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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Egyptian Media. Politicians, Call on Sheikh Tantawi to Resign after he Shook Hands with Shimon Peres

Several Egyptian newspapers and lawmakers in Egypt have called on the country's foremost Islamic cleric, Sheik Muhammad Seyed Tantawi to resign Saturday for shaking the Israeli president's hand at a conference. Tantawi is the Imam of Al Azhar university, Sunni Islam's most prestigious and authoritative seat of learning.  Tantawi met Israeli President Shimon Peres at an interfaith meeting and shook his hands.  Egyptian media have since been running a photo of Grand Sheik Tantawi shaking hands with Shimon Peres almost daily since the two met at a U.N.-sponsored interfaith dialogue in New York last month. The photo is accompanied by critical editorials and comments by lawmakers. The U.N.-sponsored interfaith conference held in New York in mid-November attracted 80 countries and 14 world leaders, including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. Supposedly, the conference was meant to highlight moderate aspects of Islam and evidently to help advance the Saudi peace initiative.

An Al-Ousboua  editorial published on Saturday stated that Peres' hands were tainted with the blood of thousands of Palestinians who have lost their homes in Israel. 
The paper called on Tantawi to "ritually purify his hands" after the shake.

Egypt has a government controlled press. Nothing is printed in the Egyptian press without the approval of government censors, and therefore the attacks can be viewed as having official sanction, it not approval. Tantawi, who was appointed by the Egyptian government, was quoted in Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper and several others as saying he shook the Israeli president's hand without recognizing him.

A spokesman for al-Azhar was quoted in the paper as blaming Tantawi's handlers for not paying attention and misdirecting the cleric toward Peres.

Hisham Kassem, an Egyptian activist and publisher, expressed doubt about Tantawi's version of the story, saying "how can you go to an interfaith meeting and not know who Peres is?"
Peres' office declined comment on "Egypt's internal matters."

But at the time of the meeting, his office said the encounter was pleasant, and Tantawi and Peres sat next to each during a dinner and had a "very serious conversation."

Many Egyptian opposition lawmakers have called for the cleric to step down over the handshake.

"I feel shame because the person who did this is the head of one of Islam's greatest institutions," lawmaker Hamdein Sabaheen was quoted as saying Saturday in Al-Dustour newspaper.

Egypt supposedly has a peace treaty with Israel, but it is fairly meaningless in terms of public opinion and internal government policy. Egypt is a US client state, receiving over $2 billion in aid each year, most of which are spent on armaments. The Egyptian media are not allowed to be overly critical of the government, but are free to be rabidly critical of the United States and Israel, and to publish anti-Semitic materials. These have included articles praising Hitler and a TV series that insisted that the forged  
Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic document, were in fact true. 
Egypt's aged president Mubarak will probably be succeeded by his son Gamal. However, it is not unlikely that Mubarak's death would destabilize Egypt. The largest opposition faction, and the only one that is permitted to function effectively, is the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. The brotherhood has renounced violence as a means of taking power in Egypt, but still adheres to the program of worldwide Jihad and enmity to Israel. Opposition figures in Egypt have called for scrapping the peace treaty with Israel.   .

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European vote of confidence for Hamas regime.

It was a bit worse than is portrayed here. The vote was taken at the request of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left and supported by the Greens/European Free Alliance and European Socialists to vote for the isolation of Israel.  The vote, 194 in favor of the postponement against 173, is seen in the parliament as a "sanction" against Israel for its blockade of the Gaza Strip. In other words, it is a vote of confidence for the Hamas.

Israel rebuffed by Europe

By Lisa Hostein · December 4, 2008

The European Parliament postponed a decision this week about whether to upgrade its ties with Israel, ostensibly because of Israel's recent actions on the West Bank. While Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was in Brussels urging European nations to change their "outdated" perception of the Jewish state, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned the E.U. against boosting ties, citing the lack of progress in the Middle East peace process. A top German member of the European Parliament criticized the postponement....

Postponement of Israel Protocol strongly criticised - European Parliament should proceed to ratification in January. Elmar Brok MEP
Elmar Brok MEP, foreign policy coordinator of the European People's Party (EPP), has strongly criticised the postponement of the ratification of a protocol on Israeli participation in European Union programmes.

"This gives the wrong signal and does not contribute to the stabilisation of the region", he commented after the EP-plenary decision.

Brok also criticised the reason that was given for the postponement of the decision, namely the situation in the Gaza Strip, as this means supporting the illegal Hamas regime which is decisively responsible for the situation in Gaza and the shelling of Israel.

The German MEP therefore advised the European Parliament to launch a new ratification process in January 2009.

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Study shows Jewish genes still present in Spain

Last update - 21:24 05/12/2008       
Study finds genes of Sephardic Jews still strong in Spain
By Reuters

Along with researchers from Leicester University in England and the Wellcome Trust, the study analysed DNA samples from 1,140 men in Spain, Portugal and the Balearic Islands and compared them to established data on Moroccans, Algerians, and Sephardic Jews in Istanbul and Israel.
"The work shows that religious conversions and subsequent marriages between people of different lines had a significant impact on modern populations both in the Balearic Islands and in Portugal," another author Elena Bosch said in a statement.
One of the most surprising findings is the percentage of Spaniards having genes similar to Sephardic Jews, although Spain had a relatively small Jewish population compared to its Moorish population.
This may arise because genetic features of Sephardic Jews used in the study are shared with other peoples such as neolithics and Phoenicians, so today's Spaniards could have inherited some of those genetics from various sources.
The Moors invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 and remained until defeated in battle by the so-called Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Moorish influence is still very noticeable in Spain's language, architecture, music and other aspects of its culture.
Jews lived in Spain before the Moors arrived and although small in number played a significant cultural and economic role.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from Spain in various repressive moves, started by the Catholic Monarchs. The study suggests many Jews converted rather than face repression.
Some Sephardic communities to this day speak Ladino, which is similar to medieval Spanish and can be understood by present-day Spaniards.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Pakistani "apology" for Mumbai atack: 'None Of India's Cities Can Remain Safe From Our Missiles'

If the Mumbai terror attacks were intended to stir up trouble between Pakistan and India, they certainly succeeded. It is truly amazing that after a barbarian terrorist attack was launched from its soil, Pakistan is threatening India rather than apologizing. it is totally unacceptable.  
Pakistani Nuclear Scientist: 'None Of India's Cities Can Remain Safe From Our Missiles'; 'Our Missile System… Can Be Fired in Only 10 Minutes – They Are On the Launchers'

Amid growing tensions between India and Pakistan following the 11/26 Mumbai terror attacks, Pakistani nuclear scientist Dr. Samar Mubarakmand spoke of the readiness of Pakistani missiles and of their capability to target Indian cities. Dr. Mubarakmand, who has steered the Pakistani nuclear program for the past several decades alongside disgraced nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, expressed his views during a talk show.

Following are excerpts from the interview, as published in the Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper Roznama Express: [1]

"Pakistan's nuclear assets are in safe hands.

"Every Indian city is on the target of our missiles, and [Pakistan's] atomic technology is better than that of India. [We] can fire the missiles at only 10 minutes' notice...

"I am very satisfied with the defense preparedness. As long as [we] didn't have nuclear weapons, India had a three and a half advantage [over Pakistan]. But this advantage was levelled when we conducted the nuclear testing.

"Following the nuclear testing, we tested missiles like the Shaheen, the Ghaznavi, the Shaheen II, and the Ghauri. After this, India's tone and language [vis-à-vis Pakistan] changed...

"The nuclear tests carried out by India were of eight to 10 tons, whereas our [atomic tests] were of 25 to 30 tons, and the one we conducted in Kharan [Desert, in Baluchistan] were of 10 to 12 tons. This is why our weapons are better [than India's]...

"Our Shaheen missiles hit targets [during testing]; the world recognized their delivery system. None of India's cities can remain safe from our missiles... Pakistan's width is less than India's, which is 1,200 to 1,400 kilometers. Therefore, no corner of India is safe from the Shaheen II...

"We have also developed cruise missiles. And Pakistan is the fourth country in the world to have cruise missiles...

"We should talk to India strongly... Even while giving the message of friendship, we should make [Indians] realize that we are not weak...

"Being a small nation, if we abandon the option... to launch a nuclear attack, then there won't be any use of the second option. This way you end one advantage...

"Our missile system is ready, [and] can be fired in only 10 minutes - they are on the launchers..."

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Understanding Islamism

Following is a long excerpt from an authoritative article about Islamism. The author, Maajid Nawaz, was an Islamist, so he knows whereof he speaks. He is not an apostate Muslim, just a regular Muslim, explaining what it is all about.

My time in Egypt's notorious Mazra Tora prison gave me the opportunity to finally study Islam myself from its primary Arabic sources. I also had the opportunity to debate with some of Egypt's most well-known convicted terrorists, such as the surviving assassins of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and the founders of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyyah – formerly Egypt's largest terrorist group. I also had access to imprisoned liberals such as the runner-up in the Egyptian Presidential election Ayman Noor, and the then imprisoned Sociology Professor Saad el-Din Ibrahim. My adoption by Amnesty International as a 'prisoner of conscience', and in particular the tireless efforts of one Amnesty activist – John Cornwall – served to open my heart to non-Muslims again for the first time in 10 years. My mind, however, would still not follow without rigorous investigation. After four years of daily debate and organised studying with the whole spectrum of reformed political prisoners I gradually came to the realisation, subconsciously at first, that what I had thought was Islam, was in fact a modern political ideology masquerading as the ancient faith of Islam. Islamists had taken modern day political paradigms and superimposed them onto religion. I now refer to this ideology as Islamism, so as to distinguish it from Islam the faith.
Upon returning to the UK in March 2006 I continued in my activities with Hizb ut-Tahrir at the leadership level. At this stage I was in psychological  nial, after thirteen years of Islamist activism, that I could have been so wrong. The more my status grew on the Islamist circuit, the more I felt hypocritical for no longer believing that Islam was a divine political ideology. I had become one of the most recognised figures amongst Islamists generally and in Hizb ut-Tahrir ranks specifically, yet I could not face the fact that I no longer believed in the ideology. I eventually learnt that the group was preparing me for leadership of the UK branch, and this news brought me to my final tipping point. In May 2007, thirteen years after joining, I unilaterally announced my resignation from Hizb ut-Tahrir, and in September 2007 I appeared on national television to declare that I now recanted Islamism itself.
Understanding the ideology of Islamism

