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Friday, April 10, 2009

Is J-Street Scraping bottom? - Promoting "Seven Jewish Children" blood libel play.

If J-Street is really promoting the racist play, Seven Jewish Children, they have really gone off into a never-never land beyond any except medical help, or they are guilty of the most adolescent sort of careless judgement. It is like distributing copies of "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and claiming you are doing it to "spark a difficult but necessary conversation within our community. To make it worse, Washington Post actually justifies this insanity. See Engage for some comment.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Self-loathing on J Street
James Kirchick
There is something perverse and masochistic about a self-described "pro-Israel" group going out of its way to lend support to the airing of luridly anti-Semitic propaganda.
Yet that's what happened last month when J Street - the "pro-Israel, pro-Peace" lobby - endorsed the performance of "Seven Jewish Children," an outrageous new play by the British playwright Caryl Churchill. The 10-minute drama has been staged in major cities across the United States, including Washington, where Theater J, a production company affiliated with the city's Jewish Community Center, hosted readings last month.
"Seven Jewish Children" draws a direct line from Nazi Germany's mass murder of European Jewry to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. This theme is an old trope in the quiver of rabid Israel-haters.
Rushing through 60 years of history, the play depicts a group of adults speaking in hushed tones about how they ought to address a Jewish girl who remains offstage. "Don't tell her they'll kill her," one of the characters says, presumably sometime in the 1940s. Minutes later, transported to modern-day Israel, the adults discuss what they should teach the child about Palestinians: "Tell her they're filth," "Tell her they're animals living in rubble now," and so on.
The Jewish girl who begins as Anne Frank ends up as Baruch Goldstein-in-training. (Goldstein was an extreme right-wing Israeli who murdered 29 Muslims praying at a West Bank mosque in 1994.)
"The decision to feature 'Seven Jewish Children' at Theater J," read a statement issued by J Street in the defense of its production, "should be judged not on the basis of the play's content but, rather, on its value in sparking a difficult but necessary conversation within our community. To preclude even the possibility of such a discussion does a disservice not only to public discourse, but also to the very values of rigorous intellectual engagement and civil debate on which our community prides itself."
It is "Seven Jewish Children," in spreading the anti-Semitic blood libel, that "does a disservice to public discourse," not complaints over the propriety of its production (which should not be confused with a call to ban it). Would J Street similarly support production of a play depicting Palestinians as bloodthirsty murderers?
Contrast J Street's support for the production of "Seven Jewish Children" with its stance on the controversial Rev. John Hagee. Last year, the group launched a campaign criticizing the pastor and his affiliation with pro-Israel organizations. Mr. Hagee is indeed an incendiary man, and J Street spoke for many Jews (this one included) when it questioned his coziness with some Israel advocacy groups.
But it says something about J Street's motives when it trips over itself to attack a politically conservative ally of Israel but rushes to defend a play comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. The last several years have borne witness to a disturbing rise in global anti-Semitism along with a concerted effort by radical Muslims around the world, in league with leftist intellectuals in the West, to undermine the very legitimacy of Israel's existence and its right to defend itself from terrorism and the eventual Iranian bomb. "Seven Jewish Children" is but the latest volley of this shameful campaign.
J Street attempts to cover itself with a fig leaf of moral deniability by saying it "takes no position on the content" of "Seven Jewish Children" but insists that its performance is a good thing nonetheless because it will encourage "a difficult but necessary conversation."
If you don't understand this distinction between the play's anti-Semitic message and the desirability of putting it on, it's because there is no distinction. Just the opposite: To J Street, the inflammatory message of "Seven Jewish Children" is precisely what makes it worthy of production.
Instead of admitting this, J Street engages in a feeble and transparent attempt at having it both ways, distancing itself from the disgusting content of the play while encouraging the spectacle of pain that will follow in its wake.
J Street says "Seven Jewish Children" will contribute to debate about Israel. Which part of it contributes to what part of the debate? The part where the Jews celebrate the killing of Arab children? Or is it the part where they use the memory of the Holocaust to justify the wanton slaughter of Palestinians?
There is nothing wrong with voicing legitimate criticism of Israel. But in such perilous times for the Jewish state, it's appalling that an ostensibly "pro-Israel" organization like J Street would transmogrify the worthy Jewish tradition of self-criticism into a spectacle of self-loathing.
James Kirchick is an assistant editor of the New Republic and a contributing writer to the Advocate

