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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is Egypt getting serious about Gaza smuggling?

Last update - 00:08 01/01/2009       
Sources: Egypt begins installing cameras, sensors at Gaza border
By News Agencies
Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip to try to combat smuggling to the Hamas-run territory, security sources said on Saturday.
The sources said Egyptian authorities had begun installing the equipment two days ago with joint U.S., French and German expertise, and added that they hoped the sensors and cameras would help detect any tunnel construction in the border area.
"Cables that are part of a tunnel detection device are being installed along the Gaza-Egypt border," a security source said, adding the cables were being installed from south of Rafah to the Mediterranean coast.
The source said some cameras and sensors had already been installed, and the cameras would be connected by the cables.
For the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip, the tunnels have become a main source of goods, including fuel, since Israel tightened its embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza from the forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
Israel bombed the tunnels during its recent 22-day Gaza offensive, and the Israel Defense Forces fears Hamas could use them to re-arm. But many tunnels have sophisticated systems and seem to have survived weeks of Israeli bombardment.
Roughly 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the Gaza offensive before both sides declared an end to the fighting on January 18. Israel says its offensive was aimed at halting Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities.
Egypt, which has kept its Rafah border crossing with the territory largely closed, has agreed to help stop the tunnel smuggling with international technical assistance.
But no firm plan is yet in place as Israel and Hamas argue through Egyptian mediators about installing a longer term ceasefire that would meet Israel's demands for shutting off the arms supply and Hamas' demands for an easing of the blockade.

Egypt arrests politician for sneaking into Gaza
A security official says a former Egyptian opposition lawmaker has been arrested for allegedly using a smuggling tunnel to sneak into Gaza.
The official says Magdi Ahmed Hussein was arrested Saturday after showing up at the Egyptian-Gaza border crossing in Rafah without a passport. He says Hussein crossed into Gaza through an underground tunnel about two weeks ago.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the press.
Hussein is a banned Labor Party politician and former parliamentarian who has led several anti-government protests in the past. The party confirmed his arrest on its Web site but said Hussein traveled into Gaza through a hole in the border fence.

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Blair: Hamas should be brought into the peace process

Either Mr. Blair is very smart, or very stupid. Hitler should have been bought into the peace process too, but he was also unwilling....
Last update - 00:24 01/01/2009       
Blair: Hamas should be part of peace process
By Haaretz Service and Reuters
Hamas should be part of the Middle East peace process, said Tony Blair, former British prime minister and envoy to the region of the international quartet of powers, in comments published on Friday.
"I do think it is important that we find a way of bringing Hamas into this process, but it can only be done if Hamas are prepared to do it on the right terms," Blair said in an interview with the Times of London newspaper, published on its Web site.
Blair is the Middle East envoy for the quartet of Middle East peace negotiators - the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union.
Blair told the newspaper that that the strategy of "pushing Gaza aside" and trying to create a Palestinian state on the West Bank "was never going to work and will never work."

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Another day, another rocket from Gaza

Keep track of these and don't forget them if and when the Israeli response comes.
Last update - 00:43 01/01/2009    
Palestinians in Gaza launch Grad rocket into Ashkelon
By Haaretz Service
A Palestinian Grad rocket exploded in Ashkelon on Saturday morning, according to Israel Radio. The projectile struck an open field in the city. Authorities are now searching for the precise landing spot, Israel Radio reported. No injuries were reported in the attack.
Decision-makers in Jerusalem said Israel would continue to launch pinpoint strikes against Hamas and other Palestinian militant organizations in the Gaza Strip, Haaretz has learned.

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Gaza Hamas furious with Meshal decision to end lull

The anger is midirected. The decision was made in Tehran.
Palestinian sources told the Egyptian daily newspaper Al Ahram that the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip sought to extend the six-month cease-fire that preceded Israel's military offensive last month and are furious with Hamas' Damascus-based political bureau chief Khaled Meshal's decision to end the truce, Israel Radio reported on Saturday.
According to the report, two senior Hamas officials in Gaza - Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ahmed al-Jabari - warned Meshal that abandoning the cease-fire was "rash" given that the organization had not adequately prepared for an Israeli ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.
Speaking before a group of politicians in Kuwait on Friday, Meshal said the current round of confrontation is still ongoing due to the closure and siege imposed on Gaza. Any attempt to make peace in the region while circumventing the rights of the Palestinians will fail, Israel Radio quoted Meshal as saying.
A senior member of Hamas leadership, which went underground when Israel launched its military offensive in the Gaza Strip a month ago, on Friday made his first public appearance since the fighting ended.
Khalil Al-Hayya, one of three survivors of the five best known Hamas leaders, told supporters at a rally that the group had achieved victory in the war and was now engaged in a political battle.

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An Arab take on Gaza

From as-Sharq al-Awsat...
Gaza's Blood and the Vampires
Saturday 31 January 2009
By Mshari Al-Zaydi

It is as if the aim of the blood shed in Gaza and the tears shed by its people was to tell the Arabs and the world: Hamas is who you must talk to!

The head of Hamas politburo Khalid Mishal excelled in declaring the "divine victory" on January 21 during his "divine speech" televised from Damascus, the capital of Hamas. He said, "The time has come for you to deal with Hamas," (Asharq Al-Awsat, 22 January 2009).

Khalid Mishal, and this declaration of his, was echoed in neighbouring Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Essam el Erian, a prominent figure and theorist in the MB, wrote an article celebrating the victory and exploring the different ways it can achieve regional gains for both Hamas and the Arab resistance camp. He listed the gains that Hamas had achieved (or rather what Hamas failed to achieve vis-à-vis the Israeli military's brutal indiscrimination), which Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood sought to transform into self-gain to be used against the Egyptian government and all Arab governments that fail to comply with Islamic Shariaa and carry out Jihad in line with its own vision.

El Erian said that Hamas is a "regional player that must be taken into consideration."

He advised his brothers around the world to invest in this victory. Furthermore, what is even more dangerous about el Erian's comments is that he explicitly said that the recent events in Gaza must be used to mount pressure internally and be transformed "to have a political impact upon government," (Al Hayat, 26 January, 2009).

Hamas and its supporters in the Islamic world – Iran, Syria and other "lost" countries – were in need of Israel's crime in Gaza. Israel did not hold back and has not shown one ounce of humanitarianism or responsibility for what it has done. It does not care about the magnitude of damage that it has caused or that it has sabotaged the peace process. However, I do believe that now is the right time, more so than ever before, to start a serious process to settle the dispute. Those who are keen to exploit the Gaza issue are doing so in their own interests.

Blood is a liquid full of life; in fact, it is life itself, and the blood of the people of Gaza is being bottled by individuals who feed off it like vampires. As long as Palestinian blood is cheap for those who claim to be defending it, there is nothing wrong with shedding Palestinian blood, whether it is shed by Israel or by those who benefit from the bloodshed that Israel has caused.

This blood is certainly cheap to some Hamas leaders. Wasn't it the Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Politburo [Abu Marzook] who said during a lecture he gave in Damascus, "We lost 1500 martyrs but our strong women and our hard-working sisters gave birth to over 3500 Palestinian babies during the [Israeli] attacks," (Asharq al-Awsat, 26 January)?

Was he speaking about mothers, young men and old men who have feelings and dreams and who probably do not care about Hamas's delusions and projects? It sounds like he was speaking about chicken production!

How very strange…

Didn't Abu Obeida, the spokesman for the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, announce a victory for Hamas, according to the SANA news agency, whilst destroyed buildings were still on fire and bodies under the debris were yet to be pulled out? He indicated that Qassam Brigade fighters killed at least 80 Israeli troops during Israel's onslaught on Gaza. In a press conference that was held after the ceasefire was announced, Abu Obeida said that as a result of Israel's military attacks, the Qassam Brigades lost 48 martyrs (only). Therefore, he assessed losses according to the casualties of Hamas' fighters with no consideration whatsoever for the 1315 Palestinian civilians who were killed and the 90,000 refugees within the narrow Gaza Strip and the thousands of homes that have been destroyed. Approximately US $2 billion worth of damages has been caused and bodies are still being pulled out of the debris.

However the indirect victim of this war has been Hamas's reputation as it is considered politically irresponsible, reckless and an organisation that gambles with people's lives in compliance with impure agendas whether Iranian or non-Iranian.

But who can convince the masses in our Arab world of the truth vis-à-vis the alluring speeches?

Discussions on Iran and Syria's roles, and their exploitation of the Gaza issue, which will be discussed very soon by the new US administration, and how Hamas benefited from pressuring Arab governments that it considers hostile to its project (Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt) and on their real goals, are now clear for those who cannot be cheated by slogans and are not fooled easily.

A number of writers commented on the recent Gaza onslaught. They presented themselves as respectable analysts rather than as people speaking at rallies, as they commented on Gaza in a moral way and discussed the lack of humanitarianism of Hamas and its position in the fight for power and interests in the Middle East. It is as if writers and commentators are expected to fill their columns with calls for demonstrations and condemnation of Israel based on the pretext of "humanitarianism," which has no place in the discourse of conflict and interest. Even if we set aside serious political talk and hold up banners and chant slogans against Israel, which deserves to be taken to court for the crimes that it committed, the question remains: is humanitarianism a one-way issue? Where is the humanitarianism of Iran and its allies that exploit the blood of Gaza's people for their own political projects? Where is the humanitarianism in the speeches delivered by Khalid Mishal, Abu Marzook, and Abu Obeida who undervalue the blood of Gaza's innocent children and women as long as Hamas is "fine"?

Where is humanitarianism if Mishal, following the Gaza tragedy, came out only to demand that Hamas is recognised?

I believe that the new party to invest in the Palestinian blood stock exchange this time is the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. The MB attempted to ride the Gaza blood wave, which it believes will help it achieve its political dream of establishing a Muslim Brotherhood state. If this dream became a reality, its current revolutionary, jihadist and opposition tone would turn into a more practical and pragmatic tone when addressing the West simply because its goal (to gain power) would have been achieved.

This time, the Muslim Brotherhood was clear about some of its objectives; to destroy the existing regime and to establish the Brotherhood state on the debris. The pretext of a wounded Palestine is always ready to be used. Therefore, any attempts to establish peace would not be in the Brotherhood's interest. Perhaps it accepted the truce and showed tolerance, just as el Erian had advised Hamas leaders to accept the temporary truce and then "gradually" discuss the 1967 borders. However, the Palestinian Cause, in essence – which will take great strength to solve and is exploited emotionally through Hamas and Brotherhood discourse about liberating Palestine from the river to the sea and the solution being in the hands of Arabs and Muslims – is a political and ideological goldmine for the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the Palestinian ideological goldmine remains then destruction will continue and we will have another Hamas, another Gaza, more demonstrations, more cases of one-upmanship, more turmoil, more ideological lies and more bloodsuckers until either Palestinian blood runs dry or the Iranian and the Brotherhood vampires are satisfied, unless Arabs and Muslims put their minds to use to stop the bloodshed. Israel would then be the first victim of the awakening of the Arab mind because opinion is stronger than physical strength.

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Report: Nobody sheltering in Gaza UNRWA school was killed

According to this report, Israel didn't shell inside the UNRWA school at all. Mortar shells fell next to the school, not in it, and the dead people had gone wandering off.

    From Thursday's Globe and Mail

    JABALYA, GAZA STRIP — Most people remember the headlines: Massacre Of Innocents As UN School Is Shelled; Israeli Strike Kills Dozens At UN School.

    They heralded the tragic news of Jan. 6, when mortar shells fired by advancing Israeli forces killed 43 civilians in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The victims, it was reported, had taken refuge inside the Ibn Rushd Preparatory School for Boys, a facility run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

    The news shocked the world and was compared to the 1996 Israeli attack on a UN compound in Qana, Lebanon, in which more than 100 people seeking refuge were killed. It was certain to hasten the end of Israel's attack on Gaza, and would undoubtedly lead the list of allegations of war crimes committed by Israel.

    There was just one problem: The story, as etched in people's minds, was not quite accurate.

    Physical evidence and interviews with several eyewitnesses, including a teacher who was in the schoolyard at the time of the shelling, make it clear: While a few people were injured from shrapnel landing inside the white-and-blue-walled UNRWA compound, no one in the compound was killed. The 43 people who died in the incident were all outside, on the street, where all three mortar shells landed.

    Stories of one or more shells landing inside the schoolyard were inaccurate.

    While the killing of 43 civilians on the street may itself be grounds for investigation, it falls short of the act of shooting into a schoolyard crowded with refuge-seekers.

    The teacher who was in the compound at the time of the shelling says he heard three loud blasts, one after the other, then a lot of screaming. "I ran in the direction of the screaming [inside the compound]," he said. "I could see some of the people had been injured, cut. I picked up one girl who was bleeding by her eye, and ran out on the street to get help."But when I got outside, it was crazy hell. There were bodies everywhere, people dead, injured, flesh everywhere."

    The teacher, who refused to give his name because he said UNRWA had told the staff not to talk to the news media, was adamant: "Inside [the compound] there were 12 injured, but there were no dead."

    "Three of my students were killed," he said. "But they were all outside."

    Hazem Balousha, who runs an auto-body shop across the road from the UNRWA school, was down the street, just out of range of the shrapnel, when the three shells hit. He showed a reporter where they landed: one to the right of his shop, one to the left, and one right in front.

    "There were only three," he said. "They were all out here on the road."

    News of the tragedy travelled fast, with aid workers and medical staff quoted as saying the incident happened at the school, the UNRWA facility where people had sought refuge.

    Soon it was presented that people in the school compound had been killed. Before long, there was worldwide outrage.

    Sensing a public-relations nightmare, Israeli spokespeople quickly asserted that their forces had only returned fire from gunmen inside the school. (They even named two militants.) It was a statement from which they would later retreat, saying there were gunmen in the vicinity of the school.

    No witnesses said they saw any gunmen. (If people had seen anyone firing a mortar from the middle of the street outside the school, they likely would not have continued to mill around.)

    John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."

    "I told the Israelis that none of the shells landed in the school," he said.

    Why would he do that?

    "Because they had told everyone they had returned fire from gunmen in the school. That wasn't true."

    Mr. Ging blames the Israelis for the confusion over where the victims were killed. "They even came out with a video that purported to show gunmen in the schoolyard. But we had seen it before," he said, "in 2007."

    The Israelis are the ones, he said, who got everyone thinking the deaths occurred inside the school.

    "Look at my statements," he said. "I never said anyone was killed in the school. Our officials never made any such allegation."

