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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Report: 62 percent of UK Muslim schools connected to fundamentalists, teach bigotry and racism

Not too surprising, but not that easy to interpret. It is more interesting that the report will be toned down because of all that confusing and difficult to follow stuff: namely, evidence. Evidence is B*O*R*I*N*G
Exclusive: over 60 per cent of Britain's Muslim schools have extremist links, says draft report
Posted By: Damian Thompson at Dec 17, 2008 at 13:05:37 [General]
Britain's Muslim schools have been sharply criticised in a controversial draft report commissioned by a leading think tank which suggests that over 60 per cent of them are linked to potentially dangerous Islamic fundamentalists.
An early version of the report, entitled When Worlds Collide, alleges that of the 133 Muslim primary and secondary schools it surveyed, 82 (61.6 per cent) have connections or direct affiliations to fundamentalists. The 133 schools are in the private sector but supposedly subject to Ofsted inspection.
The report also claims that some of these schools teach "repugnant" beliefs about the wickedness of Western society and Jews.
The claims in the report, written by Denis MacEoin in response to a commission from Civitas, will provoke ritual cries of "Islamophobia" from the Muslim Council of Britain and fellow travellers such as Koran Armstrong. MacEoin has been careful to back up his claims with evidence - in particular, screen captures of links to Islamic hate-mongers, including supporters of Al-Qaeda.
Civitas, however, is not prepared to endorse MacEoin's 61.6 per cent figure, which will not appear in the published version of When Worlds Collide. A spokesman for Civitas explains: "We want to concentrate on claims that are absolutely robust, rather than complicated material, some of it in Arabic, that might unjustly damage someone's reputation."
Perhaps the most alarming finding of the draft I've seen is that so many of these schools (including ones with no connections to political extremism) are bricking up their pupils behind a wall of Koranic injunctions and Sharia law.
The schools known as Darul Ulooms, which base their curriculum on a seventeenth-century Indian teaching system, include very few secular subjects, claims the report. It says: "Their aim is not to prepare pupils for life in the wider world, but to give them the tools for a more limited existence inside the Muslim enclaves."
The consequences for bright Muslim British girls are absolutely dire. Lively intellects are being destroyed and brilliant careers cut off before they can begin. To quote the report again: "Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim teenagers and young women are lost to the wider world that informs their citizenship."
The numbers are increasing fast, and there is confusion over how many schools exist. The growth of non-Muslim schools, says MacEoin, is "hugely overshadowed by a rapidly growing sector of Muslim institutions. These now number 127 [sic] full-time schools and an estimated 700 part-time madrassas for intense religious instruction [and that doesn't include the Darul Uloom seminaries] … Many recreate in the UK the style and content of schooling that can be found in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India." Great.
And all this is happening with the implicit consent of the Government, Ofsted – and Christian leaders, who bang on about the threat to "faith schools" (and, in the case of R. Williams, the virtues of Sharia) while shielding their eyes from the evidence that many Muslim faith schools are poisonously anti-Christian.
I've seen many of the extremely damaging screen grabs on which MacEoin bases his claims. Memo to the Muslim Council of Britain: start lining up irate spokesmen now.

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Arabs oppose gay rights declaration at the UN

A group of United Nations member states including Israel have called for the UN's first  gay rights declaration, an initiative which has met with fierce resistance by an Arab-backed opposition. The draft declaration  was presented Thursday at the UN General Assembly. It calls for decriminalization of homosexuality.Arab states are opposed. In Muslim states, homosexuality is a crime and is usually punishable by death, consistent with Islamic laow.
France and the Netherlands initiated the nonbinding symbolic declaration in the light of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  was marked earlier this month.
"This is the first time in history that a group of member countries voices its objection to discrimination that is based on sexual identity and orientation," said Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen. "The issue is no longer taboo," he added.
A Syrian representative read the  statement of the opposition to the declaration, arguing that the declaration would result in more sex crimes against children.
The United States, Russia and China have abstained on the matter.
The  declaration was read out by Argentina at a plenary session. S far diplomats promoting it have gathered 66 supporting signatures.

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America: Who loves you? Palestinian offers Iraq shoe-thrower a bride

The "poverty stricken" Palestinians have raised $30,000 for defense of the journalist who threw his shoes at U.S. President George Bush in Iraq. And one man is offering his daughter as a bride for the shoe-thrower. American support of Palestinian statehood is being amply repaid, in the usual way.
Palestinian - American friendship goes back a long way. It began with the attack on American diplomats that was orchestrated by Yasser Arafat, continued with Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein in 1991 and again in 2003, and of course, huge Palestinian crowds carried posters of Osama Bin Laden and cheered the 9-11 attacks. No wonder American taxpayers are eager to pour money into their staunch Palestinian ally.
Last update - 09:21 20/12/2008       
Head of Palestinian clan offers Iraqi shoe-throwing journalist a bride
By The Associated Press
The head of a large West Bank family wants to reward the Iraqi journalist who lobbed his shoes at President George W. Bush by sending him a bride.
75-year-old Ahmad Salim Judeh says if journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi is interested the family is willing to take one of its eligible daughters to Iraq along with her dowry.
Judeh says doing so 'would be our honor'. He also said Friday that the 500-member clan had raised $30,000 for al-Zeidi's legal defense.
Al-Zeidi has become something of a folk hero since throwing his shoes at President Bush at a Sunday press conference.
Thousands took to the streets in Iraq to protest his arrest, and his actions were heralded across the Arab world as news stations repeatedly showed footage of the incident.
Al-Zeidi is unmarried.

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Ramon Critical of Barak Gaza policy

The alternative policy just might be worse....
Last update - 21:50 20/12/2008       
Ramon: Defense Min. Barak's Gaza policy is a 'total failure'
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent
Vice Premier Haim Ramon on Saturday blasted Defense Minister Ehud Barak's policy on the Gaza Strip as a "total failure" as Palestinian militants in the coastal territory pounded southern Israel with a barrage of rocket and mortar fire.
"Barak's policy has suffered a total failure, is seriously harming the residents of the South and the national security of the State of Israel, and is causing inestimable political damage," said Ramon.
The Vice Premier also said he demands that outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hold an urgent discussion in order to immediately change Israel's policy with regard to Gaza.

In light of the upsurge in cross-border attacks from Gaza, Kibbutz Movement Secretary-General Ze'ev Shor called on Barak and Olmert to declare the reinforcement of homes in Gaza-area Israeli communities as a national priority.
"A general [Israel Defense Forces reservist] call-up order needs to be issued in order to finish this within two months," said Shor, speaking at a conference in the North on Friday.

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Kibbutz clubhouse hit as south Israel pelted with Gaza rocket, mortar fire

By Avi Issacharoff and Yanir Yagna, Haaretz Correspondents, and Agencies
Palestinian militants in Gaza on Saturday pelted southern Israel with a barrage of Qassam rockets and mortar shells, one of which slammed into the clubhouse of a kibbutz near the Hamas-ruled territory.
The mortar attack on the kibbutz, which caused no casualties, came only hours after an Israel Air Force strike against a Qassam rocket squad killed a militant in the Hamas-ruled territory.
The mortar shell hit the roof of the clubhouse, which was vacant at the time, and caused substantial damage to the building.

The Gaza militant's death was the first due to border violence since Hamas formally declared an end to a six-month truce with Israel.
Hamas declared in a statement Friday that they would not continue a truce in Gaza that had taken effect in June.
Gaza militants Saturday fired at least 13 Qassam rockets and dozens of mortar shells into Israel, continuing the barrage of the past several days. The rocket attacks caused neither damage nor casualties, the Israel Defense Forces said.
The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, identified the dead man as one of its fighters. Hamas said it fired the mortars. The IDF also confirmed the militant's death.
Four Qassam rockets struck the western Negev Friday, also causing no casualties.
The IDF, meanwhile, said troops guarding Israeli farmers in fields adjacent to Gaza came under sniper fire from across the border. There were no injuries reported in any of the incidents.
In the statement posted on its Web site Friday, Hamas said Israel had breached agreements by imposing a painful blockade on Gaza, staging military strikes into the densely populated coastal strip and continuing to hunt down Hamas operatives in the West Bank.
"Since the enemy did not abide with the conditions... we hold the enemy the fully responsible for ending the truce and we confirm that the Palestinian resistance factions headed by Hamas will act," the statement said.
In light of Hamas' declaration of an end to the cease-fire, Israeli officials have warned that a military offensive in the coastal territory would be "unavoidable" if the rocket fire continues.

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Iranian arrested in N.Y. for funding Iranian Nukes

Last update - 09:15 20/12/2008       
Executive arrested in N.Y. over Iranian nuclear funding scheme
By The Associated Press
U.S. Authorities charged the president of an Iranian foundation Friday with obstructing justice in an investigation of a bank accused of helping fund Iran's nuclear program.
Jahedi Farshid, 54, the president of the Alavi Foundation, is accused of trying to throw away documents cited in a subpoena issued Wednesday, federal prosecutors said.
An FBI complaint against Farshid said he was warned not to destroy documents requested by a grand jury. It said he disobeyed the order when he went home to Ardsley, New York, where he dumped papers in a public trash can on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the Treasury Department sought forfeiture of the 40 percent interest that Assa Co. Ltd. held in the Fifth Ave. building it shares with the Alavi Foundation.
The U.S. government said Assa was a front company set up by Iran's Bank Melli to funnel money from the U.S. to Iran. Bank Melli has been accused of providing support for Iran's nuclear program.
Prosecutors said the Alavi Foundation is the successor organization of the Pahlavi Foundation, which built the Manhattan office tower with a substantial loan from Bank Melli.
If convicted, Farshid could face up to 10 years in prison. A lawyer representing him and his foundation did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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Anti-Semitic Madness about Mad Madoff Ripoff

Of course, Israeli charities were wiped out by Madoff's schemes, but anti-Semites claim he did it for Israel.

ADL: Anti-Semitic posts flood Web in wake of Bernard Madoff affair  By Haaretz
The alleged $50 billion fraud by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff has prompted an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on mainstream and extremist Web sites, the Anti-Defamation League said on Saturday.

The Jewish-American organization said some of the posts on the highly trafficked sites spread conspiracy theories about Jews stealing money to benefit Israel and suggest that, "Only Jews could perpetrate a fraud on such a scale."

These and other anti-Jewish tropes about Jews and money have appeared on popular blogs devoted to finance, in comment sections of mainstream news outlets and in banter among users of Internet discussion groups, according to the ADL.

"Jews are always a convenient scapegoat in times of crisis, but the Madoff scandal and the fact that so many of the defrauded investors are Jewish has created a perfect storm for the anti-Semites," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL
National Director.

"Nowadays, the first place Jew-haters will go is to the Internet, where they can give voice to their hateful ideas without fear of repercussions."

Meanwhile, Madoff's alleged scam has caused deep ripples in the Jewish philanthropic world, forcing the closure of two prominent U.S.-based charities and threatening the financial lifeline of a slew of other groups.

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, said Thursday that it has lost $90 million it invested with Madoff.

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Cable breaks reportedly cut some Internet in Mideast and South Asia

In Israel at this moment there does not seem to be a problem getting mail from the United States. Web site visits may be down 15-20%. Web sites do not appear to be loading more slowly.
Cable breaks cut Internet in Mideast and South Asia
Sat Dec 20, 2008 3:48am EST
By Jonathan Wright

CAIRO (Reuters) - Breaks in three submarine cables which link Europe and the Middle East have disrupted Internet and international telephone services in parts of the Middle East and South Asia, officials said on Saturday.
The disruption reduced Egypt's Internet capacity by about 80 percent. Technicians were restoring some capacity by diverting communications traffic through the Red Sea, said a Communications Ministry official, who asked not to be named.
Users in the Middle East said Internet service was either non-existent or slow. The gravity of the outage, caused by breaks in cables in the Mediterranean off Italy, varied from area to area and according to the service provider.
The cause of the breaks was not immediately known.
In January, breaks in undersea cables off the Egyptian coast disrupted Internet access in Egypt, the Gulf region and south Asia, forcing service providers to reroute traffic and disrupting some businesses and financial dealings.
In Pakistan, Internet service provider Micronet Broadband said its customers were facing degraded Internet services because of "issues" on the SMW-3, SMW-4 and FLAG lines.
Micronet engineer Wajahat Basharat said on Saturday Internet traffic was slow and some was being diverted to other routes.
Etislat, the largest of two telecom firms in the United Arab Emirates, said it was using alternative routes to ensure continuity of service.
Users in the Gulf Arab nation said their connections were much slower than usual and suffered occasional disconnections.
Kuwait's Telecommunications Ministry said late on Friday it was trying to secure continued services until the damage to the cables was repaired and asked for users' understanding.
Several Egyptian residents said late on Friday it was impossible to call the United States but calls to Europe appeared to be going through.
The International Cable Protection Committee, an association of submarine cable operators, said it was "aware of multiple submarine cable failures in the Eastern Mediterranean area that may be affecting the speed of Internet communications on some routes."
It said in a statement on its website it did not know what had caused the problem.
Stephan Beckert, an analyst with the U.S.-based telecommunications market research firm TeleGeography, said the three affected cables were the most direct route for moving traffic between Western Europe and the Middle East.
"If those three cables were cut and are completely out, it would be a fairly significant outage," he said.
"It is going to cause problems for some customers. It's certainly going to slow things down," Beckert said, adding that he did not believe financial institutions would be hit hard.
"Generally speaking we find that they are extremely painstaking about making sure that they have redundant capacity," he said.
Officials with AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications, the two largest U.S.-based carriers, said that some customers in the Middle East had lost all service, while others were experiencing partial disruptions on Internet connections.
Verizon had rerouted some of its traffic by sending it across the Atlantic, then the United States, across the Pacific, and on to the Middle East.
A New York Stock Exchange spokesman said he was unaware of any disruptions in trading. Exchanges CME Group, and IntercontinentalExchange said they had no disruption in their trading on Friday.
(Additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston, Juan Lagorio and Elinor Comlay in New York, Robert Birsel in Islamabad, Inal Ersan in Dubai; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Chic of Araby: More about Syria Sexy lingerie

Further to our previous report: Sexy Syrian Lingerie on sale in the Souk - Musical knickers. It seems that the chic undies are not just for Syrians. The Syrians are serious about this industry and are exporting it everywhere. Alhamdillah - business is good - in Hamas controlled Gaza too, when the blockade permits.
From IWPR:
In Syria, professions are usually handed down from one generation to the next. But deep within the Hamidiyeh market in the old town area of Damascus there exists a little shop where tradition has been cast aside in favour of sequins, feathers and secret desires. In the budding lingerie industry, innovation marks a break with the past.

Ahmed comes from a religious working-class family and did not finish his high school education. Now in his late twenties, he makes his living as an assistant in a popular lingerie shop in the Souk al-Hamidiyeh.  

"We sell 30 to 40 items a day, especially the flashy styles decorated with things like singing birds or flowers made of feathers," he said. "Most of our customers are Syrians, while others are from Morocco, Algeria and the Gulf states."

As one walks through the narrow winding alleys of the souk, bright and colourful windows of the lingerie stores contrast with the black headscarves of the female shoppers.

In this outwardly conservative country, Ahmed said, it might come as a surprise to find that most of the customers are veiled Muslim women.

"Every day, mothers and daughters come to shop for the daughter's wedding night," explained Ahmed. "Sometimes the girl is shy and lets the mother choose for her. Other times, she's less bashful and chooses what she wants."
It is traditional for girls to buy lingerie before they get married. "It plays such an important role," said Ahmed. "Parents even save up money to buy dozens of items before the wedding night."

Wedding lingerie has become a uniquely Syrian phenomenon and an industry that has grown increasingly prosperous in the last few years, Ahmed said. The tradition developed following the 1973 Yom Kippur war, when investors from Gulf states put a lot of money into the country, and products including underwear began to be manufactured in Syria for the first time.

Not all of the customers are brides-to-be. Ahmed often sells to couples who wish to spice up their sex lives or to women concerned at their husbands' wandering eye. Also, some wealthier Syrians buy the more tacky and flamboyant items as comedy presents for birthday parties.

 Styles range from sweet and innocent to gaudy and exotic, featuring singing birds, coloured feathers, plastic cell phones and other toys, and edible chocolate. Ahmed said a typical item sells for 10 US dollar but prices go up the more elaborate the embellishments, including remote-controlled thongs and bras that open like curtains.

 Asked whether he was embarrassed to sell some of the more outlandish garments, Ahmed said he wasn't, adding that he even helped women select their purchases.

Demand has increased so much in the past few years that at least five factories in Syria now produce lingerie products. 

In the mountains surrounding Damascus, Khaled runs a small workshop in a spare room with the help of his wife and family.

Khaled said his profession does not embarrass him in front of the neighbours, and local men sometimes drop in to buy things for their wives.
He also ships garments to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, and at times to the Palestinian territories, where he said "sales increase when there is peace and fall when Gaza is blockaded".

(Syria News Briefing, a weekly news analysis service, draws on information and opinion from a network of IWPR-trained Syrian journalists based in the country.)

