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Continued (Permanent Link)

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Muslims: Beware of Valentine's Day

Guard against St. Valentine's day O sons of the prophet!. According to Egyptian cleric Hazem Shuman:

  "In a few days time, a very dangerous virus will attack the body of the nation. What virus? Is it AIDS? No, something more dangerous. Something more dangerous than Ebola, which dissolves the human body, more dangerous than cholera, which killed half of Europe a few centuries ago... I have come tonight to warn all boys and girls about an extremely dangerous virus, which is about to attack the hearts of the nation's youth, and to destroy our relations with God. We must confront this Valentine virus!"

Alack and Alas! Shuman warned:

,,, everything red will become more expensive" ... one red thing will become cheaper: the blood of Muslims. All this is the result of the sins committed by Muslim youth."

Heaven forfend!

Continued (Permanent Link)

Khaled Abu Toameh surveys the Palestinian situation after Gaza

Who can doubt that this is how it really is, beyond the propaganda?  

February 1, 2009

A Minority Report from the West Bank and Gaza

 Khaled Abu Toameh is not your typical Palestinian journalist. He began his career at one of Yasser Arafat's newspapers and today he writes for the Jerusalem Post. He has produced video for European TV stations, and even blogged for a while at Commentary Magazine in New York. It's impossible to cram Toameh into a convenient ideological box, though that doesn't stop some people from trying.

I met him briefly a few weeks ago on my trip to Israel sponsored by the American Jewish Committee when he gave a talk to me and my colleagues and answered some questions at the end. I'm reproducing the entire transcript here because I think he deserves a full hearing.

Hamas, Fatah, Americans, Israelis, Europeans, Arab governments, American foreign correspondents – just about everybody involved in any way with the conflict comes under some well-deserved fire. There's something here for just about everybody to like and dislike, and I'm publishing what he said without quote-shopping or cherry-picking his words for convenience.

Khaled Abu Toameh: When I finished high school the PLO offices hired me as a correspondent, and I worked for a PLO newspaper for seven years during which time I attended university in Jerusalem. After I graduated I had to make a decision: do I go back and work for the PLO, or do I try to become a real journalist? It took me about two seconds to make that decision. I decided to work with the international media and the Israeli media.

When I say "work with the international media," what does that mean? We have hundreds of foreign journalists who come to this part of the world – every year, every month, and sometimes every week – to cover the stories here. Now there are two stories here. There's the one that's happening inside Israel, and there's the one that's happening inside the Palestinian areas.

Fortunately for us, Israel is an open country that allows people to write whatever they want, criticize the prime minister, the defense minister, the IDF. You can write all these horrible things against Israel and still walk in downtown Jerusalem. But when it comes to covering the Palestinian territories, the story is completely different. You can't wake up in the morning as a foreign journalist and drive on your own into a Palestinian village. You can't just show up and say "Good morning, I work for the New York Times, can I speak to Hamas please." It doesn't work like that for a number of reasons. You don't know the language and need a translator. You don't know your way around. And most important, it's not safe.

So foreign journalists who want to cover stories in the Palestinian areas rely on fixers. And that's where I fit in. For the past twenty years or so I've been working as a fixer, translator, advisor – call it whatever you want – with most of the foreign media. And of course in this work with the international media I got myself a number of jobs, one of which I'm still doing. I even have colleagues here. For the past twenty years I've been working with NBC News, and I was blogging for Commentary Magazine also. I was writing for U.S. News and World Report, occasionally for the Wall Street Journal, and a number of British tabloids. In the course of this work with the international media I became a writer and analyst of Palestinian affairs and a film producer for the BBC.

About eight years ago, when the Second Intifada started, I started writing for the Jerusalem Post about Palestinian issues. And I still work with the international media. My job is to serve as the eyes and ears of the international media.

Some of you may be wondering what's going on with this guy who started working as a journalist for the PLO and ends up writing for a Jewish newspaper. Some people ask me "when did you become a Zionist? When did you become pro-Israel?" Well, I'm not pro-anything other than the facts and the truth. As a journalist I don't have any problem working for any newspaper that provides me with a platform. I don't care if it's Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or even Buddhist.

And to be honest with you, I find it ironic that as an Arab Muslim living in this part of the world that I have to work for a Jewish newspaper or for the international media in order to be able to practice any kind of real journalism. Why? Because we don't have any free media. In the Palestinian areas we didn't have it when I was working there in the 1970s and 1980s, we didn't get one when we brought Yasser Arafat in to start the Palestinian Authority, and of course we don't have a free media today under Fatah, Hamas, and the rest of the gangs that are running the show out there. And this is very sad.

Sometimes I wish the problem with the media was the only problem that we have over there, but as you all know it's a very messy situation. I'm one of those who has been arguing for the past fifteen years that things have been going in the wrong direction in this part of the world. For a few months after signing Oslo we reached the point where many Jews and many Arabs missed the good old days before the peace process began.

Now, what do I mean by that? Oslo was not bad. Oslo was based on the idea of a two-state solution and ending the military occupation in one way or another. So the idea of Oslo was not bad. Separation between Jews and Palestinians who did not want to live together. And as such I supported it. I thought it was a good idea.

But the way Oslo was implemented brought disaster on both Jews and Arabs. The assumption back then in the U.S., in Israel, and in many places in Europe, was that if you bring the PLO and thousands of PLO fighters and you dump them into the West Bank and Gaza and you give them millions of dollars and guns that they will do the dirty job of policing the West Bank and Gaza. They would replace the occupation and fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad. They would do all these wonderful things. Why? Because they're on our payroll.

So the international community and Israel gathered all these PLO fighters from around the world, released thousands of PLO fighters from Israeli prisons, gave them uniforms and guns, and called them security forces. And the result was the people who had never received any basic training, people who had never finished high school, became colonels and generals in Yasser Arafat's Authority. He established sixteen different security forces with the help of the Americans, the Europeans, and the Israelis. And they started pouring money into this regime that they called the Palestinian Authority. Billions of dollars with the hope that Arafat would deliver.

Now, there's no need to elaborate. As you all know, Arafat turned out to be a crook. Most of the money that was sent to the Palestinian Authority literally went down the drain and supported the shopping sprees of Arafat's wife who was living in Paris. Instead of building us a hospital, Arafat built a casino in Jericho, as if the Palestinian revolution aspired for forty years to get us a casino. And the chutzpah was that he built that casino across the street from a refugee camp. So Palestinians did not see the fruits of peace.

My argument is as follows. The fact that Arafat was crooked didn't surprise us Palestinians. We were only surprised by the fact that the international community kept giving him money and refused to hold him accountable when he stole our money. Why didn't they invest something? They didn't want to believe it.

When I tried to alert my foreign colleagues in 1995, 1996, and 1997, to the fact that there was corruption in the Palestinian Authority, many of them asked me if I was on the payroll of the Jewish Lobby. I wanted to know where was this Jewish Lobby? If there was one maybe they would pay me.

I told them: "This is what I am hearing. The writing is on the wall. Come and listen to what Palestinians are saying." And they told me they weren't interested in that story. They told me they wanted anti-Israel stories because it made their lives so much easier. They told me they didn't want to write anything bad about Palestinians, that Arafat was a man of peace and should be given a chance. I heard this from major American journalists, by the way. Leading American journalists. I don't want to give you their names right now, but I was really frustrated. And angry.

Listen. For all these years we've been attacking the military occupation. So why is it that when I tell you something that Arafat is doing, suddenly you don't want to report it and think it's Jewish propaganda? Most of these journalists did not even want to make any effort.

By depriving these people of money, what did Arafat do? He radicalized the Palestinians who did not see the fruits of peace. So that's reason number one why Palestinian society is radicalized.

But there are other reasons. Reasons number two is that you gave Yasser Arafat guns so that he could kill Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but instead he directed those guns against anyone who said they wanted reform or democracy. Arafat used your guns, your weapons, provided by the United States of America, to suppress the leaders of a new leadership.

Let me give you an example. In 1997, 29 Palestinian professors signed a petition demanding Yasser Arafat end the corruption. They found themselves either shot or killed or thrown into jail or they had to run away from the country. And of course this is not a story you would see on CNN. I don't think even the New York Times reported that.

So Arafat cracked down on the reformists and the democrats and the people who wanted good government. And he sent the rest of the people into the open arms of Hamas. He cracked down on the reformists and he refused to crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Reason number three. You gave Yasser Arafat money to open a TV and radio station. And on this TV and radio station Arafat said "Jihad, jihad, kill the crusaders, kill the Jews, kill the infidels, kill everyone but me." Now you may ask yourself why Arafat was inciting against his peace partners in Israel, why was he inciting against the Americans and Europeans who were feeding him? It doesn't make sense.

Well, to us it does make sense. This is how our Arab dictators survive. They constantly blame the miseries of our people on the Jews and the West and the Crusaders and the infidels and the Zionist lobby and the imperialists. They use all these slogans. Arab leaders always need to make sure that their people are busy hating somebody else, preferably the Jews and the Americans. Otherwise their people might rebel, and God forbid they might demand reforms and democracy.

This is exactly what Arafat did, but he did it in Arabic. The international community – and even Israelis – did not want to listen to what Arafat was saying in Arabic. They only cared what he said in English. They said that what he said in English was good.

I said "Excuse me, folks, but in Arabic Arafat is telling people to kill you." But they did not want to listen to the incitement. They underestimated it. They said "you Arabs are all corrupt and don't know anything about democracy so you deserve a dictatorship."

This incitement drove people into the open arms of Hamas. Arafat was telling people how evil the Jews are, and people then said "Hamas is right, Jews are the sons of monkeys and pigs. Why should we make peace with them?"

A fourth reason, which is a lot less important in my view, is that Israelis brought the PLO into the Palestinian areas, armed the PLO, helped create all these security militias and gangsters and mafias, and then said they needed to protect themselves from their peace partners. And how did they protect themselves? By imposing restrictions and curfews, by surrounding Palestinian communities with checkpoints. Why? Because they needed to protect themselves from the militias and mafias that they brought into the West Bank and Gaza. So Palestinians lost faith in the peace process.

All this radicalized Palestinian society to the point that when Hamas decided to run in free and democratic elections under the banner of "change" and "reform" they won. It was all very obvious. The writing was clear on the wall that anyone who challenged Arafat back then....believe me that if even Ehud Olmert had run in the Palestinian elections promising change and reform and democracy he would have won. Because in January of 2006, the parliamentary elections that were held in the Palestinian Authority were largely about internal reforms in the Palestinian areas. Hamas was ready to deliver. What did they do? They came to the Palestinians and said "Listen, folks. You've tried all these PLO people. They're corrupt. They're bad. Arafat was a thief. Abu Mazen is also a total failure. These guys stole your money. These guys are US agents, they are CIA. Why don't you try us now? We will show you that we can establish good government. And, by the way, look at what we've done for you since 1988. We've established a vast network of educational, social, health, and economic services. Arafat built a casino, and we built two universities. Arafat gave his wife 100,000 dollars a month so she can do her shopping while we gave poor people money. Arafat built bars and restaurants in Ramallah while we built orphanages and charities." So the Palestinians said "Let's try Hamas. If they come to power there is nothing left to steal. They can't be more corrupt than the PLO."

That was the basic line. I'm not saying all those who voted for Hamas in 2006 were registering a vote of protest. We have to be very careful. Hamas does have a lot of supporters. What I'm saying is that had it not been also a vote of protest against the PLO , Hamas would not have won. Why? Because I know Christians who voted for Hamas. I know centrist Palestinians who voted for Hamas. I even know PLO people who voted for Hamas because the name of the game back then was "Let's punish the PLO." And how do you do it? By voting for Hamas, their main rivals. And it worked. And Hamas came to power.

What has been happening since then is also very interesting. The U.S. government, with the help of some Europeans and some Israelis, after Hamas won the election, they went to the guys who lost the election and said "folks, here are guns and here is some money. Go bring down this democratically elected government." And what was the result of this U.S. meddling in Palestinian affairs? It backfired. It played into the hands of Hamas and even boosted Hamas' popularity on the street.

What did Palestinians think when they saw Condoleeza Rice and George W. Bush openly campaigning against this democratically elected government? Their sympathies went to this democratically elected government even though it was Hamas. And when Palestinians see PLO people, the Fatah people, openly conspiring with the Americans and the Israelis to bring down a democratically elected government, they're going to hate the PLO even more.

So U.S. and European meddling in Palestinian affairs in the aftermath of the Hamas victory further strengthened Hamas to the point where in June 2007 Hamas says "Everyone is trying to bring me down. No one is giving me a chance. The whole world is against me. You corrupt PLO people are conspiring against me. I won in a free and democratic election. If you don't believe me, ask Jimmy Carter. He supervised the election. What does everyone want from me?"

And they staged a coup. Some people call it a coup. They threw the Fatah people out of Gaza. Fewer than 10,000 Hamas fighters defeated more than 70,000 American-backed Fatah policemen. The question is, how did they do it?

The answer is very simple. As soon as Hamas started shooting, these people did not fight. They ran away. They surrendered to Hamas. They basically went to Hamas and said "No, no, Hamas, please. We will give you all the guns, everything. Just leave us alone." And they ran away.

First they tried to run away toward Egypt. But Mubarak is not stupid. He sealed the border. I was there when it happened.

Israel was the only country in the world that sent troops and helicopters and gunships and ambulances to save Muslims from being slaughtered by Muslims, to save the PLO people from being slaughtered by Hamas. Israel took them and dumped them in the West Bank.

And where are we standing today? I told you before that I'm one of those people who support a two-state solution. I think it's a wonderful solution. But in the end we're getting a different kind of two-state solution. We have two separate entities. One in Gaza, and one in the West Bank.

The one in Gaza is an Islamic state run by Hamas and supported by Ahmadinejad, Syria, Hezbollah, and some people say Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. It's a very dangerous situation, and as a moderate Muslim that's the last place I want to live on this earth.

What we have in the West Bank is the secular, corrupt, powerless regime of the PLO. Abu Mazen, Abu Shmazen, all these Abus. The Arafat cronies who failed their people over the past fifteen years. Who lost the election in January 2006 because of the corruption. Who were kicked out of Gaza because they failed. Who have lost control over half the Palestinians who live in this part of the world. And they are sitting in Ramallah. These people are in power only thanks to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. If the Israeli army were to leave the West Bank tomorrow morning these PLO people would collapse in five minutes and Hamas would take over.

The question we should ask ourselves in the wake of this scenario is whether or not there is really a partner on the Palestinian side for any deal, let alone a peace agreement. Any kind of deal. Is there really a partner on the Palestinian side? And the answer is simple. No.

Hamas is not a partner for any peace agreement because Hamas is not going to change. All these people who believe that Hamas will one day change its ideology, that pragmatic leaders will emerge in Hamas, these people are living under illusions. Hamas is not going to change. To their credit we must say that their message has been very clear. It's the same message in Arabic and in English. They're being very honest about it. They're saying "Folks, we will never recognize Israel. We will never change. We will not abandon the path of the resistance." They're very clear about it.

After they won the election, by the way, the international community went to Hamas and said "Listen. If you want us to deal with you, accept Israel and everything will be okay." And Hamas was very honest. They said "No. We are not going to renounce terrorism. We are not going to recognize previous agreements between Palestinians and Israel. And we are not going to recognize Israel's right to exist." They were very clear about it. And they say the same thing today.

Ten days before the Hamas coup in Gaza I was invited by some U.S. diplomats to tell them about what was happening. I told them "Hamas is about to kick the PLO people out of Gaza because you are openly with the PLO and it has discredited them on the street. You're making them look like CIA agents."

The U.S. diplomats said "You don't know what you're talking about. The PLO has 70,000 people. Who is Hamas? They will crush them. You will see."

My prediction was not 100 percent accurate because I expected it to happen in three weeks. It happened ten days later. The writing was very clear on the wall.

There are so many things that are obvious in this part of the world that international leaders, diplomats, all these people in the West who are dealing with the Palestinian issue turn a blind eye to and don't want to see. Before we go to the Q&A and I take your questions, I want to give you one small example of how people in the West don't want to understand what's going on over here.

Before the January 2006 parliamentary election, the PLO people went to Condoleeza Rice and said "You are making a huge mistake by forcing us to go and have a free and democratic election. Our people don't trust us. We are corrupt and we will lose. Hamas will win. So please let's not hold an election. This is not the right time."

"No, don't worry," she said. "Let Hamas participate in the election. Hamas will not win. Everything will be okay."

They asked her how she knew Hamas was not going to win. She said she warned the Palestinians that if they vote for Hamas, she will punish them.

That warning, by the way, gave Hamas ten more points in the election. Hamas took Rice's statement and made huge banners out of it that said Condoleeza Rice says no to Hamas.

So Rice, knowing that Hamas is a terrorist organization, did not set any preconditions for Hamas' participation in the election. Even in Israel, by the way, Hamas candidates were openly campaigning in Israel, in Jerusalem. In East Jerusalem, okay, but in Israel. They were campaigning openly. They were saying "reforms, democracy, and by the way we want to destroy Israel."

What made Rice, after they won the election, say Hamas is a terrorist organization? Before the election they were not a terrorist organization? She bears responsibility for the fact that Hamas is in power. It was a huge mistake. Instead of learning from their mistakes after Hamas came to power, they continued with the same mistakes. And look at the mess we are in now.

I don't know how to solve this problem. Talking about a Palestinian state today is a joke. Where would that state be established? Israel controls nearly half of the West Bank. These PLO people can't deliver. If Israel gives up the West Bank, you will have to go to Cairo or Amman to take a flight back to America because snipers will be sitting on the hilltops above Ben-Gurion airport.

If you keep up this policy of supporting one party against the other, Gaza will move to the West Bank and we will end up with more anarchy and lawlessness and God knows what else is going to happen. It's a very unpleasant picture. It's very gloomy, I know.

Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies: Let's see if we can steer this back to the Gaza issue. Given what you've said, what will the impact be on this fighting in Gaza and in the West Bank?

Khaled Abu Toameh: All those talking about how Hamas is finished or on the verge of collapse or that it's only a matter of time before the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip revolt against Hamas, I'm sorry to tell you that I don't share these assessments. Hamas may have suffered a major blow. Many of its institutions have been destroyed. It has been undermined in many ways. But what worries me is that Hamas still enjoys a lot of political support. Hamas continues to be as strong as it was in Gaza.

Why? I've been saying this for a long time: the only way to undermine Hamas and eventually bring about its collapse is to offer the Palestinians a greater alternative to Hamas. Not by bombing their headquarters and destroying their military arsenal. That's good, but it's not enough.

If I were the Americans and the Europeans after Hamas came to power, I would have gone to the PLO people who lost the election and, instead of giving them guns and money, I would have told them "Listen, folks. Hamas is in power because of your corruption, your mismanagement, and because you guys are thieves. Why don't you guys reform yourselves? Get rid of all these corrupt people in the PLO and Fatah. Form a youth party and challenge Hamas in the next election." That's one way.

But I'm afraid that under the current circumstances Hamas is going to be around for a long time. Many Palestinians today will tell you that Mahmoud Abbas is a traitor, that all these people were actually in the IDF headquarters watching the war. Hamas is already saying that Mahmoud Abbas was passing information to the Israeli about the whereabouts of Hamas leaders.

These allegations are very serious, by the way. I don't know if you saw my story today in the Jerusalem Post about how Hamas in the past 48 hours has been waging a massive crackdown on Fatah in Gaza. They've killed or wounded maybe 100 Fatah people. They're dragging them into the streets and shooting them in the legs. They've even gouged the eyes of some of them out. Maybe you're going to have lunch later, so I don't want to go into graphic descriptions of what's happening to Fatah over there. But Fatah is really under attack, and I don't see anyone moving to save them.

I don't see a mass movement rising against Hamas. Not now. I've been talking to many people in Gaza. I haven't heard one person there blaming Hamas for the destruction of his house. I'm hearing a lot of voices against Israel and against the Arab states. And much of the anger is being directed against Mahmoud Abbas. This operation makes the moderate Arabs look like fools. It makes them look as if they were on the wrong side. When you have Al Jazeera, the most popular TV station in the Arab world, daily and nightly inciting against the Arab leaders and giving a platform for people who are saying our Arab leaders are traitors, that our Arab leaders are in collusion with the Israelis, that our Arab leaders were hoping to enter Gaza in Israeli know, this is reverberating. Most of the protests on the Arab street in Cairo, in Khartoum, in Yemen, wherever you go, you will hear people chanting slogans against Arab leaders and Mahmoud Abbas before they chant slogans against Israel and America.

And now there's all this talk of bringing Mahmoud Abbas to Gaza. Excuse me, but if Mahmoud Abbas enters Gaza he will be executed in the public square within minutes. You have all these militias roaming the streets. Most of them weren't fighting. They were hiding. They became "civilians" as soon as the Israelis launched their attack. They were all in hiding or they were all dressed as civilians. When they were brought to hospitals they were without their guns. They were counted as civilians.

We don't know exactly what's happening over there, but I don't see any attempt by the local Palestinians or other forces to challenge Hamas openly.

Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations: What about the Israeli expectation that with these attacks they will have established deterrence against Hamas? Do you think that's true?

Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes. Yes. Look. The West Bank was quiet during the attack in Gaza. Now, I was talking to many people. You know what they were saying? And this is the funny part. "You know what?" they said. "The Jews have gone mad. This is not the time to mess around with them." And, you know, when you hear this from the man on the street, it really does create deterrence. I would rather see deterrence created in another way, but there is this perception on the Arab street today that the Jews have gone crazy, there are no more red lines, nothing, they don't care, and we should be careful. So in that sense, yes, there is some kind of deterrence, for the short term at least.

Before this war, four days before the war, I interviewed a number of Hamas guys. I published it in the Jerusalem Post. And the headline was Hamas Mocks Israel's Nonresponse to Qassam Attacks. What were they saying, the Hamas leaders? Basically that the Jews are cowards.

They think Israel ran away from Lebanon, that Hezbollah defeated them. They thought the Jews were scared and would not come into Gaza. They were really confident that Israel wouldn't fight back. Really. They were. They thought at most that Israel would send a few tanks into open fields just to calm Israeli public opinion. So the response really caught them by surprise, especially the first day.