In understanding what the ideology of Islamism is, it would help to begin with the name. The suffix 'ism' has been added to Islam so as to draw attention to the political nature of the subject matter. Islam is a faith; Islamism is an ideology that uses Islam the faith as a justification. Some of you may be reluctant to call this ideology Islamism. There exists an understandable concern of not wanting to alienate Muslims. It is my contention however that only by using Islamism can one popularise the notion that the ideology is indeed distinct from the faith, and that Islam is innocent from the excesses of Islamism. The presence of Islam in the title should be no more troubling for Muslims than the presence of 'social' in Socialism is for sociologists. The presence of the word Islam in Islamism, like social in socialism, indicates the justificatory claim made by the ideologue rather than an admission of the validity of such a claim. I firmly believe that by claiming the word Islamism, and helping shape how it is used, one can direct the debate in the right way with the intention of distinguishing the ideology from the faith. Finally, for all their feign of offence, Islamists use this word in Arabic when differentiating themselves from other Arab political trends, such as Bathism.
When dealing with this question one must remain cognisant of the fact that the majority of Muslims are not Islamists. Generally, non-Islamist Muslims are from the conservative camp, such as traditionalist Sufis or Deobandis, or the literalist Wahhabis. [1] This camp holds to socially conservative views and is historically apolitical. Non-Islamist Muslims could also be of the progressive camp, such as many leading theologians and academics today. Many in this grouping, and some from the conservatives, may even be politically active. These form the nascent post-Islamist movement of morally-inspired and politically active Muslims, or Muslim Democrats. However, the majority of progressives are simply secular legal positivists, believing that religion and morals cannot be a basis for strictly defining legal and political decisions. Key to the political activism of the above Muslims is that their politics is not driven by ideology.
The natural question then arises: what is the difference between an Islamist and an ordinary Muslim who may be politically active? Here some identifiers will be highlighted, not as hard and fast rules, but as general guidance on the fundamental beliefs that the vast majority of Islamists will hold dear. It is important to note that just as there is no one single definition of Communism, it is likewise for Islamism. This, of course, does not mean that Communism does not exist just as it does not mean that there is no such thing as Islamism. If, as is claimed, Islamism is a modern ideology, it follows that there must be some basic ideational factors that help shape it, ideas that can be clearly traced as being modern. In this endeavour, I aim to identify an Islamist's ideology, law, people and state.
The first identifier of Islamism is the Islamist belief that Islam is not a religion, but a divine political ideology surpassing Communism and Capitalism. An implication of this is the Islamist assertion that Islam must have provided a detailed and divinely pre-ordained stance on matters such as political structure or the economy and these must lie, by definition, in contradistinction to structures already available in Capitalism and Communism. If these structures and systems are deemed absent, the Islamists will work to bring them about. Hence the Islamist desires to 'Islamise' all aspects of society and life. This also carries with it the Islamist assertion, subsequently also subscribed to by prominent non-Muslim commentators, that Islam is in perennial conflict with other ideologies, just like Communism in the cold war. In fact, the founder of Hizb ut-Tahrir used to be a Bathist or an Arab Socialist, which is where he found much of his political inspiration. Moreover, Islamists have long suffered due to their lack of theological legitimacy having been founded by political activists rather than theologians. The founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, was a school-teacher. The founder of the Indian subcontinent offshoot of the Brotherhood, Jamat-e-Islam, was a journalist by the name of Abul 'Ala Mawdudi. Al-Qa'idah's Osama Bin Laden is an engineer and Ayman al-Zawahiri a medical doctor. The man who recruited me to Hizb ut-Tahrir all those years ago, the current head of Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK, was also a medical doctor. Due to the Islamists' emphasis on modern political thought they tend to attract those who have a modern education, those who can grasp discussions on sovereignty, statehood and the economy yet whose disciplines are not these social science subjects themselves, thereby explaining their willingness to adopt political ideas that lack nuance. A qualified theologian would rarely claim that Islam is a political ideology, unless he has been reared exclusively by an Islamist party to become a theologian so as to reinterpret the theology in light of the ideology, such as the Brotherhood reared Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The second identifier is the Islamist claim that the Muslim religious code, known as the Shari'ah, demands implementation on state level as codified law. In other words, the legal and illegal of state law must be synchronised with halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible) of the religious code. This again is a modern innovation unheard of in traditional Islamic sources. Muslim history is in fact bereft of examples of any type of Shari'ah being wholesale adopted as state law. Despite this, Islamists place so much emphasis on synchronising the Shari'ah with codified state law that they consider it a matter of apostasy if someone claims otherwise. Such a demand gives rise to Islamist claims of un-Islamic, hence illegitimate, laws that subsequently need to be Islamised. On the contrary, ordinary Muslims are perfectly happy for the Shari'ah to remain a personal code of conduct.
The third identifier is the Islamist notion of the ummah, or Muslim community, forming a political rather than simply a religious identity. This has parallels with the Communist idea of the international proletariat. The subsequent implication for Islamists is that loyalty and allegiances are owed to this global community above all else. Hence, an Islamist will not consider a non-Muslim as being from 'his people', nor will he accept any national identity. Ordinary Muslims, on the other hand, consider the ummah as a religious community; hence they are free to adopt as their political identity any number of things. In fact, the Prophet himself declared, as a civil leader, that Jewish, Christian and Muslim residents of his city-state were all 'one ummah', as 'citizens.'
The final identifier is the Islamist dream of having an ideological entity to represent the above three elements in the form of an expansionist Muslim bloc, the Caliphate. Its ideology will be Islamism, its law an adoption on Shari'ah and its people the global Muslim political bloc. Just as the international proletariat, the global political bloc for Communists, required an expansionist state to proactively 'liberate' workers from the tyranny of Capitalism, likewise the Caliphate must proactively intervene in the affairs of other states so as to 'liberate' Muslim residents from the yoke of kufr, or disbelief. Ordinary Muslims have no such expansionist dreams. Muslim theological authorities in each country have time and time again made the point that the days of religiously-inspired expansionism went out with the Middle Ages.
It is not strange that a modern-day supremacist ideology with aspirations of a super-state and a higher people emerged in the Middle East after World War I. The end of the age of empires led to the same phenomenon in Europe. Whereas European Fascist, Communist and Nazi parties emerged from the ashes of defeated European empires, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire led to Islamist parties emerging in the Middle East. The very same characteristics of expansionist super-states, a higher-people, and political party organisation are to be found in each of these supremacist phenomena. Such a development can be explained by the crisis of identity experienced by collective peoples in the aftermath of the old-world order empires collapsing.

From the Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter it 

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Syria: Something to Hide

Something to Hide

November 30th, 2008

Sunday, 30 November 2008 02:09 Nir Boms&David Keyes

A British Ambassador in Teheran once explained the logic of the Middle East as follows: "What I say does not definitely reflect what I think. What I do does not necessary reflect what I say. Therefore, not everything that I do necessary contradicts everything that I think. "This twisted logic may help explain the latest sequence of events in Syria and the apparent gap between the regime's words and deeds.  Despite softening rhetoric and occasional signs of rapprochement with the West, President Bashar al-Assad still has a lot to hide—and fear.

On the one hand, Syria appears to be taking its time. Last September it took the government over a week to admit that its "air defense systems confronted Israeli aircraft."  This announcement followed a flurry of reports about an Israeli strike that destroyed a suspected nuclear site.  The Syrians, naturally, denied these "western" reports but they also refused to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct a follow up visit, this despite the recently published report confirming the presence of uranium at the site.  It took Syria another whole week to admit the assassination of General Mohammed Suleiman, a top Assad adviser and a key player in the Lebanese arena. The regime stayed mum regarding the abduction of Kurdish leader Meshaal Tammo too.  Lastly, Syria has yet to officially comment on the mysterious assassination of Hamas leader Khaled Mashall's top aid, Hisham el-Badni, who was taken out of his car and shot in the city of Homs earlier this month.

In contrast to this foot-dragging, Syria has been all too quick at repressing dissent.  Twelve more names were recently added to Syria's already long list of political prisoners.  Journalists Jabr al-Shoufiand and Fayez Sarah, Democratic Party member Muhammed Haji Darwish and  former independent member of parliament Riad Seif  were among those sentenced to two and a half years in prison for "spreading false information and belonging to a secret organization promoting sectarian strife." These convictions follow a wave of arrests against figures such as Ghazi Omar Qaddour, member of the Syrian Council of Freedom and Human Rights Committees and Habib Saleh, author and opposition figure.   Many of those targeted by the regime are associated with the 2005 Damacus Decleration, which calls for "democratic and radical change" in Syria.

Even as these arrests occur, Assad has dispatched "unofficial" emissaries to Washington to help convince the Americans that Syria is serious about peace.  Such lobbying is to be expected, but is this a genuine move toward reconciliation or is it part of a more nefarious plot?  Talking peace while banning basic liberties is an old Middle Eastern game with all too familiar consequences.  Indeed, nations cannot be trusted to treat their neighbors with respect when they treat their own citizens with such contempt.  Regional peace without domestic peace is ephemeral at best.  In the words of famed dissident Vaclav Havel, "Without free, self-respecting, and autonomous citizens there can be no free and independent nations. Without internal peace, that is, peace among citizens and between the citizens and the state, there can be no guarantee of external peace."  The Middle East is no exception to this sound principle.

In 2006, Assad said "Worry does not mean fear, but readiness for confrontation."  Assad may or may not be ready for confrontation, but he is worried.  From the assassination of his top military aid to prison riots in Sidnaya that reportedly killed dozens, Syria is beset with internal strife.  The recent crackdown on dissidents is yet another sign of Syrian insecurity.

Syria remains draconian in its repression of dissent and wholehearted in its commitment to authoritarianism. The regime seeks engagement and respect from the West, but economic aid and political rapprochement must be linked to an improvement in human rights.  Just as the Jackson-Vanik amendment applied critical pressure to the decrepit Soviet state, so too must we mobilize today against the repressive Syrian regime.  Brave Middle Eastern dissidents are the free world's greatest ally.  Standing shoulder to shoulder with these champions of liberty is both a moral and security imperative and one that should be taken seriously by the new US president elect.

Nir Boms is the Vice President of the Centre for Middle East Freedom.  David Keyes is the Coordinator for Democracy Programs under Natan Sharansky at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.

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Labor party primary results

Labor needs to ensure a realistic place for Arab candidates, particularly for Raleb Majadele. The best way to do this of course is to get 20 or more mandates. It is probably not realistic to count on that. Putting all the "special cases" in the first ten will more or less invalidate the results of democratic elections however. While polls predict ten mandates, the enthusiastic support shown in the primaries, which is the big story of these primaries, indicates that the actual results of elections may be less disastrous for the Israel Labor party than is predicted by the polls.  
Ehud Barak has allowed himself to be cast as the fall guy for the government decision to evacuate the Hebron house of contention. In reality it was a government decision. The play acting whereby Barak is the hero or villain of the drama is intended to restore his credentials with the left, while Kadima finds it convenient to use Barak and Labor as scapegoats for the action, in order to gain votes from the center and right.
Herzog wins Labor primaries
With 100% of votes tallies in party primaries, results show Social Affairs Minister Herzog wins first place on Knesset roster after Chairman Barak, MK Pines-Paz comes in second, followed by MKs Braverman, Yacimovich

Attila Somfalvi Latest Update: 12.05.08, 08:18 / Israel News

Labor held its primary elections on Thursday to determine the party's Knesset roster in the next general elections. With Tuesday's computerized fiasco still resonating, Labor's second attempt at the primaries was deemed uneventful.

Voting stations opened at 12 pm and were closed for the count at 10 pm. The party's 195 stations reported a 58% voter turnout.

Official results from nearly 100% of the polling stations indicated that Minister Issac Herzog and Knesset members Ophir Pines-Paz and Avishay Braverman were poised to take the top three spots on Labor's roster after Chairman Ehud Barak, whose position is secured.

The final vote updated from the Hebrew website

 were as follows:
Minister Herzog - 24,788
MK Pines-Paz - 24,336
MK Braverman - 22,801
MK Shelly Yacimovich - 19,650
MK Matan Vilnai - 18,494
MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer -  17,912
MK Amir Peretz - 16,881
Minister Yuli Tamir - 15,869
Daniel Ben-Simon - 15,338
Dr. Einat Wilf - 10,425  ]

The results also showed that businessman Avi Shaked got 5438 and MK Colette Avital received 5154 votes. These names are joined by the list of secured places, so the final Knesset list is expected to change. Labor Chairman Barak is secured in the first place, while Secretary-General Eitan Cabel is secured in the seventh position.

The fifth, ninth and 19th places are secured for a woman, the 12th place is secured for the moshavim district, the 13th place for the kibbutzim's representative, the 15th place for the Arab sector, the 16th place for the Druze, the 17th place for the neighborhoods' representatives, the 18th place for a new immigrant, and the 20th place is secured for the Sharon and Samaria districts.

According to recent public opinion polls, only the top 10 places are guaranteed to reach the Knesset.

At this stage, MK Leon Litinetsky is leading among the new immigrants, while MK Yoram Marciano is leading in the race for the 17th place (the neighborhoods' representative)

According to Science, Culture and Sport Minister Raleb Majadele, 78% of the party's Arab members exercised their right to vote.

Labor voters were requested to decide on the party's Knesset roster using a special form which asked them to check five to eight names, for candidates representing the national list, as well as its regional and sectorial counterparts.

As a lesson learnt from Tuesday's events, the party opted not to use the same computerized system which brought the primaries to a screeching halt, and reverted to the tried and true method of manual ballots.

The party hired private investigators to monitor the various voting stations in order to ensure the purity of the election process. The measure, explained Secretary-General Cabel, was taken in order to avert any malfunctions or falsifications, which the manual voting process is vulnerable to.

First Published: 12.04.08, 23:56

IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis


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Bad economy means trouble for Iranian regime

Iran's Mullahs face a dilemma.  The rule of Ahmadinejad is becoming unpopular. There is no real democracy in Iran as the Supreme Council has the final say in all things.  It is easy enough to invalidate all the reformist candidates as "un-Islamic" as they did in the past.
But if they do so they may face a popular uprising. Making women wear the Hijab or hanging a few homosexuals or Bahai is one thing, and to stage Holocaust denial conferences is good clean fun. It is OK --  as long as you are not a woman or a Bahai or a Jew of course..  But making people poorer will not be tolerated. Everyone wants A-bombs and missiles in Iran, needed to kill the Jews and the Americans, but nobody wants to pay for them. Make no mistake. The "reformist" Mullahs like Rafsanjani have the same agenda as the other brand. The nuclear development program began or continued in secret under the reformist regime and it will continue if Ahmadinejad is ousted. But Iran will put some window dressing on its society and its foreign policy. There will be less talk of wiping out Zionism and more talk about the plight of the poor Palestinians. Missile tests will not get so much publicity, and perhaps all the programs will slow down a bit.
An alternative is to close the straits of Hormuz and drive the price of oil back up again, or to get Sy Hersh and others to produce more canards about Israel or the US attacking Iran.

Reuters - 05 December, 2008

Iran's main reformist party accused President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday of squandering windfall oil earnings and driving up inflation, part of its campaign to oust the leader at an election next year.

Most Iranians complain about high inflation, at over 29 percent, and rising unemployment. Analysts say the economy will be the main focus of the June 2009 election when Ahmadinejad is expected to run for another four-year term.

The Islamic Iran Participation Front said the government had not saved enough when oil prices were high to maintain spending now the price has dropped to below $ 50 a barrel. Prices hit $ 150 in July.

"His main campaign slogan was to share oil wealth fairly ... But instead, his economic policies have caused major problems for Iranians, particularly for lower-income people," Mohsen Mirdamadi, the party's secretary-general, told about 400 people at an annual party meeting.

Critics, both reformists and conservatives, including some who backed Ahmadinejad's first presidential bid, say the leader's high spending is to blame for surging inflation that stood at about 11 percent when he took office in 2005.

"Since the (1979 Islamic) revolution, Iran's total oil income has been $ 700 billion. Over 36 percent of it was earned during the tenure of office by Ahmadinejad," Mirdamadi said. "But inflation and unemployment rates are the highest now."

Mirdamadi said substantial political reform was needed.

"Reforms are the only solution to the economic crisis," Mirdamadi told the audience, which included reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami.