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Obama solicits broad Jewish views on Middle East

When Diane met Mort

By Ron Kampeas · December 19, 2008

How did it go in that speech? Folks in red states who hate eavesdropping, folks in blue states who believe in an awesome God?
Add to that folks in pro-Israel groups who want settlers in the farthest reaches of the West Bank and folks in, ummm. .... other pro-Israel groups who don't.*
President-elect Barack Obama's transition team's first official encounter with the Jewish community suggested a substantial change in how his administration will deal with Jewish groups: Present were the array of dovish pro-Israel groups, including the Israel Policy Forum, J-Street, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom.
Of those groups, only IPF made the occasional appearance at meetings with Bush administration officials - and that was because the group has always been careful to cast a non-partisan tint to its pro-negotiations posture, effusively praising the Bush administration's peace-brokering efforts, however infrequent those were until a year or so ago. Other more liberal groups at the table - including the Reform movemen'ts Religious Action Center - were also occasionally invited, but the emphasis is on "occasionally."
What was remarkable about Thursday's meeting is that the Obama team also reached out to the other side, including the Zionist Organization of America. Dan Shapiro, the transition official who handled foreign policy at the meeting, made it clear he wanted to hear all voices.
The Bush administration's infamous tetchiness at criticism seemed to be a thing of the past: ZOA has slammed Obama's transition team  for including strident Israel critic Samantha Power in a post that barely registers above chief cook and bottle washer, but has failed to praise it for installing true-blue pro-Israel types like Jim Steinberg in more senior posts.
And that was fine with the dovish types, or at least with Diane Balser who directs Brit Tzedek, a group that has lobbied in recent years for increased aid to the Palestinians, even as ZOA has lobbied against it.
"The Obama team said they were open and understood everyone had a seat," Balser told me. "To acknowledge there is more than one view on Israel, that we're not monolithic - I consider that a step forward for us."
Balser was so enchanted by the new order, that she sought out the ZOA's Mort Klein afterwards, and they had a civil, even pleasant conversation, she said, and discovered something in common (aside, of course, from a love for Israel, however differently slanted): Each, it turns out, has a sibling who thinks their politics are, well, nuts.
Klein confirmed the conversation. "I tell my brother he's adopted, and he reminds me we look alike," he said.
Klein said he thought Balser "was delightful and pleasant, although her group's views are not delightful and pleasant."
Klein wasn't so sure about the breadth of the transition team's outreach, noting that Americans for a Safe Israel, which is similarly hawkish, was not present - although he was not sure they were not invited.
Klein said he took the opportunity during the meeting to contradict some of the dovish groups' positons, pointing out shortcomings in the Arab League's peace plan (it is unclear, for instance, on the status of Palestinian refugees and leaves open the possibility of a mass return.)
He also said that he corrected misimpressions of support for a two-state solution, noting that at least two Israel parties in the Knesset are opposed - and that support among American Jews has dropped in recent years to less than 50 percent.
*The Red State/Blue State nexus doesn't work here - Balser is from Boston and Klein is from Philadelphia.

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U.S. report: Hezbollah fought Israel better than any Arab army

Last update - 09:36 19/12/2008       
U.S. report: Hezbollah fought Israel better than any Arab army
By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
A new report from the U.S. Army War College warns that the American military must learn the lessons of the Second Lebanon War, in which Hezbollah operated more like a conventional army than a guerrilla organization.
The report, "The 2006 Lebanon Campaign and the Future of Warfare: Implications for Army and Defense Policy," warns against placing too heavy an emphasis on classic guerrilla warfare, and raises the possibility of further non-state actors following the Lebanese militant group's example.
"Hezbollah's 2006 campaign in southern Lebanon has been receiving increasing attention as a prominent recent example of a non-state actor fighting a Westernized state," the authors of the report state. "In particular, critics of irregular-warfare transformation often cite the 2006 case as evidence that non-state actors can nevertheless wage conventional warfare in state-like ways."
The authors of the report, Dr. Stephen D. Biddle and Jeffrey A. Friedman, state that changes made by the U.S. Army in conducting urban warfare against guerrilla fighters in Iraq could compromise the military's ability to deal with other enemies in the future.
The authors give a high grade to Hezbollah's performance in the 2006 war, describing it as more effective than that of any Arab army that confronted Israel in the Jewish state's history, and that Hezbollah militants wounded more Israelis per fighter than any previous Arab effort.
Unlike a traditional guerrilla force, however, Hezbollah emphasized holding territory and digging in to bunkers, instead of the usual tactic of hiding among civilian populations. Likewise, the militant organization's discipline and coordination highly resembled those of conventional armies.
This combination of conventional and guerrilla tactics, the report claims, places new challenges before the U.S. Army. It calls for preparing the military for asymmetrical urban warfare, while at the same time working closely with civilian populations. It also calls for reducing military activity likely to harm the image of the U.S.
The report indicates that no army can be ideally prepared to deal with both kinds of enemy, conventional and guerrilla, simultaneously, and that in light of the discrepancies between the lessons of the Second Lebanon War and the current U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, serious challenges confront military planners.
While fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan demands the ability to defeat guerrilla forces, the example of Lebanon may inspire enemies of the U.S. to adopt more conventional methods.

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Hanukka Gelt: Temple coin found in rubble of Islamic temple excavations

In an effort to efface and erase Jewish rights and national heritage in Jerusalem, the Muslim waqf conducted barbaric excavations beneath the temple mount. Sifting through the rubble has produced at least some concrete evidence of ancient Jewish soveriegnty in Jerusalem. I believe the gentleman in the coin below is Antiochus.

Happy Hanukkah or Hannuka - whatever.

temple shekel coin

Rubble yields silver Temple 'tax' half-shekel

Dec. 18, 2008
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST

Two ancient coins, one used to pay the Temple tax and another minted by the Greek leader the Jews fought in the story of Hanukka, have been uncovered amid debris from Jerusalem's Temple Mount, an Israeli archeologist said Thursday.

The two coins were recently found in rubble discarded by Islamic officials from the Temple Mount. It is carefully being sifted by two archeologists and a team of volunteers at a Jerusalem national park.

The first coin, a silver half-shekel, was apparently minted on the Temple Mount itself by Temple authorities in the first year of the Great Revolt against the Romans in 66-67 CE, said Bar-Ilan University Professor Gabriel Barkay, who is leading the sifting operation.

One side of the coin, which was found by a 14-year-old volunteer, shows a branch with three pomegranates, and the inscription "Holy Jerusalem"; the other side bears a chalice from the First Temple and says "Half-Shekel."

In the Bible, Jews are commanded to contribute half a shekel each for maintaining the Temple in Jerusalem. At the time of the Temple's construction in the sixth century BCE, every Jew was ordered to make an obligatory symbolic donation of a half-shekel. This consistent yet small payment allowed all Jews, irrespective of socioeconomic position, to participate in building the Temple.

After the construction was completed, the tax continued to be collected for the purchase of public sacrifices and for maintaining the Temple's furnishings.

The coin uncovered shows signs of fire damage, most likely by the fires that destroyed the Second Temple when it was invaded by the Romans in 70 CE, Barkay said.

Although similar coins have been discovered at various locations throughout Jerusalem - including one found at the ancient City of David earlier this year - this is the first time such a coin has been discovered in rubble from the Temple Mount itself, he said.

No archeological excavations are carried out on the Temple Mount, in keeping with the religious sensitivities of both Muslims and Jews.

The second coin discovered in the rubble was minted by, and bears a portrait of, the Greek leader Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who ruled from 175-163 BCE. During that time, he looted the Temple of its treasures and erected a statue in the sanctuary.

The Hasmonean rebellion was directed against his actions. The rebellion, the Hasmoneans' liberation of the Temple, and the events surrounding the Hanukka story took place on the Temple Mount.

The sifting operation began four years ago, after Islamic officials discarded truckloads of rubble from the Temple Mount in the Kidron valley following illegal Wakf construction work on the ancient compound - work that caused irreparable archeological damage to Judaism's holiest site.

The operation under way at the Jerusalem park, which is funded by the City of David Foundation, has retrieved more than 3,500 ancient coins that range from the Persian Period to the Ottoman Period.


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Sexy Syrian Lingerie on sale in the Souk - Musical knickers

All those wives - how can you tell whose underwear is ringing?

Sexy secrets of the Syrian souk
By Martin Asser
BBC News, Damascus
Sexy Syrian Lingerie

Just off the crowded central market in Old Damascus, a sales assistant called Mahmoud is giving me my first introduction into an unusual Syrian speciality - musical knickers.

The garments come in many different shapes and colours, and play little tunes - or other extraneous noises like telephone ringtones - all made by small electronic devices hidden in the lining.

Singing underwear isn't the only item on sale at the "Fatin Shop for Ladies Indoor Clothing", where Mahmoud is proudly showing off his product lines.

He's got knickers with flashing fairy lights, others that glow in the dark, a bra-and-knickers set shaped like manicured women's hands enveloping the wearer's crotch and breasts.

In a slightly higher price range, he's got remote-controlled bras and knickers, designed to spring open and fall to the floor with a clap of the hands or a press of a button.

Welcome to the no-frills world of Syrian lingerie - no frills, but plenty of tassels, and feathers, and zips, and bras which open like curtains, and...

There's a whole street off the historic Hamadiyeh Souk selling this genre of clothing - all outfits manufactured in Syria, some that Madonna herself might blush to wear, all showing bawdy creativity and a wicked sense of humour.

Culture shock

Forthright displays of the some world's kinkiest "leisure wear" have long been a feature of Syrian souks - though many tourists don't notice the crotchless knickers and PVC French maid outfits among the more traditional inlaid backgammon sets and textiles.

It stems from the Syrian tradition for brides-to-be to be given a trousseau of exotic underwear - sometimes dozens of items - usually by girlfriends, aunties and cousins, to add spice to their wedding nights, honeymoons and beyond.

With a glint in his eye, Mahmoud, who's barely out of school himself, says "some ladies keep coming back until their 30s".

Now two London-based Arab women, Rana Salam and Malu Halasa, are shining a spotlight on this little-known local speciality, with a new book called The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie.

"They used to tell me at art school: 'Look within your culture'. So I looked and I was in for a big surprise," graphic designer Ms Salam told me at the launch in London last month.

"The point of the book is to go beyond politics, to break stereotypes and celebrate Middle Eastern sexuality and pleasure. Call it kitsch, call it whatever you like, but I think this attire is superb, spontaneous, pure art."

On display at the launch party are a few of the most elaborate (but silent) designs, framed on the wall as works of art, including the "hands" bikini.

"I mean, Jean Paul Gaultier eat your heart out," she says pointing to another exhibit, a bright red wire spiral bra, with white roses over the nipple area and covered in a host of plastic butterflies.

Satisfaction guaranteed

What may be a new discovery to outsiders is that Islamic sexual mores are not only about veiling women, segregating the sexes and austerity.

On the contrary, sex is there to be enjoyed to the maximum by Muslims - as long as they are married Muslims - and there are numerous religious exhortations on the importance of foreplay, mutual titillation and satisfaction for both partners.

Indeed, if a husband fails to satisfy his wife sexually - or vice versa - it is considered grounds for divorce under Islamic law.

In Damascus, I paid a call on one of Syria's most established lingerie makers, Ali Nasser, in his cramped workshop in the Sheikh Saad neighbourhood.

I'm amazed how fast a brand new red satin bra and g-string takes shape from his old sewing machine - his expert eye and skilful hands honed by more than 30 years in the business.

A red feather boa - chicken feathers, imported from China - is then snipped up and bits of it glued on to the satin, a canvas for the next stage, toy birds and fake flowers, and of course hidden electronic music devices.

In other cultural contexts, this might seem something like a den of smut and vice - but Mr Nasser, a devout Muslim, insists it's more a public service and religious duty.

"Our work is all about igniting the desires of a husband for his wife, so he doesn't go looking elsewhere. It's a good thing and there's nothing wrong it."
"There's no shame in religion," he adds, as another tiny, shiny g-string shoots out of Mr Nasser's sewing machine.

See previous articles in Martin Asser's series from Damascus

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/12/16 21:55:06 GMT


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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Free and Fair Elections in Lebanon Impossible with Hizballah’s Weap

Free and Fair Elections in Lebanon Impossible with Hizballah's Weapons

Posted by W. Thomas Smith Jr. on 17 December 2008 at 6:53 pm UTC

If the U.S. State Department-designated terrorist group, Hizballah, and Hizballah's allies gain control of Lebanon through parliamentary elections slated for June 2009, "American support for Lebanon will be placed in jeopardy" and "we should have no illusions about that," said former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk during a panel discussion hosted by the Washington, D.C.-based Aspen Institute, last week.

Indyk's remarks reflect a particularly disturbing reality for the pro-democracy majority in Lebanon, which lost much of its political power to Hizballah and its allies when concessions were granted to Hizballah in order to persuade Hizballah to stop the killings (after the organization turned its weapons on the Lebanese people in May 2008). And the remarks should reflect a disturbing reality for the rest of the world.

"[Hizballah] is a premier terrorist organization," Indyk said. "Beyond that, it has built up an independent military capability that is greater than the military capabilities of the Lebanese armed forces."

Indeed, as we have time-and-again reported, Hizballah – the so-called "party of God," which rules a Shia kingdom inside the sovereign state of Lebanon, which battled Israel in the 2006 war (inflicting enormous damage on Lebanon), and which gained enormous strategic / political leverage in May of this year – may well have evolved into the world's most formidable terrorist army.

Consider the following: 

  • Hizballah is trained, equipped, and heavily financed (an estimated one-billion dollars annually) by Iran, and the organization is operationally supported by both Iran and Syria.
  • Hizballah is expanding its base, and the organization is increasing its global reach.
  • Hizballah has "conducted very large, spectacular" terrorist operations worldwide.
  • Hizballah has defiantly refused to surrender its arms in Lebanon as called for under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
  • Hizballah has demonstrated time-and-again since May that it has no qualms about overtly killing Lebanese civilians as a means of furthering the organization's aims.
  • Hizballah has heavily infiltrated the Lebanese Army.
  • Hizballah, since May, has wormed its way into position as an official component of the overall Lebanese Defense apparatus. 

Yet the U.S. has provided – and continues to send – hundreds-of-millions-of dollars in military aid to Lebanon's armed forces and national police when some experts and analysts have surmised that money may well end up in the hands of the terrorists.

Moreover, last month, Lebanese Pres. Michel Sleiman – the pro-Hizballah, pro-Syrian former Lebanese Army commander – signed a new Defense pact with Iran, and Sleiman's newly dubbed Army commander, General Jean Kahwaji, traveled to Damascus for a series of schmoozing sessions with his Syrian counterpart General Ali Habib.

On Monday, Naharnet reported Iran's allocation of some "$600 million for the Lebanese elections" as told to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Alseyassah (Al-Siyassa).

Simply put, total control of Lebanon achieved by-and-for the Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah axis may well-be in the offing and under our noses. The pro-democracy movement may be effectively quashed within six months, and the West may lose – in fact it may have already lost – its Lebanese front in the broader war on terror.

In a letter just released by the World Council of the Cedars Revolution (Lebanon's largest pro-democracy movement), WCCR president Joseph P. Baini calls on both Sleiman and the "parliamentary majority" to postpone elections until Hizballah and all armed militias lay down their arms.

I'm not holding my breath, but at least Baini is saying what must be heard.

"It should be clearly stated that Hizballah is not the only faction to be fully armed," Baini writes. "There are of course its very close affiliates such as the Amal movement, the Palestinian Camps, and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Fatah al-Islam and Islamic Jihad, who are all proxies for and subservient to Syria and Iran.  Therein lies the real dilemma for the people of Lebanon and the Cedars Revolution. Most of the military arsenal within Lebanon is in the possession of organizations classified by the free world as 'terrorists.'"

Speaking to Alseyassah, Tom Harb, secretary general of the International Lebanese Committee for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, says Hizballah must be disarmed before free and fair elections can take place.

"Elections cannot take place while groups are intimidating voters by force or the threat of force," says Harb, and after all, "elections in Lebanon have been postponed in the past."

If elections take place as is, Hizballah will be the one political party in possession of rifles, grenades, machineguns, missiles, and a demonstrated willingness to use them on anyone who does not wish for the same things the terrorists wish. And the Lebanese Army has demonstrated its unwillingness to confront Hizballah.

— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at

Continued (Permanent Link)

Olmert speech in London: Why he is pursuing peace agreement.