So yes, there is this perception today in the Arab world that our neighbor has gone mad.

Anthony Cordesman: I was in the West Bank this summer, and it's amazing what they've achieved even though an awful lot of that money is still going to senior officials and not to the Palestinian people.

Khaled Abu Toameh: The other day someone came for the first time ever to this part of the world, and he called me and asked me to take him to Ramallah. So I drove him to downtown Ramallah and we stopped there. The man was shocked. He said "Where are the refugee camps? Where are the mud houses? Where's the poverty?"

I said "Why are you asking me these questions?"

He said "I'm shocked. Look how nice it is."

You know, there are things that are contradictory and don't make sense over there. Some of the restaurants in Ramallah are more expensive than the restaurants in Tel Aviv. There are people with a lot of money.

The corruption hasn't been stopped, but it has been reduced. Some Americans and Europeans continue to pour money on the PLO people without holding them accountable under the pretext that this money will produce a moderating effect.

Max Boot: There does seem to be this sense that the West Bank has been doing better economically.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes.

Max Boot: Does that translate into better politics?

Khaled Abu Toameh: No.

Mario Loyola, National Review Magazine: One American strategy in the Bush Administration's foreign policy has been to make conditions in the West Bank so much better than in Gaza that the people in Gaza start to say, "Look, it's better under Fatah."

Khaled Abu Toameh: They are saying that. But at the end of the day they're not going to vote for Fatah. Why? Look. People won't do that for two reasons, or they will vote for Hamas for two reasons.

One, Hamas is not corrupt in power, they didn't steal money. No one gave them a chance, so Palestinians won't hold it against them. Hamas are victims in the eyes of the Palestinians. And as such people's sympathies go to Hamas.

Two, when they look at the PLO guys, all these Abus sitting in Ramallah, they don't see any change. They don't see that the PLO people, the Fatah people, have drawn any conclusions from their own defeat. Fatah has been trying to hold internal elections for the past eighteen years, and they've failed. Mahmoud Abbas promised to hold general elections inside Fatah, two years ago, three years ago, fours years ago. The power struggle between the old guard and the young guard inside Fatah has been ongoing. People look at Fatah and don't see that there is a viable alternative to Hamas.

General Tom McInerney, Fox News Military Analyst: Is there a solution to this problem?

Khaled Abu Toameh: You Americans are always asking us that. Why are Americans always asking me if there is a solution? A solution to what?

Michael J. Totten: The whole thing.

Khaled Abu Toameh: What is the whole thing?

Anthony Cordesman: Is there anything useful that could be done this year?

Khaled Abu Toameh: Listen. Look. We must stop dreaming about the New Middle East and coexistence and harmony and turning this area into Hong Kong and Singapore. If anyone thinks a Palestinian will wake up in the morning and sing the Israeli national anthem, that's not going to happen. If anyone thinks an Israeli Jew will go back to doing his shopping in downtown Ramallah or to see his dentist in Bethlehem or eat fish in Gaza City, that's not going to happen. There has been a total divorce between Jews and Palestinians. We don't want to see each other.

I think that's good. Separation is good. Separation doesn't need harmony and coexistence. Forget about that. That's not going to happen. Let's focus on managing the conflict. Instead of talking about real peace, let's first of all try to stop the violence, reduce the level of bloodshed, and maybe that will pave the way for future peace. The only solution now is total separation between these two communities. Israel should not be involved in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, but at the same time Israel has the right to look after its own security. They should disengage from the Palestinians completely and tell them, "Listen, folks. Don't mess around with us anymore. We're going to strike back if you fire rockets at us. And if you want to have Hamas, Fatah, or whomever, go and do it over there without our help." That's the only way. I don't see a real peace emerging over here. We should stop talking about it.

Max Boot: But earlier you said that if Israel disengages from the West Bank, Hamas will be in power in five minutes.

Khaled Abu Toameh: I mean the Israelis should disengage under the proper circumstances. Under the current circumstances, they should not disengage. Only if they have a partner on the Palestinian side.

Max Boot: The circumstances aren't going to change any time soon.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Yes. Okay. So don't do anything. You know what? Some Israelis ask me what they should do. I say "Nothing. You just sit there. And wait."

If I were an Israeli Jew I would go to the Palestinians and say "Listen, folks. I'm prepared to give you a Palestinian state and the Israeli majority approves of that, not because we love the Palestinians, but because we want to be rid of the Palestinians."

There's a majority of Jews today who want to disband most of the settlements and take only two percent of the West Bank. My Israeli Jewish friends say to me, "You know, Khaled. You Arabs can take whatever you want. Just leave us alone. It's no longer a territorial dispute for us. We'll give you anything you want if you just go and leave us alone." Some of them even go further than that. Some of them say "Just leave us Tel Aviv, the airport, and the beach."

In the wake of these positive changes that have happened inside Israel, all you need is a strong partner on the Palestinian side. There is some hope, but only if there is a strong partner on the Palestinian side.

General Tom McInerney: But not Hamas.

Khaled Abu Toameh: I don't care. If I were Israeli I would talk to any Palestinian who wants to talk to me, and I would shoot any Palestinian who shoots at me. I wouldn't ask if they were Hamas. You know what? Believe me, if you listen to Hamas and Fatah in Arabic there isn't much of a difference, especially these days. Fatah fought alongside Hamas in Gaza. Today they said they lost 36 fighters and fired 900 rockets at Israel. Fatah.

Mario Loyola: Hamas pretends its casualties are lower, and Fatah pretends its casualties are higher.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Look. Look. As I said before, let's stop saying "Fatah" and "Hamas." Talk to anyone who wants to talk. Talking to Hamas does not mean that you recognize Hamas or that they become your buddies. The funny thing is that Israel went to war against a party that it doesn't recognize. And in the end Israel made a cease-fire unilaterally and negotiated with the Americans and the Egyptians for how to end it. And Hamas is still sitting there.

There's nothing wrong with Israel talking to Hamas if they want a ceasefire. Israelis can't ignore the fact that Hamas is in power. And Hamas continues to enjoy tremendous support over there.

Dr. Barry Posen, MIT Security Studies Program: I'm interested in going back a couple of steps and asking for your assessment of Hamas' strategy to let the ceasefire lapse and accelerate the firing of rockets. You already mentioned that they miscalculated the Israeli reaction, but what were they hoping to benefit? And what does that tell us about deterring Hamas in the future?

Khaled Abu Toameh: I think this is something many people in Israel and the West don't hear. I hear it in Arabic, and I hear it directly from them.

Dr. Barry Posen: That's why I'm asking you.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Just before the ceasefire expired, Hamas went to Egypt and said "Listen, folks. We agreed to the previous ceasefire because you, the Egyptians, promised us you would open the Rafah border crossing. And it didn't happen. And we, Hamas, were committed to this. We did our best to honor the ceasefire."

Okay, there were some violations here and there, but Hamas did in a way honor the ceasefire. They arrested people who were firing at Israel.

Mubarak said "To hell with it. I'm not going to open the Rafah border crossing unless you allow Mahmoud Abbas to come back into Gaza. Do whatever you want. I'm under pressure from the Israelis, the Americans, and Mahmoud Abbas not to open the Rafah border crossing."

Mahmoud Abbas went to Mubarak before the ceasefire expired and said "President Mubarak, please don't reopen the Rafah border crossing because that will strengthen Hamas. If you want it to be open, only give it back to me in line with the 2005 US-brokered agreement."

And so, if you think about it, Mahmoud Abbas and Hosni Mubarak bear indirect responsibility for this war. When Hamas saw that they weren't going to open the borders, Hamas said "To hell with the ceasefire" and started firing rockets again. Israel reacted and now we are where we are today.

So now we are back to square one. Hamas is still making the same demand. They said "Okay, we agree to a ceasefire, but reopen the border." They keep saying "reopen the border."

Max Boot: Do you think there is going to be any change in Mubarak's attitude? Is he going to do anything to help out that he wasn't doing before?

Khaled Abu Toameh: No. We're back to square one. Look. For Mubarak it's better if these weapons go into Gaza and kill Jews, because if these weapons don't go into Gaza to kill Jews they might end up on the streets of Cairo. They might end up in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Smuggling is a business. We're doing Hamas an injustice by saying they're the ones who established the tunnels. These tunnels have been there since 1967. In the 1970s I visited some of the tunnels. In the 1980s I visited the tunnels. When Arafat was there I visited the tunnels. These tunnels are part of the culture. It's a cultural thing over there. If you have your own tunnel it's like you have your own business. Hamas now takes taxes and gives people a license to build their tunnel.

Listen. The Egyptians are hypocrites. They are busy killing African refugees who are trying to get asylum in Israel. They opened fire on an African mother and son who were trying to run away from Sudan and were trying to seek refuge inside Israel. I haven't heard that the Egyptians are destroying tunnels or anything. I haven't heard it.

Dr. Barry Posen: What was Hamas' theory about how the rocket fire would work? Was the rocket fire meant to being hawks to power in the election here? Were they trying to bring back attention? Were they trying to affect Israeli-Egyptian elections? Because in a weird way it seems to me that this war had a funny objective, that both Israelis and Hamas were fighting for Egypt.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Look. I believe this war could have been prevented. Really. Had we gone to Hosni Mubarak and the Americans and said "Okay, let's forget about the 2005 agreement. Let's come up with a new agreement." Hamas would have agreed to have some Palestinian Authority representatives at the border in return. But no one wanted to listen. They all said "Bring down Hamas, bring down Hamas."

To answer your question, Hamas thought that if they fire rockets at Israel that the Israeli public would revolt and start complaining and would go to their leaders and say "Go and find some kind of solution." Israelis don't want war and can't afford to have war on the eve of elections. So they thought the Israeli public would revolt, that the Egyptian government would come back and negotiate a new ceasefire of Hamas' terms. They really thought these rockets would bring about some kind of international response or a response from the Israeli public.

Mario Loyola: Isn't violence for Hamas both a means and an end?

Khaled Abu Toameh: Of course. Of course. But in this specific case they used the rockets to put pressure on Israel and the West and the Egyptians with the hope that they could extract some concessions. Hamas believes they have created a balance of terror with Israel, and they're trying to imitate Hezbollah.

Anthony Cordesman: What are Palestinian attitudes going to be toward Iran and Syria? And what are Palestinians going to think about Europeans?

Khaled Abu Toameh: First of all, Hamas and Fatah are fighting over who is going to receive the international aid. This is very bad, and they are already accusing each other of stealing some of the aid that has come in from the West and from the Arab countries.

Now Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, the Muslim Brotherhood, all these people are playing a very negative role in this part of the world. Iran did not want Hamas to sign the ceasefire. Iran wants to fight to the last Palestinian. And they will do it through Hamas, through Hezbollah. They have their own agenda, these Iranians. Hamas could not have taken control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 had it not been for support from Iran and Syria. They had logistical and financial support, which means weapons. Most of the weapons coming into Gaza are being financed by Iran and facilitated by Syria.

So how do the Palestinians relate to them? They are some Palestinians who will tell you that the Iranians are bad, that we don't want them meddling in our affairs, look what they've done, these Iranians and Syrians are responsible for the divisions among Palestinians, they are inciting Hamas. Others will tell you they welcome Iran. There are mixed views. But I don't think the majority would like to see aid from Norway, Switzerland, or Canada instead of from Iran and Hezbollah.

Post-script: If my work from the Middle East is worth something to you, please consider a contribution and help make independent reporting economically viable. More dispatches are coming from Iraq, from Lebanon, and from the border with Gaza.

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Continued (Permanent Link)

Puzzled in Gaza - eyewitness

Puzzled in Gaza
Yvonne Green
February 5, 2009

Yvonne Green
I'm an English Jew and frequent visitor to Israel. I was deeply disturbed by the reports of Operation Cast Lead (OCL). So I spent Wednesday 28th January 2009 in Gaza taking a look for myself. I left Tel Aviv at 6.30 a.m. by taxi and arrived at the Erez checkpoint at 7.15 a.m. I cleared Israeli passport control using my press card, crossed the border alone, on foot and arrived in Gaza, where I was met by my guide a 27 year old Palestinian journalist, who wore western clothes and a close shaven beard. He asked me if I wanted to meet with Hamas officials. I explained, I'm a poet and freelance writer who'd come to see the damage and civilian suffering caused by OCL, not to talk politics and asked him to choose what to show me.
We drove away from Beit Hanoun to the ancient olive groves of Jebalia Reyes Hill which my guide said Israel had bulldozed because Hamas fired from them. Downhill I saw in the Abu Ayida family's isolated compound the flattened remnants of several large houses and factories and a few small guard's houses. A family member, Taisir Fouad told me the 3 cars in the rubble were a Mitsubishi and two Hyundais, that $5,000,000 of damage had been sustained by the Abu Ayidas (this was not a general residential area) and that he and his 10 children had previously lived in a 900 square metre house and were now living in one room in Jebalia. I noticed a white kid goat's head and hooves it's body was covered in debris and a black and white goat, it's large stomach was rock solid under the gentle pressure I applied to it with my shoe. My guide took me into the only Abu Ayida house left standing, which he said the Israelis had used as a base. It had two storeys and my guide thought it measured about 700 square metres. Its concrete exterior was unclad. I hadn't expected the internal grandeur, the floors were marble and the chandeliers were amber glass. Outside and to the North of the house I was shown a flat piece of land where I was told the Israelis believed there were tunnels. I began to walk over to take a look but my guide told me to stop and follow him.