Khatami has yet to announce whether he wants to relaunch his reform plans by competing in the election. But his allies say he will announce his candidacy in the coming weeks.

Analysts say securing victory in the presidential vote will also depend on gaining support of Iran's clerical establishment.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority, has supported Ahmadinejad, and his comments may sway millions of revolutionary loyalists. Ahmadinejad is also popular in small towns and rural areas where he frequently doles out cash.

"Ahmadinejad's economic and foreign policies have failed. But he still can win if the leader supports his candidacy," said an analyst at the meeting, who asked not to be named.

Khatami fell out of favour with many Iranians for failing to take a firmer stand against Islamic hardliners during eight years in government. But allies say he could win another vote.

"Wherever people see a leading reformist, they complain about Ahmadinejad's policies. They want Khatami as their president again," Mirdamadi said.

"Winning the election is the first step. Iran's next president should compensate for the losses under Ahmadinejad."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Who is a Muslim and what is Islam?

It is not up to Bradley Burston to determine who is a Muslim. That is the job of Muslims.
The Jihadi as Nazi, from 9/11 to Mumbai
By Bradley Burston

Asked what was different about the victims of the incident, another doctor said: "It was very strange. I have seen so many dead bodies in my life, and was yet traumatised. A bomb blast victim's body might have been torn apart and could be a very disturbing sight. But the bodies of the victims in this attack bore such signs about the kind of violence of urban warfare that I am still unable to put my thoughts to words," he said.
Asked specifically if he was talking of torture marks, he said: "It was apparent that most of the dead were tortured. What shocked me were the telltale signs showing clearly how the hostages were executed in cold blood," one doctor said.
The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.
Krishnakumar P. and Vicky Nanjappa, reporting from Mumbai, cited by Andrew Sullivan and Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic Online

For the whole of my adult life, it irked me when my fellow Jews would routinely and without compunction, accuse anti-Zionists of being anti-Semitic, and conflate anti-Israeli sentiment with the Nazis.
I felt that the latter eroded the memory and the magnitude of the Holocaust, and that the former was a slightly more elegant way of telling people with whom one took issue, to shut the hell up.
Only this week did I realize my error.
It turns out, that when Jews suspected that the Jihadi hated the Jew the way the Nazi hated the Jew, they were right.
After all this time, I am embarrassed to admit that only when the monsters entered Chabad House in Mumbai, did I understand.
Monsters, not solely for what they did there, but, if the reports are to be believed, for the fact that they were able to do what they did after having actually gotten to know the young couple who founded the center, after asking them for shelter in Chabad House, after telling them that they were Malaysian students eager to learn about Judaism.
Monsters, for having befriended these sweet people in order to better learn how to execute them. Monsters, for having targeted a young couple who had devoted their lives to helping others better live theirs, despite having had a baby who died of a genetic disease and a second child ill and under treatment far away in Israel.
The monsters in Chabad House were not Nazis because they were Muslims. It was specifically because they so faithfully emulated the Nazis, that they, in fact, betrayed Islam.
The hatred of the Jihadi for the Jew is such that - as in the case of the Nazis - the killing of Jews - anywhere they may be found - is an obligation on par with whatever other enemy, target, cause, mission, goal or creed they may be pursuing at the moment.
Their hatred of the Jew is such that - as in the case of the Nazis - all tragedy that befalls the Jews was brought on by the Jews themselves.
Their hatred of the Jew is such that even if a Jew rejects the concept of a state of Israel and is wholeheartedly opposed to Zionism, if he wears the clothing of a believing Jew - as in the case of victim Aryeh Leibish Teitelboim - he will be bound and tortured and put to death.
It is no longer a question of geography or personal experiemce. On September 11. the jihadis told us that the attacks came, in part, in response to the atrocities of the Jews. In the next breath, they told the Muslim world that the Jews were also behind the attacks.
"The Jews are a virus resembling AIDS, from which the entire world suffers," Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris said in a sermon broadcast on Palestinian Authority television shortly before Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005. "You will find that the Jews were behind all the civil strife in this world."
"It was the Jews who provoked Nazism to wage war against the entire world, when the Jews, using the Zionist movement, got other countries to wage an economic war on Germany and to boycott German merchandise. The Jews are behind the suffering of the nations."
"They are committing worse deeds than those done to them in the Nazi war. Yes, perhaps some of them were killed and some burned, but they are inflating this in order to win over the of the media and gain the world's sympathy. The worst crimes in history were committed against the Jews, yet these crimes are no worse than what the Jews are doing in Palestine."
" We have ruled the world before, and by Allah, the day will come when we will rule the entire world again. The day will come when we will rule America. The day will come when we will rule Britain and the entire world - except for the Jews. The Jews will not enjoy a life of tranquility under our rule, because they are treacherous by nature, as they have been throughout history. The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew."
While waiting, hours and then days, for word of the fate of Gabi and
Rivki Holtzberg, I happened onto the memoirs of the handful of survivors of a now-extinct Jewish community near Bialystok, Poland, where my father's uncle, Herschel Cinowitz, had been born.
In 1941, when he was a young man, he escaped the Nazis by making his way to refuge in Bombay, later Mumbai.
This is the first thing that I learned: You don't have to be German to be a Nazi. The SS ruled Yedwabne, Herschel Cinowitz' little town, but the locals were only too pleased to do their work for them.
"In the middle of the market place was a statue of Lenin," one survivor recalled. "The goyim forced the old Rabbi to carry the statue and recite, "We Jews are responsible for the war and want the war to continue". Then they ordered a burial for the statue in the Jewish cemetery."
Forty of the Jews of Yedwabne were forced to dig graves, then were buried alive. The remainder, 1,440 in all, were taken to a large barn, where they were burned alive.
It occurs to me not a coincidence that the officers of the SS wore silver skulls on their caps and skulls on their lapels, as a token of their love of death.
The jihadi shows his love in other ways. He delights in quoting Khalid ibn al-Walid, the 7th Century Muslim general who warned the emperor of Persia that if he failed to submit to Muslim authority, "you will be conquered against your will by men who love death as you love life." He delights in dismissing the Jews as weak for their love of life, which is equated with cowardice.
A Jew who, as memory serves, was neither Zionist nor observant, once quoted a verse of Hindu scripture which could serve us in comprehending the work of the jihadi:
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
Muslims the world over have recognized that the jihadi is a terrible threat to Islam. The world has seen that the jihadi, in hating the Jew, the Christian, the Hindu, the Muslim of another denomination, has become - like the Nazi - the enemy of all peoples everywhere.
The jihadi shows his love of death in brutality, sadistic executions, the self-righteous calm of the premeditated mass murderer, the blaming of the victim for the crime.
One lesson of the Holocaust is that one can't afford to miss the signs and the intentions.
My father's uncle saw them in time. At the time, Mumbai was his salvation.
I'm only seeing it now.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From Somalia to Mumbai - in one explosive lesson

What's the difference betwee the Somali pirates, Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger on the one hand and Al-Qaeda the Lashkar group that carried out the terror attack in India? A very big difference in some respects. Nobody lionized Somali pirates, and nobody marches in the streets with portraits of their leaders. No dialog groups call for understanding the "deap reasons" for piracy, bank robbery and bootlegging, as long as they are not furnished with religious or ideological motives. No Somali pirate supporting NGOs will be invited to the Durban II Racism conference either.
There is another big difference. The pirates don't kill people for no reason.
Other than that, there is no difference.
Read more about it here: Mumbai terror and Somali Pirates 

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Panic over low oil prices in greedy gulf states

Arab oil states and others in OPEC, together with speculators, deliberately and artificially inflated the price of oil. The soaring prices helped to sabotage the world economy, already vulnerable because of irresponsible credit policies. The states used the extra revenues to invest in unimaginable and unnecessary projects that helped nobody: Ski resorts in the desert and artificial islands. In Iran, they have been used to fund nuclear weapons development. Now the whole house of cards has come down on the heads of those who created it. Western home owners, gouged for oil, could not pay for their cheap mortgages. Industrialized countries could not afford the oil needed to run their industries. Oil prices headed back toward realistic levels. There is no money to pay for the artifical islands and atomic bombs.
But it seems a bit unrealistic to fear or hope for single digit oil prices. OPEC can always close the faucet after all. Without interference and immoral carteling practices, oil would probably fall to about $30 to $45 a barrel. If the price goes below $20 a barrel, it will be less than the cost of extraction and transport for countries like Russia, and therefore the supply would begin to dry up for legitimate reasons. Nobody will sell oil if they are really losing money.


MANAMA: The steep fall in oil prices due to the ongoing economic crisis could result in drastically low oil prices ranging between $15-$20 per barrel or even a single-digit per barrel.

The worst-case scenario will remind us of the situation of the 1990s Asian crisis, a senior economist warned yesterday. Simon Williams, chief economist, Gulf markets at HSBC, in a briefing titled "Shelter from the Storm," held yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain, said oil was the bedrock of the regional economies.

"The Gulf is still digesting the oil price shock as the shift to a new oil price equilibrium has fundamentally changed the Gulf as an economic story. Here everything is directly or indirectly linked to the hydrocarbon industry, and if falling oil prices touched its lowest then everything will be at a grinding halt.

"The GCC as a region has immense hydrocarbon resources heavily dependent on oil income which constitutes half of the gross domestic product of these six nations," Williams added. The economist, who was joined by David Bloom, global head of foreign exchange strategy, HSBC, during a joint presentation on Global Markets Outlook '09, said the ongoing economic turmoil had already hit hard GCC markets which lost about 50-60 percent of its total value in the last 10 months.

"The slowdown with low oil prices seems an end to the remarkable boom of six years with the current account surplus rising to $1.2 trillion. This region has never experienced such a quantum shift in the past which we've seen in the past few years as a trillion-dollar GCC economy having trebled in size in six years.

"The per capita income is in excess of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and real growth running well ahead of medium trends. Public finances and the external accounts are extraordinarily strong as no central government deficits have been recorded anywhere in the region over the past six year.

"The cumulative current account surplus of $1.2 trillion over 2002-08 and current risk are currently negligible. But there's a very scary picture ahead with the slowdown of the GCC economies guaranteeing the expected 2-4 percent GDP growth forecast for next year where the US and UK face negative growth which seems indigestible to the most of the economies in the region. In a nutshell, falling oil prices will definitely create volatility and uncertainty in the region.

"Some of the markets lost three-fifths of their value in less than three months while Dubai financial market lost about 80 percent during this volatility period. The year 2010, as it shows by all indicators, is likely to be the worst in the history of the Gulf region."

Williams said that oil and liquidity were the main issues in the Gulf. "Oil prices ranging between $50-to-$70 per barrel have created anxiety among GCC governments but this is going to be worse, like that of $30 per barrel which will definitely put a brake on ongoing development across the region. There is no problem with liquidity but banks are hoarding cash due to existing mistrust and anxiety in the market. This situation is manageable but the bad story is that this region has missed a self-fund opportunity," he maintained.

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Not Zionists: Hebron violence shames us as Jews and Zionists.

What a pity that some are taken in by the antics of Hebron hooligans, and think that defending them is part of 'Zionist advocacy.' Breaking the law, insulting the Jews state, harming innocent people, fighting the Israeli army - none of these can be part of Zionism in any way. It is up to rabbis to decide if it is "Judaism," but we can decide it is not Zionism.
Senior military officer launches harshly-worded assault on behavior of right-wing extremists in case of disputed West Bank house slated for eviction. Meanwhile army decides to deploy special Border Guard force to isolate, secure area
Efrat Weiss
Published:  12.02.08, 19:54 / Israel News
"The events in Hebron are riots, plain and simple. The damage caused to the Muslim graveyard, and the graffiti on the walls of mosques throughout Judea and Samaria – they shame and disgrace us as Jews," a senior IDF officer belonging to the army's Central Command told Ynet on Tuesday evening following a particularly violent day in Hebron.
Dozens of right-wing activists and Palestinians were wounded in the clashes, and it was decided that a special Border Guard force will be deployed to secure area of the disputed house in the city slated for eviction.
"I don't understand how the preparatory schools and yeshivas are willing to allow these boys to run about and riot without restraint," the officer said.
"Just today a 15-year-old youth was seriously wounded in Hebron; it's unclear why he there and not in school like the rest of the boys his age.
The Hadassah Ein-Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem said that the boy is undergoing surgery, and is in serious but stable condition.
Another military official told Ynet the Civil Administration has been working to calm the tensions in Hebron.
"We've sent calming messages to the Palestinians, without our taking this action the Hebron region might have erupted from both sides," said the official. He added that the situation is spiraling out of control, and the feeling in the field is that there is no leadership capable of dealing with the feral youths.
Following the escalation in violence a special meeting was held Tuesday morning by Central Command chief, Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, to assess the security situation. It was decided to deploy a special Border Guard task force to the volatile area in order to deal with the riots.
Border Guard officials told Ynet that "despite the public disturbances these past few days, we believe that the relationship between the Border Guard troops and the Jewish community will help calm the tensions in Hebron. The idea behind the decision to send in a special force is to isolate the Hebron region and that of the disputed house, and by doing so decrease the rioting and prevent the arrival of more people.
The officials noted that placing a Border Guard task force in Hebron, similar to the deployment of a task force in Naalin due to the rioting of left-wing activists, will allow the IDF to focus on terror threats and protecting residents of the region.
Extreme-rightist Baruch Marzel called the deployment "a miserable decision. Putting the force there will only fan the flames. We have seen before that the judgment of Border Guard troops is flawed and impaired. Putting them there will only lead to more violence."