Source: Israel Embassy
                                     HELD IN LONDON  -  16TH DECEMBER 2008

The meeting with the Prime Minister of Great Britain naturally touched all the outstanding issues – bilateral relations as well as the issues of the Middle East – and I reported to him at great length about the ongoing negotiations between us and the Palestinians. 
I was asked many times – I don't want to go through you know all the details which are not that important; I want to emphasise one thing which I've been asked many times by many of my friends, both in Israel and overseas – visitors, people that call me from across the world and ask me:  Why are you making these extraordinary efforts to reach an agreement even before the end of your term and why is it so urgent?  Why do you insist on it so much?  And I think this is an important question which must be answered in some detail:
I believe that we have come very close to concluding agreement with everyone who really genuinely wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians, everyone that understands the significance that this peace can bring to the region and to the State of Israel, understands that if we will not make good use of the opportunity that arose since we started this process in Annapolis and actually since I started this process with President Abbas before Annapolis we might wait again years before it will come to the point where we can make a deal. 
The last time that such effort was made was in the year 2000 by the then Prime Minister, Mr Barak.  I have some slight political differences with Barak but I must say that at that time he made an extraordinary effort, outstanding effort to make peace with the Palestinians and the failure of that effort was entirely a result of the intransigent positions that were represented by the then President of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat.  And we waited seven years – seven years of bloodshed, seven years of difficulties, of political battles, of confrontations sometimes even with the best of friends with the State of Israel – and I don't want that Israel will wait another seven years before such an opportunity arises again.  We  have to make every possible effort that while the main players of this effort which are the President of the United States, President Abbas and myself are still in their positions that we will bring to an end what we have started – and we are not far away from each other. 
I know I have proposed to the Palestinians more than anyone did before me - I recognise it and I admit it – but at the same time I say to all of you and I shared it with the Israeli public [on] numerous occasions – I made it in public statements, I made it in press interviews – I said time is running out not only for them but first and foremost for us.  It's urgent – maybe not for them as much as it is urgent for us – and the reason is that I have come to the conclusion that when I analyse all the circumstances that I am familiar with and I think that as Prime Minister of the State of Israel for the last three years I am familiar perhaps more than most with all the circumstances, that the real choice that we have at this point in life and maybe that we will ever have is not between greater Israel as some of us dreamt of for many years and I was one of the dreamers that believed when I was younger that it may be possible or a confrontation, that the real choice that we have now is between peace that will require the most painful compromises for us or unfortunately a one state for two nations and for two peoples.
Now this idea of one state for two peoples doesn't sound so outrageous for many people – not for enemies of Israel – for friends of Israel.  I talked to many of the friends of Israel and when I talked to them about their desire, their lifelong desire, the historical desire of the people of Israel to have a Jewish democratic state sometimes those who are really genuine friends of Israel come close to me and whisper with cautious [sic]:  What exactly do you mean when you talk about Jewish State?  Does it mean that non-Jews can't live in your country? – we come from democratic countries; we live in mixed societies, there are Jews there, there are non-Jews, there are different Christian groups, there are Muslims, they all live in the same democratic country, they all have equal rights, they all vote.  You want to say that you will not allow a democratic state with people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds to be part of your country?  And I have to explain to them that the history taught us one thing; that there is no existence for the Jewish people if there will not be a Jewish State and there can be no Jewish State if you have four million Palestinians today and maybe six [million] tomorrow.  They will be part of this State and they will have to be / to share with us everything that will be part of our lives including equal voting rights that will determine the nature of that State and that may determine the nature of this State in different directions than the ones that we think are essential for our future in our existence.
We can fool around and continue to dream and be carried away by the rhetoric of some of these extreme, I'd say violent groups that are trying to impose their policies or their philosophies on the majority of the people of Israel but the truth that we all know is that this is the real choice, either we have to - if we want to have peace – is to make painful compromises or to accept that there will be a one state for two peoples and there will not be a Jewish state.  And if I have to make this choice with all the responsibility that I carry on my shoulders and as long as I am Prime Minister of the State of Israel I have reached a conclusion that I have to suggest to the people of Israel to make the choice that includes painful compromises that will guarantee that we have a recognised boundaries for a separate independent democratic Jewish State which will mean that we will have to pull out from territories which are for me and for most other Jews a central part of Jewish history. 
As far as I am concerned when I look at the territories from the Jordan to the sea there is not one single centimetre which I don't think is part of the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.  Every single part of this land is part of our history.  If you will dig underground you'll find enormously important chapters of Jewish history – you don't find anything which is related to the history of Yasser Arafat or his forefathers or any of the Palestinians; you find Jewish history over there.  But the reality is that there are millions of Palestinians living there and the choice that we have to make is this simple however difficult and painful choice – can we live with all these Palestinians that are not prepared to live with us and are ready to fight with us or we have to find a proper compromise and a proper compromise will inevitably mean pulling out from almost all of the territories so that we can maintain the nature of the Jewish State. 
And on that basis I have negotiated with Abu Mazen for the last year and a half – not with joy, not with an enthusiasm to pull out from all these territories, not with indifference to the significance of this price for all of us Jews.  On the contrary, with great pains and fears and hesitations and regrets that this is the reality but with a big conviction that this is inevitable and that this under these circumstances is better than any of the other options offered. 
All of the Israeli leaders that will follow me will have to come to this conclusion and the question is how much we will have to pay before they come to this conclusion and how difficult and how painful and how demanding it will be until they come to this inevitable conclusion that there is only one way to protect the Jewish nature and the democratic nature of the State of Israel and this is by pulling out back into the boundaries that can be accepted by the international community and by both sides. 
I always remind myself that I've really created personal friendships with most of the important leaders of the world today – with President Bush, with Prime Minister Brown, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair – a great fantastic guy and a great friend of the State of Israel, the European leaders, Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Silvio Berlusconi, ... – you name it, the Austrian President, former Prime Minister, Holland – you name it – Belgian[s] - everyone. 
The best of the friends that Israel has across the world never recognised even the west of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people – let's face it.  So of course we can say, you know, we will convince them.  When?  How costly it will be until we are capable of convincing them and how costly and painful it may be if at the end of the day we don't convince them and what we could do today we will be forced to do five years from now or ten years from now. 
So I am not arguing against any of you of course.  I am just trying to explain to you what has motivated me over the last couple of years when I negotiated with the Palestinians, trying to reach an agreement that will bring finally some peace to a society which has been yearning and praying for peace for so many years.
Now I don't fool myself.  I don't think that if and when we will reach a formal agreement with the Palestinians that overnight everything will change – not at all.  It will take years before the end of terror / effective end of terror and a total dismantling of all the terrorist groups that are still dominant amongst certain parts of the Palestinian territories.  I am not living in any illusion - it's a long process – but we want to start it now rather than wait and starting it five years or seven years or ten years from now with all the consequences that can be part of this waiting.
This is what I explain to my friends in all of the countries that I visit, in America as well as here and I think that there is a great understanding and respect for the policies of this Government as they were carried out by my Government over the last few years and I think that everyone knows amongst our partners that if there is not peace yet this is not because of the lack of will by the Israeli Government but by the lack of courage by the Palestinian leadership which is not prepared to make the final step which can be seen now from a short distance because of their weaknesses, because of their rivalries, because of the confrontations amongst the different groups with the Palestinians.
Now recently I heard that there is a new concept that will make an economic peace and that this economic peace will then help build the platform for a political peace.  I wish it could be true.  I know it's an illusion; it's a slogan – it's not a reality.
If there will be a political peace there will be economic peace.  I respect very much all the efforts made by the special envoy of the Quartet, Mr Blair who is working very hard to build up a process of co-operation and I think he does many good things which are very very helpful in this direction.  Nothing will come to full fruition before there is a political agreement signed by the two countries recognised by the international community, accepted by the United Nations Security Council, endorsed by the US Congress, endorsed by the Quartet, endorsed by the EU and accepted by all the world.  Then it will be also the opening for what I call an economic peace and co-operation that will change the face of the Middle East and will open up opportunities for both Palestinians and Israelis that never existed before with I believe co-operation between Israel and many Arab countries that are very anxious to establish formal and open relations with the State of Israel but they will not do it before there is a formal peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians.
For the same reason I have started a process with the Syrians, again not because I have any illusions about where the Syrians are now but because I believe that if we will succeed in making a genuine process with the Syrians there is a probability that they will be in an entirely different place in the end of this process.
Now I am not a newcomer to politics.  Now people tell me but the Syrians, of course they are linked with Iran and with Hizbullah and with Hamas – do I not know all of this?  Of course I know it.  But how can we pull Syria out of this into an entirely different posture that will be helpful to changing the realities in our part of the world strategically if not by sitting with the Syrians and talking with the Syrians.  Of course there is a price to pay.  The question isn't only if this price worth the pay off that we can have from having peace with Syria that will change the entire face of our region. 
We have started.  I hope that we will embark on direct negotiations soon.  Everyone knows - the Syrians announced it as well as we - that we are engaged in indirect talks through the good services of Turkey but I think that we have reached the point wherefrom we have to start now direct negotiations and I will make an exceptional effort that these negotiations will start and that it will be then followed up by the new Government that will be established hopefully in Israel after the coming elections and that this Government will be conscious of the opportunities as well as of the risks involved in making this process.  If one wants to take a serious initiative to make peace without any risks he should live in Switzerland maybe or in Holland.  If one wants to make peace in the Middle East there must be risks involved, there is no question about it. 
I think Israel is a strong country.  We are enormously powerful.  We can defeat all our enemies.  If we have to, we prefer to make peace with all our enemies so that we will not have to fight again and that we will have to exhaust all the potential that we have in order to build up what we dreamt of all our lives which is a paradise for ourselves, for our neighbours, for all the Jewish people that will come and live hopefully in the State of Israel and if not them their children – and some of your children already live in Israel.
Finally there is Iran.  I want to share with you something very personal.  My wife was born in a refugee camp in Germany after the War and a few years ago she wrote a personal story which was published in Israel, translated into German, French, I think also English, about the resurrection of a family coming from the refugee camp in Germany into the State of Israel and a few weeks ago she was invited on 9th November to speak in Germany.  She was invited by Foreign Minister Steinmeier to speak about the Kristallnacht.  And she described what it was seventy years ago, that one night all of the Jewish institutes in Germany and in Austria were destroyed in the most violent manner and a hundred Jews were killed and 30,000 were arrested and everything that was part of the Jewish culture and Jewish life and Jewish heritage was destroyed overnight and the world did not comprehend the signal. 
The next day, on 10th November the headline in the New York Times which is not always the friendliest paper to the State of Israel but which is definitely not an anti-semitic press - is a Jewish paper, was always [a] Jewish paper and owned by [b Jewish family – they wrote:  Violence against Jews swept Germany and Austria – Goebbels stopped it.  Did they want to write something which they knew was wrong – no?  The perception was not clear even to them.  This is the same Goebbels who was responsible for the final plan of the liquidation of the Jewish people. 
Three weeks ago, a month ago, a leader of a nation of eighty million people stood up in the packed hall of the United Nation[s] chamber, a packed hall and he talked about the liquidation of a member state of the United Nation[s].  No-one left and in the end of his speech he was applauded and my wife asked in Germany, are again we're missing the signal? Don't we understand that when a leader of a nation of eighty million people talks about the liquidation of another nation and at the same time he's making extraordinary efforts against the pressure of most of the civilised world to build up a non-conventional power that this is a signal that we can't really ignore; that we have to take all the necessary measures and join forces together with all the powers that we possess in order to stop it before it becomes too late.
I talked about it with British leaders as well because I talk about it with other leaders.  Israel is not the only country which has to worry about it.  Israel will not be the leader of this effort.  It has to be led by the greatest and the most powerful nations of the world because this is a threat against our civilisation not just the State of Israel – although we may become the first target – and I hope that things will be done. 
I don't want to go into details for obvious reasons.  There is a new President coming, taking over soon in the United States.  He said explicitly and clearly that he is against any nuclearisation of Iran and that he will make every possible effort to stop it and I am confident that he will make these efforts and I know what the attitude of Gordon Brown and Sarkozy and Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi and I talk a lot with the Russian leaders.  There must be an effort.  Israel will be part of this effort.  Israel will not be the leader of this effort.  It has to be the joint force of all these great nations together to stop the Iranian threat.
Henry, as you said at the beginning, it looks like this is my last appearance at this time in life as Prime Minister of the State of Israel before this very distinguished group of Jewish leaders in Great Britain and I am very proud that I was given this opportunity.
I want to thank you.  One thing I need to say, just in order to avoid any misunderstandings, I am going to continue to be a proud citizen of the State of Israel and I'm going to do everything in my power to help accomplish the goals that guided me while I was Prime Minister because there is nothing that I love more than the State of Israel and the Jewish people.  Thank you very much

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Madoff Exploited the Jews, but law enforcement could have stopped him

Point number one is well taken: Madoff exploited the Jews. Point number two, that regulation and oversight would not have helped, is impossible to fathom. There are laws protecting women from being beaten by their husbands, and US oversight over the Kosher food industry. Why can't laws protect friends from swindling other friends? The SEC was clearly asleep at the wheel in the best case. This is an amazing assertion:
The SEC's failure to pursue complaints about Mr. Madoff over the past decade wasn't the result of inadequate regulations but of disbelief that someone so well entrenched in the industry -- a former Nasdaq chairman and SEC adviser -- was capable of committing such a callous crime.
What happened to blind justice?
Ami Isseroff
Madoff Exploited the Jews
Networks of trust are vulnerable. No law can change that.
Steven Spielberg. Elie Wiesel. Mort Zuckerman. Frank Lautenberg. Yeshiva University. As I read the list of people and enterprises reportedly bilked to the tune of $50 billion by Bernard Madoff, I recalled a childhood in which my father received bad news by asking first, "Was it a Jew?" My father coupled sensitivity to anti-Semitism with special sympathy for other Jews. In contrast, Mr. Madoff, it seems, targeted other Jews, drawing them in at least in some measure because of a shared faith.
The Madoff tale is striking in part because it is like stealing from family. Yet frauds that prey on people who share bonds of religion or ethnicity, who travel in the same circles, are quite common. Two years ago the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a warning about "affinity fraud." The SEC ticked off a series of examples of schemes that were directed at members of a community: Armenian-Americans, Baptist Church members, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American church groups, Korean-Americans. In each case, the perpetrator relied on the fact that being from the same community provided a reason to trust the sales pitch, to believe it was plausible that someone from the same background would give you a deal that, if offered by someone without such ties, would sound too good to be true.
The sense of common heritage, of community, also makes it less seemly to ask hard questions. Pressing a fellow parishioner or club member for hard information is like demanding receipts from your aunt -- it just doesn't feel right. Hucksters know that, they play on it, and they count on our trust to make their confidence games work.
The level of affinity and of trust may be especially high among Jews. The Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitic laws and practices around the world made reliance on other Jews, and care for them, a survival instinct. As a result, Jews are often an easy target both for fund-raising appeals and fraud. But affinity plays a role in many groups, making members more trusting of appeals within the group.
On one level, the number of these affinity frauds is testament to the strength of communities in America. Alexis de Tocqueville -- the one Frenchman generally admired by Americans for his good sense and understanding of our nation -- observed that we are a nation of different organizations and clubs, of civic groups and church groups, a web of social and ethnic and religious communities. We define ourselves as American, but also as Jews and Catholics, Mormons and Baptists, as Cuban and Italian, Irish and Japanese, as Rotarians and Masons, Democrats and Republicans.
Predictably, the Madoff story has prompted speculation about potential new regulations that might be imposed to head off future problems. Politicians and pundits have called for the adoption of new rules for securities markets in general and hedge funds in particular, even though Mr. Madoff didn't run a hedge fund and there is no shortage of existing securities rules that were violated by his reported conduct. (Keeping two sets of books suggests his own recognition of that.)

The SEC's failure to pursue complaints about Mr. Madoff over the past decade wasn't the result of inadequate regulations but of disbelief that someone so well entrenched in the industry -- a former Nasdaq chairman and SEC adviser -- was capable of committing such a callous crime.
Although regulatory initiatives routinely are taken off the shelf and offered up as the solution to a newsworthy problem, the conduct Mr. Madoff is accused of was illegal long before Charles Ponzi made pyramid schemes synonymous with his name. With so many aspects of our financial system under scrutiny today, and so many people in the government who regulate and write the rules for that system set to change, it hardly makes sense to go looking for ways to prevent new Madoff-like schemes.
So far as news reports can be trusted, Mr. Madoff appears to be a special case, someone whose whole career made fraud on this scale possible. His contacts and connections, his religion and affiliations, his public and private positions, all worked to make his funds look legitimate and exclusive. And he knew how to play his prospects, when to turn potential clients down, when to give something extra.
In retrospect, the current Madoff story is about someone who was as perfectly suited to swindling as Horowitz was to playing piano. The violation of trust at the heart of that story -- of trust by those with the greatest reason to trust -- cries out for sympathy. It illustrates the limits of law, not the need for more of it.
Mr. Cass is dean emeritus of Boston University School of Law, president of Cass & Associates, and chairman of the Center for the Rule of Law.

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The young Adolf Hitler: Furor over fuhrer name

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, zu unseren jungen Führer.

Last update - 14:06 17/12/2008
3-year-old Adolf Hitler finally gets his name on his birthday cake
By The Associated Press

The father of 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell is asking for a little tolerance, after a New Jersey supermarket refused to decorate a birthday cake with the child's full name on it.

Heath Campbell and his wife, Deborah, are upset not only with the decision made by the nearby ShopRite, but also with an outpouring of angry Internet postings in response to a local newspaper article about the cake.

Heath Campbell, who is 35, said in an interview Tuesday that people should look forward, not back, and accept change.

"They need to accept a name. A name's a name. The kid isn't going to grow up and do what [Hitler] did," he said.