In the rubble of a guards' house. I saw a buckled red wheelchair which I was told belonged to a young girl who lived alone with her mother. I picked up a sheet of Arabic writing from the ground which my guide told me was the homework of a child not more than 10 years old. I asked my guide and an old man who had now approached us, whether I might keep the homework sheet. They said I could. I have it still.
How many people died here I exclaimed to my guide. No one, came the reply. The Israelis leafleted and telephoned a warning to each house and factory half an hour or forty five minutes before they came. I was incredulous. How could they possibly 'phone everyone? My guide said they have all the telephone numbers here, each of us has identity cards. They know everything about us. I asked him where all the people went and he told me everyone went to relatives in Jebalia. I tried unsuccessfully to get one of the Israeli warning leaflets that day.
To the north of the smaller houses, in a dell, there were 50 odd small khaki tents neatly erected in perfect rows. I neither saw nor heard any sign of activity from them. When I asked who'd erected them or who was using them my guide said he didn't know. I asked him to ask the old man and was told that the old man didn't know either but he thought it was a charity. The old man said, look at our fate and I have suffered 60 years because of Israel. There were no other people at the site other than the two who'd approached and spoken to us. My guide offered to take me into the tents to find out more about them but I refused and asked to go to Jebalia City. It was 9.30 am
At 9.50 am when we arrived in Jebalia its unclad 1970's concrete low buildings looked intact and their open shopfronts were hung with vivid kaftans . The roads were partially tarmacked and I saw some tank marks. The women on the streets wore jellabeya and some were veiled. Donkey carts were far more common than cars and small groups of sturdy looking unaccompanied children walked about wearing old fashioned woollen jumpers. I didn't see any sweatshirts.
Puzzled by the City's vibrant atmosphere I asked to be shown Jebalia refugee camp and arrived there at 10.10 a.m. Its teeming unmade-up streets were much narrower than those of Jebalia City, its dwellings run off narrow alleyways from the main street buildings where as many as 10 related families build homes in mutual proximity. My guide told me that each of these tiny homes has an average of 10 children. I saw the remains of the Imad Akhel mosque which my guide said was bombed after Israeli warning leafleted and 'phoned in the vicinity. 4 girls and their mother from the Fatah Ba Alusha family who lived in one of the maize of dwellings which still stood in the adjacent alley had died. Had other civilians left the area before the bombing? My guide said they had. Was the mosque really the Hamas arsenal Israel said it was? My guide told me to look at the secondary explosion on U Tube.
Seeing Jabalia Refugee Camp's market was an astonishment , the open fronted shops hung liberally with huge fresh carcasses of meat and vendors carts, piled high with pyramids of beautiful produce stood in the middle of the road while shoppers came and went about their business. Some of the red radishes were the size of grapefruits. I told my guide that no one in England would believe this abundance. That we all thought they were starving. He told me that everything I could see was produced in Gaza.
My guide emphasised that he wasn't a refugee but a very proud Palestinian. He brought me to his grandparents' birthplace, Shi Jaya the old city, east of Gaza City. The police station had been destroyed. It wasn't built by Hamas, my guide said, they seized it. The Al Omari mosque, the oldest mosque in Gaza City was beautiful. At the newly renovated Al Basha Palace, where Napoleon had stayed when he came to Gaza, Mamluk animal symbols patrolled the ancient rough hewn walls. I met three young women graduates in jellabeya there and one a poet, spoke softly meeting my eye, and said education is our power, we are suffocating here, we are dying slowly, I want to travel abroad but I can't because I'm not married. That is our way. Heavy set men hovered behind the young women and broke the intensity as they offered me white coffee (not coffee with milk), which I accepted and enjoyed. The poet indicated a very young fair haired member of her group, who she said was already the mother of twins (I've always thought bearing twins heroic and I told her) she told me that her husband's factory in Sallahedin street had been bombed. That from Netzarim, to the Erez crossing, all the factories were destroyed. I said I'd seen the Abu Ayida family's factories. She continued, in Attatra five people in one family died. The poet then interjected, what will you tell your children and grandchildren when you get home? I answered that I would tell them that she and her friends were clever and determined and would find answers because of the intelligence and bravery I'd witnessed in them. I suddenly noticed a stern eyed woman had come out of the Palace and approached our group and that my guide had disappeared down the entranceway stairs. I felt I had to leave quickly for everyone's good and went down to find my guide and driver waiting in the car. Once inside I fiddled with my 'phone and noticed I'd been messaged on my English mobile at 11.59 a.m. Marhaba, Smell the jasmine and taste the olives. Jawwal welcomes you to Palestine. For Customer Service Please dial 111(chargeable) (sic). I showed my guide the text saying that I liked the terms in which his 'phone company expressed itself, he smiled and I became more relaxed.
The streets of Gaza City were wider than those in Jebalia City. The buildings were 70's concrete built. The shops were hung with giant cooking pots. There were cars on the roads and a steady stream of people on the pavements. I saw intact marble clad buildings with blue tinted windows which my guide said were new residential developments that had yet to be completed. He said that during OCL the streets of the city were deserted until 4pm because Israel warned people not to go out. But when he showed me the main Hamas National Forces Compound just past the Al Hejaz petrol station, he did say that a neighbour of his, Ashraf Abu Al Qumboz, died of injuries he got from walking past at the moment it was bombed. The compound was rubble save for radar or satellite dishes that looked like cobwebs on metal poles. My guide said 10's died there.
Time and again I saw surgical destruction of huge buildings that everyone said had been full of Hamas. The low numbers of Hamas I was told had died begged the question where Hamas were now? My guide glanced at a neatly dressed young man with a squared off beard guarding the Jawwal building. He said they continued even during the war, directing the traffic and arresting looters. All day I'd felt the menace of these hawkish, athletic men I'd seen occasionally on street corners but everyone including my guide behaved as though they were invisible. They weren't like the other Palestinians I'd met or seen who generally moved or sat in groups. I asked my guide if he was Hamas, he said he wasn't. I asked him if Hamas knew this, he said they did. A friend of my guide, a female English literature graduate from the Gaza University had joined us by this stage, she was extremely beautiful, wore a western hairstyle, trousers and a large diamond ring on her right hand. Later my guide said to me privately, her fiancé's a rich guy, there's no middle class in Gaza.
My guide took me to the Shiffa hospital . It comprises 6 concrete buildings which my guide told me Israel had built 30 years ago. The hospital floors were very clean and the atmosphere was very ordered. My guide was bringing me to meet Amira Kerem a little girl whose 2 brothers and father were beaten and killed in the last 2 days of OCL (her parents were divorced and she had a step-mother but I wasn't told where her step mother was during the attack) Amira got out of the rubble and lived alone with her injuries for three days before she was found in the empty house she'd stumbled into, which belonged to Imad Eid, a journalist who used to work for BBC's Arabic office in Gaza. I asked my guide and his friend if they knew the date she was found but they didn't answer.
To my right as I arrived at the hospital was a low wall on either side of which there were sliding metal barred doors, which were open. I asked where those doors led and was told it was the intensive care unit for our (sic) fighters. A large group of men in suits, two with long thin white fringed scarves edged in green and black and red swept through the barred doors to my right I didn't see where they went. I asked who they were and my guide told me they were inspecting the hospital. I asked him where they were from and he answered, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. I didn't see any people that I recognised as ethnic Malays or Indonesian in this group of men. They looked at home and in charge of the hospital there was an unmistakeable and unchallenged authority about them ,everybody stood back and looked down as they passed. No one, my guide and his friend included, looked at them with the curiosity one might expect foreign dignitaries to engender. (I myself had been the subject of interest wherever I went, even before I was introduced). A few moments later a stocky built, 60 year old woman with dyed black, immaculately coiffed hair, wearing expensive European shoes and clothes came out of the same barred doors and walked by me flanked by four men, she looked proud and totally disengaged from her surroundings and was similarly deferred to. I didn't see where these people went.
I climbed the stairs to room 522 to visit Amira Kerem , felt ashamed as I took my turn after a bored news crew removed their tripod-they'd read their blackberries as they'd filmed . Amira looked about 11. I admired her lilac knitted hat with tiny artificial pearls sewn on at regular intervals. At first she was impassive. 3 of her female relatives sat to her right, companionable and lithe in their long dresses. I stayed with her for a while and eventually made her laugh, my guide, as ever, interpreting. Her visitors joined in and we all voiced hopes for peace. I took out my recorder and asked what they wanted me to tell the people of England and they didn't answer. But they continued to smile at me as I left. A woman who'd been one of the blackberry transfixed film crew, tried to engage me in conversation outside Zeitun's room, I had no heart for her.
I visited Mona al Ashkhor who my guide explained had lost the use of her left hand and lost her left leg below the knee after she ran toward Al Fakhoora, the UNRA school, which was hit in OCL, because Israel said Hamas were firing from the vicinity. Her mother and her aunt sat to her left as did her first cousin, whom she told me she loved very much. I asked Mona what she would like me to tell the people of England, my guide interpreting, she replied I am very happy. Today for the first time I left my bed and am able to sit in a chair.
The hospital seemed very quiet. I saw empty beds there. I saw clutches of young athletic men with squared off beards in the corridors on the lower floors and a group of them stood behind a solid metal door on a landing from which someone I took to be a doctor emerged, pushing past them. He was close shaven, had a western haircut and wore fashionable glasses. He moved down the stairs as I ascended them, I caught his eye and he looked down nervously and accelerated his pace.
I asked my guide where all the dead were, he told me they were in all the cemeteries of Gaza. That sometimes they'd buried 5 at once. He told me that the majority of the 5,500 people wounded in OCL were receiving medical treatment in Egypt and Jordan. I was bewildered by the fact that I'd not seen any press photos of the hospitals treating these patients. But I said nothing.
We left Shiffa and at Abu Mazen square I drove past a large new building made of stained pine and hewn stone, it looked part Swiss chalet and part mosque. My guide told me this was Mahmoud Abbas' house and pointed out the Hamas militants guarding it.
My guide took me to Tallel Howa, Gaza's biggest residential area, which he explained was totally occupied by Israel during OCL. It comprises square, 5 storey, concrete apartment buildings. I saw the burnt out Al Kuds hospital, where government officials used to be treated. There was the rubble in El Hillel street, which had been a medical warehouse. Nearby I saw an ambulance in a parking bay which looked as though it was a concertinaed flat pack, a section of the building above its parking bay had collapsed onto the ambulance. I saw buildings spotted with what my guide told me were sniper bullets. I saw a four storey building, with just the far right hand window of its top floor blown out, the external wall around it blackened. I asked my guide was that window broken by something going in or by something coming out? He explained that the damage was caused by Hamas firing from inside the building. I saw damage to the Al Aqsa University. I asked my guide how many were killed here, he said that thousands had left and gone to stay with relatives after Israel had telephoned and leafleted the area. He said the buildings were almost completely empty when the fighting took place and that 30 people died in the battle. I saw the remnant debris of the Ministry of Prisoners , my guide told me 6 Hamas were killed in that explosion. Neither my guide nor his friend furnished me with replies to my enquiries as to the dates and times of events, saying as they'd said all day, you can see it all on the internet.
After Tallel Howa my guide explained that he was going to take me to Al Samoun where a war crime took place. We drove through the farming neighbourhood of Zei Tun, the road was neatly verged with sabar cactus and the olive groves were well pruned. At 12.45pm we turned off past the Rajab Company for Petroleum sign to the site where my guide told me 31 members of the Al Samouni family were killed. He said there was no resistance there, this family of farmers were Fatah. I passed an orange painted metal shipping container which was buckled , as though by an explosion, not crushed. It was not possible for me to look inside it. The area which had previously comprised about 10 four storey houses where 160 members of the Al Samouni family lived was flattened, with the exception of one house. The area had also housed a chicken farm and some dead fowl floated in the water that was collecting in the extremely deep square craters surrounded by the house rubble. The destruction of the houses at Abu Ayida didn't leave craters as far as I remember the ground was flat. Here there were buckled metal supports deep into the ground under each house. These craters were as empty as scoured pots. The air smelled heavily of chicken shit.I pulled from the rubble a medical x-ray (of two connected metal pins in someone, named in Arabic's lower vertebrae) and a red coloured, adult sized sweatshirt. After asking my guide's permission, I kept them.
My guide told me the Israelis had 'phoned the entire family and told them to go into the house ahead of me and then bombed it, killing 31 people. I could still see the house standing. But it looked as though it could have been burnt inside. It was built of unclad concrete and was 4 storeys high and about 400 square metres in size. Its top right hand window had been blown out from within. The washing line below it still hung with clothes. I couldn't ask to look inside. With the exception of the window I've mentioned the building looked intact externally. Its roof was undamaged as far as I could see. I didn't feel able to ask for any further explanation than that I'd been given.
There was a large open sided black tent on the Al Samouni compound containing about 25 men either standing or sitting on white plastic chairs. Two sat near the entrance on the floor. There were also two small carpets propped up with a stick one some feet to the right of the black tent and one twice as far behind it. These carpets made small shelters for women and children. I visited one where 2 women and 4 children under 3 years old, sat on a small carpet laid on the rubble . A 13 year old boy stood outside to the left. The women fed the children rice. My guide told me that the eldest woman, Iftisan Al Samoun, lost a teenage daughter and son when her house was bombed and two of her sons were now in hospital in Egypt. I asked her what she wanted me to tell the people of England and she gave no answer. I asked her where they slept at night and she said that they were living with relatives and only came here during the day for the press. I rolled the red sweatshirt I'd picked up and put it behind her to buffer the terrain. She acknowledged the gesture imperceptively by edging her buttocks back very slightly on to the sweatshirt and said that they'd lost many clothes. The younger woman told me that the 13 year old boy was her brother, the two small children were her cousin's and that she and her brother had lost their mother. But, inexplicably, she smiled at me and Iftisan all the while. I asked my guide why people weren't angrier in Gaza, he said they were for two days but then it was over. That Allah decides fate.
As we left Iftisan's small shelter another young boy tried to coax us to the second womens' shelter but I chose to watch the men's tent from outside for a while. Two copies of a rather worn, large plastic banner depicting the dead, edged with barbed wire and pictures of fighters wearing white headbands with black Arabic writing on them, were hung behind the people my guide told me were the mourners. I asked my guide who were the people in the photographs on that banner. He said they were the victims of the genocide. I asked what the fighters which edged the banners signified and he said nothing, the militants made the posters for the mourning family. He explained that the female victims were each represented by a rose, since it's not the custom to depict women. I asked my guide's friend if she could see the names of the dead from where we stood and she said she could. She read the names into my recorder for me. Mashad Samouni Nadal Samouni Eyad Samouni. Women Rahma Aza Raval Maha Safa Hanna Avoda Riskha Layla Al Samouni The martyres of the Samouni family
In the large tent and the two small shelters, men ate and women fed babies green rice and meat with grey plastic spoons from identical large round blue plastic trays covered in silver foil. I have kept one of those discarded spoons. I asked my guide where the food came from. He said a charity. When I asked Iftisan Al Samoun which charity sent the food, she met my eye earnestly, said she didn't know and invited me to eat some. I didn't accept. I never saw the women eating.
I saw the family elder in the mourners' tent wearing a red and white scarf, turban style with a roll up sticking upright out of its side like a feather. I asked if I could go into the tent to pay my respects. My guide said I could. A large handwritten page lettered in black and red hung on a string between the two posters, as I looked at it one of the men standing behind the elder slipped it behind the poster. I asked my guide to read it to me and he approached it, pulled it out and slipped it back again quickly, and said it was just a condolence letter. I began to speak to the elder, my guide translating, to ask what happened, he pointed to each picture on the posters and began a narrative which generally described the number of children the individual had, or in one case pointed out that the man was very old. But finally he said in terms, of one man that he'd emerged with a white flag and been shot. Of the roses depicting women, he clasped his breast with his right hand and said some were breast feeding when they were killed. I asked him how many of his family still survive, he said half. I expressed my earnest wish that no more ill fortune should fall on his family and we both cried. A younger man took the roll up out of the elder's turban and gave it to him assertively. The men in the tent looked at me quizzically and my guide looked tense. He and I left. My guide told me there were 10's of cases like this. It was 1.30 Israel was going to close the border at Erez between 3 and 4 and I'd been advised by journalists to be there before 2.30. We began to head back.
All day there were children everywhere. I asked my guide why they weren't at school and he explained there were 2 shifts. I asked them if the schools were good and my guide said at the moment the children are only being taught how to hate. The day's interchanges had always been circumspect and my reaction to this direct comment was to joke that if I taught my childen to go right they went left, if I said sing they spoke, if I said cut your hair, they grew it. I said to my guide and his friend, you are such intelligent young people, you've got the internet, don't tell me you can be taught anything you don't want to learn. I went on to say that the poor children we'd seen on the streets of Jebalia, had no such opportunities for now-at this point the driver who'd been silent all day handed me his 'phone and showed me a photo of a dead baby with its left leg bone exposed and my guide resumed his explanations- that this was a baby buried in rubble and partially eaten by dogs before it was discovered. A small UN coach passed us as we passed the high walls of the UNRA compound. I couldn't see the damage from the road but my guide told me it was assessed at $12,000,000. Beyond it on a whitewashed wall, I saw the only graffiti of the day (with the exception of the Israeli operational notes on the Abu Ayida house) it was a geometrically stylised heroic depiction of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Back in Jebalia City I drove past the reinforced concrete UN school, at Al Fakhoora, in front of which Mona Al Ashkor was injured. The school was on a street corner. My guide pointed to the road perpendicular to the one we were on and indicated the buildings to the immediate right of the school from which he said Hamas fired mortar shells. His friend showed me the rocket marks on the road in front of the school. My guide told me that Israel had leafleted and 'phoned to tell people that there was Hamas activity in the area and that the school would not be a safe shelter. But 40 people, including Mona Al Ashkor, were running towards it nevertheless when the satellite directed silent missile hit the road. My guide's female friend said Israel could see the civilians. Could have hit Hamas and pointed animatedly to the same building from where my guide had indicated Hamas were firing. I asked my guide and his friend if Hamas had provided any air raid shelters or any advice to Gazans on how to conduct themselves either during reprisals from kassam or grad missile raids or during OCL. They both said there were no shelters or procedures in Gaza. I asked if any of the wealthy Gazans built shelters in their houses. My guide said yes, some did. But his friend contradicted him.
As we approached the border, I asked my guide and his friend to list places I hadn't seen where civilians had died. They listed, Ezbet Ahued Raba, Rafah-scores died, Khan Younis -more than Rafah, Bet Lahia-scores and many other places of destruction. As they spoke a Hamas guard stopped us just before the Gazan border. I gave him my press card and my passport. He addressed me very harshly as Green and then made direct inquiries of me which were clearly designed to intimidate me. He seemed to be asking me a question in English about what I'd seen but was clearly unable to understand the polite and co-operative answers I gave. He returned my passport and held my press card for longer than was comfortable and asked my guide questions for several minutes and then spent several minutes questioning my guide's friend- who was an exceptionally attractive girl in western dress (who took my email address because she writes too). Both my guide and his friend seemed very uncomfortable. The driver was not required to show any papers and hissed through his teeth and generally displayed aggressive impatience with the Hamas guard.
At the border my guide and his friend were driven off quite suddenly and with a screech of tires leaving me alone at the Gazan checkpoint, a wooden hut. I was held up by the passport officer and asked how I found the situation. I went through all the notes I had taken and he left me with no alternative but to take down the following dictated additions; Attatra American school bombed by F16's, Abu Drabba village,El Kashef, Dr. Zetina Al Ha Esh the gaenocologist who works at Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel lost 6 members of his family-go and see him, a Jordanian hospital has entered into Gaza. He could see I didn't have a camera but he asked me if I had taken any pictures on my mobile 'phone. I said I hadn't.
His fellow customs officer, a much burlier man, seemed at this point to get bored and waved that I should be let through. I walked on the dust from Gaza through the concrete corridor on the approach to Israel where I saw a porter with a long railway-platform trolley with 4 cases and numerous carrier bags full of what looked like High Street shopping. The young man was slight, wore trainers and looked very confident. It was 2.30 it took me an hour to complete physical security checks and re-enter Israel. Watching the journalists go through the process was very interesting. I heard a woman journalist say to a colleague, I always come out at night because I've got kids. A press office department head who spoke on his mobile 'phone about a story and video he'd had to bury because the lady involved had a husband who'd worked for the UN for years and he'd lose his job and all his pension rights and who knew what else, if the story got out. The relief in everyone after arriving in Israel was openly expressed. No one at passport control asked anyone that I heard any questions about their trips to Gaza.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Arab view of Iranian elecions

The following may be more significant than we think:
"The shadow of threat has been removed forever from over the head of the Iranian nation … I announce officially today that the Iranian nation is a real and genuine superpower."
"Superpower" usually means atomic power. Does it mean Ahmadinejad knows that Iran will soon have the bomb as well as a means of delivery?? That could be much more interesting new than Iranian elections.
Ami Isseroff
Between Khatami and Ahmadinejad
Al-Hayat     Manually Created     - 11/02/09//
In the speech he delivered yesterday at a closing ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reviewed his four-year tenure which he seeks to renew in June. He said, "The shadow of threat has been removed forever from over the head of the Iranian nation … I announce officially today that the Iranian nation is a real and genuine superpower." This is the foundation of his coming presidential campaign even though he has not announced his candidacy yet, leaving it for sources close to him to talk on his behalf.
Two days prior to this announcement, former President Khatami (1997-2005) decided to run for presidency. He ascribed his decision to "the historical tendency of the Iranian people to attain freedom, independence, and justice," which he pledged to realize if he wins in free and transparent elections.
As such, we are ahead of two visions for Iran. Yet, Ahmadinejad will not be the only conservative candidate; Speaker of the Iranian Shura Council and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, a key candidate whom Ahmadinejad defeated, has not given his final word yet. Likewise, Khatami will not be the only reformist candidate; Former Speaker Mehdi Karroubi has almost declared his candidacy, while Mir Hussein Mousawi is also likely to do so.
The first vision focuses on Iran's power (with consequent regional roles), while the second rests on freedom, justice, and independence (with it tipping the balance in favor of a domestic agenda). So are we ahead of an electoral campaign, the results of which reflect the Iranians' ability to choose between Iran "the superpower" and Iran the freedom and justice? This wager may perhaps renew interest in the Iranian elections. Were it not for Khatami's candidacy, the campaign would be boring, settled in favor of Ahmadinejad who is supported by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the military establishment.
But can Khatami win the elections? Will he succeed where he failed in his two previous terms?
In 1997, a wave of students, youths, and women brought Khatami to power. Until 2005, the president was unable to meet any of their demands. Instead, the students were repressed on their campuses by Hezbollah groups, the student military wing of the "Revolutionary Guard"- with the president failing to protect them. He had even repeatedly criticized their movement. Thus, the frustration that plagued this group of voters will presumably dampen their enthusiasm to vote for Khatami as they did twice earlier. 
Khatami's calculated openness to the West backfired at home. His openness was depicted as submission and carelessness for the national unity and Iranian dignity. In addition to his image as a reluctant domestically weak president who is unable to make decisive decisions, Khatami was portrayed as a president who jeopardized Iran's international and regional role. This was the case when the reformist had an influential voice in the Shura Council and Local Councils that are fully controlled by the conservatives and which can thwart any reformist project Khatami's government might draft if he wins.
But the roots of the president's impotency in Iran do not stem from the results of the elections, but rather lie in the constitutional nature of the regime whereby the religious establishment tightens its grip on the country, alongside the social and military establishment, which are all affiliated to the supreme leader, the constitutional source of all decisions. In order for the president to be powerful, he must represent these institutions, as the case is with Ahmadinejad today, despite his poor economic performance -  with inflation exceeding 30% and unemployment soaring high, up to 60% in some regions. While this outcome is consensually ascribed to the costly military programs, random investment in oil resources, and the inability to handle the economy's mechanisms, the western sanctions on the backdrop of Iran's nuclear program have also contributed to the crisis.
In a second possible tenure, Ahmadinejad will unlikely propose other visions. Thus, the wager of the presidential elections is only a caricature of democracy and pluralism, as noted by Larijani after Khatami announced his candidacy.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Faurisson affair - Shades of Dreyfus and Blum

This recrudescence of anti-Semitism, unalloyed by opposition to Israeli policy is particularly odious. The echoes of the Dreyfus Affair and the accusations against Leon Bum in the 1930s are obvious and chilling. 
Anti-Semitism returns to remind France of darker days
Charles Bremner in Paris
February 9, 2009
France prides itself on its big Jewish community. It has a strong law against anti-Semitic speech, and recent synagogue vandalism has been been put down mainly to anger in the big Muslim community over Israeli government policies.
But an old and sinister hostility towards Jews has also recently bubbled up to the surface, serving as a reminder of ugly periods in France's past. The latest instance is a vitriolic new book that uses 1930s style innuendo to blacken Bernard Kouchner, the Foreign Minister.
In the most chilling anti-semitic incident, in December, a sulphurous stand-up comedian called Dieudonné gave an award to Robert Faurisson, a notorious denier of the Holocaust. The 5,000 audience at the Paris Zenith theatre applauded as "a Jew" with a yellow star of David, handed him the award.
Diedonné is of African origin and has lately allied himself with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the xenophobic boss of the far-right Front National. The comedian is partly behind a vicious campaign against Arthur Essebag, a star television presenter and producer.
On Saturday, Arthur - who uses only that name - took half a page in Le Monde to denounce a campaign against him on the false pretext that he helps finance the Israeli army.
"Zionist, it's all there...For the first time in my life, I discover this form of hatred," he wrote. "Never would I have imagined that in my own country, they would demonstrate against me solely because I am Jewish."
The book on Dr Kouchner, the ageing rock star of President Sarkozy's cabinet, is particularly revealing because there is no link with the Arab-Israeli conflict and because some of the chattering classes are defending the offensive tones of Pierre Péan, its author.
"The World According to K" reports on consulting work that Dr Kouchner, a humanitarian campaigner, carried out for African dictators. Péan paints him as a money-mad outsider whose main motivation springs from his Jewish origins. The Foreign Minister loathes France and has "sold off" French interests to the United States, he writes. Dr Kouchner is driven by "hatred for the values of the French Revolution, of the wartime Resistance, of a national independence that is detested in the name of an Anglo-Saxon cosmopolitanism."
That kind of language was used against supposed Jewish enemies of France in the Dreyfus affair of the late 1890s and in the 1930s and 40s. As was the case elsewhere in Europe, Jews were depicted as aliens who worked against the interest of the nation. Even Mr Le Pen would think twice before using the old anti-Semitic codeword "cosmopolitan".
Dr Kouchner has damned the book as sickening and redolent of the 1930s and President Sarkozy - himself the target of some anti-Semitism due to his Jewish ancestry - has stood by him. Some media have attacked Péan's language. Le Monde called it a loathsome cocktail from the old far right.
But the book has not been widely discredited, and Dr Kouchner has been damaged. Péan is denying that he wrote anything anti-Semitic and he is being backed by sections of the press - and by many in the blogosphere. Le Journal du Dimanche, the main Sunday paper, said that he was not anti-Semitic but that the targets of his investigative books often cried anti-semitism "as a pretext".
Foreign journalists are often charged with anti-French prejudice when they touch the dangerous groud of anti-Semitism. So I shall leave the conclusion to Jean-Michel Aphatie, the toughest political interviewer on French radio. "It takes a lot of bad faith to continue to defend the indefensible book of Pierre Péan," he said.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: Seven Baha'i charged as spies for Israel

For more about Iranian persecution of Bahai see Human rights in Iran and Israel and download the presentation:
Last update - 18:17 11/02/2009       
Iran charges 7 members of Baha'i faith with spying for Israel
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent
Seven people belonging to the Baha'i faith are scheduled to stand trial in Iran over charges of "spying for Israel," among other charges, the Iranian ISNA news agency reported Wednesday.
The news agency quoted Tehran's Deputy General Prosecutor Hassan Hadad as saying that the seven defendants also face charges of "desecrating Islam and campaigning against an Islamic republic."
The deputy prosecutor and the news agency did not specify the nature of the espionage the seven are suspected of having engaged in.
The disciples of the Baha'i faith, founded in 1863, are considered infidels in Iran and are subject to persecution which has gained momentum since the rise of the Islamic Republic 30 years ago. At the end of 2008 it was reported that Iran had hanged a Baha'i man on charges of adultery and rape. Approximately a month ago, the secretary of human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi had been arrested on charges that she had maintain contact with members of the Baha'i faith, and suspicion that she herself may have been a member.
In May of last year, Haaretz reported that Iran had held six Baha'i members on similar charges, but it was not clear whether the seven were the same Baha'I leaders arrested in 2008.
The European Union reiterated its deep concern over "the ongoing systematic discrimination and the persecution of the Iranian Baha'is."

Continued (Permanent Link)

About "Bullets in box" - letter to Ethan Bronner

Mr. Ethan Bronner

c/o  N.Y. Times

620 Eighth Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10018


                                                In re: "The Bullets in My Box,"  January 25, 2009






Dear Mr. Bronner,


Forgive me if this letter is not quite coherent. I'm still weeping over your sad plight. You want to be a good journalist by reporting "in a way both sides can accept as fair" and everyone is picking on you. No one's happy. What's a reporter to do? To paraphrase Herr Eichman, you are just doing your job, following your conscience. We all know (we all should know) that there is no such thing as absolute truth. There are only different perspectives, competing narratives. Had you been working for the Times during World War II, you would surely have been the one courageous enough to show the Nazi side (After all, there's always another side to the story): how traitorous Jews betrayed Germany's war effort causing it to lose World War I; how plutocratic Jews undermined the German economy; how Communist Jews were trying to take away the profits of hard-working German citizens; how degenerate Jews were leading to the general decline of culture and morality; how even American auto magnate, Henry Ford, and the inspirational Catholic priest, Father Coughlin, subscribed to Nazi views on the Jewish menace.  And, as the advertisers say, there's much, much more. Indeed, a very good case could be made for Hitler's cause. Morality is in the eye of the beholder. If you put a pound of gold on one side of the scales and a pound of baloney on the other, the scales will balance. A pound is a pound no matter what it's made of. If it balances, it's fair. No? A good journalist understands that everyone has his own truth. His job is to keep things even.


That is why you can write that "Among Israel's Jews . . .  Zionism . . . is bathed in a celestial glow," even though you know that there is an active peace movement in Israel for whom the word "Zionism" has become radically tainted. Israel's insular arrogance must be emphasized in order to balance your statement that "Zionism stands for theft, oppression, [and] racist exclusionism" throughout the Middle East. Jews may be well-meaning, but they're blind. Arabs may be overly hostile, but they have good reason to be. Each side overstates his case. What's not a good idea is to mention that while there are over a million Arab Muslims living as citizens in Israel, no Jew is allowed to live in Jordan or Saudi Arabia (although Jews once had a flourishing population in the Arabian Peninsula). Forget also that close to a million Jews were unceremoniously kicked out of practically every other Muslim state. And that even though the Arab world is, for all intents and purposes, Judenrein, somehow, it's Israel that's apartheid. But there are no villains, just a "cycle of violence" that goes on and on.