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Arab Jewish Dialog, Muslim Education and "Why kill the Rabbi?"

Irene Lancaster highlights many interesting points in her article about Arab Jewish dialogue, which is not just about that:

Arab-Jewish dialogue in the real world

Meanwhile, back in the real world, my friend Ruth Ludlam has blogged on her recent attendance at a Business Forum for Jewish and Arab women, which was held in Haifa:

This blog makes fascinating reading and is typical of the type of positive interface between Arabs and Jews which actually exists in the real Israel.

In addition, two excellent pieces in today's Times. The first, on the importance of rote learning in education, features Michael Gove MP in his parliamentary role as Shadow Schools Secretary. See it here:

The argument is that facts are important in education and that discussion is not possible without a 'store of knowledge in your head to draw from'. This is definitely the Israeli model, in contrast to much of current education in England. Here, learning has become increasingly personalized - the 'feel-good' factor being all important. Maybe Israel leans too far the other way, but the desire of Israelis to better themselves through knowledge is admirable, and serves her citizens well, whether Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Druze, Bahai or 'other', as we Jews are often labelled in the apparently all-embracing English racial monitoring system.

Speaking of which, there is another fine article in today's Times, by David Aaronovitch, entitled

Psychotic terrorists in search of a grievance:

It starts:

So why kill the rabbi?

and explores the mentality which actually seeks out 'a few Jews', including the Chabad rabbi in Mumbai, and concludes that it is 'a psychosis in search of a grievance, not an expression of an existing grievance'.

Read the rest here: Arab-Jewish dialogue in the real world 

Cross posted: Israel News  Middle East Analysis

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Dan Kliman, grass roots Zionist activist, dead in mysterious circumstances

Dan Kliman was a great e-friend and a voice of reason. A fighter for progressive Zionism and grass roots activism who never forgot either the "progressive" or the "Zionist" parts of the message.
According to reports, the elevator was under repair, and supposedly was securely shut. Obviously, it was not secure enough. That is all we know at present.
Ami Isseroff

December 2, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO (JTA) -- A prominent Israel activist was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft.

Daniel J. Kliman, 38, was the co-founder of San Francisco Voice for Israel, an affiliate of the national Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, and a well-known pro-Israel activist in the San Francisco Bay area.

His body was found Monday in a San Francisco building where he was taking Arabic classes.  It had been at the bottom of the elevator shaft since Nov. 25, building manager Brad Bernheim told the San Francisco Chronicle. There were no classes held last week, and the elevator supposedly was closed for repairs.

Police are investigating his death.

Kliman was scheduled to fly to Israel on Thanksgiving Day as part of the Honest Reporting mission, a pro-Israel media initiative.

"He was the public face of grass-roots Israel advocacy in the San Francisco Bay area," said Mike Harris, his colleague at Voice for Israel. "He was passionate about standing up for Israel, literally -- standing up in public with flags and signs."

Kliman, also known as a fervent environmentalist, often was seen bicycling around the Bay Area instead of taking rides to reduce his carbon footprint, friends said.

Harris told JTA that he knew of no specific threats against Kliman, but that Kliman had been assaulted before at a pro-Israel rally.

Kliman's body is being flown for burial to his hometown of Schenectady, N.Y.
Sue Fishkoff writes about Jewish identity for JTA and is the author of the 2003 book "The Rebbe's Army."

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NATO ratifies Individual Cooperation agreement with Israel

NATO ratifies ICP agreement with Israel
With the arrival of Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni to the NATO Ministerial Meeting, the NATO council ratified the Individual Cooperation Programme (ICP), an agreement that strengthens and expands the working relations between Israel and NATO in the fields of security and diplomacy.
The ICP encompasses a broad range of fields in which Israel and NATO will cooperate fully. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in effect opening the door for cooperation of Israel's security services and NATO in various fields such as counterterrorism, including the exchange of intelligence and security expertise, increasing the number of joint NATO-Israel military exercises, broadening cooperation in the fight against nuclear proliferation, improving cooperation in the areas of armament and logistics, connecting Israel electronically to the NATO system, etc. The Commander-in-Chief of the IDF, Lieutenant-General Ashkenazi, visited NATO headquarters in Brussels two weeks ago.

Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni commented on the upgrading of relations between Israel and NATO: "Israel's defense capabilities are world-famous, and we see the boosting of cooperation between Israel and international security bodies as a strategic goal that adds to Israel's strength. The relations between Israel and NATO states are of prime importance, and translating the mutual understandings among the states into concrete security cooperation has serious operative implications.

"All of the free nations of the world who understand the nature of the terrorist threat recognize the need to form a united front against it. Israel's standing in terms of military might and counterterrorist capabilities is recognized by the entire world, aptly conveyed by the expansion of cooperation between Israel and NATO that we witnessed this morning,

"The agreement is a practical expression of the values and responsibility shared by the free nations to preserve world security; it signifies genuine recognition of Israel's special contribution to the international fight against extremism."

Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni will address the NATO ministerial meeting today. During her visit to Brussels, she will meet with the NATO Secretary General, the US Secretary of State, the French foreign minister, and with other foreign ministers who are attending the meeting. She will also meet with heads of the European Union - President of the European Commission Jose Manual Barroso, Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner and others

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Arab and Muslim Reactions to Mumbai attacks


1. At the level of political leadership, the Arab and Muslim world condemned the terrorist attacks in Mumbai and expressed solidarity with the Indian government, including terrorism-sponsoring countries like Iran and Syria . Iranian president Ahmadinejad sent a message of condolence to the Indian president and prime minister in which he deplored the terrorist attacks which cost innocent lives; Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi also condemned the attacks; and the Iranian media used expressions like "terrorism" and "terrorist attack." The Syrian newspaper Tishrin gave a short summary of the events and also called the attackers "terrorists." Even Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef, leader of the radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt , issued a denunciation of the attacks.

Op-ed Commentary in the Iranian and Syrian Media

2. However, in commenting on the reasons for the terrorist attack, the Iranian and Syrian propaganda was quick to exploit the event to assail the United States , Israel and the Zionist movement, and to represent them as responsible for terrorism in India and the world in general:

i) Iranian president Ahmadinejad , in a vague statement hinting at the United States , said that "the ugly phenomenon of terrorism…has its roots in [an] international unfair order and …occupationist and disuniting policies" (ISNA News Agency, November 28). On November 29 the Iranian newspaper Al-Wifaq was much more explicit in its reaction. It criticized the Western media for describing the attackers as "Islamists." It also said that Israel ("that hypocritical entity") had sown terrorism in the Middle East and the entire world. It added that the attacks in India had a Zionist background with goals of interfering in regional matters, and fingerprints of American crimes could also be seen on the Indian sub-continent. According to the article, ten years ago the United States and the Zionists started spreading to the Indian arena to encourage a civil war within India and strife between India and its neighbors. Their intention was to impose their hegemony in the region. "Thus it is not enough to put an end to the military attack [in Mumbai], the true American string-pulling behind the terrorist [attack] must also be exposed…"

ii) On November 30 a columnist named Hassan Hassan wrote an anti-Semitic column about the events in Mumbai for the Syrian paper Al-Thawra . It attacked the United States and Zionism which, he claimed, were responsible for global terrorism. Islam, according to the article, is a religion of peace, not violence, and religious extremism is common to all nations and not just Islam. The article also claimed that accusing Islam of responsibility for global violence and terrorism was "anti-Islamic aggression" and bore the fingerprints of Zionism. That proved that the international community, led by the United States , was not serious about dealing with the problem of terrorism, despite the claim that it was waging a war against it. The article ended by saying that "the problem of terrorism will remain as long as Zionism stirs things up behind the scenes, everywhere, with complete liberty, especially in view of the lack of international law and order, and the lack of balanced political standards, which have led to anarchy and the collapse of countries…"

Support for Terrorism in Talkbacks on Hamas and Al-Jazeera Internet Sites

3. Opinions opposing the official stance could be found on the Internet sites of Hamas and the Qatari Al-Jazeera TV, whose editors gave a forum to surfers wishing to identify with the terrorists in Mumbai. Talkbacks on those sites expressed support for the attacks and identification with the attackers and their goals, expressing hope that such acts of violence would be carried out against Israel and the United States .

4. Surfers on Hamas's PALDF Forum , which appears on the Palestine-info website (Hamas's main website), expressed support, their remarks shown next to pictures of those in killed in the attacks. The forum did not post any talkbacks criticizing the terrorist attacks . The following is a representative sampling (November 29):

i) "Abu Majed" wrote: "Our guys in India are great."

ii) "Abu al-Muhannad:" "If Allah so desires, we will see a similar attack in the [Zionist] entity very soon. "

Palestine-info website
Lower right, in small letters: "If Allah so desires, we will see
a similar attack in the [Zionist] entity very soon."

iii) "Ayash," [for Yehieh Ayash, the Hamas terrorist called "the engineer," who was responsible for many suicide bombing attacks and died in a targeted killing] who "greatly desires the maidens of paradise" [i.e., who desires to carry out a suicide bombing attack] wrote: "Oh, Allah, bestow a victory on jihad fighters [ mujahideen ] everywhere."

"Ayash – who greatly desires the maidens of paradise" (upper inscription, second row):
"Oh, Allah, bestow a victory on jihad fighters everywhere."

iv) "Spideman [sic]" attached a computer-generated picture of " Washington after an attack," with the caption "By Allah, this picture is nice to look at… With Allah's help, it will happen soon…"

Washington DC
Computer-generated "picture of the ruins of Washington DC " attached to a talkback,
with the caption "By Allah, this picture is nice to look at… With Allah's help,
it will happen soon…" (Hamas's PALDF Forum, November 29).

v) "Awamir bil-Intilaq" ("marching orders") wrote: "Allah, pave the way for the jihad fighters on your way everywhere."

vi) "Al-Hamsawi 11" wrote: "Allah, bestow a victory on our brothers in India ."

vii) "Funoun al-Shahadah" ("the art of dying a martyr's death for the sake of Allah") wrote: "Allah, sow terror and destruction in all the infidel countries. Best wishes to the heroic jihad fighters everywhere."

A talkback from
A talkback from "Funoun al-Shahadah" (second and third rows): "Allah, sow terror and
destruction in all the infidel countries. Best wishes to the heroic jihad fighters everywhere."

viii) "Aqsana" ("our Aqsa [mosque]") wrote: "Allah, bestow victory on the jihad fighters fighting for your sake, oh lord of the world; Allah, grant them a victory which will freeze our hearts, oh most merciful; Allah, do not leave a place for the infidels on your land, for they will divert from your work everywhere they are thrown and will give birth only to wantonness and heresy Allah, you promised victory to your servants fighting the jihad and breathing down the necks of your enemies, Allah you aim the weapons in their hands."

Aqsana (fourth row): "Allah, bestow victory on the jihad fighters
fighting for your sake, oh lord of the world…"

5. An op-ed article in Hamas's organ Felesteen ( December 2, 2008 ) accused Israel of responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Dr. Issam Shahwar, in his column "Free Zone," claimed that the captive in Indian custody 1 had said that the objective of the attack was to kill as many Israelis as possible in retaliation for the "barbaric crimes" Israel has committed against the Palestinians. Thus, he claimed, Israel bears responsibility for international terrorism and for the dangers faced by many countries around the world.

6. Qatar 's Al-Jazeera TV , the most popular channel in the Arab-Muslim world, gave extensive coverage to the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. However, in general, the attackers were not referred to as terrorists, but rather in neutral terms such as "armed men ( musallahim )," although the channel did not support the attacks.

7. On the other hand, Al-Jazeera's website did provide a forum for support of the attacks alongside its criticism of them. For example, in response to a posting titled "Seven Israelis killed and tension between India and Pakistan ," a talkbacker calling himself "Majdi" wrote that "Allah will give success to the resistance [i.e., terrorism] everywhere." There were also talkbacks condemning the terrorist attacks. Particularly conspicuous were the outpourings of joy in response to the Al-Jazeera notice that "a rabbi and his wife were among those killed in the Jewish center in Mumbai" (November 28). Some of the talkbacks were the following:

i) "Palestinian eagle" wrote: " The killing of a Jewish rabbi and his wife in the Jewish center in Mumbai is heartwarming news ."

ii) "Abdallah" wrote: "Allah, grant victory to Muslims. Allah, grant victory to jihad fighters everywhere."

iii) "Al-Sana'ni" wrote: "Allah is the greatest, thank you Allah. Victory to jihad fighters everywhere: aim their fire, break [their enemies] into little pieces, and accept them as shaheeds , amen."

iv) "Nabil Riyadh" wrote: " The Jews are the reason for all the world's problems , they created it [terrorism] and encourage it and support it with weapons and money. They [are the ones who] train terrorists everywhere."

v) "Doctor of Terrorism" wrote: "Terrorism is the Muslims' answer, while it is the modus operandi of the Jews, the West and their vassals among the non-Arab governments. India is a country which wages terrorism in a certain place in the world [apparently a reference to Kashmir], and according to Newton 's basic laws of physics, this was a natural reaction…"

8. The providing of a forum for talkbacks supporting and identifying with the attacks in Mumbai was not a random act by Hamas and Al-Jazeera TV. The propaganda spread by Hamas's media in the Palestinian Authority-administered territories often expresses identification with global jihad networks on various fronts ( Chechnya , for example), as part of its basic identification with radical Islam and jihad. As for Al-Jazeera, in the past it has often provided a forum for Al-Qaeda publications, including the propaganda campaign Osama bin Laden has been waging since September 2007. 2 Al-Jazeera TV thus supports Al-Qaeda and the global jihad in the battle for hearts and minds, and at the same time global jihad exposure increases the number of its viewers in the Arab and Muslim world.