Deborah Campbell, 25, said she phoned in her order last week to the ShopRite. When she told the bakery department she wanted her son's name spelled out, she was told to talk to a supervisor, who denied the request.
Karen Meleta, a spokeswoman for ShopRite, said the Campbells had similar requests denied at the same store the last two years and said Heath Campbell previously had asked for a swastika to be included in the decoration.
"We reserve the right not to print anything on the cake that we deem to be inappropriate,"Meleta said. We considered this inappropriate.
The Campbells ultimately got their cake decorated at a Wal-Mart in Pennsylvania, Deborah Campbell said. About 12 people attended the birthday party on Sunday, including several children who were of mixed race, according to Heath Campbell.
"If we're so racist, then why would I have them come into my home?" he asked.The Campbells' other two children also have unusual names: JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell turns 2 in a few months and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell will be 1 in April.
Heath Campbell said he named his son after Adolf Hitler because he liked the name and because no one else in the world would have that name.
On Tuesday he wore a pair of black boots he said were worn by a German soldier during World War II.
Campbell said his ancestors are German and that he has lived all his life in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, which is across the Delaware River from Easton

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arab world hails blogger who threw shows at Bush hailed as hero

Sentiment on Al Jazeera poll - 73% hail the shoe thrower as a hero. Americans should understand that the man was really throwing shows at every American.

Iraqi who threw shoes at Bush hailed as Arab hero

Dec. 15, 2008
Khaled Abu Toameh , THE JERUSALEM POST

Muntadar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at US President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad on Sunday, is being hailed throughout the Arab world as a hero, with many calling on other journalists to use the same method against the Arab heads of state.

The overwhelming majority of comments posted on various Arabic Web sites also heaped praise on the Iraqi journalist. Many described him as a "lion" and prayed to God that he would be released unharmed.

Dozens of Arab lawyers expressed their readiness to defend al-Zeidi, while many Arab journalists protested against his arrest and praised him as one of the most respected newsmen in the Arab world.

Bush ducked a pair of shoes hurled at his head - one shoe after the other - in the middle of a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Both shoes narrowly missed their target and thumped loudly against the wall behind the leaders.

"Don't worry about it," the president said as the room erupted into chaos.

Iraqi reporters started shouting what Bush later explained were apologies for the incident.

"So what if the guy threw a shoe at me?" Bush said, comparing the action to political protests in the United States.

"If you want the facts, it was a size 10," he joked.

The shoe attack came as Bush and al-Maliki were about to shake hands. At that point al-Zeidi leaped from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away.

"This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."

The crowd descended on al-Zeidi, who works for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo.

He was wrestled to the ground by security officials and then hauled away, moaning as they departed the room. Later, a trail of fresh blood could be seen on the carpet, although the source was not known.

In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. When US Marines toppled Saddam Hussein's statue on Firdos Square in 2003, the assembled crowd whacked it with their shoes.

When Bush met with reporters later aboard Air Force One, he had a joke prepared: "I didn't know what the guy said but I saw his 'sole.'"

Later, he said: "I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet."

Many Arab reporters are now worried that they will be asked to take off their shoes before attending press conferences with US officials. A Palestinian journalist joked that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank have begun confiscating all shoes from the local markets as a precautionary measure ahead of a scheduled visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the Palestinian editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, defended the Iraqi journalist's action, saying he must have felt frustrated because of the deterioration in his country.

"The new Iraq that Bush is boasting about has become a mass grave and a battlefield," he said in an editorial entitled, "An Appropriate Farewell for a War Criminal."

"One million Iraqis have died and another five million have fled the new democracy of Iraq," he added.

Atwan, who is known for his anti-American sentiments, said that while he disagreed with the journalist over the method he used to express his opinion, "he was only expressing the opinion of the silent majority of Iraqis who are suffering. There is no water, no electricity and no work opportunities in a country that is supposed to be one of the richest in the Arab world."

Atwan also criticized the Iraqi journalist's colleagues who were quick to apologize to Bush following the embarrassing incident.

"We don't agree with the Iraqi journalists who apologized to Bush," he said. "This Iraqi colleague was only practicing his right of expression. It's Bush who has to apologize to the Iraqis for shedding their blood. This journalist represents the true face of the Iraqis."

The Al-Jazeera Web site, one of the most popular in the Arab world, said it received a record of 3,500 talkbacks in response to the incident. Over 90% of the Arabs who posted comments expressed full support for al-Zeidi and condemned Bush as a war criminal who deserved to die.

Some of the comments hailed the journalist for "degrading the American president who has killed many Muslims and Arabs," while others described him as "national hero" and as the man who brought honor to all Muslims and Arabs.

Mohammed Gandi, one of the readers who posted a comment, said that the Iraqi journalist represented the wish of the majority of the Arabs who hate Bush and those who are conspiring with him - a reference to US-supported Arab dictators.

Ahmed Osman, another reader, advised the Arab rulers to hold their press conferences only in mosques to avoid being attacked with shoes, since Muslims are required to take off their shoes before entering a mosque.

Fadi Tahan called on journalists who attend press conferences with Arab leaders "to wear bigger shoes so that they could help us get rid of these dictators."

Rashid Ramadani prayed to God that he would "bless the hands of the Iraqi journalist. One billion thanks to this Iraqi hero. We are very proud of you; you made us cry out of joy."

Ahmed al-Kadry expressed hope that the Arab dictators would be punished in a similar manner.

"This journalist is one of the greatest men in the Arab world," he said. "I hope that all the Arab presidents will see what happened and draw conclusions. I think it's time to say to all the criminals of the world to go away."

Hussein al-Bassoumi predicted that the Iraqi journalist would become a "legendary" hero for the Arabs and Muslims and that future generations would be taught about his "legend."

He urged the Arab masses to name streets and public squares after the journalist. He also urged the Iraqis to place the shoes that were used in the attacks in a museum in Baghdad.

Huda Azzam wrote: "Thank you to this brave journalist who has taught the Arab leaders a lesson in bravery. We hope Arab lawyers will form a special committee to defend this hero."

Addressing the journalist, Mahmoud al-Arabi said, "We salute the symbol of the Arabs and Islam. Please allow us on this day to kiss your hand on behalf of all the Arabs and Muslims."

Mohammed Ghaleb said that the Iraqi journalist will be defended not only by 100 lawyers, "but by millions of Arabs and billions of Muslims. He is a bright light in our dark day, God bless him. This is a beautiful day."

AP contributed to this report.


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Hadassah may have lost $90 million in Madoff ripoff

Another ripple in this revolting affair
By Jacob Berkman · December 17, 2008

Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, announced that it had lost $90 million with Bernard Madoff.
"We are currently in the process of investigating the exact amounts and their impact, but it appears that at the time of his arrest, Hadassah had approximately $90 million invested with his firm," the organization said Wednesday in a statement. "Falling victim to this unprecedented fraud will require us to make necessary adjustments, but it has not in the slightest affected our commitment to our core Zionist mission. These are indeed turbulent times, but the key pillars of Hadassah remain as strong as ever."
Madoff was one of more than two dozen firms with which its funds were invested, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
This takes a sizable chunk out of Hadassah's endowment, which was believed to be worth around $500 million.
Hadassah was already facing tough times because of the current economic downfall, adopting cuts in its operating budget and expecting additional reductions in the coming months. The details of the yet-to-be-determined cuts are likely to become more clear following a board meeting in January.
"Now the Madoff situation compounds accelerates the matter," said a source close to the situation.
A Hadassah spokesman said it is not clear whether the losses connected to Madoff will affect the construction of a new tower at its main campus in Ein-Kerem in Israel.
The $210 million Hadassah Medical Center the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower was started with a $75 million gift from Detroit Piston's owner William Davidson.

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Barak: Iran could attack U.S. with atom bomb

Last update - 21:11 17/12/2008       
Barak: Iran could attack U.S. with atom bomb
By The Associated Press
Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Wednesday that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, it could try to attack the United States.
Speaking at a conference of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, the defense minister said the world should press Iran to stop it from building nuclear weapons.
"If it built even a primitive nuclear weapon like the type that destroyed Hiroshima, Iran would not hesitate to load it on a ship, arm it with a detonator operated by GPS and sail it into a vital port on the east coast of North America," Barak told the audience.
Indicating the possibility of a military strike, Barak said, "We are not taking any option off the table, and we recommend to the world not to take any option off the table, and we mean what we say."

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NATO won't travel in Sderot, Ashkelon without armored cars

Something to think about:

Story: Barak says IDF won't rush into Gaza op, after 3 hurt by Kassams

... Earlier on Wednesday, Spokesman for the United States Military's European Command Capt. Ed Buclatin visited Sderot as the guest of IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu.

Buclatin was driven through Ashkelon and Sderot in an armored vehicle provided by the IDF. Military sources said that the Americans requested the vehicle due to the Kassam barrage.

US officials rejected a report that aired on Army Radio according to which Washington recently issued a directive that all US officials need to travel in armored vehicles in Sderot and Ashkelon. The officials said that each case was evaluated on an individual basis.

"This is not a sweeping directive but when there is a threat like there was today then the security instructions are to travel in an armored car," an American official explained.

So my questions are

1- If there is ever a NATO force deployed inside Gaza, as Jim Jones wants, will they ever get out of their armored cars?

2- Should Israel be requesting armored cars for every resident of Sderot and Ashqelon as part of the next aid package? I mean, if an army officer can't travel in safety without an armored car, then what about a mother driving her kids to school?  

Ami Isseroff

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What caused the Eilat Bus Crash?

Last update - 16:56 17/12/2008       
Mofaz: Dispute between bus drivers definitely caused fatal Eilat crash
By Haaretz Staff
Senior police officials said Wednesday that there was no evidence that the fatal bus crash on the road to Eilat Tuesday, which left 24 Russian tourists dead and dozens hurt, was caused by a dispute between two bus drivers. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, however, insisted that the accident was preceded by an argument which led to the tragic turn of events.
"There was an argument at the checkpoint," Mofaz reiterated at a press conference held in response to doubts voiced by police officials. "I don't intend to conceal anything, the debate in the media isn't necessary," he added. He had said earlier that two bus drivers argued between themselves over who would pass the northern checkpoint on the road and that the dispute continued in the attempts at overtaking.
"As the transportation minister I have my own considerations, I heard the testimony and I consulted with experts," Mofaz said in an interview with Israel Radio. "At this time, the conclusions aren't final, and we're still waiting for the final conclusions. However, the evidence clearly points to an argument, a lack of judgment and careless driving with disregard to road conditions."
However, Chief Superintendent Noam Biegansky, who heads the team investigating the accident, told Israel Radio that there was no evidence to support Mofaz' assertion. "I don't really have an explanation," he said, "It's not something that I learned from the evidence we have gathered so far ? not a wild speeding contest, no reckless driving and nothing of the sort."
Rami Vazana, the driver of the bus that was allegedly overtaken, also discounted Mofaz's accusation, saying: "There was no dispute."
At least 24 people were killed and 31 injured in the worst traffic accident in Israeli history when a bus veered off the road between Eilat and Ovda International Airport on Tuesday and plunged into a deep ravine. Many of the victims were Russian tourists.
Mofaz's comments came after the driver of a bus that crashed said he lost control of the vehicle when an object fell on him while overtaking.
According to initial reports, the bus driver, 39-year-old Edward Gelfond of Petah Tikva, may have been speeding when he tried to overtake a bus in front of him and lost control of the vehicle. The bus crashed through a safety barrier and fell 60 meters down a deep slope, overturning a few times before settling on its side.
Gelfond is said to have 22 previous traffic violations, though his driver's license was valid.
Israel Air Force helicopters were quickly scrambled to airlift the survivors to Yoseftal, Soroka and Hadassah Ein Karem medical centers.
The bus was carrying a group of Russian travel agents, mostly women, who had only just landed in Israel for an eight-day promotional tour of the country. It was part of a convoy that included two other buses traveling on the meandering road toward the resort town Eliat on the Red Sea coast.
"I was on duty at the station when we received the call," said Gabi Brivo, the head of the Magen David Adom ambulance service in Eilat. "Within minutes we were at the scene and saw the bus that had fallen down the slope. There were dozens of dead and injured that were thrown out the broken windows laying on the slope. First we attended to the injured and carried them down the slope to the bottom of the wadi.
"We evacuated them by the severity of their injuries. We carried out 15 resuscitations and managed to save a few lives. Meanwhile, dozens of ambulances arrived on the scene. It was the worst accident I've ever seen in my career."
Vazana, the driver of the bus that Gelfond tried to overtake, reconstructed the moments leading to the accident.
"He was in front of me in the beginning," Vazana recalled. "When we reached the Netafim roadblock he was held up. One of the soldiers boarded the bus to examination and gave me the go-ahead first. I began to drive down the descending road slowly and carefully, as you should.
"Meanwhile, the bus behind me tried to overtake me. But the road began to bend and he couldn't make the turn. He crashed into the safety barrier and plunged down the cliff. I stopped the bus and three of us went down carrying bottles of water. It was a terrible sight. We left the water bottles there and went back up to the buses because our passengers were in a terrible panic and wanted me to take them to their hotels. We took them to their hotels and that was that."
Sami Gonen, the driver of a bus that was traveling in the opposite direction, said Gelfond's bus would have crashed into him if it had not swerved off the road.
"About 3 P.M. I was driving up from Eilat to Ovda on Road 12 when I saw a bus driven by Rami Vazana. Then the bus that fell into the wadi began to overtake him from the left and swerved off the road. If he had completed the turn he would have crashed into me. He didn't even manage to break."
Mofaz came to inspect the scene of the accident and criticized the courts for not being tough enough against traffic violators.
Standing beside the burned-out skeleton of the bus, Mofaz said that according to initial reports Gelfond and Vazana had a heated exchange of words at the Netafim roadblock, after which both began speeding.
"We still don't know what happened from that moment after the roadblock until the horrendous end here in the wadi," Mofaz said. "We will investigate the turn of events over the next few days."
Channel 2 news quoted Gelfond as saying from his hospital bed that he was not speeding and did not exceed the speed limit of 70 kilometers per hour.
Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, the chairman of the Zaka rescue service, said it was one of the worst accidents he had seen since 1989, when the 405 bus from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv drove off a sharp slope.
Giora Arkady, the head of the travel agency that organized the tour, sat behind the driver's seat and survived the crash. He was evacuated in relatively light condition to Yoseftal Medical Center in Eilat.
"I sat behind the driver and I guess that's what saved me," Arkady said. "I was busy sorting documents and suddenly everything turned black. I found myself laying on the slope. Everything was black and quiet in the beginning and then I could hear the cries of the injured. I did not know the travel agents beforehand. They were all beautiful people. When I saw them on the slope, it was awful."
Arkady's wife Miriam arrived at the Eilat airport to meet her husband at the same time the accident occurred. "I got off the plane to the bus and on the way the driver said there was an accident. I got on the phone to Giora and managed to speak to him. He said he was okay." She drove to the scene and was reunited with Giora. They were flown together to Yoseftal Medical Center.

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Hamas warcrimes continue: Two people wounded as Qassam strikes Sderot

Last update - 18:30 17/12/2008       
Two people wounded as Qassam strikes Sderot
By Yanir Yagna, Haaretz Correspondent, and Haaretz Service
Shortly thereafter, the Israel Air Force bombed two Qassam rocket launchers in Gaza. The launchers were destroyed, but it was not clear whether any gunmen were hit.
Earlier Wednesday, two rockets exploded near Ashkelon. Two people were treated at the nearby Barzilai Medical Center for hearing loss following the strike.
Another rocket hit an open area in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, and another struck just south of Ashkelon. The rest exploded in open areas in the Eshkol area. There were no damages or injuries reported in the incidents.
On Tuesday, militants fired 11 rockets and a mortar shell at the western Negev. One of the rockets exploded in a soccer field next to Sapir College in Sderot. There were no injuries, but several people were treated for shock.
Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rockets fired on Tuesday, saying they were a response to the Israel Defense Forces' killing of a top group commander in the West Bank earlier in the day.
Jihad has threatened to increase its cross-border rocket fire, despite the days remaining in the ruce. "Our rockets will not stop and it will be like the rain over all the Zionist towns around the Gaza Strip," said Abu Hamza, a spokesman for the Palestinian militant group.
Hamas has in recent days arrested several members of the smaller Palestinian factions responsible for the rocket fire. While the group's leaders announced Tuesday that they did not intend to renew the cease-fire, they also said they would not fire at Israel unless provoked.