Because everyone's at fault in the "Greek Tragedy" that is the Middle East "crisis," it is important to blame both sides for the failure to bring about peace. Thus you write that "an understanding crystallized over a decade ago over the outline of an eventual solution," but you do not mention that the PLO never changed the clause in its charter that refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state, although acceptance was a core requirement of that understanding. Better to write that "the two sides' narratives have actually hardened." For it would certainly be hitting below the belt to call attention to the ways in which Arafat's P.A. broke all of its agreements within a day of the arrangement with vicious attacks and educational propaganda essentially erasing Israel from the map. And it would be snide for someone to point out that Israel "actually" softened her stance by choosing to ignore Palestinian violations. Even more troubling would be to mention that in 2000 and in 2001 Israel offered deals that "actually" sweetened the Oslo accords and that Arafat turned them down unequivocally (never pondered them, argued them, or came back with an alternative). Instead his response was the second Intifada--suicide bombings--the murder of school children in pizza parlors and buses, the murder of celebrants during a Passover Seder. So, the  P.A. has a terrorist wing. So, Israel has settlers. The Arabs make terror! The Jews make concessions! If you want to do business you have to have bargaining chips. Only the Mafia would recognize this deal as a form of extortion called "the protection racket." Besides, both sides accepted the agreement--didn't they? Both are responsible for its failure--aren't they? If Arafat was a bad guy, so was Ariel Sharon.



And if the "bad guys" are on both sides of the fence, there can be no aggressor, no defender. There can be no deterrence, only retaliation (a dirty word). Thus you can write that "opponents of Israel" believe her to be "a kind of Sparta that dehumanizes the Palestinians" as an excuse for her use of  "overwhelming force," but it would be tacky to even hint that overwhelming force (a dirty phrase) is the only way Israel has of stopping Hamas rockets. Because that would suggest that Israel's "excuse" for using overwhelming force might not be an excuse. And it would be just as tacky to suggest that Israel could, with minimal risk to her army, have carpet bombed Gaza and Hamas (as well as most Palestinians) would have been obliterated. But that would suggest that Israel's restraint showed she was interested in deterrence not retaliation (You know, that Jewish thing, an eye for an eye?). Nor is it in the best of taste to remind folks how Israel tolerated eight years of weapon smuggling and rocket attacks of an ever-increasing range on her innocent civilians--nursery schools and kindergartens; or that her civilian losses have been low because she has gone to the trouble and expense (cheated?) of building bomb shelters and early warning systems; or that the trauma for Israeli children undergoing years of close calls is comparable to the P.T.D.S of adult war veterans.  True! True! But, if a reporter has any decency at all, as you so obviously do, he must consider that the casualty count for operation Cast Lead was so lopsided, it would hardly be cricket to say anything that allows Israel to claim existential necessity. And, as an unfortunate corollary, gives the Palestinians the burden of responsibility.


In the same way (For obvious reasons Palestinians always seem to be getting the worst of things) it's perfectly legitimate to quote those who say that Israelis put "racist graffiti" on walls (I'd be curious to know how prevalent such graffiti are, or if the statement is even true). But it would be racist to bring out the fact that there has never been a national celebration of Palestinian deaths in Israel, whereas thousands turned out on the streets of Gaza and the West Bank to cheer and pass out candy whenever Jews were murdered in horrific explosions by devices filled with nails and poisons or, more recently, when eight Yeshiva students were shot in cold blood as they were studying torah. And it would certainly smack of bigotry to condemn the feisty Gazans who poured into the streets to mock in effigy a captured Israeli soldier who is being kept, against all international standards, incognito with never a single visit by the Red Cross. The barbaric pleasure Palestinians get from reveling in Jewish misery and Jewish blood must be downplayed, rationalized and justified lest charges of Islamophobia be brought to bear. That is why news of the omnipresence of anti-Semitic graffiti on Palestinian walls must be suppressed along with the broadcasts of anti-Semitic libels on Palestinian TV where even kiddie shows watched by three year olds feature a rabbit named Assud who kills and eats Jews. The scales must not tip. Palestinians must look at least as good as Jews. Better! Because to look at Palestinian blood lust squarely would be too appalling. True, anti-Semitism is a kind of entitlement for the poor, down-trodden Arabs, but it's wiser not to hit people over the head with it.


In this eternal war without cause, no reporter worth his salt would charge either side with evil intent. Palestinians may seem a little over-ardent in their struggle against "occupation," but then Israel is only too ready to demonize them in order to justify her "assault" (as one news report put it) on women and children. And you can write about "those who saw in this war an affirmation of their [Israeli's] beliefs--that Hamas . . . hides its fighters behind women and children," even though you know that this charge is not merely a belief but a fact corroborated by eye-witnesses and video tape; even though, in fact, Palestinians speaking among themselves on their own TV stations brag about their citizens' willing martyrdom and the delight it gives them; even though it is a well-known fact that Palestinians have, for years, been putting their families, their children, in harm's way as a PR gambit. But it is standard media fare that when Palestinians kill they are Hamas and when they get killed they are "innocent civilians." We mustn't blame the victim. Yes, Israel has every right to defend herself, but not to violate the rules of war. How an army can defend itself without returning enemy fire is not a question reporters need answer. Point-of-view determines fact.


That is why you can write that "one side says . . . the Jewish nation has returned to its rightful home" and the other side says "there is no Jewish nation," as if every argument were a simple matter of narrative disjunction. Although you know (you must know) that, despite Palestinian efforts to "prove" that there was never a Jewish nation in the Middle East, every archeological study, every legitimate history (including Muslim ones) documents the opposite. And you also know (you must know) that there is not and has never been a Palestinian state because the people who call themselves Palestinians have said to Israel "No negotiations. No recognition. No Peace." And you know (you must know) that before 1948 Palestine was a geo-political territory designated as such since 135 C.E., and that Palestinians were considered Jews (even by most Arabs) until the creation of the state of Israel; and that a unit called The Palestinian Brigade, comprised entirely of Jews, fought along side the British in World War I. And you know (you must know) that those who now call themselves Palestinians have never worked to build a state in the territories they lay claim to by creating viable institutions through government, commerce, and the arts or even by setting forth reasonable boundaries. Instead they turned the lushly developed area where Israel gave them total autonomy into a vast warren of weapons caches, a launching pad for deadlier and deadlier aerial attacks.  Why? Because they've based their nationhood on one overarching principle: the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. No Jew may have a sovereign state in Arab/Muslim territory. No Jew may triumph over a Muslim. It says so in the Koran: "He made you masters of their [the Jewish tribe of Khayber]  lands, their houses, and their goods," Sura 33:23. Jews cannot be winners. (It would be too humiliating.) As one who's written about the Middle East for years, you have to know this because it's plainly stated in the charters of both Hamas and the PLO.


But admitting that "occupation" in the Palestinian lexicon means that Israel and the Jews must be wiped off the face of the earth would be to stack the deck against a proud and ancient people whose language, culture, and religion just happen to have originated in the Arabian Peninsula. You might have to acknowledge that the real Palestinians (Philistines) were a sea people from the European continent, invaders who disappeared some 2500 years ago, absorbed into the dominant population who happened to be (Hmm!) Jewish. Well, if there's no Palestine, only disputed territory; no Palestinian ethnicity, only one sample of Arab particularity, of what does the vaunted Palestinian identity consist? Is it a hoax? Could it be that it is made entirely of lies, hatred, bigotry and self-pity? Is this the glue that holds Palestinians together? Dear me, no. Such an ugly characterization must not be promulgated. That would be--mean-spirited


The Palestinians are too abject. The Israelis too successful. "Envy," "intolerance," they're only a "story line," a construct of the pro-Jewish lobby that has nothing to do with reality. Thus it is imperative that you write that "the other side tells a different story . . .;" that you repeat the canard that the Israeli Jews are colonialists who "stole and pillaged, throwing hundreds of thousands off their lands," that Israel was "born in sin" (an Israeli formulation, by the way); even though you know that Jews bought every inch of land they had, land which Arabs were happy to sell at exorbitant prices, until five Arab nations declared war on them.. You also know, I'm sure you do, that if any ethnic cleansing went on, it was done by Arabs whose pogroms pushed the Jews completely out of areas like Hebron where Jews had resided since biblical times. And this was before there was ever a Jewish State. You must also know, I'm sure, that since the middle of the 19th century, Jerusalem was a predominately Jewish city until Jordan purged East Jerusalem of its Jews after the '48 war. Are you lying? Heaven forbid. Unless there's such a thing as the lie of omission. You're just telling what you've heard. What you choose to hear.


As you say, everything depends on who is telling the story. What does it matter if one side strains toward peace and the other is full of murderous violence? If the Israelis are always apologizing, they must be guilty of something. If the Palestinians are always defiant, they are obviously being oppressed. The Israelis have their tanks. The Palestinians their suffering. No back story is necessary. As long as balance is maintained, the reporter has fulfilled his obligations. A reporter cannot lie if he is quoting each side accurately. He is being objective. He is performing a great public service. No one's self-perception should be denied or discounted, even if it is false or falsely acquired. If one side looks bad (or good), the true reporter must make the other side look the same. No favoritism--for heaven's sake. Taking sides is for the Op-Ed pages. Everyone sees himself as victim anyways.


Truth, as you so diligently have reminded us, depends upon the light in which it's shown. Of course, it is the reporter's task to shed that light. Ultimately (the media's dirty little secret), it is the reporter who tells the story. That is why certain uncomfortable glitches must be smoothed out, covered over, or ignored like the emperor's new clothes. And that is why certain uncomfortable stories like the Mohammad Al-Dura hoax gets not one word of press from the New York Times. Again, I'm sure that you must have some knowledge of this affair which is prominent on the internet. It concerns a cynical fraud perpetrated by Palestinians that was instrumental in the death of thousands of people, including that of reporter Daniel Pearl and, if given appropriate attention by the mainstream media, might inspire more than a few pundits to call into question every explanation, every justification, every claim Palestinians make for themselves.


But righteousness (self-righteousness) must never give way to moral fatigue. Fair play demands that other side be given its due, especially when the "other" comes from an exotic culture that the reporter can never really comprehend. He must struggle against his "natural" biases in order to equalize the scales. He must neutralize (neuter?) the issues so that no one side can stake a claim to the moral high ground. He must make blanket pronouncements and all-purpose generalizations so that only noble ends are weighed, never despicable means, especially if those means belong to the underdog. Above all, justice, as well as his journalistic honor, demands that he work the text and shape the context, so that his piece will conform to some abstract model of public virtue. Thus the underdog (as he is perceived) must be raised up and the lucky dog (as he is perceived) must be put down. Deficiencies on one side need to be made up by subtractions on the other (besides, the pornography of violence sells). And, since the Palestinians are the needier, they are the ones who merit the handicap. If they come out slightly ahead, it's only because the Jews tend to win the battles (if not the war).  And when Jews are winners the reporter, especially if he himself is Jewish, must, often as not, look the other way. But then again, just as an Ahmedinejad can make homosexuals disappear by saying "There are no homosexuals in Iran," a reporter, particularly one working for as prestigious a vehicle as the New York Times, can always say, "If we don't print it, it doesn't exist." 




                                               Mitzi Alvin

Labels: , ,

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: No arms for Hamas on docked ship

Iran: No arms for Hamas on docked ship

Feb. 11, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman on Wednesday denied reports that a ship detained off Cyprus was carrying Iranian weapons destined for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said that Cypriot authorities had inquired about the ship's cargo but accusations that weapons were on board were baseless.

Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou said Tuesday that the ship had breached a UN ban on Iranian arms exports but refused to specify what had been found on the Cypriot-flagged Monchegorsk.

Cyprus inspected the Monchegorsk twice after it arrived Jan. 29.

The US military stopped the ship last month in the Red Sea and said it found artillery shells and other arms on board, but it could not legally detain the ship.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran: We're not running out of uranium

Teheran denies running out of uranium
Feb. 11, 2009
Associated Press , THE JERUSALEM POST
Iran said Wednesday that it was not running out of raw uranium or seeking to buy uranium concentrate from abroad to sustain its ambitious nuclear program.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said reports that Iran's raw uranium stockpile was running out was only "media speculation without any scientific basis."
An Atomic Energy Organization of Iran official also said Iran has its own uranium mines to extract ore, which are sufficient and there is no shortage. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
The Times of London has reported that Western powers believe Iran is running short of raw uranium and its stockpile could be exhausted within months. The paper reported last month that Western countries were trying to dissuade major uranium producers from selling the ore to Iran.
Iran's own principal source of uranium is the Saghand mine in the center of the country, which has the capacity to produce 132,000 tons of ore per year. Located about 300 miles south of Teheran, the mine consists of an open pit with minimal reserves and a deep mine. It has a a total estimated uranium ore reserve of 1.73 million tons.
Iran also has had a considerable stock of yellow cake, acquired from South Africa in the 1970s under the former US-backed shah's original civil nuclear power program.
Uranium ore extracted from a mine such as Saghand is first reprocessed into uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake. In the next stage, yellowcake is turned into UF-4, a preliminary stage before being reprocessed into uranium hexafluoride gas, known as UF-6. Iran does this reprocessing at its Uranium Conversion Facility in Isfahan.
In the next stage, the gas is injected into centrifuges - machines that spun at supersonic speeds to purify uranium. Iran says it has 5,000 centrifuges operating in its Natanz uranium enrichment plant in central Iran.
Uranium enriched to a low degree is used to make fuel for a nuclear power reactor - but highly enriched uranium can be used to make bombs.
The US and some of its allies accuse Iran of seeking to build nuclear weapons, but Teheran denies the charges saying its nuclear program is geared toward generating electricity - not weapons.
The UN Security Council has slapped three rounds of economic sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.
Meanwhile, Qashqavi also said Wednesday that the US needs to stop making "baseless" accusations against Iran in order to pave the way for talks between the two adversaries.
He said US President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments Tuesday that Iran would welcome talks with the United States based on mutual respect meant the US must stop leveling accusations against Iran.
But Qashqavi said that US President Barack Obama should be given some time to take steps toward better relations.

Continued (Permanent Link)

"Progressivism" in Britain

The "Cowardice" of AWL on the Gaza War

Eric Lee/Ian Srernberg/Sacha Ismail/Sean Matgamna

[Introductory note: This exchange was triggered by the article,"Rge Socialist Party and the Gaza War: "Socialism" as Evasion". The issues discussed are of more general interest. We invite contributions to the discussion.]

From Eric Lee:

The "Cowardice" of AWL on the Gaza Wa

The most recent issue of Solidrarity features a number of articles about the conflict in Gaza. These articles do the AWL no credit.

Ira Berkovic's "Who speaks for Jewish people in Britain?" reports on the rallies organised by the Jewish community in Britain without once mentioning the politics of those rallies. That's extraordinary. More than that, it's dishonest. As even the BBC reported, these rallies called for peace and an end to Hamas terror. They were not the mirror-image of the pro-Hamas rallies which – as you reported elsewhere in Solidarity – did call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

But to be fair, I think the comrades of the AWL may not be deliberately misrepresenting the Jewish community rallies. I think the article actually reveals the depth of your ignorance. You don't actually know what the rally was about -- because you weren't there.

AWL members were busy getting their signs torn up at pro-Hamas rallies – rallies whose political leaders proclaimed slogans with which you completely disagree. But a rally whose demand was 'Yes to peace, No to Hamas terror' was somehow of no interest to you.

Which brings me to Sean Matgamna's article in the same issue. Sean blasts the Socialist Party for concealing its real views (the two-state solution) for fear of being unpopular, or provoking anger from pro-Hamas demonstrators. The question of political courage runs like a red thread in this article and Sean correctly writes that "the socialist who is afraid to be unpopular who cannot stand against the tide, or even the stream, is a poor little specimen indeed."

Reading these articles, as well as the extensive coverage of the AWL's brave efforts to get its message across to pro-Hamas demonstrators in Sheffield and elsewhere, I cannot help but wonder why the AWL doesn't present that same message to a 15,000 strong rally in London? (And a decent sized one in Manchester as well.)

One would think that with your "third camp" politics, you'd be eager to hold up your placards with their "Down with Hamas, Down with the IDF" not only at pro-Hamas rallies, but even at pro-peace ones organised by the Jewish community?

But you don't. I wonder why. Could it be that the Socialist Party is not the only group on Britain's far left with a muddled message, lacking in political courage?

Eric Lee

Continued: The "Cowardice" of AWL on the Gaza War

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli election defeat for left, confused political picture

Neither right nor center can claim a clear mandate, but the left certainly lost. The Israel Labor party, which founded and built the state, has all but disappeared.

Both parties claim victory and race to form rival coalitions

Feb. 10, 2009
gil hoffman and staff , THE JERUSALEM POST

Both Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party and Binyamin Netanyahu's opposition Likud styled themselves the winners of Tuesday's elections, after it became apparent that Kadima had won the most seats in the new Knesset, but the Likud-led right-wing would constitute the larger bloc.

With 99.7 percent of the votes counted by 7:00 a.m., Kadima was narrowly leading Likud with a predicted 28 mandates, while the latter had garnered a predicted 27 seats. Israel Beiteinu was expected to earn 15 mandates, Labor 13, Shas 11, United Arab List five, United Torah Judaism four, National Union four, Hadash four, Meretz three, Bayit Hayehudi three, and Balad two.

The final results, including votes from soldiers and emissaries abroad, will only be published on February 18.

Overall voter turnout, which observers had feared would be low, was 65.2%, over two percentage points higher than in the 2006 national elections.

Livni had argued earlier in the day that whoever headed the biggest party should be deemed to have "won the public's trust" and should thus be charged with forming the next coalition.

But Likud leaders were already working on Tuesday to construct a "blocking" majority that would deny her any such prospect.

Israel Beiteinu, whose support could be critical to the nature of the next coalition, was to meet on Wednesday to discuss the options produced by the election outcome. But party leader Avigdor Lieberman, in a victory speech after midnight, indicated it was his intention to go with the Likud.

"We've turned into a significant party, the third largest in Israel," Lieberman told cheering supporters. "It's true that Tzipi Livni won a surprise victory. But what is more important is that the right-wing camp won a clear majority... We want a right-wing government. That's our wish and we don't hide it."

Both Netanyahu and Livni had called Lieberman on Tuesday night and asked for his support.

Kadima leaders expressed confidence that Livni would be able to form a government together with at least Labor, Meretz and Israel Beiteinu.

In an effort to reach out to Lieberman, Livni's associates said her first step as prime minister would be to change the political system, an issue at the top of his platform.

Livni challenged Netanyahu in statements throughout the day Tuesday to fulfill the public's desire for a national-unity government by joining a coalition led by her.

"As soon as Kadima gets more mandates, Bibi will have to stop with his manipulations and join a national-unity government," Livni said.

"Whoever gets more mandates won the public's trust and no one can argue with that. We are the only party that can form a national-unity government."

A Kadima official told The Jerusalem Post late Tuesday night that Israel Beitenu was more
of a natural partner in a future coalition than the Likud, and that Avigdor Lieberman's party was "not really in the right wing bloc."

"They are not on the right on the issue of a two-state solution. They support that solution but they want a land swap in it. They are not on the right on state-religion issues and they are not on the right on the issue of changing the system of government. Lieberman is pragmatic and he can definitely be in the coalition," the top Kadima official said. The official added that Kadima would like to form as broad a coalition as possible, but would settle for a Kadima-Labor-Israel Beitenu-UTJ coalition, which would give it about 63 Knesset seats.

Lior Chorev, another top Kadima strategist, said, "The President has to allow Livni the chance to form a coalition. It's going to be difficult, but if she gets a chance she will succeed. The last time she had the opportunity to do it she decided not to burden the Israeli taxpayer with billions of shekels paid to the ultra-Orthodox. Livni has a backbone that Netanyahu never had. This time she can get the moderate left and the moderate right. We will ask Netanyahu to join us. We know he is hurting now, but he'll take the next 48 hours to recover and then we'll talk to him. Lieberman can also join without too many problems. Lieberman's campaign is far from what he is when he's in the government, he's much more practical."

Likud MKs said that due to the six- to eight-seat victory of the Right bloc over the Left bloc, they expected President Shimon Peres to entrust Netanyahu with forming the government, even if Kadima ended up with more seats than the Likud.

They said they had no doubt that Livni would fail to form a government, because she was not able to build a coalition in October when the Left bloc had more seats.

"Netanyahu will be Israel's next prime minister," the Likud said in a statement after the exit polls were released. "The election proved that the path of the Likud and the national camp won. A clear majority of the nation rejected the path of Kadima and its partners and accepted the path of Likud and the nationalist camp."

The Likud leader called for the entire nationalist camp to unite under his leadership and said he would immediately begin efforts to form as wide a government as possible.

Peres intends to meet with the factions quickly to expedite the process of appointing a candidate to form a coalition.

In his concession speech, Labor Party chairman Ehud Barak said he would not join a government that "does not fit with what we believe" and that he was not afraid to join the opposition.

He cautioned against eulogizing Labor and vowed to rehabilitate the party and return it to power.

If the results predicted by the exit polls turn out to be accurate, the Likud would have fallen massively from as many as 36 seats predicted by polls taken in December to as few as 27.

But Likud MKs put a positive spin on the results by saying that the party had more than doubled its mandates since the 2006 election while Kadima had remained with around the same number of seats.

In Likud and Labor, opponents of the party chairmen already began talking after the exit polls about their leaders' failure. Both Netanyahu and Barak could face challenges to their leadership from inside their parties.

Netanyahu's nemesis in the Likud, Moshe Feiglin, released a statement saying that Netanyahu's battle against him took right-wing votes away from Likud and gave them to Israel Beiteinu.

A number of Likud politicians privately admitted that the party had assumed that the victory was theirs and had not campaigned hard enough in the last weeks before the election, a move that made them vulnerable to rival parties.

Tovah Lazaroff, Amir Mizroch, and Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.


