The Israeli government has announced a unilateral cease fire in Gaza. Meanwhile, IDF troops remain in Gaza. It is not clear what will happen in the event that Hamas do not cease fire, and what Israel will do if, for example, Hamas kidnap more soldiers.
Prime Minster Ehud Olmert on Saturday night announced that Israel's security cabinet has voted in favor of a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, which will come into effect at 2 A.M.
The announcement comes after three weeks of fighting in the coastal strip, as Israel launched a massive military offensive aimed at halting years of daily rocket fire on its southern communities. Palestinian sources say that more than 1,100 Gazans have been killed since the offensive began on December 27. Three Israeli civilians and 10 Israel Defense Forces have been killed during that period.
The decision to launch the cease-fire was approved during a lengthy security cabinet meeting which began after sundown in Tel Aviv. Two ministers were against the move, and another abstained.
"Our fight is not with the people of Gaza," Olmert said at the Tel Aviv press conference following the cabinet meeting. "We left Gaza in 2005 with the intention of never returning," he said, referring to Israel's unilateral withdrawal of troops and settlers from the territory under former prime minister Ariel Sharon.
Olmert warned that Iran, through its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, was trying to establish its own hegemony in the region. He said that Hamas had underestimated Israel's decisiveness, had been "surprised" by the launch of the offensive, and was still not fully aware of how badly it had been damaged.
Olmert said that "if Hamas entirely ends its rocket fire on Israel, Israel will consider an IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip." If that did not occur, he said, "The IDF will continue to operate in order to protect our citizens."
Most rocket launching areas are now controlled by IDF, he said.
A strong hint at the impending cease-fire announcement came earlier Saturday, when Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel was very close to meeting the objectives of its 22-day-old offensive in Gaza.
"After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are very close to reaching the goals and securing them through diplomatic agreements," Barak said during a visit to the south of the country, according to a statement from his office.
The decision means Israel has put an end to Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling into Gaza.
Israel's Channel 10 earlier Saturday quoted IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi as saying he is in favor of bringing the IDF Gaza operation to a close.
A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would require the combined use of technological measures on the border between Gaza and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border.
The deal would also call for cooperation between Israel and Egypt on matters relating to the Gaza Strip in which they have shared interests, without the interference of Hamas.
Egypt is at the moment considering whether to organize a summit in the near future in Cairo between Olmert, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reported on Saturday that Mubarak has invited French President Nicholas Sarzoky and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for talks on how to end the Gaza offensive.
The Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported that Abbas and Sarkozy are set to hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Muabark on Sunday.
The United States and Israel signed an agreement on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
The deal includes measures meant to fight arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states.
The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders.
The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text.
It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories.
Although signed by the Bush administration, the agreement is binding on the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama and Rice and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said both Obama and Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton had been briefed on the details.
The United States and Israel signed an agreement on Friday aimed at stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
The deal includes measures to fight arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan, and neighboring states.
Also on Friday, the Prime Minister's Office reported there has been progress on talks between Israeltalks between Egypt and Israel on fighting arms smuggling from Egyptian territory, adding that an agreement could be reached soon.
On Saturday evening, the diplomatic-security cabinet will meet to hold a vote on whether to accept the Egyptian proposal.
The agreement signed between the U.S. and Israel Friday appears to place much of the blame for recent violence on Hamas, saying "the acquisition and use of arms and related materiel by terrorists against Israel were the direct causes of recent hostilities."
The deal also 'Unequivocally' condemns "terrorism as unjustifiable, wherever and by whomever committed and whatever the motivation, in particular, the recent rocket and mortar attacks and other hostile activity perpetrated against Israel from Gaza by terrorist organizations."
It also said that "Israel, like all nations, enjoys the inherent right of self defense, including the right to defend itself against terrorism through appropriate action."
Rice and Livni presented the agreement at a press conference on Friday, in which the U.S. Secretary of State reiterated Israel's support of Israel and the two-state solution, while also saying that the U.S. is "concerned about innocent Palestinians" and called for the international community to be "responsive to humanitarian organizations in the Gaza Strip."
The agreement "should be thought of as one of the elements of trying to help bring in a durable ceasefire, a ceasefire that can hold," Rice added, declining to predict whether a full ceasefire would be possible to before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office on Tuesday.
Earlier on Friday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack declined to provide specifics on on what assets the United States might provide under the deal, saying the basic idea was to ensure "Hamas is not able to be resupplied via sea, land or air."
He said no U.S. personnel were expected to be stationed in Gaza or in Egypt.
Diplomats say the hope is that the agreement will satisfy Israeli concerns about re-opening Gaza border crossings and will be an important piece of an Egyptian cease-fire initiative being negotiated in Cairo to end the fighting that has killed some 1,100 Palestinians since Israel launched the operation on Dec. 27. Thirteen Israelis have been killed, four by rocket fire, according to the Israel Defense Forces.
Hamas will not accept Israeli conditions for a cease-fire in Gaza and would continue armed resistance until the offensive ends, Khaled Meshal, the leader of the Palestinian Islamist group, said on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of an emergency meeting on Gaza in Doha, Meshal called on the leaders present to cut all ties with Israel.
His comments came following a report in the al-Sharq al-Awset daily on Friday, claiming Hamas is prepared to accept a conditional cease-fire with Israel starting on Saturday.
According to the report, Hamas has set five conditions for the cease-fire:
1. The reciprocal truce would begin on Saturday and be followed by the immediate transfer of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.
2. The Israel Defense Forces must pull all of its troops out of the coastal territory within the first week of the truce.
3. The flow of trade in and out of the Gaza Strip must be renewed and monitored by observers from Egypt, Europe, and Turkey.
4. The Rafah crossing must be reopened and supervised by Palestinian Authority security forces and international observers, until a Palestinian unity government has been established and can take its place.
5. The truce would be instated for one-year with an option for renewal.
Earlier Friday, Israeli and Western sources said that Jerusalem has rebuffed some of the conditions initially set forth by Hamas for an Egyptian-proposed truce in the Gaza Strip, including how long it would last and who would manage the border crossings.
Jerusalem has expressed its reservations regarding the Islamist group's terms, despite Cairo's apparent promise to crack down on arms smuggling to Gaza - one of Israel's key demands - and Hamas' willingness to accept the offer.
The Israeli and Western sources said Israel had objected to putting a time limit on the truce. Hamas proposed a 12-month agreement that could later be extended.
"A time limit on any period of quiet is a mistake," a senior Israeli source said. "We saw that when the previous calm ran out of time, it was just an excuse for some to escalate the violence. An open-ended calm is what is needed."
Another Israeli source said that defense official Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security department, returned from his first day of talks in Egypt on Thursday with a very reassuring report of progress.
Upon his return, Gilad headed straight to Jerusalem to report to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Gilad was back in Cairo on Friday for further negotiations.
The diplomatic-security cabinet was supposed to meet Friday to vote on the offer, but has decided to put off the debate until Gilad returns to Israel with an additional report.
Meanwhile, Livni headed off to Washington on Friday to sign a deal of understanding with her American counterpart Condoleezza Rice on the joint supervision and treatment of weapons smuggling from Iran to the Gaza Strip.
"Prime Minister Ehud Olmert authorized this evening the trip of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the United States in order to promote an American-Israeli outlined agreement intended to deal with weapons smuggling," Olmert's office said in a statement.
Israeli officials said Livni was tentatively scheduled to arrive in Washington at 10 A.M. (3 P.M. GMT) and would meet with Rice at the State Department at 11 A.M. (4 P.M. GMT).
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that he believed a cease-fire could be signed in a few days, but this depends on Israel's leadership.
The Egyptian truce proposal, of which Haaretz obtained a copy Thursday, contains three clauses.
First, Israel and the Palestinians will agree to an immediate, time-limited cease-fire, during which the border crossings will be opened for humanitarian aid and Egypt will lead negotiations on a long-term truce.
Second, the long-term truce must include provisions on both border security and an end to the blockade of Gaza.
Third, Fatah and Hamas should resume reconciliation talks.
Egyptian officials told Haaretz they believe the initial, short-term truce should last a few months, to allow plenty of time for negotiations on the long-term cease-fire.
However, the proposal does not require Israel to withdraw from Gaza during the initial truce, and Hamas has said it will not accept the proposal unless that omission is corrected.
Salah al-Bardawil, who was Hamas' Gazan representative to the talks with Egypt, said his organization demands that Israel completely withdraw within five days of whenever the initial cease-fire takes effect.
Hamas also insists that the agreement include a deadline by which the border crossings must reopen.
Israel, for its part, insists that the crossings not be reopened until the smuggling issue is resolved to its satisfaction. It also wants Hamas to agree to an explicit timetable for concluding a deal on kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit and to be more flexible in what it is demanding in exchange for Shalit.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke with Olmert by telephone Thursday, for the first time since a well-publicized spat about her vote on last week's Security Council resolution.
Olmert claimed earlier this week that Rice had been planning to vote yes on the resolution, which called for a prompt cease-fire, but he then placed an urgent call to U.S. President George Bush who ordered her to instead abstain.
In response, the State Department said there was not a shred of truth to this claim.
Nevertheless, Olmert's office insisted that Thursday's call went well, with the two agreeing to let bygones be bygones.
...Hayden said that country steadily is producing low-enriched uranium and soon will have enough to create highly enriched uranium — the fuel for a nuclear warhead. The CIA does not have clear intelligence saying that a decision has been made, but the agency is aware of the amount of uranium Iran has produced so far.
Agency officials presume that Iran is seriously considering using its uranium stocks to make nuclear weapons because of its willingness to endure the economic pain of penalties for refusing to agree to international safeguards.
"I'm amazed Iran is willing to run the costs they are running if they are not trying to keep the option open for a nuclear weapon," Hayden said.
The possibility of an Iranian warhead is on a list of 10 potential problems that Hayden says his successor should keep watch on over the next 12 months....
What happened to the NIE estimate of the probability of the possibility that absolutely certainly, maybe, Iran was not producing a nuclear weapon, most likely?
Palestinian sources tell Ynet fighting in Gaza to cease within 72 hours for period of two weeks, during which sides will discuss supervision of crossings, IDF withdrawal from Strip and removal of blockade
Ali Waked Published: 01.15.09, 23:50 / Israel News
Palestinian sources told Ynet on Thursday evening that Israel and Hamas have agreed on all the general outlines of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative to end the fighting in Gaza.
According to the report, the sides have agreed on the truce, on the supervision of the smuggling issue, on the crossings and on lifting of the blockade imposed on the Strip.
During this period of time, the parties will discuss the Israel Defense Forces' withdrawal from Gaza and the withdrawal's timing. Palestinian sources estimated that the pullback into Israel would be swift.
According to the sources, on the issue of the supervision mechanism it has been agreed that the international forces' presence would be on the Palestinian side of the Philadelphi route.
On this issue the sides are expected to discuss the identity of the supervisors and the international force. Hamas is interested in Turkish forces, while Israel is expected to demand a reinforced Western presence.
Simultaneously, Egypt will begin using the supervision equipment sent by the United States. This mechanism is aimed at reducing the smuggling of weapons through Hamas tunnels in the Rafah area to a minimum.
Egyptian officers and supervisors who underwent training in Texas in the past few months will be in charge of operating the improved equipment, which is expected to begin functioning in the coming days.
The operation of the crossings, particularly the Rafah crossings, will be based on an agreement from 2005 which includes the presence of European monitors, Israeli cameras and a force on behalf of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas will also be present at the crossings, but the location of its representatives has yet to be determined.
Simultaneously, Israel is expected to demand that the Palestinian organizations stop manufacturing weapons inside the Gaza Strip.
Fear: Dispute will lead to renewed fighting
The question of how soon the crossings will open, as well as when the blockade will be lifted, depends on the response to the conditions expected to be raised by Israel – led by the Gilad Shalit issue.
In addition, according to the Palestinian sources, Israel will demand that Hamas or the other Palestinian organizations will refrain from attempting to execute terror attacks in Israel from the West Bank in response to the Gaza operation.
Ynet has learned that Israel demands that the number of people who will not be allowed to pass through the Rafah crossing will total 5,000. According to the sources, Egypt is extremely interested in reaching a deal, which will allow Cairo to open the crossing which has been used by elements in the Arab world to attack the country.
According to estimates, the circumstances created on the ground at the start of the discussions will influence their outcomes. However, if agreements are not made on all issues, the military escalation may be resumed within a week or two.
The inter-Palestinian dialogue is not expected to be discussed by Hamas and Egypt at this stage. The issue is expected to be postponed until an agreement is reached during the short ceasefire period.
The sources said that the renewed lull will last at least a year, and is expected to last even longer. According to the sources, a "weakened" Hamas will agree to a longer lull in order to recover from the current conflict.
If the agreement is executed, the agreement is expected to provide an answer to the Israeli demands in terms of the smuggling issue, the rocket fire and a serious discussion on the Shalit issue.
Hamas will gain the reopening of the crossings, the removal of the blockade and an official role at the crossings. Abbas will receive renewed access to the Strip, only at the crossings at first, and Egypt will be able to open the Rafah crossing.
Olmert, Livni and Barak end five-hour discussion on Egyptian initiative for ceasefire in Gaza, decide to send Amos Gilad, head of Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, back to Cairo Friday morning in order to present Israel's stance
Roni Sofer Published: 01.16.09, 02:19 / Israel News
Major-General (Res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, will leave for Egypt on Friday morning in order to discuss the Egyptian initiative for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the limited cabinet decided Thursday night following a five-hour discussion.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said during the discussion, "We are continuing to inquire on the details of a diplomatic arrangement with the Egyptians, and by no means with Hamas."
Gilad, who returned from Cairo on Thursday, briefed Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on the details received from the Egyptian mediators.
The prime minister added during the meeting, "We will stop terror and stop Hamas from rearming, without any compromises. I don't want any time pressures or international pressure to dictate failing to meet these goals. I'm not stressed out, and the fighting in Gaza continues.
Thursday night's discussions were attended by IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Shin Bet Director Yuval Diskin. Gilad will return to Egypt in order to discuss the initiative's details and present Israel's stance in accordance with the guidelines agreed upon in the discussions.
After the round of talks, a date will be set for a National Security Cabinet meeting.
The negotiations with Egypt are ongoing as the prime minister and limited cabinet have yet to receive sufficient answers from Cairo. Olmert refuses to accept a renewed lull in an improved format. In other words, the prime minister will not accept any time limit for the ceasefire, as demanded by Hamas.
In addition, the limited cabinet demands that the Egyptians provide Israel with a commitment to prevent weapons smuggling which would help Hamas rearm.
The cabinet is demanding an answer on how Egypt plans to stop the smuggling from Sinai to the Gaza Strip, both through its sovereign territory and through the Philadelphi route tunnels.
The outlined agreement expected to be signed by Livni in Washington will only support the Egyptian commitment and perhaps help to prevent the smuggling before the missiles and other weapons reach Egypt. The cabinet, however, demands Cairo upholds its end of the bargain this time.
Livni and Barak agreed with Olmert that there would be no progress on the diplomatic route if these demands were not met. They also agreed that the fighting in Gaza would continue as long as there was no diplomatic arrangement on the Egyptian channel.
Livni goes to Washington, talks continue
Foreign Minister Livni left for Washington on Thursday night in order to sum up an outlined agreement with the United States intended to prevent the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Olmert approved the trip.
The Foreign Ministry was assigned to the task of working with international powers to secure the outlined agreement, which Israel hopes will prevent the arming of Hamas.
Livni made it clear before leaving for Washington that even after the agreement is signed, Israel reserves the right to respond with fire to Hamas' attempts to rearm itself.
The purpose of the agreement is to prevent the smuggling of arms from Egypt through the Philadelphi route. The plan is to locate in advance the seaways from the Persian Gulf, Sudan and other countries, through which weapons have been transferred – including Grad missiles developed in Iran and fired by Hamas into Israeli cities more than 20 kilometers away from the Gaza Strip. The agreement is also aimed at preventing the delivery of longer range rockets in the future.
Foreign Ministry Director-General Aharon Abramowitz is already in Washington, where he has promoted efforts to reduce smuggling by land and sea.
Talks on the issue are also being held with NATO, the European Union, and various countries as part of Israel's plan to secure international guarantees not solely reliant upon Hamas or Egypt.
Even after the decision to send Gilad back to Cairo, the discussions were expected to continue without Livni in order to agree on all of Israel's demand in relation to all relevant clauses, in order to prepare a list Gilad will be able to present to the Egyptians before a decision is made on whether to accept the ceasefire.
Earlier Thursday, Palestinian sources told Ynet that Israel and Hamas had agreed on all the general outlines of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative to end the fighting in Gaza.
According to the report, the sides agreed on the truce, on the supervision of the smuggling issue, on the crossings and on lifting of the blockade imposed on the Strip.
There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.
The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.
The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas's enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.
IN the summer of 2006, at a moment when Hezbollah rockets were falling virtually without pause on northern Israel, Nizar Rayyan, husband of four, father of 12, scholar of Islam and unblushing executioner, confessed to me one of his frustrations.
We were meeting in a concrete mosque in the Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza. Mr. Rayyan, who was a member of the Hamas ruling elite, and an important recruiter of suicide bombers until Israel killed him two weeks ago (along with several of his wives and children), arrived late to our meeting from parts unknown.
He was watchful for assassins even then, and when I asked him to describe his typical day, he suggested that I might be a spy for Fatah. Not the Mossad, mind you, not the C.I.A., but Fatah.
What a phantasmagorically strange conflict the Arab-Israeli war had become! Here was a Saudi-educated, anti-Shiite (but nevertheless Iranian-backed) Hamas theologian accusing a one-time Israeli Army prison official-turned-reporter of spying for Yasir Arafat's Fatah, an organization that had once been the foremost innovator of anti-Israeli terrorism but was now, in Mr. Rayyan's view, indefensibly, unforgivably moderate.
In the Palestinian civil war, Fatah, which today controls much of the West Bank and is engaged in intermittent negotiations with Israel, had become Mr. Rayyan's direst enemy, a party of apostates and quislings. "First we must deal with the Muslims who speak of a peace process and then we will deal with you," he declared.
But we spoke that day mainly about the hadith, the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that specifically concerned Jews and their diverse and apparently limitless character failings. This sort of conversation, while illuminating, can become wearying over time, at least for the Jewish participant, and so I was happy to learn that Mr. Rayyan had his own sore points.
"Hezbollah is doing very well against Israel, don't you think?" I asked. His face darkened, suggesting that he understood the implication of my question. At the time, Hamas, too, was firing rockets into Israel, though irregularly and without much effect.
"We support our brothers in the resistance," he said. But then he added, "I think each situation is different."
"They have advantages that we in Gaza don't have," he said. "They have excellent weapons. Hezbollah moves freely in Lebanon. We are trapped in the Israeli cage. So I don't like to hear the sentence, 'Hezbollah is the leader of the resistance.' It's a very annoying sentence. They are heroes to us. But we are the ones fighting in Palestine."
"And they're Shia," I said. Mr. Rayyan, who was educated by Wahhabi clerics in Saudi Arabia, was known in Gaza as a firm defender of Sunni theology and privilege, and sometimes lectured at the Islamic University of Gaza on the danger of Shiite "infiltration."
"Yes! There are many different secret agendas," he said. "We have to be aware of this."
Hamas men across Gaza were of two minds on the subject of Hezbollah: One night, I met the members of a Hamas rocket team in the town of Beit Hanoun, on Gaza's northern border with Israel. The group's leader, who went by the name of Abu Obeidah, said that he, too, was frustrated by Hezbollah's success against Israel; he even asked if Hamas's rocket attacks that summer were featured on television in America, and seemed to deflate physically when I told him no.
"Everyone, all the media, says that Hezbollah is wonderful," he complained. "We stand with our brothers of Hezbollah, of course, but, really, look at the advantages they have. They get all the rockets they will ever need from Iran."
Hamas is not a monolith, and opinions inside the group differ about many things, including engagement with the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran. The former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi told me shortly before he was assassinated by Israel in 2004 that it would be "uncharitable" to find fault with Iran.
"What do the Arab states do for us?" he asked. "Iran is steadfast against the Jews."
Today, there is no doubt that Rantisi's view holds sway inside the organization, and many in Hamas wish for even closer ties with Tehran, particularly over the past month as they have absorbed a battering from Israel. Even those who believe that Iran is secretly trying to bring Sunni Palestinians to Shiism acknowledge anti-Israel Shiites as ideals of resistance.
As the Gaza war moves to a cease-fire, a crucial question will inevitably arise, as it has before: Should Israel (and by extension, the United States) try to engage Hamas in a substantive and sustained manner?
It is a fair question, one worth debating, but it is unmoored from certain political and theological realities. One irresistible reality grows from Hamas's complicated, competitive relationship with Hezbollah. For Hamas, Hezbollah is not only a source of weapons and instruction, it is a mentor and role model.
Hamas's desire to best Hezbollah's achievements is natural, of course, but, more to the point, it is radicalizing. One of the reasons, among many, that Hamas felt compelled to break its cease-fire with Israel last month was to prove its potency to Muslims impressed with Hezbollah.
Another reality worth considering concerns theology. Hamas and Hezbollah emerged from very different streams of Islam: Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood; Hezbollah is an outright Iranian proxy that takes its inspiration from the radical Shiite politics of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But the groups share a common belief that Jews are a cosmological evil, enemies of Islam since Muhammad sought refuge in Medina.
Periodically, advocates of negotiation suggest that the hostility toward Jews expressed by Hamas is somehow mutable. But in years of listening, I haven't heard much to suggest that its anti-Semitism is insincere. Like Hezbollah, Hamas believes that God is opposed to a Jewish state in Palestine. Both groups are rhetorically pitiless, though, again, Hamas sometimes appears to follow the lead of Hezbollah.