1 He uses the word "survivor" and avoids calling him a "terrorist."

2 For further information see our September 21, 2008 Bulletin entitled " During the past year Osama Bin Laden, Al-Qaeda leader, waged an intensive media campaign after a long silence. "

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Sex and the City and Israel

Could Hollywood get ideas from Israel? Maybe. Star says: :
"Writers, directors, producers, we're all Jewish," Star said. "It's a few years in a row by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, conceived by David Lonner, who is a very important agent at William Morris, wants to share his love and passion of Israel."
OK. Here's an idea if someone is listening. Make films about Israeli history. There are still a lot of untold dramas and believe it or not, it really is possible to make a film better than Exodus. A new generation has to learn about the story of Israel.
"The TV business is a tough business right now," said Darren Star, the creator of "Sex and the City" and numerous other successful television series, during breakfast on the top floor of a hotel overlooking the Tel Aviv beach. "Audiences are shrinking. It's hard to capture people's attention - interest - for a TV series right away, so they try different things, such as remakes of old series."
It was recently announced that there will be a remake of "Melrose Place," one of his hit television series, as there already was for "Beverly Hills, 90210," which will air this winter on Hot under its new name, "90210."
"Like in the movie business they're trying to grab an audience with remakes, and the curiosity factor, how are they going to make it relevant for today and I think that they're looking at titles to cut through those offered by hundreds of channels. I'm not actively producing it [90210]. For me, it's not something that I would choose to do. It's more the network coming to me saying we'd like to do it. I'd like to think more about what's next than go back. And doing something I did again, I'd rather leave that to other people."
His veiled criticism of American network television is stated more directly later on and is also interesting in the context of what is happening with commercial television in Israel. Star, 47, sat down to speak with Haaretz last week at the end of a brief but intense visit to Israel (his second, he first came here when he was 16).
He came with a group of Jewish producers and writers from Hollywood.
"Writers, directors, producers, we're all Jewish," Star said. "It's a few years in a row by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles, conceived by David Lonner, who is a very important agent at William Morris, wants to share his love and passion of Israel."
During their short stay in Israel they visited a family in the Golan Heights, toured an anti-terrorism military base and the Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv, which the children of refugees and foreign workers attend. At the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Star and other Hollywood producers took part in a joint conference with Israeli filmmakers.
He is not well versed in Israeli cinema but saw "The Band's Visit" and enjoys the American version of the Israeli series "Betipul," which is known there as "In Treatment."
"I like that there is consciousness about Israel as a community and business, as a place where ideas are percolating on our radar in Hollywood. And people are also looking at Israel for ideas," he said.
Star created some hugely successful, and even era-defining, series, such as "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Melrose Place," which aired in the 1990s, and "Sex and the City," which lasted into the 2000s. He also had a hand in series including "Grosse Point," a satire of a show like "Beverly Hills," "Central Park West" and "Miss Match," which were canceled after a short time.
"None of the shows I did were big hits in week one, week two, week three; they took a while.," he said. "[Even 'Sex and the City'] took a while - word of mouth. The critics - certainly the men - were put off by these sexually self-confident, powerful women, they were threatened by it. Hadn't seen women like that before. Television is a medium where the audience creates a relationship with the characters, and that doesn't happen in one week. What you need is a network that is very sympathetic to leaving your show on the air, promoting it. I think that networks have become very trigger happy in terms of if they're not getting the ratings they want they're just canceling the shows, even the ones they love."
"I think the audiences themselves become gun shy even watching the shows, they don't want to become attached. Most shows, whether they're good or bad are yanked after a few episodes. The networks' eyes are just on the bottom line and that is making money, and most of that money comes from reality television."
"There are shows I had done that should have become hits, like "Grosse Point," for instance, "Miss Match" with Alicia Silverstone, that should have been nurtured; even "The Street" had an amazing cast with Jennifer Connelly, Tom Everett Scott, Adam Goldberg. We were doing the right thing at the right time; in fact we were poised to be there before 9/11 and to be there at Wall Street post-9/11, an amazing thing, but the series was dropped."
"Every time you make a show you hope that it will be a hit, but the odds are that it won't be. It's not always whether the show is good or not; it's whether they can find an audience. But the nice thing with DVDs is that, while once when a show went off the air, it just disappeared, today you can find "Grosse Point" on DVD. That's kind of a nice consolation prize."
Star considers "Sex and the City" to be "a reaction to network television."
"When I brought the series to HBO, I didn't intend it to be a commercial show but more of an independent movie," he said. "The criterion of this cable television channel wasn't that it was going to be a hit, but rather that it was going to be good, because they weren't looking to make a hit, they were looking for something unique. The success of that show and many others changed the perception of what television can be."
The popularity of the show and of the film based on it reinforces what he said about things taking time.
"I have a special attachment to the first season of Sex because we filmed all the episodes before the show aired, and so we weren't responding to the audience, we were doing our thing," he said. "We knew that we were doing something new and potentially groundbreaking but didn't know how it was going to be received."
The change in perception on television is also reflected, he said, in the way it was watched.
"I was very aware that people with remotes don't care what channels things are on," Star said. "There was that mindset at that time, that if you're not on a major network than you don't count. Today, with the DVRs, even more so. Today I go to what network is more supportive rather than what network will give me the biggest audience. The executives at cable TV stand behind their products, if you do a show it will be on for the entire season."
All of which begs the question of why he went back to a major network with "Cashmere Mafia," a show about independent women in their 40s in New York, that went off the air after just seven episodes, instead of staying on cable with it.
"Cashmere Mafia really came out of a desire of ABC coming to me, they had a writer that wanted me to do it; it's not something I wrote. More like a business decision," he said. "I think, again, that we had a great cast, but then there was the strike."
The show "Lipstick Jungle," a sort of parallel to the series, created by "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell, stayed on the air a little longer, but last week its cancellation was also announced.
"Networks are really fickle," Star said. "They want something one day and they don't want it the other. In that sense it was a lesson for me: don't do a show which the network is asking you because they want it, because if it's their desire to want it, they can desire not to want it three weeks later."
Yet he stresses that, "the world of powerful women in New York is certainly a valid concept but I think that big television networks can't be trusted as stewards of good creative material."
He considers exploring the lives of call girls another acceptable concept. He was supposed to air "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" on HBO this year, but it has been pulled because another cable channel already has its own British version of the show, which aired on Yes here.
"Showtime didn't remake it, they just bought the British show in a way to prevent HBO from doing mine. So it's really doubtful that my show is going to go forward on HBO, and my show had a much different attitude than the English version. Much more comedic, a window into American culture in a sense through the lives of American call girls."
Star is occasionally asked about his ability to write for women. But at least in "Sex and the City," it seems he actually writes one of his women's roles, Samantha, as if she were a homosexual man.
"I know that people say that, but for me "Sex and the City" was always about trying to look at women from a comedic place, and to me Samantha is an exaggerated comic character," he said. "I think people project what they want on her, but to say that Samantha isn't a woman is demeaning to her. I mean why can't a woman be like that; a woman that has that sort of libido exists, women who are alpha women. The fact that people identify with her, gay men, women, anyone can say 'I'm a Samantha' is great."

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Rabbi Wolpe, right wing Chabad extremist, plans to run for Knesset

Wolpe cannot, thankfully, be classified as a right wing Zionist, because Chabad are anti-Zionist. They want the "territories" but for their own reason.
Last update - 08:23 02/12/2008       
Renegade Chabad rabbi 'right of Kahane' plans run for Knesset
By Nadav Shragai
Meet Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, head of the World Headquarters to Save the People and Land of Israel (SOS Israel), director of the Chabad educational institutions in Kiryat Gat, author of more than 40 books on a wide range of topics in rabbinical law and Torah and the man who a few days ago said that "the state of Israel is the enemy of the Jewish people," before softening his stance a bit. He is further to the right than the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, a person who thinks Ariel Sharon is "Haman" and a "false Messiah" and that the foreign minister is "the second Isabella," perhaps the successor to the first Isabella, who is credited with the Inquisition and the expulsion of Jews from Spain.
Now Wolpe, one of the heads of the Messianic faction of Chabad, is registering a new political party, "Eretz Yisrael Shelanu - A United Jewish Party for the Wholeness of the Torah, the Land and the People."
If he makes it past the Central Elections Committee - Peace Now has already filed a request to disqualify him - and if he survives, politically, the police investigation on suspicions of incitement, evasion of military service and disobeying orders for having given cash prizes to families of soldiers who refused to take part in the evacuation of Jews - we shall see him running for the Knesset, perhaps with Baruch Marzel of the Jewish Front, the successor to the banned Kach movement.
Wolpe's style and his path are not exactly the official Chabad movement's cup of tea, and in the past Chabad spokesmen have come out against him and have expressed reservations about his way and his style. But Wolpe, together with his colleague in the United States, Rabbi Yekutiel Rapp, is gaining more and more popularity, especially among the public that has decided to divorce itself from the state of Israel.
Wolpe himself talks about this openly in his book "Between Light and Darkness." In it, he calls upon the religious Zionists to disengage themselves from the state, because there is no proof that it is "the start of the Redemption," and proposes relating to the state as though it were British rule, as something technical. "Do not recite the prayer for the welfare of the state or the Hallel [prayer of thanksgiving] on Independence Day," he wrote. "We are in the diaspora, and we are anticipating the kingdom of the House of David."
Wolpe believes that the power to carry out the disengagement was given to Sharon by the same public that decided that the state of Israel is its state and that the government of Israel headed by Sharon was its government, the same public that blessed him from the depths of its heart every Sabbath before an open Torah scroll as a part of the prayer for the welfare of the state.
"All the limits have been reached," wrote Wolpe. "Therefore the holy one, blessed be he, has set over us a king as harsh as Haman. The holy one, blessed be he, is expecting us to internalize the truth that the establishment of the democratic state has nothing to do with the redemption, and in fact it is entirely a rebellion against the God of Israel, the Torah of Israel, the people of Israel and the land of Israel. Only when we stop believing in the sanctity of the state and its institutions will we be able to plead from the depths of our hearts: Speedily cause the offspring of David, thy servant, to flourish, and let his radiance be exalted by thy salvation."
In contrast to the prevailing perception in religious Zionism, Wolpe believes that Zionism and the state have in fact distanced "the beginning of the Redemption" and it appears that this was manifested most clearly at one of the SOS Israel assemblies, when a large audience sang the Neturei Karta anthem with Ariel Zilber: "We do not recognize the heretic Zionist regime and its laws do not apply to us."
Wolpe and his organization are the ones behind the giving of cash to soldiers and their families who refuse to take part in uprooting outposts in the West Bank and Jewish areas in Hebron. Wolpe is also the one who is behind the continuing campaign Yesh din veyesh dayan - "There is a law and there is a judge," the SOS Israel version of "Crime and Punishment." The crime is "the crime of the disengagement" and the "expulsion," and the punishment takes different forms: ousting, resignation, illness, a commission of inquiry, conviction of a crime or just plain political failure.
The list of the victims of the "disengagement curse" has been composed by Wolpe and his colleagues and more than a million copies have been distributed in synagogues around the country.
The list starts with Sharon, who has sunk into a coma in the wake of a stroke, goes on to his son Omri, who has served a prison term, enumerates a long series of public figures who were involved in the disengagement and have been harmed in one way or another and ends with the last of the afflicted: Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
In recent years, Wolpe has become the bluntest spokesman of the extreme right, though his recent remarks about the state of Israel as "the enemy of the people" roused the ire of Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, the head of the Nir Yeshiva in Kiryat Arba, who has protested strongly against him.
Wolpe sees the late Lubavitch Rebbe Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson as the messiah who will be revealed in the future. Of United States President George W. Bush and Olmert he has said in the past that they are bringing about a Holocaust. In his opinion, the media are serving the enemy; the presence of Shas in Sharon's government was "a crime that will never be forgiven until the end of all generations.
"Anyone who gives weapons to the Palestinians is tantamount to a spiller of blood and a collaborator with the enemy and transgresses the prohibition thou shalt not stand in thy neighbor's blood," he says.
Wolpe might not get into the Knesset, but his influence among groups like the hilltop youth and disengagers is increasing. Alongside rabbinical figures like Rabbi Yitzhak Greenberg and Rabbi David Dudkevitz, Wolpe is acquiring a position of honor for himself.