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Report: Israel has secret Gaza action plan

Cabinet approved secret Gaza plan last week; now, ministers must keep silent
Published:  12.17.08, 00:52 / Israel Opinion 

Part 2 of analysis by Ron-Ben Yishai
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, as opposed to what is being published on occasion, is not enthusiastic about escalating the IDF's response to the sporadic rocket and mortar fire originating from Gaza. He knows that harsh responses will ultimately require the IDF to carry out a large-scale operation in the Strip which it does not wish to embark on at this time. Therefore, Olmert is adhering to the same restrained positions as Barak and Ashkenazi.
Yet this leaves many members of the Israeli public confused and mostly frustrated. Reports regarding Hamas' considerations in favor of and against the lull abound. Yet the considerations that prompt the Israeli government to openly declare that it wishes to see the lull go on are much less clearer to Israel's citizens. The statements made by the politicians lead us to understand that top security officials are curbing more hawkish actions, which many ministers support.
The explanations offered by Defense Minister Barak to the public fail to make it clear why the ministers - including Deputy PM Ramon, Foreign Minister Livni, and Transportation Minister Mofaz, among others - make do with belligerent statements, instead of uniting in order to enforce a belligerent decision in the cabinet. It is still unclear what Minister Barak and his deputy Vilnai mean when they say that the IDF is prepared to carry out a broad and creative series of Gaza operations, and will be carrying it out - at the "right time." What conditions are required in order to create this timing?
The key to deciphering all those question marks apparently has to do with the policy and action plan formulated by top security officials. The plan was approved by the kitchen-cabinet last week. We are dealing with a plan that is meant to secure several targets, including the release of Gilad Shalit and a long-term solution to the terror attacks originating in the Gaza Strip.
There is no way of knowing whether the policy and action plan are effective and whether they will secure the desired results. Their execution may prove that we are dealing with a complete fiasco. However, security officials are justifiably claiming that exposing the plan, and even exposing the considerations it is based on and the preparatory steps required for its successful execution, may jeopardize its outcome and the lives of IDF soldiers.
For that reason, the prime minister and senior ministers make sure to remain silent and vague - this includes making ministers and senior officials and officers sign declarations of secrecy. It is legitimate for the government and defense establishment to prevent such sensitive information from being revealed publicly. However, this requires government ministers to draw the right conclusions and maintain their restraint.
The vague statements made by ministers because of electoral considerations on the advice of their strategic advisors cause damage. On the one hand, they do not help the public in understanding and coping with the situation, yet on the other hand they may expose Israel's intentions. Even the defense minister and foreign minister must behave responsibly now, overcome their urges, and remain silent.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds

December 15, 2008 No. 2151 
Director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies: The Soviet Virus Is Still Entrenched in the Arabs' Minds
In an article published in the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Dr. 'Abd Al-Mun'im Sa'id, director of the Al-AhramCenter for Political and Strategic Studies, criticized the Arabs' attitude towards the current global economic crisis. He stated that the Arabs still harbored pro-Soviet sympathies, which had recently found expression in their gloating over the global economic crisis currently affecting the U.S. Said added that the Arabs were acting as if the world were still divided into blocs, as in the days of the Cold War, and that he found this attitude surprising, given that the crisis was bound to hit the significant Arab economic interests in the West.
Following are excerpts from the article: [1]
"Every Time Vladimir Putin Comes Out With a Strong Statement Against the West, and Especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab Lobby… Announces the Long-Awaited Soviet Comeback to the International Arena"
"The term 'lobby' has gained wide currency in the Arab world, since it has become part of the political process in the U.S. This term refers to a group that pressures various political institutions to adopt a certain policy. Occasionally, [lobbying] goes so far as to promote foreign interests. [In the U.S.,] the well-known examples [of lobbying] include the Israeli, the Taiwanese, and the Greek lobbies.
"While in the Arab world there are no institutionalized [lobbies] in the judiciary sense, 'pressure groups' mushroom wherever there is a conflict of economic or ideological interests, or whenever there is a need to choose between different policies regarding national or pan-Arab interests. All this is obvious…
"What cannot be either conceived of or accepted is [that] the Soviet Union, which no longer exists… has a strong Arab 'lobby.' [The Soviet Union] disintegrated in 1990, and in its place arose 15 sovereign republics, which were accepted as members of the United Nations, and each with commercial, economic, and political ties with the neighboring Arab countries…
"Every time Vladimir Putin comes out with a strong statement against the West, and especially the U.S… the Soviet Arab lobby immediately springs into action, applauds, and announces the long-awaited Soviet comeback to the international arena. But the Soviets' big return [to the real world] occurred when they invaded Georgia and backed separatist groups there, [thus] becoming the only country to acquiesce to two states - Abhasia and South Ossetia.
"Under normal circumstances… the Arab world would have automatically objected to the invasion of a small country by a large one, just as it would have rejected the idea of a separatist movement - which is understandable considering what the Arabs [have suffered under] imperialist powers, and Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people. [It is also understandable considering the Arabs'] fear of disrupting the balance of forces between the Arab states and their powerful neighbors, and of the disintegration of modern Arab states due to [internal] strife.
"In our times, the Arabs are concerned about the fate of Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, and Lebanon. It is difficult to foresee what the future holds as far as surrendering to cruel foreign forces, [internal] rifts, and internecine wars. [One might have thought that,] by now, the Arabs should have had enough of this - enough to unanimously oppose Russia's invasion of Georgia.
"However, the [Arab] countries remained silent, while the [Arab] media cheered in approval, [believing that] this invasion heralded the comeback of the Soviet Union to the international arena. [They reacted to the Russian invasion] as though a unified Arab state had been established, or the Arabs had joined the camp of the developed countries."

Ideologically, the Situation in the Arab World Is Anomalous
"The most serious developments, [however,] occurred in the wake of the current economic crisis. It is then that the Arabs' '[pro-]Soviet mentality' took the form of uncanny enthusiasm… Most of the Arab capital and financial reserves are invested in banks and institutions in the West… The upshot is that the Arabs have extensive [economic] interests in the West, and especially in the U.S., and as a result [depend on] its economic wellbeing.
"[But] what took place in the Arab world, [and particularly] in its press and media, was astounding. There were almost no efforts to make sense of the crisis and no attempts to envisage its impact on us and to find ways to cope with the situation.
"Some among us decided to announce the premature death of the U.S., the revival of the Soviet Union, and the return of the happy days when the world was bi- or multi-polar. But above all else, they hastened to announce the end of the capitalist [era, in hope that] this would enable the countries to run their economies in exactly the same way as during the time of the Soviet Union and socialism.
"What is especially odd is that 'the Soviet lobby' is not comprised solely of veteran socialists, but has [recently] been joined by new and old Islamist groups, which believe that both socialism and capitalism must [now] be replaced by an Islamic regime…
"[I reiterate:] Ideologically, the situation in the Arab world is anomalous. While the educated in India, China, and, of course, in Europe and the U.S. analyzed the developments and [took measures] to remedy the situation, the Arab [elites], propelled by the obsolete [pro-]Soviet mentality, gloated over what happened and wished for a overall collapse - as if they themselves, along with their compatriots, would remain unscathed and avoid going down with the ship.
"Exactly the same thing happened two decades ago, with the advent of globalization, that harbinger of the modern world order: The overwhelming majority of the world [elites] accepted this historical change, with the exception of a handful of the left, along with Arab journalists and spokesmen, who were swayed by their [pro-]Soviet yearnings.
"[The same pattern] re-emerged after the September 11 attacks, when the conspiracy theory and solidarity with Al-Qaeda and bin Laden were much more widespread in the Arab countries than elsewhere - even more so than in the [rest of the] Muslim world. Indeed, poll results in Turkey, Nigeria and Indonesia differed dramatically from those in the Arab countries.
"The reason for this is that the Soviet virus and the Cold War are still [part of] the aspirations and desires of the Arab capital cities - in cafes, in the newspapers, and on television channels."
[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 22, 2008.

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Assessment: 'Iran influence over Hamas is growing'

'Iran influence over Hamas is growing'

Dec. 15, 2008

Iran's influence over Hamas has increased in recent months and Teheran is playing a key role in the terror group's decision-making process regarding whether to extend the cease-fire with Israel that will expire on Friday, defense officials said Monday.

According to the officials, Egypt - which for years was the main address for dealings with Hamas - has lost its authority over the terror group and is being replaced in part by Iran. The Gaza issue has been a source of contention between Teheran and Cairo in recent weeks.

As an example of Egypt's decline, the official noted that in November, Hamas rejected an Egyptian request to come to Cairo for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Egyptian influence over Hamas has dropped," a senior defense official said Monday. "Iran's influence, on the other hand, is on the rise."

On Monday, some 80 trucks carrying fuel and basic humanitarian supplies were allowed into the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom and Nahal Oz Crossings.

Defense officials said that the crossings were specially opened to allow the transfer of the supplies, which Israel is obligated to allow into Gaza even when the crossings are officially closed.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that he would not be deterred from launching a military operation in Gaza.

"I am not deterred from an operation in Gaza but am also not running into Gaza," Barak said, during a meeting with visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer. "If there will be quiet it will be met by quiet. If the truce will be breached and there is no choice, we will operate in the right way and at the right time."

Although the truce began on June 19, "it was agreed explicitly that there is no expiration date" in the agreement, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad said Monday, a day after returning from talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo.

"In the end, the test is the calm and the benefit the residents have had for long months, even though it is relative calm," he added.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal however, said on Sunday that the truce would not be renewed when it expires on Friday. Other Hamas officials said that the group had not yet made a decision on whether or not they would seek to renew the agreement.

Asked whether any progress had been made on the issue of captured soldier Gilad Schalit during the talks in Egypt that he had on Sunday, Gilad said the only real test was "whether he's [in Israel] or not."

He said that the issue of the cease-fire with Hamas was crucial to freeing the captured soldier, and expressed hope that Schalit "would return alive and well."

Meanwhile, Israel released 224 Palestinian prisoners Monday in a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Jubilant detainees waving Palestinian flags jumped on the roof of one of the buses carrying them to freedom.

The buses headed from an IDF checkpoint to Abbas's headquarters in nearby Ramallah, where he hugged and kissed each former detainee.

Initially, Israel was to free 227 prisoners. However, Israeli Prison Service spokesman Yaron Zamir said only 224 were freed, and the release of three others was still under review.

Eighteen of the prisoners were released to Gaza.

Abbas told the detainees in Ramallah that he would work to win the release of all the remaining prisoners in Israeli jails.

"Our happiness will not be complete until all of the 11,000 prisoners are freed," Abbas said.

One of the prisoners, Abdel Nasser Hussein, 28, had been arrested at dawn on his wedding day 30 months ago. His fiancee, Alaa Issa, showed up smartly dressed in a matching coat and head scarf Monday, bearing a bouquet of red roses. They hugged and kissed.

"It's indescribable happiness," said Hussein, a former member of the Palestinian security forces. "You can't put a price on freedom, and my hope that is that the president will keep working for my colleagues to be released."

After exchanging rings, they walked arm-in-arm, their friends and family clapping and singing a traditional wedding song. They plan to marry in two weeks.

AP contributed to this report.


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Gaza heating up as truce nears end - decision approaching?

The Gaza puppets lined up behind the plan of the Syrian puppetmaster. They did not went to end the truce, but Syria needs to end it.
Last update - 09:25 16/12/2008       
Agreement in Hamas: Cease-fire to end Friday
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
After expressing contradictory positions on Sunday, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: The cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended.
On Sunday, the Damascus-based head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal, had said precisely that, but Gaza-based leaders of the movement insisted that no decision had yet been reached.
Monday, however, Hamas' spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, said the movement had concluded that there was no point in extending the truce "as long as Israel isn't abiding by its terms" - though he added that talks on continuing the cease-fire were still taking place.
Specifically, Taha said, Israel was supposed to have expanded the truce to the West Bank - something Hamas demanded but Israel in fact never promised - and opened the Gaza border crossings, and "this hasn't happened."
Asked whether this means Hamas will launch a massive barrage at Israeli targets on Friday, Taha replied that the organization would only respond to Israeli aggression.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that Israel is not "running into Gaza," but is also not afraid of a military operation there.
"If the lull is violated and the situation requires it," he told Austrian President Heinz Fischer, in Jerusalem, "we will act in the proper manner."
Israeli defense sources said they believe Hamas is still internally divided over whether to extend the truce, but in any case, the army will heighten its alert along the Gaza border lest Hamas opt for escalation.
Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's political-security department, told Israel Radio Monday that if Hamas violates the cease-fire, "we need to take suitable military action." Nevertheless, he added, he opposes a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, because "we've already tried military solutions in the past, and this has not always brought immediate results."
Moreover, said Gilad, such an operation would make Israel responsible for 1.5 million Palestinian residents of Gaza, inflame the Muslim world and endanger the peace with Jordan and Egypt.
Last update - 13:49 16/12/2008       
Rockets and mortar hit Negev, as end of Gaza truce looms
By Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondents
Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday fired four Qassam rockets and a mortar shell at the western Negev, just days before a six-month truce between Israel and Gaza factions was set to expire.
The rockets exploded in open fields in the Eshkol Regional Council and the shell struck the nearby area of Sdot Negev.
The Islamic Jihad militant group in Gaza said it launched the rockets as revenge, after undercover IDF troops killed one of its top commanders in the West Bank earlier Tuesday.
Witnesses in the West Bank said the undercover troops shot at Jihad Nawahda, 20, while he was outside a coffee shop in the village of Yamoun, near Jenin.
Troops surrounded the coffee shop and shot at the militant when he tried to flee arrest. Security sources said he died on the way to hospital.
Nawahda had been arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces and released a few months ago. An IDF spokeswoman said troops had gone to arrest the militant, who was suspected of plotting to carry out attacks in the Jenin area. The troops opened fire at him as he tried to flee arrest, the spokeswoman said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced just after the rocket attacks that border crossings with the Gaza Strip would be closed again, due to security concerns.
Meanwhile, Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance not to extend the truce with Israel, which is set to expire on Friday, December 19. This stance comes after group leaders expressed contradictory positions with regard to the cease-fire on on Sunday.
On Sunday, the Damascus-based head of Hamas' political bureau, Khaled Meshal, had said precisely that, but Gaza-based leaders of the movement insisted that no decision had yet been reached.
Monday, however, Hamas' spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ayman Taha, said the movement had concluded that there was no point in extending the truce "as long as Israel isn't abiding by its terms" - though he added that talks on continuing the cease-fire were still taking place.
Specifically, Taha said, Israel was supposed to have expanded the truce to the West Bank - something Hamas demanded but Israel in fact never promised - and opened the Gaza border crossings, and "this hasn't happened."
Asked whether this means Hamas will launch a massive barrage at Israeli targets on Friday, Taha replied that the organization would only respond to Israeli aggression.
Barak said on Monday that Israel is not "running into Gaza," but is also not afraid of a military operation there.
"If the lull is violated and the situation requires it," he told Austrian President Heinz Fischer, in Jerusalem, "we will act in the proper manner."
Israeli defense sources said they believe Hamas is still internally divided over whether to extend the truce, but in any case, the army will heighten its alert along the Gaza border lest Hamas opt for escalation.
Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's political-security department, told Israel Radio Monday that if Hamas violates the cease-fire, "we need to take suitable military action." Nevertheless, he added, he opposes a large-scale ground operation in Gaza, because "we've already tried military solutions in the past, and this has not always brought immediate results."
Moreover, said Gilad, such an operation would make Israel responsible for 1.5 million Palestinian residents of Gaza, inflame the Muslim world and endanger the peace with Jordan and Egypt.
Meanwhile, Israel freed 227 Palestinian prisoners Monday, as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Most were released to the West Bank, but 18 went to Gaza.
Abbas, who welcomed the prisoners at his Ramallah office, said, "our joy won't be complete until we bring back all 11,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel." He promised that he would do "everything" to achieve this.
He also expressed hope that Hamas would not immediately jail the prisoners released to Gaza because they belong to the rival Fatah movement.
Also Monday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that he and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama had vowed during telephone talks to make progress on Mideast peace a key international goal next year, the Associated Press reported.
Brown was speaking at a London conference on investment in the Palestinian economy.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Persecution of Israel in UN reaching a new high?

Last update - 15:24 16/12/2008       
UN official: Israeli delegation spreading 'malicious lies'
By Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz Correspondent
United Nations General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann on Tuesday charged that the Israeli delegation has spread a "malicious lie" by asserting that he tried to bar its envoy from addressing a human rights session.
The accusations deepen an already existing rift with Israel. D'Escoto, the American-born former Nicaraguan foreign minister and a pro-Sandinista Roman Catholic priest who has chaired the General Assembly since September, also charged that he had received >death threats following the assertion.
In a special statement read by his spokesman Enrique Yeves, d'Escoto denounced as a "criminal act" of "slander" the charge, reported in Israeli media, that he had tried to keep Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev from speaking at an assembly session marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
An Israeli spokeswoman condemned d'Escoto's remarks as "outrageous and ridiculous."
"This is a malicious and absolute lie that could best be characterized as slander and in any court of law this is a criminal act," Yeves said of reported remarks by Shalev, quoted last week in the Jerusalem Post accusing d'Escoto of trying to block her participation in the commemorative meeting.
According to d'Escoto, following the charges that he said were spread by senior officials in the Israeli delegation, "very serious threats have appeared on the internet" against his life.
"This matter is being looked into by the pertinent authorities," Yeves told reporters. "Also the security staff at the UN is taking it very seriously." Yeves said D'Escoto was already taking unspecified "extra security measures" for protection. It was not immediately clear who was behind the reported threats.
D'Escoto also criticized Israel for barring entry to UN envoy Richard Falk, and expelling him early on Monday. Israel has rejected the appointment of Falk, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, as wholly unobjective. Prior to his appointment, Falk was widely quoted as comparing Israeli policies in the territories to those of the Nazis during them Holocaust.
D'Escoto's complaint over the Falk expulsion was echoed by UN Secretary-General.Ban Ki-Moon.
In response to d'Escoto's remarks, Israeli UN delegation spokeswoman Mirit Cohen issued a heated press release.
"The president of the Assembly must act as a unifying force. fostering the common values and interests of all member states," Cohen said in the statement. "Despite this, since entering his position, Mr. d'Escoto has exploited his post , voicing unacceptable declarations, which have prompted criticism from much of the international community.
"Following the outrageous and ridiculous declaration issued by the Assembly president, Israeli Ambassador Gabriela Shalev cancelled the meeting with him which he had initiated."