I once asked Abdel Aziz Rantisi where he learned what he called "the truth" of the Holocaust -- that it didn't happen -- and he referred me to books published by Hezbollah. Hamas and Hezbollah also share the view that the solution for Palestine lies in Europe. A spokesman for Hezbollah, Hassan Izzedine, once told me that the Jews who survive the Muslim "liberation" of Palestine "can go back to Germany, or wherever they came from." He went on to argue that the Jews are a "curse to anyone who lives near them."
Nizar Rayyan expressed much the same sentiment the night we spoke in 2006. We had been discussing a passage of the Koran that suggests that God turns a group of impious Jews into apes and pigs. The Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, among others, has deployed this passage in his speeches. Once, at a rally in Beirut, he said: "We shout in the face of the killers of prophets and the descendants of the apes and pigs: We hope we will not see you next year. The shout remains, 'Death to Israel!'"
Mr. Rayyan said that, technically, Mr. Nasrallah was mistaken. "Allah changed disobedient Jews into apes and pigs, it is true, but he specifically said these apes and pigs did not have the ability to reproduce," Mr. Rayyan said. "So it is not literally true that Jews today are descended from pigs and apes, but it is true that some of the ancestors of Jews were transformed into pigs and apes, and it is true that Allah continually makes the Jews pay for their crimes in many different ways. They are a cursed people."
I asked him the question I always ask of Hamas leaders: Could you agree to anything more than a tactical cease-fire with Israel? I felt slightly ridiculous asking: A man who believes that God every now and again transforms Jews into pigs and apes might not be the most obvious candidate for peace talks at Camp David. Mr. Rayyan answered the question as I thought he would, saying that a long-term cease-fire would be unnecessary, because it will not take long for the forces of Islam to eradicate Israel.
There is a fixed idea among some Israeli leaders that Hamas can be bombed into moderation. This is a false and dangerous notion. It is true that Hamas can be deterred militarily for a time, but tanks cannot defeat deeply felt belief.
The reverse is also true: Hamas cannot be cajoled into moderation. Neither position credits Hamas with sincerity, or seriousness.
The only small chance for peace today is the same chance that existed before the Gaza invasion: The moderate Arab states, Europe, the United States and, mainly, Israel, must help Hamas's enemy, Fatah, prepare the West Bank for real freedom, and then hope that the people of Gaza, vast numbers of whom are unsympathetic to Hamas, see the West Bank as an alternative to the squalid vision of Hassan Nasrallah and Nizar Rayyan.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic, is the author of "Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror."
Israel haters fancy that they are the majority, but at least in the United States, Israel appears to be winning the public opinion wars. A Pew poll found modest backing for Israel in the Gaza crisis, and no desire for a greater US role in resolution f the conflict. Hamas is largely seen as primarily responsible for the outbreak of violence. Overall public support for Israel has been undiminished by the war: 49% now say they sympathize with Israel in its dispute with the Palestinians while just 11% sympathize with the Palestinians. This division of opinion is similar to what PEW found in August 2006 during the Hezbollah war.
After crying the blues over money supposedly lost to crook Bernard Madoff, Hadassah revealed that it had actually made money. There is no way to know which of the other NGOs who are pretending they "lost" money actually made a bundle over Madoff's shenanigans. A big charity swindle!
"We're looking for an opportunity to recover [from the Madoff and stock market losses]," says Hadassah President Nancy Falchuk. "Three hundred thousand women own this organization and we will come through this." by Stewart Ain Staff Writer
Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, may have lost $90 million invested with Bernard Madoff, but over the last 20 years it withdrew $130 million from that account, The Jewish Week has learned.
"We had no idea how much we had pulled out until a few days ago," said a source close to the organization.
The source said Hadassah "went back through its books, year by year, to check all the records" to learn how much was withdrawn after receiving many calls from members upset with the $90 million loss.
"There are a lot of angry people out there," the source said. "When we checked, we found that we did quite well — $130 million was withdrawn" since 1987.
Nancy Falchuk, the president of Hadassah, confirmed the $130 million figure in a phone interview late Wednesday morning as the paper was going to press. She stressed that the organization was still in need of money because over the past five years it has sent $91 million in cash each year to Hadassah's projects in Israel. She said the organization is obligated to send another $91 million this year to pay, among other things, salaries at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
"Yes, we have money in the bank but a lot of it is restricted," Falchuk said, adding that Hadassah is now erecting a new tower at Hadassah Hospital and is still housing children in its youth aliyah village in Israel. "We're looking for an opportunity to recover [from the Madoff and stock market losses]. ... Three hundred thousand women own this organization and we will come through this."
Prior to the conversation with Falchuk, the Jewish Week source said Hadassah's treasurer, Marci Natan, has acknowledged to donors that Hadassah withdrew $130 million over the years.
"They are not publishing it, but they are telling donors who call," said the source. "The money went for all of our projects — a college and two hospital campuses and for the support of a number of youth aliyah programs."
One of the callers to Natan, Stan Epstein of Santa Monica, Calif., expressed surprise when she told him of the $130 million. And he said she told him that Hadassah made another $50 million with Madoff that the organization reinvested with him.
"I object to the fact that they have never told the public that they made $180 million with Madoff while they are appealing to the public for money as though they lost $90 million," Epstein said.
Madoff is accused of operating a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $50 billion. Jewish philanthropies and institutions were particularly hard hit. The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity reportedly lost about $15 million. Yeshiva University lost more than $100 million, and the Modern Orthodox day schools Ramaz and SAR, as well as Maimonides in Boston, also lost millions.
Avraham Infeld, president of the Chais Family Foundation, said the foundation withdrew $12.5 million a year in each of the last two years from the money it had invested with Madoff. He said he did not know how much was withdrawn in prior years, but all of its assets were invested with Madoff and the organization had distributed about $12 million annually to Jewish causes in Israel, the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
The foundation closed last month after Madoff admitted that his $50 billion hedge fund was a fraud. The organization said it lost $178 million.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland ruled this week that the trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's investment fund could subpoena witnesses and gather documents to investigate the flow of money from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Meanwhile, he allowed Madoff to remain free on $10 million bail, provided he remains in his Park Avenue apartment.
Hadassah became involved with Madoff in 1988 when an overseas donor in France contributed $7 million and stipulated that the money be invested with Madoff, according to Falchuck, in her letter to The Jewish Week.
According to the source, the rate of return on that money and encouragement by Madoff to invest more led Hadassah to invest another $33 million.
"He asked for more money — he implied he needed more," the source said of Madoff.
Falchuck wrote that Hadassah made no new investments after 1997.
Epstein, a commercial real estate transaction attorney who in the last 10 years has been a plaintiff's class-action attorney, said it is his understanding from conversations with several bankruptcies lawyers that Hadassah may be forced by New York State law to return millions of dollars. (He said he is not representing anyone involved in the Madoff scandal.) He said the fact that Hadassah is a charitable organization does not exempt it from the law.
Asked how much Hadassah might be forced by the bankruptcy judge to give up, Epstein said it would be based upon the amount of money other investors withdrew from their Madoff account in the last six years.
He speculated that Hadassah might have to return as much as $42 million.
The source said Hadassah is clearly worried about the law but hopes that it would be exempt because it is a charitable, not-for-profit organization.
The Madoff scandal comes at a time when Hadassah's other investments have taken a hit. A year ago, the organization had an investment portfolio that totaled about $750 million. Today, it totals about $450 million, according to the source.
As a result of that loss and a restructuring effort that has been several years in the planning, Hadassah was expected to announce significant staff layoffs this week. [On Wednesday afternoon, after this story went to press, the group said it was laying off 80 employees, a quarter of its workforce.] Falchuk confirmed that there would be staff cuts and said that this was part of a two-year restructuring plan. "The market accelerated it and this is an effort to try to do business better," she said.
The thing about anti-Semitic SOBs, is that they are really anti-Semitic SOBs. This surprises some people. According to MEMRI:
Recently, MEMRI TV released a clip of a speech by Sheikh Safwat Higazi that aired on Hamas Al-Aqsa TV on December 31, 2008, in which the sheikh said:
"Being killed... is what we desire and hope for. It is martyrdom, by Allah... I wish I could stand among the youth of the Al-Qassam Brigades, passing them one of their missiles, wiping from their faces the dust of a missile that was launched, or crying 'Allah Akbar' along with them... Dispatch those sons of apes and pigs to the Hellfire, on the wings of the Qassam rockets... Jihad is our path... The [Jews]... deserve to be killed. They deserve to die. Destroy... everything over there"
And now the Sheikh has said:
Safwat Higazi: "An Israeli-American organization monitoring Arab media, called MEMRI - or rather, this is its acronym - has accused several prominent Muslim clerics and sheikhs from Arab TV channels, including Dr. Sallah Sultan and Sheikh Safwat Higazi, of incitement to the killing of the Jews and to hatred of the U.S.
"This is a great honor for us. Yes, I am an antisemite. Yes, I hate Zionism. Yes, Judgment Day will not come until we fight the Jews. These are the words of our Prophet, like it or not."[...]
"Yes, we are enemies of these people. We are enemies of all those who plunder our land and our rights, and we are enemies of the American government, and of whoever helps our enemies in the killing of our brothers. We are enemies of whoever helps our enemies - America and all the others.
"Yes, we hate them. Yes, we are hostile to them. By Allah, only our rulers prevent us from getting to you. By Allah, if they let us, we would devour you completely, and we would bite you with our teeth. We would not wait for weapons, for RPGs, or for bullets. If our rulers let us, we would catch you in the street, and we would devour you with our teeth.
"Yes, we are your enemies, and we will continue to be your enemies, until the day Jesus son of Mary descends, fighting you and calling to join Islam, the religion of the Prophet Muhammad."
A memorandum of understanding between the U.S. and Israel on security and intelligence cooperation aimed at countering the smuggling of arms into the Gaza Strip is being prepared and may be signed as early as Friday, Haaretz has learned.
Meanwhile, Hamas has agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo on Wednesday.
The head of the political-security bureau in the Defense Ministry, Amos Gilad, arrived in Cairo on Thursday to discuss the Egyptian proposal.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos on Wednesday that he wanted to bring the operation in the Gaza Strip to an end if Hamas agreed to the Egyptian proposal.
At the crux of the cooperation agreement between Israel and the U.S. is supervision to halt the smuggling of arms from Iran, through the Persian Gulf to Sudan and other countries, and finally to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramowitz, will meet with State Department officials Jeffrey Feltman and Daniel Hale in Washington today, as well as officials from the White House, Defense Department and U.S. intelligence agencies, in an effort to reach a written guarantee that the United States will act more extensively against the smuggling.
If an agreement is formulated, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will travel to Washington to sign the agreement.
Israel is asking for a number of guarantees from the Americans:
# A U.S. declaration calling on the international community to deal with the smuggling of arms from Iran to terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
# Intelligence cooperation between Israel and the U.S. for identifying the sources of weapons, with focus on the network linking Iran, the Persian Gulf and Sudan.
# An international maritime effort along the smuggling routes to find ships carrying weapons to the Gaza Strip, possibly with the involvement of NATO.
# An American and European commitment for the transfer of technologies to Egypt that will help it uncover tunnels.
# Plans for the economic development of Rafah, with particular emphasis on the Bedouin to undercut the financial motivation for building and operating tunnels.
Amos Gilad's trip to Cairo on Thursday for meetings with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was postponed twice this week, and his going now suggests some progress has taken place in talks between Egypt and Hamas, and that Gilad will be debriefed on developments on the cease-fire proposal agreement.
Gilad also wants to confirm that Egypt is serious in its commitment to combat weapons smuggling along the Philadelphi Route into Gaza.
A top Israeli diplomatic sources said he was told by a senior Egyptian official that "we understand the problem and promise that the matter of smuggling will end." The Egyptian added, "Now we have the legitimacy to fight it, in order to prevent continued IDF activity."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmet Aboul Gheit said Monday evening that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian draft, which calls for immediate end to aggression on Gaza, the opening of the border crossings and the withdrawal of Israeli forces inside the Strip.
He said that Hamas representatives presented their stance to Egyptian intelligence officials, and that they in turn will relay the outcome of their talks to Israel.
Switzerland has appointed what is believed to be the first female ambassador to Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Livia Leu Agosti arrived in Iran this week as Berne's woman in Tehran, drawing criticism from Swiss conservative politicians and pleas for solidarity from Iranian women's rights campaigners.
She met the Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, for talks on expanding bilateral economic ties and is expected to present her diplomatic credentials formally to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the coming weeks. Iran has on occasion rejected ambassadors' credentials.
The Iranian students' news agency ISNA, citing "informed sources", said yesterday that Leu Agosti had been accepted by the foreign ministry.
Her appointment puts her in charge of one of the most strategically placed diplomatic missions in Tehran. The Swiss embassy has represented US interests since 1980, when Washington severed diplomatic ties with Iran after the takeover of its embassy by Islamist revolutionaries. Swiss diplomats have frequently acted as a conduit for messages between the two countries.
Leu Agosti, 47, was head of the Swiss foreign ministry's Africa and the Middle East department. The US president-elect, Barack Obama, is expected to explore ways of engaging Iran's theocratic government. Leu Agosti told SonntagsZeitung newspaper her appointment struck a blow for "women's equality in a man's world".
But Swiss critics claim that her agreement to observe Iran's laws requiring women to wear the hijab represents surrender to radical Islam. Switzerland's foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, a vocal women's equality advocate and a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, provoked controversy during a visit to Tehran last year by wearing a headscarf to meet Ahmadinejad. Exiled Iranian female campaigners have urged Leu Agosti to challenge Iran's official position that the headscarf is a "cultural" issue. In an open letter to Leu Agosti and Calmy-Rey, the international network of solidarity with the Iranian women's movement accused the government of practising "gender-specific apartheid" against women.
Leu Agosti has said she will wear the hijab to maintain her diplomatic status.
The worthless nature of the agreement with Hamas seems to be clarified by the following statement:
"We're not talking about amending the proposal, since it was presented by Egyptian President [Hosni] Mubarak, but this is a proposal that includes many phrases, and each side has the right to present its opinion and interpretation of these phrases. We have voiced our stance and our interests within the framework of this general outline and the guidelines anchored in the Egyptian proposal," Bardawil said.
"Cease fire" - this means that Hamas are allowed to fire on Israel, but not v.v.
"No arms smuggling" - nothing larger than a nuclear ICBM.
Egypt television reported on Thursday that Israel has agreed in principle to a Gaza truce plan, but has some clarifications that have yet to be reviewed by Hamas.
Senior defense official Amos Gilad on Thursday returned from the truce talks in Egypt and was to brief Defense Minister Barak, prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on his meetings with Egyptian Intelligence head Omar Suleiman.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday updated U.S. Secretary of State Rice on the situation in Gaza and said Israel is interested in utilizing the Egyptian channel to bring about a cease-fire and an end to weapons smuggling in order to end the operation, said a statement from the office.
Rice said that the U.S. would be willing to assist in solving the smuggling issue and sign a memorandum of understanding with Israel on the subject, it said.
Hamas on Wednesday agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo.
Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said the group had generally accepted the terms of the Egyptian proposal but demanded clarifications on several clauses. He said that the Egyptian initiative is the only one presented to Hamas.
"We're not talking about amending the proposal, since it was presented by Egyptian President [Hosni] Mubarak, but this is a proposal that includes many phrases, and each side has the right to present its opinion and interpretation of these phrases. We have voiced our stance and our interests within the framework of this general outline and the guidelines anchored in the Egyptian proposal," Bardawil said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmet Aboul Gheit said Monday evening that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian draft, which calls for immediate end to aggression on Gaza, the opening of the border crossings and the withdrawal of Israeli forces inside the Strip. He said that Hamas representatives presented their stance to Egyptian intelligence officials, and that they in turn will relay the outcome of their talks to Israel.
Mohammed Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau who was present in the talks, voiced reservations regarding the announcement that the Egyptian proposal was acceptable to Hamas, saying that Hamas' willingness to cooperate with Egyptian efforts did not mean that they had accepted the proposal.
"There are still clauses under discussion and we are still pushing the issue," he said.
In Israel, defense sources said Wednesday that the Hamas declaration reflected a significant softening of the group's original stance.
The same sources said Hamas was responding to the pressure from the military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel must try to seek a quick cease-fire, said the source, and the Israel Defense Forces must try to avoid 'complications' - army talk for losses.
Jan. 15, 2009 JPost.com Staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
A 7-year-old boy and a woman were seriously wounded and four others sustained lighter injuries in Beersheba Thursday afternoon when two Grad rockets fired by Gaza terrorists hit the city. One of the rockets scored a direct hit on a car.
Two people were moderately wounded and two were lightly hurt in the attack, and several people were treated for shock.
The army said that an IAF aircraft hit the rocket launcher that had fired on Beersheba.
Even as an Egyptian cease-fire initiative was being discussed in Cairo, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired at least 25 rockets at southern Israel on Thursday.
Earlier, a Kassam rocket landed near Ofakim, causing no casualties or damage.
In a morning volley, a Grad-type rocket also landed in the Gedera region, causing neither casualties nor damage.
Hours earlier, a Kassam rocket hit a house in Sderot, causing extensive damage to the structure and to cars parked nearby. Another rocket landed near an educational institution in the city. No casualties were reported in the attacks.
Rocket warning sirens sounded in the city seconds before impact. Sirens also sounded in Beersheba, though there were no reports of rockets landing in the city.
On Wednesday, at least 15 rockets were fired at Israel.
All the reports of Siam's death are garbled. His brother's name was Ayad, and not as stated below, and according to Ha'aretz, it is Palestinians who are claiming he is dead. In this account below, it is the Israelis who claim to have killed him.
Hamas's interior minister, Said Siam, was killed along with his brother Iad and another senior Hamas man in an IAF strike on a house in the Jabaliya neighborhood in Gaza City, Israeli defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.
Siam was the Hamas political echelon's liaison with the group's military wing, and was responsible for the various security apparatuses in the Strip, including the police and the naval force.
Siam was considered a radical and was in contact with Hamas's political leadership in Damascus.
Salah Abu Shrakh, the head of the Hamas general security service, was also killed in the air strike.
Palestinian medical officials confirmed the house was attacked, but there was no word from Hamas on Siam's fate.
Siam was the most senior Hamas man to be killed in almost three weeks of fighting.
Two weeks ago, the IAF dropped a one-ton bomb on the home of one of the group's top five leaders, Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, killing him and a reported 18 others.
Rayyan was both the director and the financier of the 2004 terror attack at the Ashdod port, which killed 10 Israelis, and in October 2001 he sent his son to perpetrate a suicide attack in the Gush Katif settlement Elei Sinai, where two Israelis were killed.
Rayyan also reportedly replaced Sheikh Ahmed Yassin as the organization's top clerical authority after Yassin's assassination in 2004.
RAMALLAH - It's quiet in Ramallah. At the northern entrance to the city, not far from the mall, a new fountain spouts water. Next to it lies a sign in English: "Gaza under fire." But it seems the Gaza Strip has never been so far away. Tel Aviv, meanwhile, feels closer than ever. Almost every day at 1 P.M., a demonstration leaves Manara Square in the city center, expressing support for the residents of the Gaza Strip. The number of participants has declined, however, on a daily basis, and on Wednesday the demonstration was called off for a lack of protesters.
Dozens of men sit in cafes near the square playing cards. In the background, the television blasts the voices of Al-Jazeera reporters, who provide continual updates about the events taking place in the Strip. But even the dramatic reports do not stop the card players for a moment. Occasionally one of them glances up at the screen, but then gets back to business.
The offices of the Al-Jazeera television network overlook Manara Square. Walid Omari, the bureau chief for the Palestinian Authority and Israel, explains that "the residents of Ramallah are filling the cafes, the restaurants, watching Al-Jazeera, cursing the situation, expressing anger and then continuing with their own affairs."
Omari explains that the quiet all over the West Bank in the face of the events in Gaza stems mainly from disappointment and frustration with the leadership of Hamas and Fatah.
"The residents of the West Bank lost a great deal in the course of the last Intifada, but saw no achievements. They are very afraid of more losses, mainly in light of the crisis of confidence between the Palestinian street and its leadership."
He refrains from accusing the PA of suppressing the protest demonstrations, a claim that quite a few of his colleagues have made.
"The PA is not preventing people from demonstrating, it is stopping them from coming to points of friction and raising flags other than Palestinian ones.
At the moment, there is a state of despair in light of the intra-Palestinian disputes, but make no mistake. In the 1980s, the despair was even greater because of the leadership vacuum, and nevertheless the first Intifada broke out."
Beneath the Al-Jazeera building, a protest tent for Gaza has been set up. The PA Ministry of Youth and Sports has set up such tents all over the West Bank, possibly in a non-violent attempt to channel the people's frustration with the conflict in Gaza. City residents have brought various items to transfer to the Strip: blankets, clothing, food, medicines, et al.
There is no unusual activity at the site. A pamphlet bearing the slogan: "One homeland, one nation, we are all Gaza" is being distributed to passersby.
But it is difficult not to get the impression that the relative apathy of the Palestinians in the West Bank stems from several reasons that the public does not like to bring up, certainly not in times like these. First and foremost, the historical gaps between the residents of the West Bank and the Strip. The residents of Ramallah and other West Bank cities have always looked down on their brethren in Gaza. Second, the Hamas coup in the Strip about a year and a half ago left behind quite a few scars. To see innocent Palestinian citizens killed in bombings is sad, but for quite a number of Fatah supporters, Hamas brought this upon itself. Mohammed, a 46-year-old businessman, offers another reason for the apathy: "We're afraid to see the tanks outside the house again."