    Speaking from Shifa Hospital in Gaza City as the bodies were being brought in that night, an emotional Mr. Ging did say: "Those in the school were all families seeking refuge. ... There's nowhere safe in Gaza."

    And in its daily bulletin, the World Health Organization reported: "On 6 January, 42 people were killed following an attack on a UNRWA school ..."

    The UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs got the location right, for a short while. Its daily bulletin cited "early reports" that "three artillery shells landed outside the UNRWA Jabalia Prep. C Girls School ..." However, its more comprehensive weekly report, published three days later, stated that "Israeli shelling directly hit two UNRWA schools ..." including the one at issue.

    Such official wording helps explain the widespread news reports of the deaths in the school, but not why the UN agencies allowed the misconception to linger.

    "I know no one was killed in the school," Mr. Ging said. "But 41 innocent people were killed in the street outside the school. Many of those people had taken refuge in the school and wandered out onto the street.

    "The state of Israel still has to answer for that. What did they know and what care did they take?"

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    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Gaza victims describe how they were used by Hamas

    Gaza victims describe human shield use
    Jan. 29, 2009
    jpost staff , THE JERUSALEM POST
    Members of a Gaza family whose farm was turned into a "fortress" by Hamas fighters have reported that they were helpless to stop Hamas from using them as human shields.
    They told the official Palestinian Authority daily newspaper that for years Hamas had used their property and homes as military installations from which the group would launch rockets into Israel, dig tunnels and store arms. According to the victims, those who tried to object were shot in the legs by Hamas operatives.
    Palestinian Media Watch quoted the official Palestinian Authority daily, Al-Hayat al-Jadida as reporting on January 27, "The Abd Rabbo family kept quiet while Hamas fighters turned their farm in the Gaza strip into a fortress. Right now they are waiting for the aid promised by the [Hamas] movement after Israel bombed the farm and turned it into ruins."
    According to the report, the hill on which the Abd Rabbo family lives overlooks Sderot, making it an ideal military position for Hamas fighters.
    The Abd Rabbo family members emphasized to the paper that they were not Hamas activists and that they were still loyal to the Fatah movement, but that they had been unable to prevent the armed squads from entering their neighborhood at night.
    This article can also be read at

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    Spanish war crimes probe against Israeli officials, army officers

    The sad farce that is taking place is made possible by over-energetic NGOs and well-meant but misguided human rights laws.

    Israel may appeal war crimes probe

    Jan. 29, 2009

    Israel reacted furiously to a decision by a Spanish judge on Thursday to open a probe of seven former top security officials for alleged war crimes in the 2002 bombing in Gaza that killed top Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh as well as 14 other people and is considering appealing the move.

    The investigation has been ordered against National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who was defense minister at the time; Likud Knesset candidate Moshe Ya'alon, who was chief of General Staff; Dan Halutz, then commander of the air force; Doron Almog, who was OC Southern Command; then-National Security Council head Giora Eiland; the defense minister's military secretary, Mike Herzog; and Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, who was head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).

    The Justice Ministry rejected allegations that it had failed to take seriously a request from Spanish authorities to turn over key documents connected to the targeted killing of Shehadeh.

    It issued a statement on Thursday night saying that "the Spanish authorities asked to receive materials in the course of January, and because of the large quantity of the material in question, the preparation of the documents has continued until now."

    According to Justice Ministry spokesman Moshe Cohen, "In consultation with all of the relevant people in different government ministries, it was decided - in an exceptional decision - to comply with the Spanish judge's request to acquire documents concerning legal proceedings in Israel regarding the Shehadeh affair.

    "To our regret, the Spanish authorities did not wait to receive the materials from Israel, and have already published their decision," he wrote. "There is no doubt that the very issuance of this suit constitutes a cynical and political attempt by private anti-Israel interests to take advantage of the Spanish judicial system to butt heads with Israel."

    Should the Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, choose to issue an international arrest warrant for any of the Israelis in question, they could be arrested upon arrival in any European Union member state.

    Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak blasted the Spanish judge's decision, saying that "Someone who calls the assassination of a terrorist a crime against humanity lives in an upside-down world."

    "Shehadeh was responsible for the murder of dozens of Israelis," Dichter told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday night. "We pursued him for a long time. The man was a terrorist responsible for dozens of attacks against Israeli civilians. He knew we were pursuing him and went from multi-story building to multi-story building. On the day of the assassination, he was in the building with his wife, who aided him, and was killed in the strike.

    "To my sorrow, innocent people were harmed in the strike, and I do regret that," Dichter said.

    However, he described the legal action as "absurd" and said he trusted the Foreign Ministry's ability to solve any such problems overseas.

    Dichter is no stranger to such lawsuits. In late 2007, he canceled a trip to England out of concern that he could be arrested on similar charges, and a Palestinian organization filed a civil suit against him in the United States in 2005. That suit was thrown out by the court in 2007, but according to a senior member of Dichter's staff, the decision has recently been appealed.

    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who spoke with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos about the matter on Thursday evening, directed the ministry's legal department to work quickly to annul the proceedings. She said that Israel "viewed gravely" the decision to open the probe. It was completely unacceptable, and Israel would give full legal backing to the seven officials, Livni said.

    Andreu said the attack against Shehadeh in a densely populated civilian area might constitute a crime against humanity. Shehadeh was the head of Hamas's military wing, Izzadin Kassam.

    The judge is acting under a doctrine that allows prosecution in Spain of such an offense or crimes like terrorism or genocide, even if they are alleged to have been committed in another country.

    "The decision of the Spanish court is delusional, ridiculous, and more than that, outrageous," Ben-Eliezer told Channel 2. "They are using the courts of the free world to fight those who fight terror."

    "I am not sorry about the decision that I made when I was defense minister to assassinate him. Shehadeh was an arch-murderer. If we hadn't done this, hundreds of others would have died," he said.

    Barak issued a statement saying, "All of the senior defense officials, from the past and the present, acted correctly in the name of the State of Israel and out of a commitment to defend Israeli citizens."

    He said the Spanish decision was particularly disturbing following recent events in the Gaza Strip, during which Hamas's "true face" had been revealed. The defense minister said he would take all necessary action to defend the officials from the charges and to have those charges annulled.

    Diplomatic officials said this case had been pending for a number of years, and it was not clear whether the timing of the probe now was a result of Operation Cast Lead.

    Israel is bracing for a wave of court cases following the latest Gaza offensive, and the cabinet on Sunday pledged that the state would give full legal and moral support to soldiers and officers who participated in the military operation against Hamas.

    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the cabinet meeting that these efforts, which he described as "typical moral acrobatics," were aimed at "trying to turn the attacker into the attacked and vice-versa."

    Yaakov Katz, staff and AP contributed to this report.

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    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Hamas tried to hijack ambulances during the Gaza war

    Of course, in some cases they evidently succeeded in hijacking ambulances, as for example here:  Video: Hamas using ambulances.
    Jason Koutsoukis in Gaza City
    January 26, 2009
    PALESTINIAN civilians living in Gaza during the three-week war with Israel have spoken of the challenge of being caught between Hamas and Israeli soldiers as the radical Islamic movement that controls the Gaza strip attempted to hijack ambulances.
    Mohammed Shriteh, 30, is an ambulance driver registered with and trained by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
    His first day of work in the al-Quds neighbourhood was January 1, the sixth day of the war. "Mostly the war was not as fast or as chaotic as I expected," Mr Shriteh told the Herald. "We would co-ordinate with the Israelis before we pick up patients, because they have all our names, and our IDs, so they would not shoot at us."
    Mr Shriteh said the more immediate threat was from Hamas, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of a battle to transport fighters to safety.
    "After the first week, at night time, there was a call for a house in Jabaliya. I got to the house and there was lots of shooting and explosions all around," he said.
    Because of the urgency of the call, Mr Shriteh said there was no time to arrange his movements with the IDF.
    "I knew the Israelis were watching me because I could see the red laser beam in the ambulance and on me, on my body," he said.
    Getting out of the ambulance and entering the house, he saw there were three Hamas fighters taking cover inside. One half of the building had already been destroyed.
    "They were very scared, and very nervous … They dropped their weapons and ordered me to get them out, to put them in the ambulance and take them away. I refused, because if the IDF sees me doing this I am finished, I cannot pick up any more wounded people.
    "And then one of the fighters picked up a gun and held it to my head, to force me. I still refused, and then they allowed me to leave."
    Mr Shriteh says Hamas made several attempts to hijack the al-Quds Hospital's fleet of ambulances during the war.
    "You hear when they are coming. People ring to tell you. So we had to get in all the ambulances and make the illusion of an emergency and only come back when they had gone."
    Eyad al-Bayary, 32, lost his job as a senior nurse at the Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza City, about six months ago because he is closely identified with Fatah, the rival political movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
    Twice last year Mr Bayary was arrested by Hamas, and once he was jailed for six days for flying the Fatah flag above his house in Jabaliya. He now works part-time as an English teacher at al-Azhar University.
    "After the first day of the war, I go to the hospital to work, to help, but I was told to go away. They tell me 'you are not needed here' and they push me away," Mr Bayary said.
    Since the ceasefire was declared on January 17, Hamas has begun to systematically take revenge on anyone believed to have collaborated with Israel before the war.
    Israel makes no secret of the fact that it has a network of informants inside Gaza who regularly provide information on where Hamas leaders live, where weapons are being stored and other details that formed an important part of Israel's battle plan.
    According to rumour, a number of alleged collaborators have already been executed. Taher al-Nono, the Hamas government's spokesman in Gaza, told the Herald that 175 people had been arrested so far on suspicion of collaborating.
    "They will be dealt with by the court and the judge and we will respect the judge's decision," Mr Nono said.
    And if the sentence is death?
    "We will respect the decision."
    But the breakdown between Hamas and Fatah over the last 18 months did not prevent some co-operation between the two sides during the war.
    The commander of one al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade unit - the brigades are a coalition of secular militia groups which operate under the loose umbrella of Fatah - said the real enemy remains Israel.
    The unit commander, who used the name Abu Ibrahim, invited the Herald into his home.
    On the wall of his lounge room hung the portraits of George Habash, who founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a communist paramilitary organisation, and Abu Ali Mustafa, the man who succeeded Habash as leader of the PFLP and who was killed by Israeli forces in 2001.
    "Of course we fought together with Hamas because we all have the same aim: to liberate our homeland," he said.
    With his two-year old daughter on his knee, Mr Ibrahim, 30, said he would never accept peace or negotiation, even if it might lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
    "I believe in the existence of Israel because it exists on my land - but the war with Israel will only end when I liberate all of my land. This last war with Israel was not the first war, and it will not be the last."
    Rebuilding the Strip
    GAZA CITY: Hamas will begin a big reconstruction effort in the Gaza Strip today as the territory's 1.5 million people start to recover from the devastating three-week war with Israel that claimed more than 1300 lives and destroyed thousands of buildings, factories and farms.
    Life was beginning to return to a relative state of normality yesterday, with schools, universities and businesses back open.
    But with most government buildings destroyed during the war, and piles of concrete rubble on street corners, Gazans face a huge effort to return the Strip to the impoverished state that existed before the war began.
    Thousands of Gazans who lost their homes are still living in temporary accommodation provided in United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools, and electricity is being rationed, with homes receiving power for just a few hours a day.
    A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Ayman Taha, said his organisation would observe a truce with Israel for 18 months on the condition all the crossing points with Israel were opened.
    With Hamas's popularity apparently plummeting in as a result of the war, the movement's leadership is using financial handouts to boost morale.
    Hamas leaders from Gaza and Damascus, Syria, travelled to Cairo yesterday to meet Egyptian intelligence leaders and leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organisation for talks aimed at resolving Hamas's dispute with the Fatah movement of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
    In Israel the appointment of George Mitchell as special envoy of the US President, Barack Obama, to the Middle East has met with caution and suspicion.
    Israeli Foreign Ministry officials were scrambling to put together a brief for Mr Mitchell, who is due to visit Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah this week, as well as Egypt and Jordan.
    Israeli officials believe Mr Mitchell's first step will be to recommend the "road map for peace" plan announced by the former president George Bush in 2002 be extended.
    Israelis have also begun to turn their attention to the general elections on February 10. With polls indicating the right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu is on track to return to the Prime Minister's office he occupied in 1996, the centrist Kadima Party leader, Tzipi Livni, warned yesterday that if the far-right won government it would lead to an inevitable rift with the US.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas war crimes in Gaza

    The truth about Hamas crimes in Gaza

    The evidence of Hamas' war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza's residents are finally coming to light.

    Despite Hamas' best efforts to hide the truth about events in the Gaza Strip, the evidence of Hamas' war crimes, its exaggeration of civilian casualties and damage to property, its abuse of humanitarian aid and its intimidation of Gaza's residents are finally coming to light.

    Israel knows better than most countries the horrors of war. Eight years of constant rocket barrages targeting Israeli civilians, eight years of trying tactic after tactic to stop these war crimes left Israel with little choice but to invoke its legitimate right of self-defense.

    When Israel did strike back against Hamas terror in Gaza, it took unprecedented and innovative steps to try to encourage civilians to avoid Hamas positions, even placing tens of thousands of phone calls warning residents in hazardous areas. As British Colonel (ret.) Richard Kemp commented on the BBC, "I don't think there's ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."

    To Israel's great sorrow, innocent civilians in Gaza have been harmed. However, the figures of civilian casualties have been greatly exaggerated. Most of these figures come from Hamas sources, amplifying the number of civilians killed by including as "children" teenage Hamas fighters and as "women," female terrorists. According to an Israeli investigation, of the 1,100-1,200 reported casualties, 250 were civilians. The rest are believed to be terrorists or have yet to be identified, but given that most of them are young men in their 20s, it is not unreasonable to assume that they are also members of Hamas or other terrorist organizations.

    Hamas is responsible, both morally and under international law, for many of the dead and injured civilians. This terrorist organization deliberately used the local population as human shields, a war crime. Civilian structures were used as launching pads for rockets, a tactic that is extremely hazardous to residents. Civilians were prevented, at gunpoint, from fleeing the sites of battles and even children have been grabbed to be used as living bulletproof vests. Even ambulances were not safe from hijacking attempts by terrorists, who would lure the ambulances into the heart of battle to transport Hamas terrorists to safety.

    Property damage, while sizeable, has also been exaggerated. As Tim Butcher, a journalist intimately familiar with the Gaza Strip reported (Telegraph, Jan 20): "There had been no carpet bombing of large areas, no firebombing of complete suburbs. Targets had been selected and then hit, often several times, but almost always with precision munitions. Buildings nearby had been damaged and there had been some clear mistakes... But, in most the cases, I saw the primary target had borne the brunt… For the most part, I was struck by how cosmetically unchanged Gaza appeared to be."

