the League of Nations." Sokolov's speech received an immediate response in the main editorial of the Arab newspaper Carmel, the content of which I convey here from memory:
"The Zionists—so wrote the Arab editor—are tormenting their nerves unnecessarily. There is no misunderstanding here whatsoever. The Arabs never doubted that the potential absorption capacity of Eretz Israel is enormous and, therefore, that it is possible to settle here enough Jews without dispossessing or constraining even a single Arab. It is obvious that 'this is all' the Zionists want. But it is also obvious that this is precisely what the Arabs do not want; for, then, the Jews will turn into a majority and, from the nature of things, a Jewish government will be established and the fate of the Arab minority will depend on Jewish good will; Jews know perfectly well what minority existence is like. There is no misunderstanding here whatsoever."
The Arab editor's argument is rather compelling, but Jabotinsky confronts it with a moral dilemma that is no less compelling:
Whoever thinks that our arguments [for Jewish immigration] are immoral, I would beg him to address the following question: If this [Jewish immigration] is immoral, what should the Jewish people do …?
Our planet is no longer blessed with uninhabited islands. Take any oasis in any desert, it is already taken by the native who inhabits that place from time immemorial and rejects the coming of new settlers that will become a majority, or just come in great numbers. In short—if there is a homeless nation in the world, its very yearning for a homeland is immoral. The homeless must forever remain homeless; all the land in the universe has already been divided—that's it. These are the conclusions of "morality." …
This sort of morality has a place among cannibals, not in the civilized world. The land belongs not to those who have too much land but to those who have none. If we appropriate one parcel of land from the owners of mega-estates and give it to an exiled nation—it is a just deed.
New Historians often cite anecdotal and secondhand evidence or diary entries lacking in context that depict an exaggerated, hostile attitude of early Zionist leaders toward the Arabs. In contrast, the quotations cited above were articulated in prominent and open public forums and published widely for Hebrew readers in Palestine and the Diaspora. It is these quotations, therefore, that are true representations of the dominant attitude of the Yishuv, the pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine. They were annunciated broadly with the aim of shaping public opinion, educational norms, and cultural molds, which no doubt contributed to the culture of accommodation that governs the Israeli mindset today.
Judea Pearl is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. With his wife, Ruth, he co-edited, I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Woodstock, Vt.: Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.
[1] "Leverur Motsa Ha'Falahim," Luach Achiezer, New York, 1917, pp. 118-27, reprinted in Anachnu U'Shcheneinu (Tel Aviv: Davar. 1931), pp. 13-25.
[2] Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 1892.
[3] Diana Muir, "A Land without a People for a People without a Land," Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2008, pp. 55-62.
[4] "Zechuyot Ha'Yehudim Ve'Zulatam B'Eretz Yisrael," reprinted in Anachnu U'Shcheneinu, p. 31. For more on Zangwill, see Muir, "A Land without a People."
[5] Chaim Weizmann, Devarim, vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Mizpah Publishers, 1936), p. 99.
[6] Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), Dec. 15, 1919, as reprinted in Devarim, vol. 1, p. 129.
[7] Anachnu U'Shcheneinu, p. 257.
[8] "Arviyey Eretz Yisrael," in Medina Ivrit (Tel Aviv: T. Kopp, 1937).
[9] Ibid., pp. 73-4.

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Just because something isn't true doesn't mean people can't believe it