Third Intifada? Not anytime soon
Within this relative quiet, many voices are being heard in opposition to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. One of the surveys conducted recently in the territories indicated a dramatic decline in Fatah's strength. The violent crack-down of the Palestinian security forces against Hamas-identified demonstrators, as witnessed last Friday in Ramallah, also increased the criticism against Abbas. The PA chairman and his followers are accused of collaborating with Israel in a war waged against the Palestinian people.
The security cooperation between Israel and the PA is continuing in full force, and that is also one of the reasons for the relative quiet in the West Bank. Although since the start of the fighting there has been an increase in disorderly conduct, there have not been many attempted terror attacks. Apparently a third Intifada will not break out here soon, thanks in large part to the PA.
Jan. 14, 2009 BENJAMIN WEINTHAL, Jerusalem Post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST
German police officials in the cities of Duisburg and Düsseldorf, located in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, prohibited pro-Israeli supporters from displaying Israeli flags.
During an anti-Israeli demonstration organized by the radical Islamic group, Milli Görüs, which attracted 10,000 protesters last Saturday in Duisburg, two police officers stormed the apartment of a 25-year-old student and his 26-year-old girlfriend and seized Israeli flags hanging on the balcony and inside a window.
The hostile crowd pelted stones and other objects at the flags.
A video that appears on YouTube shows an angry crowd in front of the apartment house and the police forcibly seizing the Israeli flags. The confiscation of the flags was greeted by cheers from the anti-Israeli protesters.
The student told the online magazine Spiegel that he wanted to show "solidarity with the sole democracy in the region," and complained about societal indifference in Germany toward Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.
"Can anyone imagine the German police going into a private home to remove a Hamas flag?" Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, said in a statement.
"This type of response will only encourage more aggressive and violent behavior by anti-Israel demonstrators and send the message that in Germany, Jews and supporters of Israel do not enjoy the full protection of the law," he said.
Responding to Zuroff's criticism of the police conduct as "cowardly" and "incomprehensible" as well as to the outrage of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Duisburg Police Chief Rolf Cebin posted a statement on the police Web site on Wednesday, saying "I deeply regret that feelings, especially those of our Jewish fellow citizens, were hurt.
"The removal of the flags was, as we see it today, the wrong decision," Cebin said. "The situation was very heated and the officers wanted to avert harm to the participants, including the residents of the apartment. They acted with the best of intentions in a tricky situation, under considerable time pressure, in order, from their point of view, to prevent an escalation."
When asked if the Duisburg police plan to confiscate Israeli flags from supporters who demonstrate against an anti-Israeli protest slated for this coming Saturday, Ramon van der Maat, a Duisburg police spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post that, "we have to see what is expected" at the protest, adding, "It depends on the situation and one cannot, across the board" say that Israeli flags will be permitted.
The Düsseldorf flag ban occurred during a demonstration earlier this month. The flag-wavers were taken into police custody.
Meanwhile, anti-Semitic violence directed at Jewish institutions is spreading across Germany. A Palestinian man assaulted a police employee Wednesday with an iron bar, as the latter was guarding a synagogue in the district of Mitte in Berlin. According to media reports, the attack is linked to Israel's Gaza operation.
In the northeastern city of Rostock, police are investigating attacks on a Jewish community center which serves the small community of 1,000.
Assailants threw rocks at the windows of the center more than a week ago and a crossed-out Star of David was daubed on the building a week before that.
Can Muslims engineer coexistence instead of inventing "resistance?"
Farid Ghadry Published: 01.13.09, 18:31 / Israel Opinion
One cannot but wonder, watching the demise of Hamas, if the outcome of this war is more of a lesson for Arabs or Israelis. What experiences can we draw from a war against a supposed enemy whose power and knowledge are incontestably superior to ours? Not many if the Assad regime, responsible for the havoc over the last 40 years, remains in power.
The real opportunity of this war is that it may spark an Arab Renaissance if, and only if, the Assad regime is removed and replaced by Syrians intent on building a nation instead of destroying other countries, by moderate Muslims ready to crush extremists instead of amplifying their miserable existence, and by Arabs able to embrace nationalism in order to engineer coexistence instead of inventing "resistance."
Assad and the Ba'ath Party will sacrifice every Palestinian, Syrian, Israeli, Lebanese, and Iraqi soul to stay in power, much like Iraq's Hussein did until brought down by force. For those of us who know the regime intimately, terror is its tool of choice and it houses terrorists just as Hollywood houses celebrities.
While Hamas commits Hamacide, a term my son Samer recently coined to define the group's self-destruction, Hizbullah is watching the events unfold with fear pounding the temples of its leadership and knowing full well that they must re-invent themselves for the next round of hostilities. Testing Iran's military field tactics or Assad's guerrilla warfare, and using the undeniably stupid leadership of Hamas, are but a distraction dwarfing the nuclear ambitions both Syria and Iran are racing towards.
Where is the West's "Task Force" developing surgical knowhow to eradicate both regimes? For those wishful thinkers who believe in a dialogue with Assad, be aware that Hamas, Hizbullah, Fatah al-Islam, and many other terror groups are critical balance sheet entries without which Assad is bankrupt and his actions ultimately inconsequential.
Whereas Hamas is intent on testing the been-there-done-that Israeli Army who is determined, this time around, to uproot the terror on its door step, Assad and Ahmadinejad play the West like a harp and the Arabs like a disposable tissue. Notwithstanding the fact Hamas today endangers the lives of its own children and women to show-off what it learned from the Iranian Hizbullah, their cacophony, mirrored by their meager existence, reflects the failure of the West to recognize what Michael Ledeen has dubbed the "Terror Masters in Damascus and Tehran" pulling, like Marionettes, the strings of today's war.
Empty assurances of cooperation
Even if the IDF memory bank is getting an upgrade with the latest the Syrian and Iranian regimes have to offer from their arsenal of terror, both regimes will engineer a comeback that will kill more Israelis, more Palestinians, more Lebanese, and more Iraqis. It is a certainty that Damascus' next plans of terror are blossoming and waiting to be harvested even before the expected implosion of Hamas, while Assad is selling the West empty assurances of cooperation.
Assad's extremism, hiding behind a smoke screen of secularism, is infinitely more dangerous than the exposed extremism of Hamas which, not unlike Saddam Hussein, always tells you exactly what its intentions are. The Assad regime grows stealthily Islamic terrorism in all its forms and, by all accounts, is the ultimate enemy of both moderate Muslims and western countries. By letting Assad off the hook, we, Syrians, are endangering the spark of our own Renaissance which, if history is right, can be precipitated from a free and enlightened Damascus experiencing today the darkest days of its perseverance as the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.
For Arabs to save themselves from the doom of ignorance and ineptitude, we must fight for the freedom of our masses to liberate them from extremism. Saving Iraq from Saddam while keeping her sandwiched between Assad and Ahmadinejad is an irony of gargantuan proportions. Undeniably, oppression is the conduit through which extremism flourishes. Unless we resolve this oxymoronic doctrine in which stability comes with dictatorial rule yet the dictators themselves deliberately foster extremism, the Arab civilization is doomed.
Unfortunately, along the way, Assad's collage of terrorists will continue delivering damaging blows to Israel and the West while pretending he wants peace and propitious relations.
Farid Ghadry is the president of the Reform Party of Syria, a US-based leading Assad opposition political group
Israeli envoy to UN says Hamas targeting civilians, using Palestinian civilians as shields, asks UN to deplore organization
Yitzhak Benhorin Published: 01.15.09, 02:24 / Israel News
WASHINGTON – Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gabriela Shalev asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to include a condemnation of Hamas in a presidential statement set to be released later in the day.
The council held a session dedicated to the subject of civilians caught up in armed conflict. The Libyan envoy took advantage of the meeting to accuse Israel of committing war crimes and genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.
Libya is also trying to push for a draft resolution by the council that would deplore Israel's actions in Gaza.
In her speech, Shalev warned that terror turns civilians into targets, human shields and weapons against their will.
She stressed that Hamas has ben firing rockets at schools and kindergartens for over eight years, putting more than a million Israeli citizens under daily threat. Israel has launched its offensive in Gaza as a means of self-defense, she added.
The Israeli ambassador also blamed Hamas for using schools, mosques and hospitals as cover for its operations and for seizing large parts of the humanitarian aid transferred to Gaza and distributing it among their operatives.
Tanks shell downtown Gaza City, ground troops enter crowded Tel Hawwa neighborhood for the first time; sources say thousands of residents fleeing for cover
Hanan Greenberg and AP Published: 01.15.09, 11:41 / Israel News
Israeli tanks shelled downtown Gaza City on Thursday and ground troops thrust deep into the crowded Tel Hawwa neighborhood for the first time, sending thousands of terrified residents fleeing for cover and increasing pressure on Hamas rulers to accept a proposed ceasefire to end Israel's devastating offensive.
The Israeli military would not discuss its operations and it was not clear whether the intensified assault on Gaza City signaled a new phase in the three-week-old Israeli campaign that Gaza health officials say has already killed more than 1,000 Palestinians. Thirteen Israelis have been killed since the offensive began, according to the military.
Israel has balked at all-out urban warfare in the narrow alleyways of Gaza's big cities, where Hamas militants are more familiar with the lay of the land and Israeli casualties would be liable to spiral. But Palestinian witnesses said Israeli tanks fired shells at least three high-rise buildings in the downtown area as ground troops advanced into a crowded residential area on the outskirts of the city.
Earlier Palestinian sources reported that a woman and her three children in an IDF attack in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya. The attack was apparently not an air raid.
According to the Palestinians, 24 people have been killed by IDF fire since the early morning hours, including five in an attack on a building in the Sheikh Zaid neighborhood near Beit Lahiya. Two more Palestinians were killed during an Israeli attack that took place near the home of senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar. Another two people were killed when a vehicle was hit as it was travelling in Gaza City's Zeitoun neighborhood.
Sources in the Strip said four people were killed from IDF artillery fire in south Gaza, and the bodies of 15 others were pulled from the rubble of a number of structures throughout the Strip.
Gaza Health Ministry officials said the Israeli offensive has killed at least 1,060 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 300 children and teenagers. More than 4,500 Palestinians have been wounded, they said.
Meanwhile, the rocket barrages on south Israel resumed Thursday morning, but no injuries were reported. A Qassam fired toward Sderot damaged a building and several vehicles. Several people were treated for shock.
Police say three New Jersey siblings whose names have Nazi connotations have been removed from their parents' home and placed in the custody of the state.
Holland Township Police Sgt. John Harris says workers from the state Division of Youth and Family Services on Tuesday removed 3-year-old Adolf Hitler Campbell and his younger sisters, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell from their home Tuesday.
Harris says family services did not tell police the reason the children were removed. Agency spokeswoman Kate Bernyk says it does not comment on specific cases.
The children and their parents, Heath and Deborah Campbell, received attention last month when a supermarket bakery refused to put Adolf Hitler Campbell's name on a birthday cake.
Last update - 19:55 14/01/2009 Report: Hamas accepts Egyptian proposal for Gaza truce By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters Hamas is willing to accept an Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire agreement with Israel, after having added some amendments, the Saudi-owned Arabic language Al Arabiya TV reported Wednesday evening.
The report came as Israeli forces were nearing the end of the 19th day of an offensive targeting Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.
According to the report, Hamas has agreed to abide by the 2005 agreement which calls for Palestinian Authority forces to man the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt under the supervision of European observers.
Hamas conditioned the cease-fire agreement with Israel on the immediate withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip, Al Arabiya reported. The senior Hamas officials that held talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo had announced that they would hold a press conference on the outcome of the negotiations at 8 P.M.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais, quoting Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, also said Hamas had accepted the Egyptian proposal to end the fighting between Israel and the Islamist group.
The Spanish foreign ministry, however, immediately issued a denial saying that it has no knowledge of any Hamas decision on a cease-fire.
Meanwhile, a Hamas leader said that points of contention remained over the Egyptian proposal.
"There are still points of difference on the initiative and these points have not been resolved so far," Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, said in an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera television.
"The initiative in its present form does not realize the [Palestinian national] interest. Specific points in it have to be changed... We believe there is no initiative which cannot be modified or changed," he added.
The original proposal was for a temporary truce to allow for talks on long-term arrangements to secure the Egypt-Gaza border and end the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
But the proposal may have changed during secret negotiations mediated by Egypt over the past week.
After being turned back by the Israel Navy, the ship then tried to unload the supplies in the nearby Egyptian port of el-Arish, but was prevented from doing so by the Egyptian Navy.
On Tuesday, Iran Radio reported that the Israel Navy had blocked the ship's passage. According to the report, the ship departed from the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas 13 days ago.
On Monday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said an Iranian ship had passed through the Suez Canal. On Tuesday, Iran Radio aired an interview with Ahmed Nabad, said to be the ship's captain, who claimed the ship had neared the coast of Gaza but "the Zionist regime is blocking its entry."
Palestinian militants have fired at least 14 rockets into Israel since Wednesday morning, all of them hitting open areas near Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva and in the western Negev.
No injuries or damage have been reported.
More than 15 rockets were fired at Israel Tuesday, some of them during a three-hour humanitarian truce. One rocket hit an Ashkelon educational institution, causing some damage.
The Shin Bet security service said Tuesday that Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip have fired some 565 rockets and 200 mortar shells at southern Israel since the Israel Defense Forces launched its offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory on December 27 - an average of more than 30 a day.
The IDF announced that it would implement the three-hour humanitarian truce Wednesday to allow more than 100 trucks to bring food and medicine into the Gaza Strip.
Regrettably, because of a technicality, I cannot agree with everything that the learned Irwin Cotler has stated. Here is the problem, in his own words:
"In the general principles of customs binding on nations, in the specific international law of armed conflict [also called] international humanitarian law, in the Fourth Geneva Convention, in decisions of the International Court of Justice and the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda - it's all set out there."
While crimes against humanity and the genocide convention apply to organizations, war crimes statutes can apply only to states. Hamas is not a state and therefore from a technical legal point of view, it cannot be held guilty of war crimes statutes that apply to states. For example, that probably applies to Hamas use of terrorists dressed up as Israeli soldiers. Using enemy uniforms is forbidden to armies of states. Is it time to change the law? Maybe. But the law is the law.
Hamas is certainly guilty of incitement to genocide and of crimes against humanity.
Jan. 13, 2009 Haviv Rettig Gur , THE JERUSALEM POST
The fighting tactics and ideology of Hamas are a "case study par excellence" of a systematic violation of international humanitarian law, according to a leading expert in international law who visited the Gaza periphery region on Tuesday.
There is "almost no comparable example" anywhere in today's world of a group that so systematically violates international agreements related to armed conflict, Irwin Cotler - a former Canadian justice minister, MP and law professor at Montreal's McGill University - told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Hamas is committing at least six violations of international law, Cotler explained.
"First, the deliberate targeting of civilians is in and of itself a war crime," he noted, referring to the Hamas rockets fired at southern towns for eight years.
"A second war crime is when Hamas attacks [from within] civilian areas and civilian structures, whether it be an apartment building, a mosque or a hospital, in order to be immune from a response from Israel," he went on. "Civilians are protected persons, and civilian areas are protected areas. Any use of a civilian infrastructure to launch bombs is itself a war crime."
That Hamas bears legal responsibility for the harm to civilians in areas from which it fires is enshrined throughout international law, he said: "In the general principles of customs binding on nations, in the specific international law of armed conflict [also called] international humanitarian law, in the Fourth Geneva Convention, in decisions of the International Court of Justice and the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda - it's all set out there."
Third, he explained, "the misuse and abuse of humanitarian symbols for purposes of launching attacks is called the perfidy principle. For example, using an ambulance to transport fighters or weapons or disguising oneself as a doctor in a hospital, or using a UN logo or flag, are war crimes."
The fourth violation, "of which little has been made, is the prohibition in the Fourth Geneva Convention and international jurisprudence against the direct and public incitement to genocide. The Hamas covenant itself is a standing incitement to genocide. [Similarly,] just before this fighting started, I saw Hamas leaders on television referring to Israel and Jews as the sons of apes and pigs."
The fifth crime relates to the scope of the attack on civilians, which upgrades the violation to a crime against humanity. According to Cotler, "when you deliberately hit civilians not infrequently but in a systematic, widespread attack, that's defined in the treaty of the International Criminal Court and international humanitarian law as a crime against humanity."
The final war crime for which Hamas is responsible is the recruitment of children into armed conflict.
"Hamas is a case study of each of these six categories of war crime," said Cotler. Unfortunately, the international community "has been minimizing the manner in which Hamas has engaged in consistent mass-violation of international humanitarian law."
Cotler said specifically delineating Hamas's violations was important in that it would place the onus of responsibility for the civilian tragedy in Gaza on the proper party.
"The consequences [of the fighting] are tragic in human terms," he said. "Clearly what is happening in Gaza is a tragedy. But there has to be moral and legal clarity as to responsibility. When Israel responds and civilians are killed because Israel is targeting an area from which rockets were launched, then it is Hamas which bears responsibility for the deaths, and not Israel, according to international law."
Five Israel Defense Forces paratroopers were wounded during a gunbattle in northern Gaza early Wednesday, as Israel's offensive against Hamas in the coastal territory entered its 19th day.
Two IDF officers were moderately wounded and an officer and two soldiers were lightly wounded in the incident, which began when they were fired upon by gunmen.
The soldiers returned fire and hit the assailants. The wounded were given first aid on the spot, and were later taken for treatment to Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer.
The commander of the Paratroopers 101st Battalion, Lt. Col. Avi Balut, was one of the officers lightly wounded in the gunbattle.
Another soldier was lightly wounded in a second incident.
The Israel Air Force, meanwhile, hit about 60 targets in the Hamas-ruled territory overnight. These included a Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, five rocket launching sites, including a squad of mortar gunners and an area rigged with explosive devices intended for detonation against IDF forces, the army said.
The IAF also attacked eight squads of gunmen, some in coordination with ground forces, according to the army. The army deployed infantry, tanks, combat engineers, artillery, and intelligence units in its operations throughout the Gaza Strip Wednesday, with the assistance of the Israel Air Force and the Israeli Navy.
At least three Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel on Wednesday morning, reigniting fears of a second front opening during Israel's offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
Lebanese security officials later Wednesday said the Israel Defense Forces fired eight shells into southern Lebanon in response to the Katyusha attack.
Police said the rockets landed in open areas and there were no reports of damage or injuries. People in northern Israel were asked to head to bomb shelters.
Lebanese television reported that four rockets had been launched from an area close to the south Lebanon town of Hasbaya.
A rocket alert siren was heard in the town of Kiryat Shmona, which was battered by hundreds of the rockets fired by Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon war.
A similar incident occurred on Thursday, when at least two Katyusha rockets fired from south Lebanon exploded in northern Israel. Two people were lightly wounded in the attack, and a number of others suffered from shock.
Israel Defense Forces troops immediately fired five artillery shells at Lebanon in response to the rockets, an Israeli security source said. A military spokesman said Israel aimed "a pinpoint response at the source of fire."
Israeli officials have expressed concern that militants in Lebanon could try to open a second front in the Gaza campaign in solidarity with Hamas.
A Hezbollah minister in Lebanon's Cabinet denied any involvement by the militant group in the firing of the rockets on Thursday. In 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon fired almost 4000 rockets at Israel during the Second Lebanon War.
Following is circulating on Web forums. It is powerful statement of Israel's case.
A letter to the citizens of Gaza from a concerned neighbor
My name is David and I live in Israel, thirty minutes (or one minute rocket time) from you, in a beautiful house by the woods. I hope someday to have you over for a cup of tea. We have a lovely view from the balcony. On a clear day we can see our jets bombing your neighborhood. I think it's time we had a heart to heart. It's time you knew the truth. After all, what are neighbors for? You might have wondered why both you and your parents were born in a refugee camp. Why is it that even though we live only 30 minutes apart, I live in prosperity and you live in poverty and filth? Why you live in despair and hatred while we live in hope and love. Here is the truth, neighbor: There really was a Holocaust. I realize you've been taught otherwise. I know, that ever since you were a small child you've been told that the Holocaust is something the Jews fabricated to justify taking your land. Well, dear citizen of Gaza, it really happened. Not very long ago. It happened. And guess what? It's NEVER going to happen again. The time in history when Jews were led to slaughter, persecuted, raped and pillaged is over and will never recur. Never. Now we have our own country. Now we have the bombs. We will never forget what was done to our people and you better not either. We don't hate you. We don't hate anyone. Jews are a peaceful people. We do not want your land. We don't want oil. We don't want to rape your women or murder your children. We never tried to force our religion on anyone. Our eternal capital, Jerusalem, is open to all faiths to love and to worship. We treat your Arab brothers who live among us as equals. Our hand has been extended to peace with our neighbors since day one. We have proven this time and time again through numerous negotiations and extensive compromise. We ask only for one thing. Leave us in peace. That's right. We have no other demands. Just leave us in peace. It's as simple as that. If you don't, we will fight back ferociously and mercilessly. We will destroy your homes and your cities. We will make your miserable lives even more miserable. If you don't want this to happen anymore, leave us in peace. Our soldiers are not motivated by hate but by determination. We embrace life and will do anything to preserve it. However, we will kill and die to protect our land and our way of life. That's what they should be teaching in your schools instead of useless lies. A terrorist is a terrorist. Sorry to be the one to break the news, but it's about time somebody told you that a terrorist is nothing more than a coward. Not a hero. Not a Shahid. There is nothing heroic in blowing yourself up amongst a crowd of woman and children. Anybody can do it. Anybody can hide inside a school or a mosque and blindly fire rockets into cities, hoping to kill as many babies as possible. There is nothing courageous or admirable in these acts of cruelty. To take pride in an act of terror is pitiful and pathetic. I know you've been raised to believe the contrary, but it is a lie. I have seen how your children are taught to commit suicide. How your suicide bombers are glorified. This is tragically sad. A real hero faces his enemy and doesn't hide in schools and hospitals. A real hero protects his people and will die for them but not among them. Israel exists and it belongs to the Jewish People. I've seen your school books. I know that Israel has been omitted from your maps. Contrary to what you've been told, the State of Israel really does exist. Look outside your window. We are here and we are not going anywhere.