    Hamas' rocket attacks, which continued throughout the operation, constituted a double war crime. Not only were they aimed at about 15% of Israel's civilian population, they were cynically carried out from locations immediately adjacent to homes, schools, hospitals, relief agency warehouses, mosques, public buildings - as well as from the office building that housed foreign media studios. These reprehensible acts were documented not only in Israeli aerial films, but by the international media

    As Rod Nordland (Newsweek, Jan 20) described one event, "Suddenly there was a terrific whoosh, louder even than a bomb explosion. It was another of Hamas's homemade Qassam rockets being launched into Israel - and the mobile launchpad was smack in the middle of the four [apartment] buildings, where every apartment was full…"

    Lorenzo Cremonesi (Corriere della Sera, Jan 21

    Many of Gaza's residents are now returning home. Some have found weapons left behind by Hamas terrorists who turned their homes into forward positions against the IDF, or worse, bodies of terrorists killed during the fighting. Many blame Hamas for the loss of life and property damage caused by Hamas' practice of hiding among the civilian population. However, critical as they are of the Hamas regime in private, few, if any, residents of Gaza will accuse Hamas publically, a move that is tantamount to suicide.>

    An official Fatah spokesman in Ramallah (Jerusalem Post, Jan 19) reported that 100 of his men in Gaza have been killed or wounded, some brutally tortured, by Hamas. A Fatah leader in Gaza City claimed that members of his faction were being held in school buildings and hospitals that Hamas had turned into make-shift interrogation centers, and as many as 80 were either shot in the legs or had their hands broken for allegedly defying Hamas' orders (see also video of Fatah testimonials about Hamas).

    Ulrike Putz (Der Spiegel, Jan 23) managed to interview Palestinians who were not too intimidated by Hamas to speak (as long as their full names were not used): "Hail found out after the cease-fire that the militants had used his house as a base for their operations. The door to his house stood open and there were electric cables lying in the hallway. When Hail followed them they led to his neighbor's house which it seems Hamas had mined. As Hail, in his mid-30s, sat on his porch and thought about what to do a man came by: He was from Hamas and had left something in Hail's home. He let him in and the man then emerged with a bullet proof vest, a rocket launcher and an ammunitions belt. An hour later a fighter with Islamic Jihad called to the door, then disappeared onto the roof and reappeared with a box of ammunition." >

    Israel has a strong interest in the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip and will work together with the international community and moderate Arab regimes to improve the lives of Gaza's residents. However, caution most be exercised to ensure that the aid does not end up in Hamas' pockets. >

    This is not unwarranted wariness - Hamas has a long history of stealing humanitarian aid for its own use, even while the operation was ongoing. As Yaacov Katz reported (Jerusalem Post, Jan 12), "Hamas raided some 100 aid trucks that Israel had allowed into Gaza, stole their contents and sold them to the highest bidders." Earlier (Jerusalem Post, Jan 6) Mr. Katz related that "Hamas has set up an independent hospital in the Gaza Strip to treat its operatives wounded in fighting with the IDF - and, according to Israeli estimates, it is pilfering a significant portion of the medicine allowed into the Strip…" >

    These reports are not only coming in from Israeli sources. Jordan's News Agency (Petra, Jan 20) reported on the hijacking of humanitarian aid on its way to UNWRA warehouses in >Gaza for distribution to the civilian population: "A number of armed men have seized on Tuesday a Jordanian aid convoy after entering the Gaza Strip… The armed men opened fire at drivers after crossing Karem Abu Salem [Kerem Shalom] crossing point and forced them to head to their own warehouses.">

    Hamas' hijacking of humanitarian aid is not only ethically repulsive, it is extraordinary given that Hamas is attempting to claim that the motive for its rocket attacks is to force the opening of the crossings. This assertion is, of course, preposterous given that the rocket fire started eight years ago, when there was free trade with Gaza and continued after Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip. Moreover, Hamas' constant and deadly rocket, mortar, truck-bomb and shooting attacks on the crossings are one of the prime reasons for their closing.

    The complexities of fighting terrorist organizations are becoming more familiar to democratic states, including NATO forces in Afghanistan. A British soldier who served there analyzed the IDF's activities in light of his experience and noted (The Spectator, Jan 24) that "I believe that I and other soldiers understand the stress, friction and confusion that combat brings in a way that media commentators and UN bureaucrats never can.">

    However, one principle is clear to any unbiased analyst - as long as Israel, and not Hamas, is blamed for civilian casualties and property damage, Hamas will continue to use civilians as human shields and violate every basic rule of international humanitarian law. >

    As Nir Boms, vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East, and Shayan Arya an Iranian activist, wrote (Jerusalem Post, Jan 28), "War, even when justified, brings much injustice with it. But there is also an important lesson to be learned, and a hope that this time it will not be completely missed by the rioting Arab street... The Palestinian discourse often fails to address the question of responsibility and accountability for Palestinian choices, decisions and leadership." The Palestinians in Gaza must accept and take responsibility for the consequences of the Hamas leaders they chose.

    Fortunately, the truth is starting to come to light. Even a senior European Union official - Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid - denounced Hamas, not only stating (AFP, Jan 26) during his visit to Gaza: "I intentionally say this here - Hamas is a terrorist movement and it has to be denounced as such," but also concluding that: "At this time we have to also recall the overwhelming responsibility of Hamas" for the conflict in Gaza.

    Source: Israel MFA


    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home

    This is how we hope all of our soldiers would behave, even if they do not always live up to the model.

    Letter from a Reserve Soldier

    This is what Elie and so many other soldiers would say to the world and the people of Gaza, if they could. But Elie is a young man, not yet comfortable with the power of words. These thoughts are his, I've heard him express them to me many times, but this letter, from a reserve soldier who recently served in Gaza, shows a maturity that Elie does not yet have and an experience I hope he'll never get. They are important words and so I post them here - an open letter to the people of Gaza...if only...if only they would listen!

    An Open Letter to A citizen Of Gaza: I Am the Soldier Who Slept In Your Home
    By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)


    While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.
    I am that someone.

    I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.

    I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.

    I spent many days in your home. You and your family's presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife's perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children's toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.

    I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.

    I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.

    I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.

    I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.

    Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.

    How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say "enough"?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?

    I can hear you saying "it's not me, it's Hamas". My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about "occupation", you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.

    The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).

    Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.

    As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children's education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.

    I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.

    You don't have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.

    Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates - your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.

    You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?

    My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.

    In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.

    The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.

    But only you can move the wheels of history."


    Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    EU is still anti-Hamas


    OPINION:Minor wobbles aside, EU support for Fatah has meant consistent opposition to Hamas, writes RORY MILLER.

    SPEAKING ON a visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday, Louis Michel, the EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, ripped into Hamas. Placing "overwhelming responsibility" for the recent Gaza crisis on the Islamist group, he dismissed it as a "terrorist movement" that "has to be denounced as such".
    Such talk from a top EU official has come as a surprise to supporters of Israel , who habitually accuse the EU of anti-Israel bias, while pro-Palestinians – who have long called on Europe to break with the US-Israeli policy of isolating Hamas – will be dismayed.
    But Michel's statement is neither surprising nor dismaying. Rather, it is the inevitable stance of a Union that after years of division is now united in the view that Hamas is the major obstacle to a durable political settlement between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.
    Since 2001, when the EU first decided to follow the US precedent and annually publish its terror blacklist, there has been much debate within the Union over whether Hamas, which violently opposed the Oslo process in the 1990s, should be added to that list.
    In 2002, the EU agreed to proscribe Izzedin al-Kassam, Hamas's military wing, but the consensus view remained that Hamas's political wing had a role to play in the political process and should not be isolated. As then-EU special envoy to the Middle East , Miguel Angel Moratinos, explained in December 2002: "Hamas faces a clear choice between the Turkish model of democratic Islam, and the al-Qaeda model."
    However, the refusal of Hamas to abandon violence resulted in Britain , along with the Netherlands , demanding a crackdown on a group that was, in the words of then British foreign secretary Jack Straw, "literally trying to blow [up] this peace process".
    Despite opposition from other members, notably Ireland , Spain and France, this view finally gained EU-wide support in 2004 and Hamas was blacklisted.
    The subsequent revelation (later retracted) by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana that he met Hamas secretly in late 2004 highlighted the EU's ongoing failure to develop and apply a consistent approach to this militant group.
    The success of Hamas in the third round of Palestinian municipal elections in May 2005 and especially the group's victory in the January 2006 Palestinian legislative elections also provided much ammunition for those within the EU keen to end Hamas's status as a terror group.
    In the wake of these elections, senior politicians from across the EU expressed support for engaging with Hamas. Finland 's then foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, argued that "it is not the same party it was before the elections".
    His Italian counterpart, Massimo D'Alema, argued that Hamas had a "political side" and compared the body to the IRA and ETA, the Basque separatist movement, which became "political movements from being terror groups". Even the British and the Dutch, who had initiated the original ban, seemed to be moving towards this position.
    On top of this, the EU's growing difficulty in providing humanitarian assistance, especially fuel and welfare payments, to the people of Gaza without engaging directly with Hamas, meant that by May 2007 it was reviewing the ban on direct aid to the Hamas-dominated government and most commentators were predicting EU-Hamas talks in the near future.
    But Hamas's violent overthrow of Fatah in Gaza in June 2007 changed everything because it directly threatened a cornerstone of the EU's Middle East policy since the late 1970s – support for Fatah, first under Yasser Arafat and now under Abbas, as the representative of the Palestinian people.
    As such, the EU immediately condemned Hamas for its "violent" seizure of Gaza , and gave Abbas the green light to take action to remove the Hamas threat and made no bones about it. As Solana explained: "What we think is that this [Abbas-led Palestinian Authority] government . . . is the only legitimate government that we should support."
    This explains the EU's endorsement of Abbas's dismissal of the Hamas-dominated unity government after only three months in office, and his proposal to call early elections to oust Hamas at the ballot box.
    Michel's condemnation of the Islamist group reminds us that the recent Gaza conflict has done nothing to soften the EU approach to Hamas. On the contrary, the Israeli offensive in recent weeks has left Hamas on its knees and an emboldened EU, led by Louis Michel's verbal rocket attack, is intent on doing its bit to finish off the group.
    This is very bad news for a battered and war-weary Hamas – not simply because it comes on the heels of US President Barack Obama's harsh criticism of the group.
    Since taking power in 2006, Hamas has held out the hope that eventually the EU would begin dealing with it on normal terms and this would, in turn, gradually lead to more widespread international legitimacy and the further marginalisation of Fatah.
    But just when it looked like Europe would have to respond to humanitarian and political realities and bring Hamas in from the cold, the group's overthrow of Fatah in Gaza in 2007 ended any chance of this happening.

    Now Hamas has nowhere to turn and no one to blame but itself.

    © 2009 The Irish Times

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Nazi-Shmatzi hypocrisy

    Aren't we all getting just a bit tired of comparisons between the Warsaw Ghetto and the Gaza Strip? When did the SS truck in food supplies for the Jews and treat them in German hospitals?
    The Hamas in Gaza "revolted" in order to realize their "legitimate right" to destroy Israel. The Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto revolted in order to defend their honor, since saving their lives was a hopeless proposition. Those who really cannot tell the difference are totally depraved and devoid of moral sense, but at least they should be able to count. How many Jews were left alive at the conclusion of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ??
    by David A. Harris
    Executive Director
    American Jewish Committee
    January 26, 2009
    Dear Ms. Trine Lilleng,
    You were an unknown Norwegian diplomat till this month.
    No longer.
    As first secretary in the Norwegian Embassy in Saudi Arabia, you recently sent out an email on your office account in which you declared: "The grandchildren of Holocaust survivors from World War II are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them by Nazi Germany."
    Accompanying your text were photos, with an emphasis on children, seeking to juxtapose the Holocaust with the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza.
    Clearly, you are miscast in your role as a diplomat, all the more so of a nation that has sought to play a mediating role in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    In fact, you're desperately in need of some education.
    Let's begin with your current posting. You've been in Riyadh since 2007.
    If you're so anguished by human rights violations, perhaps you could have begun by devoting some of your attention - and email blasts - to what surrounds you.
    Or were your eyes diplomatically shut?
    Have you failed to notice the many legal executions, including beheadings, going on in your assigned country?
    Have you ignored the often abysmal treatment of foreign workers, many from Asia, who also happen to be disproportionately counted among the victims of Saudi capital punishment?
    Have you neglected the gender apartheid that surrounds you? Did you ever look out of your car to notice that Saudi women are proscribed from driving, and that's hardly the worst of it?
    Have you checked the skyline of Riyadh or Jeddah lately to count the number of church spires or other non-Muslim houses of worship?
    Have you bothered to inquire about the fate of homosexuals?
    Okay, you were AWOL on those issues. Maybe you just didn't want to offend your hosts by speaking the truth, or maybe you're suffering from that diplomatic disease known as "localitis" or "clientitis."
    But surely a woman like you, with such capacity for empathy for those in far-away places, and especially for children in danger, couldn't remain silent about other human rights transgressions, could she?
    After all, could an individual so deeply moved by the plight of Palestinians in Gaza remain silent about what a New York Times columnist earlier this month described as "hell on earth" - Zimbabwe? Could a person so anguished by the fate of Palestinian children stay mum about a country where a girl's life expectancy at birth is 34, much less than half that of her Norwegian counterpart, and where the health care sector has vaporized, all thanks to the one-man rule of Robert Mugabe?
    Could such a dedicated humanist possibly avert her eyes from the deadliest conflict since the Second World War, which has killed over five million people, many of them children, in the Congo in the past decade - not to mention the documented and widespread use of torture, rape, and arbitrary detention?
    An observer of such acute sensitivity could hardly hold her tongue while Afghan girls attempting to go to school have been doused with acid by those who wish to deny young women access to education, reminiscent of the five years of Taliban rule, could she?
    In neighboring Pakistan, where you served in the Norwegian embassy for three years, the beleaguered human rights community must have been fortunate to have such an impassioned voice for all that's wrong in this failing state. Or was that voice, perhaps, on mute?
    The children of Sderot, the Israeli town near the Gaza border, have been in desperate need of just such a spokesperson as you for the past eight years.
    After all, their town has been in the crosshairs of literally thousands of missiles and mortars fired from Gaza. Those Israeli children live with all the signs of trauma, knowing that, with only 15 seconds warning, they could be hit at any time in their schools, their parks, or their beds. Yet, during my visit there last week, for some reason, those children and their parents had yet to hear you speak out for them. What a pity!
    And the children of Iran could use your help as well. According to human rights groups, Iran has no compunction about executing children or those who were children when their crimes were allegedly committed.
    Oh, and by the way, your compassionate help would also undoubtedly be welcomed by others under the gun in Iran, including women's rights activists, union organizers, student protesters, independent journalists, reformist politicians, and religious minorities. And let's not forget, once again, the children of Israel, who, according to the Iranian president, don't have a right to live.
    But wait! A Google search about you reveals nothing, not a single word, regarding your views on Zimbabwe, Congo, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sderot, or Iran. Or, for that matter, Burma, Darfur, Syria. Shall I go on?
    Only Israel, faced with those who wish to destroy it, manages to prompt your impassioned correspondence and righteous indignation. Why?
    No less, your stunning lack of education extends beyond the contemporary world to 20th century history, specifically the Holocaust.
    Your invocation of the Holocaust to describe what's taken place in Gaza is, frankly, nothing short of obscene.
    Your claim that the grandchildren of the survivors are doing to the Palestinians exactly what was done to them goes beyond any norm of decency, much less honesty.
    Approve or disapprove of the Israeli military operation, but there is no basis whatsoever for such a comparison.
    When Israel entered Gaza in a war of self-defense in 1967, the population was 360,000. After Israel withdrew totally from Gaza in 2005, it was estimated at 1.4 million.
    Would that the Jewish population under Nazi rule had quadrupled!
    When Israel entered Gaza in 1967, life expectancy for women was 46. When it left Gaza, it was 73.
    Shall we even bother to discuss life expectancy for Jews under Nazi occupation?
    The Second World War in Europe lasted from September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945 - 68 months in all. That means an average monthly extermination rate of nearly 90,000 Jews.
    Compare that to the total number of victims in Gaza over three weeks - roughly guesstimated at more or less 1,000 - and recall that the majority were armed fighters committed to Israel's destruction, who used civilians, including children, as human shields, mosques as arms depots, and hospitals as sanctuaries.
    Believe me, Ms. Lilleng, if the "grandchildren of the Holocaust survivors" had wanted to do exactly what the Nazis did to their grandparents, they would have unleashed their full air, land, and sea power. They would have thrown the Israel Defense Forces' ethical guidelines to the wind, kicked out the UN and Red Cross personnel on the ground, stopped humanitarian transports of food, fuel, and medicine, prevented media reporting, and left absolutely nothing - and no one - standing.
    Unless, of course, they needed slave labor, in which case they would have carted off the able-bodied to work in Auschwitz replicas until they dropped. Or material for ghoulish medical experimentation, in which case, in the spirit of Mengele, they would have kept Palestinian twins alive temporarily.
    But Israel didn't do any of these things. It's a peace-seeking democracy dedicated to the rule of law - unlike so many of the countries whose horrific sins you blithely choose to overlook.
    What are we to make of your selective moral outrage and rank hypocrisy?
    You ought to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself why Israel, and only Israel, makes your blood boil and leads you to speak out, even at the risk of grossly distorting both reality and history.
    The answer, Ms. Lilleng, should be painfully obvious.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Wednesday, January 28, 2009