"Just because something isn't true doesn't mean people can't believe it" Indeed, people will believe whatever suits them, true or not.
Nov. 23, 2008
In explaining why he was too fearful to vote in Jerusalem's mayoral election, an east Jerusalem Palestinian shopkeeper, Issam Abu Rmaileh, said, "I would have liked to vote because it's in our interest, but who's going to protect me and my family afterwards?"
Let's call it the Abu Rmaileh principle; it is extraordinarily important in the Middle East. Why should someone support you if you cannot protect them? If they cannot depend on you to be tough, they might as well play it safe by doing nothing or make their own deal through appeasement and shout radical slogans.
Here is the Abu Rmaileh principle at a higher pay grade. Jordan's Foreign Minister Salah Bashir stated in a closed meeting, "For us the Iranian surge for hegemony has become a crisis," according to a participant who asked not to be named.
And here's the flip side from a frustrated American colonel fighting in Iraq, "All these guys we rounded up, they're saying in the interrogation, if we don't torture them, we're not going to get the information."
HOW IMPORTANT is popularity? According to the school enthusiastic about President-elect Barack Obama in the United States, it is everything. One journalist explained that al-Qaida is afraid of Obama because, presumably, he will win away Muslims from supporting radical Islamism. It is written in the Washington Post: "Even among the followers of radical groups, such as Hamas and the Taliban, Obama has inspired a sense of change and opportunity."
That last statement - intended to imply that even extremists like Obama - is worded with a shocking, though unintentional, ambiguity. It is sure true that Hamas, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria, and al-Qaida view this "change" as an "opportunity." Unfortunately, they view it as an opportunity for being more aggressive.
Here's how Iranian Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami put it, in words typical of the reaction from Iran and these other groups. He sees Obama's slogan of "change" as a retreat caused by Iran's revolution, which brought down American power, and says the United States is continuing to decline.
For them, Barack the creator of a more popular America and a figure of weakness. Should there be any doubt that his flexibility will be interpreted as retreat, no matter how well-intentioned he is?
THE DEBATE in Washington is far away from the debate in the Middle East. In America's capital, the talk is of how the radicals are more moderate than thought, how they will be won over by Obama's charisma and changed American policies. The disconnect between the region and the rationalizers is frightening.
There is no policy change in Washington that will appease the radicals. And there are no concessions that will make an American president popular in a meaningful way among Middle Easterners. Even more worrisome, such steps are not going to make moderates feel more secure.
Here the al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri gets it just right. He tells Obama: "It appears that you don't know anything about the Muslim world and its history... You are neither facing individuals nor organizations, but are facing a jihadi awakening and renaissance which is shaking the pillars of the entire Islamic world; and this is the fact which you and your government and country refuse to recognize and pretend not to see."
Zawahiri even invokes the Abu Rmaileh principle: "It appears that you don't know anything about... the fate of the traitors who cooperated with the invaders against it." In other words, anyone who cooperates with the United States or fights the Islamists will die.
Al-Qaida is not a very important group nowadays. But the rise of Islamist forces is clear, even though some of them are hostile to each other. It is Iran, not Ayman, who is the main beneficiary of this phenomenon, though Muslim Brotherhood groups - most notably Hamas - are also advancing.
IN WHICH way are President George Bush and his successor identical? Both believe that being liked in the Middle East will bring victory. Bush thought that by gifting the locals with a non-dictatorial Iraq and democracy they would come to love him. The opposite happened. Obama's strategy of being a nice guy and making concessions is likely to be less costly in direct terms for the United States but will also be used by the radicals for their own benefit.
One problem with the belief that Obama's popularity and flexibility will succeed is the Abu Rmaileh principle: Don't tell me who is nice; tell me who is going to protect me. Being feared and respected, as Syrian dictator Bashar Assad rightly put it, is more important than being liked. Osama bin Ladin noted that people understandably prefer to put their money on the horse that seems more certain to win the race.
A SECOND problem is how people in the Middle East are going to find out that you are such a great guy. They don't follow the American or European media but local sources, including both government and radical Islamist propaganda.
The frustrated American colonel in Iraq quoted above was bewildered by the fact that ""We poured a lot of our heart and soul into trying to help the people" only to hear them say the most inaccurate things about the United States stealing their oil, taking their land, and "turning our country over to Israel." A US pull-out may well be the right policy, but it will not bring gratitude.
What's needed is not a president who can work with Iran or Syria but a president who can work with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese forces who want their country to be free, and so on, along with Israel and Europe in a grand alignment. Yes, it is in large part a zero-sum game: What makes Teheran or Damascus happy is going to damage their intended victims.
Alas, just because something isn't true doesn't mean people can't believe it. That's a truism applicable both to the Middle East and to Washington DC.
The writer is director of Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA).