Dear Palestinian neighbor, it's time to deal with the facts. We love our beautiful little country. We will protect it with our lives. You are not getting it. This was explained to you in 1948. You got your country and we got ours. Your arrogant and stupid leaders promised you that you will get the whole thing. Thousands have lives have been lost for nothing. It's NEVER going to happen! While you have been foolishly drooling over our land instead of nurturing your own, we have built one of the most beautiful and successful countries on Earth. We have done it not to spite our greedy neighbors, but rather in spite of them. We've planted forests and quenched the desert. We've drained wetlands and cultivated fields. We built universities, opera houses, superhighways, hospitals, skyscrapers and stadiums. We have millions of refugees, but no refugee camps. You could do the same. Focus on what you have and not on what you will never have. It takes love, hard work and determination. We can help. We have experts and scientists helping developing nations across the globe. Accept the facts, lay down your weapons and join us in making this great region of the planet even greater. Remember, we're neighbors.
Israeli Ambassador to Venezuela Shlomo Cohen returned to Israel this week where he spoke by phone with several officials from the Venezuela Foreign Ministry, including the heads of the Asian affairs division.
Cohen was reportedly surprised to hear from the two officials that Venezuela is looking for Israel to send a temporary supervisor to Caracas, so they can work towards reestablishing a diplomatic mission in the South American capital.
Cohen told the two that Israel was under the impression that Venezuela had severed diplomatic ties after expelling Israel's diplomatic team from Caracas. The two Venezuelan officials told Cohen it was not their intention for Israel to close the embassy and if he got that impression, it was a mistake.
"I am (also) a leader who has said that anti-Semitism is a crime against humanity," he said.
"Excuses are found for mass killings of children at schools, hospitals and mosques, especially by Jewish-backed media," he said. "News stories saying that terrorists hide among children or (describing bombings) as technical errors or accidents are aimed at making fun of the world (public opinion)."
"I am not an anti-Semite, and I'll kill any sheeny-loving bastard who says otherwise.
During World War II, Nazi soldiers dressed up as American troops. This practice is illegal under international law. Since Hamas does not represent a state, they cannot formally be charged with war crimes, but this is one of many war crimes they are committing, in addition to deliberately targetting civilians and using their own civilians as human shields.
Hamas militants have been dressing up as Israel Defense Forces soldiers in uniform in an attempt to carry out suicide bombings against Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday.
Ashkenazi told the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee in Tel Aviv that the militants have tried to penetrate IDF battle lines and detonate their explosives next to Israeli troops.
The IDF Chief also revealed that the army had uncovered a number of tunnels dug with the intent of being used to abduct IDF soldiers.
Ashkenazi said that the Israel Air Force had managed to strike the majority of its targets in the Strip within the first four minutes of the air campaign which began Operation Cast Lead 18 days ago.
Twenty minutes after the IAF's first bombing, it also carried out raids on Gaza sites used by militants to launch Grad rockets, Qassam rockets, and mortar shells.
He added that the government had approved the operation, days before it began and before the IDF had even determined when it was going to launch the campaign. This gave the IDF the ability to begin the operation the moment they decided the conditions were right.
This article a superb analysis of Grass Roots strategy and how it works: "Spontaneous" demonstrations are never spontaneous. This is how support for Hamas is organized. It shows how "progressive" "peace" activists can be subverted to support a radical, reactionary anti-peace movement.
The public policy agendas of revolutionary socialist and Islamist organisations in the UK have increasingly converged on the question of Israeli action in Gaza. This convergence has become especially pronounced following the termination of the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas on 19 December 2008.
In London, a national protest took place on 3 January 2009 under the heading 'National Gaza Massacre Demonstration'. It included the slogans 'Hands off Gaza. Stop the Bombings. Free Palestine' called by the Palestine Solidarity Organisation; Stop the War Coalition (STWC); British Muslim Initiative; CND and many other organisations. The speakers included Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London.
This article highlights the involvement of two key controlling revolutionary organisations involved in these London protests through their 'front' organisations or politicians (the list includes STWC; British Muslim Initiative and Ken Livingstone as a political personality through his advisers), through an examination of the key objectives and political methods of these modern revolutionary socialist and Islamist UK actors. Specifically, attention will be given to analyzing how the organisations manipulate and infiltrate state agencies and mobilise public opinion. By doing so they influence public policy on the questions of terrorist non-state actors in the Middle East, such as Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement), which has been declared a terrorist organisation by the European Union and the United States of America, and their positions of opposition to legitimate nation-states like Israel.
Protests such as this one, which mobilise the Islamic and peace constituencies in the UK, put the British Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary under pressure regarding their policy towards Gaza. The primary aim is to shift UK policy away from supporting Israel's sovereign right to defend itself against Hamas attacks, whilst a secondary aim is to legitimise Hamas. Furthermore, these constituencies seek to rally the forces opposed to the two-state solution and build an anti-Zionist (i.e., not recognising the right of the state of Israel to exist) position amongst Islamic, peace and left wing groups in the UK. A distinction should be made between these acts and the legitimate democratic right of any member of the UK's general public to protest, criticise and oppose state policy.
Socialist Action and Muslim Association of Britain: Examples of Extreme Entryist Organisations
Two key revolutionary socialist and revolutionary Islamicist 'entryist' organisations in the UK have adopted a strategy which uses the authority and resources of the UK to support Hamas and oppose Israel. 'Entryism' is a political tactic by which an organisation or state encourages its members or agents to infiltrate another organisation in an attempt to gain recruits or take it over entirely. These are Socialist Action (which is not an open, but a deep entryist organisation that seeks to hide its real identity in UK politics) and the Muslim Association of Britain (a front for the Muslim Brotherhood organisation in the UK, which also uses a form of entryism in UK politics by concealing its real identity). They attempt to obtain the passive or active support of state actors in the UK to legitimise Hamas and portray Israel as an aggressive state, thus de-legitimising it.
These two non-state actors have been highly successful in using the Greater London Authority to pursue their goals, receiving both passive and active support for Hamas front organisations and anti-Israeli public policy positions during Ken Livingstone's term as Mayor of London. This success has been used to further infiltrate the UK (in policy terms) and the police and security services (subverting anti-terrorism strategy and policy). In addition, this level of infiltration has been used to marginalise the most mainstream Jewish organisations in the UK (for example the Jewish Board of Deputies, through its characterisation as a 'Zionist' organisation which must be smashed) and to bring extremist Islamist organisations (such as the Islamist, pro-Jamaati and pro-Hamas Muslim Council of Britain [MCB] and the Hamas Muslim Brotherhood front organisation [MAB]) into the mainstream.
Socialist Action centred on the now defunct magazine Socialist Action and the current public website 'Socialist Action Review', is an organisation mainly composed of British citizens. Members if the Hamas front organisation the Muslim Association of Britain are mainly of Palestinian origin or expatriates of other Islamist states. Both are modern forces in the sense that they pursue their goals using two key modern tools of political influence―positions in the UK state and access to the media―to further their objectives on issues ranging from terrorism to foreign policy. Socialist Action members played a key role in the Mayor's office of the Greater London Authority as advisers to Ken Livingstone during his term as Mayor of London, with people such as Simon Fletcher as Chief of Staff; Redmond O'Neil as Policy Director of Transport and Public Affairs; John Ross as Policy Director, Economic Policy; Judith Woodward as Senior Adviser on Culture; Anne Kane as Consultant and myself, a former member of the Socialist Action. Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood supporters have played significant roles in influencing the UK police and security agencies through MAB, its presence in the Muslim Council of Britain and its highly influential modern European Islamist philosopher and academic Dr Tariq Ramadan. MAB members such as Dr Azzam Tamimi have been regular guests on media programmes, including BBC's programme Newsnight, and Anas al-Tikriti has often written in The Guardian newspaper's 'Comment is Free' column.
This process of modernising extremism has been labelled 'fascists in suits', in reference to neo-fascist groups in Europe, who wear suits to disguise themselves as 'mainstream' political actors in order to obtain legitimacy in the media and amongst the electorate. In the UK there are both 'revolutionary socialists in suits' and 'revolutionary Islamists in suits'. The former are the leading lights of Socialist Action and occupied key political positions in the Ken Livingstone administration. The latter are MAB members who occupy important political positions within the peace movement and the UK Islamic constituency, denoting the legitimacy they have gained in mainstream circles.
However, as was stated earlier in the article, this is a process based on 'entryism'. Its main ingredient is subterfuge, concealing the real identity of the groups' political affiliations. The real affiliations and political positions of these revolutionary groups open them up to scrutiny and criticism in their roles in state agencies and bodies such as the Greater London Authority and the police and security services, to the extent of threatening their viability.
Socialist Action: Objectives and Strategy
Socialist Action strategy is based on the Trokskyite concept of a world socialist revolution. It seeks to overthrow capitalist states and replace them with a Leninist 'Proletarian Dictatorship'. Its predecessor organisations operated an electoral strategy outside of the Labour Party, without success, as the International Marxist Group British Section of the Fourth International. This is what has led Socialist Action to use entryism. The group decided to use an 'entryist' strategy to gain access to the Labour Party in the 1980s and 90s. It is a 'modern' Trotskyite group in a different sense to the use of the term 'modern' earlier in this article – which was 'modern' interaction with the state and the media. This is its willingness to operate on the terrain of contemporary UK and global circumstances by accommodating the new left wing social movements, among them women's liberation, black liberation, gay liberation and the greens. Later on, it will be noticeable that Socialist Action has sought to make Hamas Front organisations in the UK to some of these new left social movements.
The group bases its tactical sophistication on the Trotskyite concept of the 'United Front'―a willingness to make temporary and very narrow political and limited objective-based alliances with wider social movements and political forces on an issue by issue campaigns basis. During the 1990s it acquired an ability to work on a long term basis with the leftist elements of the Labour Party, specifically the Campaign Groups of MPs and Ken Livingstone. It also used the 'united front' tactic to work with much wider sections of the Labour Party and other political and social movements on short-term objectives of issue-based campaigns such as abortion rights, anti-racism, gay rights and the peace movement. This paved the way for it to obtain a passive legitimacy within the Labour Party. However, Ken Livingstone denied its abilities and effectiveness as a revolutionary organisation to journalists such as the BBC's Andrew Hosken in his biography Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone.
Socialist Action as a Labour Party entryist group sought a symbiotic relationship with leftist Labour MPs who would work with the group on a long-term basis. This was underscored by an unwritten contract: support for the electoral and political ambitions of the MP in return for organising the political activists and quietly recruiting members to the organisation, as well as pursuing revolutionary aims at a covert level through this new level of legitimacy. Furthermore, Socialist Actions positions on Israel, to some extent, and to a lesser extent on Hamas, overlap with those of leftist MPs, although the latter have not been subjected to any intense scrutiny. Only Ken Livingstone, as Mayor of London, was closely examined. Indeed, sustaining his relationship with Muslim Brotherhood elements and his decision not to retract his racially inflammatory and deeply insulting description of a Jewish reporter as a 'concentration camp guard' caused him huge political damage.
Muslim Association of Britain: Objectives and Strategy
The Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), as the UK front organisation of Hamas and the wider Muslim Brotherhood, has a natural sympathy with the strategy of seeking to overthrow the 'Zionist' state of Israel and 'corrupt' Muslim regimes. This is consistent with its aim to establish Islamic states according to the Muslim Brotherhood model and Hamas Charter.
Article two of the Hamas Charter clearly states that 'The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is an international organization, the largest Islamic Movement in the modern era. It is characterized by a profound understanding, by precise notions and by a complete adherence to all concepts of Islam in all domains of life: views and beliefs, politics and economics, education and society, jurisprudence and rule, indoctrination and teaching, the arts and publications, the hidden and the evident, and all the other domains of life'. The organisation is anti-Western in that it conforms to the distinction drawn by its key historical ideologue Sayyid Qutb between Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic ignorance) and Islamic Sharia (religious law): all Jahili 'Muslims' (according to his interpretation), Jews and Westerners must be destroyed. According to Qutb's book Milestones, all non-Islamic states are illegitimate and should be eliminated, including his own native Egypt. The organisation has links with European front organisations of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, and the more theological European Council for the Fatwa and Research.
In the UK it has adopted a strategy similar to the Trotskyite 'United Front' on the issues of Islamism, with two main elements. Firstly it aims to capture the UK constituency interested in global issues of Islam, specifically supporting the creation and defence of Islamic regimes and movements. Secondly, it supports the Islamicisation and radicalisation of Muslims in the West.
However, its primary focus is to support Hamas through the building of a 'united front' on the Palestinian question and defeating 'Zionist forces' in the UK. This focus has emerged again and again in different formats in its UK strategy. The key element of its legitimacy has been its participation in the anti-war and pro-peace movement, alongside a relationship with UK police and security services or their sub-elements. Since September 2002 STWC protests have been co-sponsored by MAB. Thus it has played a major role in mobilising the UK Islamic constituency within the broader peace movement, giving it some political legitimacy. These protests have included those against the Iraq War (for example the one million people march in London), the march against the Israeli conflict with Hezbollah (Hezbollah is a close ally of Hamas in the Middle East) and now the protests against Israel in its conflict with Hamas in Gaza.
In the middle of this decade the Respect electoral coalition of the revolutionary socialists and the extreme left in the UK utilised a key strategy of working closely with the MAB. For example, former MAB President Anas al-Tikriti headed Respect's Yorkshire and Humberside slate for the European elections in June 2004, without any electoral success. MAB has also sought an electoral strategy through the British Muslim initiative (BMI), led by its key player Mohammed Sawalha, a former Hamas military commando. It used the initiative for the electoral mobilisation of its Islamic constituency against pro-Israeli and pro-Iraq war politicians during the last UK general, European and Mayor of London elections. It has not been wholly effective.
MAB's key ally Ken Livingstone was defeated in the elections for Mayor of London in 2008.The British Muslim Initiative was given some legitimacy by hosting a meeting with Reverend Jesse Jackson during his visit to the UK. This may have been facilitated by Ken Livingstone's traditional allies in the UK black community. Reverend Jesse Jackson was photographed with Mohammed Sawalha at this event.
The leaders of the STWC and Respect, and in particular the Socialist Workers' Party (an overtly revolutionary socialist organisation in the UK), have gone to great lengths to portray the MAB as representative of all people of the Muslim faith, or even all ethnic minority organisations in Britain. This is very far from the truth. The MAB is a political organisation with a very specific political agenda. In the issue of MAB's newspaper Inspire produced for the 28 September 2002 anti-war demonstration, an article on the MAB's 'Historical Roots and Background' linked it explicitly to the Islamist tradition of the Muslim Brotherhood.
MAB seeks to lead its market domain by innovation, takeovers, alliances and mergers in the political field of Middle East and Muslim politics in the UK, to use strategic economic terminology. It has taken over Muslim organisations where it can. In 2005 it took over the North London Mosque from its competitor for the radical Islamist constituency in the UK, Abu Hamza and his firebrand extremism. It even used the Metropolitan Police to help in this task, using highly sophisticated political tactics and manipulating state agencies to gain control over other organisations by portraying itself as moderate. It also exploits the disruption caused by its opponents for its own benefit. This sort of tactic has been made possible by building up the credibility of its work through a visible and active relationship with UK state actors.
MAB has differentiated itself from its competitors in Hizb ut Tahrir (HuT), which is now banned in the UK. Rather than putting itself in a position of opposition and conflict with such forces, MAB has learned from the tactics used by revolutionary socialist and extreme left organisations in the UK. . MAB has also been a beneficiary of the political participation of Hamas and many Muslim Brotherhood organisations in elections. However, contrary to its own and its allies' claims and attempts to manipulate public opinion, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood's participation in elections does not make them a democratic force. Rather, the ideology of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood is opposed to democratic pluralism, as demonstrated by Hamas in Gaza.. The Bolsheviks participated in Constituent Assembly elections―they lost to the Mensheviks and resorted to a coup d'état to seize power. The Nazis under Adolf Hitler also participated in elections, but used these to abolish democracy and destroy freedom in Germany. There is no logical link between participation in elections and a commitment to democracy. Hamas is perhaps more similar to the Bolsheviks and the Nazis, used its election success to eliminate its opposition. It carried out a coup d'état to purge Fatah military forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian National Authority: it resorted to killing its political opponents and competitors.
MAB has also sought to mobilise the UK and European Muslim constituency for Islamist radicalisation through building short-term issued-based campaigns on issues such the French ban on the Muslim headscarf (Hijab) in a campaign called 'Pro-Hijab'. The title of the campaign was deliberately designed to send an Islamist message to its Islamic constituencies in the UK and Europe, despite the argument that this campaign was based on the right of Muslim women to choose to wear the Hijab, in opposition to the French government's ban.
MAB has been highly successful in taking over Muslim organisations in the UK and across Europe. It has the controlling share of a huge network of Muslim organisations and umbrella bodies such as the Federation of Organisations of Islamic Students (FOSIS), the British Muslim Initiative, the North London Mosque and the European Muslim Brotherhood fronts.
Peace Movement Players against a Peace Settlement in the Middle East?
Despite participation in the 'peace' movement, revolutionary socialist and revolutionary Islamist organisations have political, anti-Zionist positions that directly contradict the international community's efforts to create a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Peace is equated solely with the defeat of Zionism and imperialism, even if this means 'terrorism'. In this sense, these revolutionary non-state actors are anti-modern. They cannot perceive that modern forces in developing countries, including Islamic-majority states, may want an accommodation with the West as part of an economically dynamic equation in the global economy. The contrast between successful Middle Eastern economies open to the West, such as Dubai, and those closed to the West, such as the failed and highly unstable Afghanistan state under the Islamist Taliban and Somalia under the Islamic Courts Union regime, does not fit into the revolutionary paradigm of these organisational actors who romanticises Islamism.
Israel is a recognised nation-state (it is defined as such by the United Nations by its membership of nation-states). The Palestinian National Authority is an embryonic state on the basis of developing a viable nation-state. A key part of the comprehensive peace settlement is the recognition of the state of Israel and its legitimate right to exist. By raising once again the question of Israel's right to exist, Hamas has generated one of the biggest obstacles to the peace settlement. It is part of a new Islamist revolutionary position against the existing positions of the international community, such as the Quartet on the Middle East (compromising the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and United States of America) and the dominant trend in the established Middle East nation-states.
Socialist Action describes Israel as a 'terrorist' state, and by implication a state without any legitimacy or right to exist. In fact, such a characterisation seeks to validate attempts to attack the state and to destroy it. By this logic, supporters of such a state are sympathisers with terrorism and must be opposed. This is part of the ideology of terrorism which, by a twisted logic, describes Jewish people as Zionists and part of a global Jewish conspiracy. It also gives ideological and theological encouragement to those willing to carry out terrorist attacks, including those on specific Jewish targets, such as Nariman House in the recent Mumbai attacks.
To defeat Israel politically by de-legitimising it together with its supporters in the UK is a second primary objective of the revolutionary socialist and Islamist organisations. One part of this tactic is to undermine the level of crime committed during the Holocaust by the Nazis against Jewish people. Israel must be portrayed as an aggressive rather than a defensive state, created as an act of aggression rather than as an escape from persecution. One of the recent protests in London has termed current events the 'Gaza holocaust'―a highly dubious and questionable metaphor on many levels (amongst them scale, legitimacy and aims of state and non-state actors). This borrowing of the terminology of suffering can often have the effect of undermining the scale of the genocide and barbarity in the Jewish Holocaust carried out by the Nazis.
However, this attempt to de-legitimise Israel and portray it as an aggressor is being pursued at a global level. In the Middle East, for example, Iran hosted the global Holocaust revisionism conference and inn the UK Ken Livingstone labelled a Jewish reporter a Nazi concentration guard. This was intended to soften up public and political opinion, which views the Jewish people as victims of the Holocaust.
Ken Livingstone the politician has a long history of constantly characterising Israeli politicians such as Ariel Sharon as 'war criminals' and the actions of the Israeli state in military operations as 'crimes against humanity'. Yet it is still important to understand the specific impact of entryist revolutionary actors in sustaining and encouraging pro-Hamas and anti-Israeli positions. They encourage Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to be active and legitimate actors in UK politics, rather than a group which should come under public, political and media scrutiny and whose legitimacy should be challenged on grounds of its pro-terrorism positions.
The national demonstration on the current events in Gaza, held in London on 3 January 2009, was a product of the work of MAB and Socialist Action, two entryist organisations, through their roles in STWC, the BMI, as advisers to Ken Livingstone and in other organisations. The role of revolutionary entryist actors in the UK in supporting Hamas and opposing Israel has been significant. The UK government has taken significant steps to contain the advocacy of terrorism. The media is also helping in exposing terrorist sympathisers in the UK. Both need to be aware of the use, by these two revolutionary movements, of entryist tactics in order to influence public policy on the Middle East. They must be vigilant in challenging the legitimacy of these organisations, as their policies are directly opposed to a diplomatic peace settlement on the Israeli-Palestinian question. It is necessary for all political, media and government bodies in the UK to articulate a strategic two-state solution in order to achieve a full and urgent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian question and avoid being manipulated by entryist revolutionary socialist and revolutionary Islamicist actors, their front organisations and political personalities.