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Europeans: Jews killed Christ, caused financial crisis

Think how much the world has changed in your life time. If you were born just after World War II, you saw the birth of dozens of new nations, the sun setting on the British Empire, the virtual disappearance of the rural way of life, the restoration of the Jewish people, the fall of the USSR, jet air planes, the end of segregation in the southern USA and the end of Apartheid in South Africa, computers, transistors, cellphones and rockets to Mars. So much has changed in our lifetimes. Isn't it comforting to know that the heart of European culture remains as hateful as ever?
Anti-Semitism, though not "politically correct," is probably still as strong as ever in Europe. 23% of Europeans openly blame the Jews for killing Christ (talk about holding a grudge!) and 31% blame Jews for the financial crisis. The rest are too sophisticated to voice their real opinions. The beast is not dead, just sleeping.

Bernard Madoff killed Christ, right?

Poll: 31% of Europeans blame Jews for global financial crisis

By Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz Correspsondent, and Haaretz Service

A recent survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-Semitic attitudes in seven European countries have worsened due to the global financial crisis and Israel's military actions against the Palestinians.

Some 31 percent of adults polled blame Jews in the financial industry for the economic meltdown, while 58 percent of respondents admitted that their opinion of Jews has worsened due to their criticism of Israel.

The ADL, a Jewish-American organization polled 3,500 adults - 500 each in Austria, France, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom - between December 1, 2008 and January 13, 2009.

According to the survey, 40 percent of polled Europeans believe that Jews have an over-abundance of power in the business world. More than half of the respondents in Hungary, Spain and Poland agreed with this statement. These numbers were 7 percent higher in Hungary, 6 percent higher in Poland and 5 percent higher in France than those recorded in the ADL's 2007 survey.

Nearly half of the respondents in each of the countries said that Jews were more loyal to Israel than to their home country. Twenty-three percent said that their opinion of Jews was influenced by Israel's military and political activities.

Another 44 percent of respondents said it was "probably true" that Jews reference the Holocaust too much, while 23% said that they still blame Jews for the death of Jesus.

"This poll confirms that anti-Semitism remains alive and well in the minds of many Europeans," said Abe Foxman, the National Director of Anti-Defamation League. "In the wake of the global financial crisis, the strong belief of excessive Jewish influence on business and finance is especially worrisome."

Late last year, the ADL reported a major upsurge in the number of anti-Semitic postings on the Internet relating to the financial crisis engulfing the United States.

The Jewish-American organization cited hundreds of posts regarding the bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers and other institutions affected by the subprime mortgage crisis.

The messages railed against Jews in general, with some charging that Jews control the U.S. government and finance as part of a "Jew world order" and therefore are to blame for the economic turmoil.

The arrest of Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff, who allegedly swindled $50 billion from investors, prompted an outpouring of anti-Semitic comments on mainstream and extremist Web sites, according to the ADL.

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

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

"Jews are always a convenient scapegoat in times of crisis, but the Madoff scandal and the fact that so many of the defrauded investors are Jewish has created a perfect storm for the anti-Semites," Foxman said last year, following news of the Internet hate messages.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Zionism making the desert bloom - not just a slogan

Zionism really does this things like this.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of Israeli settlement in the Arava desert, a one-day conference was held on Wednesday, 4th February at the Arava's Sapir Center in the framework of the annual Arava Open Day. The conference was organized by the Yair Northern & Central Arava Research & Development Station, which is funded by KKL-JNF worldwide and by government organizations. Yigal Elad, scientific director of the R&D station, invited speakers to address issues or challenges facing Arava residents today.
Development of Settlement and Agriculture in the Central Arava
"The wilderness and arid land shall be glad, the Arava shall rejoice and blossom like the tulip" (Isaiah 35:1). Amnon Navot presented a brief history of Arava desert settlement, focusing on how persistence and vision have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. "Fifty years ago, a professor of agriculture by the name of Yitzhak Arnon visited the Arava and concluded that it was impossible to settle this region or to farm it. During the first years of the state, there was an army presence in the area, and furthermore, malaria was a problem. In 1958, Shai Ben Eliyahu and Hagai Porat decided that they wanted to found a community at Ein Yahav in the Central Arava. The various government agencies refused to support them, demanding a letter of intent from someone official. So they went straight to Ben Gurion, who turned red with anger when he heard how they had been refused. He wrote them the letter and in 1959, ten families arrived at Ein Yahav.
"KKL-JNF prepared the land and they tried growing tomatoes. In 1962, KKL-JNF prepared another 250 acres for agriculture. The really big breakthrough came a few years later, when Simha Blatt, the "Herzl" of water research in Israel, invented drip irrigation, and harvest yields increased dramatically. Today, over 6,000 people live in the Arava and supply 60% of Israel's fresh vegetables and more for export. I think that the main thing one needs to live here is faith! In another fifty years, I believe the Arava will change even more than anyone today could envision in their wildest imagination."
Producing Food by Modern Agriculture for the Whole World - Global, National and Regional Challenges
Professor Eli Finerman and Dr. Arik Heilig began their talk by asking whether the world was capable of feeding seven billion people. "The answer is yes. The reason that five million children die of hunger every year is that there is an unequal distribution of food resources. For example, if Americans were to cut their meat consumption by 10%, worldwide malnutrition would drop by 10%. It takes five kilograms of grain to produce one kilogram of meat. The goal of modern agriculture is to provide humanity with healthy food in a manner that does not harm the environment.
"The high-tech revolution in agriculture has made it possible to maximize yields and to receive a very high return on capital investment. Israel has a unique advantage in terms of its agricultural know-how because it has moved from a "developing" country to a "developed" country. Agricultural markets are very dynamic these days. For instance, in 1993, flower exports were double those of vegetables but now the opposite is true. The Negev and the Arava have been declared top priority regions in terms of agriculture and it is important to remember that without agriculture, our homeland could not exist."
Water and Agriculture - Future Development
"There has not been such a severe deficit in our water reserves since 1932. There has never been so little water flowing into the Kinneret. Even if we were to stop pumping water this minute, the Kinneret's water level will still drop rather than rise - and the situation with the other aquifers is no better." Professor Uri Shani, the head of the Israel Water Authority, painted a very bleak picture of Israel's water economy: "I was in the north yesterday, and the farmers were very angry with me for cutting water allocations. Although 70% of Israel's sewage is recycled, thanks to the efforts of organizations like KKL-JNF, freshwater is used for agriculture, and this will have to stop.
"I am committed to agriculture. It is part of our way of life, along with parks and green vistas. This year we are experiencing a terrible drought so in the future we have no choice but to become less dependent on rainwater - which means more recycling and desalination plants. Water availability in the Arava has until now been dependent on recycling and harvesting floodwaters in KKL-JNF reservoirs. Water will determine to what degree the Arava will continue to prosper and to grow in the future. We are planning a larger desalination plant in Eilat and it is my hope that by the time I leave my job, work on this plant will already have begun."
New Advances in Greenhouse Technology
"Agriculture in the Arava has the advantages of climate and a high temperature in the winter - but mainly, of the people here, who are really a special species!" Dr. Menahem Dinar noted that when discussing agriculture, the factors that determine profitability are manpower, water, production costs and competition." Almost all Arava agriculture is in greenhouses, where water is used to greater advantage than in open areas. In Holland, for example, all water in greenhouses is recycled and there is no reason we shouldn't be doing the same in the Arava. 90% of the water is lost in the air but today there are ways to retrieve it.
"A further innovation that I recommend implementing in the Arava is transforming greenhouses into energy producing units. Today there are technologies that can store the heat of the day for use at night or transform it into electricity that can even be sold back to the electric company. The conditions of the Arava are suitable for adapting many of the recent inventions in greenhouse technologies, with the help of the R&D stations."
Genetic Engineering - Implications for Arava Agriculture
According to Professor Yedidya Gafni, "what once seemed like science fiction is today commonplace thanks to genetic engineering. There are over 250 million acres of farmland in the world today that are being engineered genetically, even though there is some controversy about it, particularly in Europe. It is really amazing to see what can be done with this technology. It is now possible to take the DNA of one plant and transfer it to another - but not simply from plant to plant. It is now also possible, for example, to isolate the gene that makes a particular insect light up at night and to implant it into a flower, which then becomes iridescent and an amazing new market attraction. The genes that make scorpion stings toxic can now be injected into plants thus making them resistant to pests and thus cutting the need for pesticides. Here, in Israel, farmers are growing crops that will provide insulin for diabetics.
"A vaccination against malaria has been successfully introduced into bananas in third world countries. One development that could be of special interest to Arava farmers are genetically engineered plants that signal when they are thirsty, causing a light to turn on, which sets a watering apparatus in motion, thereby saving water. There are also plants that are capable of drawing toxic substances out of the ground after wars. It seems that the only limit on what we can accomplish with genetic engineering is our own imagination, and judging by the results until now, some of our wildest fantasies can become reality."
Future Arava Development within the Negev Master Plan
"Developing the Negev is critical, both for Israel's future and also for realizing our own potential. Israel's central region has one of the highest rates of population density in the world, with a related concentration of the country's industry and strategic sites. This makes the central region an easy target for our enemies and a further problem in terms of sustainability. The future development of the Negev is not a luxury, but absolutely necessary." Haim Blumenblat of the Budgets for Development of Peripheral Regions Division spoke on what he considered realistic and was what unrealistic in terms of future Arava development. "The Negev theoretically holds Israel's greatest land reserves, but in practical terms, almost the entire region is either shooting ranges or nature reserves. Other than developing already existing urban centers, primarily Beersheba, most of the area available for development is along Highway No. 90, that is, the Arava.
"Some people think it would be a good idea to build new cities in the Arava. I am against it. I look at things in terms of their feasibility and the lack of water and harsh climatic conditions are not suitable for big cities. Small communities and villages as has been the case until now are the right blueprint for the future. At present, 85% of the income in the Central Arava is from agriculture. There needs to be greater diversification, for example, tourism, although agriculture will always remain the Arava's backbone. Renewable energy technologies are critical for this region.
"We must think about the future here, about attracting more people and about what is realistic and unrealistic. On considering how to prepare for the future of agriculture, I would say - R&D, R&D, and again R&D! Today you are selling tons of peppers, one day that market might disappear. Your R&D stations should be thinking ten years ahead. When you come to the government to ask for funding, I would recommend taking the approach that you represent a strong and productive sector of the population. And be willing to do your share, invest in research and development. In my opinion, that is what will guarantee your future."
Dr. Arik Heilig summed up life in the Arava: "I often host groups of researchers from abroad. I tell them, 'You are about to see the magic of the Arava.' After seeing what has been accomplished here, they couldn't agree more."
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Childhood anemia in Gaza?

The great Gaza anemia hoax - more and better ways to lie with figures

Anemia rates and high infant mortality among children in Gaza are cited by NGOs and UN agencies as evidence of a humanitarian crisis caused by the "Gaza siege." Examination of the actual data however shows that anemia rates have probably not changed much in Gaza and the West Bank since 1990, that childhood anemia is endemic among Palestinians outside of the occupied territories, and that higher anemia rates are found in other parts of the world. Infant mortality rates have declined slightly since 2000 and are less than infant mortality rates in Turkey, Syria and Egypt.

A UNICEF announcement of April 2008 which has been widely cited as evidence of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Israeli "siege," actually states that the situation is little changed since 2000. This suggests that there is no acute humanitarian crisis at all in Gaza as regards child health care and nutrition, relative to other parts of the world, and certainly no crisis caused by Israeli measures taken in recent years. Judging from these data, the Gaza "humanitarian crisis" appears to be a hoax. Health statistics have been deliberately and cynically manipulated for political purposes.

In 2002, widely quoted and quite alarming figures supposedly showed that about 19% of Gaza and West Bank children suffered from anemia, attributed to the malevolence of the cruel Zionists by diverse sources (for example see and By 2008, headlines were claiming anemia rates of 50% or more.
More - The great Gaza anemia hoax - more and better ways to lie with figures


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Zionist Election plot

Arab media are justifiably incensed at the lastest provocation of international Zionism - holding democratic elections in blatant violation of the ancient laws and custome of the Middle East. Can anyone blame the for being angry at this violation of Middle East Human Rights norms?  Nobody got tortured. No candidate was rejected because he or she was not Islamic enough. Women are allowed to vote. What a scandal!  

An egregious provocation of the Jew Zionist Tel-Aviv regime occurred on February 10, 2009. All right thinking progressive peoples should be organizing protests. All progressive nations such as Libya and Saudi Arabia should be initiating a severe security council reprimand.

For the eighteenth time in their history, the apartheid Tel-Aviv regime has held free elections, a clear affront to right thinking Arab peoples everywhere, and otherwise nearly unheard of in the Middle East. Did not the clarion voice of progressivism in the Middle East, the Saudi Arab News, rightly protest that the Zionist elections would not bring peace? In Saudi Arabia of course, there is no danger of any such heretical practice of elections.

Imagine the horror of right thinking Arab peoples: In Israel, the communist party is allowed to run alongside Zionist parties, and the communists are not the most radical. Most of the parties have female candidates, and most support the teaching of evolution as well as rights for homosexuals. Such horrors are unheard of in well run countries like Saudi Arabia of course.

In Syria, Omr Jaftali asks in Tishreen, "Which new extremist will be elected?" Syrians have no such uncertainty of course. They know precisely which extremist will be elected, because only one extremist is ever running, and he always gets well over 90% of the vote. There is no election night tension in Syria.


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Palestinians Dyring to Boycott Israel

The New York Times carried this article, which should be of concern to real humanitarians everywhere.
Palestinians Stop Paying Israeli Hospitals for Gaza and West Bank Patients
JERUSALEM — Scores of Palestinian patients being treated in Israeli hospitals, a rare bright spot of coexistence here, are being sent home because the Palestinian Authority has stopped paying for their treatment, partly in anger over the war in Gaza.
Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem says that for the past week, no payments have come in and Palestinians whose children it is treating have been instructed by Palestinian health officials to place them in facilities in the West Bank, Jordan or Egypt.
"Suddenly we have had 57 patients dropped from our rolls," said Dr. Michael Weintraub, director of pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplantation at Hadassah. "We have been bombarded by frantic parents. This is a political decision taken on the backs of patients."
The Palestinian health minister, Fathi Abu Moghli, said he was examining the entire referral procedure because he was tired of adding to what he called Israel's "oil well," meaning the payments for Palestinian patient care. In particular, he said, he had no desire to see the wounded from the Gaza war receive Israeli care.
"We already pay $7 million a month to Israeli hospitals," he said in a telephone interview. "Since the first day of the Gaza aggression, I said that I will not send to my occupier my injured people in order for him to make propaganda at my expense, and then pay him for it."
An Israeli clinic set up with great fanfare on the Israeli-Gaza border the day the war ended, Jan. 18, has already closed, since both Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority essentially boycotted it. The Palestinian Authority pays for much of its citizens' care in Israel from its budget.
Israel has long pointed to its medical care of Palestinians as an example of its advanced skills and humanitarianism. Palestinians generally are eager to gain the benefit, but are also resentful. As relations have chilled, each side has accused the other of political manipulation.
Dr. Abu Moghli said that with 24 hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank, there was no reason for so many Palestinian patients to go automatically to Israeli facilities, which he said were much more expensive and contributed to a culture of dependency.
"We can't pay our government salaries this month, but at the same time I have to pay Israeli hospitals so much," he said. "The Israelis have refused to reduce their costs."
Israeli doctors and nonprofit groups support having the Palestinians provide more care for their own people, but say that the gap with Israel in quality remains huge, and that the Palestinian Authority is making a mistake that could cost lives.
"Cutting it in one day makes no sense," said Ron Pundak, director general of the Peres Center for Peace, which sponsors care for 1,000 Palestinian children a year in Israeli hospitals and training for 40 Palestinian doctors. "Such a move needs to be coordinated, but dialogue with the Palestinian Authority has been much harder since the war."
Anan Dahmi, a salesman from the West Bank city of Tulkarm, said he had been told by the Palestinian Health Ministry last week that his 4-year-old son, Aous, had to stop going to Hadassah Hospital for follow-up treatments after a bone marrow transplant there a year ago, and should be taken instead to a Palestinian or Jordanian hospital.
Mr. Dahmi said that his 6-year-old daughter had died from the same disorder because he had not gotten her to Hadassah quickly enough, and that now he was deeply worried about his son.
"I don't know how I am going to manage," he said by telephone. "I don't want to lose my son the way I lost my daughter."
Hadassah officials say that removing Aous from their care could endanger his life, because his medical requirements are strict and specific and there is not yet a pediatric oncology facility in the Palestinian areas (one in East Jerusalem is due to start functioning, with Israeli help, in the coming year).
They add that while the cost of care is much higher in Israel than in the West Bank, Palestinians are not charged the higher rates for foreigners but those for Israelis — which are much lower than rates in the United States or Western Europe. In addition, they say, there are subsidies from foreign governments, charities and the hospital itself.
"The cure rate for childhood cancer is about 80 percent, but only in the first world," Dr. Weintraub, of Hadassah, said. "It costs between $50,000 and $100,000 here. It costs four times that in the U.S."
He added that the relationship between an Israeli hospital in Jerusalem and patients in the West Bank was like that between a hospital in El Paso and patients on the Mexican side of the border.
"People in the third world want first-world care just like we do," he said. "If they live in Malawi, they have no hope for it. But if they live 10 minutes from Hadassah, they will do everything they can to get admitted. And we are happy to take them. There are no politics in our wards. Twenty percent of our patients are Palestinians, and we have one common enemy: cancer. The rest is immaterial. The question now is how to get those patients back into our care."

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Arabs scoff at Israeli democracy

Syrian journalism has branded Israel's elections in similar terms – "Which new extremist will be elected?" asked Omar Jaftali of the Tishreen daily on Tuesday.
In Syria, they have no such problem. Everybody knows which extremist will be elected, because only one extremists is presented as a candidate.
Eat your heart out, dear neighbors.
Various Arab newspapers covering Israeli general elections with great interest come to similar, clear conclusion: Conceptually, Lieberman is big winner. 'Race between Right headed by Livni and extreme Right headed by Netanyahu,' Asharq Al-Awsat says
Roee Nahmias
Published:  02.10.09, 14:57 / Israel News
"Elections in Israel: Between Right and extreme Right," was the headline of Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat's top story on Tuesday.

Israel's general elections have generated much interest in the Arab world, where it seems to have already been decided that, no matter what the results are, right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman is the big winner, at least conceptually.

"Under unprecedented security measure, over five million voters - 15% Arabs, 81.8% Jews and 4% non-Jewish Russians - arrive at the polling stations today," Asharq Al-Awsat, Tuesday edition read.

"The race is between the Right, whose candidate is Tzipi Livni and her party Kadima, and the extreme Right, represented by Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, and even more extreme candidates like Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman."

The paper reported that according to recent polls in Israel, the Right will win in elections. Leading pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat also estimated the next Israeli government will be a right-wing one.

"Estimates say the Right will win; Lieberman is the key to forming a government… Despite recent polls that show the rightist bloc will win with an absolute majority (66 out of 120 mandates), a very tight race has been noted between the rightist Likud party headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and the 'centralist' Kadima party headed by Tzipi Livni," Al-Hayat read.
"This came after Likud lost many mandates to the extreme rightist party Yisrael Beiteinu headed by Avigdor Lieberman, whose election campaign focused on incitement against Arabs."

Illustration of Israeli F-16 dropping ballots on ruins in Gaza (Photo: Al-Hayat)

Another pan-Arab daily, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, featured an article saying, "Elections in Israel: Estimates say right-wing parties that refuse to retreat to 1967 borders and object the right of return – will win."

'Focus on Gaza tragedy; not elections'
Meanwhile, Egypt state newspaper Al-Ahram declared that "Netanyahu is afraid of Lieberman, and Livni is looking for a victory in the final stretch".

Syrian journalism has branded Israel's elections in similar terms – "Which new extremist will be elected?" asked Omar Jaftali of the Tishreen daily on Tuesday.

"Elections in Israel today will reveal which extremist will lead Israel into the next phase, especially when the front runners are terrorists whose hands are stained in the blood of Palestinian children, and after they stressed this over and over in their election campaigns.
"Each of the political parties struggling against each other in the Israeli political arena is trying to prove it can kill more and complete the Zionist plan that effects the entire region…and this is the main problem," the article continued.

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Hamas whacking internal opposition - Palestinian democracy in action

Amnesty accuses Hamas of eliminating opponents
'Islamist group forces in Gaza engaged in campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of collaborating with Israel,' human rights group says
Published:  02.10.09, 15:29 / Israel News
Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Hamas of waging a campaign to kill or maim scores of Palestinian opponents in the Gaza Strip since the end of December.
The human rights group said in a report that at least two dozen men have been shot dead by gunmen from the Palestinian militia that governs the Gaza Strip since December 27.

"Scores of others have been shot in the legs, knee-capped or inflicted with other injuries intended to cause severe disability, subjected to severe beatings ... or otherwise tortured or ill-treated," it added.

"Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have engaged in a campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of 'collaborating' with Israel, as well as opponents and critics," the report said.

The victims included members of Palestinian Authority security forces and members of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas' Fatah party, Amnesty said.

The campaign began shortly after the beginning of the three-week Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip on December 27 and continued after the ceasefire on January 18, according to Amnesty.

'Perpetrators did not conceal their weapons'
Palestinian human rights groups and victims first made such accusations at the end of last month, saying the Hamas rulers of Gaza were persecuting members of the rival Fatah movement to quash any opposition.

Taher al Nunu, a spokesman for Hamas, denied the charges at the time, dismissing them as "lies spread by Ramallah," where Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are based.
Amnesty International said the targets included former detainees who were accused by Hamas of collaboration with Israel after escaping from Gaza's central prison when it was bombed by Israeli forces on December 28.

Some were shot dead in hospitals where they were being treated for injuries suffered during the bombing raid, sometimes in front of distraught relatives, according to the testimony gathered by the human rights group.

"The perpetrators of these attacks did not conceal their weapons or keep a low profile, but, on the contrary, behaved in a carefree and confident - almost ostentatious - manner," the report noted.
Amnesty said there was "no doubt" that the victims were abducted, killed, shot and tortured by Hamas security forces and armed militias, adding that the evidence was "incontrovertible."