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Report: Iran hits Israeli spy network

Last update - 14:03 24/11/2008       
Report: Iran dismantles spy network allegedly linked to Mossad
By The Associated Press and Haaretz Service
Official Iranian state radio on Monday said that Tehran has dismantled an espionage network that allegedly was linked to Israel's Mossad spy agency.
The radio report featured Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, saying the Guards' intelligence department recently discovered the network.
Jafari said the alleged network was trying to collect information on Iran's nuclear program and the Guards' military operations as well as details on military and security officials.
He added that equipment belonging to the alleged network was confiscated. He didn't provide more details including whether arrests were made and who belonged to the network.
Iran last week executed an Iranian businessman convicted of spying on the Islamic Republic's military on behalf of Israel, the judiciary said on Saturday.
Judicial spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi says Ashtari was hanged on Nov. 17 after being sentenced to death on June 30 by a revolutionary court in Tehran.
Ashtari, who was in his mid-40s, was a tradesman in electronic merchandise who supplied military, security and defense centers across the country with electronic devices.
Iranian authorities also recently arrested Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger who visited Israel in 2007, upon his arrival in Tehran from Canada. Derakhshan, who also holds Canadian citizenship, admitted to being involved in espionage for Israel, the Iranian news Website Jahan News reported.

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Israel helps starving Israelis in USA

Consulates in North America report of flux of Israelis asking for help getting back to Jewish state after losing money in financial crisis; Absorption, Foreign ministries mulling forming possible airfare aid fund
Itamar Eichner
Published:  11.24.08, 09:27 / Israel News
Many Israelis living in the United States have approached the Israeli consulates in North America recently, asking for their help in getting back to Israel.

According to the report, dozens of Israelis who have lost their money in the financial crisis sweeping through the US have been pleading with the local Israeli bureaus to help them pay for a plane ticket back to the Jewish state.
Eli Yifrach, the Israeli consul general to Florida, said that the Miami office gets several calls to that effect every day: "We've had cases of Israelis telling us they were being evicted from their homes, after faltering on their mortgage payments."
Another official with a different consulate said that his offices has had Israelis call in and ask for financial help to buy food. "In one case, I gave an Israeli $100 for food, and I know many contact Chabad centers and synagogues for food," he said.
Sharon Glassman, of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, told Yedioth Ahronoth that the ministry was "aware of several humanitarian cases of Israelis who reported that they could not afford airfare. 
"Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Halfon has instructed us to look into ways in which we can cooperate with the Foreign Ministry and form an aid fund which will help those in need to purchase tickets back to Israel."

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American TV star Zach Braff in love with Tel Aviv