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Syria submits document defining Golan borders

The headline is evidently incorrect. What is offered is a document that sets out 6 reference points. Many maps could probably be drawn along these points. Israel's priority is getting Syria disentangled from Hezbollah and Iran. Maps are a secondary concern. Syria knows that if they accept the international boundary of 1923 there would be no real argument on the Israeli side. The dispute is over land that Syria took illegally by force in 1948.
Last update - 14:12 16/12/2008       
Syria offers Israel map of potential Golan borders
By Reuters
Syria has drafted a document defining potential boundaries for the Golan Heights and is waiting for an Israeli reply through Turkish mediators, sources familiar with the talks said this week.
President Bashar al-Assad recently told Western officials that Damascus wants Israel to take a clear position on the territorial problem between the two countries before agreeing to push stalled peace talks forward.
The Syrian document sets the boundaries with reference to six geographical points, the sources told Reuters.
"The president was clear that Syria wants to know the Israeli view about what constitutes occupied Syrian territory before progress could be made," one of the sources said.
"According to Syrian thinking, Israeli agreement on the six [geographical] points could help seal a peace deal next year. But Israel may not be able to provide a response any time soon, when it is in such political turmoil," a second source said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Majali Wahhabe responded to the announcement by saying Syria must first cut off all contact with Iran before making any demands of Israel.
Indirect talks between Syria and Israel, which were suspended about three months ago after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided to resign over a corruption scandal, center on the fate of the Golan Heights.
Israel captured the plateau in the 1967 Six Day War and annexed it more than a decade later - a move unanimously rejected by the United Nations Security Council.
The two countries held almost 10 years of direct talks under U.S. supervision that collapsed in 2000 over the scope of a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.
Bashar's late father, President Hafez al-Assad, refused to sign a deal that did not include the northeastern shore of the Lake Kinneret, a main water reservoir.
The late Assad regarded the northeastern shore as an integral part of the Golan and said that Syria was in control of it before the war broke out on June 4, 1967.
Israel captured the whole eastern shore along with the surrounding plateau in the war. The shoreline has been receding for decades. Under the Israeli proposal, Syria would have been only metres short of the northeastern shore.
Bashar, meanwhile, has stuck to his father's line on the Golan.
A Syrian official said that the paper sent to Turkey includes reference to geographical points on the present northeastern shore of the lake. "The document puts us on the water," the official said.
Syrian Vice President Farouq al-Shara said last month that "the Syrian definition of the June 4 line means the restoration of the northeastern shore of the lake to Syria" and described Israeli arguments about the shoreline receding as invalid.
Diplomats in the Syrian capital said that even if the two sides make progress on the territorial question a deal might not follow easily because Israel now wants Syria to reduce its alliance with Iran and cut support for the Lebanese Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamist groups.
"The situation is more complicated than in 2000 with Syria's external ties coming into play. Syria also wants agreement on the six points without direct negotiations, which might be difficult," one of the diplomats said.
Syrian officials have said Israel has no right to set conditions regarding its foreign policy but acknowledged that the political map of the region would change if Damascus and Israel sign a deal.
Assad told his visitors that Syria had received a document from Israel through Turkey with queries about Syrian relations with neighbouring states after a possible peace, according to the sources. "The president said Syria has responded, but he did not say how," one said.
Olmert, who is still caretaker prime minister, has said he wants to renew the talks. Turkey also wants the talks to move to
direct mode from the four indirect rounds that have been held since April, the diplomats said.
A foreign official who has met Assad said the Syrian leader was not enthusiastic about holding a fifth round before the Israeli parliamentary elections in February, although European leaders have urged him to agree to one before then.

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Mad Madoff's Ripoff - Bad for the Jews and everyone else

This article expresses what a lot of us are feeling. If Madoff did what he supposedly did, he is more than just a crook. He is the foulest sort of egotistical and stupid traitor to his own people. He had to have known what sort of accusations would be made if he was caught.
If he really acted in bad faith, the fact that he swindled Jewish charities (or any charities!) shows that the man was really pathological - stealing from bling men's cups is a better way to make a living.
But remember, even Madoff is innocent until proven guilty.
Bradley Burston / The Madoff betrayal: Life imitates anti-Semitism
By Bradley Burston
For the true anti-Semite, Christmas came early this year.
The anti-Semite's new Santa is Bernard Madoff. The answer to every Jew-hater's wish list. The Aryan Nation at its most delusional couldn't have come up with anything to rival this:
The former chairman of Nasdaq turns out, also, to be treasurer of the board of trustees at Yeshiva University and chairman of the university's business school. Rich beyond human comprehension, he handles fortunes for others, buying and selling in a trading empire that skirts investment banks and other possible sources of regulation. He redefines avarice, knowingly and personally bilking charities and retirees in the most classic of con games.
Even better, for those obsessed with the idea that Jews control finance, entertainment and the media, is the idea that Madoff's greed was uncontrollable enough that he targeted fellow Jews, even Holocaust survivors, some of them his own friends, as well as Israeli companies who insured Jews, including Holocaust survivors.

The beauty part, for the anti-Semite: Madoff's machinations, which could have been put to use for the sake of humanity, have directly harmed Jewish welfare and charity institutions.
He has managed to harm contemporary Jewry in ways anti-Semites could only dream about. He has sapped the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles of 11 percent of its assets, or some $18 million. In the words of prominent educator Avraham Infeld, he "obliterated" long-standing charitable foundations for Jewish causes in Israel, Eastern Europe and North America.
Along the way, Madoff assured the story enormous play, not only with the scale and the impudence of the scheme, but with his A+ roster of celebrity victims, among them Stephen Spielberg, Elie Wiesel, and billionaire real-estate tycoon, media mogul, commentator and former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Mort Zuckerman. A senior U.S. senator is one of his client-marks, as well as present and past owners of professional football and baseball teams.
Then there was the betrayal of old friends like philanthropists Carl and Ruth Shapiro, megadonors to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston,
Brandeis University and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical
"The scandal rippled far beyond the multimillion-dollar private foundation run by Madoff that channeled money into hospitals and theaters," Reuters reported, "and swept up charities large and small, directly and indirectly, along with wealthy Jewish investors Madoff personally advised."
Adding the element of clannishness, The New York Post was more direct.
"Working the so-called "Jewish circuit" of well-heeled Jews he met at country clubs on Long Island and in Palm Beach, and through his position on the boards of directors of several prominent Jewish institutions, he was entrusted with entire family fortunes.
"The guy was totally respected. He was a heymishe Jewish guy. He had sweet old ladies and he let their children in," said a Manhattan lawyer who invested with Madoff.
"This guy was dealing with all the rich Jews in Roslyn and the rich Jews in Palm Beach. This was passed down from family member to family member because he wouldn't open up to new people."
It remains to be seen how far we've come from the days of the frank Jew-hate and genteel anti-Semitism of the likes of Henry Ford and F. Scott Fitzgerald. We can only hope that the Meyer Wolfsheim Effect remains dormant, the Great Gatsby heritage of "the man who fixed the 1919 World Series."
" ... If I had thought of it at all, I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain," Fitzgerald's narrator confides. "It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people - with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe."
In the meanwhile, Bernard Madoff, you've made the days of uncounted devout Jew-haters. This year, all they want for Christmas, is you.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Israeli Negotiator Gilad: Gaza truce has no expiration date

Last update - 19:56 15/12/2008       
Top Defense Ministery official: Gaza truce has no expiration date
By Avi Issacharoff, Amos Harel, Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents and Agencies
A senior Israeli defense official told Channel 2 news on Monday that it had been explicitly agreed that no date would be set for the end of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
"In the end, the test is the calm and the benefit the residents have had for long months, even though it is relative calm," said Major General Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security bureau.
Hamas, however, define the truce as a six-month trial, set to expire on December 16. Exiled Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal says the truce will not be renewed when it runs out Friday.
Over the past month, Palestinian militants in Gaza have resumed rocket fire at Israel's south.
Meanwhile Monday, London-based Arabic language newspaper Al Hayyat reported that Egyptian officials believe Hamas and the other Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip will agree to continue their truce with Israel.
The newspaper quoted officials as saying that if Hamas did not renew the truce, Israel would likely carry out a military offensive on the coastal territory and perhaps attempt to assassinate senior officials in the Islamic movement.
Israel warned Hamas on Sunday that any rocket fire emanating from the territory will be met with a military response as both sides ratchet up the rhetoric ahead of an expiring ceasefire along the Gaza frontier.
"There will be no unilateral fire from Gaza at Israel," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office declared in a press statement. "If Hamas is interested in continuing the lull, it will be only on the terms of the original agreement" meaning that Hamas must enforce the truce on other factions.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni echoed these sentiments at a meeting with her Austrian counterpart, saying: "All fire from Gaza will obligate us to respond so as to defend our citizens. We will not leave Gaza in Hamas' hands."
"If Hamas continues to foment terror from Gaza, Israel will act via the means at its disposal," she added, without elaborating.
The truce has all but collapsed, with rockets and mortars being fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip almost daily.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza has taken a less definite line than his Syria-based colleague on the future of the truce.
And even Meshal, while declaring in a television interview to mark the 21st anniversary of Hamas' founding that "there will be no renewal of the calm after it expires," added that the organization would monitor events in Israel before resuming full-scale hostilities.
Haniyeh, who was addressing a massive anniversary rally in Gaza, attended by almost 200,000 people, sounded as if he were leaning strongly against extending the truce. "The siege has not been lifted and the [border] crossings have not been opened," he said. "The factions met and discussed the future of the lull, and their impression of the lull has been negative."
However, he declined to say explicitly that the truce would end. Later, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza issued a statement stressing that Hamas was still discussing the issue.
Another senior Hamas official in Gaza, Osama al-Muzzeini, explained: "The lull will not be renewed as long as there is no genuine Israeli commitment to abide by its terms. There is nothing to encourage us to continue upholding the agreement, which has not brought us the results for which we hoped."
That view could change, he said, if Israel's attitude changes. "If the occupier's position changes, it will be studied," he said.
Israel informed Egyptian mediators on Sunday that it would like to extend the truce. Amos Gilad delivered this message to Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo.
Gilad noted that Israel rejects Hamas' view that the truce is set to expire this Friday. The agreement reached last June included no expiration date, he insisted. The Egyptians previously supported Israel's interpretation.
Nevertheless, Gilad continued, Israel will support extending the truce only if Hamas once again enforces a complete cease-fire. In recent weeks, though it has largely refrained from firing at Israel itself, Hamas has allowed other Palestinian groups to do so almost daily. On Sunday, for instance, Palestinians fired one Qassam rocket and three mortar shells at the Negev, though none caused any casualties or damage.
If Hamas does not restore complete calm, Gilad warned, Israel will respond forcefully.
At the rally, Haniyeh - who was hailed by the crowd as "the next president of the Palestinian people" - also took aim at the rival Palestinian faction, Fatah, which controls the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Haniyeh declared, will have no legitimacy to remain in office after January 9, when his term officially ends.
Abbas has been considering extending his term on the grounds that Hamas' takeover of Gaza last year means that the PA, whose power has been lost in the Strip, has no way of organizing new elections there.
Other Hamas leaders at the rally derided Fatah members as "rats."
And speaker after speaker stressed that Hamas would never recognize Israel. Haniyeh himself promised Israeli Arabs, "we'll get to you" - a hint that Israel would be eliminated, enabling Hamas to extend its rule to Israeli Arabs as well.
One Hamas activist marked the event by producing an effigy of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and having the effigy beg to return home. "I miss my mommy and daddy," the activist whined in Hebrew.
At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Vice Premier Haim Ramon attacked Defense Minister Ehud Barak for having sent Amos Gilad to Cairo. "It's not proper to send Amos Gilad to conduct negotiations in Egypt over continuing the lull before the cabinet has made a decision on whether it even wants to continue the lull," Ramon said.
But Barak insisted that there was nothing improper in the visit; it was merely part of Israel's ongoing security consultations with Egypt, he said.
Meanwhile, despite the harsh anti-Fatah rhetoric at Sunday's rally in Gaza, several current and former lawmakers from both Hamas and Fatah announced that they are planning a petition drive to urge the rival factions to reconcile.
The petition is to be launched on Monday in the West Bank city of Nablus, and organizers said they hope to collect 100,000 signatures quickly and eventually get up to one million. The document asks Hamas and Fatah to stop media attacks on each other, release political prisoners and organize a new round of reconciliation talks.
Reconciliation talks had been slated to take place in Cairo last month, but Hamas pulled out at the last minute, demanding that the PA first release Hamas prisoners.

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Israel Expels Falk, UN rights rapporteur who said Israelis are like Nazis

Last update - 15:45 15/12/2008       
Israel expels UN rights envoy who compared Israelis to Nazis
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent
Professor Richard Falk, a United Nations envoy who once sparked controversy by comparing Israelis to Nazis, has been barred entry to Israel and was put on a plane bound out of the country early on Monday.
In March, the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council appointed Falk, a Jewish American and professor emeritus at Princeton University, to a six-year term monitoring the human rights situation as UN Special Rapporteur in the Palestinian territories.
Israel's Foreign Ministry said in September that it would not allow Falk to enter the country, after the BBC quoted Falk as defending statements he made last year equating Israel's treatment of Palestinians with Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. Falk told BBC that Israel had been unfairly shielded from international criticism.
Israel has also complained that Falk's mandate as an investigator was confined to human rights violations by Israel toward Palestinians and did not encompass violations by Palestinians toward Israelis.
Falk had been scheduled to hold meetings in Ramallah in the coming days with representatives of many human rights organizations.
The Adalah rights organization Monday sent an urgent letter to Interior Minister Meir Shitreet and Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, demanding that they lift the ban on Falk, which it called "a severe blow to the rights of the Palestinian civilian population living under Israeli occupation, a population which must be afforded protection by the occupier under international humanitarian law.
The letter said it was "Israel's obligation as a member of the UN and a signatory to various international human rights conventions to respect the work of UN representatives, to enable their human rights missions and to assist them in fulfilling their responsibilities without fear of
Prior to Falk's formal assumption of his duties, Israel had in the past allowed Falk to enter the country. This was the first time he had arrived in Israel in his role as Special Rapporteur.
The Foreign Ministry said that it has been made clear to Falk in advance that he would be denied entry into Israel, and that Israel would not cooperate with him.
"Falk was not invited by Israel, nor did he coordinate the visit, as UN regulations obligated him to do," said Simona Helprin, head of the Foreign Ministry's human rights department.
"It is indeed rare that Israel bars entry in this manner, but we cannot accept a situation in which an envoy arrives about whom it is known in advance that he will not carry out his role properly."
According to Helprin, the UN is under an obligation to see that its envoys are objective and fair, while Falk has compared the situation in the territories with that of the Nazi Holocaust. "From Israel's standpoint, he is not objective," she said.
The council's previous investigator, John Dugard from South Africa, compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to apartheid, the discriminatory policy of the previous white regime in South Africa toward blacks.