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Bethlehem Boom expected for Christmas

There's no recession in Bethlehem it seems.
"Jingle Bells" rang out over Manger Square on Sunday as Bethlehem opened a Christmas market that the Palestinian city hopes will help cap a boom year for tourism with a profitable festive season.
"It has been an excellent year," Bethlehem's mayor Victor Batarseh said, forecasting 1.25 million visitors by the end of 2008 and noting a halving in local unemployment.
"We don't have any empty beds. Two years ago, all the hotels were empty."
Trade in the bibical birthplace of Jesus was devastated when the Palestinian uprising against Israel began in 2000 - months after a papal visit and millennium celebrations had seemed to lock in a rosy future for Bethlehem as a magnet for tourists and pilgrims in a region aglow with hopes for peace.
The "evil occupation" is not "persecuting the Christians, according to the Reuters article. But there has to be a dig at Israel. It's Christmas, isn't it?
Israelis attribute some of that calm on the streets of nearby Jerusalem to the construction of hundreds of kilometers (miles) of walls and fencing around the West Bank. People in Bethlehem blame the barrier for discouraging visitors, who must pass through Israeli military checkpoints to reach the city.
"When we came, we saw the watch tower. It's not so good for Christians," said Kinga Mirowska, 24, from Krakow, Poland, as she headed for the spot where Christians believe Jesus was born to Mary in a manger because Bethlehem's inns were full.
What do you think? If the city is full of tourists, is the security fence helping or hurting? Here is the result:
"We have witnessed a rebound in tourism," said Khouloud Daibes-Abu Dayyeh, the Palestinian Authority's tourism minister as she toured the handicrafts and festive decorations on sale from wooden booths in the German-style Christmas market.
"We have put Palestine back on the map as a destination," she added, noting hotel occupancy rates were now typically above 70 percent, compared to 10 percent a few years ago.
Peace on earth, Good will towards men. But not Israelis.
Ami Isseroff


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Damn the foreign opinion and full speed ahead - Gaza aid boat turned away

At last, Israel's blockade of Gaza has teeth. Regrettably, turning away the boats may cause more international commotion than letting the terror groupies through.
Last update - 10:57 01/12/2008       
Israel turns back Libyan ship bound for Gaza with aid
By Reuters
The Israel Navy turned back a Libyan ship on Monday as it tried to transport humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.
They said the ship, Al-Marwa, sailed instead to a port in neighboring Egypt. It had departed from Libya last Monday, carrying 3,000 tons of food, medicine and other aid, Palestinian and Libyan officials said.
Israel said there had been no physical confrontation between
its naval vessels and the Libyan ship.
"They understood that the navy was there and decided to turn around," said Andy David, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.
"We have a very clear policy [on the blockade] which is constantly publicized."
Imposed to generate political pressure on Gaza's Islamist Hamas leadership, the blockade has been stepped up in recent weeks amid a surge in border clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
But Israel has in the past allowed ships carrying humanitarian goods to dock in Gaza to avoid a public confrontation.

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Mumbai did not change the war against terror - Expect the unexpected.

Amos Harel tells us the Mumbai changed the war against terror. With respect, the whole point of terror is that you have to expect the unexpected. Suicide bombers, Hijacked airplanes driven into buildings, explosions in the underground, invasions from the sea. The war against terror didn't change. We just got another illustration.
Amos Harel / After Mumbai, the war against terror has changed
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
Now that the criticism in Israel of the way the Indian authorities handled the Mumbai terror attack has died down a little, it seems like a good time to begin examining the practical lessons that can be learned from what happened.
The next big thing. It's doubtful that just 10 terrorists were responsible for the well-planned attacks, as India claims. It is very likely that assistance from other terrorists was necessary, and it's clear that the Muslim organization that was responsible has set the bar high for copycats the world over: simultaneous attacks in several sites, with hostage-taking and explosives and grenades, which paralyzed an enormous city for two and a half days.
While there have been a few multiple-casualty terror attacks since September 11, 2001 (including in Bali, London and Madrid), the Mumbai attack was apparently the most sophisticated of these. It's hard to judge whether Hezbollah, Hamas or the global jihad groups (Al-Qaida derivatives) are capable of carrying out something similar within Israel, which currently seems slightly better prepared than India to combat such an attack. Still, from now on, that is the extreme scenario that must be taken into consideration.
The war against terror has changed. The new scenario poses totally different challenges to anti-terror units. Until now the military assumed that after stabilizing the situation, it will have quantitative and intelligence superiority over the enemy. But as soon as large areas such as hotels are attacks, the challenge becomes incalculably more complex. Anti-terror experts say that just securing one floor of a hotel where terrorists are holding hostages would take an entire unit. Even Israel does not have enough units capable of handling a few hostage-taking and other attacks simultaneously.
This could justify training additional anti-terror units and increasing cooperation with similar forces abroad. We must also take into consideration the use of agents to collect information in advance on targets. And in light of the quality of the training the terrorists received and the number of people ostensibly training together, the West should perhaps return to attacking terrorist training camps, including those in Pakistan or Lebanon.
We're on the map. The interest shown by global jihad organizations in Israelis and Jews as targets is not new. Now it is also clear that even when the background to their attacks is apparently a regional conflict with no connection to us (India and Pakistan), the Islamic element turns Israelis and Jews into secondary targets for terrorists. Israel's anti-terrorism headquarters is already thinking about increasing security at hundreds of Jewish institutions around the world. For state representations abroad, one solution could be to concentrate company offices into well-protected compounds in each country.

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All remaining Israelis in Mumbai accounted for - Last two are safe

Last update - 12:21 01/12/2008       
Terror in Mumbai
Last two Israelis missing in Mumbai found alive and well
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent in Mumbai
Tags: moshe holtzberg, israel news
MUMBAI - The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced Monday that the final two Israelis who had been unaccounted for in Mumbai since Islamist terrorists attacked the city last week have been located alive and healthy.
Seven members of the police's victim identification unit had flown to India on Sunday to assist in locating the two missing Israelis, who were feared killed in one of the terror attacks that struck the city.
Meanwhile, dozens gathered at the Knesset Eliyahu synagogue in Mumbai for an emotional ceremony in memory of the six Jews killed last week when Islamist terrorists attacked the city's Chabad headquarters.
Rabbi Shmuel Rosenberg, whose daughter Rivka and son-in-law Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg both died in the attack, called on the mourners to continue the work his children had begun as the Lubavitch movement's emissaries to Mumbai and vowed that Chabad would continue to operate in the city despite the bloody acts.
Among the participants at the ceremony were Israel's ambassador to India and members of the Israeli rescue team, but all eyes in the room were on the Holtzberg's 2-year-old son, Moshe, who brought the room to tears when during the ceremony he cried out: "Mommy, mommy!"
Mark Sofer, the Israeli ambassador to India, also paid tribute to the victims.
"This is a tragedy for India and a tragedy for Israel, but above all for the families," he said. "We, our Indian friends and the rest of the civilized world will continue to fight terrorism, until we win."
The bodies of the Mumbai victims will be flown back to Israel on Monday for burial.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Israel to release 250 Palestinian prisoners

There is too much left unexplained about prisoner releases. Prisoner releases are generally made at the end of hostilities, in the context of prisoner exchange or general amnesty or in return for something.
But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not ended, and Mr Abbas has not given Israel anything. On the contrary, each release causes a demand for new releases.
If the prisoners are not dangerous and didn't really do anything wrong, they should not be in jail. They should all be released - not as a favor, but because it is senseless and cruel to keep innocent people in jail.
If the prisoners are dangerous, what is the point of releasing them now?
Ami Isseroff

Last update - 19:03 30/11/2008
By Reuters
The cabinet on Sunday approved the release of 250 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture toward Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The prisoners will be released to the West Bank, where Abbas's government holds sway, before next week's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, officials said of the decision.
Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised to free the prisoners during a meeting earlier this month with Abbas, who launched peace talks with Israel a year ago after Gaza's violent takeover by Hamas.
"This is a confidence-building measure," said Olmert's spokesman Mark Regev.
Regev said Israel will release prisoners from the ranks of Abbas's secular Fatah faction and other non-Islamist groups.
"This is a national priority for every Palestinian household," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said, welcoming the cabinet decision.
He said Israel has yet to tell the Palestinians whether it would consider freeing high-profile Fatah inmates such as Marwan Barghouti, who is seen as a possible successor to Abbas as president.
Minister Gideon Ezra said the goal in releasing prisoners was to help Abbas "earn the cooperation of the population" without undermining Israeli security.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas], in the past few months, has made efforts that we've never seen before, including trying to stop terrorism," Ezra said, referring to arrests made by Abbas's forces. "It's our commitment to do everything make it easier for him."
Nearly 200 prisoners were freed by Israel in August. U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Olmert and Abbas, rejected by Hamas, have shown little sign of progress.
Israel will also have to begin releasing the "bargaining chips" it arrested in 2006 in order to trade them for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit: Dozens of Hamas parliamentarians, along with several Hamas ministers, will have to be released within the next year, even if no deal for Shalit is struck, because they will have finished serving their two- to three-year sentences.
All of the detained Hamas officials are on the list of prisoners Hamas is demanding in exchange for Shalit, and Israel has no objection to including them in the swap. Thus far, however, there has been no significant progress in the negotiations, senior defense officials said.
The officials said that while Hamas recently responded to Israel's latest proposal, the gap between the sides remains large. Altogether, Hamas is demanding Israel free 1,400 prisoners, including 350 it has specified by name. Most of these 350 were convicted of involvement in major terror attacks, and Israel has thus far agreed to release only 150 of them.

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The image of Zionism in Iranian cinema

Here is an interesting article about Iranian cinema and Iranian critique of Hollywood cinema. Hollywood cinema is very popular in Iran. Here is a sample of the Iranian rant:
An additional innovation in the Iranian attack on Zionism can be found in documentary series that focus on Jews and their control over the global film industry. A twenty-six episode documentary, "Footprints of Zionism in World Cinema," which aired during May-June 2008 on IRINN, seeks to expose the "true colors" of the global film industry. The series promotes the perception that the Western film industry - primarily Hollywood - is controlled by Zionists who strive to inculcate the viewers with Zionist subliminal messages. The creators of the series, with the aid of Iranian specialists who were interviewed, explained that these messages are meant to provide a basis for the State of Israel's legitimacy and to justify its "criminal" policies. They warn that these messages operate on the sub-conscious of the viewer, and that consequently the viewer is convinced of the veracity of the messages. To substantiate this thesis, the series' producers in Iran analyze a sequence of Western films of different genres and periods, including Ben-Hur (1959), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), La vita è bella (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), Chicken Run (2000) and The Pianist (2002).

Against the backdrop of pictures from the successful British animation movie, Chicken Run (2000), the narrator explains that the images of the fenced farm along with other visual elements are meant to conjure associations of concentration camps, and that the longings of the caged chickens for a utopian place is a metaphor for the Zionist nationalist longings (MEMRI-TV, clip 1787). While discussing Fiddler on the Roof the Iranian experts in the series determined that the positive and sympathetic portrayal of the Jewish character in the film is meant to present to the viewers with a distorted picture of the reasons and the historical background surrounding Jewish migration to the land of Israel (MEMRI-TV, clip 1807).

We already know from other sources, that Iranian professors have decided that Mickey Mouse and Tom and Jerry as well as Pirates of the Carribean are part of a Jew-Zionist international conspiracy, gnawing away at the roots of Islam and endangering all right-thinking servants of the prophet (see Iran reveals Zionist plot behind Zionist Hollywood Happy Endings: Zionism is Mouse-ism ). This fetish is not confined to Iran. There was also a Saudi Fatwa calling upon the faithful to kill Mickey Mouse. Why is the Iranian regime going to such absurd lengths to discredit Hollywood? Is it because people are not interested in Iranian "official" documentaries about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the like? Is it because Hollywood represents "decadent" Western culture? Is it because they are cuckoo? Probably all of the above.
Ami Isseroff

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Mumbai terrorist: We were told to kill Israelis

So now it is clear that the terrorists were targeting Jews, if anyone had any doubt.
The article states:
 Sources said Kasab's colleagues killed in the operation had stayed at the Nariman House in the past.
"They have stayed in Nariman house on rental basis identifying themselves as Malaysian students.'' said a source. Police were trying to determine why Nariman House rooms were given to non-Jews, the Times of India reported.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes. They stayed, because they paid or because they needed a room, and the center had one. If non-Jews had not been allowed to stay at the house, Jews would have been accused of "racism" of course.
Ami Isseroff
The only terrorist captured by Indian authorities following the Mumbai attacks told interrogators during questioning that he and his men were sent specifically to kill Israelis to avenge "atrocities" against the Palestinians, the Times of India reported Sunday.
Amir Kasab, 21, told investigators that this was why they targeted the Chabad House, also known as the Nariman House in Mumbai, an outreach center meant for local Jews and Jews touring India, including Israelis. Sources said Kasab's colleagues killed in the operation had stayed at the Nariman House in the past.
"They have stayed in Nariman house on rental basis identifying themselves as Malaysian students.'' said a source. Police were trying to determine why Nariman House rooms were given to non-Jews, the Times of India reported.
Kasab also revealed during questioning names and addresses of at least five people from the city who provided assistance to the terrorists in carrying out the attacks.
Joint commissioner of police Rakesh Maria said told the Times of India "we suspect there could be local assistants but it is subject to verification. It will be very premature to comment on this at this stage as our investigation is going on.''
Israeli embassy representatives and rescue personnel have identified six of the victims killed in the assault that began Wednesday night across India's financial capital, including its Chabad center.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Saturday evening to dispatch an Israel Air Force plane with teams of medical and forensic experts to Mumbai on Sunday to aid in the identification of victims.
Authorities on Saturday named one of the Israeli victims as Yocheved Orpaz, 60, after her family identified her body on Saturday afternoon. Another woman was identified as a Jewish resident of Mexico, whose name has not yet been released.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement confirmed Friday evening that an Israeli-born American rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife Rivka, 28, were among the dead.
The Holtzbergs will be flown to Israel for burial, said Rivka Holtzberg's brother, Shmulik Rosenberg. A Chabad spokesman said they likely would be buried Monday.
Two other victims from the Chabad house who have also been positively identified are Bentzion Chroman, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, a U.S. citizen who lived in Jerusalem.  