Last update - 12:38 24/11/2008       
'Scrubs' star Zach Braff falls in love with Tel Aviv
By Ruta Kupfer
He enters the cafe in Tel Aviv's Neveh Tzedek quarter, walking with that familiar stride from the hospital corridors of "Scrubs," his shoulders tossed to the sides a bit, but he has no scrubs or stethoscope. He's wearing a blue T-shirt and is equipped with a camera. He hasn't shaved in a while. And, of course, everything takes place without the stream-of-consciousness narration you get on the television series. This is Zach Braff, who plays the lead character of J.D., John Dorian, on this very amusing comedy series. His full name is actually Zach Israel Braff and his 10-day visit to Israel, which ended over the weekend, was a private one. The series will be going into its eighth season, with the seventh being aired in Israel on Mondays (Yes Stars 1), and Braff has left it for good, so he could travel at his leisure.
He went to Jerusalem, Jaffa and Eilat, "all the touristy things," he says, but spent most of his time in Tel Aviv. "The best way to travel abroad is to live with the locals," he says. "I'm enjoying getting to pretend that I'm an Israeli living in Tel Aviv with my friend. He has a really nice place, we sit with his friends in cafes, talking with them. I love it so much."
This is not his first visit to Israel. "I came when I was in high school as part of a student exchange program with the Jewish Community Center in New Jersey, to Ramat Eliyahu. You come and volunteer for five weeks at a day camp. I was a teenager - I couldn't really appreciate it as much, and now I come back as an adult and I can really get the flavor of the city, and I love it. What I really wanted to do is live in the city and feel like a Tel Avivian."
And how does a Tel Avivian feel?
Braff: "As an American Jew it's an amazing feeling to come to a place where you feel you belong. You know we're such a minority in the U.S. Even though I grew up in New Jersey, which was very Jewish, and then I went to school in Chicago, which was Jewish, and then I moved to New York, which is very Jewish, and then I went to Hollywood, which is very Jewish. But they say we're only 2 percent of the population and shrinking because of intermarriage."
Braff says that when you come here, "you just feel this amazing sense of community. We hear so much about Israel and politics with the Palestinians and you feel so separate from it. So I really wanted to see for myself." He says he was "lucky" to be able to come and see things firsthand and to talk to Israelis. "As a Jew I think it's really important to come to this place. There is such a tremendous sense of community, tremendous bond for obvious reasons. I don't know if Israelis have a sense of it because they live here, but I love it."
The Israeli experience made such an impression on him, he says, he is thinking of his next film touching on a story about an American Jew who visits Israel. Braff, who wrote and directed the successful "Garden State," which also starred Natalie Portman, says a story like what he has in mind is something he's never seen in a movie and thinks it will be really interesting.
Braff grew up in a very Jewish household: "We were kosher, I mean very kosher, with separate dishes and separate dishwashers. Everything. I'm glad actually in hindsight because I can read Hebrew. I don't know what I'm saying, but I can read it, which is probably the hardest part. And now that I'm here, I'm inspired. I want to learn the language."
He decided to drop his observance of kashrut right after his bar mitzvah. His father was "very into explaining to me that is when you become a man in Jewish tradition. So I was smart enough to say, 'Well if I'm a man, I can make some decisions of my own, and I would like a cheeseburger.'"
His father, a lawyer, is an amateur actor who instilled in his son a desire to study acting. His mother is a psychologist. He has three siblings, and one occasionally works with him on television projects.
He left "Scrubs" because "there's so much I want to do with my life." But he prefaces his remarks with calling the series "the most amazing experience of my life" and says he is very grateful. Then he adds: "But when you work on a television series, they own you" - a reference that wraps up the studios, the network, the show and the insurance company that insures the actor. "I don't think they'd let me come here," he says. And he has just gotten his pilot's license. As a TV star, "they wouldn't let me take flying lessons."
Braff says that at 33, he wants his life to be about other things. "I want to take piano lessons, I want to study at university, I want to travel, I want to do other parts, make another movie. So it was time for me to branch out and start a new chapter."
His departure from the series, and that of its creator, Bill Lawrence, does not mean it's coming to an end. (Reruns of the fifth and sixth seasons are airing on Star World on cable TV.) The series recently changed hands, going from NBC to ABC, where the eighth season will be aired in the U.S.
"To be a hit in the U.S. - and everyone knows that at times it's two different countries, as you can see in the elections - you have to find a way to appeal to everybody, and 'Scrubs' found its niche. It's a specific comedy and style. So we found that audience and it was enough to keep us alive. But it was never a hit." Yet Braff was nominated for an Emmy.
He will part on screen from his good friend, Donald Faison, who plays Turk, his best friend on "Scrubs." The two met in filming the series and became real friends, just like on the show. "It's amazing. What I love about Donald is that we couldn't be more different - he's a black guy from Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan, I'm a Jewish kid from the suburbs. We couldn't be more different in personality. He's a big athlete, an alpha male, and I like being a dork. We couldn't have less in common and yet we have the exact same sense of humor, we crack up at the exact same stuff. No one can make me laugh the way he can."
So a lot of things seep into the show from real life?
"Oh yeah. After eight years you can be sitting at dinner with Bill, telling him something that really happened in your life, and the next day it's in the script."
Braff adds: "Me and Donald joke that we're as gay as two guys can be without being gay."
There are people he admires: "Ricky Gervais, I think, is a genius. He's someone I really look up to. I love everything he does. You know, you see people that can make you laugh, and then there are people that you go 'wow!' I think Sasha Cohen is another example. I love [TV hit] '30 Rock.' I think it's the funniest thing on."
He also offers a tribute to the late John Ritter: "When I was a kid, our parents were exposed to Chaplin and Buster Keaton. For me it was John Ritter on 'Three's Company.'" He calls the show "the funniest thing I've ever seen" and says of Ritter: "The man could fall over a couch like nobody else." One of Ritter's last roles was playing Braff's father on "Scrubs."
Tony Goldwyn, who directed Braff in "The Last Kiss" said he has the qualities of an "everyman" and reminded him of Tom Hanks when he was younger.
Braff comments: "Whenever a young actor who's not stunning-looking has a hit, people say 'oh, he's a young Tom Hanks.' I think when you see Brad Pitt, you say, 'wow, that's a really handsome man.' I've never seen anyone in my life that looks like that, and there are some actors, like myself, who you think, 'wow, I went to high school with that kid. I know that guy. He was in my Hebrew school class.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Obama's Mideast peace platform is coming into focus