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Yemen increases security for Jews after murder of Jewish teacher by mentally disturbed Salafist

"Until the rigid Salafi group infiltrated our community and spread extremist ideas, we lived in peace and as members of the same community," said a tribal source from the area referring to the recent problems caused by the fundamentalists and their targeting Jewish minorities and harassing their children in school.
It's always those "outside agitators" isn't it? While the headline says that the security measures were increase, the article only states that the chief rabbi asked that they be increased.
Security measures for Yemeni Jews increased after the murder of a Jewish teacher
Mohammed bin Sallam
AMRAN, Dec. 14 — High level instructions ordered an urgent trail of Yemeni Jewish citizen's murderer. The victim's family insists on capital penalty as the only "just" verdict against the killer, who had escaped this fate the last time he killed based on mental disturbance.
Having high level instructions ordering the urgent trail is a good sign for the relatives who refuse to burry their relative until the case is resolved.
Meanwhile, security forces in Amran and Sana'a have increased protection measures for the Jewish community and visitors in preparation for the funeral of Moshe bin Yaish bin Yusif Nahari, 30, who was shot last Thursday by a Muslim extremist.
Nahari was a prominent activist in the community and a teacher in the local Jewish school. Although his mother and four sisters emigrated to Israel, he insisted on staying in Yemen with his father as he is the only son in his family and to help the remaining Jewish community in the country. He had previously studied Jewish religion and the Hebrew language in the USA for six years before returning to Yemen to live with his wife and five daughters and four sons.
Saeed Al-Ammar, rabbi of the entire Jewish community in Yemen, admitted in press statements that the community had been receiving threats recently by extremists demanding them to leave the country.
"As Yemenis we have the right to live here and feel safe. The state should protect us as minorities who just want to live in their country in peace," said Al-Ammar who acknowledged the government's support for Jews in Yemen but demanded it be increased, especially in light of the recent threats.
Many of Nahari's relatives and members of the Yemeni Jewish community now living in Israel, the USA and Europe are currently traveling to Yemen in order to attend the funeral which is expected to take place this week.
Nahari's family in Israel had a car accident soon after their arrival in Yemen. The car accident took place on the road to Amran from Sana'a airport on Friday, and both Nahari's mother and one of his sisters were hospitalized for a few days before released to the care of relatives. Their conditions are stable but have not yet seen the body of their relative who was shot on Thursday in the central market of Raidah, the family's home town where the small Jewish community of less than a thousand resides.
The mother and sisters insist on taking Nahari's body back with them to be buried in Israel according to Yahya Yahouda Dhahiri, a member of the community currently living in London, especially since the father is very likely to leave Yemen with them after the death of his only son.
The killer, Abdulaziz Hamoud Al-Abdi, is from the same town which had hosted Muslims and Jews for centuries. He is currently in custody after confessing to the murder, and security is investigating another eight men who were arrested on Friday in connection to the killing.
The incident was the first of its kind for decades, according to Raidah local council's director.
"Until the rigid Salafi group infiltrated our community and spread extremist ideas, we lived in peace and as members of the same community," said a tribal source from the area referring to the recent problems caused by the fundamentalists and their targeting Jewish minorities and harassing their children in school.
Those close to the deceased claim that the extremist had met with Moshe Nahari three days before the murder to give him an ultimatum either to become a Muslim, leave Yemen or die.
"We demand the President of the Republic who is a president for all Yemenis to investigate the murder and ensure justice is carried out against the murderer and those who wish to spread hatred and violence on earth," said Abraham bin Yahya bin Yusif a member of the community.
Simultaneously, the Jewish community's leaders held consecutive meetings on Thursday and Friday at Shiekh Kahlan Mujahid Abu Shawarib's house to discuss the consequences of this murder. Abu Shawareb is the local sheikh of Kharef and is respected by both the Muslims and Jews in his area.
Yahya Yaish, son of a former rabbi, declared that the community decided against burying Nahari's body until his murder is resolved according to the Yemeni tribal tradition, even though Nahari's mother and sisters demand to bury him in Israel.

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Lethal public hair in Saudi Arabia

The article speaks for itself. Please note that it was published in Saudi Arabia.
When international agreements conflict with Saudi court rulings
Angelo Young | Arab News  

JEDDAH: Abiding by international agreements as well as Shariah has been a stated focus of the governmental Saudi Human Right Commission, which recently commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
One such international agreement is the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the Kingdom voluntarily signed in 1996 that, among a list of other articles, prohibits putting to death criminals who committed their crimes when they were under the age of 18.
In November, the Shoura Council approved a law officially defining the age of adulthood as 18, a move aimed at putting the Kingdom in sync with the definition of the age of a minor in the eyes of the United Nations and a large number of countries. The Kingdom has committed to not putting to death minors under this definition.
In Islamic law an adult is defined by a number of factors, including physical evidence of puberty as well as the determination of a person's mental, emotional and intellectual maturity.
Because evidence of puberty begins before the age of 18, a judge who determines that a young person convicted of murder is an adult based solely on this physical evidence of adulthood might sentence a minor (as defined by the UN convention the Kingdom has signed) to death. Alternatively a minor might also be held until he is no longer considered a minor and then executed.
Mueed Al-Hakami, the 16-year-old son of Hussein Al-Hakami, was beheaded on July 10, 2007, in the southern Saudi city of Jizan two years after he was arrested, charged and found guilty of sexually assaulting and killing a younger boy.
Hussein said he was prevented from being present during the police interrogation shortly after Mueed was arrested, and that he didn't learn of his son's beheading until a few days after the execution and burial. He claims that he doesn't know where his son's body is buried.
Hussein's lawyer, Abdullah Al-Zmami, told Arab News in April that the judge in the case should have never passed this case beyond juvenile court. Hussein claims the judge passed the case on after asking only for physical proof that Mueed was acting as an adult: his pubic hair.

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Anti-Zionist Jews: Mumbai attacks God's punishment of Chabad for alliance with Zionist

It is hard to believe anyone is so depraved and degenerate, but it is a fact.
Article published in anti-Zionist faction's leaflet says Chabad's 'collaboration' with secular Israelis led to Mumbai terror attack
Kobi Nahshoni
Published:  12.15.08, 11:45 / Israel Jewish Scene
An article published this weekend in a leaflet distributed by anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox stream Neturei Karta asserted that the terror attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai was a punishment from God for the organization's collaboration with Zionist Israelis.
Six Jews were killed in the attack three weeks ago, including the two Chabad emissaries to the Indian city. Chabad Houses around the world serve as community centers for Jews regardless of the degree of their religious observance.
According to the article, Chabad was rightfully punished for its relations with "the filthy, deplorable traitors – the cursed Zionists that are your friends."
The writer went on to slam the Hasidic group for inviting to the emissaries' funeral "villainous heads of state who uttered words of heresy and blasphemy."
Chabad itself was imbued with "false national sentiment," the article said, and the organization's centers around the globe hosted religious Jews alongside secular ones without making any distinction "between good and evil, right and wrong, pure and impure, a Jew and a convert, a believer and a heretic."
The conclusion, according to the writer, was that "the road you (Chabad) have taken is the road of death and it leads to doom, assimilation and the uprooting of the Torah."

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Meretz party list

Meretz would do better to open its primaries to all party members. The list will change after Meretz merges with a new party that is forming - if the merger happens.
Meretz primaries: Ilan Gilon takes top spot

Party's internal elections yield surprising results, with former MK Ilan Gilon coming ahead of MK Zahava Gal-On, former MK Mossi Raz ranked third, before MK Avshalom Vilan. Chairman Oron: 'Meretz presents today an excellent, energetic team'
Eli Senyor Latest Update:  12.15.08, 08:03 / Israel News 
Former Knesset Member Ilan Gilon won the Meretz primaries, which concluded Sunday night, coming ahead of MK Zahava Gal-On, who was favored to win the race.
Gilon will be placed second on the party's Knesset list after Meretz Chairman Chaim Oron, and followed by Gal-On, former MK Mossi Raz, MK Avshalom Vilan and newly-appointed MK Tzvia Greenfield.
Arab candidate Issawi Freij won the sixth spot and Michal Rozin won the seventh spot secured for a woman.
However, the party's Knesset list is still expected to change following the planned merger with the new Left movement, which is likely to have two representatives on Meretz's top 10 list.
Chairman Oron, who took the stage after the results were released, said: "Today Meretz presents a young, energetic and excellent team. I congratulate the contenders and I'm sure that together we shall embark on a new path and win success in the upcoming elections."

High voter turnout rate
Meretz-Yahad's primary elections concluded Sunday night, as votes were being tallied to determine the leftist party's Knesset roster ahead of the upcoming general elections.

Some 87% of the eligible voters (871 out of 995) showed up at the only polling station in Tel Aviv's Exhibition Grounds, which opened at 2 pm.
The high voter turnout, particularly in comparison with the recent Likud and Labor primaries, can be attributed to the fact that the vote was not open to all registered Meretz members, but only to a select and relatively active group.
Chairman Oron said he was "very pleased" with the high voter turnout, and even more so with "the manner in which the elections were conducted."
Election Committee Chairman Mauzia Segal added that "Meretz has shown what democracy is all about."
As was the case in the Labor and Likud primaries, there were reports of political deals struck behind closed doors ahead of the Meretz elections. One such deal saw members of Israel's Kibbutz Movement supporting Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan and Gabi Bar-Gil, the movement's secretary-general.

First Published:  12.14.08, 23:58

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U. California will reinstate Israel study abroad program

So, US academia is not quite so anti-Israel after all.
LOS ANGELES - The University of California, one of America's largest public higher education systems, will soon allow students to return to studying abroad in Israel.
The school announced November 25 that it intends to reopen its Education Abroad Program with the Rothberg International School at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The UC system was among scores of American universities that suspended their Israel study-abroad programs in 2002 after the U.S. State Department placed Israel on its travel advisory list for safety reasons. Israel remains on the list.
As a matter of policy, the UC system does not offer study-abroad programs in countries that are on the State Department's travel warning list.
But university spokesman Chris Harrington said December 4 that the school "is firmly committed to re-establishing its program in Israel."
According to a UC statement, the university is in discussions with the Rothberg International School to reopen the program in Israel in fall 2009 after reviewing safety issues. The school cited a heightened ability to "to monitor and mitigate security risks."
American access to study-abroad programs in Israel has emerged as a hot-button issue over the last six years, as pro-Israel activists have battled to have them reinstated. They argue that Israel is safer than such countries as Egypt, where students are often allowed to study with their university's official stamp of approval. Students at local Hillels have gathered signatures and lobbied university leaders, while the Washington D.C.-based Israel on Campus Coalition assembled a task force to take on the issue nationwide.
While students from campuses that no longer offer Israel study-abroad programs have continued to study in the Jewish state, finding ways to circumvent the programs' closures, pro-Israel campus activists say that the UC's decision should have a marked impact on the number of California students taking a semester in Israel.
"This makes it more accessible, and that's the most important thing," said Gordon Gladstone, executive director of Berkeley Hillel at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Spending long periods of time in Israel allows you to contemplate your Jewish identity in a way that few other things can."
The announcement comes less than a year after the UC Board of Regents tapped Mark Yudof, the former chancellor of the University of Texas, to lead California's extensive 10-campus system. Yudof, who keeps a kosher home, is only the second Jewish president in UC's history. Yudof has visited Israel at least six times, and is married to Judy Yudof, a board member of Hillel International and a former president of the Conservative movement's congregational arm, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
While the movement toward reinstating UC's Israel study-aboard program has been in the works for several years, some pro-Israel activists said they saw Yudof's interest in the issue as the tipping point.
Upon his return from a nine-day trip to Israel in early July - just two weeks after he assumed the presidency June 16 - Yudof was quoted in the Bay Area's Jewish weekly, the San Francisco J, saying, "I told Hebrew University that it's no secret - I'm going to take another look" at the policy.
UC's program with Hebrew University once ran seamlessly. UC students received school credit for Hebrew University classes; they paid UC tuition, and had a UC professor on hand to administer the program. According to Chaim Seidler-Feller, director of the University of California, Los Angeles Hillel, at its peak, some 20 students from UCLA alone participated in the program.
UCLA Hillel estimates that about three to five UCLA students per year have chosen to study at Israeli universities in the years since the program was shuttered. But, said Seidler-Feller, the process has been far more complicated, requiring students to withdraw from the school. "During the last few years it's been cumbersome and burdensome to assume the personal responsibility of enrolling in the year abroad at Hebrew University," said Seidler-Feller. "In particular, it's been cumbersome regarding the transfer of credits."
Burdensome and cumbersome
Now, say Hillel leaders, students will once again be able to study in Israel without having to navigate institutional roadblocks.
One student, 21-year-old Ilana Nankin, said that while she experienced no financial hardship from spending last spring at Hebrew University, she has come up against bureaucratic pitfalls trying to get her Hebrew University credits approved at UC Berkeley.
Nankin, a UC Berkeley senior who is majoring in psychology, said that she finally got her credits from Hebrew University approved just last week, some six months after she finished her studies there. "That's been really difficult because I don't know what I'm going to need to do to graduate," she said.
The program's reinstatement is the result of intensive lobbying by pro-Israel activists. Last winter, student activists redoubled their efforts when they took their case to the California state legislature. In January, former Democratic state senator Carole Migden introduced Senate Resolution 18, which cited the added burdens of studying in Israel without the program, and called for its reinstatement. That resolution passed unanimously.
Then, in August, the UC provost requested that an ad hoc working group advise whether the university should, as an exception to its policy, re-establish the program in Israel.
Still, UC will not be the first major state system in the U.S. to reverse its policy. In 2005, the University of Wisconsin became one of the first of the Big Ten schools to reopen its program. Still other institutions, including the University of Texas at Austin, have taken a middle road.
In 2005, U.T. Austin did not reinstate its program, but made it easier for students to study in Israel.
According to one UC student who spent last year studying at Hebrew University, the UC's decision will have more than just practical implications.
"It's seen that the university regards it as a positive thing to go to Israel," said Michelle Lahat, a 21-year-old senior at UC San Diego. "So in that sense it's symbolic."
By arrangement with the Forward.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Who's running Hamas?

Meshal (== Syrian government and Iranian government) says there will be no cease fire in Gaza. The local government thinks differently. While what Meshal says may not be binding on the Hamas in Gaza, the Syrians and Iranians can heat up Gaza through the Iranian controlled Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The show that Hamas put on regarding Gilad Shalit was not designed to win the admiration of Israel.
We shall see who wins.
Last update - 03:00 15/12/2008    
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff 
Israel and Hamas on Monday ratcheted up their public statements ahead of the critical date of Friday, December 19 when the six-month old cease-fire is set to expire. In Damascus, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal threatened that calm would end this week. At the huge Hamas rally in Gaza on Sunday, the crowds saw a Hamas activist dressed as kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told her Austrian counterpart that Israel could not leave Gaza to Hamas rule.
Rather than clarifying things, the deluge of declarations clouds them. While Meshal threatened in Damascus, Hamas leaders in Gaza said things had not yet been decided. Ambiguity serves Hamas at this point, especially with Israel announcing far and wide that it wants to continue the cease-fire. That is the message emissary Amos Gilad brought to Cairo on Sunday, and that is in fact what Livni is saying, after the threats.
After Meshal announced on Sunday that the cease-fire agreement would not be renewed, Gaza Hamas leader Ayman Taha said Meshal's statements did not obligate the organization.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas government head in the Gaza Strip, delivered an ambiguous message of his own. In the evening, Meshal announced in interviews from Damascus that the calm had indeed ended but immediately hedged: Hamas would respond to Israeli action (that is, it would not be the one to break the cease-fire).
The Israeli defense establishment said on Sunday that the contradictory statements reflect real disagreement in Hamas and a battle for hegemony. Meshal and senior leaders of the military wing in Gaza, headed by Ahmed Jabri, lean toward a breaking of the cease-fire; Haniyeh and the political wing in Gaza disagree. But even the position of the hawks is not carved in stone. Even they are jockeying for a better position, to ease the economic embargo on Gaza, while at the same time increasing actions along the fence and firing rockets at the Negev without Israel responding.
Who will decide? Since Israel assassinated Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in the winter of 2004, Hamas has no single boss. Decisions are made by committee and tug-of-war among the various factions. Hamas has agreed to a few cease-fires over the years, sometimes over Meshal's objections.
The proud and militant tone at the Gaza rally on Sunday cannot cover up the fact that Hamas is under some pressure now. Despite their public statements, Haniyeh and Meshal know that Israel will not expand the cease-fire to the West Bank, and ordinary people are still suffering greatly every day in Gaza.
Livni said on Sunday, "There is no calm that includes shooting at us," and that every time fire comes from Gaza, it will call forth an Israeli response. An impressive declaration, but for the unfortunate fact that Sderot and its environs have been drawing fire for more than a month and the army has not been allowed to respond.
Amos Gilad toed that same official line on Sunday when he came back from talks in Cairo, where he heard Egyptian agreement to Israel's interpretation that the cease-fire is not limited to a six-month trial, as Hamas would have it.
But both Cairo and Jerusalem know that the key lies in Gaza. Hamas will decide whether the cease-fire persists or breaks down. On Sunday, by the way, saw a relatively low dose of rocket fire - one Qassam and three mortars, with no injuries. The Israel Defense Force believes some of the fire is directed on purpose at open spaces to avoid injuries, while keeping the pressure on Israel.
Meanwhile, Hamas marked the 21st anniversary of its establishment by Yassin and a group of students, with a 200,000-strong rally, according to Gaza reporters. The high point was particularly repulsive, even for Hamas ceremonies. Reenacting bus bombings has apparently gone out of fashion, but Hamas found a replacement: a man dressed in an IDF uniform in the role of Gilad Shalit missing his mother and father (in Hebrew).
Haniyeh and his aides watched this miserable performance from the grandstand. From the television pictures they appeared undeservedly smug. After all, they have not returned even one Palestinian prisoner to his parents, two and a half years after Shalit's abduction, while the PA has received more than 900 prisoners from Israel in that time.
The rally shows there is apparently nothing much to the hope of quite a few people in Israel and the West that Hamas is going to change its spots. Even now, Hamas continues promising that Palestinian refugees will return to the homes they lost in 1948, and that the war will go on until Israel is destroyed. The Shalit element in the rally shows Hamas cannot offer its supporters much except a good place in the next world.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Peril in Egypt

Not long ago there was a ferry accident in Egypt that cost numerous lives. In another incident, a bus carrying Israeli Arab tourists overturned in Sinai. The tourists who survived compained of primitive hospital treatment. The Egyptian government would not let Israel evacuate them for quite a while. One said, "What is called a hospital in Egypt is called a barn in Israel."
Now we learn of these accidents. Unsafe public transportation and contempt for human life characterize much of the Arab world, and Egypt is no exception. Mass death scenes are also common in the holy  Hajj pilgrimage, when there are almost never proper provisions for the pilgrims. In the nineteenth century, the Hajj was even more perilous as travellers were regularly attacked and murdered by bandits.
Dozens dead in Egypt bus crash 

At least 55 people have been killed after a bus ran off the road and plunged into a canal south of Cairo, Egypt's capital, officials say.
Between 60-70 people were riding in the overloaded bus on Sunday, in the province of Minya.
Ahmed Diaa, the governor of Minya, said the bus swerved to avoid an oncoming lorry, but the state news agency said the driver had lost control of the bus while attempting to overtake another vehicle.
Police divers and volunteers were searching the canal for more bodies.
Diaa told state-run television that 57 people had died in the accident, but AFP new agency, citing an official, reported 55 bodies were recovered.