    Hezbollah/Iranian revenge for Moughnieh foiled

    Just because one attack was foiled, does not mean there will not be others...
    Hizbullah attack against Israeli target in Europe foiled
    Jan. 28, 2009
    Yaakov Katz , THE JERUSALEM POST
    Israel's intelligence agencies recently thwarted a major Hizbullah terror attack against an Israeli target in Europe, security officials revealed on Wednesday.
    The attack was foiled by Israel in conjunction with a European intelligence agency. Hizbullah planned the attack to avenge the February 2008 assassination of arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus.
    Last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered Israeli security services to raise their level of alert out of fear that Hizbullah will increase its efforts to launch an attack against an Israeli or Jewish target abroad ahead of the first anniversary of Mughniyeh's assassination on February 12.
    Mughniyeh was the commander of Hizbullah military forces and was assassinated on in a car bombing in Damascus. While Israel did not claim responsibility for the assassination, Hizbullah has declared its intention to avenge Mughniyeh's death by striking at Israel.
    The assessment in the Israeli intelligence community is that Hizbullah plans to attack an Israeli target overseas that will not have its direct fingerprints on. Hizbullah is believed to have extensive terror infrastructure in Africa and South America and was allegedly behind the bombings in 1992 and 1994 in Buenos Aires.
    Hizbullah, the intelligence community believes, is deterred from launching an attack along the northern border out of fear of Israel's potential response. The two recent Katyusha rocket attacks into northern Israel are believed to have been carried out by a Palestinian terror group, although under the direction of Hizbullah.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas captives explain tactics, training

    The small number of Hamas operatives actually captured is disappointing.
    The Shin Bet security service released details yesterday regarding its interrogation of two Hamas men who were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces during the Gaza military campaign, including the militants' use of mosques for weapon caches and military training. There are more than 20 terrorists currently being held in Israel from the Gaza operation.
    One of those is Ramzi Abed-Rabo, a 30-year-old Hamas member from Jabalya. The Shin Bet indicated he admitted under questioning that he used to watch IDF movements from his house and report about them to Hamas. He also told his interrogators about the location of Hamas weapon storage sites, in tunnels, in the homes of activists, and in citrus groves and mosques.
    Another Hamas member, Subahi Atar, 27, from the village of al-Atatra in the northern Gaza Strip, told interrogators that he was a member of a Hamas security cell in the area around his village. He was recruited by the military wing of Hamas two and a half years ago and underwent training in handling weapons, firing rockets and preparing explosive charges.
    Dozens of other Gazans were released and returned to the Gaza Strip after brief interrogations.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    UN: Hamas used civilian facilities

    Last update - 10:05 28/01/2009       
    Top UN official blasts Hamas for 'cynical' use of civilian facilities
    By Haaretz Service
    United Nations Humanitarian Affairs Chief John Holmes blasted Hamas Tuesday for its "cynical" use of civilian facilities during recent hostilities in the Gaza Strip.
    "The reckless and cynical use of civilian installations by Hamas and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations are clear violations of international humanitarian law," Holmes told the UN Security Council.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Oops - Rocket hits Western Negev

    Cast Lead seems to be melting...
    Last update - 10:48 28/01/2009       
    Gaza rocket hits Negev; IAF strikes Hamas tunnels after soldier killed
    By Amos Harel, Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondents, Haaretz Service and Agencies
    A rocket fired by militants in Gaza struck the western Negev on Wednesday morning, adding impetus to flare-up in violence that threatened to rupture a shaky cease-fire in the coastal strip.
    No one was wounded in the rocket attack, which came shortly after Israel Air Force warplanes pounded smuggling tunnels under Gaza's border with Egypt. The air strikes followed a bomb blast Tuesday along the Israel-Gaza border, in which an Israel Defense Forces soldier was killed and three others were wounded.
    Rafah residents began to flee their homes in panic as the Israeli aircraft struck three times, Hamas officials said. There was no initial word of any casualties.
    An Israel Defense Forces spokesman said the air strike came in response to a remote-control bomb attack at the Gaza Strip security fence Tuesday, which killed an Israel Defense Forces tracker and wounded three other soldiers, one seriously.
    The border blast was the Palestinians' first deadly attack since the cease-fire ended Operation Cast Lead, and came the day before the arrival of George Mitchell, the U.S. envoy to the Middle East.
    Earlier on Tuesday, IAF aircraft fired a missile at a militant on a motorbike in the Khan Yunis area of Gaza. The Shin Bet security service, which helped coordinate the missile strike, said the militant, Hussein Abu-Shamaya, was involved in the bomb attack. The bomb was planted by a Hamas breakaway group identified with the Al-Qaida-affiliated Global Jihad, the Shin Bet said.
    In addition, a Palestinian man, apparently a farmer, was killed in exchanges of fire between IDF troops and Palestinians in Gaza after the bomb was detonated, according to Palestinian reports. The incident took place while IDF tanks and soldiers, assisted by helicopters, were patrolling Gaza after the attack.
    Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned of a "further response" to the attack.
    "What the IDF did today was not a response but a preliminary action," he said at a meeting of ministry directors general. "A further response to this serious incident will be forthcoming."
    The security cabinet is to meet Wednesday to discuss security projects, but the situation in Gaza might also be discussed.
    Olmert, noting that he had termed the cease-fire "fragile," also said: "We don't even call it a cease-fire but a holding of fire in the face of Hamas infractions, so that we can retain the IDF's freedom of action."
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to strike Hamas targets in response to the death of the tracker.
    "We do not intend to gloss over incidents like these," Barak said. "We will not let Hamas and its outgrowths continue their hostile acts of terror. Anyone who hits us will have to absorb a serious blow in the future, too."
    Sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau said Tuesday Israel was not negotiating with Hamas over a cease-fire or second lull. "The Egyptians are speaking to Hamas to attain things that are important for them, but we are not obligated to anything. We have not signed understandings or an agreement with Hamas," a source in Olmert's bureau said.
    Israel and Egypt are apparently formulating an understanding on the passage of merchandise from Israel to the Gaza Strip, and at the same time some increased freedom of movement in the opening of the Rafah crossing from the Strip to Egypt.
    The Kerem Shalom and Karni crossings on the Gaza border were closed after the attack. Approximately 185 trucks carrying aid and equipment were to have crossed into Gaza yesterday.
    The bomb near the Gaza border detonated around 8 A.M., as an IDF patrol was passing near the Kissufim crossing, north of Kibbutz Kissufim. The tracker was killed and an officer was seriously hurt. One of his legs was amputated and the other one is severely damaged. Two other soldiers were classified as lightly hurt and will be released in a few days. Soroka Medical Center said they had extensive shrapnel wounds.
    The name of the tracker, a Bedouin, was not released, at the request of his family.
    A preliminary investigation revealed that the soldiers were patrolling an area that had not been patrolled for several weeks due to the fighting in the Strip. The regional brigade commander was apparently not apprised of the patrol, which was approved by the battalion commander. IDF sources said the Palestinians who planted the bomb did so Monday night, under cover of heavy fog.
    The closure of the Gaza crossings is only the first stage of Israel's response to the attack, Amos Gilad, who heads the Defense Ministry's political bureau, said yesterday. "The equation in the Strip has changed," he said during a lecture at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
    Yuval Azoulay, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid contributed to this report.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Ahmadinejad: US must grovel in repentance before Iran

    Does anyone really think this is a good idea?
    Last update - 11:30 28/01/2009       
    Ahmadinejad: Obama must apologize to Iran if he really wants change
    By Reuters
    The new U.S. administration must apologize to Iran over past actions if it really wants to effect change, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday.
    "Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad told a rally in western Iran, broadcast live on state television.
    "We welcome change but on condition that change is fundamental and on the right track," he said.
    The new administration has said Obama would break from his predecessor by pursuing direct talks with Tehran but has also warned Iran to expect more pressure if it did not meet the UN Security Council demand to halt its disputed nuclear work.
    Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge and refuses to give up work it insists is its sovereign right.
    Ahmadinejad listed during his speech a range of "crimes" against Iran, such as trying to block what Tehran says is a peaceful nuclear power generation program, hindering Iran's development since the 1979 revolution and other actions by several administrations for more than 60 years.
    Iran has in the past told Washington that it should withdraw its troops from the region.
    Ahmadinejad, in his speech, said: "Who has asked them (the United States) to come and interfere in the affairs of nations?"
    As well as saying Tehran wants nuclear arms, Washington accuses Iran of sponsoring "terrorists" and undermining efforts to make peace in the Middle East between Israel and Arabs.
    Echoing Obama's remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signaled the administration's readiness to talk to Iran, saying Tehran had a "clear opportunity" to show the world it is willing to engage.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Top IDF reserve officer: Israel passed up 'historic opportunity' in Gaza

    Last update - 10:20 28/01/2009       
    Top IDF reserve officer: Israel passed up 'historic opportunity' in Gaza
    By Amos Harel
    A high-ranking officer who served in a key role in the Israel Defense Forces' Southern Command during the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip has said that Israel missed an opportunity to defeat Hamas.
    Brig. Gen. Zvi Fogel, who served as Southern Command artillery commander during the Gaza campaign told Haaretz Tuesday that he thought Israel had "lost a historic opportunity to defeat Hamas" when it decided not to broaden the offensive in the Gaza Strip. He also noted that a forceful response is essential in reaction to Tuesday's killing of an IDF tracker, explaining that absent such a response, the IDF will lose the deterrence factor that it established in the Cast Lead military campaign.
    Fogel added that, "between the second weekend of the operation on January 10 and the inauguration of U.S. President Obama on the 20th, we had enough military personnel to broaden the offensive and to make additional significant gains. We were close to defeating Hamas."
    Fogel said that Hamas had built a defensive network that employed tons of explosives, but in many places, Hamas was surprised at the direction from which the IDF approached. At the same time, Hamas didn't manage to inflict the kind of losses among Israeli forces that it had hoped. "This created tremendous frustration among Hamas," he said, "and that was when we should have expanded our operation. We were on the move and they were at the breaking point."
    Fogel also said he regretted that Israel had not more forcefully hit the tunnels that Hamas has used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza. He estimates that a quarter to 50 percent of the tunnels were hit, but said that if the IDF had caused greater damage, Hamas' weapons program could have been set back by years instead of months.
    Fogel's views are shared by other senior officers in the Southern Command and also among the commanders who fought on the ground in Gaza.
    Unlike the others, however, he is a reserve soldier, and is therefore allowed to express his personal opinions. On the other hand, many on the IDF General Staff disagree with Fogel's point of view. The opposition of both the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff to an expansion of the military campaign influenced the cabinet in its decision to halt the operation.
    Brig. Gen. Fogel returned to active service with the Southern Command a year and a half ago, in order to help develop the IDF's plan of attack in Gaza, along with GOC Southern Command Maj. Gen. Yoav Gallant and the commander at the time of the IDF Gaza Division, Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir.
    Fogel noted that the work of the top brass in the Southern Command during the fighting was "exemplary."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Natural Gas find in Israel

    Let's be cautiously optimistic. In the past, such finds have always proven difficult to exploit. This one is claimed by Lebanon as well.
    Israel could be one step closed to energy independence after the discovery of "extremely significant" natural gas reserves at an offshore drilling site
    By Karin Kloosterman - Israel 21c