He might be right. According to Oren, citing the Op-Ed article by Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, the essential features of the plan are this:
  • An Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 lines, with slight alterations that are to be mutually agreed upon.
  • Compensation for Palestinian refugees in lieu of exercising the right of return to pre-1948 Israel.
  • Jerusalem as a "real home" to two capitals.
  • A demilitarized Palestinian state.
In order to allay Israel's security concerns over handing over territory to a Palestinian government that is incapable of combating terrorism, the two former national security advisers recommend stationing an international force, perhaps that of NATO, for peacekeeping purposes, securing Israel, and training Palestinian forces.
As I remarked previously (Keeping up with Jones in West Bank - An Idea Whose Time has Come?), a NATO force is a great proposition for Americans. If they liked Lebanon and Iraq, they'll LOVE Filasteen. Baghdad may be fun city, but Jenin is a blast.
Here's the real joke in Oren's article, and the Scowcroft-Brzezinsky-Jones initiative:
The former NSC chiefs - who represent a wide, bipartisan consensus by dint of their service to Democratic and Republican presidents - praise President Bush's peace efforts over the last year and call upon Obama to lend "priority attention" to the Israeli-Arab peace process. Even though they do not name names, one can clearly notice an effort to influence on the election results in Israel so as to favor moderate candidates - Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak - over Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is typical of people who do not understand the Middle East or any part of it. A proposal of American pressure to divide Jerusalem and create a Palestinian state to be policed by incompetents like UNIFIL in Lebanon, will guarantee the election of Benjamin Nethanyahu or anyone else who is outspoken in opposing it, because the whole idea is childish and dangerous. It shows that these people are not serious Middle East operators, but amateurs.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Why Gilad Shalit is not free

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said:
"We have a moral responsibility and to do everything fitting and possible to bring Gilad Schalit home. Not at any price and not only in negotiations."

The best minds in Israel, as well as the defense establishment, "are currently sitting on the matter,"
"The matter is crucial, and it is not simple..."
Aha! But Mr. Barak, the part of the body that you think with, is not the part that you use to sit on things. This confusion is very common in government, and leads to many errors. Sitting on a problem doesn't solve it.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Less Poverty in Israel in 2007

For the first time in ten years, the National Insurance Institute's poverty report, presented Sunday by Welfare Minister MK Isaac Hertzog, indicates a decline in the level of poverty in Israel.
The number of poverty stricken people has dropped from 1,674,800 in February 2007 to the current 1,630,400. This accounts for a decrease of 44,000, and a poverty level of 23.8 percent for 2007 as opposed to last year's 24.5 percent.
The report indicates a very slight general improvement that is mainly due to the rise in the number of employees in the economy and the increase in payment that was registered in 2007.
The number of poverty stricken children has decreased for the first time in years, falling from 35.8 percent to 34.2 percent. The number of poor children this year is 774,000, says the report, whereas the previous report published in February this year presented a higher number of 804,000.
"Only" one in four is not good enough. And this year, it will get worse.
Ami Isseroff

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Shas: Ovadia Yosef does it again