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Where Egypt might be headed

Kurtzer fills a lot of space with this article, but doesn't tackle the real problem of US policy to Egypt: What happens if after Hosni Moubarak leaves office or dies (or before) the government is overthrown and it becomes an Islamic Republic. It's not as if this did not happen in the past in other countries.  


Where is Egypt Headed?

by Daniel C. Kurtzer

December 2008

Daniel C. Kurtzer, the S. Daniel Abraham Visiting Professor of Middle East Policy Studies at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt from 1997 to 2001 and U.S. Ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005. He is the author, with Scott Lasensky, of Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace: American Leadership in the Middle East (USIP, 2008). This essay is based on his talk given November 20, 2008 as part of FPRI's Robert A. Fox Lectures on the Middle East.

Over the past few decades, the processes that launched and strategies that unfolded in the early years of U.S.-Egyptian relations and the peace process have gone through a number of significant changes. In order to appreciate better what has and has not been accomplished over these years, it is important to understand what both countries sought to achieve. The U.S.-Egyptian relationship—despite serious strains, differences of view, and mini-crises—has been one of the most profound and productive bilateral interactions our country has enjoyed over these years.

Anwar Sadat's trip to Jerusalem in 1977 remains the unparalleled example of how leadership can, almost single-handedly, have a transformative effect on intractable conflict situations. To be sure, a decade of peacemaking efforts preceded Sadat's diplomatic breakthrough. Gunnar Jarring was the UN peace envoy between 1967-70, tasked with implementing Security Council Resolution 242, the cornerstone of all peacemaking efforts in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Secretary of State William Rogers tried his hand at peacemaking in 1969-70 and left behind a peace plan that carries his name and a ceasefire plan that ended the Israeli-Egyptian war of attrition. The 1970 ceasefire was followed by the build-up to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, which heralded a period of significant U.S. involvement and the development of a new form of diplomacy. Henry Kissinger invented shuttle diplomacy, or step-by-step diplomacy, and secured disengagement agreements involving Israel, Egypt, and Syria. So, Sadat did not act in a political vacuum, but rather within a ten-year context of peacemaking. And yet Sadat is remembered, as he should be, as a leader who took a leap into the unknown that ended up transforming a political process into a diplomatic breakthrough.

Historical Overview

In 1977, the United States did not seem interested in doing what Sadat ultimately wanted to do, which was to develop a peaceful relationship with the State of Israel. The U.S. started that year trying to reconvene the Geneva Peace Conference. Historians still debate whether one of the motivations that drove Sadat to Jerusalem was his antipathy to the idea of going back to this conference format, in which Egypt's national interests would likely be subsumed under the lowest common denominator decision-making of Arab politics. So Sadat went off on his own, in contrast or in reaction to what the U.S. had tried to do. But the U.S. was agile enough to understand that this breakthrough needed help in order to become a reality, and U.S. diplomats from the president on down soon caught up with Sadat's breathtaking gambit. The remainder of 1977-79 became a swirl of diplomacy to consummate the breakthrough Sadat had launched in Jerusalem, culminating in the Camp David Summit and the peace treaty in 1979 under the sponsorship of the U.S. and with the U.S. as a witness. But success was never assured, either in the negotiations or in the implementation of the treaty.

Almost immediately, Egypt faced isolation from the Arab world. It became a pariah as the Arabs, rather than acclimating themselves to what Sadat's initiative, took it upon themselves to oppose what he had done. They cut off diplomatic relations and assistance, withdrew from Cairo some of the institutions of inter-Arab cooperation such as the Arab League, and demanded that the UN, for example, withdraw some of its institutions from Egypt. Sadat paid a very heavy price for his diplomatic breakthrough.

It was an even heavier price for Egyptians, who recalled the period from 1952-79 when Egypt was the unparalleled leader in the Arab world. Under Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt had carried the banner of leadership in not just the Arab world but also the larger Muslim world, leadership based on its weight within inter-Arab circles and also on its leadership on the Palestine issue, anti-imperialism, in trying to develop what it called Arab socialism, and in branding itself as the leading party of secular pan-Arab nationalism. It even had pretenses to carry that banner of leadership in the non-aligned movement and in Africa.

When Sadat rose to power in 1970, and as a backdrop to what was to happen in momentous terms later in that decade, almost immediately he began to challenge every pillar of Nasser's policies. In July 1972, after consolidating his own power in the face of a counter-coup launched by Nasserites who didn't think Sadat deserved to be a leader, he ordered Soviet military advisors to leave Egypt, signaling a desire to rebalance Egypt's relations with the U.S. At the same time, Sadat dispatched his national security advisor, Hafez Ismail, for two sets of secret talks with Henry Kissinger on ways to break the deadlock between Egypt and Israel in the Arab-Israeli peace process.

At the same time that Sadat was launching these initiatives, he curbed the bombastic rhetoric that had been emanating for 18 years from the Voice of the Arabs radio in Cairo, which Nasser had used to try to undermine the legitimacy of traditional, conservative Arab regimes he didn't like in the Middle East. That radio went silent.

Sadat began dismantling the system of Arab socialism Nasser had tried to introduce, which had not only failed miserably but which had destroyed the Egyptian economy, substituting in its place what Sadat called the infitah or economic opening. The idea was that instead of socialism, there would be an opening for the private sector, for a capitalist economy to resume the role it had played in Egypt before the revolution.

Sadat also experimented with loosening up Egypt's praetorian governance. The Egyptian military has been the backbone of Egypt's political system since the 1952 revolution, but Sadat began to allow a limited number of political parties to develop in an effort to see whether or not some limited form of political participation could be encouraged. Then in 1977, the final pillar of Sadat's policies became evident with his trip to Jerusalem and the breakthrough that led to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.

But Sadat did not enjoy only success. By the time of the 1977 breakthrough and certainly by the time of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, much of what Sadat had tried to construct in the early 1970s was beginning to fall apart. Sadat was simply not the strongest leader possible in 1977 when he made his trip to Jerusalem. The infitah economic policy had failed to spur growth and had a destabilizing impact on Egyptian society. In 1977, when the government tried to reduce subsidies on bread prices, there were massive riots that shook the stability and legitimacy of the regime. (Bread is still subsidized in Egypt to the degree that it costs the equivalent of $0.01 a loaf.) By the end of the decade, because of the subsidies and the high cost of maintaining its policies in the face of the Arab boycott, Egypt held almost no foreign currency reserves, and its economy was in crisis. Sadat's experiment in political liberalization had given way to a prolonged period of repression of both leftist (Nasserists and communists) and Islamist (the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies) dissent. The remaining pillar of Sadat's strategy—the peace with Israel—also seemed in jeopardy, because it remained a peace between only one Arab state and Israel. 

Three Phases

When we look at the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, we can divide it into three periods, each with its own distinct characteristics.

The first period, from the late 1970s until the early 1990s, was marked by three strategic objectives. The first was to secure the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. In the years 1979-82, the U.S. understood that the treaty's strategic significance would be meaningless if it didn't last as a monument for other countries in the region to emulate. Between the time the treaty was signed and when it was fully implemented, the U.S. devoted considerable diplomatic time and resources to ensure that the treaty was implemented fairly and honorably. It participated fully in the intense Israeli-Egyptian negotiations on bilateral normalization that were called for in the Camp David Accords. Israel and Egypt signed some 48 bilateral agreements during that period, and the U.S. encouraged the two parties to flesh out the relationship they had developed as a result of the treaty.

The United States also dramatically expanded its military and economic assistance to both Israel and Egypt in that period and helped create the multinational force of observers that has been in place ever since. It meticulously tracked the progress of the two sides in fulfilling their treaty obligations. One example tells a large story. At the end of the treaty implementation period in March 1982, Israel and Egypt agreed on the demarcation of the international border except in the area of Taba, an area of one square kilometer in the southeastern corner of Sinai. Israel had built a luxury hotel there during its period of occupation, believing that Taba was part of Israel and would remain so in a peace settlement; Egypt maintained that Taba was part of Egypt. Coming after a period of more than 20 years of armed conflict between two enemies, a border dispute now threatened the basic cornerstones of the treaty. Most territorial disputes at some point or another end in violence. And yet these two parties were able to resolve the matter through the dispute resolution mechanisms built into the treaty. The U.S. played an instrumental role in encouraging the two sides to fulfill the treaty's arbitration obligations, and while it took seven years, the dispute was resolved peacefully.

Another U.S. strategic imperative during this period was to ensure that Egypt's economy could emerge from what looked like imminent bankruptcy, stand on its own feet, and ultimately produce a peace dividend. This was no easy task, for Egypt's economy was experiencing great stress in the late 1970s. The U.S. and Egypt decided first to tackle Egypt's largest challenge, its infrastructure. Electricity, telecommunications, water, wastewater, and housing simply did not work. There were long blackouts almost every day, not only in the countryside but also in Cairo and Alexandria. It was nearly impossible to make international phone calls and a challenge even to call from one end of Cairo to the other. There was insufficient housing to accommodate the growing population and the mass migration of people into cities. The housing stock that did exist was being physically undermined by the wastewater and water that was seeping into the foundations, which led to building collapses all over Cairo. Over the next fifteen years the U.S. and Egypt agreed that U.S. aid would be devoted to improving this infrastructure. The results were in some cases astounding. Egypt not only built up its electrical power generating capacity, but also soon became a net exporter of electricity to Jordan, via a pipeline under the Gulf of Aqaba that's part of the Mediterranean power grid.

The telecommunications sector underwent a similar revolutionary transformation, resulting in a world-class cellular phone industry in Egypt. Indeed, when the U.S. put Iraq's cellular phone contract up for international bid in 2003-04, the winning company was an Egyptian telecom.

Major water and wastewater projects were also undertaken throughout the country so that Egyptians could be assured of drinking water and that wastewater was being handled properly.

The second phase of the joint Egyptian-U.S. economic strategy started in the early 1990s, when Egypt committed to major structural reforms of its economy. The idea was that by liberalizing its economy, it would open up opportunities for job-creating enterprises. Egypt turned to the International Monetary Fund for help developing a macroeconomic structural reform program. Before going out as ambassador to Egypt in 1997, in meeting with IMF officials in Washington, I was pleasantly surprised to see their surprise in characterizing the Egyptian structural reform program as the most successful ever undertaken by the IMF. They had laid out a number of fairly onerous requirements for Egypt, and Egypt passed each of those tests, reforming many aspects of its economic policies in order to promote foreign direct investment and to create opportunities for the private sector. The results of the program were impressive. For example, by the late 1990s about 70 percent of Egyptian economic output was being generated by the private sector.

We are now in the midst of the third phase of this long-term U.S.-Egyptian strategy to assure Egypt's economic growth and well-being, and the jury is out on whether this phase is succeeding. The question today is not one of infrastructure, nor is it still a matter of simply reforming economic policies. The hard work of creating opportunities and jobs and improving education and access to public services are the challenges Egypt faces today.  Egypt will require more years to turn the corner and develop an economy that produces quality jobs in an environment of strong regulatory oversight but minimal governmental control.

The third element of U.S. strategy after Camp David was to transform the U.S.-Egypt strategic relationship and therefore the relationship between Egypt and the West. This involved in large part substituting American weaponry and U.S. military doctrine for Soviet weapons and doctrine. The thinking behind this goal was straightforward: for Egypt to be able to withstand the pressures of its isolation within the Arab world and to build strategic ties with the U.S. that would not be unidirectional—i.e., to build strategic ties in which both partners would contribute something to the relationship — Egypt needed enough military power to be a player in the region, but not enough to threaten Israel. Over the next thirty years, U.S. security assistance programs helped Egypt achieve these goals. The Egyptian military is a credible, well-equipped force, fully interoperable with U.S. forces.

Meanwhile, Egypt has maintained its military and security commitments under the peace treaty, both in letter and spirit, and there has been no serious violation of the military annex of the treaty. In the 1991 Gulf War, when the U.S. assembled an international coalition of allies to repel Iraq's aggression against Kuwait, it called upon Egypt to contribute forces, and Egypt sent two fighting divisions to the front that fought alongside U.S. forces. They were fully interoperable with ours, they acquitted themselves well, they were able to maintain and use the weaponry, and they understood the nature of a complex modern military engagement. Equally and perhaps even more important, Egypt offered then, as it continues to do now, the facilities, rights of over-flight, and Suez Canal transits that are of crucial importance to U.S. forces deploying to or returning from the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. Even when the two countries disagree with each other on policy, as we do with respect to Iraq, there has never been a question of Egypt's willingness to offer this military assistance to the U.S.

Looking Forward

This brief historical overview underscores the importance of the 30-year bilateral Egypt-U.S. relationship. It's important not just for what has been achieved, but also what it stands for as we look ahead. Our two countries, notwithstanding widely-divergent political cultures and a history of political and policy differences, have managed to find common ground on three important objectives—peace, economic development, and strategic relations.