About Atma Singh
Atma Singh is Public Policy and Asian Affairs expert and a former top level Policy Adviser on Asian Affairs to the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone in the Mayor's Office 2001-2007. He left the Mayor's Office on the issue of the Mayor's developing relationship with Muslim Brotherhood, which he opposed. He is the author of 'An Asian Century Manifesto: Global Political Economy of the 21st Century' (London: ASK Publishers, 2008).He is a former Lecturer and Senior Human Resource Development Consultant. He is a member of the Keynote Professional Speakers Network and Public Policy International. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in politics from Newcastle Upon Tyne University (UK) and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
 A 'front' organisation is an entity set up and controlled by another organisation.
 'Entryism' (or 'entrism' or 'enterism') is a political tactic by which an organisation or state encourages its members or agents to infiltrate another organisation in an attempt to gain recruits or take it over entirely. Subterfuge is an essential element to the success of 'entryist' organisations, since entryism involves hiding real identities or intentions. Although in the UK entryism is better known through the example of the Trotskyist group Militant Tendency's infiltration of the Labour Party, here we will examine 'deep entryism' practised by a formerly open Trotskyist and entryist organisation, whereby the very existence of the organisation is hidden to the extent that it has no publicly active manifestation (such as a clearly visible organisational front or its own media outlet). The second type of entryist organisation, Islamicist, is not familiar to UK audiences although it is well-known in the Middle East and South Asia, in circumstances where a state has banned a particular organisation for its terrorist or other illegal activities.
 A short history of Socialist Action available on Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialist_Action_(UK). The most recent account of Socialist Action is my own article in the UK-based The Sunday Times on January 19 2008,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3216954.ece. (ST 19.01.08) Socialist Action Review website provides information on the current views of the organisation including its two articles on Israel as a terrorist state, http://www.socialistaction.org.uk/. This organisation is a deep entryist organisation. It does not publish its views openly from named sources and neither does it organise meetings or any other activity openly. 'Socialist Action believed themselves to be the inheritors of the Fourth International — a Marxist group seen as the true inheritors of Trotsky's political vision. Essentially, they believed they were working towards a global revolution. Their support of Hugo Chavez today reflects these earlier political beliefs. The Venezuelan president's stated aims of establishing a workers' state chime with Socialist Action's own objectives in the 1990s and early 2000s of advancing global revolution.
'They believed Britain needed a workers' revolution and hoped to foment anti-state forces. In the early days, they held rallies and marches and published pamphlets in the hopes of mobilising a political alliance with forces of international socialists.
'Socialist Action's leaders were John Ross, who has acted as economics adviser to Ken Livingstone for many years, and Redmond O'Neill, his deputy chief of staff. Other members of the group included Anne Kane, who has undertaken consultancy work for the mayor, and Simon Fletcher, the mayor's chief of staff, who was always on the periphery.' (Ibid ST 21.01.08)
 Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), http://www.mabonline.net/. On 19 December 2003 Louise Ellman MP said the following in UK Parliament: 'It is time that the spotlight fell on the Muslim Association of Britain, particularly the key figures, such as Azzam Tamimi, Kamal el Helbawy, Anas al-Tikriti and Mohammed Sawalha. All of them are connected to the terrorist organisation Hamas. The Muslim Association of Britain itself is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood―an extremist fundamentalist organization founded in Egypt in 1928, and the spiritual ideologue of all Islamic terror organizations. It is militantly anti-Semitic and always has been.' (Quoted on 28 May 2008 in an article by Melanie Phillips, http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/archive/2008/May/.) Hamas (Harakat Al Muqawama Al Islamiyya or Islamic Resistance Movement) describes itself in its Charter as the Palestine wing of Muslim Brotherhood. Mohammed Sawalha and Kamal el-Helbawy are two prominent members of the Europe and International Affairs Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain. Dr Azzam Tamimi was quoted by the BBC on 14 July 2005 saying that he would be willing to become a suicide bomber in Israel: 'I would sacrifice myself it's the straight way to pleasing my God.' http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/4681857.stm Mohammed Qassem Sawalha, President of the British Muslim Initiative (BMI), was described by the Muslim Brotherhood website, www.Islamoneline.com, in 2008 as political manager of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, founder of IslamExpo (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/scotland/article4926218.ece ), a trustee of the North London Mosque (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article513868.ece) and former military commander of Hamas. Anas al-Tikriti, the current President of MAB, is an Iraqi Sunni. His father is leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi wing of Muslim Brotherhood.
 Ken Livingstone has a history of holding anti-Israel views. This dates back to September 1982 when he published a three-part history of Israel in the Labour Herald., According to BBC journalist Andrew Hosken in his biography Ken: The Ups and Downs of Ken Livingstone (London: Arcadia Books Ltd, 2008) Livingstone described Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as a 'creature of terror' (p394). He also wanted to counter the 'feeling of guilt throughout the Western world" over the Holocaust since this was seen as supporting "the demand for a Jewish homeland' (p394). He published a cartoon of Menachem Begin dressed in a black SS uniform making the Hitler salute, standing on a pile of Palestinian skills with the words 'The Final Solution? Shalom?'. In 1984 he described the UK-based Jewish Board of Deputies as dominated by 'reactionaries and neo fascists' (p395). As I revealed to Andrew Hosken, Socialist Action also characterises Israel as 'a terrorist state'. Its article stated: 'The terrible atrocities committed by the Nazis against the Jewish people in the Holocaust were cynically used by imperialism to establish Israel in 1948 ... the plan of the imperialist powers was to create a state in the Middle East completely dependent on and loyal to Western imperialism. Thus Israel came into being, and is today armed by the US.' (www.socialistaction.co.uk) This version of history does not see Israel as part of the greater movement of independence gained by nation-states following the Second World War. The Holocaust played a critical role in the creation of the state of Israel, giving a sympathetic reading of the facts to legitimise and support the right of Israel to be established as a state.
Give Giancarlo Desiderati credit for his unintellectual honesty. While most left-wing detractors of Israel claim their animosity toward the Jewish state has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, the head of a small Italian union, Flaica-Uniti-Cub, wasted no time with such sophism. Having long called for a boycott of Israeli goods, Mr. Desiderati last week made the logical next step. "Do not buy anything from businesses run by the Jewish community," his group's Web site urged Italians.
Jews around Europe are increasingly under attack since Israel decided two weeks ago to defend itself after years of rocket fire at its civilian population. There have been arson attempts on synagogues in Britain, Belgium and Germany. Police last week arrested Muslim protesters who wanted to enter the Jewish quarter in Antwerp. Several Danish schools with large Muslim student bodies say they won't enroll Jewish kids because they can't guarantee the children's safety. In France, a group of teenagers attacked a 14-year-old girl last week, calling her "dirty Jew" while kicking her.
At rallies in Germany and the Netherlands over the past two weeks, protesters shouted, "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas." In Amsterdam, Socialist lawmaker Harry van Bommel and Greta Duisenberg, widow of the first European Central Bank president, marched at the front of one such "peace" demonstration. They didn't join in the background chorus calling for another Holocaust. Instead, they chanted, "Intifada, Intifada, Free Palestine." Mr. Van Bommel later insisted this wasn't a call for Jewish blood but for "civil disobedience" -- a laughable defense given that terrorists during the last intifada murdered more than 1,000 Israelis.
Most of the anti-Jewish violence and protests in Europe come from immigrants. In what may have been a Freudian recognition of the changing face of Europe, CNN two weeks ago used footage of anti-Israeli protesters in London in a report about the growing anger in the "Arab and Muslim world." The mythical Arab Street now reaches deep into Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid.
After a burning car was rammed into a gate outside a synagogue in Toulouse last week, President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement that was as morally confused as his judgment of Israel's Gaza offensive. Mr. Sarkozy, who condemned both Hamas terror and Israel's attempt to stop it, also blurred the distinction between the victims and perpetrators of anti-Semitism in France.
His country "will not tolerate international tensions mutating into intercommunity violence," he warned, suggesting that the violence in France comes not only from French Muslims but Jews as well. Mr. Sarkozy's comments also suggest that the fighting in Gaza is the cause for attacks on Jews in France -- that is, that the Mideast conflict is fueling anti-Semitism in Europe. It is exactly the other way around.
The rage against the Jews that is exploding in Europe has been carefully nurtured; it is not spontaneous sympathy for fellow Muslims in Gaza. How else to explain the silence when Muslims in other conflicts, from Darfur to Chechnya, are being killed?
The depth of anti-Semitic propaganda in Palestinian and other Muslim societies is one of the most underreported facts about the Middle East. It is this anti-Semitism that predisposes Muslims in Europe to attack Jews and fuels the Mideast conflict. The hatred predates Israel's creation. To illustrate this point: The Palestinian leader during World War II, Hajj Amin al Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, conspired with Hitler to bring the Holocaust to Palestine. Luckily, the British stopped the German troops in Africa. The Mufti spent the war years in Berlin and was later indicted for war crimes but with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood escaped to Egypt. Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hamas and other Islamists continue what the Mufti had helped to start: a blend of European anti-Semitism and Islam-inspired Jew hatred. The rejection of Israel's right to exist is what drives their attacks. The media, though, largely ignores Hamas's ideology and its crimes of hiding its leaders and weapons among its own civilian population, and demonizes Israel's attempt to protect its citizens.
Hamas and other Islamists are not even trying to hide their ideology. Just read the Hamas charter or check out Hamas TV, including children's programs, for a nauseating dose of murderous anti-Semitism. Last week, the French broadcasting authorities banned Hamas TV for inciting violence and hatred. Unfortunately, just like Hezbollah TV, which is also banned in Europe for its anti-Semitic and jihadi content, audiences here can still receive these programs due to Saudi Arabia's Arabsat and Egyptian satellite provider Nilesat.
The Islamist variation of Jew hatred is now being reimported to Europe. Muslims in Europe, watching Hamas and Hezbollah TV with their satellite dishes, are being fed the same diet of anti-Semitism and jihadi ideology that Palestinians and much of the Middle East consume.
This brings a unique challenge to the difficult integration of Muslims in Europe. When it comes to issues like Shariah law and terrorism, one can expect a true "clash of civilizations." There is no Western tradition that would justify "honor killings." Anti-Semitism, on the other hand, is not alien to Europe's culture -- to the contrary, the Continent once excelled at it and many still share the feeling.
A Pew study from September shows 25% of Germans and 20% of French are still affected by this virus. In Spain, 46% have unfavorable views of Jews. Is there really no connection between this statistic and the fact that the Spanish media and government are among Europe's most hostile toward the Jewish state? Is it just a coincidence that Europe's largest anti-Israel demonstration took place Sunday in Spain, with more than 100,000 protesters?
A 2006 study in the Journal of Conflict Resolution based on the survey in 10 European countries suggests otherwise. Yale University's Edward H. Kaplan and Charles A. Small found "that anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed."
With little hope that the media coverage will become more balanced and the incitement of the growing Muslim community will abate, the Jews in Europe are facing uncertain times.
Mr. Schwammenthal edits the State of the Union column.
Shipment for Palestinian Energy Authority used in attempt to smuggle night vision equipment to Gaza Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA 13 January 2008
Yesterday the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Spokesman reported an attempt to smuggle electronics, including night vision surveillance cameras, in four trucks of supplies (see press release below)
IMRA asked the spokesperson who the trucks were for and received the following reply:
Dear Dr Lerner,
It was a shipment allocated for the Palestinian Energy Authority, not an international organization.
All the best
Peter Lerner, Major
COGAT: KEREM SHALOM AND KARNI OPERATE INCREASING NUMBER OF TRUCKS TRANSFERRED TO GAZA (Communicated by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Spokesman)
Today (Monday), 12.1.09, a total of 3129 tons of humanitarian aid including basic food commodities, medical supplies and medication were transferred to the Gaza Strip. This is the largest shipment of humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip since the military operation began. The commodities were conveyed on 120 trucks and included supplies for UNRWA, the World Food Programme, UNICEF a large Jordanian donation and goods for the private sector.
Also, due to an attempt to smuggle electronics, including night visionsurveillance cameras, four trucks of supplies were turned back, and despite this cynical attempt to abuse the humanitarian platform one truck of electronic supplies intended to rehabilitate the electrical network was transferred. Since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead 22,046 tons of humanitarian aid on 926 trucks have been shipped to the Gaza Strip.
For further details, please contact COGAT Spokesman Maj. Peter Lerner at 03-6977138, 050-6234053 or email@example.com.
Gaza ... 'an appalling example of man's inhumanity to man'
By TREVOR KAVANAGH
Published: 05 Jan 2009
IMAGES of distraught parents bearing the corpses of their mutilated children make "great" TV. Great, as in powerful, I mean. They are potent, heart-rending evidence of the atrocity that is war.
Sympathy instantly focuses on the innocent victims. Which, of course, is precisely what the Hamas fanatics who run Gaza want.
For such zealots, global television news is priceless propaganda.
Never forget the difference between Islamist fanatics and those they aim to destroy.
"You love life," they sneer. "We love death."
The world was shocked when a suicide bomber made this chilling boast for the first time after 9/11.
Today it is the common mantra of radical Islamic clerics and terrorists. Shrewdly, they identify our squeamishness as weakness and use it as a weapon of war.
Since we love life, how can we fail to blame the Israelis when their tanks and bombers bring death to impoverished Palestinians?
Certainly it is hard to ride to the defence of what looks like utterly disproportionate use of air power against a near-defenceless civilian enclave.
But how would you feel if you lived in a country the size of Wales surrounded by enemies who have vowed to destroy you?
Where terrorists, armed and funded by powerful neighbours, are bombarding towns and villages every day with increasingly lethal rockets?
And where every attempt at a negotiated peace is rebuffed by suicide attacks on your own innocent women and children? The Israelis have offered to end the fighting if Hamas stops firing rockets.
The last thing Hamas or Hezbollah — or their puppet masters in Iran or Syria — want is peace with Israel.
They want the Jewish state exterminated — just as Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jewish people.
Yes, Gaza is an appalling example of man's inhumanity to man.
Fanatics But without doubt, this invasion was systematically and skilfully provoked by fanatics elected by the Palestinians to run Gaza.
If they are eager for a short cut to Paradise, why not take a few hundred, a few thousand or a few hundred thousand with them?
Saturday's demo by thousands of Muslim men and veiled women would have been more impressive if they'd done the same after London's 7/7 bombings.
Were they the same stooges police escorted through London with placards threatening to slit the throats of anyone who supported cartoons about Mohammed?
These marchers claim the Israeli onslaught cannot be justified by the amateurish bombardment of nearby Israeli towns such as Ashkelon and Sderot with primitive Kassam rockets.
Thousands of these home-made missiles are launched from Gaza, peppering the townships where, ironically, the residents moved for a quiet life.
Instead, as I found during a visit to Sderot last year, the constant fear of incoming missiles is a living nightmare.
New missiles are reaching deeper into Israel. More sophisticated versions are being smuggled by Hezbollah into neighbouring Lebanon.
Soon they will be able to reach the capital, Tel Aviv, and its airport.
It is fair to say that, no matter how provoked, Israel is not above reproach.
The presumption that Jews are the "Chosen People" can make them shockingly arrogant.
There are Israelis who speak with undisguised contempt about their Arab neighbours. Equally, in this Middle East oasis of free speech, Israeli citizens will vehemently attack their own government for any perceived injustice towards Palestinians.
Jews are the first to admit they are paranoid. Having survived the Holocaust, who wouldn't be? They live in constant fear that Iran will carry out its deadly threat to wipe them off the map.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is putting his words into deeds, bankrolling, training and arming Hamas and Hezbollah.
After decades of fighting for survival, there is an almost desperate desire for Israel to achieve a peaceful settlement, along the lines of those negotiated with Arab neighbours Jordan and Egypt.
Until then, Israel is fighting for its very life — just as it has been every day since it was born 60 years ago.
Jan. 12, 2009 benjamin pogrund , THE JERUSALEM POST
The deaths and maimings of civilians in Gaza is terrible and wrenching. Seen on television and in newspapers, they are driving innumerable people in many parts of the world to go into the streets to protest against Israel's attack on Hamas. The protests are fierce and angry, fuelled by tragedies like the killing of 46 people when the Israeli army shelled a school building in Jabalya refugee camp, and in the death of a family of seven.
But where were the protestors when missiles were falling on southern Israel? Had they come into the streets then and demanded that Hamas stop firing we wouldn't have the gory mess in Gaza today.
The rockets and mortars first struck on April 16, 2001. Since then, there have been more than 6,300. Last year's toll was more than 3,000.
For much of the time the rockets were primitive Qassams with small warheads. However small, they kill as effectively as any high-tech grenade launcher. The missiles have been getting deadlier: Katyushas and, more recently, Grad missiles have been reaching further into Israel, striking towns 25 miles from Gaza.
Casualties from the rockets have mercifully been light, with about 20 deaths. That is not due to any lack of trying by Hamas. Instead, it's because of air raid sirens which give people less than a minute to get into shelter. And luck: Last week a missile hit a school; catastrophe was avoided because the children had been sent home. A kindergarten was badly damaged this week; again, the children were at home.
A million people now live under threat of terror attack. Life is strained and uncertain.
THE GOVERNMENT has never been able to resolve the quandary of commanding one of the world's most modern armies and yet being powerless to halt low-tech rockets and bombs. It still hunts for a solution.
Public demands mounted for harsh action. For every rocket that lands, fire back a shell, said some; or for one rocket, one shell, for the next rocket, two shells, and so on. Obliterate Gaza, said others. Some, a minority, called for ending the siege of Gaza and greater efforts to talk to Hamas.
The government urged restraint. That became more difficult with a general election due on February 10. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, his Labour party sliding in opinion polls, put his political career on the line by refusing to let the army go in. His view was all the stronger because he was previously chief of staff and is the country's most decorated soldier for bravery. Those pressing for war did not understand what it meant, he said. He was backed by army chief General Gabi Ashkenazi and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
They feared that a massive attack would cause heavy civilian casualties and loss of soldiers' lives.
The turning point was November 4. Israel says Hamas was digging a tunnel to kidnap soldiers; it foiled the plot by killing seven militants. Hamas says this was a provocation; it started firing rockets en masse, ending the unwritten ceasefire in effect since June. Missiles had still landed during that time: only 38, but enough for Israel to say it was reason for it to interrupt the flow of food and goods into Gaza.
In the third week of December, more than 200 missiles struck. They were 200 too many. Barak and Olmert accepted they could no longer hold back. The army was ordered to put into effect plans which had already been prepared.
WHY DID the world keep silent for so many years? Could anyone really expect Israel to do nothing for evermore?
That there is much anguish and anger about Palestinian suffering while there was so little response to what Israelis were enduring raises worrying questions. Are protestors giving vent to genuine compassion for Palestinian victims, or is there something dark and ugly under the surface in singling out Israel as though there has never before been a war in which innocent civilians are tragically caught in the fire?
How else to explain the extreme condemnation of Israel? The outpouring of so much hatred and the wild abuse of language and history in accusations of "genocide," "Holocaust" and the "Warsaw Ghetto"?
An official of Unrwa, the United Nations relief agency, was on television this week with a long and passionate call to end the Israeli attack. But not a word about what led to it. Why do he and others speak as though the Israeli onslaught came out of nothing, without reason or cause? Why, too, is there silence about Hamas' firing of missiles from the heart of civilian areas?
DIPLOMATIC MOVES are underway and will, hopefully, quickly lead to a ceasefire. But Israel has made very clear that it insists that there be no more missiles whether by Hamas or its cronies and that Hamas not be allowed to smuggle in new weaponry. The ceasefire will be of little account unless the world ensures that this is done and that an effective mechanism is put in place to maintain it.
The story, of course, is much more complicated. It has to do with Israel's blockade of Gaza and its attempt, unsuccessfully, to use this to turn the people there against Hamas. It has to do with Hamas' rejection of Israel's existence and refusal to forswear violence, and its power struggle with Fatah. It has to do with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the slow moves towards creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The future for both Israelis and Palestinians depends on resolving these issues. Ending the onslaught on Gaza and halting missiles raining on Israel are the immediate crucial steps.
The writer is director of Yakar's Center for Social Concern in Jerusalem. South African-born, he was deputy editor of the Rand Daily Mail when the newspaper was closed down. He has written books about Robert Sobukwe; Nelson Mandela; and the press under apartheid. He is co-editor of Shared Histories: A Palestinian-Israeli Dialogue.
We are certain that eventually we will achieve victory and crush the offensive,"
"After 17 days of fighting, I can say with certainty that Gaza and faith will prevail," he said. "The Palestinian people will triumph with Allah's help."
He wants a cease fire on his terms. Likewise, according to Israel TV Channel 1 correspondent Oded Granot, Hamas leadership in Damascus is not rushing to respond to an Egyptian cease fire initiative, which is not, in any case, the initiative that Israel wanted on the terms Israel wanted.
Hamas only needs to fire one rocket a day, or one rocket a week, to achieve its goal of terrorizing Israel. And they are still firing nearly 20 a day, though not as many as the 60-70 projectiles fired daily at the start of operation Cast Lead. Israel has also quiely dropped demands for return of Gilad Shalit.
In an extraordinary interview in today's Times, a 24-year old Hamas fighter named "Mohammed" explains in some detail how the organization is preparing to deal a crushing blow to the Zionist enemy. He talks about their tunnels and booby-traps and how Hamas has essentially already won the war.
"We are the soldiers who run towards death," he boasts. "They run away from it."
And adds: "I tell you, even our ghosts will defeat the Israelis."
The Times interviewer let that one slide, but I was instantly reminded of how other racist, totalitarian terror-states used similar comic-book rhetoric in their moments of defeat.
At the very end of the Second World War, the Nazi SS under Himmler's orders decided to launch resistance operations behind the lines of the advancing Allied armies.