    Drilling for the gas will not be easy: the sea floor at the site is located more than a mile underwater, and the wells are covered by a mile of salt. (Photo courtesy Israel 21c)
    Israel could be one step closed to energy independence after drilling companies announced the discovery of "extremely significant" natural gas reserves at an offshore drilling site in the Mediterranean about 60 miles off the coast of Haifa, Israel.
    One massive pocket of natural gas is expected to contain more than three trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to feed Israel's energy needs for 15 years, lessening its dependence on foreign fuel. This is the largest natural gas reserve discovered in Israel, with an estimated value of $15 billion. It is three times larger than an existing drill site on Israel's southern coast, which is expected to be depleted in five years. Israel's National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer called the discovery an "historic moment" for Israel.
    The Tamar 1 site, named after the granddaughter of Israeli geologist Yossi Langotsky who helped locate the site, is a joint venture between four major stakeholders: the Houston-based Noble Energy, and three major Israeli partners Isramco Negev, Delek Drilling, and Avner Oil and Gas Exploration.
    Independence from foreign fuel sources
    Delek Drilling's PR representative Shaya Segal told ISRAEL21c that it will take some time to understand the impact of the find: "First of all we don't have the full information," he says. "We just know there are great quantities there. In about two and a half weeks, after more tests are concluded, we will know more exactly what is there."
    In terms of Israel's future, the impact could be enormous. "It can contribute a lot to the Israeli economy," says Segal. "And give us independence with anything that has to do with natural gas." In Israel, that would mean fuelling power plants with natural gas, as opposed to the more polluting coal or oil fuel sources. "It's much more environmentally friendly," agrees Segal.
    Biggest in US company's history
    In a press statement, the companies announced: "Subject to receipt of further data from the drill site, the estimated reserves of natural gas are likely even to increase." And Charles D. Davidson, the CEO and chairman of Noble Energy said: "This is one of the most significant prospects that we have ever tested and appears to be the largest discovery in the company's history."
    While the drilling is difficult - the sea floor at the site is located more than a mile underwater, the wells are covered under more than a mile of salt, and some analysts say that actualization of the wells is speculative, since transporting natural gas is difficult -- Tel Aviv stocks for Isramco, The Delek Group and Avner rose more than 45 percent. Some analysts estimate that it will cost about $1 billion dollars in infrastructure to extract the gas from the depths of the sea. Extraction of gas could begin in 2013.
    The find also gives hope for environmentalists, who have been petitioning that the building of new coal-fire power plants in Israel be stopped. It will certainly be good news to Shai Agassi of Better Place, who plans to install an electric car system and grid in Israel, over the next years. One of the criticisms of his project, before this new gas pocket find, was that the electric cars would be fueled by power plants running on "dirty" fuel such as coal.
    But before the champagne corks are popped, analysts caution that further investigations at the Tamar site be made. They are also insisting that while the natural gas find will boost the country's economy for some years, Israel's future remains in high tech, not energy.
    Dan Halman, the CEO of Halman-Aldubi Group, a mutual funds firm in Israel told The Jerusalem Post: "If the Tamar site opposite the Haifa coast succeeds in producing the significant quantities of natural gas predicted, we are talking about a revolution which will have an impact on the Israeli economy for the coming generations."
    Article courtesy Israel 21C

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Gaza orphans invitedl to Israel for 2-week rest

    Kibbutz Movement initiative in cooperation with Haifa, Kibbutz Sasa, Kfar Qassem plans to host Palestinian children orphaned during Operation Cast Lead in hopes of creating more peaceful future
    Tamar Trabelsi-Hadad
    Published:  01.28.09, 09:37 / Israel Activism
    Forty-eight Palestinian orphans whose parents were killed in bombings during Operation Cast Lead were planned to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for two weeks of rest and recovery from their grim reality at home.

    Tuesday's closure of the crossings with Gaza made it unclear whether the children, aged 8-15 would be able to arrive as scheduled.

    Haifa Municipality, Kibbutz Sasa and the Candle for Peace and Solidarity association in Kfar Qassem have been preparing to greet the kids in recent days, and are awaiting their arrival on Wednesday barring any last minute changes.

    The children will be hosted in Haifa, Sasa and Kfar Qassem as part of the Kibbutz Movement's humanitarian initiative.

    A rich program in Haifa's various sites was designed for the orphans, including a visit to the Museum of Science, the zoo, a cruise in Haifa bay, trips around the city, watching movies and children's theater, and other social activities.

    During their stay the children will also meet with Israeli students from schools in Haifa.

    Head of the Kibbutz Movement's special assignment division Yoel Marshak, who operated the volunteers' headquarters for southern residents under rocket fire is also managing the current humanitarian project.

    Marshak said Tuesday evening that the humanitarian effort was meant to ease the orphans' suffering and not aid terrorists.

    "The Kibbutz Movement educates its sons to be the first on the battlefield and kill the enemy before being killed, and on the other hand, once the cannon fire stops, we adopt orphan children who, maybe, thanks to our humanitarian effort, we'll put an end to the wars in the future," he said.

    "The children who have received love from us will remember this experience for many years and when they grow up will reach out for peace. I believe the change will come only from the youth out of will and recognition and not from treaties."

    Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said the municipality was ready to receive the children Wednesday morning, and that a bus carrying a city representative would meet the children at Erez crossing.

    "The children are the hope for the future," said Yahav, "We are rising to the challenge of hosting the children from Gaza to show the world things can be different."

    Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog who is responsible for humanitarian aid sent to Gaza welcomed the project Tuesday night, saying, "This is a very important initiative. The State of Israel makes an absolute distinction between aid to the civil population in the Gaza Strip and Hamas."

    David Regev contributed to this report

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    UNRWA pays terrorists

    In sharply worded report, former legal advisor to UN agency says group must redefine oxymoronic labeling of Palestinians with Jordanian, Lebanese citizenship as refugees
    Yitzhak Benhorin
    Published:  01.28.09, 00:51 / Israel News
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees employs and provides benefits for terrorists and criminals, asserts a former legal adviser to UNRWA who left the organization in 2007. James Lindsay, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as an attorney with the US Justice Department for two decades before leaving to work for UNRWA in 2000.
    Titled 'Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN's Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees,' Lindsay's report puts forward suggestions intended to improve the agency. Established by the US and Britain after the 1948 war, UNRWA's objective was to aid displaced Palestinians.
    Lindsay writes that although the US remains UNRWA's main contributor, the agency's positions contrast with Washington's.
    During the recent fighting in Gaza a number of UNRWA institutions were bombed by the IDF, which claimed that terrorists had fired at forces from within or near the UN compounds. The agency's employees took a clear-cut stance against Israel during the war.

    Lindsay's report warns that the agency has deteriorated increasingly over the years since its establishment, and that it was currently offering services to those who were not actually in need of them. "No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services," the report says.

    He suggests UNRWA make operational changes and "halt its one-sided political statements and limit itself to comments on humanitarian issues; take additional steps to ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals; and allow the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), or some other neutral entity, to provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks for UNRWA initiatives."

    Lindsay concludes his report by saying that only these changes would allow the agency to complete its task in the Middle East. "For the Palestinians it serves, this means ending their refugee status and returning, after nearly sixty years, to what most of them so desperately seek: normal lives," he writes.

    The report will be handed over to US President Barack Obama's administration, which is keen to help fix the ailing agency.
    "The United States, despite funding nearly 75 percent of UNRWA's initial budget and remaining its largest single country donor, has largely failed to make UNRWA reflect US foreign policy objectives. UNRWA initially served US humanitarian purposes, but in later years often clashed with US policies," the report says.

    Lindsay claims the most important change that should be made in the agency is "the removal of citizens from recognized states – persons who have the oxymoronic status of "citizen refugees" – from UNRWA's jurisdiction. This would apply to the vast majority of Palestinian "refugees" in Jordan, as well as to some in Lebanon and Syria."c

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Israeli government to help Jewish refugees from Arab lands stake their claims

    This step is sixtry years overdue. In all that time, nobody has talked about the plight of Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all of whom had their property confiscated. A pernicious myth was created, claiming that those Jews left only because of "Zionist" agitation and were perfectly happy in Arab countries. It is not so, and the dry fact is that they were stripped of all their property. That does not support the myth of happy Muslim -Jewish coexistience.

    Gov't to recover assets in Muslim lands

    Jan. 27, 2009
    Haviv Rettig Gur , THE JERUSALEM POST

    The Pensioners Affairs Ministry has created a new department over the past two weeks that will begin to collect specific claims by Jews who lost their property when they left Arab countries during the 20th century.

    More than 850,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab lands and Iran, most after Israel's founding in 1948. Estimates of the value of the property they were forced to leave behind are hard to come by, ranging from as low as $16 billion in known assets to as high as $300b. when estimates of the value of their abandoned real estate are included.

    "Israel has talked about this on and off for 60 years. Now we're going to deal with it as we should have all along," said Dr. Avi Bitzur, director-general of the Pensioners Affairs Ministry.

    The ministry established a department with an initial staff of five to begin to collect the claims of the Jewish refugees, about 80 percent of whom settled in Israel. Bitzur will host a panel on the issue at next week's Herzliya Conference, and over the next two weeks hopes to pass a decision through the cabinet mandating discussion of Jewish refugees whenever the question of Arab refugees are raised in peace negotiations.

    According to Bitzur, who is also a political scientist at Bar-Ilan University, the new effort comes to fill a gap in awareness both in Israel and abroad. "The UN has dealt at least 700 times with Arab refugees and their property, but not once with the issue of Jewish property," he says.

    It's also time for Israelis to get to know better the history of the Jews of Arab lands, who make up some 60% of the ethnic ancestry of Israeli Jews.

    "It's time to deal with this amongst ourselves," says Bitzur. "I say that as a citizen, as a father and as an academic. We should know the history of the pogrom in Baghdad in 1941, of the Lybian Jews who ended up in Bergen Belsen. It's time for people to know that there was this part of the Jewish people and its history was brought to an end."

    In late 2007, Baghdad-born American Jew Heskel M. Haddad, representing the World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, called on the Israeli government to begin to seriously examine the issue of Jewish property left behind in Arab lands.

    At the time, Haddad told The Jerusalem Post that WOJAC had a staggering 100,000 square kilometers in property deeds.

    Yet it is uncertain whether the recent initiative can survive after the February 10 Knesset elections. The Pensioners Affairs Ministry was established as part of a coalition deal with the Gil Pensioners Party in 2006. With the Pensioners currently polling below the threshold to return to the Knesset, would the ministry - and with it the newly-formed department - survive in a new coalition?

    According to Bitzur, emphatically yes. "The department was formed by a government decision which continues to be in effect after the elections. The department has been approved and funded by the Finance Ministry, and its workers are government workers with all the implied protections," he explains.

    Internationally, too, the project has support. "The US Congress [in mid-2008] decided that any discussion of refugees in the Middle East must include the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. The current presidency of the EU, the Czech Republic, agrees with this position," he says.

    Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.

    This article can also be read at

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Israel Boycotters are coming to USA

    The Boycott Israel campaign has evidently come to the US in earnest. The divestment movement has been here for some time. The claim:
    "We are actually literally following the call of the Palestinian civil society groups that call for a boycott, and what they ask for is a return to 1967 borders."
    is a lie. The only group calling for such a boycott is the PACBI Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which is run by Hamas and wants to destroy Israel and doesn't want any two state solutione. Palestinian trade unions lifted their boycott call a while ago, after concluding an agreement with Israeli trade unions.
    The movement to boycott Israeli academic institutions has largely been centered in Britain (where in 2007 the University and College Union dropped the call). In response to the conflict in Gaza, calls for academic boycotts have crossed the Atlantic, surfacing first in Ontario, and now in the United States.      
    The U.S. Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel, launched last week, enumerates five goals. These include: "Refraining from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine," "promoting divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions," and "supporting Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support."
    The group's press release continues, "We believe that non-violent external pressure on Israel, in the form of an academic, cultural and economic boycott of Israel, can help bring an end to the ongoing massacres of civilians and an end [to] the occupation of Gaza and Palestine" — with "Palestine" referring to the West Bank land occupied by Israel since the 1967 war, explained David Lloyd, a professor of English at the University of Southern California who's involved with the campaign. "We are actually literally following the call of the Palestinian civil society groups that call for a boycott, and what they ask for is a return to 1967 borders."
    As of Saturday afternoon, two days after the campaign's press release went out, Lloyd reported that the campaign had received more than 70 endorsements by individuals, and two by organizations.
    "Many universities in the United States have direct involvement with Israeli institutions, ranging from study abroad programs to collaborative research. And we believe that should be suspended until such time that Israel respects international and humanitarian law," said Lloyd.
    In the United States, opposition to academic boycotts is strong. A 2007 statement signed by nearly 300 university presidents sums up why: "In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy, and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas."
    The statement was issued in response to the boycott movement then afoot in Britain, and was written by Columbia University's president, Lee Bollinger. "At my institution, our president, Lee Bollinger, has said publicly that if you boycott Israeli academics you boycott us at Columbia," said Andrew R. Marks, president and founder of International Academic Friends of Israel and chair of Columbia's physiology department. "He's taken a stand against academic boycotts which I'm proud of, and I think that would be the norm among the better universities in the United States. That doesn't mean it couldn't affect our students and others who are impressionable and looking for a cause to pick up, that sort of thing, so it certainly concerns me."
    Beyond the argument in favor of exchange and dialogue, "You go to the question of whether or not this [an academic boycott] could possibly ever help the Palestinian people. And that's quite doubtful, since the academics in Israel, as in many countries, tend to be pretty left-wing and actually are some of the most forceful voices in favor of peace and fair treatment of Palestinians," Marks continued. "So I tend to think this whole movement, which originated in the U.K., was very much an anti-Israel movement and not really honestly designed to help the Palestinians. And I think it's very unfortunate it's spreading to the United States, but not surprising."
    Marks said the boycott call seems to be an extension of the divestiture movement, which focuses on university investments and endowments – "so it's not entirely new but it's taking it a step further."
    Lloyd in fact said, of the campaign's plans, "Our effort is not so much to initiate as to connect with already existing, scattered divestment movements around the country." Asked about the argument that academic boycotts fly in the face of academic freedom, Lloyd responded, "Israeli institutions are complicit in immense infringement on Palestinian academic freedom, so it's really hard, it seems to me, for Israeli institutions to claim the rights of academic freedom that they are so systematically denying to their Palestinian counterparts."
    The campaign's press release cites "Israel's ongoing scholasticide" – a reference to its attacks on educational facilities during the war in Gaza, but also to what the writers describe as systematic, 40-year-long restrictions on Palestinian access to schools and universities in the West Bank and Gaza.
    "We feel that we should not collaborate with Israel as long as it is refusing academic freedom to Palestinians. It is really a profoundly moral issue," Lloyd said.
    "Presidents of universities have spoken out against the boycott of Israeli academics in the past. They are not speaking out against the systematic and gradual destruction of Palestinian institutions by Israel."
    The American Association of University Professors in 2006 issued a statement opposing academic boycotts, "in view of the Association's long-standing commitment to the free exchange of ideas." The AAUP particularly opposes boycotts such as the one being proposed here, in which institutions would be boycotted unless they "vocally oppose" Israeli policies. "We especially oppose selective academic boycotts that entail an ideological litmus test," the AAUP statement says. "We understand that such selective boycotts may be intended to preserve academic exchange with those more open to the views of boycott proponents, but we cannot endorse the use of political or religious views as a test of eligibility for participation in the academic community."
    Cary Nelson, president of the AAUP and a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, added that, practically speaking, "I think it's inappropriate to expect institutions to take positions on a nation state's policy…. How would an institution in the United States take a stand on national policy? Would the Faculty Senate vote, would the administration impose a policy, would the entire campus vote, would the students have an equal vote?"
    In Britain, student protesters in support of Gaza have held sit-ins at 16 universities, as the Guardian has reported. At the London School of Economics and Political Science, the director refused to issue a university statement condemning Israel's attacks on Gaza, but supported a fund-raising drive for scholarships for Palestinian students.
    Nelson said the scholarship approach seemed to him a creative and "specifically academic" idea. "A scholarship program for Palestinian students is a very straight-forward contribution that American academics can make and I think it's a wonderful suggestion."
    — Elizabeth Redden