Two contentious issues remain on our agenda and need to be addressed. The first involves sometimes intense differences related to the issue of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Egypt charges the U.S. with "double standard" behavior—that is, judging Palestinians and other Arabs more harshly than Israel. Egypt wants the U.S. to press Israel to stop settlement activity and to implement UN resolutions on the conflict. Egypt was particularly frustrated by the inaction of the Bush administration on the peace process during its first seven years, when the U.S. backed away almost entirely from diplomatic engagement.

For its part, the United States has expressed concern about the nature of the "cold peace" between Egypt and Israel. Even if the security provisions of the treaty have been observed meticulously, almost none of the other treaty provisions relating to normal relations between the two sides has been carried out. There have been ambassadors, but almost no tourism, business relations, or culture ties between Egypt into Israel. The U.S. wants to see a more proactive and fair role by Egypt in supporting peace efforts, with Egypt not only acting as an advocate for Palestinian positions but helping the U.S. act as an honest broker and third-party mediator.

The second area of recurrent tension between the U.S. and Egypt relates to Egypt's slow progress toward political liberalization and democratization. During the Bush administration, this issue heated up to a boiling point, as the administration defined "transformational change"—its phrase denoting rapid movement toward democracy—as a high priority U.S. foreign policy objective.

For Egypt's leaders since the revolution, two imperatives have trumped all other political considerations. The first is insistence on political independence. Egypt is a proud country with a very long history. It will not enter into a formal alliance with anyone, West or East, and it will not turn over any part of its territory to foreign control. It is extraordinarily jealous of its sovereignty prerogatives, as are many countries that emerged from colonial rule. In this respect, U.S. pressure to democratize—while seen by Washington as an extension of the political liberalism that has guided our republic—is seen by Egypt as a foreign dictate and as interference in its domestic affairs.

A second constant in Egypt's behavior since 1952 is a strong preference for stability over change. Egypt has always been essentially a military-agrarian society, traditionally governed by a highly centralized political system whose main purpose in history until very recently has been to control the regulation and distribution of water in the Nile Valley Basin. After the 1952 revolution, the strong penchant for domestic stability remained a constant, even when Egypt's foreign policy was dynamic and revolutionary. Egypt's three rulers since the revolution—Nasser, Sadat and Hosni Mubarak—have seen their role largely as maintaining stability and ensuring public order.

In this context, what the U.S. touts as the genius of our democracy and political culture—openness to change, ability to deal with offsetting centers of power, the distribution of governing power among three branches of government and at three levels of government, federal, state and local—these attributes are seen by Egyptian leaders as potentially undermining stability and upsetting the social order.

In many respects, the U.S.-Egypt dialogue on democratization is really a "duologue" of two independent monologues, stemming from two very different political cultures, in which neither side is clearly listening to the other. This is not an academic issue for either. President Mubarak is now 80 years old, so Egypt will face a presidential succession in the period ahead. That succession is likely to be stable, no matter who emerges as president. But the process of choosing the president and the openness of the system to new entrants and to really fair balloting and domestic political change are issues that are not yet settled. Michele Dunne of the Carnegie Endowment posed these questions in an article recently against the backdrop of regime efforts to intimidate opposition parties and to engineer the electoral system so as to guarantee the result preferred by the regime.1 The answers to these questions are as yet unknown, but will tell us a great deal about Egypt's readiness to confront change.

Two critical questions thus emerge from this overview of U.S.-Egyptian relations. First, what are the long-term prospects for the bilateral relationship? Can our two countries sustain a set of basic understandings that will enable us to continue to build on this thirty-year strategic relationship? Second, will the issues that plague our bilateral ties—the peace process and the debate over democratization—be manageable? Can we find a way to differ without affecting the core of our relations, or will differences ultimately erode the foundations on which our relationship exists?

These questions are inextricably bound together. One of the most persistent aspects of our foreign policy and political culture has been the notion that democracy is an idea that other countries ought to embrace. Walter Russell Mead of the Council on Foreign Relations has described four strains of thinking in U.S. policy that reappear almost no matter who sits in the White House—what he calls the Hamiltonians, who favor an alliance between national government and big business; the Wilsonians, who look to America's moral obligation and interest to spread American values and the rule of law throughout the world; the Jeffersonians, who seek to safeguard democracy at home and avoid unsavory allies and policies that increase the risk of war; and the Jacksonians, who emphasize our physical security and economic well-being, and while not seeking a fight, will not shy from one and will go all out to win, if provoked.2 All of our presidents have a little bit of all of these attributes in them. Our friends, as well as our adversaries, need to study this and understand the motivations that drive American leaders.

But by the same token, it behooves us to try to understand the political history and social culture that motivate the policies of other countries. Egypt is and will remain a land of contrasts, where rich and poor, urban elites and rural fellahin, Westernized business executives and Islamic fundamentalists, "Egypt-firsters" and pan-Arab nationalists will co-exist in a mosaic held together by a common past and a strong central government.

So what is to be done? First, we must recognize the value to both of us of the intimate bilateral relationship we have constructed over thirty years—that is, to avoid as much as possible escalating problems and differences into crises.

Second, both sides need to improve their ability to listen to each other. In our dialogue with Egypt, we need to listen to each other much more carefully.

Third, we have a mutual interest in working together, constructively, toward an Arab-Israeli peace settlement. Better use can be made of more positive Egyptian-Israeli relations as a demonstration effect for a comprehensive peace settlement.

Fourth, it would be wise for Egyptians to undertake their own internal assessment of the value of political liberalization, not one choreographed or coming under pressure from the outside. They need to shut out the noise from the outside and to look at themselves in a mirror. Egypt is in the midst of an interesting and challenging period in its modern political history, when there is uncertainty over succession, a serious threat internally from the Muslim Brothers and like-minded friends, and where nascent movements for political reform such as the Kifaya (Enough) movement or the Ghad (Future) party are seeking legitimacy. If Egyptians prefer not to listen to outside advice, then let the debate about reform flourish within Egyptian society.

If you receive this as a forward and would like to be placed directly on our mailing lists, send email to Include your name, address, and affiliation. For further information, contact Alan Luxenberg at (215) 732-3774 x105.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: An Eye for an Eye

Human rights in Iran - Blinding a defendant is only the latest in the many human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian "justice" system, yet rights groups and the UN are almost totally unconcerned about the doings of this barbaric regime. This is one of the better rulings really, compared to the execution of Bahai school teachers for teaching their faith, and the hanging of homosexuals.
Court orders Iranian man blinded
A court in Iran has ruled that a man who blinded a woman with acid after she spurned his marriage proposals will also be blinded with acid.
The ruling was reported in Iranian newspapers on Thursday.
The punishment is legal under the Islamic Sharia code of qias or equivalence, which allows retribution for violent crimes.
The court also ordered the attacker, 27-year-old Majid Movahedi, to pay compensation to the victim.
The acid attack took place in 2004. The victim, Ameneh Bahrami, went to Spain for surgery to reconstruct her face but efforts to restore her sight failed.
The ruling was a response to her plea to the court in the Iranian capital Tehran for retribution.
"Ever since I was subject to acid being thrown on my face, I have a constant feeling of being in danger," she told the court.
Ms Bahrami also said that Movahedi had also threatened to kill her.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Muslim religious freedom curtailed - by Hamas

We can only imagine the protests and condemnations that would issue from the UN, Arab states and EU terror groupies if Israel were to stop Hajj pilgrims and beat them up. But because Hamas did it, there is no problem.
Hamas beat Muslim pilgrims trying to reach Mecca
Islamist group sets up checkpoints throughout Gaza Strip to stop pilgrims from leaving for Saudi Arabia in revenge for having made travel arrangements with rival faction Fatah
Associated Press
Published:  11.30.08, 09:15 / Israel News
Hamas police set up checkpoints across Gaza on Saturday to prevent pilgrims from leaving for a holy Muslim ritual in Saudi Arabia, beating some who tried to dodge barriers, witnesses said.

The Islamic militants who rule Gaza were upset that the pilgrims coordinated their journey with Hamas' rival, the Palestinian Authority. The authority, based in the West Bank, is run by Hamas' bitter rival, the Fatah movement. The crackdown on the pilgrims highlights the depth of the bitterness between the two groups.

Egypt criticized Hamas' actions as unbecoming of an Islamic movement.

The pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia is meant to be undertaken by Muslims at least once in a lifetime, and is considered a great event for believers.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Fatah-allied forces last year, and animosity between the rivals has growing in recent months.

The Western-backed Palestinian Authority and the Hamas rulers of Gaza submitted separate lists of Gaza pilgrims to the Saudi authorities for visa approvals in the weeks leading to the pilgrimage, which will take place in December.
The rival Palestinian governments each claim to be legitimate, and their wrangle over who has the authority to send Gaza pilgrims to Mecca is a measure of sovereignty. So far Saudi Arabia has rebuffed the Hamas list. Different regions are given quotas for the number of pilgrims they can send to Saudi Arabia, and Gaza was allowed to dispatch about 3,000.

On Friday, the Palestinian Authority announced that pilgrims should report to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt the following day.

The Gaza pilgrims were to cross into Egypt and travel from there to Mecca. But after the Palestinian Authority announcement, Hamas police set up 16 checkpoints on roads leading to the passage.

Witnesses said police sent back cars that appeared to carry pilgrims.

"They called us traitor pilgrims," said a man who identified himself as a pilgrim to a Gaza television station.
 A woman called in, saying her mother, a pilgrim, was beaten on her hand and needed treatment. Witnesses would not give their names, for fear of retribution by Hamas police. Hamas police did not allow reporters into the area close to the border crossing.

Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu said nobody was beaten and said the press were not banned from the area.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mumbai Chabad death toll up to nine

Excerpt from Ha'aretz: this morning:
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Saturday evening to dispatch an Israel Air Force plane with teams of medical and forensic experts to Mumbai on Sunday to aid in the identification of victims of the terror attacks that rocked the Indian city, leaving at least 195 dead.
Israeli embassy representatives and rescue personnel have identified six of the victims killed in the assault that began Wednesday night across India's financial capital, including its Chabad center.
The Foreign Ministry said nine people - most Israelis, some dual citizens but all of them Jews - were killed in an attack on the Chabad house in Mumbai this week, part of a spectacular assault on symbols of luxury and foreign appeal across the city.
Authorities earlier on Saturday said Israel may have to fly crime-lab analysts to India for positive identification before the victims' remains can be flown to Israel for burial.
Authorities on Saturday named one of the Israeli victims as Yocheved Orpaz, 60, after her family identified her body on Saturday afternoon. Another woman was identified as a Jewish resident of Mexico, whose name has not yet been released.
The Chabad-Lubavitch movement confirmed Friday evening that an Israeli-born American rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his wife Rivka, 28, were among the dead.
The Holtzbergs will be flown to Israel for burial, said Rivka Holtzberg's brother, Shmulik Rosenberg. A Chabad spokesman said they likely would be buried Monday.
Two other victims from the Chabad house who have also been positively identified are Bentzion Chroman, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, and Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, a U.S. citizen who lived in Jerusalem.
The carnage began Wednesday at about 9:20 p.m. with shooters spraying gunfire across the Chhatrapati Shivaji railroad station. 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.
By Saturday morning the death toll was at 195, the deadliest attack in India since 1993 serial bombings in Mumbai killed 257 people. But officials said the toll was likely to rise as more bodies are found in the hotels.
Indian commandos ended the three-day rampage on Saturday after storming Mumbai's best-known hotel, the Taj Mahal.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Bush opposed to Israel-Syra deal

Last update - 05:50 30/11/2008       
Bush to Olmert: Why are you giving Syria the Golan for nothing?
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz Correspondent
WASHINGTON - U.S. President George Bush believes that Israel is offering Syria the Golan Heights without getting anything in exchange, according to sources briefed on his White House meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert last week.
After Olmert updated Bush on Israel's indirect talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the U.S. president demanded, "Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for nothing?" the sources said.
"It's not for nothing," Olmert insisted. "It's in exchange for a change in the region's strategic alignment."
Bush persisted: "Why should you believe him?" And to that, Olmert did not reply.
The Bush administration has long had reservations about Israel's talks with Syria and refuses to play any active role in them. Infuriated by Syria's involvement in anti-American terror in Iraq, as well as its undermining of Lebanon's fragile democracy, Bush preferred to invest his diplomatic capital in Israeli-Palestinian talks, while eschewing contacts with the Syrians.
Olmert tried to explain the strategic importance that Israel attaches to the talks with Syria, describing the Middle East as being defined by two axes: an extremist "horizontal axis" running from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah and Hamas, and a pragmatic "vertical axis" running from Turkey via Syria to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Syria, Olmert argued, sits at the intersection of these two axes. Thus should it switch its allegiance to the "vertical axis," this would greatly weaken the extremists and strengthen the pragmatists.
Olmert also believes that Bashar Assad has moved much closer to Iran than his father Hafez ever did. Today, he said, Damascus is locked in an Iranian "bear hug" that threatens the very existence of its secular regime. That, combined with Syria's dismal economy, creates an opportunity to flip Assad into the moderate camp, the premier argued.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama favors American dialogue with Syria, and would presumably agree to take an active role in Israeli-Syrian talks. Aaron Miller, a veteran of former president Bill Clinton's peace team, published an article in The Washington Post Saturday in which he urged Obama to adopt a "Syria first" strategy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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