German defeat was at this stage of the war a certainty, though Goebbels' propaganda machine continued to talk as if Germany was luring the Allies into a trap as they advanced into Germany proper.
They had to come up with a name to describe these heroic young lads who were going to turn the Reich into a graveyard for the invaders. Names like 'partisan' and 'maquis' had already been taken by the other side, so they come up with an original one rooted deep in the national psyche – and Hollywood horror films.
The last fighting Nazis were to be called "werewolves."
Are we noticing a pattern here?
The SS-Werwolf organization was an utter failure. With Hitler's death, German resistance collapsed. The Reich turned out not to be the graveyard of the invading Allied armies as the Nazis had boasted but the graveyard of millions of Germans, civilians and soldiers alike.
As the battle in Gaza seems to be drawing to a close, the increasingly delusional behaviour of Hamas, holed up in their bunkers, resembles the final days of the Nazi regime.
Hamas takes advantage of the humanitarian truce that Israel imposes every day for three hours, and fires rockets at that time. For some reason, this is not widely reported. It has happened on previous days, but media are not picking up the story. The only story featured prominently tells that Hamas promissed to observe the lull.
JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Hamas rockets hit two houses in southern Israel during a voluntary Israeli humanitarian cease-fire.
Israel stopped fighting for three hours Monday, as it has daily for the past week, to allow Palestinian civilians to restock or change locations, and to allow aid agencies to distribute its goods during the 17th day of Operation Cast Lead. But Hamas continued to fire rockets at Israel during the lull, scoring direct hits on homes in Ashkelon and Sderot. No one was injured, although several people went into shock and the homes were badly damaged.
One rocket landed near an Ashkelon high school where students had returned and were holding classes in bomb shelters. Attendance, however, was very low.
At least 16 rockets have hit southern Israel since Monday morning. According to reports, the number of rocket and mortar strikes on southern Israel has significantly decreased since the start of the operation.
Reserve soldiers have been sent into Gaza, an indication that the operation may be widening.
Overnight, the Air Force hit four weapons storehouses located in the homes of Hamas operatives, two tunnels dug under the homes of Hamas operatives and a smuggling tunnel on Gaza's border with Egypt, as well as a rocket launching position. Israeli ground troops clashed with armed Hamas gunmen in the northern Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, immigration officials told a Knesset committee on Monday that the Gaza operation has not stopped African migrants from infiltrating into Israel from Egypt. Some 168 migrants entered Israel illegally in the first nine days of fighting, The Jerusalem Post quoted Yaakov Ganot, the head of the National Immigration Authority, as telling the Knesset committee on foreign workers.
Fair Witness Questions America Magazine "Current Comment" on Gaza
Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions America Magazine's assertions regarding Israel and Gaza. In "Current Comment" (January 19, 2009) the editors refer to the "quagmire" Israel finds itself in in Gaza, and then by omission of key facts and reference to hopeful but wholly unrealistic prognostications, lay the blame for this "quagmire" on Israel.
"Following Yasser Arafat's refusal to negotiate a two-state solution in late 2000, Palestinian terror escalated to a shocking level," notes Rev. Dr. Archer Summers, Senior Minister in the First United Methodist Church in Palo Alto California. "Suicide bombing came mostly from the West Bank and Qassam rockets, mortars and grad missiles from Gaza. Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, hoping that promise of Palestinian autonomy would end the rocket attacks. It did not. Instead of focusing on building up some national infrastructure, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel. This instigated very severe Israeli restrictions employed in an attempt to protect its citizens under fire."
"Where might the Palestinians in Gaza be today, if instead of digging infiltration tunnels, stockpiling weapons and lobbing rockets at Israel for the last three years, their leadership had channeled its energy into the beginning of some serious state building"? asks Rev. Dr. Roy Howard, pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church (USA) in Rockville, Maryland. "If that had been the case, then the editors at America would have some basis for the Israeli 'whip hand' they complain of."
"While the severity of Israeli restrictions can be reasonably debated, America's assessment that Hamas would magically 'wither' if Israel chose to 'relinquish[ ] the upper hand over Palestinian life' defies the political realities," says Rev. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute. "Hamas has made clear that it has not even a pretense of interest in a two-state solution or living in peace with Israel."
"As a leading and respected Jesuit publication, America has an obligation to provide accurate and complete information," says Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, former Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Failing to acknowledge that in Hamas, Israel has a violent neighbor sworn to its destruction is to fail to present the full story of what is actually taking place and therefore to set it in adequate perspective."
Contact: Christians For Fair Witness on the Middle East
The Israel Defense Forces on Saturday denied that Israeli soldiers had shot at a United Nations aid truck in a convoy headed to a Gaza crossing two days ago.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had initially accused Israeli troops on a two-week offensive against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip of shooting at the UN convoy bringing humanitarian aid on Thursday, killing one worker.
An Israeli statement issued on Saturday said "the Israeli army did not fire upon the truck," and that those wounded in the shooting were treated at an Israeli hospital.
Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for UNRWA, said the agency had not accused Israel of deliberately targeting its personnel.
Gunness said the UN had based its account on reports from truck drivers at the scene, who saw an Israeli tank nearby and "were in no doubt they had been fired upon."
He urged Israel to release any photographs of the scene to "find out what happened."
An IDF source said Israel suspected Hamas was behind that shooting.
UN officials on Friday said they will resume their suspended humanitarian aid operations in Gaza as soon as possible, based on assurances from the Defense Ministry that aid workers be better protected.
A spokesperson for the Defense Ministry's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories office said that Israel and the UN have come to a new agreement regarding the UN's relief work in Gaza.
UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said the Israeli military told senior UN officials at a high-level meeting at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv that they deeply regretted the incidents that led the UN to suspend aid deliveries in the Gaza Strip on Thursday.
The UN halted movement of staff and deliveries to the Gaza Strip on Thursday after gunfire from an Israeli tank killed one aid truck driver and injured two others, Montas said. The international Red Cross also said it would restrict activities after one of its drivers was injured in a similar incident.
The UN received credible assurances that the security of UN personnel, installations, and humanitarian operations would be fully respected including undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the IDF, Montas said, using the initials of the Israeli Defense Force.
"On this basis, UN staff movements suspended yesterday will resume as soon as possible," she said.
UN humanitarian chief John Holmes called the announcement very good news and said the Israeli assurances were "exactly the assurances that we're seeking."
Holmes stressed that not all UN operations in Gaza were suspended - only those involving the movement of vehicles, which restricted aid deliveries.
UN staff in clinics and shelters, for example, remained on the job, he said.
"We hope now that all operations will be able to resume insofar as they can be carried out in the circumstances that we have - which is very limited to start," Holmes said.
"That's because not enough goods are coming in, and the goods cannot be distributed even now because the trucking company which does that has also suspended its operations," he said. "Whether they will be able to now resume, I don't know."
Holmes said UN officials will now have to discuss resuming operations with the trucking company.
John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which helps Palestinian refugees, told reporters by video-link from Gaza: "What it means, in effect, is that as soon as practical we will resume our operations."
"What we want on the operational side is that we can rely on information that is provided, and that we will not have our security compromised due to poor coordination or breakdowns in communication, he said. There is enough risk here as it is a combat zone ... and we don't want that added to because of inadequate, poor, or nonfunctioning coordination mechanisms."
Ging said the UN had lost confidence in Israel's military. But he said Israel's assurances at the highest level of improved security for UN aid operations will be taken in good faith because there were given in good faith.
"They have put in place a solution to their problems," he said.
Ging and Holmes, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, expressed regret about having to suspend aid delivery for more than a day.
The staff are eager to continue with their activities, Holmes told reporters at UN headquarters.
The assurances on improved security for UN aid operations came as Israel and Hamas ignored a Security Council cease-fire demand.
With those assurances, the World Food Program and UNICEF can resume moving supplies into or around Gaza. Those agencies said they were still operating in the Palestinian territory, where 1 million people are without electricity and 750,000 are without running water, according to the UN relief agency.
The World Food Program can access 1,900 metric tons of food it already has in Gaza - enough to feed over 130,000 people into February, spokeswoman Emilia Cassell said. But the agency needs 130 more truckloads of food delivered to ensure supplies beyond then, she said.
She said the World Food Program had provided regular rations to 60,000 people and fed at least 20,000 more since Israel launched its attacks Dec. 27.
With a unanimity that has become all too familiar, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce Israel's legitimate act of self-defense against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations. This chorus of disapproval is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world.
Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate for the existing international order?
Decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians by the Arab states have gone virtually unnoticed. Only when they interact with Israel do the Palestinians win the world's attention.
The fact that international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict has invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the conflict.
The Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others.
A Tidal Wave of International Indignation
No sooner had Israel opted to stop Hamas' attacks on its civilian population, after years of self-imposed restraint, than it was confronted with a tidal wave of international indignation. With a unanimity that has become all too familiar when it comes to the world's pronouncements on Israel, politicians, the media, NGOs, and church leaders across the globe took their cue to denounce this legitimate act of self-defense by a sovereign democracy against one of the world's most extreme terror organizations, overtly committed to its destruction, which for years had been raining down thousands of rockets and mortar shells on civilian communities (not to mention the long string of suicide bombings).
Echoed by the international media's blanket coverage of Israel's response in Gaza, but not Hamas' murderous ideology and actions, this chorus of disapproval over the Jewish state's "disproportionate" use of force is in stark contrast to the utter indifference to far bloodier conflicts that have been going on around the world, from the long-running genocide in Darfur, with its estimated 400,000 dead and at least 2.5 million refugees, to war in the Congo, with over 4 million dead or driven from their homes, to Chechnya, where an estimated 150,000-200,000 have died and up to a third of the population has been displaced at the hands of the Russian military. None of these tragedies saw protesters flock into the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Oslo, Dublin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Washington, and Fort Lauderdale (to give a brief list), as has been the case during the Gaza crisis.
Arab Mistreatment of the Palestinians Went Unnoticed
How can this be? Why do citizens in democracies enthusiastically embrace a radical Islamist group that not only seeks the destruction of a fellow democracy but is overtly committed to the substitution of a world-wide Islamic caliphate (or umma) for the existing international order based on territorial nation states? Not because of compassion for the Palestinians, whose plight has never attracted genuine international interest, especially by the Arab states (and for that matter, the Palestinian leadership), whose decades of mistreatment of the Palestinians have gone virtually unnoticed.
Between 1949 and 1967, Egypt and Jordan ruled the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively. Not only did they fail to put these populations on the road to statehood, but they showed little interest in protecting their human rights or even in improving the quality of their life - which is one of the reasons that 120,000 West Bankers moved across to the East Bank of the Jordan and about 300,000 others emigrated abroad between 1949 and 1967.
Nobody in the international community paid any more attention to this than they have more recently to the ongoing abuse of Palestinians across the Arab world from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon, a country which was condemned in a June 2006 Amnesty International report for its "long-standing discrimination and abuses of fundamental economic and social rights of Palestinian refugees."
Nor has there been any international outcry when Arab countries have massacred Palestinians on a grand scale. In 1970 King Hussein of Jordan ordered the indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian refugee camps in the course of putting down the Palestinian uprising during "Black September." This left between 3,000 and 5,000 Palestinian refugees dead. But the fact that Hussein killed more Palestinians in the course of a single month than Israel managed to do in decades was never held against him or dented the widely held perception of him as a man of peace. As the supposedly pro-Palestinian journalist Robert Fisk put it in his recent memoirs, King Hussein was "often difficult to fault."
Again, more than two decades ago Abu Iyad, the number two man in the PLO, publicly stated that the crimes of the Syrian government against the Palestinian people "surpassed those of the Israeli enemy." While in the wake of the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Kuwaitis not only set about punishing the PLO for support of Saddam Hussein's brutal occupation by cutting off their financial support for Yasir Arafat's overblown and corrupt organization, but there was also a widespread slaughter of Palestinians living in Kuwait.
This revenge against innocent Palestinian workers in the emirate was so severe that Arafat himself acknowledged: "What Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories." Yet there was no media coverage or specially convened UN meetings because it is only when they interact with Israel that the Palestinians win the world's attention.
Only Palestinian Interaction with Israel Wins World Attention
In other words, the extraordinary international preoccupation with the Palestinians is a corollary of their interaction with Israel, the only Jewish state to exist since biblical times, a reflected glow of the millenarian obsession with the Jews in the Christian and the Muslim worlds. Had their dispute been with an Arab, Muslim, or any other adversary, it would have attracted a fraction of the interest that it presently does.
On occasion, notably among devout and/or born again Evangelical Christians, this obsession has manifested itself in admiration and support for the national Jewish resurrection in the Holy Land. In most instances, however, anti-Jewish prejudice and animosity, or anti-Semitism as it is commonly known, has served rather to exacerbate distrust and hatred of Israel. Indeed, the fact that the international coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the libels against Zionism and Israel, such as the despicable comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, have invariably reflected a degree of intensity and emotional involvement well beyond the normal level to be expected of impartial observers would seem to suggest that, rather than being a response to concrete Israeli activities, it is a manifestation of longstanding prejudice that has been brought out into the open by the vicissitudes of the conflict.
There is another side to the ledger. For millennia Jewish blood has been cheap, if not costless, throughout the Christian and Muslim worlds, where the Jew became the epitome of powerlessness, a perpetual punching bag and a scapegoat for whatever ills befell society. There is no reason, therefore, why Israel shouldn't follow in the footsteps of these past generations, avoid antagonizing its Arab neighbors and exercise restraint whenever attacked. But no, instead of knowing its place, the insolent Jewish state has forfeited this historic role by exacting a price for Jewish blood and beating the bullies who had hitherto been able to torment the Jews with impunity. This dramatic reversal of history cannot but be immoral and unacceptable. Hence the global community outrage and hence the world's media provision of unlimited resources to cover every minute of Israel's "disproportionate" response, but none of the devastation and dislocation caused to Israeli cities and their residents.
Put differently, the Palestinians are but the latest lightning rod unleashed against the Jews, their supposed victimization reaffirming the millenarian demonization of the Jews in general, and the medieval blood libel - that Jews delight in the blood of others - in particular. In the words of David Mamet, "The world was told Jews used this blood in the performance of religious ceremonies. Now, it seems, Jews do not require the blood for baking purposes, they merely delight to spill it on the ground."
Zionism Failed to Solve the "Jewish Problem"
To make such an argument will no doubt be dismissed as "Zionist propaganda" by many opponents of Israel. But in fact this not only runs counter to the prevailing wisdom among Israeli academics and intellectuals, for whom such arguments are anathema, but it also challenges one of the most fundamental tenets of Zionism - that the creation of a Jewish state, where the Jewish diasporas would congregate and become normalized, would solve the "Jewish problem" and ameliorate, if not eliminate altogether, the phenomenon of anti-Semitism.
What this line of thinking by the founding fathers of Zionism failed to consider, however, is that the prejudice and obsession that had hitherto been reserved for Jewish individuals and communities would be transferred to the Jewish state. As the poet Heinrich Heine, himself a convert from Judaism, once wrote, Judaism is "the family curse that lasts a thousand years" and no matter how much it has tried, Israel has never been able to escape this disturbing reality.
A saddening thought indeed. But is there any other explanation as to why, sixty years after its establishment by an internationally recognized act of self-determination, Israel remains the only state in the world that is subjected to a constant outpouring of the most outlandish conspiracy theories and blood libels; whose policies and actions are obsessively condemned by the international community; and whose right to exist is constantly debated and challenged not only by its Arab enemies but by segments of advanced opinion in the West?
* * *
Professor Efraim Karsh is Head of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Studies at King's College, University of London, and a member of the Board of International Experts of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His recent books include Islamic Imperialism: A History (Yale University Press, 2007).
An Israeli might not write this, because we would be accused of mixing up the Holocaust with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and because most Israelis really don't think that way. What an Israeli would write, is that we do not want special treatment. If any other country had suffered the Hamas rockets for several years, they would've wiped Gaza off the map if they could, and the UN would have said nothing about it. But at least, Lawson sees the moral issues clearly.
I was startled by the monument that stands at the entrance to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's memorial to the Holocaust. One side of Nathan Rappaport's diptych is what looks like a caricature of Jews. The hunched, twisted figures, with hooked noses and heavy-lidded eyes, seem devoid of physical energy. The other panel displays a group of heroic young men and women who are heavily muscled, standing tall, weapons at the ready.
It turns out that the first group is meant to depict Jews being marched to their deaths, while the second is the leaders of the Warsaw uprising; the whole monument is constructed of granite imported from Sweden by the Nazis for the construction of what was meant to be one of the Third Reich's victory towers.
The message is in fact close to the view expressed with brutal clarity by Israel's founding father, David Ben-Gurion: "That masses of exiled Jews walked to the death trains . . . silently, stupidly . . . is a decisive, embarrassing and painful statement of the disintegration of spiritual-ethical strength. What is their place among us?" Ben-Gurion envisaged that "new Jews", with the security of their own nation state, would erase what he saw as the shameful memory of a "submissive, lowly camp of strange creatures . . . who know only how to arouse pity". Indeed, so anxious was Ben-Gurion to obliterate such memories that he opposed any memorial to the Holocaust. That was one battle he lost.
A Briton entering Yad Vashem might do so in the hope that he would see a compliment to his own nation's fight against the Nazis. He would be disappointed. Instead, there is footage of a long dead emissary to London recording how Britain's wartime foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, told him the plight of the Jews was not an important consideration in the war effort. Later, he would see pictures of British soldiers dragging Jewish immigrants from ships on the shores of Tel Aviv and of Holocaust survivors behind the wire of British camps in Cyprus, prevented from reaching the promised land. The message here is equally clear. No one will protect the Jews except themselves.
That remains the position. After all, there was no great perturbation within the UN building in New York during the month upon month that Hamas rained rockets on southern Israel, still less any international pressure on the government of Gaza to desist. Ten months ago I was in Sderot, 30 seconds' rocket flying time from Gaza, talking to an Israeli nurse whose home had been hit by one of thousands of Qassam missiles which Hamas had fired without fear of reprisal. She still had shrapnel lodged, irremovably, near her brain.
The nurse said she constantly tells her four-year-old son, who was also injured, that "there are so many good people in Gaza who are not trying to kill us". Her anger was principally against her own government: "The day Israel withdrew from Gaza, I knew it was a terrible idea, I knew we would be a target. And I know my Arab friends will suffer when the IDF [Israel Defence Force] goes back into Gaza." Now, they are indeed suffering terribly, as the images on our television screens show all too graphically – and yet infinitely less than the pictures that are too horrific to be shown and are left to our imagination. This is what war means.
All the same, even the majority of those Israelis who passionately believe that the Palestinians should have their own state, and that the West Bank should be handed over to them, are convinced there was no choice for their government but to act as it has over the past fortnight. These Israelis were bitterly opposed to the military campaigns against Lebanon, but see this campaign as much closer to the spirit of the six-day war and the Yom Kippur war. "Ein brera", they tell me, which is Hebrew for "no choice".
It was no longer just Sderot which was taking hits from the Qassams, and where parents would not let their children play outdoors. The Iranian-supplied Hamas ordnance was becoming ever wider in its range. Ashkelon (which incidentally supplies all of Gaza's electricity) and even the city of Beer-sheba are now reachable targets, and more than 800,000 Israelis the potential victims.
It is undeniable that the consequences for the people of Gaza have been far worse, in numbers of innocent dead and in sheer intensity, than anything the people of Israel have suffered. The word "disproportionate" is inevitably used to describe the Israeli response, with the equally inevitable failure to acknowledge that Hamas targets civilians on purpose and with open expressions of bloodthirsty delight when it succeeds.
Those who claim the IDF also deliberately targets civilians don't have to believe the official spokesman's denials: they could speak to someone such as Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British Army campaigns in Afghanistan and Northern Ireland, and was most recently senior military adviser to the Cabinet Office. Kemp told me that "Hamas deploys suicide attackers including women and children, and rigs up schools and houses with booby-trap explosives. Its leaders knew as a matter of certainty this would lead to civilian casualties if there was a ground battle. Virtually every aspect of its operations is illegal under international humanitarian law – 'war crimes' in the emotive language usually reserved for the Israelis".
Colonel Kemp points out that if the IDF had no regard for civilian lives it would never have leafleted and telephoned residents in Gaza, warning them when it was about to attack their area: after all, that also gives Hamas notice – hardly the act of an army devoted to military victory at all costs. Similarly, the IDF's unilateral commitment to a daily three-hour ceasefire to permit the evacuation (to Israel) of casualties, and for the passage of "humanitarian aid", also allows Hamas time to regroup and redeploy for future attacks.
Of course, none of these arguments can penetrate the brains of the superannuated Stalinists, vicarious jihadists and attention-seeking actors and pop stars who think it's cool to go on marches chanting, "We are all Hamas now". Even if these luvvies might not be aware that on Christmas Eve Hamas legalised crucifixion as a punishment for those who "weaken the spirit of the people", and have been shooting such political enemies in the head when they find them in hospitals conveniently injured by Israeli bombing raids, they still deserve to be dismissed as useful idiots for a depraved death cult.
There are also perfectly sensible people – both inside and outside Israel – who say the IDF's campaign is worse than a crime: it is stupid. They cite the Lebanon war of 2006 as a dire precedent. Leave aside the terrible casualties – although that's hard enough – they say it left Hezbollah unconquered and elevated in prestige on the "Arab street".
Perhaps so, but consider this: since that campaign, no Hezbollah missiles have been fired on northern Israel. Indeed, when on Thursday three rockets were fired from Lebanon, Hezbollah rushed to reassure the Israeli government that it was not involved and that the rockets were not the sort it even possessed.