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Ahmadinejad's Holocaust nonsense continued

    Last update - 23:20 27/01/2009       
    Ahmadinejad: Breaking lock on Holocaust box would kill Zionist regime
    By Reuters
    Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a new verbal attack on Israel on Tuesday in a message to a Tehran university conference called "Holocaust, the West's sacred lie," Iranian media reported.
    Ahmadinejad caused outrage in the West and Israel for saying in 2005 the state of Israel should be wiped off the map and for a Tehran conference in 2006 that sought to cast doubt on the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were deliberately killed by the Nazis.
    The Islamic Republic does not recognize Israel's right to exist and refers to it as the "Zionist regime". It has condemned Israel's recent attacks in Gaza, which Ahmadinejad has described as "genocide".
    At Tuesday's conference he said in a message read out by the government spokesman that "the illegitimate Zionist regime is one of the consequences of the Holocaust," state broadcaster IRIB reported on its website.
    "Breaking the lock on the Holocaust box and opening it is tantamount to cutting the Zionist regime's life jugular and the bulk of the [Zionist] philosophy would collapse," said his message to the conference at Sharif Technical University.
    Iranian media did not give details on who organized the conference or who attended it.
    Ahmadinejad, who often rails against Israel and the West, said the subject of the Holocaust had been used to expand the international influence of the United States and Britain after World War Two, IRIB reported.
    He said "power-seeking networks introduced themselves as defenders of a number of victims and issued an order that the survivors ... must receive blood money, part of which was the establishment of the Zionist regime on Palestinian territory."
    Last September, President Shimon Peres called Ahmadinejad a danger and a disgrace at the United Nations, after the Iranian president blamed "Zionist murderers" for everything from the Wall Street crisis to Russia's invasion of Georgia.
    Israel, believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal, and the West say Iran has a covert programme to build nuclear weapons. Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, denies this, saying it wants technology to generate electricity.
    Peres has called Iran's nuclear program an "existential threat" to Israel.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    The Zionist prince of Czechia

    Last update - 21:09 27/01/2009       
    'New EU president is a true friend of Israel, a Zionist prince'
    By Adar Primor
    Ever since January 1, the European Union has been ruled by a prince. This was stated recently by the French daily Le Monde, which also described that prince, scion of a noble Austro-Hungarian family, as a man of rare and courtly manners: He dresses elegantly, often wearing a bow tie, and smokes a wooden pipe; he nurtures a regal mustache and kisses women's hands with archaic gallantry.
    Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has been at the helm of the European Union's agenda for nearly a month now in his capacity as current President of the EU Council of Ministers. He is 71 years old, a Catholic by religion, a conservative by habit, a liberal by leanings, identified with the left and a representative of the Green Party in the Senate of the Czech Republic. In Israel, they are pleased to add to this unique mix that he is "a true friend."
    Going by his most recent statements and the descriptions in Jerusalem of his activities, one might have formed the impression that here we have a "Zionist prince:" He was active in initiating a Euro-Israeli conference to advance Israel's integration into the EU, he has declared that Operation Cast Lead was a "defensive measure" and he has rejected calls in Europe for investigation of "war crimes committed by the Israel Defense Forces."
    In an exclusive interview with Haaretz, Schwarzenberg spoke at length about the shared history and the close ties that developed over the years between Jews and Czechs.
    He recalled the warm attitude of the first Czech president Tomas Masaryk, and that of his friend and former patron Vaclav Havel; the arms shipments to Israel during the War of Independence; the key role that Jews played in Czech lands beginning in the Middle Ages and the fact that his country was, "the only one in the Soviet bloc that did not follow an anti-Semitic policy."
    When Hitler celebrated the Anschluss in Vienna in 1938, one of his relatives - Adolf Schwarzenberg - went out and hung a black flag on the facade of his home in Prague.
    When the Nazis forbade socializing with Jews, he opened the garden of his home and hung up a sign saying "Welcome, Jews." Another of his uncles, Jindrich Schwarzenberg, was sent to Buchenwald for his opposition to the Nazis.
    Karel Schwarzenberg himself savors a happier anecdote that has been with him for many years.
    "This was at the end of January 1948," he said. "I was a boy of 10 at the time. A high-ranking Israeli delegation came to Prague and I was sent by my parents to show them one of the houses that the family owned. The delegation signed a contract with my parents to rent the building, which became Israel's first embassy in Czechoslovakia.
    On Israel's first Independence Day the Star of David flag was raised on its facade - that was the first Israeli flag ever flown in our country."
    When he was asked during Operation Cast Lead why he supported Israel, he replied with astonishment, "The question should be why am I one of the few who are evincing understanding for Israel's motives. The answer is that I enjoy the luxury of speaking the truth."
    Despite all this, Schwarzenberg learned quite quickly that his role as current president requires that he present an additional, more complex "truth," one that will also represent his 26 partners in the EU.
    The statement by the Czech government spokesman to the effect that Israel was conducting a "defensive war" was amended within 24 hours and called for both sides to stop the shooting.
    "As the foreign minister of the Czech Republic I could express myself more easily, I could express the opinions of my government and my own personal opinions," Schwarzenberg now acknowledges. "Since January 1 and my taking up of the rotating presidency I must fulfill the role and express the opinion of the mainstream of Europe."
    This is also the key to understanding the unusual visit here by the Czech prime minister and five leaders of Europe's larger countries - Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Spain - immediately after the cease-fire. While in Israel the visit was depicted as a "rare demonstration of support," Schwarzenberg says that this was only the stated aim.
    Another aim was to create pressure on Israel to lift the siege on Gaza and open the crossing points. In this context and when it is a matter of friends, says Schwarzenberg, the "luxury of speaking the truth" becomes "an obligation."
    "I must present my position frankly, to the effect that with regard to the Palestinian population the policy of the State of Israel is mistaken," he said. "The siege and the transformation of the entire population into a hostage of Hamas is a boomerang policy that is manifested in the besieged population identifying more and more with Hamas."
    No extremists - or else
    The current president of the EU Council hastens to stress, "the tremendous importance of trans-Atlantic relations," and when asked about the recent statement by United States President Barack Obama about conducting an "aggressive policy" in the Middle East, he has no problem signing on to it. Moreover, he also jibes naturally to the words of his counterpart, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in response to the statement by Obama.
    "I hope that the population of Israel will be wise enough not to vote for extremists and bring them into the Knesset," he says with regard to the expected election of Likud MK Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister in the approaching elections and the impressive gains made by Yisrael Beiteinu MK Avigdor Lieberman. "A policy that will permit the expansion of the settlements - especially after what has now happened in Gaza - will be disastrous for Israel's standing in Europe and presumably in the United States as well. Wars do, of course, have psychological repercussions, but it is my fervent hope that the moderate parties will, after all, be the ones that win in the election."
    If this does not happen he warns, "The defense of Israel's interests - something that is dear to my heart - will become a pretty hopeless case to promote."
    When he is asked to speak concretely and say whether there is a danger to the upgrading of relations with Europe, of which some of his colleagues demanded the suspension during the fighting in Gaza, he replies in the affirmative.
    Will the improvement of our trade and economic agreements and the expansion of the joint diplomatic framework indeed be suspended?
    "In every conflict in the world it is sometimes important to strike and obtain victories but ultimately historical experience shows us that dialogue is essential, even with the cruelest of enemies," he says.
    He does not have magic solutions.
    "It all depends of course on the abandonment of terror, but the close relationship that has developed between Hamas and the Gazan population teaches that one day it will be necessary to accept [Hamas]."
    In the meantime, he recommends to Israel that it maintain "indirect relations" with the organization, "which are sometimes very effective. This has been proven historically. Israel too is experienced in this. There are, after all, contacts at a certain level, somewhere, even between Iran and Israel."
    Does Israel have indirect relations with Iran?
    "I am certain that this is so, even though no one - in Israel or in Iran - is going to declare this officially."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    This is what US promises about Gaza mean...

    U.S. promises to help stop arms smuggling to Gaza are evidently meaningless, as shown by this farcical incident.
    Last update - 01:11 28/01/2009       
    U.S. releases Iranian ship believed to be carrying arms for Gaza
    By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent
    The U.S. navy was forced to release an Iranian boat detained in the Red Sea on suspicion of carrying arms to Hamas-ruled Gaza. Weapons of various kinds were found aboard the ship, which was flying the Cypriot flag when it was stopped January 19.
    The ship was released Tuesday when it became apparent that there was no legal basis for holding it.
    At a press conference in Washington, Admiral Mike Mullen, who heads the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said although American naval personnel boarded the ship and found the weapons, they had no legal authority to impound the arms. He suggested that more stringent resolutions by the UN Security Council would be required, stating clearly that Iran is violating standards against arms smuggling.
    Mullen stressed involving Iran in solving regional problems, including the deteriorating condition in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but that ultimately the matter should be left to diplomats. With regard to the Obama administration's approach to the Iranian threat, he said that the military option is not off the table, but that it must remain the last option.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Livni: Israel must respond immediately to Gaza bomb attack

    Last update - 13:25 27/01/2009       
    Livni: Israel must respond immediately to Gaza bomb attack
    By Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondents
    Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday said that Israel needed to respond immediately to the killing of an Israeli soldier in a bomb blast on the Gaza border earlier in the day.
    "If there is an incident on the border and someone shoots, there's a bomb there or the smuggling of arms, Israel needs to respond immediately," said Livni.
    One Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded near Gaza on Tuesday morning, in the first serious clash since a cease-fire went into effect in the coastal strip more than a week ago.
    Livni added: "Israel doesn't need to demonstrate restraint against terror in the Gaza Strip. This was true before the operation, and it is true after it.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    One IDF soldier dead, three wounded in bomb blast on Gaza border

    This looks like big trouble. It may have been meant as a Hamas  "greeting" for George Mitchell.
    Last update - 13:13 27/01/2009       
    IDF soldier killed, three wounded, in bomb blast on Gaza border
    By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies
    One Israeli soldier was killed and three others were wounded near Gaza on Tuesday morning, in the first serious clash since a cease-fire went into effect in the coastal strip more than a week ago.
    The incident occurred when a bomb exploded near an Israel Defense Forces patrol along the Gaza border, near the Kissufim crossing.
    The soldier killed served as an NCO. Those wounded were an officer, who sustained serious wounds, and an additional NCO and soldier, who were lightly hurt. The wounded were taken for treatment to the Soroka hospital in Be'er Sheva. The soldiers' families have been informed of the incident.
    A Palestinian was reportedly killed later in ensuing clashes between IDF soldiers and Gaza militants in the area. [The Palestinian was reported to be a farmer by Palestinian sources - A.I.]
    Heavy gunfire was audible along the border in central Gaza and Israeli helicopters hovered in the air, firing bursts from their machine guns, Palestinian witnesses said.
    Gaza medical workers identified the Palestinian killed as a farmer.
    Following the incident, a political source in Jerusalem said that Israel must respond strongly and fiercely.
    Although there was no claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attack, Mushir al-Masri, a Hamas leader, said Israel was to blame for continuing to fire into Gaza. Al-Masri said his group had not agreed to a full cease-fire but only to a lull in fighting.
    "The Zionists are responsible for any aggression," he said.
    Israel has warned that it would respond harshly to any violations of the cease-fire, which ended the Israel Defense Forces' 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
    Israel's stated goals in the campaign were the halting of cross-border rocket fire, the destruction of Hamas' infrastructure and the restoring of its deterrence. After the operation, Israel declared that it had achieved its objectives.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    IDF patrol bombed in Gaza

    Last update - 10:38 27/01/2009    
    Bomb explodes near IDF patrol along Gaza border
    By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent and Agencies
    A bomb exploded near an Israel Defense Forces patrol along the Gaza border on Tuesday, after which a Palestinian was reportedly killed in a clash between Israeli soldiers and Gaza militants.
    The incident, which occurred near the Kissufim border crossing, was apparently the first outbreak of violence since a cease-fire in the coastal territory went into effect last week.
    Heavy gunfire was audible along the border in central Gaza and Israeli helicopters hovered in the air, firing bursts from their machine guns, Palestinian witnesses said.
    No militant group immediately took responsibility for the blast near the border.
    Gaza medical workers identified the Palestinian killed as a farmer.
    Israel has warned that it would respond harshly to any violations of the cease-fire, which ended the Israel Defense Forces' 22-day offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
    Israel's stated goals in the campaign were the halting of cross-border rocket fire, the destruction of Hamas' infrastructure and the restoring of its deterrence. After the operation, Israel declared that it had achieved its objectives.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Obama: Time for Palestinians, Israel to resume peace talks