It called on the "Hamas de facto administration" to immediately end the campaign, accept an independent and impartial investigation and guarantee that victims and witnesses would not be targeted.

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Hamas must be brought to book for havoc they have sown

Hamas must be brought to book for havoc they have sown


Mon, Feb 09, 2009

OPINION:Israelis are fed up with the Palestinians' inability to take Yes for an answer, writes EDWIN BENNATAN.

THE RENOWNED physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who was known for his colourful objections to incorrect or sloppy thinking, was once asked for his opinion of a paper written by a young student. "This is not right," declared Pauli. "It's not even wrong."

Some arguments are so blatantly flawed that they do not even deserve being called wrong. Such is Lara Marlowe's simplistic view of the Israel-Palestinian conflict (Opinion and Analysis, February 3rd) in which she proposes that the US and the EU impose a solution on the two sides. "The UN should flood the Gaza Strip with blue helmets," she suggests, "who would prevent Hamas firing rockets."

She continues: "The most maddening thing about the conflict is that there is such an obvious solution, as there was in Northern Ireland."

First, the Middle East is not Northern Ireland. Cambridge historians John Bew and Martyn Frampton have stated in a recent report that although it has become "fashionable to look to the lessons of the peace process in Northern Ireland as holding insights for other areas of conflict, simplistic comparisons may be unhelpful".

While the aims of the IRA posed no "existential threat" to the British, they argue, "the objectives of Hamas require the destruction of the state of Israel". The researchers also maintain that while the IRA's political goals were local, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is part of a global Islamist movement.

Second, Israel has already experienced the impotence of UN forces when, in 1967, UN peacekeepers were swiftly removed from the Egypt-Israel border in response to the first demand from Egypt's president Gamal Abdul Nasser, who then proceeded to mass his army on the border, which led to the Six Day War. Israel has no reason to believe that the UN would act differently today.

And as for the notion that the US and the EU should impose a solution to the conflict, Marlowe seems to have a mental picture of two brawling children whose parents need to send them off to bed with no supper until they learn to behave.

Israel is not the 30th or 20th strongest force in the world; it is one of the most powerful forces (which it needed to become to survive in a tough neighbourhood), and it will never accept an imposed arrangement that it believes would imperil its very existence. Israel is not facing just Hamas, or even just the Palestinians. The situation in the Middle East is more complex than that.

As Bew and Frampton have noted, Israel is facing a global Islamist movement in which Iran plays a leading role, and which also includes Hizbullah and the Muslim Brotherhood who are fighting to overthrow the relatively moderate pro-western governments in Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Marlowe needs to understand this before she offers her simplistic proposals.

Marlowe is also apparently unaware that the Palestinians have been offered a two-state solution, which they have repeatedly rejected. As far back as 1947, the Palestinians rejected UN Resolution 181 on the partitioning of British Mandate Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab (the Jews of Palestine accepted the UN partition plan).

More recently, the Palestinians rejected US president Bill Clinton's proposal in 2000 at Camp David for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which included the removal of Jewish settlements. Amin al-Mahdy reported in the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayathow Yasser Arafat, in an interview two years later, lamented his mistake in rejecting the peace offer.

Al-Mahdy wrote: "Arafat has admitted his mistake in refusing Clinton's proposals. But what he should have explained was why he refused, why it was wrong, and why it took him two years to realise it. Now the situation has deteriorated to a degree that goes beyond the mistake of rejecting the Clinton peace plan. That rejection was part of a tragic cycle of mistakes that involved resorting to violence and a direct alliance with the Islamic political groups before the negotiations.

"This tragic cycle of mistakes overthrew the idea of peaceful negotiations and did a lot to bring down the Israeli left and the peace movement."

Six years after the Palestinians rejected Clinton's proposals the Israeli peace camp regained its ground and returned to power in the 2006 elections. Peace negotiations with the Palestinians resumed, and additional details of the peace deal were ironed out (Palestinian control of Arab east Jerusalem, compensation for Palestinian refugees, and land swaps of territory in Israel proper in exchange for 4 per cent of the West Bank adjacent to the Israel border).

But again the Palestinian leadership rejected the deal that their negotiating team had worked out with the Israelis, and which offered them virtually everything they had been demanding (other than the destruction of Israel).

The latest barrages of cross-border rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, and the war that followed, have all but ended the current attempts at peace. To be blunt, the Israeli public is fed up with the Palestinians' inability to take Yes for an answer, and is expected once again to shift to the right at tomorrow's elections.

With a right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, it is highly unlikely that the current peace deal will remain on the table or that meaningful negotiations will be resumed anytime soon.

So where does this leave Lara Marlowe's analysis? She is clearly unaware of the history of this long and sad conflict, and seems to be preoccupied with baseless rumours and innuendos that serve no useful purpose.

But Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak got it right a few days ago in his address in honour of Egypt's national police force day. It is the responsibility of the Palestinian people, he said, to settle the score with Hamas for the pain and the destruction it has caused them.

If the Palestinians took Mubarak's advice that would be a welcome step towards peace.

© 2009 The Irish Times

Continued (Permanent Link)

Deterrent: No choice but to fight in Gaza

No choice but to fight
By Yossi Klein Halevi
Sunday, February 8, 2009
In May 1967, as a 14-year-old American Jew, I looked on helplessly as Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser moved his army to the Israeli border and promised the imminent destruction of the "Zionist entity."
I watched TV images of demonstrators in Cairo and Damascus waving banners of skulls and crossbones. The Jews were facing a second genocidal threat within two decades, yet the international community seemed unmoved. I resolved that, if Israel survived, I would someday make it my home.
Now, as an Israeli, I find myself back in the nightmare of May 1967. If anything, Israel's survival seems even more precarious today. The Middle East conflict has been transformed from a nationalist struggle over the creation of a Palestinian state into an Islamist struggle against the existence of a Jewish state.
Terror enclaves aligned with Iran - Hezbollah in the north, Hamas in the south - have formed on our borders. For the first time since the 1948 war, the Israeli home front has become the actual front.
Meanwhile, an Iranian regime whose threats to destroy Israel have become so routine that they are scarcely reported anymore may be about to cross the nuclear threshold. And the notion that Israel's very existence is a moral affront is spreading, not only in Muslim countries but in the West.
I moved to Israel in 1982, shortly after the Israeli Army invaded Lebanon to expel Yasser Arafat's PLO forces. In the bitterly divided nation I had just joined, there was little chance to savor the joy of homecoming. For the first time, many Israelis were questioning the justness of their nation at war. The apocalyptic images of May 1967 no longer seemed adequate to explain the moral and political complexities of the conflict.
That self-doubt intensified during the first intifada of the late 1980s. I served in a reserve unit patrolling Gaza's refugee camps and became convinced we needed to make almost any concession to end this pathological conflict. Concluding that Israel was partly culpable came as a kind of relief: If we shared blame for the conflict, that meant we could help solve it.
I joined the growing number of Israelis reaching out to the other side. In 1999, shortly before the outbreak of the second intifada, I went on a year-long pilgrimage into mosques and monasteries, seeking, as a religious Jew, a common devotional language with my Muslim and Christian neighbors.
I didn't expect Palestinians to reciprocate. It's always easier, after all, for the victor to be more nuanced than the defeated. Still, I discovered that even as many Israelis were trying to understand the Palestinian narrative, Palestinian society was teaching its children that the Jewish narrative was a lie.
There was no ancient Jewish presence in the land of Israel, no Temple on the Temple Mount, no Holocaust. One leading Palestinian moderate told me that the Jews weren't a people, only a religion, and that after the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel, the Jews would resume their status as a religious minority.
He was hardly alone: The notion that the Jews aren't a people and have no right to a state is endemic throughout Palestinian society, in fact throughout the Arab world.
The Israeli left won the debate over the need to end the occupation, but lost the debate over the viability of peace.
Most Israelis today want a two-state solution, but few believe it will end the conflict. Even many who oppose settlement-building no longer believe that settlements are the obstacle to peace.
Instead, we've become convinced that the real obstacle remains the existence of a Jewish state in any borders.
Since the collapse of the Oslo peace process, Israel has been caught in one ongoing war. Though the enemy repeatedly shifts, from Hamas to Hezbollah to Iran, the common aim is jihad, and its target is civilian Israel.
The curse of Jewish history - the inability to take mere existence for granted - has returned to a country whose founding was intended to resolve that uncertainty.
We feel the impingement of siege. In 1991, during the first Gulf War, when Tel Aviv was hit by Scud missiles from Iraq, residents fled north to the Galilee. In 2006, when the Galilee was hit by Katyushas from Hezbollah, residents fled south to Tel Aviv. Now, the entire country is within missile range. Next time, there will be nowhere to run.
After Israel's failed war against Hezbollah two years ago, we were haunted by the taunt of Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who claimed that Israel resembled a spider web, seemingly formidable but easily dismantled.
Our ongoing inability to prevent Hamas' missile attacks against Israeli towns bordering Gaza seemed to prove Nasrallah right. For eight years, successive Israeli governments in effect abandoned hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens. The missiles continued to fall after Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and before Israel imposed its siege against Gaza's Hamas government in 2007. Their purpose was to terrorize, and they exposed Israeli helplessness.
The fear of losing our ability to defend ourselves explains, in part, the motivation with which Israeli soldiers fought during the recent war in Gaza. It explains too why so many young Israelis, who came of age during the suicide bombings and missile attacks, will be voting for right-wing parties in Tuesday's Israeli election.
Meanwhile, we move from one unresolved conflict to the next, finding ourselves increasingly isolated and condemned. Yet we know we have no choice but to fight this war we tried to avert. We know too that, this time, there will be no easy victory, no Six-Day War to dispel the demons of May 1967.
Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, is the author of "At the Entrance to the Garden of Eden: A Jew's Search for Hope with Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israeli Arab view of Lieberman: We got what we deserved

Ali Zahalka slams Israeli-Arab leadership for radicalism that boosted Avigdor Lieberman
Ali Zahalka
Published:  02.09.09, 12:14 / Israel Opinion 
The Arab-Israeli leadership is increasing pushing us into anti-Israel radicalism. This extremism climaxed with the "Death to the Jews" chants during Operation Cast Lead. Here is what I have to say to those leaders: Look at what you've done.
We did not cry out in the face of rocket attacks on southern residents that went on for years. We did not cry out in the face of the suffering of our brethren, Gaza residents, who have been brutally repressed by Hamas. Yet we cried out, of all things, in the face of an onslaught against the most radical element in the Arab world.
The Arab-Israeli leadership won't connect, heaven forbid, to the moderate Arab elements such as Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian Authority, or Jordan. These are of no interest to it. We saw Azmi Bishara, who left, and we saw where he went to.
I don't need to explain what Hamas is all about. The Egyptians and Palestinian Authority officials are doing it better than me. They ask Hamas how it can talk about victory when the war against Israel – which it sought and advanced – was managed on the backs and blood of thousands of Palestinians that were killed, wounded, or lost their property, while Hamas' leadership stayed at fortified bunkers or in Damascus.
So now we can accurately measure the result of this conduct: 18. Why 18? Because this is the number of Knesset seats that the polls predict for Avigdor Lieberman's party, Yisrael Beiteinu.
Apparently, we got what we deserve. If we, citizens of the State of Israel, which has a Jewish majority, connect to the worst enemies of the State, why are we surprised that this is what we get?
Lieberman and his party are not a marginal political element such as Meir Kahane's party, Kach. We are dealing with immense political power that constitutes tangible danger to Israeli Arabs. He hates us and incites against us, and we can see that it's going very well for him: The more he incites against us, the stronger he gets.
Moment of truth
That is, we managed to make the Jewish public hate us so much that many are willing to support a racist party. If a party was similarly inciting against Jews overseas, those same Lieberman supporters would probably cry out "anti-Semitism."

Our leadership, which for years had been leading us in a way that portrays us as the enemies of the State of Israel, while failing to take care of any of the real needs of Israel's Arab residents, is now asking for our votes again. Yet we interest our leadership just about as much as the Gaza population interests Hamas. For this leadership, we are merely a political means that allows it to make its damaging voice heard again and again.
I turn to Arab residents of Israel: This is a moment of truth for us. We are facing grave danger, and don't say that you weren't warned. Eighteen Knesset seats for Lieberman is no longer a political game. For us, it's genuine trouble. We cannot stand by and watch on, as if this does not pertain to us. We must enlist and massively support the moderate parties that will weaken Lieberman. 
We constitute 20% of the population in Israel and we have the ability to exert significant influence. We do not have the privilege to stay at home at this time and avoid the political game. If we fail to play it, others shall play it on our backs.
Therefore, do not abstain from voting, and do not vote for the radical Arab parties. Rather, vote in a way that reduces the great danger we are facing today – Lieberman and his colleagues. In other words: Support parties that are still willing to give us the opportunity to integrate as citizens with equal rights.
The writer is the principal of an elementary school at Kfar Kara

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, February 9, 2009

British diplomat says: F**king Jews

This is what the diplomats say when they aren't being diplomatic and don't have to insist that their criticism of Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.
Mr Laxton had gone to the London Business School's gym in Regent's Park after work on January 27.
An onlooker said: 'I was in the gym around 9pm and I heard this guy shouting something about "f**king Israelis".
'This bald guy was cycling away on his machine in the middle of the exercise room. When another guy approached him he shouted "f**king Jews, f**king Israelis".
'The gym was pretty full and everyone looked totally shocked.
' That sort of racist language is totally unacceptable. The gym staff called security and I think the guy was asked to leave.'
But you will keep believing that criticism of Israel has nothing to do with anti-Semitism, right?
By Emily Andrews and Tamara Cohen
Last updated at 9:41 AM on 09th February 2009

A high-ranking diplomat at the Foreign Office has been arrested after allegations that he launched a foul-mouthed anti-Semitic tirade.
Middle East expert Rowan Laxton, 47, was watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym.
Stunned staff and gym members allegedly heard him shout: 'F**king Israelis, f**king Jews'. It is alleged he also said Israeli soldiers should be 'wiped off the face of the earth'.
His rant reportedly continued even after he was approached by other gym users.
After a complaint was made to police, Mr Laxton was arrested for inciting religious hatred through threatening words and behaviour and bailed until late next month.
The maximum penalty for inciting religious hatred is a seven-year prison term or a fine or both.
Mr Laxton, who is still working normally, is head of the South Asia Group at the Foreign Office, on a salary of around £70,000.
He is responsible for all the UK's diplomacy in that area and for briefing Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who is Jewish.
Mr Laxton has worked extensively in the Middle East  -  he married a Muslim woman in 2000  -  and has been deputy ambassador to Afghanistan.
The case could not have come at a worse time for the Foreign Office. Next week, Britain is hosting an international summit on combating anti-Semitism, with politicians from 35 countries.
Mr Laxton had gone to the London Business School's gym in Regent's Park after work on January 27.
An onlooker said: 'I was in the gym around 9pm and I heard this guy shouting something about "f**king Israelis".
'This bald guy was cycling away on his machine in the middle of the exercise room. When another guy approached him he shouted "f**king Jews, f**king Israelis".
'The gym was pretty full and everyone looked totally shocked.
' That sort of racist language is totally unacceptable. The gym staff called security and I think the guy was asked to leave.'

Laxton was alleged to have been watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym when he began the tirade
Laxton was alleged to have been watching TV reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza as he used an exercise bike in a gym when he began the tirade
Mark Gardner, deputy director of the Community Security Trust which monitors anti-Semitism, said: 'There were an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents during the Gaza conflict.
'This alleged case is particularly shocking, given the position held by the civil servant in question.
'We must not allow an overseas conflict to cause racism here in Britain and especially not among civil servants.
'The Jewish community will be rightly appalled to hear of these allegations against such a senior figure.
'We hope that the appropriate disciplinary actions will be taken forthwith, as they would be if these comments had been made against any other section of society.'
A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'It is too early to comment in detail on a matter that is currently the subject of police enquiries. But we take extremely seriously any allegation of inappropriate conduct on the part of our staff and continue to follow developments closely.'
When contacted by the Daily Mail, Mr Laxton denied his comments were anti-Jewish but refused to answer when asked if they were anti-Israeli.
The Oxford graduate joined the diplomatic service in 1993 and rose rapidly through the ranks.
He ran the British High Commission in Pakistan for three years before moving to Afghanistan in 2001. He stayed in Kabul for two years, then returned to London. He was appointed head of his section last year.
Mr Laxton is believed to be separated from his wife, a banker who is working in the United Arab Emirates.
The Israel page of the Foreign Office website says: 'The Government has a shared responsibility to tackle anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and prejudice'.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Anti-Semitism in Britain

Friday, 6th February 2009
I am hearing ever more alarming accounts of the deepening attrition against British Jews in the wake of the incitement against Israel provoked by the war in Gaza. In addition to the record number of attacks upon Jewish individuals and institutions and murderous incitement displayed on the anti-Israel demonstrations and riots as reported by the Community Security Trust, Jewish parents report that their children – some as young as eight – are now running a gauntlet of attack from their Muslim classmates at school who accuse them of 'killing Palestinian children'. Comments by adults about 'Jews controlling all the money/the media/the BBC' (yes, really! All because it allowed Israel's spokesman to put the case for Israel from time to time) are now commonplace in both private and public discourse. Today's Jewish Chronicle reports that a 12 year-old Birmingham schoolgirl was terrorised by a mob of 20 youths chanting 'Kill all Jews' and 'Death to Jews' on her way home from school last week:

She said: 'One of my friends said an Asian girl from the year above asked her why she was talking to me because I am Jewish. I asked the girl in a friendly manner if she had a problem with me being Jewish. She said "yeah, I do". I managed to punch her before she hit me but then she grabbed me by the hair and swung me around shouting "f****** Jews, I hate Jews". But then another Asian girl rounded up a whole gang. They were all in school uniform and they came running towards me shouting "death to Jews" and "kill all Jews."'

A reader has sent me the following account of what happened to him when, travelling on the Tube in London, he started to read a copy of The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz:

After a time, I became aware that a man sitting diagonally in front of me near the doors at the end of the carriage was looking a bit agitated and had a disgruntled expression on his face. However, he didn't meet my eye, so I thought nothing more of it and continued reading as before...When the train reached St Paul's, the man I had noticed stood up to get off. But instead of leaving by the end doors, he made to pass me. In the process of doing so, he deliberately shoved into me and made to crush me against the side of the carriage and the passengers sitting behind me. Despite already knowing exactly what had actuated this behaviour, I asked the question anyway - and received the following response: 'You shouldn't be reading that, you f***ing [indecipherable].'...The whole confrontation had taken place in the time it took for the tube doors to wheeze open and shut.

Other than in the Jewish press, such incidents are barely being reported. Last week, for example, there was virtually no coverage of the violent demonstration organised by the Stop the War coalition which prevented the deputy commander of Israel's Gaza operation from speaking at London's Jewish student centre, Hillel House, when a crowd of about 60-80 students attempted to storm the building.

One of the most troubling developments is the way in which the universities have become an extension of the Middle East conflict, with a simulacrum of the aggression, intimidation and violence from which Israel is under attack by the Arabs being directed at Jewish students on British campuses, who now routinely run a gauntlet of intimidation and abuse from Arab and Muslim students. But even more worryingly, some universities are spinelessly choosing to give in to such bullying.

Throughout last week, after the cease-fire was declared in Gaza, there was a series of anti-Israel sit-ins and demonstrations organised by the STWC at some 17 universities: in London at the School of Oriental and African Studies, the London School of Economics, Queen Mary College and King's College, as well as at Bradford, Sheffield Hallam, Warwick, Leeds, Oxford, Cambridge, Sussex, Essex, Nottingham, Birmingham, Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and Strathclyde. Some of these protests led to criminal damage and forced the universities to pay thousands of pounds to deal with the disruption, rearrange lectures, hire extra security guards and repair the damage.

The demonstrators took control of lecture halls and made a series of demands: that the universities should issue a statement condemning Israel's actions in Gaza; offer scholarships to Palestinian students; send surplus educational materials to help rebuild Gaza (presumably its Islamic University, said by Israel to be a fount of terror); dedicate some of their time to fund-raising for Gaza; and take no action against the demonstrators.

Some of these universities responded robustly to such disorder and intimidation. Manchester Metropolitan, Birmingham, Nottingham and, after some delay, Leeds and Cambridge reportedly refused to accept any of these demands.  At Nottingham and Sheffield Hallam, the demonstrators were forcibly evicted.

But the LSE, King's College London, SOAS, Bradford, Strathclyde and Oxford reportedly gave in to some or all of these demands. According to the JC, the LSE agreed to waive application fees for Gaza and West Bank students 'directly affected by the conflict', while Bradford

agreed to investigate the 'ethical background' of food and drink served on campus, and promised to 'explore the feasibility of a twinning link with the Islamic University of Gaza'.

Strathclyde agreed among other things to cancel a contract with an Israeli water-cooler company.  Oxford – which fined each demonstrator the princely sum of £20 – nevertheless started negotiations with them with indecent haste, and a mere few hours later had agreed to pretty well everything. In a craven letter to colleagues the Vice-Chancellor, John Hood, having stated that

unlawful action of this kind cannot be condoned

proceeded to reward it by giving the perpetrators what they had demanded.

The Oxford demonstrators also demanded that the title of the series of lectures on 'world peace' at Balliol, recently inaugurated by Israeli President Shimon Peres and named in his honour, be changed; the Senior Proctor, Professor Donald Fraser -- who oversees disciplinary matters and who recommended 'a relatively lenient course of action against the demonstrators '--  duly wrote to Balliol drawing its attention to the students' concerns.

Thus the trahison des clercs as they crumble in the face of criminality, violence and intimidation.

And so now at British universities --which should be the most protected of all environments for free discourse and inquiry -- British Jews no longer feel safe. At Nottingham, one such student said:

The sit-in has created an atmosphere where we do not feel comfortable going into shared buildings on campus.

At King's, another Jewish student said:

Someone from my course wrote 'kill the Jews' on my Facebook profile. Later he said he didn't know I was Jewish. In public someone said to me, 'I think all the Israelis are crazy and so are the f***ing Jews'.

And at Oxford, the JC reports:

One University Reader reportedly told a meeting that 'within five years, Oxford will be a Jew-free zone'

and a student wrote to Professor Fraser warning that

for Jewish students, the university and the city have developed a toxic atmosphere in which I and many others feel increasingly alienated and unwelcome.