This is not exactly the classical doctrine of deterrence: it's supposed to stop people attacking you in the first place. Yet the Israeli attack on Gaza is part of the same policy of delayed deterrence. Paradoxical though this might seem, it is also essential if the process towards an independent Palestinian state is to havea future. For until the people of Israel believe that such a state – including the heights of the West Bank, which overlook Tel Aviv – is not a threat to their own existence, they will never support a government which abandons those territories, won in an earlier war of self-defence.
An Arab view of Gaza. I think it is wrong. Hamas has succeeded beautifully - but they didn't have the goals that the author, Sultan Al-Qassemi might think they had. Al Qassemi's complaint seems to be that Hamas wasted the money they got, and didn't get enough weapons with which to destroy Israel, which would have been OK presumably. He wants a more efficient Hamas, that would be something like Hezbollah. At least, that is what we can understand from what he writes:
Clearly, Hamas has not mastered the art of politics, and as the veteran British journalist Robert Fisk recently noted, they do not have the military discipline of Hizbollah...
That resistance has for many years been funded by donations from wealthy Arabs in the Gulf, among others to cover an annual budget that the US Council on Foreign Relations estimates at $70 million. Despite such sums, Hamas has hardly managed to amass a significant arsenal or military capabilities.
All it has to show after all this time and money is little more than long-range fireworks that it launches into neighbouring towns but which do more damage to its own image than to any infrastructure in Israel.
It seems that if, for example, Hamas had managed to acquire a nuclear weapon and use it on Israel, Al-Qassemi might be quite satisfied.
He doesn't seem to understand that Hamas is an extension of the original Muslim Brotherhod, and that its goal is to conquer Egypt and other Arab lands -not to "liberate" Palestine.
....[O]ne thing is certain; it is high time for Hamas to step down as the keeper of Gaza. This is where people will object and remind us that they were democratically elected. My answer to that is: Yes, but they are incompetent.
Most of us in the Middle East still believe that incompetence is a trait exclusive to dictators such as Muammer Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Jamal Abdul Nasser. However modern history has proven that democracy and incompetent governance aren't mutually exclusive. For example, George W Bush and Mikhail Saakashavili were both democratically elected and yet they are responsible for disastrous wars.
Clearly, Hamas has not mastered the art of politics, and as the veteran British journalist Robert Fisk recently noted, they do not have the military discipline of Hizbollah. Hamas also baulked at the opportunity of reconciliation that was brokered by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last year and didn't mend the relations with Fatah that may have allowed them to take partial control of the vital Rafah crossing with Egypt.
Then there was the audacity of Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas supreme leader, who called for the launch of a third intifada from exile in Syria.
Mashaal wakes up in the safety of Damascus, turns on the television, reads the paper and then says live on Al Jazeera TV – where else? – that "we want armed resistance, a military uprising to face the enemy". Couldn't he smuggle himself into the Gaza Strip to be with his resistance fighters?
That resistance has for many years been funded by donations from wealthy Arabs in the Gulf, among others to cover an annual budget that the US Council on Foreign Relations estimates at $70 million. Despite such sums, Hamas has hardly managed to amass a significant arsenal or military capabilities.
All it has to show after all this time and money is little more than long-range fireworks that it launches into neighbouring towns but which do more damage to its own image than to any infrastructure in Israel.
Ultimately Khaled Mashaal, who declared from Damascus that the resistance "has lost very few people" as the body count approached 434, displayed the same arrogance as the Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, who unashamedly declared only last Thursday that there is "no humanitarian crisis in Gaza".
Many thought that Gaza and the West Bank were inseparable entities until Hamas's bloody takeover of the Strip in the summer of 2007 damaged that notion. Their 18-month rule is marred by lawlessness, extra-judicial public killings and gang warfare that is more reminiscent of Somalia than a civilised state.
Time magazine reported on the violence that followed the takeover then: "Gangs have tossed enemies alive off 15-storey buildings, shot one another's children and burst into hospitals to finish off wounded foes lying helplessly in bed."
Last week, Taghreed El-Khodary of the New York Times reported that Hamas militants in civilian clothing again resorted to killing wounded former inmates of Gaza's central jail who were accused of collaboration with the enemy. These unproved "collaborators" were executed in public even though Palestinian Human Rights groups repeatedly claim that "most of these people are completely innocent". Hamas seems to be either unable or unwilling to stop such extrajudicial executions.
Additionally, on the first anniversary of Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip, the Christian Science Monitor found a lack of medicines in hospitals as well as of clean drinking water in the territory, and raw sewage streaming into the sea. And this isn't because Hamas's dignity prevents it from meeting the enemy.
Hamas's vast propaganda machine around the Arab world mysteriously fails to report on the meetings between its members and Israeli government representatives. For example, after a 90-minute meeting with an official from the Israeli state electricity company in order to sort out the town's electricity needs, the Hamas-affiliated mayor of Qalqilya told the BBC about the meeting: "It was civil, without any problem between him and I."
Where do you think Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in the Strip, gets his electricity from?
By any standards Hamas has failed miserably. It has failed in peace, failed in governance, and moreover failed in war. In addition to Hamas's ambiguous political agenda, their goal seems to be resistance for the sake of resistance, a quagmire where the journey really is the destination. It is time for Khaled Mashaal to step down and allow more competent leaders to emerge before he causes even more damage to his cause. The question is if Hamas leaves, what is the alternative?
In fact, probably the only good thing that can be said about Hamas is that they are not Fatah.
This article first appeared in The National newspaper on Sunday January 4th 2008
This is now officially, phase 2.5 of operation cast something (cast lead is a lousy name). According to another story, Phase III would be launched in a few days if there is no truce agreement. Other sources claim Israeli government is divided over whether to continue the operation.
Diplomatic efforts to end Gaza conflict intensify as Defense Ministry official says Cairo-brokered talks have undergone pivotal conceptual change; Egypt now fathoms dangers of Hamas. Palestinian sources warn of premature optimism
Roni Sofer and Ali Waked Published: 01.12.09, 02:04 / Israel News
Operation Cast Lead, phase 2.5, that is what the defense establishment has dubbed the incorporation of IDF reserve forces in the Gaza incursion.
Simultaneously, the diplomatic efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas have intensified, as Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Security-Diplomatic Bureau, revealed that the Cairo-brokered talks have undergone a pivotal conceptual change, "now that Egypt fully understands" the dangers of Hamas.
"The goal is to tighten the siege on Hamas, but this is not to defined operational objective," a defense establishment source told Ynet.
Day 17 of Operation Cast Lead is expected to allow for better examination of the French-Egyptian ceasefire initiative, while IDF forces will continue to target terror hubs in the Strip.
The diplomatic initiative, which calls for indirect, Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Hamas, was deemed by Israel as problematic, but the security "kitchenette" – namely Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni – has authorized Gilad to continue the talks.
Jerusalem does not see the talks as binding in terms of reaching any agreement with Hamas, and according to Gilad, the willingness to explore a diplomatic initiative stems from the fact that it might achieve Israel's operational goals without it having to venture forces deeper into Gaza Strip.
'Positive progress in talks'
"At the moment is seems I'm not leaving for Cairo, but that doesn't matter since I stay in close touch with Egypt," Gilad told Ynet Sunday night.
Earlier, Egypt's state-owned news agency MENA reported of progress in talks with a Hamas delegation on an end to fighting in Gaza, describing them as "positive."
Hamas, added Gilad, knows it is does not have the upper hand in the negotiations. "This isn't a lull. The tahadiya was the right move at the time, but our operation has changed the situation. Hamas has suffered a blow and the entity it has formed in Gaza is under existential threat.
"Hamas wants to stop the Israeli war machine. They need to save what they have, but unlike in the tahadiya, they know they're not in a position of power. As far as we are concerned, the only thing that matters is Israel's objectives – peace in the south and preventing Hamas from regaining its strength.
"Preventing arms smuggling through the Philadelphi Route is only one of the issues we are discussing," added Gilad. "This may be solved with the technological assistance of the Americans and Germans, since the Egyptians won't hear of having an international forces deployed in their territory.
"As far as the smugglings are concerned, we can count on Egypt more than we did before…They have undergone a conceptual change. After Hamas refused to appear to the Cairo talks (with rival Palestinian faction Fatah) Egypt began to fathom that it is dealing with an enemy, which could potentially join forces with their enemies, lime the Muslim brotherhood."
The change, he added, "is pivotal and may work to our advantage."
As for the Gaza crossings, Gilad told Ynet the issue has been effectively resolved, as long as Israel will allow humanitarian aid into the Strip, as it does. Egypt and Hamas, however, disagree, and "since Hamas is unwilling to hear of any involvement of the Palestinian Authority, we are currently not negotiating on the matter."
The Egyptian initiative, he said has allowed a ceasefire to be within reach: "Egypt is a very important Middle East power. I don't call this an agreement. I call it alliance of circumstance."
Palestinian sources, however, were not as optimistic, saying that for now, both side were entrenched on all core issues, including the very nature of the armistice: Hamas is not interested in a bilateral ceasefire – a subject which has become one of its main bones of contentions with Egypt, especially given he latter's refusal to discuss the reopening of the Rafah crossing.
"The war has set aside the fact the Hamas is no longer willing to accept Mahmoud Abbas as the Palestinian president, since his tenure officially ended on January 9," said a Palestinian source.
Hamas, he added, demands the Gaza government be allowed to remain in power until its term comes to in natural end, in January 2010.
To clarify a Times error - The Gaza "Police" are an armed terror group that was created from the "Executive Force" which Hamas originally started in 2006, over the protests of the Palestinian Authority. They are not "civilian casualties" at all.
No one can condone the civilian suffering in Gaza of the past two weeks. Nor should anyone doubt who is, in the end, responsible The pictures do not lie. Laser-guided but blind to the distinction between fighter and civilian, Israeli bombs have reduced schools, apartment blocks and police parade grounds to visions of hell. Aid workers and relatives have removed bodies and pieces of bodies, and survivors too traumatised to talk. On Boxing Day: at least 50 cadets killed at Gaza City's main police station alone. On Monday: reports, not denied by Israel, of phosphorus shells used over civilian neighbourhoods. On Tuesday: 40 children and teachers found dead in the wreckage of a school. And yesterday: reports of up to 30 more children killed in a house to which Israeli troops had moved them for their own safety.
For all Israel's claims to have launched only targeted strikes on Hamas targets, it has shown scant concern for civilians caught in Gaza's crossfire in the past two weeks. Yet this is as nothing next to the contempt shown by Hamas.
Unlike the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), the paramilitary overlords of the Gaza Strip use civilians routinely for protection in the knowledge that many will be sacrificed to Israeli airstrikes. Unlike the IDF, they deliberately target civilians with their own rockets. At least 70 such rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel in December. This was the criminal act that triggered the current crisis. It was as simple and blatant as the history of the Holy Land is complex, and every time that bewildered Gazans are corralled by Hamas fighters into a human shield, it is compounded by rank cowardice.
Israel is an expression of outrage at the Holocaust and defiance of those who would turn a blind eye to history. It is also a country that in 60 years has justified its statehood by defending itself against those who deny its right to exist, preserving its democracy even when this has led it into diplomatic isolation, and building an economy that is the envy of the Middle East.
The same can scarcely be said of Hamas. Where Fatah at least speaks the language of negotiation, Hamas has explicitly rejected a two-state solution. It exists chiefly to promote a nihilistic doctrine of self-defence through terror, and to foster a delusional pan-Islamism with no tolerance for unbelievers, let alone a Jewish state.
Israel has a powerful ally in the United States. Its critics are wont to condemn this alliance as a Jewish axis blind to heart-rending realities in Gaza and to the sacrifices necessary for peace. No one can be unmoved by the suffering witnessed by the Norwegian surgeon who texted friends to tell them "we're wading in death, blood [and] amputees". But the way to end it is not to abandon Israel. It is to defeat Hamas. As Washington contemplates an opening to Iran, its reluctance to condemn Israel is not ideological but rational. The alternative would be to open talks with Tehran while its proxy in Gaza still threatened much of Israel with Iranian-built rockets.
The Vatican has failed unequivocally to disavow Cardinal Renato Martino's remarks likening Gaza to a concentration camp. It should know better. Those who join Annie Lennox and Ken Livingstone in Hyde Park tomorrow to condemn what they consider Israel's disproportionate response should, likewise, know that Israel is at war - but with a non-state organisation that depends on just such a response to bolster its flagging support among the Palestinian people.
Israel is better than its enemies. That is why the world expects better when children and civilians die under its ordnance. The past two weeks' fighting have damaged it internationally and will have radicalised some Palestinians. But it has also sent the essential message that Hamas is no partner for negotiations, much less for peace. The bitter lesson of this war is that Hamas cannot be allowed to win.
We've seen a lot of Gaza "atrocity" movies and pictures. A picture is worth a thousand words, if it is a real picture. At least one of the "atrocity films" of "Zionist war crimes" circulating on YouTube is a fake, and another was staged.
Several left-wing Web sites have displayed a graphic video purporting to show Palestinians killed or wounded by a recent Israeli airstrike in Gaza.
In fact, the video shows the aftermath of an accidental explosion of a truck full of rockets at a Hamas rally nearly 3.5 years ago.
One of the Web sites that posted the video on Jan. 5, The Raw Story, quoted a Palestinian source as saying the video was shot "immediately after a terrorist Israeli airstrike hit a busy market where kids with their mothers and fathers were searching for food to eat from one of the local markets early on Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009."
The Web site Question Everything reported: "Saturday, before Israel launched a full-scale invasion of Gaza, a Palestinian with a camera witnessed a devastating bombing. His video shows the brutal, bloody results of an airstrike on what appears to be a civilian area... . .
But a poster to the site reddit.com, which also displayed the video, disclosed: "This video is from September 23, 2005, and was taken in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.
"A Hamas pickup truck carrying Qassam rockets detonated by mistake during a Hamas rally, leaving at least 15 killed and dozens more injured.
"The pickup truck in question is visible for a split-second at the start of the video. The section of the video showing the pickup exploding has been edited out."
The BBC reported at the time: "At least 15 Palestinians have been killed and scores injured in a blast during a parade by the militant Hamas group in the Gaza Strip. A truck carrying gunmen and homemade weapons blew up during the rally in the Jabalya refugee camp..."
The Raw Story issued a correction and removed the video.
But Noel Sheppard of NewsBusters observed, "I guess that's all it takes to get anti-Israeli propaganda spread throughout the liberal blogosphere these days."
Military said to deploy some of its reserve forces in Gaza. IDF spokesman says Hamas hinders humanitarian aid efforts, make 'monstrous use' of civilian population
Hanan Greenberg Published: 01.11.09, 21:09 / Israel News
Operation Cast Lead's third phase has yet to be officially declared, but the military has reportedly begun incorporating some of its reserve forces in the fighting.
"We have begun embedding reserve forces – we will go in as far as we have to," IDF Spokesman Brigadier-General Avi Benayahu said Sunday.
Benayahu further said that Hamas was plundering the humanitarian aid convoys and operating against the "humanitarian corridor" implemented daily. Hamas use of civilian population, he said, has reached "monstrous proportions."
Sunday say defense establishment officials brief the cabinet on the progress of the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Both the IDF's head of intelligence and Shin Bet chief said there was ample reason to believe Hamas' capabilities have suffered a serious blow, but that it would probably still be able to unt harsh attacks on Israel.
"Hamas wants nothing more than to retaliate to the blow dealt to them and make up for the lack of operational achievements in the field… But on the other hand, they are in no hurry to wave a white flag," Director of Military Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin told the cabinet.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert assured the ministers that despite the UN Security Council's decision on the Gaza offensive, Israel was not ready to back down: "Israel is fast approaching the goals set for the operation, but we need patience, determination and courage if we want to achieve those goals in a way that would change the security realities in the south… We cannot miss what such an unprecedented national effort has achieved."
IDF Military Intelligence Head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin on Sunday briefed cabinet ministers on the Gaza operation, stressing the dire straits Hamas and its leadership were in.
According to Yadlin, Hamas had realized its error in not anticipating an Israeli response to the ongoing rocket fire, and expecting neither a ground operation nor the cold shoulder the world has shown the group.
He spoke of the cracks in Hamas resilience, its disconnected leadership in Syria, and its waning public support following the extensive Israeli attacks on the organization, but predicted that while Hamas realized that it had no choice but reach a compromise with Israel, it was not about to succumb, and was still capable of striking Israel and the IDF.
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) head Yuval Diskin noted that the number of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip at Israel since the start of Operation Cast Lead was substantially lower than what security forces had predicted.
Diskin stressed the blow to Hamas's ability to smuggle weapons via the Philadelphi Corridor due to the IAF attacks on it, and noted that alongside the inevitable anger at Israel for the bombardments, Gazans were angry at Hamas for bringing on such devastation to the Strip. He also noted that Hamas was using the ongoing clashes in the Strip as an excuse to execute Fatah supporters.
Diskin said that Hamas was waiting for an agreement which would enable it to end the battles with some dignity, or reach some isolated military achievements. He also said that Iran was attempting to tighten a lethal noose consisting of Gaza, Syria and Lebanon around Israel's neck.
Earlier at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the IDF was getting close to the objectives set for Operation Cast Lead.
The prime minister warned that what had been achieved thus far in an "unprecedented effort" must not be lost at the last moment.
"Israel is approaching the goals it set for itself, but we require further patience, determination and effort so that our citizens can feel safety and stability," said Olmert. "The Israeli public, especially the residents of the South, have the necessary patience and willingness - so does the government!"
Olmert also hit back at the mounting international criticism of the Gaza operation.
"No country in the world, even those preaching morals to us, would have shown the tolerance and restraint that we have," he said.
"We have never agreed that anyone decide for us if we are allowed to strike at those who send missiles into our kindergartens and schools, and we never will," continued the prime minister.
Olmert defended the Security Cabinet's decision to continue the Gaza operation in spite of Thursday's night's UN Security Council resolution which called for an immediate and durable cease-fire.
"I must note that UN Security Council Resolution 1860 also sharply rules out continued attacks directed against civilians and does not forbid urgent action against them," he said.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak emphasized that Operation Cast Lead was continuing even as diplomatic options were being examined.
"We are continuing to act in order to restore quiet to the South and to prevent weapons smuggling via the Philadelphi Corridor," Barak said.
"The IDF is operating by air, land and sea and is also exploring the diplomatic channel," he continued. "There is no contradiction between the two."
Commenting on the operation following the meeting, Communications Minister Ariel Atias said that he had the impression that "Olmert is seeking more public backing, and that this operation won't end till the goals are reached."
Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit also stated that the goals of the operation were "to bring a long-term end to the attacks on southern residents, and put an end to the smuggling. We would be happy if these objectives could be reached in other [non-military] ways, otherwise, we will continue [with the current operation]."
Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim was more direct in expressing the necessity of Operation Cast Lead.
"If we don't expose the infrastructure, including the missile-production lines, and take control of the Philadelphi Corridor, I think that in the next round [of violent confrontations] we will be hit by longer-range missiles and as yet unused weaponry, such as anti-aircraft cannons," he warned. This article can also be read at
US President-elect Barak Obama rebuffed recent criticism of his relative silence on the conflict in Gaza on Sunday, and defended his assertion that when it comes to national security, "we cannot have two administrations at the same time simultaneously sending signals in a volatile situation."
He added, however, that his team is preparing to get involved once he takes office. "What I am doing right now is putting together the team, so that on January 20th, starting on day one, we have the best possible people who are going to be immediately engaged in the Middle East peace process as a whole," he said.
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC news, the president-elect stood by comments he made on a trip to Israel last July, when he said that "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."
When asked if he would say the same in Israel today, Obama said, "I think that a basic principle of any country is that they've got to protect their citizens."
Comparing his approach to the Middle East to that of previous administrations, Obama suggested that he would not be making a clean break from the Bush policy. "I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach."
Thousands of police were on duty in London and Manchester for the pro-Israel rallies that took place on Sunday after violent clashes again erupted at an anti-Israel demonstration at the Israel embassy on Saturday.
Organized by the Jewish community, organizers said some 20,000 people stood with Israel in Trafalgar Square in central London and 3,000 in Albert Square in central Manchester calling for "peace for the people of Israel and Gaza" and an end to "Hamas terror."
Since Friday morning, community organizations and individuals were reassuring people through emails, and on social networking site Facebook, that the London rally was taking place, after a hoax email was sent out stating that it was canceled.
The email claimed to have come from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the representative organization of Anglo-Jewry and one of the organizers of Sunday's rally. A community leader who could not be named told The Jerusalem Post that an arrest had been made. Police confirmed they were looking into "an allegation of a malicious email communication," but could not confirm that an arrest had been made.
The email said that the Board of Deputies, in consultation with other Jewish organizations, had decided to cancel the rally "after intense discussions within the community, due to a feeling that such a demonstration would not be in accordance with the Board's wish to bring the conflict to an immediate conclusion."
It claimed that the Board had called for an immediate ceasefire and for Israel to negotiate with Hamas.
"The Jewish community does not wish to be seen as a participant in the conflict, and in taking this stand we hope to be a part of the solution. The Board stands in solidarity with the besieged and injured people of Gaza, as well as the victims of terrorism in Israel, and we oppose all violence as contrary to the tenets of the Jewish religion. We would like to reach out to the British Muslim community, as well as those of no religion who have demonstrated against Israel's military campaign-we share your anguish at the destruction and loss of life caused and hope that our action in calling off our demonstration will be a small step towards peace," the hoax email read.
In an attempt to disrupt the Manchester rally, the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, together with other anti-Israel groups, called for people to arrive and occupy Albert Square before the start of "the Zionist rally."