    Last update - 07:57 27/01/2009       
    Obama: Time for Palestinians, Israel to resume peace talks
    By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspondent, and News Agencies
    U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Israel and the Palestinians should resume their peace negotiations and he praised Saudi King Abdullah for putting forward an Arab plan for peace in the Middle East.
    Obama, in his first interview with Arab television since becoming president, told al-Arabiya television his administration would adopt a more comprehensive approach in its relations with the Muslim world.
    "It is impossible for us to think only in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and not think in terms of what's happening with Syria or Iran or Lebanon or Afghanistan and Pakistan," Obama told the Dubai-based Arabic cable channel. "These things are interrelated."
    Obama said his administration had begun to fulfill his campaign promises by naming former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell as a Mideast peace envoy and sending him to the region within days of his becoming president.
    Mitchell was traveling to the region on Monday evening.
    "Ultimately we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what is best for them. They are going to have to make some decisions," Obama said.
    "But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it's time to return to the negotiating table."
    Obama pledged on Monday that Mitchell would engage "vigorously and consistently" in the quest for Israeli-Palestinian peace and would seek concrete results.
    "The cause of peace in the Middle East is important to the United States and our national interests. It's important to me personally," Obama, who has made Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy a high priority for his new administration, told reporters while meeting with Mitchell and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
    Mitchell was scheduled to leave for the Middle East later Monday.
    Obama said he was dispatching Mitchell fully aware that there would be no overnight success, but with greater hope for progress in establishing an Israeli-Palestinian peace because the administration was engaging in an early fashion.
    "Sen. Mitchell is fully empowered by me and Secretary Clinton," Obama said during a brief photo opportunity before the meeting began. "When he speaks, he speaks for us."
    Earlier Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood held a briefing ahead of Mitchell's trip, telling reporters that the new Mideast envoy did not intend to visit Syria, nor did he plan to speak with Hamas during his first mission. Rather, he planned to listen to regional leaders and assess the situation.
    Mitchell was scheduled to land in Cairo Monday night and hold some meetings on Tuesday; he was then scheduled to continue to Tel-Aviv and then the West Bank city of Ramallah for two days. From there, he was to continue to Amman and Riyadh.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Head of Israeli right wing think tank: Evacuate settlements

    Last update - 02:20 27/01/2009       
    Head of right-wing think tank: Settlements must be evacuated
    By Aluf Benn
    In light of the failure of efforts to realize the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the unlikelihood of creating a binational state, the most effective way to deal with the conflict is through a "controlled management" of the problem that includes the evacuation of isolated West Bank settlements. This, according to the director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Efraim Inbar.
    His latest study, "The Rise and Fall of the 'Two States for Two Peoples' Paradigm," whose publication coincides with the new eras in Washington and Jerusalem, Inbar writes that the best solution would be to repartition the country, with Egypt resuming control of the Gaza Strip and Jordan controlling the West Bank. But since such an arrangement would take time to implement, for now focus should be placed on managing the conflict in its current state. Inbar also proposes "stopping terror, reducing the amount of suffering caused to Israeli and to Palestinian society and preventing escalation."
    These views provoke interest because BESA, which was founded about 15 years ago, is traditionally known as a mainly right-wing institution that generally reflects pro-military views.
    According to Inbar, Israel will have to evacuate additional isolated settlements to reduce the friction between Jews and Palestinians as well as showing restraint in the use of force. He said that beyond making changes to its education system and its media in order to create a more positive atmosphere, little can be expected from the Palestinian Authority. Inbar says that correct management of the conflict, which must be carefully coordinated with Washington, will help to isolate Hamas.
    Inbar says that the two-state solution to which the international community is currently committed is "nonsense" in the light of Hamas' takeover in Gaza and the impotence of the PA in the West Bank. He believes that the expectation that the Palestinians will create a modern state, after the PA's failure, are unreasonable. At the same time, Inbar is aware of the difficulty involved in letting go of the two-state idea among both governments and people throughout the world.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    The best social movements in life are free

    Someone is beginning to pay attention to grass roots organization. Clearly it is NOT so important as a direct way of raising money for causes. It is very important as a way of building a movement.  
    By Gary Wexler | The Marketeer · January 26, 2009
        The Marketeer, JTA's messaging columnist, urges Jewish organizations to learn a few lessons from the campaign of President Barack Obama. (JTA staff)
    LOS ANGELES (JTA) -- There is much to learn from how President Obama led his election campaign and broadcast his vision during the inaugural that can benefit the communal strategies of American Jewry.
    Yet as a marketer of Jewish life, when I raise the issue, as I frequently do these days, I am often told, "Stop using Obama as the example. We have Republicans in our ranks and you are distancing them from your message." Someone even told me that if I want to advocate these lessons, I should think of using another example.
    Are we as a community so committed to our energy-depleting and grating fractiousness that we are willing to turn a deaf ear to valuable lessons and defeat our own potential victories? The message I am delivering has nothing to do with politics, who's a Republican or a Democrat -- just ask Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who despite coming from the opposite side of the political spectrum, has sought to cast himself as the Obama candidate in the current Israeli campaign.
    This message has everything to do with a stunning success in leadership vision, fund raising, cause advocacy, community organizing, electronic viral penetration, mass participation and the crowning accomplishment of a once-considered elusive goal against all odds. It has to do with a methodology and message that is resonating with our most sought-after target audience -- the next generation. It is much of what we want and need as a community finding itself in visionary, leadership and demographic peril -- and there is no better and more powerful example.
    Still, I'm finding that I have to deliver this message with thunderclaps, bells, cymbals and drums because while many appear to listen and nod their heads, few are taking the steps to do anything about it.
    Obama's message is not only about a change in government. It is a wake-up call about changing times and a changing society.
    Many today still don't understand how the Jewish communal enterprise is being vastly affected by the technology revolution and what it means for information access, communication, engagement between people, causes, funding and the creation of community. Someone in a very prominent position asked me recently if when I talk about viral communication, did I mean a traveling bacteria?
    If we are serious about building our communal capabilities in these times, our leadership must be aware, reading and consuming the trends that surround us. We cannot be stymied in the technological advances for our enterprise because a few of the senior laypeople who donate major dollars "don't read their e-mail and therefore the technology is not that urgent."
    While those people are indeed important and may need a different kind of attention, they are a quickly disappearing anomaly.
    I have heard other communal leaders say that in the shadow of the economic collapse and the Madoff affair, it will be several years until we return to what was. But that misses the point: The message of change means that even when the economy improves we will then be something different. We will never return to what was.  The Madoff affair has caused deep damage and triggered soulful learning that also will lead us down the road to be something different. What that difference is will be up to us if we seize the opportunities rather than delude ourselves into thinking that change isn't ongoing or influential.
    Obama has shown us the importance of the collective. In Jewish life we have abandoned the collective for the 80-20 or 90-10 rule -- the idea that 80-90 percent of the money comes from 10-20 percent of the donors. This has driven us to discount the masses as serious funding partners of Jewish life. Obama raised millions from the grass roots. He saw their potential. We need to see it as well, especially during a massive economic downturn. They are our opportunity.
    Obama created his campaign as a cause and a movement. We need to create a cause and a movement among the Jewish masses, concentrating on the next generation but including other generations as well.
    Are we not about causes? Do we not work to repair the world? Do we not offer service and volunteer opportunities? Do we not have the stuff of which to be a social-, justice-, identity- and nation-building movement? Do we not have nearly 6 million Jews in America from which to draw, as well as millions of others who have respect and belief in our work?
    Obama has demonstrated for us a powerful model of community organizing. That model began with the concept of Camp Obama, where people were trained in the organizing and fund-raising techniques. We need as relevant and conceptual an idea for how we train our leaders, organizers and fund-raisers. We need to harness the power of the Internet for as strategic, pervasive and creative of a viral effort in community organizing and fund raising.
    To do this, we must expand the Internet and communications departments within Jewish organizations. I see everywhere how these departments are still being viewed as invitation shops, being strangled with the demands for e-vites to events and are not being perceived as strategic partners to be invested in for the creation of sophisticated communication, Internet and viral strategies that a new era demands.
    But more than anything, Obama has been a beacon of vision. He built a perception of visionary leadership throughout his campaign and during his inauguration. He projects himself as a leader. He speaks about ideas. He telegraphs to the issues of a new generation. He offers content. He exudes intelligence, charisma and humanity. Do our communal leaders do this? Do they inspire?
    We have much to learn from this American president. He has created a framework that offers our community great opportunity and possibility. Are we going to be strategic enough to take advantage? Or are we just going to become petty, fight with and challenge one another, while it slips through our fingers?
    (Gary Wexler is the owner of Passion Marketing, consulting with some of the largest nonprofits in the world, including many in Jewish life. He is a JTA board member.)

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    EU aid chief Louis Michel blames Hamas for Gaza devastation

    Last update - 19:05 26/01/2009       
    EU aid chief: Hamas has 'enormous responsibility' for Gaza war
    By Reuters
    Standing in the war-torn Gaza Strip on Monday, the European Union's foreign aid chief condemned Hamas for acting like "a terrorist movement," and accused the Islamist group of having "enormous responsibility" for the devastation caused during Gaza in three weeks of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
    Louis Michel was among the most senior foreign officials to visit the coastal enclave since Hamas seized control in 2007.
    "Hamas has an enormous responsibility for what happened here in Gaza," said Michel, the humanitarian aid commissioner, as he stood in a United Nations aid compound damaged by an Israeli shelling.
    He echoed Israeli criticisms that Hamas used civilians as "human shields" by fighting in populated areas and, describing Hamas rocket fire on Israel as a "provocation", he said in English: "Hamas is acting in the way of a terrorist movement."
    Michel also criticized Israel for the offensive - which it launched in a bid to end daily rocket fire from Gaza on its southern communities - and appealed to Israel to allow in more aid.
    Hamas said it was "shocked" at his comments.
    Michel, a former Belgian foreign minister, said that, in line with EU policy, he did not meet Hamas officials, most of whom have remained out of sight since fighting ended a week ago.
    The European Union is the biggest donor to the Palestinians and Michel announced a further 58 million euros in humanitarian aid for 2009, of which 32 million euros would go to Gaza.
    Speaking of the Israeli bombardment, he criticized the destruction of factories and other economic infrastructure: "What I saw was abominable. It was unjustified," Michel said.
    He called on Israel to open its crossing points with the Gaza Strip "massively", to let in not only food and medicines but materials required for reconstruction.
    Israel denies entry to supplies such as cement and steel piping, saying that these can be used by Hamas for military ends. Israel has also defended its military tactics in Gaza, saying they were appropriate for warfare in congested areas. A Hamas official, Mushir al-Masri, criticized Michel's remarks.
    "It was shocking to see a European official giving cover to massacres and terrorism committed by the Zionist enemy against the Palestinian people," he said.
    "Palestinian resistance is as legitimate as the resistance of European countries that fought against foreign occupiers."
    Michel, who said both sides should be held accountable for breaches of international law, said: "When you kill innocents, it is not resistance. It is terrorism."

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    IDF: Only 250 of Gaza fatalities were civilians

    Senior military sources say recent findings indicate at least 700 of those killed in Gaza offensive were gunmen. Palestinians claim only 300 armed men killed
    Hanan Greenberg Published:  01.26.09, 12:38 / Israel News 
    A continuing IDF investigation into the number of civilian Palestinian casualties during the Israeli offensive in Gaza indicated that only 250 of the fatalities were civilians.

    The military estimates that between 1,100 and 1,200 people were killed during the offensive. Some 700 of are believed to be militants and most are believed to be Hamas operatives.
    The IDF is still trying to ascertain the identity of the remaining fatalities, but security sources said many would probably turn out to be militants as well. "Hamas is familiar with the numbers and is doing everything it can to concealed them," said an IDF source.
    The data presented by the Palestinian is vastly different: Palestinian Groups operating in the Strip have reported 92 of the fatalities as gunmen, 48 of whom were affiliated with Hamas, 32 with Islamic Jihad, 10 with the Popular Resistance Committees' Salah a-Din Brigades and two with the Mujahedeen Brigades.
    According to a Palestinian source, the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were killed in air raids. The Palestinians reported 200 police officers were killed in the first day of the Gaza shelling, alone.
    Hamas claimed that "the Israelis are concealing their losses and lying about the losses suffered by the Palestinians."
    'Ratio of 1:3'
    The military is doing everything it can to compile accurate data regarding the identity of those killed in Gaza, including debriefing soldiers and cross-referencing their information with intelligence.
    Gaza Division Chief Brigadier-General Eyal Eisenberg alluded to the fact that the majority of the Palestinian fatalities were Hamas operatives, but refused to specify numbers.
    The IDF has yet to verify the identity of some 200 fatalities, mostly men in their 20s, whose identification is delayed because they are still buried under the rubble. The defense establishment believed many of them would prove to be Hamas men.
    Many of the fatalities were considered to be civilians at first, because there were no weapons found with them, said a military source, "But that method of operation is consistent with the way Hamas was hiding in the midst of civilians, moving between their strongholds with no weapons. In many cases someone thought to be a civilian casualty turned out to be a Hamas operative after we ran our checks."
    The civilian-gunman casualty ratio, he added, was one to three, proving that the IDF was targeting Hamas and not civilians. The IDF stressed that the forces took significant precautions in order to avoid harming any civilians; but considering the way that Hamas chose to involve civilians in the fighting, mounting a surgical strike resulting in absolutely no civilian casualties was impossible.
    Armistice likely to hold
    As for the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the defense establishment believes it is likely to hold; especially given Hamas' failure to boast about any substantial achievements, like kidnapping a soldier.
    "The devastation in Gaza, which is a direct result of the nature of a battlefield formed by Hamas, is enormous and it's a deterrent factor for Hamas, which finally realizes the might if the IDF," said a defense establishment source.
    "They don't seem to be interested in violating the ceasefire, but if the do, they will realize that (Israel) has no intention of reverting back to the days of a surgical response."
    The success of Operation Cast Lead, added the source, has led the military to begin implementing some of the operational patterns used in the offensive to other sectors.
    Ali Waked contributed to this report

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Sunday, January 25, 2009

    Egypt persecutes Muslim moderates

    This speaks for itself...
    Egypt persecutes Muslim moderates
    By Ahmed Subhy Mansour Published: January 23, 2009
    Many Americans do not realize that there is a war being waged in Egypt against Muslim reformers. These reformers call themselves "Koranists" because they focus solely on the Koran and advocate a modern interpretation of Islam that rejects Shariah law.
    These self-declared leaders of the "Islamic Reformation" number in the thousands and are connected globally through the Internet. For nearly a decade, as this movement has gained momentum, they have come under increased attack from the Egyptian government for their religious ideas. Al Azhar University, which is based in Cairo and is the leading center for conservative Sunni learning in the world, has rejected the views of the Koranists and has sought to systematically dismantle the movement.
    To curry favor with this influential religious establishment, the Egyptian government has brutally cracked down on members of the Koranist movement, leading to the imprisonment and torture of over 20 members and the exile of many more. This unique collaboration between the government and Islamic traditionalists refutes current claims by the state that Egypt is secular and that it is working to fight extremism and terrorism.
    In the latest effort to destroy this fledgling reform movement, a young Koranist blogger named Reda Abdel Rahman was arrested on Oct. 27 and charged with "insulting Islam." Rahman's popular blog criticizes the religious establishment - largely based on his training at Al Azhar. His blog calls for widespread religious and political reform in Egypt and the larger Muslim world. According to Rahman's lawyers, his arrest was requested by the head of Al Azhar after Rahman refused to suspend his blog. He was then detained and tortured in an unknown location for over a month until international pressure forced the government to disclose his whereabouts.
    "The Egyptian security position against Reda is incomprehensible" said Heba Abdel Rahman, Reda's sister. "They allow visits to the families of Muslim Brotherhood detainees, but they would not allow us the same rights. When we protested they pointed their guns at us, threatened to open fire, and threw us out of the police station."