The bus was travelling on a narrow road when it veered off the road into the Ibrahimiya Canal, near the village of Bahrut about 200 kilometres from Cairo.
Accidents common
On Monday, fifteen students were killed when a bus overturned on its way from Minya to Alexandria.
Egyptian roads are considered highly dangerous, with thousands of accidents every year. Regulations are not fully enforced and vehicles are badly cared for.
About 6,000 people die and 30,000 are injured in road accidents in Egypt annually.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Business is booming in Bethlehem - Merry Christmas

About this time of year, journals are regrettably usually filled with articles about the Jews persecuting Christians in Bethlehem. This holiday tradition goes back to 1921, when a British journal alleged that because of the British mandate a huge number of Chrisians had fled Bethlehem - an untrue allegation.  
These articles are starting to appear as they do each year. They are untrue.
Here is the truth. Please tell others as well. The "eight bleak years" were the doing of the Palestinian terror groups, who began their violence in 2000.
BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — After eight bleak years, Jesus' birthplace finally has a Christmas season to cheer about.
Hotels are booked solid through January, Manger Square is bustling with tourists, and Israeli and Palestinian forces are working to make things go smoothly.
Elias Al-Araj's 200-room hotel is fully booked for the season, and he plans to open a 100-room annex. He says he already has bookings through July.
"This year, business was great," he said.
Bethlehem's economic fortunes are closely tied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Tourism blossomed in the 1990s, when peace hopes were alive, but was crushed by the outbreak of fighting in 2000. Christmas after Christmas, tourists were scared off by Palestinian violence and Israeli travel restrictions.
With calm gradually returning to the West Bank, Bethlehem has again become a magnet for Christmas pilgrims.
"It's a difference between heaven and earth," said entrepreneur Mike Kanawati, who is so optimistic he's opening a new restaurant near the Church of the Nativity.
Palestinian officials say 1.3 million tourists have visited the West Bank this year, nearly double last year's level. The total for 2008 could rise to 1.6 million. The tourism boom has created 12,000 new jobs, said Palestinian Information Minister Riad Malki.
Bethlehem's 19 hotels are fully booked through January, said Mayor Victor Batarseh. He said he expects 30,000 visitors on Christmas Eve alone, compared with 22,000 last year, with about 5,000 more expected during Orthodox rites in January.
Batarseh said he hopes the signs of recovery will persuade more Bethlehemites to stay in their town. In recent years, growing numbers, particularly Christians, have emigrated.
"Calm and an increase in tourism will create more job opportunities and encourage families to stay in the city," said Batarseh, who is Christian. Officials say 40% of the town's 32,000 residents are Christian, down from 90% in the 1950s. The rest are Muslim.
Christmas decorations should be up by Monday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will light the Christmas tree, a large cypress, in Manger Square. Bands of yellow lights are already strung across the main road at the entrance to Bethlehem.
Bethlehem is a typical West Bank town, with congested streets and noisy markets, very different from the biblical idyll visitors might imagine.
"It's fascinating to see the place I heard about all my life," said Michael Creasy, 30, a software engineer from San Francisco, after emerging from the Church of the Nativity that stands over Jesus' traditional birth grotto. He said he'd love to stay for Christmas, but has to get back to work....

Continued (Permanent Link)

Palestinian Negotiator Qurei: 'No room for Jews' - "Juden Raus!"

This outrageous statement by chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmad Qurei should not go unnoticed, but it will.
Qurei: No room for Jews in the West Bank

There will be no room for Jews ... in the West Bank because their presence there will always be an obstacle to peace with Israel,  Ahmed Qurei, head of the Palestinian Authority negotiating team, said at the weekend.

Qurei, who was speaking to Palestinian reporters at his home in the village of Abu Dis,
It speaks for itself.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Pro-Palestinians fabricate 'boycott' hoax

Remember that the point of every boycott initiative is to get publicity for the groups involved in any way possible. I suppose this story also gives them publicity, but it cannot be helped. It seems though that this should be good for business with Israel. Procurement agents around the world should note that if they turn down an Israeli bid or terminate an Israeli contract, the Palestinian groups will claim it as a "boycott success."

Scottish pro-Palestinian group 'fabricates' story of Israeli boycott

Dec. 13, 2008
Jonny paul, jpost correspondent in London , THE JERUSALEM POST

A local council in Scotland has emphatically denied the allegation made by a pro-Palestinian fringe group that it had been pressured by the group to boycott and terminate a contract with an Israeli mineral water supplier.

West Lothian Council called the claim made by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), that they were responsible in part for the termination of contracts for water coolers with Eden Springs, "a total fabrication."

Earlier this month, the SPSC announced that Eden Springs had closed its East Scotland depot in Loanhead, near Edinburgh, after a number of Scottish companies had cancelled contracts with the Israeli company because of "violations of international and human rights law."

They said the closure of the depot and loss of contracts was "widely recognized within the industry to be due in part to a determined publicity campaign by the SPSC."

In a statement, the fringe group said: "In an industry that is generally expanding, Eden has lost contracts with East Lothian and West Lothian Councils and Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries."

SPSC accuses Eden Springs of violating the Hague Convention "by making commercial use of water from a natural source in the Golan Heights, which is occupied territory," even though the water used by Eden's Scottish depot comes from local sources.

However a spokesman for West Lothian Council told The Jerusalem Post: "This is a total fabrication. We did move from Eden Springs to AG Barr, but only because our contract with Eden Springs had expired on August 31. The original contract was three years and we even extended the contract for a further year. Barr's contract is a Scotland Excel [procurement organization for local authorities] collaborative contract."

Others have also denied the claim: East Lothian Council told the Post that they never had a contract with Eden Springs and while the company had supplied water coolers at one time, the decision to use a different supplier was based on practical factors.

"Although Eden Springs did supply East Lothian Council with water coolers, we didn't have a contract with them," the spokesperson said.

"The council is a member of Scotland Excel, a procurement organization for Scottish local authorities. While reviewing our services we used Scotland Excel to consider the supply of our water coolers and now have a contract with a new supplier."

A spokesman for Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries told the Post they were "puzzled" by the claim.

"We are puzzled at the claim that we terminated our contract with Eden as a result of pressure from activists, as it was as a result of the company itself informing us that they could no longer provide water to our locations on the northwest coast of Scotland that led us to seek an alternative supplier."

The SPSC also said that Heriot-Watt University and Stevenson College, both in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organizations (SCVO) had also voted to boycott Eden.

A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt University said: "Heriot-Watt did terminate a contract with Eden Springs, one of a group of suppliers providing bottled water for use in water coolers, in March 2008. This decision was made purely on the grounds of service issues relating to Eden, and was not in any way affected by political issues or calls to boycott the company."

An SCVO spokesperson told the Post they changed suppliers a year ago and that cost had been the main reason behind for the change.

"I am informed that cost was the main reason why we changed suppliers, as there were cheaper alternatives available," a SCVO spokesperson said.

A spokesman for Stevenson College said the claim was "incorrect," and that the college "is continuing to use Eden Springs as our water supplier."

A number of articles followed the story attributing success to the actions of the SPSC.

In an article last week, Haaretz said the shutdown was reportedly due to an "extended boycott campaign by pro-Palestinian organizations in Scotland."

Another article said: "As a result of an intensive boycott campaign, Israeli water cooler company Eden has been forced to close its East of Scotland depot."

Last week, an article in a Scottish student newspaper said: "Pro-Palestinian activists are claiming victory after water-cooler company Eden Springs shut down its East of Scotland branch. Groups such as the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign say that their efforts to boycott the company have cost the company vital contracts."

In a statement, Eden Springs said: "The company has not closed any offices or warehouses in Scotland, on the contrary, we are actually considering expanding the company in England and Scotland.

"Eden is dealing with extremist activity through informative campaigns. We are not interested in politics, only with providing the best quality water for our customers."


Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas Grotesqueries in Gaza

Here is something for the UN Human rights commission to consider...
Last update - 14:47 14/12/2008       
Hamas parades mock Gilad Shalit before crowd of thousands in Gaza
By The Associated Press
Hamas paraded a mock-captive Israeli soldier before thousands of supporters during a rally Sunday to celebrate the militant group's 21st anniversary.
The mock-soldier, was dressed in an Israel Defense Forces soldier uniform and stood before the crowd begging in Hebrew to be returned home.
"I miss my Mom and Dad," said a Hamas loyalist, in a clear reference to captured IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, seized by Hamas-backed Palestinian militants in June 2006. Egyptian-mediated negotiations to exchange Schalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have repeatedly foundered.
"For those who made my children swallow a bitter drink, you will drink from the same cup," intoned a voiceover.
Sunday's rally was another show of strength by the Islamic militants who have ruled Gaza since a violent takeover in June 2007. The arena can hold about 150,000 people and is full, with more people spilling out into the streets. Many Hamas supporters wore baseball caps in the movement's Islamic green.
Thousands of policemen organized traffic on roads decked with green Hamas flags and plainclothes policemen patrolled the area.
Senior Hamas leaders are expected to lay out the future of an Egyptian-mediated truce with Israel and its relations with rival Palestinian group Fatah, which rules the West Bank.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Ya'alon tells the truth about prisoner swaps

Prisoner swaps are DANGEROUS. It is bad politics to tell the truth, as Tzip Livni tried to do, but people have to know the truth. We can be thankful that someone besides Tzipi Livni had the courage to tell the truth. Everyone understands this except the most cynical demagogues and the most irresponsible airheads. This must not be a political issue.
Ami Isseroff
Last update - 13:01 14/12/2008       
Ya'alon: Every prisoner swap encourages more kidnappings
By Haaretz Service
Former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon on Sunday criticized recent calls to broker the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit "at any price", saying such calls were not appropriate, adding that previous prisoner exchanges encouraged additional kidnappings.
Ya'alon explained his hesitance to comment on the matter by saying that in past prisoner exchanges "we have backed ourselves into a corner, where every deal we make encourages kidnappings. In addition, those murderers who we release, go on to murder more Israelis."
Ya'alon told Army Radio the issue of returning Shalit "must remain above politics, and I am wary of making statements on the issue."
Ya'alon's added that he agreed with Kadima Chair Tzipi Livni, who caught fire last Thursday for saying it isn't possible to bring every IDF soldier home.
Livni on Friday clarified her remarks, saying she meant that freeing Gilad Shalit was not a question of political will.
"It sounded as if the question of freeing Gilad Shalit depends on whether we want to [do so] or not. Absolutely not... I want to clarify that the question is whether it is possible or not," said Livni, speaking to Israel Radio."
The foreign minister, who is also the Kadima chairwoman, insisted that she wants every Israel Defense Forces soldier to return home.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Obama's Middle East Team

This doesn't look as bad as some people have claimed. Wait and see.
Last update - 10:45 14/12/2008       
Obama to base his Middle East policy on army of envoys
By Barak Ravid
Jerusalem has received various reports in recent weeks indicating that American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia after president-elect Barack Obama takes office will operate on the basis of special envoys who will report directly to Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.
Obama and Clinton's transition teams are maintaining secrecy and minimal ties with Israeli diplomats. Obama and Clinton also directed their people not to take part in the policy debates of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center forum, attended by Israeli politicians and officials, which took place earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of "super coordinator," who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state.
The sources said that the new policy is part of Obama's and Clinton's understanding that all the conflicts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are to some extent connected to the Iranian nuclear program and withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, it is important to operate in a number of parallel but coordinated channels to attain achievements on all fronts.
The most prominent name in consideration for the top coordinator post is Dennis Ross, who served as President Bill Clinton's special envoy to the Middle East. Ross' name has also come up as a possible senior adviser to Hillary Clinton.
The envoy to the Middle East would oversee the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiations between Syria and Israel and the situation in Lebanon.
Short-listed for this job are Colin Powell, who was President George W. Bush's secretary of state during his first term; Dan Kurtzer, U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2001 to 2005; and Martin Indyk, who is close to Hillary Clinton and who served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997 and from 2000 to 2001.
The other four envoys would be: to Iraq to liaise with the Iraqi government on U.S. troop withdrawal; to Iran to oversee the beginning of dialogue and participate in international discussions on an incentive package; to Afghanistan and Pakistan to stabilize the security situation; and to North Korea to watch over denuclearization and the lifting of international sanctions.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tensio rising as Hamas Gaza truce nears end

PFLP and other factions already declared the truce is dead. What truce?
Last update - 14:01 14/12/2008    
 Israel expects Hamas to turn up heat on Gaza border as truce nears end 
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondents 
Israeli defense officials are expecting a tense week along the Israel-Gaza border, as the six-month cease-fire (tahadiyeh in Arabic) between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas comes to an end on Friday.
Major General Amos Gilad, the head of political military policy at the Defense Ministry, flew to Cairo Sunday morning to meet with top Egyptian intelligence officials to discuss the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, set to expire December 19.
The assumption in Jerusalem is that while Hamas will seek to extend the cease-fire, the Islamic organization will try to alter the terms of the agreement to allow it to continue firing rockets and mortars at the western Negev at will.
 In the coming days, Israeli defense officials expect Hamas to increase the number of provocative attacks against Israeli targets, in an attempt to force Israel to accept worsened cease-fire conditions from Jerusalem's point of view. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who backs the extension of the cease-fire, bases his position - in part - on a document prepared by his ministry, which argues that Israel's interests are best served by extending the cease-fire.
There were three days of quiet on the Israel-Gaza border last week, presumably because of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. The moment the festival ended, on Friday, the rocket attacks resumed, and three Qassams landed in open spaces in the western Negev. No one was injured in the attacks. The daily launching of rockets resumed in mid-November, after an IDF operation to locate and destroy tunnels ended with six armed Hamas men being killed.
The unwritten cease-fire agreement that Egypt brokered in June between Israel and Hamas does not specify an expiry date. Hamas has said in the past that the agreement is valid for six months, and that its extension depends on expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank. It now appears that Hamas will not insist on this demand, but, in order to avoid domestic criticism for bowing to pressure from Israel, it will not officially accept that there is any cease-fire from next week.
At the same time, Hamas will continue to fire a relatively small number of rockets and will not prevent other organizations from doing the same. The IDF believes that Hamas will focus most of its efforts on the "perimeter" - the 500-meter strip of land on the Gazan side of the border fence. The organization's goal is to have Israel become accustomed to Hamas' presence in this area, while also making the IDF pay a price for any attempt to attack militants inside this buffer zone by firing large numbers of rockets and mortars.
In so doing, Hamas is hoping to recreate the same conditions that Hezbollah created along Israel's border with Lebanon, from the time that Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000 until the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War in July 2006.
The system works thus: The organization establishes a permanent presence along the perimeter fence, including snipers, roadside bombs and mortars. Israel, for its part, will refrain from any offensive or preventative measure (such as dismantling bombs) in Palestinian territory for fear of becoming embroiled in a bloody conflict.
Hamas hopes these new conditions will allow it to extract an additional relaxation of the Israeli blockade of Gaza and greater freedom of travel for Gazans seeking to cross over the Rafah border, which is currently controlled by Egypt.
Barak said Saturday, at a panel discussion Holon, that he does not regret "a single second of the cease-fire in the south, which followed seven years of rocket attacks."
"When we need to act," he added, "we will act. I have seen on more than one occasion how certain people are too quick to make decisions on national security and then to try and cover their mistakes."
Barak's position is also based on another document drawn up my members of his department recently, which details the advantages of the cease-fire from an Israeli perspective. That said, the authors of the document admit that Israel has not completed the defensive measures that it had planned in the Jewish communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip or the Iron Dome missile defense system.
Barak added that the fate of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit is a key element in Israel's considerations for extending the cease-fire and argues against the proposal to launch an all-out offensive in Gaza at the current time. Barak also criticized Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for her comment last week to Tel Aviv high-school students that "it is not always possible to bring soldiers home."
"I am not sure I understand what the foreign minister meant by that," Barak said. He added: "We have a moral responsibility to secure the release of a kidnapped soldier and to bring him home safe and sound. Not at any price, but at any price that is reasonable and feasible. We will have to make some difficult decisions before getting Shalit back, but I am willing to make those decisions to ensure his safe return."

Continued (Permanent Link)

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