"The Zionists are planning a demonstration in Manchester this Sunday in support of Israel's war on Gaza. Join us and thousands of others this Saturday to show your solidarity with your brothers and sisters in Gaza as we gather at Albert Square to show the Zionists that Manchester will not accept the brutal attacks on the people of Palestine. Please be there at 10 a.m. sharp this Sunday to show opposition to the Israeli attacks and solidarity with the people of Gaza. Bring placards, Palestine flags and as many people with you as you can. Let all Mancunians unite in the face of injustice!"
On Saturday, protestors marching from Hyde Park in central London to the Israeli embassy waved Hizbollah and Al-Qaida flags and chanted "Hey, ho, Israel has gotta go" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free". Many held placards with Nazi analogies such as "Gaza = Warsaw Ghetto", "Gaza: NaZionist death camp" and "Stop the Holocaust in Gaza". At the embassy, masked protestors pushed over crowd control barriers, threw missiles at police and let off firecrackers and fire extinguishers. Shop windows were smashed and pieces of broken window thrown at police.
Police reported that three officers were injured, including one who was knocked unconscious, and at least 15 arrests were made.
Meanwhile, a group of prominent Jewish community members has called on Israel to cease its military operation in Gaza, claiming that only negotiations can secure Israel's security. In a letter in Sunday's Observer newspaper, a group of Jewish rabbis, academics and politicians - including Sir Jeremy Beecham, former chair of the Labour Party, Baroness Julia Neuberger, head of the Reform Movement Rabbi Dr. Tony Bayfield, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Danny Rich - warned that Israel's action will "strengthen extremism."
"We are concerned that rather than bringing security to Israel, a continued military offensive could strengthen extremists, destabilize the region and exacerbate tensions inside Israel with its one million Arab citizens," the letter stated.
The signatories, who describe themselves as "passionate supporters of Israel," also stated that Israel has a right to defend itself, calling Hamas's actions a "war crime." However they said that Israel's actions threaten to undermine international support and that "now only negotiations can secure long-term security for Israel and the region."
Also responding to the situation in Gaza, Canadian author Naomi Klein called for a boycott of Israel.
Writing in The Guardian newspaper's blog, 'Comment is Free', on Saturday, she said that the best strategy to "end the increasingly bloody occupation" is for Israel "to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa."
In the article, entitled "Enough: It's time for a boycott", Klein called for people to heed to the call for broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa during the apartheid era.
"Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity," she said. This article can also be read at
Jan. 11, 2009 YAAKOV KATZ, AP and JPOST.COM STAFF , THE JERUSALEM POST
IAF planes on Sunday afternoon attacked at least twenty smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor, on Gaza's southern border with Egypt. The tunnels were being used to smuggle weaponry into Gaza, according to the IDF.
The IDF said that it would continue to expand operations against such tunnels along the Corridor.
Earlier Sunday, the IAF said that over the weekend Hamas operatives tried to shoot down an Israeli plane using an anti-aircraft missile.
The army has said that Hamas possesses several shoulder-held ground-to-air missiles, and in air raids overnight Saturday, the IAF hit a Gaza mosque in which a number of them were stored.
Meanwhile, in one of the fiercest ground battles since the start of Operation Cast Lead, IDF troops battled Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza City suburb of Sheikh Ajleen.
Fighting in Sheikh Ajleen erupted before dawn and continued into the day as IDF infantrymen and tanks advanced toward Gaza City and its approximately 400,000 residents, Palestinian witnesses said. Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they ambushed the soldiers, leading to some of the heaviest fighting since Israel sent ground forces into the territory on January 3.
Gunfire subsided in the early afternoon, with the IDF in control of buildings on the neighborhood's outskirts.
At least 40 Palestinians had been killed across Gaza by Sunday afternoon, according to Gaza health officials. Many were noncombatants, they claimed, including four members of one family killed when a tank shell hit their home near Gaza City.
There were no reports of IDF casualties.
On Sunday, the IAF dropped additional leaflets urging Gaza residents to report the whereabouts of Hamas operatives, even providing a phone number to call.
"You can call the numbers listed below to inform us about the locations of rocket launchers, warehouses, tunnels and terrorist groups operating in your area," the leaflet said in Arabic, promising "confidentiality guaranteed."
On Saturday, leaflets were dropped on Gaza City warning residents of a wider offensive.
"The IDF is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only," the leaflets said. "Stay safe by following our orders."
Defense officials have said that the IDF is prepared for a third stage of the offensive, in which ground troops would push further into Gaza, but are waiting for approval from the government.
The first phase consisted of aerial bombardment, and the second saw ground forces enter Gaza, seize open areas used to fire rockets and surround Gaza City.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity as military plans have not been made public, said the army also has a contingency plan for a fourth phase - the full reoccupation of Gaza and toppling of Hamas. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of military occupation.
Since Saturday night, the IAF hit at least seven rocket cells, as well as the launcher used to fire the Grad-type rockets at Beersheba on Sunday morning.
In searches in the northern Strip on Sunday the IDF found several weapon caches, one of them containing communication equipment.
IDF armored corps destroyed homes believed to contain weapons, and in one case a tank crew opened fire at Hamas operatives planting a bomb.
The IDF has repeatedly stated that Hamas fighters are wearing civilian clothes and endangering civilians by operating out of heavily populated residential areas.
Overnight Saturday, IAF aircraft bombed over 60 Hamas targets in Gaza, including the home of Hamas military chief Ahmed Ja'abri.
Ja'abri was not expected to have been at home at the time as he is believed to be in hiding, possibly under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, in another bunker, or in an apartment building filled with civilians.
Also in overnight air raids, the IAF hit a mosque in Rafah which served as a training camp and meeting place for Hamas operatives as well as an anti-aircraft missile warehouse, the army said.
The air force also bombed nine tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor and about ten other weapons storehouses throughout the Gaza Strip.
An IDF official told Army Radio that soldiers reported killing over 40 Hamas gunmen during overnight operations, while troops themselves emerged unscathed.
Hamas Damascus-based political leader Khaled Mehsal said Saturday that his group would not consider a Gaza cease-fire until Israel ends its 15-day-old military offensive and opens the coastal enclave's border crossings.
"Let Israel pull out first, let the aggression stop first, let the crossings open and then people can look into the issue of calm," said Meshal, in a televised speech in Damascus.
Meshal gave a fiery speech on the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera condemning Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip, describing it as a holocaust.
Meshal said Israel's attacks on Gaza, which have killed more than 800 Palestinians, have failed because Hamas still fires rockets at Israel.
"You have finished off the last chance and breath for settlement and negotiations," he said, before calling on Arabs to continue their protests to pressure their leaders and the international community.
"We are living the hardest moments of the resistance now, we want another intifada in Palestine and on the Arab street," he said, calling on the Arabs to continue protesting.
He told Arab countries with relations with Israel to use that card and say to the enemy, stop the attacks or we will end our relationship with you.
Meshal's comments come as a Hamas delegation is in Egypt, together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, to discuss an Egyptian cease-fire proposal and possible international monitoring force to enforce an agreement.
Meshal said that any international monitoring force would be treated as an occupation force and Hamas said that before any negotiations could take place, Israel had to halt attacks, pull out of the Gaza Strip and lift the siege of Gaza.
He also insisted that Hamas be included, together with the Egyptians and the Europeans, in any monitoring system on the Rafah border.
Israel was disappointed by the UN's resolution passed early Friday morning calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Officials expressed additional disappointment with U.S. President George Bush's refusal to veto the decision as well as by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's broken promise to prevent the proposal from being finalized. In addition, Jerusalem was not happy with the resolution's failure to incorporate the release of abducted Israel Defense Forces Gilad Shalit from his captors in the Gaza Strip.
Never depend on others. The world is a miserable place. Israeli should only be disappointed by its own poor planning.
This does not make much sense:
Officials in Israel estimated over a week ago that the UN's Security Council's decision on Gaza is a matter of time. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the cabinet during the meeting in which it decided to go ahead with the ground operation in Gaza that Israel will have one week before the Security Council calls for a cease-fire. During the past week the only proposal made to the Security Council regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip was that presented by temporary council member Libya, a proposal whose extreme and anti-Israeli rhetoric did not receive the support of many members
If Israel knew it had only a week, why plan a long and drawn out campaign? It "doesn't take a rocket scientist" to know that any Israeli action is going to bring a UN call for a cease fire.
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Sunday struck the central Negev city of Be'er Sheva, one of which directly hit a car, as Palestinian militants continued the cross-border barrage.
Two people in Be'er Sheva suffered from shock in the rocket attacks on Sunday.
The rockets struck the southern city just as eleventh and twelfth graders were instructed to return to the classrooms, nearly two weeks after studies were suspended due to the ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza. High school classes resumed in Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and Gan Yavneh as well.
"I wouldn't exactly say that we've settled back into our routine, but it's the beginning of a routine," Education Minister Yuli Tamir told Army Radio Sunday morning. "Anyone going back to school today will be studying inside protected areas. We are operating gradually and in accordance with [military] instructions."
All students in Sderot have resumed their studies inside bomb shelters and protected structures. In Ofakim, all students who attend protected schools have gone back to class. In Ashkelon and the surrounding area, however, students will not be attending classes while rockets continue to target the city.
On Saturday, at least 21 Palestinian rockets hit Israeli territory, wounding 14 people. The number of rockets fired from Gaza was somewhat lower than had been shot daily since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on December 27.
An Ashkelon man was lightly wounded and required medical attention after a Qassam rockets slammed into his apartment building Saturday in the center of town. In addition, the Ashkelon city center sustained another Qassam strike Saturday.
As rescue forces were evacuating the wounded man to the hospital, another rocket hit the city, exploding in another apartment building. One man who was in his backyard at the time sustained medium wounds from shrapnel.
Just after the IDF resumed fighting at 4 P.M. - after suspending hostilities for three hours to allow in humanitarian aid - two Grad rockets were launched into Ashdod. One of the rockets exploded in an open area in Gan Yavneh.
In total, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon received 14 patients who had been injured by Qassam fire on Saturday, 13 lightly wounded and one suffering from medium wounds. Two of the wounded were seven-year-old twins, Mika and Danny Gorlik.
Additionally, the hospital treated no fewer than 27 people who were suffering from shock.
Sitting beside the Gorlik twins was Avraham Hayal, a combat fighter wounded in Gaza. He required surgery after sustaining injuries yesterday from an explosion inside a booby trapped house.
A report (or several reports) similar to this has appeared previously. The major information regards a clandestine program to disrupt the Iranian nuclear effort. Since then, a number of people have been arrested in Iran for spying for Israel. Perhaps this new disclosure will bring new arrests. Anything to sell newspapers, right?
The interesting news is the controversial National Intelligence Report which claimed Iran was not bulding a bomb was deemed to be defective by influential people in Washington.
The following is nonsensical:
In the end, success or failure may come down to how much pressure can be brought to bear on Mr. Fakrizadeh, whom the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate identifies, in its classified sections, as the manager of Project 110 and Project 111.
Even killing a single person will not stop a program, though it might slow it down a bit. The above is so silly it doesn't even look like good disinformation.
January 11, 2009 U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site By DAVID E. SANGER WASHINGTON — President Bush deflected a secret request by Israel last year for specialized bunker-busting bombs it wanted for an attack on Iran's main nuclear complex and told the Israelis that he had authorized new covert action intended to sabotage Iran's suspected effort to develop nuclear weapons, according to senior American and foreign officials.
White House officials never conclusively determined whether Israel had decided to go ahead with the strike before the United States protested, or whether Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel was trying to goad the White House into more decisive action before Mr. Bush left office. But the Bush administration was particularly alarmed by an Israeli request to fly over Iraq to reach Iran's major nuclear complex at Natanz, where the country's only known uranium enrichment plant is located.
The White House denied that request outright, American officials said, and the Israelis backed off their plans, at least temporarily. But the tense exchanges also prompted the White House to step up intelligence-sharing with Israel and brief Israeli officials on new American efforts to subtly sabotage Iran's nuclear infrastructure, a major covert program that Mr. Bush is about to hand off to President-elect Barack Obama.
This account of the expanded American covert program and the Bush administration's efforts to dissuade Israel from an aerial attack on Iran emerged in interviews over the past 15 months with current and former American officials, outside experts, international nuclear inspectors and European and Israeli officials. None would speak on the record because of the great secrecy surrounding the intelligence developed on Iran.
Several details of the covert effort have been omitted from this account, at the request of senior United States intelligence and administration officials, to avoid harming continuing operations.
The interviews also suggest that while Mr. Bush was extensively briefed on options for an overt American attack on Iran's facilities, he never instructed the Pentagon to move beyond contingency planning, even during the final year of his presidency, contrary to what some critics have suggested.
The interviews also indicate that Mr. Bush was convinced by top administration officials, led by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, that any overt attack on Iran would probably prove ineffective, lead to the expulsion of international inspectors and drive Iran's nuclear effort further out of view. Mr. Bush and his aides also discussed the possibility that an airstrike could ignite a broad Middle East war in which America's 140,000 troops in Iraq would inevitably become involved.
Instead, Mr. Bush embraced more intensive covert operations actions aimed at Iran, the interviews show, having concluded that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies were failing to slow the uranium enrichment efforts. Those covert operations, and the question of whether Israel will settle for something less than a conventional attack on Iran, pose immediate and wrenching decisions for Mr. Obama.
The covert American program, started in early 2008, includes renewed American efforts to penetrate Iran's nuclear supply chain abroad, along with new efforts, some of them experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks on which Iran relies. It is aimed at delaying the day that Iran can produce the weapons-grade fuel and designs it needs to produce a workable nuclear weapon.
Knowledge of the program has been closely held, yet inside the Bush administration some officials are skeptical about its chances of success, arguing that past efforts to undermine Iran's nuclear program have been detected by the Iranians and have only delayed, not derailed, their drive to unlock the secrets of uranium enrichment.
Late last year, international inspectors estimated that Iran had 3,800 centrifuges spinning, but American intelligence officials now estimate that the figure is 4,000 to 5,000, enough to produce about one weapon's worth of uranium every eight months or so.
While declining to be specific, one American official dismissed the latest covert operations against Iran as "science experiments." One senior intelligence official argued that as Mr. Bush prepared to leave office, the Iranians were already so close to achieving a weapons capacity that they were unlikely to be stopped.
Others disagreed, making the point that the Israelis would not have been dissuaded from conducting an attack if they believed that the American effort was unlikely to prove effective.
Since his election on Nov. 4, Mr. Obama has been extensively briefed on the American actions in Iran, though his transition aides have refused to comment on the issue.
Early in his presidency, Mr. Obama must decide whether the covert actions begun by Mr. Bush are worth the risks of disrupting what he has pledged will be a more active diplomatic effort to engage with Iran.
Either course could carry risks for Mr. Obama. An inherited intelligence or military mission that went wrong could backfire, as happened to President Kennedy with the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. But a decision to pull back on operations aimed at Iran could leave Mr. Obama vulnerable to charges that he is allowing Iran to speed ahead toward a nuclear capacity, one that could change the contours of power in the Middle East.
An Intelligence Conflict
Israel's effort to obtain the weapons, refueling capacity and permission to fly over Iraq for an attack on Iran grew out of its disbelief and anger at an American intelligence assessment completed in late 2007 that concluded that Iran had effectively suspended its development of nuclear weapons four years earlier.
That conclusion also stunned Mr. Bush's national security team — and Mr. Bush himself, who was deeply suspicious of the conclusion, according to officials who discussed it with him.
The assessment, a National Intelligence Estimate, was based on a trove of Iranian reports obtained by penetrating Iran's computer networks.
Those reports indicated that Iranian engineers had been ordered to halt development of a nuclear warhead in 2003, even while they continued to speed ahead in enriching uranium, the most difficult obstacle to building a weapon.
The "key judgments" of the National Intelligence Estimate, which were publicly released, emphasized the suspension of the weapons work.
The public version made only glancing reference to evidence described at great length in the 140-page classified version of the assessment: the suspicion that Iran had 10 or 15 other nuclear-related facilities, never opened to international inspectors, where enrichment activity, weapons work or the manufacturing of centrifuges might be taking place.
The Israelis responded angrily and rebutted the American report, providing American intelligence officials and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with evidence that they said indicated that the Iranians were still working on a weapon.
While the Americans were not convinced that the Iranian weapons development was continuing, the Israelis were not the only ones highly critical of the United States report. Secretary Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the report had presented the evidence poorly, underemphasizing the importance of Iran's enrichment activity and overemphasizing the suspension of a weapons-design effort that could easily be turned back on.
In an interview, Mr. Gates said that in his whole career he had never seen "an N.I.E. that had such an impact on U.S. diplomacy," because "people figured, well, the military option is now off the table."
Prime Minister Olmert came to the same conclusion. He had previously expected, according to several Americans and Israeli officials, that Mr. Bush would deal with Iran's nuclear program before he left office. "Now," said one American official who bore the brunt of Israel's reaction, "they didn't believe he would."
Early in 2008, the Israeli government signaled that it might be preparing to take matters into its own hands. In a series of meetings, Israeli officials asked Washington for a new generation of powerful bunker-busters, far more capable of blowing up a deep underground plant than anything in Israel's arsenal of conventional weapons. They asked for refueling equipment that would allow their aircraft to reach Iran and return to Israel. And they asked for the right to fly over Iraq.
Mr. Bush deflected the first two requests, pushing the issue off, but "we said 'hell no' to the overflights," one of his top aides said. At the White House and the Pentagon, there was widespread concern that a political uproar in Iraq about the use of its American-controlled airspace could result in the expulsion of American forces from the country.
The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor, declined several requests over the past four weeks to be interviewed about Israel's efforts to obtain the weapons from Washington, saying through aides that he was too busy.
Last June, the Israelis conducted an exercise over the Mediterranean Sea that appeared to be a dry run for an attack on the enrichment plant at Natanz. When the exercise was analyzed at the Pentagon, officials concluded that the distances flown almost exactly equaled the distance between Israel and the Iranian nuclear site.
"This really spooked a lot of people," one White House official said. White House officials discussed the possibility that the Israelis would fly over Iraq without American permission. In that case, would the American military be ordered to shoot them down? If the United States did not interfere to stop an Israeli attack, would the Bush administration be accused of being complicit in it?
Admiral Mullen, traveling to Israel in early July on a previously scheduled trip, questioned Israeli officials about their intentions. His Israeli counterpart, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, argued that an aerial attack could set Iran's program back by two or three years, according to officials familiar with the exchange. The American estimates at the time were far more conservative.
Yet by the time Admiral Mullen made his visit, Israeli officials appear to have concluded that without American help, they were not yet capable of hitting the site effectively enough to strike a decisive blow against the Iranian program.
The United States did give Israel one item on its shopping list: high-powered radar, called the X-Band, to detect any Iranian missile launchings. It was the only element in the Israeli request that could be used solely for defense, not offense.
Mr. Gates's spokesman, Geoff Morrell, said last week that Mr. Gates — whom Mr. Obama is retaining as defense secretary — believed that "a potential strike on the Iranian facilities is not something that we or anyone else should be pursuing at this time."
A New Covert Push
Throughout 2008, the Bush administration insisted that it had a plan to deal with the Iranians: applying overwhelming financial pressure that would persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear program, as foreign enterprises like the French company Total pulled out of Iranian oil projects, European banks cut financing, and trade credits were squeezed.
But the Iranians were making uranium faster than the sanctions were making progress. As Mr. Bush realized that the sanctions he had pressed for were inadequate and his military options untenable, he turned to the C.I.A. His hope, several people involved in the program said, was to create some leverage against the Iranians, by setting back their nuclear program while sanctions continued and, more recently, oil prices dropped precipitously.
There were two specific objectives: to slow progress at Natanz and other known and suspected nuclear facilities, and keep the pressure on a little-known Iranian professor named Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a scientist described in classified portions of American intelligence reports as deeply involved in an effort to design a nuclear warhead for Iran.
Past American-led efforts aimed at Natanz had yielded little result. Several years ago, foreign intelligence services tinkered with individual power units that Iran bought in Turkey to drive its centrifuges, the floor-to-ceiling silvery tubes that spin at the speed of sound, enriching uranium for use in power stations or, with additional enrichment, nuclear weapons.
A number of centrifuges blew up, prompting public declarations of sabotage by Iranian officials. An engineer in Switzerland, who worked with the Pakistani nuclear black-marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan, had been "turned" by American intelligence officials and helped them slip faulty technology into parts bought by the Iranians.
What Mr. Bush authorized, and informed a narrow group of Congressional leaders about, was a far broader effort, aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program. Some of the efforts focused on ways to destabilize the centrifuges. The details are closely held, for obvious reasons, by American officials. One official, however, said, "It was not until the last year that they got really imaginative about what one could do to screw up the system."
Then, he cautioned, "none of these are game-changers," meaning that the efforts would not necessarily cripple the Iranian program. Others in the administration strongly disagree.
In the end, success or failure may come down to how much pressure can be brought to bear on Mr. Fakrizadeh, whom the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate identifies, in its classified sections, as the manager of Project 110 and Project 111. According to a presentation by the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency, those were the names for two Iranian efforts that appeared to be dedicated to designing a warhead and making it work with an Iranian missile. Iranian officials say the projects are a fiction, made up by the United States.
While the international agency readily concedes that the evidence about the two projects remains murky, one of the documents it briefly displayed at a meeting of the agency's member countries in Vienna last year, from Mr. Fakrizadeh's projects, showed the chronology of a missile launching, ending with a warhead exploding about 650 yards above ground — approximately the altitude from which the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was detonated.
The exact status of Mr. Fakrizadeh's projects today is unclear. While the National Intelligence Estimate reported that activity on Projects 110 and 111 had been halted, the fear among intelligence agencies is that if the weapons design projects are turned back on, will they know?
David E. Sanger is the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times. Reporting for this article was developed in the course of research for "The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power," to be published Tuesday by Harmony Books.