Meanwhile, of course, as Sky's Tim Marshall pointed out the other day on his blog, the government of Sri Lanka is also attempting to eradicate terrorism by a military campaign in which, according to the UN, 'many civilians are being killed', thousands made homeless, hundreds of thousands trapped, and to which, as food shortages grow, the government refuses to allow access to journalists. Yet there are no sit-ins on campus against the Sri Lankans, no violent riots outside its High Commission, no calls to boycott Orange Pekoe tea. As Marshall observed:

And yet somehow the lives of the 1,300 Palestinians killed by the Israelis causes far more outrage, in certain quarters, than the 2 million dead in Congo, the tens of thousands of Iraqis killed by Sunni and Shia terrorists, or the growing number of Sri Lankan dead to add to the 70,000 killed over the past 25 years (far more than the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed in the same period).

Of course – because the protests in Britain have nothing to do with humanitarian concerns for the innocent. They are part of the jihad against the Jews – and those in the universities and other parts of the establishment who are capitulating to or even endorsing this are accomplices to a great evil that is now consuming British public life.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel may free Marwan Barghouti as part of Shalit deal

Last update - 10:58 08/02/2009       
Report: Israel to free Marwan Barghouti as part of Shalit deal
By Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff, Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, Haaretz Correspondents
Israel has agreed to free jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti as part of a deal to secure the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat reported Sunday.
According to the daily, Barghouti will be among the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners Israel will free in the exchange. But the London-based paper also said that Israel has refused to release Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Ahmed Sa'adat.
Israel has also agreed to release 350 of the 372 prisoners on a list presented by Hamas, Al-Hayat reported.
Barghouti is the former head of Tanzim, the armed-wing of Fatah. He was arrested in a raid by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002 and in 2004 an Israeli court sentenced him to five life sentences for five murders of Israeli citizens.
The report came as significant progress had been made in the indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas regarding a new cease-fire formula in the Gaza Strip that will also include the reopening of the border crossings and the release of Shalit.
However, much still depends on Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal in Damascus approving the deal.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak confirmed that "supreme efforts" are being made to secure Shalit's release in the near future.
On Saturday night, Israel's "troika" - composed of Prime Minister Olmert, Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni - held an unusual meeting at the Defense Ministry to discuss the negotiations for a cease-fire deal in the Gaza Strip, along the lines proposed by Egypt.
The meeting also included Minister Rafi Eitan, whom Olmert recently asked to join the meetings involving information on Shalit.
A senior political source said on Saturday that "there is still no decision on Shalit, mostly because of Hamas' need to form a joint position on the matter."
The same source also said that any reports that a deal may be at hand are exaggerated. "As soon as there is something to talk about, the political-security cabinet will meet," the source added. "So far the matter has not reached the decision-making stage."
On Thursday the prime minister held a series of meetings on Shalit. A senior political source said that during the talks a number of new ideas were introduced with regard to a potential deal. "In recent days, efforts on Shalit's behalf have been accelerated," the source said.
The breakthrough was achieved last week during talks in Cairo between Egypt's chief of intelligence, Gen. Omar Suleiman, and Hamas representatives, and later in talks between the senior Egyptian mediator and Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's political-security bureau.
Gilad returned from Cairo Thursday with what appears to be a detailed agreement for a cease-fire and he is expected to go back to Egypt in a day or two.
On Saturday, a senior Hamas figure from the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud al-Zahar, traveled to Cairo, in what was his first public appearance since going underground during Operation Lead Cast. He was accompanied by Hamas parliamentarian Salah al-Bardawil as well as Nizar Awadalla, who handles the Shalit case for Hamas. Accompanying them was the spokesman for the Hamas government, Taher al-Nunu.
Zahar told the Arabic language satellite television station Al-Jazeera on Saturday that Hamas will evaluate the Israeli proposals and will offer its final response to it.
The senior Hamas official will also travel with his delegation to Damascus for talks with Meshal and his aides. Their meeting is considered crucial on whether a deal will be finalized.
At this point the following are believed to be the main points of the deal that is being formulated:
# A cease-fire for 18 months in the Gaza Strip (unrelated to the West Bank). Once the cease-fire comes to an end, it will be possible to extend it for another 18 months. Hamas has promised to prevent attacks from the Gaza Strip and the IDF will avoid attacks of its own.
# A full reopening of the crossings between Israel and the Strip, which means more than mere humanitarian assistance will be allowed to cross into Gaza. Israel has conditioned a full reopening of the crossings on the release of Gilad Shalit.
# Gilad Shalit will be returned to Israel in the near future, in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.
# Reopening of the Rafah border crossing. Following Egyptian insistence, the crossing will be run by Palestinian Authority officials loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas. However, unlike a similar 2005 agreement, Hamas will be allowed to maintain a presence at the crossings.
This formula appears to be acceptable to Israel, Egypt and the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, under Ismail Haniyeh. The main obstacle at this point may lie in Damascus, since Meshal may block it. Also opposed to the formula under negotiation is the head of Hamas' military wing, Ahmed Ja'abari.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Anti-Semitism - alive and well in Australia?

 A sinister hatred kept alive when we turn a blind eye
Frank Devine | February 06, 2009
Article from:  The Australian
IT is improbable that I could bring myself to stay for long, if at all, in the same room with somebody who had described Jews as "real motherf--king bastards." Apart from this piece of abuse, Maqsood Alsham, an asylum seeker from Bangladesh, has described the Gaza invasion by Israel as a worse atrocity than the Holocaust.
Yet three universities - Sydney, Macquarie and the Sydney University of Technology - continued their support of a conference organised by Maqsood to debate whether Israel should be tried by the International Court of Justice for the invasion.
In an early defence, Maqsood ingenuously whinged: "Is it anything wrong to have a private conversation? This is not my public view."
But to hold and express such views privately or publicy is to put oneself beyond the pale.
The English Catholic schismatic "bishop" Richard Williamson has done that with his dogmatic assertions that "only 200,000 to 300,000 Jews" died under Nazi persecution and none in gas chambers.
Only 200,000 or 300,000 men, women and children murdered for the crime of being Jews! How trivial a transgression!
Williamson reiterated this view on Swedish TV just prior to Pope Benedict's lifting last week the excommunication orders imposed on Williamson and three other "bishops" of the breakaway Society of Pius IX, founded by the French archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in rebellion against some of the conclusions of Vatican Council II.
Not being skilled at reading the minds of popes, I'm inclined to accept the official explanation that Benedict, having responsibility for preserving church unity, seeks to draw the Society of Pius IX back into the Catholic communion. The Pope's personality also makes it plausible that he cancelled the excommunication order, imposed on the four bishops by Paul VI in 1988, out of compassion for the individuals.
But Williamson! Great fools have achieved episcopal rank before, and you don't have to search widely to suspect their contemporary presence. Williamson is a special case, however.
Apart from his attempted trivialisation of the Holocaust, he has called Jews "the enemies of Christ" and claimed that they "aim at world dominion". (He also believes the US government engineered John F. Kennedy's assassination and that women shouldn't attend universities.)
The Pius IX Society superior, "bishop" Bernard Fellay, has told the Pope he has forbidden Williamson to speak out publicly about any historical or political question.
But who would want to listen to such a man speaking out in any circumstances on any subject? Unless, of course, he was able to pass himself off as a bishop and a man now in good standing with the Catholic Church.
At least, living in Sydney, where The Age does not home deliver, I am spared the temptation to provide the hospitality of my doorstep to a newspaper that publishes a column (by one David Backman) blaming Israel's "utter inability to transform the Palestinians from enemies into friends" for "the bombs on London's public transport, bombs in bars in Bali and even the loss of the World Trade Centre in New York".
Backman tosses in a loonily non sequitur anecdote about how unpopular young Israeli backpackers are in Nepal because of being "rude, arrogant and arguing over trifling sums of money".
The allegation of arguing over trifling sums of money was, for me, the killer strike: the hate-filled stereotype of the avaricious, grasping Jew.
It brought back an imbedded memory of a long-ago poker game, during which a friend called John, whose surname doesn't matter, and a friend called Wally, whose surname does, battled it out for a pot of about 50 quid: double a journalist's weekly wage at the time. Wally had the cards and, with a joyful whoop, reached out to gather in the pile of coins and notes.
"You bloody Jew Ginsberg sorry Wally," John blurted. It came out in a single sentence. John's face turned scarlet with shame.
The poker game finished after a few desultory hands. It couldn't continue. Though, happily, no friendships were lost, we were all aware of having approached the brink of something unspeakable.
When I was 14, my father took me, to further my education, to a newsreel about Belsen concentration camp. The scenes of bulldozers pushing emaciated bodies into mass graves horrified me but the greatest horror was in the eyes and faces of the survivors, who had been to a place beyond nightmare and hell.
Given to adolescent self-romanticising, I felt, as a non-Jew, guilty about these sights. The guilt has not vanished. Whenever I read, reluctantly, about the Holocaust, I ask myself if I would be brave enough to resist officially sanctioned persecution of my neighbours because of their race.
Not being sure, I feel pain and shame when people such as Maqsood Alsham, David Backman and Richard Williamson get away with their sinister calumnies.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Yemeni Jews tell their story and demand rescue

Yemeni Jews tell their story and demand rescue

Despite numerous government assurances and presidential instructions to protect and relocate the Jewish minority in Raidah village, Amran governorate, the some 400 Yemeni Jewish citizens fear for their lives today more than ever.

After the murder of a prominent figure among the Jewish community, Masha Al-Nahari, 30, the remaining members expressed their concern at the fact that the trial of the murderer has stalled while his tribe is threatening to eliminate the Jews who remain in Yemen.

The majority of the Jewish men in Amran work in trade and vocational jobs such as cobblers or silversmiths. However, for the last two months they could not practice their usual routine and their children are no longer going to the community school fearing that they will be targeted by extremists from the neighboring villages.

Source: Yemen Times (Yemen), February 8, 2009

Posted at: 2009-02-08

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Oops - 15 Palestinians 'escape' from PA prison

How do we know that these are Palestinians held because of terrorist activities, and not just any old criminals? After all, the Palestinian Authority can claim it has no money to build good jails, right? But ordinary Palestinian criminals do not escape from their jails, and nobody ever heard of a Palestinian who is awaiting execution as a collaborator escaping from jail either, right? The only people who manage to escape are those who have been jailed for committing acts of terror. Only they manage to dig tunnels or overcome their guards.
Ynet learned that men were imprisoned in Jericho as part of amnesty agreement between Israel, PA
Ali Waked
Published:  02.13.09, 18:33 / Israel News
Altogether 15 prisoners escaped Friday afternoon from a Palestinian Authority prison in Jericho.
Ynet has learned that most of the prisoners belonged to al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Fatah's military wing, and were being held there as part of Israel's amnesty agreement with the PA.
Twelve of the prisoners were wanted men from different parts of the West Bank who had been imprisoned in order to maintain an amnesty agreement between Israel and the PA, which grants pardon to members of terror groups who sign contracts committing them to good behavior.
PA officials stated that the prisoners had dug a tunnel dozens of meters long underneath their cells in order to escape.
The escape follows complaints by prisoners held at the Jericho prison, who claimed they were being excluded from the amnesty agreement. A number of riots have taken place, which included strikes, violent attacks on security personnel, and fires.
In April 2008 three al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades operatives wanted by Israel escaped from Jericho's prison. They had previously been arrested for committing crimes against the State. Three weeks earlier 13 operatives from the organization escaped from a PA prison in Nablus.

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Friday, February 13, 2009

U.S. Intelligence - NIE Report was wrong: Iran is building a bomb

The "experts" are not embarrassed to admit (with a high probability of confidence) that the National Insurance Estimate was wrong. It never had any chance of being right, because it was a political concoction put together by some narrow minded careerists.   

U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb

In a reversal since a 2007 report, U.S. officials expect the Islamic Republic to reach development milestones this year.
By Greg Miller

February 12, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran's "development of a nuclear weapon" before correcting himself to refer to its "pursuit" of weapons capability.

Obama's nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. "From all the information I've seen," Panetta said, "I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability."

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran's intent.

"When you're talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive," said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington.

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama's political advantage. "It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran," he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama's top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran's nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran's advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges -- cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium -- to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that "Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009." That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran's progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country's nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran's rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was "ready to hold talks based on mutual respect," and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities "in the coming months."

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

"Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground," Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

"They've made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10," Cirincione said.

Special correspondent Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran contributed to this report.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran - Don't wish for a Khatami victory

By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
A feeling of enthusiasm and joyful concern comes with the announcement of former Iranian President Mohamed Khatami's intention of running in the forthcoming presidential elections.

After a long line of confrontational leaders, Khatami is perceived by many as an example of a moderate peace-loving Iranian politician. However, despite this being a correct assessment, betting on Khatami in itself is wrong not because of the reformative leader himself, but rather because of the Iranian regime.
Iran's political infrastructure is designed in a way that does not entitle an elected President like Khatami – who is affiliated with a large, popular, political trend, but is weak authoritatively- to run Iran's higher political policy in a way he deems appropriate. Evidence of this was seen in Khatami's last presidential term which was riddled with many setbacks to the point of humiliation by extremist parties within the regime. Things got bad to the degree that newspapers and magazines affiliated with Khatami were forced to close down, while candidates from his party were banned from participation, and his employees harassed until he departed the presidency, achieving nothing of what he promised his voters.
However, when it comes to a character like current Iranian president Ahmadinejad; he indeed belongs to the ruling regime and the Iranian revolutionary guards which today enjoys more power and influence then any other time in history, interfering in both domestic and foreign affairs. Moreover his is closer to the leader who yields the most power in Iran; supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, therefore Ahmadinejad remaining in power is better than waiting for a President like Khatami.
The upcoming Iranian elections are not genuine, but are designed in line with the needs of the Iranian fundamentalist regime, which denies access to those outside of it. This regime has reached a level of fanaticism that it blocked the candidacy of two thousand Islamists for running for parliament because they were perceived as reformers like Khatami. Moreover, the elections were so restrictive that candidates were not allowed to debate or appear in Television adverts.
We appreciate the attitudes and opinions of reformists, like Khatami, and their liberal spirit that allows for realistic communication on all issues. This includes the difficult issues such as their nuclear program, their foreign presence, and the strained diplomatic relations. And so even during [times of] dispute, we can undoubtedly coexist with a regime that is headed by Khatami, which is not the case with previous hard-liners.
A lack of trust is the main problem between the us and the Iranians; they say that their development of nuclear energy will be used on peaceful grounds, whereas all indications confirm that it will be used for military purposes. Looking at what Iran is doing politically and military in our region makes for a grim picture.
The reformative Islamists [like Khatami] are the best option. However it will not satisfy us much even if they do attain power at the forthcoming spring elections, because they are a wingless dove. Whether or not an agreement is to be reached, it must be reached with the true people in power. 
Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
the general manager of Al -Arabiya television. Mr. Al Rashed is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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Inside the Islamic republc of Iran: Faud

My guess is that fraud - of all kinds, is far more widespread than Muhammadi has been able to document. The pattern of fraudulent manipulation of both information and finances is familiar from the former USSR.
Fraud in the Islamic Republic Regime

Majid Mohammadi
February 11th, 2009 
The totalitarian rule of the Shiite Clergy in Iran has survived in the past three decades through pretensions to sacredness and by creating enemies, playing the role of the victim, making embarrassing scenes, psychological projection, fraud, mendacity, corruption, suppression, and terror. These fraudulent behaviors are an inseparable part of the rule of the clergy because this regime, which is not in power through the votes of the people but which holds itself out to be the representative of God on earth, has no choice but to resort to fraud in order to survive. Although the history of the fraudulent ways of authoritarian regimes is as old as the social life of humanity and, despite the fact that the literature of political opposition is replete with references to the regime's lies, the fraudulent methods and tactics of those at the very summit of power in the Islamic Republic have rarely been discussed.
The unspoken ideological Machiavellism of the totalitarian "Rule of the Jursiprudent," falls somewhere in the area between morality and politics. In the final analysis, in this regime, all principles have been reduced to one: the preservation of the interests and preferences of the ruling clergy within the framework of a totalitarian regime. In this way, nothing will be beneath the clergy's standards of conduct and any principle or rule will be open to violation. Law, morality, and even Shiite religious law would not curb the clergy's fraudulent ways. The ruling clerics have even used the survival instinct and external threats as an excuse for continuing their rule.
In Iran, fraud is not committed by the clergy alone; it is, in fact, an inseparable part of the social fabric of Iranians' lives. Among Iranians, those who have or desire a larger share of power, wealth, and social standing, naturally commit more fraud, especially through shutting down or undermining establishments or apparatuses that can measure fraud, such as the independent media, institutions with oversight, or civil institutions. Tolerance, on a daily basis, of the clergy's fraudulent ways itself results from the people's awareness that they themselves behave in the same way in their daily lives. However, the ruling clergy has raised the commitment or incidence of fraud to unexpected, complex, and unbelievable proportions. That is why it is necessary to analyze this phenomenon.
There are two questions we must ask. First, is this fraudulent modus operandi of the clerical establishment and others dependent upon a time-limited phenomenon that is part and parcel of the period of rule of the Islamic Republic, or is it related to the culture and tradition of Shiite clergy? And second, how do these fraudulent deeds take place and how new and innovative are the methods used in perpetrating them?
Institutionalized Fraud
Fraud consists of hiding the truth or turning it upside down with the goal of misleading the people, trickery, hypocrisy, deception, entrapment, and cheating. The Shiite clergy has never announced that it is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The clergy's goal has been to carry out Islamic religious orders, and it considers every tool that can be used to do that as acceptable. On the basis of fundamental principles in Shiite jurisprudence and religious teachings such as taqiyeh,[1] expediency, hardship, and distress, any action is acceptable in self-preservation as well as in preservation of the "realm of Islam." Thus fraud, in all its dimensions and variety, is extremely prevalent in the Shiite culture.
The main occupation of the Shiite clergy is "propagation" or the production and dissemination of propaganda. When, propaganda tools are combined with the goal of gaining absolute power, wealth, and high social standing in society, and with the claim of possession of absolute truth, then propaganda will be directed toward hiding the truth, spinning lies, and committing fraud. In reality, altering the truth by putting emphasis on desired goals, remaining silent on unpleasant points, choosing information or news for dissemination on the basis of ideological considerations and with the goal of provoking certain feelings among the people; these are among the principles of any type of propaganda, be it political, commercial, or religious. When rumors are combined with turning a blind eye to the truth or actively hiding it, then fraud comes about.
The difficulty of discerning what is pure from what is impure by a large sector of the public, the necessity of trusting one another for the purpose of survival of social life, the inclination of many human beings to being taken in or duped, especially under difficult living conditions (when a blind eye is turned to lies), prepare the necessary social and psychological grounds for fraud by the rulers. In Iranian society, the trust placed by the religious public in the clerical leaders has made the ground even more fertile for the commission of fraud by the ruling clergy.
Manifestations or Models of Fraud

The fraudulent activities of the Islamic Republic regime can be observed clearly in several of its behavioral models or manifestations. The first such model or manifestation is the "doctoring" and alteration of numbers, statistics, and indices. For example, the Ahmadinejad government first tried to announce the unemployment statistics to be lower than it truly was. When it was criticized by experts, his government then sought to make the level of unemployment lower by altering the very definition of unemployment. Based on the new definition of unemployment put forth by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in connection with the fall in unemployment statistics, every person who works even only one hour per week is considered employed.[2] In the course of every election, based on their different ideals and goals, the concerned organizations within the Islamic Republic have presented contradictory information about the country's population. The statistics on the country's population are increased and decreased in accordance with the need, respectively, of making the number of participants in elections and the votes cast by supporters of authoritarianism appear higher, and the votes cast by the regime's critic—if their candidates are approved by the Council of Guardians—lower. During the rule of Khamenei/Ahmadinejad, on a monthly, as well as annual basis, every governmental organization announces a specific inflation rate, based on its own specific definition of inflation. For example, the statistics presented by the Central Bank are different from those announced by the Ministry of Economy and Finance as well as from those announced by the speaker of the government. Instead of striving to lower inflation itself, the responsible government officials lower the inflation "rate" by altering and eliminating from the equation certain goods and then present the "doctored" rate as the official rate to the public.
The debate on privatization is another such example. From 2005 through 2008, officials in the Ahmadinejad government have presented three different sets of numbers of transfers from the public to the private sector in the Hashemi and Khatami governments. The first such occasion was on February 24, 2007, when the newspaper Iran, quoting the president, announced the total amount of transfers in the years 1991-2005 to have been 3,500 billion Toumans ($3.6 Billion USD) and compared it with the amount of transfers during the first two years of his own administration. Less than two years after these clear statements from the president, on December 21, 2008, Ahmadinejad's Minister of Economy and Finance announced the total amount of transfers by the "construction and reform governments" in the years 1991-2005 to have been 2,750 billion Toumans ($2.8 Billion USD). Only four days later, in Qom, by deducting 2,000 billion Toumans ($206 Million USD), Ahmadinejad claimed that, in the previous governments, as announced by himself in the period from February 24 through March 20, only 52,500 Billion Toumans ($54.25 Million USD) were transferred from the public sector to the private sector.[3]
The second such manifestation or model concerns the engineering of information and news. On the one hand, the regime has monopolized the media. On the other hand, the information and the news it presents are only items and matters that confirm the regime's ideology and suppress its opponents. The Islamic Republic regime has reduced the dissemination of news and information to propaganda and this propaganda system is used in all print and electronic media. In the regime's policy toward the media, based not on belief but on a set of directives, news or reports are not presented to society without major structural, expressive, and even grammatical alterations. For example, one of these directives is that all negative news related to the West, especially the United States, and all positive news about Iranian society should be presented in every news segment. Thus, Iranian citizens are not to become familiar with the positive achievements of Western societies in the social, cultural, and scientific arena.
Yet another such manifestation or model is labeling or choosing names. In choosing names, all positive titles belong to the regime and all negative titles belong to the regime's opponents. Those who support the regime and the ruling clergy are called Fundamentalists, even though they do not believe in any principle and there is no law or rule in the country which they have not violated. However, the regime's opponents are labeled hooligans and extremists. Keyhan newspaper, considered the mouthpiece of the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) and his establishment, portrays all persons who do not directly follow Khamanei's orders, as well as those issued by those around him, as anti-revolutionaries, spies, hypocrites, drug addicts, womanizers, fearful, cowardly, and materialistic.
The fourth manifestation or model involves the re-making of existing concepts and the use of new and misleading concepts that legitimize repression and denigrate democracy. Examples of these, as used in the Iranian leaders' speech and literature, are: ta'zir[4], the new name for torture; confession, the new name for "admission" under duress; the leadership of the world of Islam, as the new title for the leaders of the Islamic Republic regime; "parliamentary coup d'état," as a new title for winning an election inside the country; and "overthrowing" as a new title for any type of domestic political opposition. The clerical leaders consider the regime's capital, Tehran, the most important metropolis in the entire Islamic world and their own rule as the rule of justice. From their perspective, Iran under the absolute rule of the clergy is the freest country and the best democracy in the world at the same time that this regime ranks at the top of every chart in violating human rights and the fundamental tenets of democracy.
Plagiarism constitutes the fifth manifestation or model of this fraud. This means that the leaders of the Islamic Republic give themselves and their rule credit for all national achievements, even if they played no role in achieving them. It is not enough for the political leaders to hold on to absolute power and a large part of society's wealth. They want to get credit for all scientific and cultural achievements and terminology as well. For example Gholam-'Ali Haddad-'Adel, the former leader of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, referred to Khamenei as the "Father of Encyclopedias" in Iran, solely because, in that year, Khamenei had noted the importance of encyclopedias.[5] In this process, the leaders appear to have completely ignored the fact that, in addition to Avicenna's Daneshnameh 'Alaï (Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences), Imam Fakhr Razi's Jame'-ol-'Olum (Compendium of Sciences), Ghotboddin Shirazi's Dorrat-o-Taj (Pearl of the Crown), and the encyclopedias produced during the rule of Nassereddin Shah Qajar, that such encyclopedias were produced in the period immediately preceding the revolution as well. The Encyclopedia Iranica and Encyclopedia Islamica projects began in 1975 under the direction of Dr. Ehsan Yarshater and a major Persian Dictionary project began in 1966 under the direction of Gholam-Hossein Mossaheb and Reza Aghsa. Normally, a title such as the "Father of Encyclopedias" is bestowed upon those who have dedicated their lives to science, not upon a political leader who, in his meetings with various groups makes do with some general comments.