    Six local human rights organizations have volunteered to defend Reda and sent lawyers to his interrogation. "It was like an inquisition from the Middle Ages," said Ahmed Samih, head of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies. "The Egyptian general prosecutor was asking Reda whether he prays or not, how he prays, and why he denies some of the Sunni traditions."

    Prominent Egyptian activists like Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim blame the Egyptian Emergency Law for the human rights abuses characterized by Rahman's arrest. The law, which was enacted after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, effectively suspended the Constitution and allowed the government unprecedented powers. While the government insists that the law is important in the fight against terrorism, Ibrahim asserts that it is being used instead to limit the freedom of reformers.
    "The government promised to use emergency laws only in terrorism cases," he said. "The irony is that the Emergency Law is now being used against bloggers who use the Internet to fight terrorism!"
    In a surprising twist, the Egyptian High National Security Court has ordered Rahman's release. Despite this ruling - and the unprecedented statement by the court that "arresting people solely on the basis of their religious beliefs is not acceptable" - Rahman remains in prison.
    This refusal by the state to execute the court's order is clear evidence of the collaboration between Egypt's security establishment and the religious institutions against any reform.
    Islamic reformers in Egypt face severe political obstacles in their efforts to confront religious extremists. It is important that the United States and the international community reaffirm their support for Reda and his fellow Muslim reformers in order to ensure that those fighting for an "Islamic Reformation" are successful.
    Ahmed Subhy Mansour is president of the International Quranic Center in Washington.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas wants 1 year truce, Israel wants 18 months

    Last update - 19:26 25/01/2009       
    Hamas: Israel proposes 18-month Gaza truce, but we insist on just one year
    By News Agencies
    A Hamas official said Sunday that Israel has proposed to Egyptian mediators an 18-month cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, but the Islamist group - which controls the coastal territory - is insisting on a truce of just one year.
    "Hamas listened to the Israeli proposal presented by [Defense Ministry official] Amos Gilad, and with it a proposal for a ceasefire for a year and a half, but Hamas presented a counterproposal of one year only," Ayman Taha told reporters in Cairo after talks with Egyptian intelligence officials.
    Jerusalem has not yet released information on the results of Gilad's meeting in Egypt.

    Taha reiterated the group's calls for a lifting of the blockade imposed on the impoverished and devastated Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt as a condition for the truce. "[Hamas] called for a complete lifting of the blockade and an opening of all the crossings," Taha said.
    Hamas proposed to Egyptian mediators that European and Turkish monitors be present at the border crossings, but rejected the presence of Israeli monitors, saying Israeli monitoring was "a large part of the problem," according to Taha.
    Asked if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's forces would be present at the crossings, Taha said: "Hamas is the existing government in Gaza."
    Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas's Fatah faction in fighting in 2007. Egypt has ruled out opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the Palestinian Authority and European Union observers.
    Commenting on the talks, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told Al Jazeera satellite television on Sunday that Hamas was unwilling to alter its positions to Israel's benefit.
    "The Israelis must understand that they will not achieve through politics what they failed to do militarily," Hamdan said.
    Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip in late December with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities. About 1,300 Palestinians, at least 700 of them civilians, were killed during the 22-day offensive, while Israel put its death toll at 10 soldiers and three civilians.

    Hamas: No reconciliation with Fatah until it ends Israel peace talks
    Hamas official Hamdan also said Sunday that Fatah movement must end peace negotiations with Israel before any reconciliation talks can take place.
    The remarks were bound to complicate Arab efforts to reconcile Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
    Speaking at a rally in Beirut Sunday, Hamdan - a close ally of Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal - said that the group welcomed Palestinian dialogue, but any reconciliation should be based on a resistance program to liberate territory and regain rights.
    He also demanded that the PA end security coordination with Israel, and maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ended.
    "Those who committed mistakes must correct their mistakes through a clear and frank declaration to stop security coordination with the [Israeli] occupation, release [Hamas] prisoners and later end negotiations [with Israel] because the peace process is irreversibly over," said Hamdan.
    "It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the [occupied] territory and regain rights," he added.
    Hamas: No mediated truce unless Gaza borders opened
    Earlier Sunday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Islamist militant group would not accept any mediated truce agreement with Israel in Gaza unless Israel reopened the Palestinian territory's border crossings.
    Barhoum made the comments ahead of talks with Egyptian officials on means to reopen the Gaza border, largely closed since the group violently took over Gaza in June 2007.
    "We are not going to accept less than opening the borders ... and lifting the sanctions," said the spokesman, adding that discussions would address a detailed cease-fire agreement.
    The issue of the crossings is key to preserving the cease-fire declared after Israel's 3-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Israel, the United States and Egypt are trying to work out security arrangements to ensure Hamas does not smuggle weapons into the strip before any opening.
    Another Hamas spokesman, Ayman Taha, told London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper Saturday that his group wants European Union and Turkish troops to patrol Gaza's border crossings with Israel.
    "We reject an open-ended cease-fire, but temporary calm with guarantees can be discussed," he also said, without specifying how long.
    A low-level delegation from Hamas' rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based government, is also in Cairo for talks, but is not expected to meet with the Hamas envoys.
    Asharq Al-Awsat also reported Saturday that Hamas had suggested representatives of the Palestinian Authority be stationed at the Rafah crossing, but that they be residents of Gaza, not the West Bank.
    Israel has been allowing some supply convoys into Gaza, though its borders remain largely closed. The Israel Defense Forces says more than 125 trucks a day - on some days nearly 200 - have entered Gaza since fighting ended on January 17th, but aid workers say the numbers are not enough.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Hamas demands end to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks

    Well ok, let's see J-Street justify this....
    Last update - 16:21 25/01/2009       
    Hamas: No reconciliation with Fatah until it ends Israel peace talks
    By News Agencies
    A senior Hamas official on Sunday said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement must end peace negotiations with Israel before any reconciliation talks can take place.
    The remarks by Osama Hamdan were bound to complicate Arab efforts to reconcile Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
    Hamdan is Hamas' representative in Lebanon and is close to top Damascus-based political leader Khaled Meshal.
    Speaking at a rally in Beirut Sunday, Hamdan said Hamas welcomed Palestinian dialogue, but any reconciliation should be based on a resistance program to liberate territory and regain rights.
    He also demanded that the PA end security coordination with Israel, and maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ended.
    Earlier Sunday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that the Islamist militant group would not accept any mediated truce agreement with Israel in Gaza unless Israel reopened the Palestinian territory's border crossings.
    Barhoum made the comments ahead of talks with Egyptian officials on means to reopen the Gaza border, largely closed since the group violently took over Gaza in June 2007.
    "We are not going to accept less than opening the borders ... and lifting the sanctions," said the spokesman, adding that discussions would address a detailed cease-fire agreement.
    The issue of the crossings is key to preserving the cease-fire declared after Israel's 3-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Israel, the United States and Egypt are trying to work out security arrangements to ensure Hamas does not smuggle weapons into the strip before any opening.
    Another Hamas spokesman, Ayman Taha, told London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper Saturday that his group wants European Union and Turkish troops to patrol Gaza's border crossings with Israel.
    "We reject an open-ended cease-fire, but temporary calm with guarantees can be discussed," he also said, without specifying how long.
    A low-level delegation from Hamas' rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based government, is also in Cairo for talks, but is not expected to meet with the Hamas envoys.
    Asharq Al-Awsat also reported Saturday that Hamas had suggested representatives of the Palestinian Authority be stationed at the Rafah crossing, but that they be residents of Gaza, not the West Bank.
    Israel has been allowing some supply convoys into Gaza, though its borders remain largely closed. The Israel Defense Forces says more than 125 trucks a day - on some days nearly 200 - have entered Gaza since fighting ended on January 17th, but aid workers say the numbers are not enough.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    Egyptian official: Israel's Gaza operation was a success

    For those who are wondering who won...
    Last update - 16:34 24/01/2009       
    Egyptian official: Israel achieved all of its military goals in Gaza
    By Haaretz Service and Army Radio

    An Egyptian official has said that Israel achieved all of its military objectives during "Operation Cast Lead" in the Gaza Strip, having exacted serious blows to Hamas and it's infrastructure, according to an article published in the Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat on Saturday.
    The official is quoted in the article as saying that senior Hamas leaders are still in hiding out of fear of Israel Defense Forces strikes, and that Israel is not interested in pursuing a new calm or Tahadiyeh with the militant group.
    On Friday, the commander of the IDF Paratroopers' Brigade, Colonel Hertzi Halevy, said that the IDF achieved its goals during Cast Lead, according to Israel Radio.
    During an interview with Israel Radio, Halevy said that no one expected to rid the Strip entirely of rocket launchers or smuggling tunnels, but that the operation will teach Hamas that "a second round won't be such a good idea."
    Halevy added that during the fighting his troops came across a large number of explosive devices, booby-trapped houses, and attempted kidnappings of IDF troops.
    When asked about the high number of civilian casualties in the Strip, Halevy told Israel Radio that his soldiers gave a huge effort to ensure that civilians were not harmed.
    Halevy also told Israel Radio he is hopeful that the operation will help forge conditions that make it easier to bring about the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in Gaza since 2006.

    Continued (Permanent Link)

    5 Polls: Likud 28-35 Kadima 21-25 Labor 14-17 Yisrael Beiteinu 12-16

    5 Polls: Likud 28-35 Kadima 21-25 Labor 14-17  Yisrael Beiteinu 12-16 73.7% expect renewed fighting with Hamas within two years
    Dr. Aaron Lerner Date 24 January 2009

    Poll #1 TNS Teleseker for Maariv apparently on 22 January 2009. Published on 23 January

    Poll #2 Dahaf for Yediot Ahronot apparently on 22 January 2009. Published on 23 January

    Poll #3 New Wave for Yisrael Hayom on 21  January 2009. Published on 22 January

    Poll #4 Geocartography for Globes on 21 January 2009. Published on 22 January

    Poll #5 Israel Television Channel 2 "Mishal Cham" program 20 January 2009.

    Current Knesset seats in [brackets].

    #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
    24 25 25 21 22 [29] Kadima headed by Livni
    16 17 15 15 14 [19] Labor
    28 29 35 32 30 [12] Likud
    09 10 09 09 11 [12] Shas
    16 14 12 16 16 [11] Yisrael Beteinu
    04 02 02 04 02 [03] "Jewish Home" (previously NRP)
    06 06 05 05 05 [06] Yahadut Hatorah
    06 05 06 05 07 [05] Meretz
    00 00 00 00 00 [00] Green Party
    00 00 00 00 00 [07] Retirees Party
    09 09 09 10 09 [10] Arab parties
    00 00 00 00 01 [00] Meimad
    00 00 00 00 00 [00] Strong Israel (Efraim Sneh)
    02 03 02 03 02 [06] National Union (reconstituted)
    00 00 00 00 00 [00] Social Justice (Gaydamak Party)
    00 00 00 00 01 [00] Green Leaf (legalize marijuana)
    *  1 seat is not enough to get into the Knesset as need 2% of valid votes.

    Poll #1 TNS Teleseker for Maariv apparently on 22 January 2009. Published on 22 January

    Was the decision by the Israeli leadership to declare a ceasefire in Gaza and not continue the fighting the right decision? Yes 57.8% No 37.6%

    What do you think was the main reason that the leadership decided to declare a ceasefire in Gaza and not continue the fighting?
    31.7% International pressure
    20.7% Fear of IDF losses
    19.3% Barak Obama becoming president
    16.6% Fear of being sucked into an ongoing occupation of Gaza
    4.4% Continued damage to the front
    3.7% Other reasons
    3.7% Don't know

    Will there be another round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the next two years?
    Certain yes 37.2% Think but not certain 36.5%
    Think no 18.3% Don't know 7.9%

    Poll #2 Telephone poll of a representative sample of adult Israelis including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by Dahaf for Yediot Ahronot apparently on 22 January 2009. Published on 23 January.
    What grade do you give for the performance of the following in the  Cast Lead operation?
    Livni" Good 63% Bad 31%
    Netanyahu: Good 65% Bad 23%
    Olmert: Good 68% Bad 35%
    Barak: Good 77% Bad 19%
    Ashkenazi: Good 85% Bad 13%

    Who should be the next defense minister?
    Barak 52% Yaalon 16% Mofaz 15%

    Who would you like to be prime minister?
    Netanyahu 35% Livni 26% Barak 14%

    How long will the ceasefire last?
    Month or less 25% Few months 34% Long period 27%

    Was it justified to void the participation of the Arab parties in the elections [AL: The Supreme Court overturned the decision]
    Yes 61% No 32%

    Should the operation have halted in Gaza or should all of Gaza been conquered?
    Stop 44%   Conquer all of Gaza 48%

    Should hundreds of prisoners - including prisoners with blood on their hands - be released in exchange for Gilad Shalit?
    Yes 66% No 25%

    Should the operation have been continued until the release of Gilad Shalit?
    Yes 56% no 36%:

    Poll #3 Telephone poll of a representative sample of 623 adult Israelis including Israeli Arabs)  carried out by New Wave for Yisrael Hayom on 21 January 2009. Published on 22 January also asks:
    Was Cast Lead in Gaza a success or failure?
    Success 59% Failure 18% Don't know 23%

    IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

    Continued (Permanent Link)

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