Spiritual leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called secular teachers in Israel "asses" on Saturday during his weekly sermon.
Yosef has previously voiced his desire that the Education Ministry be handed over to Shas' authority.
In his sermon, the rabbi said that the teachers in the secular education system know nothing, "neither Shabath, nor holiday", and teach only "nonsense", and added that people whose parents placed them in the secular education system are unfortunate.
"What do they teach? They teach history and all sorts of nonsense about world nations, that's all," he said.
And there's the problem:
MK Ofir Pines-Paz also voiced his objection, saying "we won't allow Shas to turn Israel's teachers into the punching bag of its elections campaign." Pines-Paz added that both Yosef's and Shas Chairman Eli Yishai's express wish to control the education ministry "prove how dangerous a government headed by [Likud Chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu, who refused to divulge the promises he made to Shas in coalition talks, would be."
It's all about power and influence. And it's about a debate about Zionist culture versus Jewish Religion that has been around since the inception of Zionism. It is why ultraorthodox Jews objected to Zionism from the very beginning. Only Bibi may be good for the Jews, but he may be very bad for Israel and Zionism.   
Ami Isseroff

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Keeping up with Jones in West Bank - An Idea Whose Time has Come?

National Security advisor James Jones is not the only one in the US who wants an international force in the West Bank. It's an idea that seems to be popular about Obama administration nominees and wannabes. Aluf Benn writes:
General James Jones, whom U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is widely expected to tap as his national security adviser, supports the deployment of an international force in the West Bank instead of the Israel Defense Forces. He also opposes Israel's demand to retain extensive security control over the territories even after a Palestinian state is established...
In response to Israel's claim that the Palestinians cannot be trusted with responsibility for security, Jones, a former NATO commander, proposed a NATO-based international force that would later transfer control to the Palestinians.
The same idea has been proposed by Robert Malley and by Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Scowcroft and Brz wrote:
That could be dealt with by deploying an international peacekeeping force, such as one from NATO, which could not only replace Israeli security but train Palestinian troops to become effective.
Are Americans really going to be enthusiastic about sending "NATO" (==US) troops to the West Bank. If US Marines liked Beirut and Iraq, they will love the West Bank. A really explosive situation.
Faced with terror groups, peacekeeping forces either get blown up or carefully mind their own business and ignore their mandate, as UNIFIL troops are doing in Lebanon, where Hezbollah is allowed to do more or less as it pleases, in defiance of all the UN resolutions calling for disarmament of Hezbollah, including UN Security Council Resolution 1701.
Before agreeing to such a force, Israel should demand, and the world, if it is wise, should agree, that the effectiveness of UNIFIL in disarming Hezbollah in Lebanon must be demonstrated, as well as the effectivenes of NATO in keeping order in Afghanistan. Let's solve one mess before making another one. Let the US and NATO climb out of one quagmire before sinking into another one.
Ami Isseroff

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Springtime for Hitler in Belgium

Hitler parodyBelgian Jews are in a a bit of an uproar about this advertisement. Well, OK, it's not in the best taste, but the basic idea seems to be making fun of Hitler and Nazism and of Belgium. These are apparently the same folks who got everyone in a tizzy by planning a show about Hitler's favorite meal (Something like stewed Jews with Sauerbraten maybe.).
Is it anti-Semitic or is just a takeoff, it something like Mel Brooks' movie, "The Producers?"
The man in the picture is Thomas Desoete, a Belgian TV presenter, and the accompanying text is a zany travel ad. The idea is to get publicity, just as the Hitler's favorite meal show was tring to do. I am so confused, because I thought Belgians are all polite and somber people in blue suits.
Belgian Jews are furious. According to a Ha'aretz article, one man said, "The Jewish community is furious. Some are even considering whether they want to live here." Don't hold your breath until any of them leave. Europe must be a good place for Jews, as none of them want to come out.
Is there less to this than meets the eye?
You can look at this in one of several ways: It is a joke, so laugh. It is a publicity stunt. It is keyed to the idea that Hitler is so bad that this will attract attention. That is a GOOD thing. It means that hatred of anti-Semitism and of Hitler is becoming so rooted in European culture that they can joke about Hitler and Nazism in this way. Or you can insist that it is anti-Semitism. Still no reason to leave Belgium. What would the Diaspora be without Anti-Semitism, right?  Isn't that the whole point of living in the Diaspora and protesting about anti-Semitism?
Ami Isseroff


Continued (Permanent Link)

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