None of the above-mentioned manifestations or models can be considered "innovations". Rather, through some novel ideas and doctoring, they have been Islamicized and Iranianized. All these models have been used by previous authoritarian and totalitarian regimes and Iran's current leaders have learned much from those who came before them. The new struggle against imperialism and political liberalism has quickly placed Iran's ruling clergy among the ranks of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, such as those in Eastern Europe before the fall of Communism. Iran's leading clerics imitated the Eastern European leaders' ways, adding to them Iranian techniques with an Islamic bend.
In re-making these models, good use has been made of Islamic ideology, political literature of Fascists, Communist, and military ("Junta"-style) regimes throughout the world as well as of psychology of political and commercial propaganda in the West, all of which have been presented within a "native" (Iranian) and religious framework. The clergy's ideological apparatus, which, after the Revolution, could not justify the revolutionary movement and the negation of the monarchic rule, has been utilized to justify the absolute rule of the clergy and come up with tactics for ensuring its survival. The Islamic regime's propaganda machine has been constantly forming and updating the listed models, which have been rendered more complex with the aid of social changes.
Portraying imperialism as the "Satan" and "global dominance" and applying Quranic concepts on the basis of such ideas, the theory of "cultural raid," calling the "cleansing" of university professors and students a "cultural revolution," using Islamic legal concepts, such as ta'zir and "confession" to refer to torture and admission to facts under duress, applying all the qualities of a sultan to the "Jurisprudent" in Iranian political literature, and using negative Quranic interpretations for labeling opponents and critics are among the important innovations of the Islamic Republic's propaganda machine.
[1]According to the principle of taqiyeh, when expedient, dissimulation and lying is allowed. For example, when admitting to an enemy that one is a Shiite Muslim would mean that one could be killed, in such a circumstance, it is acceptable to lie.
[2] Tabnak, December 21, 2008.
[3] Aftab-e Yazd Daily, December 27, 2008.
[4] Punishment
[5] Keyhan [newspaper], December 25, 2008.

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Iran's death to Israel campaign - they really intend to wipe out Israel - and the United States!

What Teitelbaum does not mention is that in the same speech, Mahmoud Ahmadinejed insisted that there would also be a "world without the United States" and that the same crowds that scream "Death to Israel" also scream "Death to America." This may seem fatuous, but evidently they are quite serious about it.

A Threat in Any Language

By Joshua Teitelbaum

The leader of Iran wants to "wipe Israel off the map." Was he misquoted? Not by a long shot. By Joshua Teitelbaum.

During the past several years, Iranian leaders—most prominently President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—have repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. Certain journalists and Iran experts interpret some of these statements to be simple expressions of dissatisfaction with the Israeli presence in the West Bank or eastern Jerusalem or with the current Israeli government and its policies.

"Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map, because no such idiom exists in Persian," insists Juan Cole of the University of Michigan, who argues that Ahmadinejad was not calling for the destruction of Israel. Jonathan Steele writes in the Guardian that Ahmadinejad was simply remarking that "this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. . . . He was not making a military threat. He was calling for an end to the occupation of Jerusalem at some point in the future. The 'page of time' phrase suggests he did not expect it to happen soon."

Scholars continue to soft-pedal the Iranian president's words. Professor Stephen Walt, previously the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and coauthor of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy with Professor John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, told a Jerusalem audience in early June 2008: "I don't think he is inciting to genocide."

In reality, the intent behind Ahmadinejad's language is clear. Those who seek to excuse the Iranian leader should be challenged when they use the tools of scholarship to obfuscate these extreme and deliberate statements. What emerges from a comprehensive analysis of what Ahmadinejad said— and how it has been interpreted in Iran, including by leading blogs and news outlets, some official—is that the Iranian president was calling not just for "regime change" in Jerusalem but for the actual, physical destruction of the state of Israel. Ahmadinejad's language constitutes a call for genocide, the destruction of the Jewish state and its residents.

The Iranian government itself reinforces this understanding with its own rendering of Ahmadinejad's slogans on posters and billboards and during official parades. Moreover, examining them in context demonstrates beyond a doubt that when Iranian leaders use the euphemism "Zionist regime" or "the Jerusalem-occupying regime," they are definitely referring to the state of Israel and not to the present government. Iranian leaders simply follow the timeworn practice in the Arab world of referring to the "Zionist regime" in an attempt to avoid dignifying Israel by using its name. They are not talking about a nondirected, natural historical process that will end with Israel's demise; rather, they are actively advocating Israel's destruction and have made it clear that they have the will and the means to effect it.


In an address to the "World without Zionism" conference held in Tehran on October 26, 2005, Ahmadinejad said:

Our dear Imam [Khomeini] ordered that this Jerusalem-occupying regime [Israel] must be erased from the page of time. This was a very wise statement. (Va Imam-e aziz-e ma farmudand ke in rezhim-e eshghalgar-e Qods bayad az safhe-ye ruzegar mahv shaved. In jomle besyar hakimane ast.)

New York Times Tehran correspondent Nazila Fathi translated the statement as Israel "must be wiped off the map," a nonliteral translation that nevertheless conveys the meaning of the original: the destruction of Israel.

It cannot be credibly denied: the Iranian president has persistently called not just for "regime change" in Jerusalem but for the actual, physical destruction of the state of Israel.

Soft-pedaling Ahmadinejad's call for the destruction of Israel, Cole told the Times that all Ahmadinejad had said was that "he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."

Official Iranian representatives and organs have since based their slogans on Ahmadinejad's statement, loosely translating the statement as "Israel should be wiped off the face of the world." This is evident in photographs of banners and signs in parades and ceremonies. Even the Iranian newscaster who introduced the report on the "World without Zionism" conference used the word "Israel" (instead of the "Jerusalem-occupying regime") and also the word "world" (instead of the "page of time"), rendering Ahmadinejad's statement as "erasing Israel, this disgraceful stain, from the world."

Although Iranian leaders are well aware that they are watched by the international media and occasionally soften their statements accordingly, they are less careful in internal forums and events. But when Ahmadinejad punctuates his speech before a large crowd with "Death to Israel" (marg bar Esraiil ), this is no longer open to various interpretations. He is openly calling for the destruction of a country, not a regime.


In the same speech of October 26, 2005, Ahmadinejad returned to the theme of Israel as dirty vermin that must be eradicated:

Soon this stain of disgrace will be cleaned from the garment of the world of Islam, and this is attainable. (Be-zudi in lake-ye nang ra az damane-ye donya-ye Islam pak khahad kard, va in shodani'st.)

To remove any doubt in the mind of the Persian reader that Ahmadinejad is referring to Israel, the Iranian president's official site ( interpolates the word "Esraiil" in its report on the speech to explain the expression "stain of disgrace."

A common motif of incitement to genocide is the dehumanization of the target population. The Nazi weekly Der Stürmer portrayed Jews as parasites and locusts. In the early 1990s, Hutu propaganda in Rwanda against the Tutsis described them as cockroaches. Before Saddam Hussein attacked the Iraqi Shiite population in 1991, his Baath Party newspaper characterized them as "monkey-faced people." Similarly, Iran's Ahmadinejad has called Israeli Jews "cattle," "bloodthirsty barbarians," and "criminals."

The theme of the Israeli as a germ or microbe is a common one with the Iranian president. In his speech before a crowd in Bandar Abbas on February 20, 2008, Ahmadinejad said:

In the Middle East, they [the global powers] have created a black and filthy microbe called the Zionist regime, so they could use it to attack the peoples of the region, and by using this excuse, they want to advance their schemes for the Middle East. (Dar mantaqe-ye Khavar-e Miyane niz jarsum-e siyah va kasifi be-nam-e rezhim-e sahyonisti dorost karde-and ta be-jan-e mardom-e mantaqe biandazand va be-behane-ye an siyasatha-ye khod-ra dar Khavar-e Miyane pish bebarand.)

On the occasion last year of the sixtieth anniversary of Israel's founding, Ahmadinejad stated that "global arrogance established the Zionist regime sixty years ago." The Islamic Republic News Agency reported that "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday labeled the Zionist regime as a 'stinking corpse' and said those who think they can revive the corpse of this fabricated and usurper regime are mistaken."

According to Ahmadinejad, ridding the world of the germ of Israel is possible and imminent. On April 14, 2006, he insisted that Israel was "heading towards annihilation." He added that Israel was

a dried, rotten tree that will collapse with a single storm. (Derakht-e khoshkide va puside'i ast ke ba yek tufan dar ham khahad shekast.)

Referring to the United States (the "Great Satan") and Israel (the "Little Satan"), Ahmadinejad said at a military parade on April 17, 2008:

The region and the world are prepared for great changes and for being cleansed of satanic powers. (Mantaqe- va jehan amade-ye tahavolat-e bozorg va pak shodan az doshmanan-e ahrimani'st.)

Ahmadinejad was fully prepared to make his assertions about Jews and Israel in the Western press as well. In an interview that appeared in the French daily Le Monde on February 5, 2008, he said the Jews of Israel are "a people falsified; invented, [the people of Israel] will not last; they must leave the territory." Again, this is not a call for a change of government or new policies. It is clear he believes that Israelis will not endure and will not continue to stay on the territory where they live. This is a call to remove Israel's Jewish population from the country, either by ethnic cleansing or by physical destruction.


Although certain Western commentators seek to whitewash Ahmadinejad's statements on Israel, pro- and anti-regime Iranians (and others in the region) have no doubt that the Iranian president has been referring to the destruction of Israel.

"Soon this stain of disgrace will be cleaned from the garment of the world of Islam, and this is attainable."

Resalat, a conservative Iranian daily, published an editorial on October 22, 2006, titled "Preparations for the Great War," reflecting on an Ahmadinejad speech two days earlier. "It must not be forgotten that the great war is ahead of us, perhaps tomorrow, or in a few months, or even a few years," the editorial read. "The nation of Muslims must prepare for the great war, so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime, and remove this cancerous growth."

One anti-regime blog stated: "In every Internet site that I visit today (for example BBC or Radio-Farda) or the satellite radio and television news stations that I listen to, the first news item is the pearls of wisdom issued by Mr. Ahmadinejad regarding the countdown to the destruction of Israel."

Another Persian-language blog critical of Israel quoted Ahmadinejad and then asked its readers, "What have we done to erase this Israel from the scene of time?"

In the Ham-Mihan Forum, a question was raised about Ahmadinejad's declaration that the countdown toward Israel's destruction had begun. Among the seventy-one responses: "My opinion is that first you [Ahmadinejad] should fix up your own country, and then you can say that Israel should be destroyed. The people in Iran don't have bread and we are concerned with Palestine."

An Iranian newspaper editorial read: "The nation of Muslims must prepare for the great war, so as to completely wipe out the Zionist regime, and remove this cancerous growth."

"I wish that all of this energy that is devoted to the destruction of Israel would be directed towards the destruction of drug addiction, poverty, corruption, and prostitution."

Bloggers at Imam Sadegh University called for a boycott of Israeli products, with the following message: "Dear bloggers: If you would like to do so, you can take the first steps towards obliterating Israel from the map of the world."

Ahmadinejad's statement at the "World without Zionism" conference is widely quoted in blogs by those supporting the statement, those critical of the statement, and those who support the statement but question the timing. Persian-language bloggers all agree, however, that "the Jerusalem-occupying regime must be erased from the page of time" means the physical destruction of the state of Israel.

Even before Ahmadinejad spoke about wiping Israel off the map, the Iranian regime used such expressions without leaving any doubt about what they meant. A banner calling for Israel's elimination was draped across a Shahab-3 missile during a 2003 military parade, for example. The Iranian regime itself has clarified that such expressions about Israel's future do not describe a long-term historical process, in which the Israeli state collapses like the former Soviet Union, but rather the actual annihilation of Israel as a result of a military strike. The Shahab- 3 missile has a range of eight hundred miles or more and can reach Israel from Iranian territory.

Michael Axworthy, who served as the head of the Iran section of Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1998–2000, rejects the notion that Ahmadinejad has been mistranslated and misinterpreted: "The formula had been used before by Khomeini and others, and had been translated by representatives of the Iranian regime as 'wiped off the map.' Some of the dispute that has arisen over what exactly Ahmadinejad meant by it has been rather bogus. When the slogan appeared draped over missiles in military parades, that meaning was pretty clear."


Iran's highest political authority is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989. Khamenei has made statements about Israel similar to Ahmadinejad's. In a televised sermon on December 15, 2000, he declared, "Iran's position, which was first expressed by the Imam [Khomeini] and stated several times by those responsible, is that the cancerous tumor called Israel must be uprooted from the region."

"Dear bloggers: If you would like to do so, you can take the first steps towards obliterating Israel from the map of the world."

A month later, on January 15, he stated: "It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region." Hossein Shariatmadari, a Khamenei confidant who serves as one of his major mouthpieces, wrote an editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan on October 30, 2005, in which he argued, "We declare explicitly that we will not be satisfied with anything less than the complete obliteration of the Zionist regime from the political map of the world."

Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, a member of Ahmadinejad's inner circle and chairman of the Guardian Council of the Constitution, told reporters during a celebration of the anniversary of the Islamic revolution that every year the crowds are bigger and the slogans more enthusiastic. He added, "The blind enemies should see that the wish of these people is the death of America and Israel."

Mohammad-Ali Ramin refers to himself, as does the press, as an adviser to Ahmadinejad. The secretary of the political committee of the Rayeheh Khosh-Khedmat Party, which supports the president, he is a well-known Holocaust denier and is believed to be behind the president's statements on that issue. On June 9, 2006, according to the reformist Internet daily Rooz, Ramin told students in Rasht:

Among the Jews there have always been those who killed God's prophets and who opposed justice and righteousness. Historically, there are many accusations against the Jews. For example, it was said that they were the source for such deadly diseases as the plague and typhus. This is because the Jews are very filthy people. For a time, people also said that they poisoned wells belonging to Christians and thus killed them.

Ramin does not even bother to cover up his anti-Semitism by using "Zionists" instead of "Jews."

Ayatollah Hussein Nuri Hamadani, a leading religious authority associated with the regime, told a meeting with the Mahdaviyat (messianic) Studies Institute in April 2005, "One should fight the Jews and vanquish them so that the conditions for the advent of the Hidden Imam will be met."


Finally, it is instructive to examine the view of the Shiite militia Hezbollah toward Israel for an indication of Iranian intentions. Hezbollah was founded in 1982 with the deployment of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley and the training of its first cadre; its first governing council was established by the Iranian ambassador to Damascus, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi. In its founding political platform, Hezbollah is clear that it takes its orders from Tehran: "We abide by the orders of one single wise and just leadership . . . personified by Khomeini."

Take note of the statement of Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah. In 2002, he disclosed his own organization's genocidal intent when he declared:

Islamic prophecies and not only Jewish prophecies declare that this state [Israel] will come into being, and all the Jews of the world will gather from all corners of the world in occupied Palestine. But this will not be so their false messiah [al-Dajjal] can rule in the world, but so that God can save you the trouble of running them down all over the world. And then the battle will be decisive and crushing.

The statements of Iran's proxies and its leaders, particularly President Ahmadinejad, leave no doubt. They constitute incitement to genocide of the people of Israel. They are alarmingly similar to the coded statements of incitement that preceded the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis in 1994 and should therefore alarm all peace-loving people.

There is ample legal basis to prosecute Ahmadinejad in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court for direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.

Special to the Hoover Digest. This article is adapted from a longer, fully referenced version available from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (

Co-published by Rowman & Littlefield and the Hoover Press is Preventing Surprise Attacks: Intelligence Reform in the Wake of 9/11, by Richard A. Posner. To order, call the National Book Network at 800.462.6420 or visit


Continued (Permanent Link)

Iran threatens to 'liberate' Jerusalem

Iran is set to "liberate" Jerusalem, it seems:

General Mohammad Reza Naghdi: Our strength should not be underestimated. It is not restricted to [our] geographical borders. We can fight wherever we want. We will choose on what land to fight. We will choose the venue for the
fighting and defense. Our missile and air force capabilities do not fall short of those of our enemy. If the Zionist entity decides to carry out such a stupid act, our responses will be crushing and decisive. Our power is not limited to the missiles and the airforce. Our response will be the liberation of Jerusalem.

Interviewer: Allah willing. Allah willing.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Should Israel agree to Gaza truce terms?

Where's the bargain for Israel here?

Hamas: Gaza truce won't include Schalit

Feb. 12, 2009

Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk said on Thursday that his organization supports an 18-month truce with Israel, though it would not be linked to a prisoner exchange deal to free kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.

Reuters quoted Abu Marzouk as saying that the Egypt-mediated truce would be announced in the coming two or three days. "It will be in a short period, God willing… within two days," he said.

Abu Marzouk, in Cairo for truce talks with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, told Al-Jazeera that Hamas was waiting for Israel to approve the details of the emerging agreement.

Taher Nunu, another member of the Hamas delegation in Egypt, also said the cease-fire would be officially announced within three days.

"Most of the obstacles preventing us from consolidating an agreement have already been solved," Nunu said, adding that the agreement would ensure an end to the fighting with Israel and the opening of the crossings into Gaza.

Earlier, a senior Egyptian official said "the discussions with Hamas representatives in Cairo were very successful" and an agreement would be signed as early as Thursday night.

The delegation also included Hamas "Foreign Minister" Mahmoud Zahar and Gaza legislator Salah Bardawil, an Egyptian official said.

Hamas would accept an 18-month truce if Israel stopped its "aggression," i.e. attacks, lifted its blockade and opened the Israeli border crossings with the Gaza Strip, the official said earlier Thursday.

Hamas was trying to find out which specific construction and agricultural materials Israel plans to bar from entering the Gaza Strip. Israel is concerned the raw materials will be used to manufacture weapons and bunkers.

In addition, Hamas is interested in securing a written agreement with Israel, while Israel wants an oral agreement.

The delegation "has decided to stay until the Egyptian side gets answers from the Israelis about all their questions and demands," he said.

Hamas also wants to establish a mechanism to observe the implementation of an agreement that would be headed by Egypt and include the participation of other countries, the official said.

Hamas officials have told the Arab media they want to ensure that Israel will keep the crossings open throughout the duration of the truce.

A senior Hamas official in Gaza said on Thursday that he was optimistic that a cease-fire would be achieved regardless of whether Kadima leader Tzipi Livni or Likud head Binyamin Netanyahu led the next government.

"The international community is putting some pressure on both [Israel and Hamas] and the Egyptians are also trying to do their best to make sure that both parties will agree to certain terms of a cease-fire," Ahmed Yousef, Hamas's "deputy foreign minister," told The Jerusalem Post by telephone.



Continued (Permanent Link)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Muslim Cleric: Divorcing wives OK; 'What are we, Christians?'

Egyptian Cleric Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal: It Is Okay to Divorce Your Wife Just Like It Is Okay to Get Rid of an Animal that Drives You Nuts

Following is an excerpt from a TV program hosted by Egyptian cleric Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal, which aired on Al-Nas TV on December 25, 2008.

Hassan Abu Al-Ashbal: What's the point of having an animal you can ride, if it drives you nuts? The distance it takes you – you could cover in a bus for a quarter of an Egyptian pound, but you have to spend 100 pounds on this animal. Sell it, and get rid of it. Would anyone blame you for selling it? Would anyone say: "Shame on him for selling it"? It's only an animal.

If a man is completely fed up with his apartment, because he has bad neighbors, and the apartment is falling apart – would anyone blame him for selling it, and say: "Shame on you, how can you sell it? This is where you were born and raised." This apartment does not suit him anymore. I have bad neighbors, and I don't feel good in it.

The same goes for the woman. If a woman has such bad character that her husband does not feel comfortable with her, there is nothing to prevent him from divorcing her. What are we, Christians?!

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