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Deputy FM Danny Ayalon: Obama's Ankara speech did not favor Annapolis

Hearing what you want to hear...
Last update - 11:48 10/04/2009       
Deputy FM: Obama's Ankara speech did not favor Annapolis
By Haaretz Service
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon (Yisrael Beiteinu) said Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama's speech in Turkey earlier this week did not include any support for the Annapolis peace process, Army Radio reported.
Ayalon denounced calls which interpreted Obama's reference to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiation launched in Annapolis in 2007 as a warning against the policies of Israel's government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and against Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's statement that the new government was not bound by Annapolis understandings.
Speaking before the Turkish parliament on Monday, Obama said that he will "actively pursue" a two-state solution in the Middle East and reiterated the U.S. commitment to the Annapolis process.
"Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," he said. A two-state solution "is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis," and that is "a goal that I will actively pursue as president."
For his part, Ayalon said that "Anyone who bothered to pay close attention could see that Obama said nothing in favor of Annapolis."
"Actually, it's the other way around, he said that he hopes both Palestinians and Israelis are committed to the Road Map, as was stated in Annapolis," he added.
The deputy minister added that he "met American officials on Tuesday night, and things aren't quite the way they are portrayed in the newspaper articles, and I think that the Americans noticed the substantial statements made by Lieberman in his inauguration speech, according to which Israel was committed to all the previously ratified agreements, including the Road Map."

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Iran behind Egyptian terrorists

Last update - 11:27 10/04/2009       
ANALYSIS / Iran's prints are all over alleged Egypt terror ring
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
The official report from Cairo Thursday - that a Hezbollah terror ring was uncovered in Cairo and was planning hostile operations in Egypt - should be seen within the context of a greater conflict that does not necessarily involve Israel. To fight Iranian subversion in Egypt, Cairo is willing to help Israel prevent the arming of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The first reports of Hezbollah involvement in Sinai appeared in the international media a few months ago, citing collaboration between Hezbollah and Palestinians who left Gaza for Sinai via tunnels. They were assisted by Sinai Bedouin, according to reports from Egypt Thursday. The detainees reportedly include Israeli Arabs, possibly Negev Bedouin.
The Egyptians say they are concerned Hezbollah may try to attack tourist sites in Sinai and throughout Egypt.
Hezbollah is still seeking revenge for the assassination of its No. 2 Imad Mugniyeh 14 months ago. However, its goal is to undermine the Egyptian government.
As early as last year, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Iran had created an Islamic republic in Egypt's backyard, referring to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Such statements have recently become harsher, especially following the verbal attack by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah on Mubarak during Operation Cast Lead.
The government-affiliated Egyptian daily Al-Ahram Thursday reported that the recently exposed terror ring had planned assassinations, attacks on essential services and bombings.
Jordan, also viewed as central to what has been described as the Arab world's moderate Sunni axis, faced a similar effort by a Hamas terror network more than a year ago. In both cases, intelligence chiefs in Amman and Cairo realized that not only Palestinians and Lebanese were stirring the cauldron; so were Iranians.
Not for nothing did Mubarak boycott the Arab summit in Qatar two months ago, following Doha's decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Egyptian religious establishment is also concerned over the "defection" of thousands of young Sunnis for the Shi'ite denomination.
Ironically, Cairo is making its accusations against Iran just as the Obama administration is inviting dialogue. But Egypt cannot hold still. Cairo arrests dozens of Muslim Brotherhood members every month on terror suspicions. Since Hamas' final takeover of the Strip, Brotherhood and Hamas delegations visit each other every few weeks.
Egypt is making things harder for Hamas and its allies. Money transfers are more difficult, and since Operation Cast Lead, Israel has seen Egyptian efforts to stop weapons smuggling, Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin told the cabinet last month.
The report of Hezbollah actions in Sinai legitimizes harsher steps by the Egyptian regime. If it were only a matter of weapons smuggling into Israel, the Egyptian public response would not be as supportive. It would come as no surprise if it turned out that Israeli intelligence also helped uncover this terror network.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

U.S. doesn't know what it believes about Iranian nukes

This is a damaging admission of defective US intelligence and failed strategic assessment. If someone can find the panic button, it may be time to push it.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday said she did not view the latest Iranian claims about its nuclear program as a rebuff to U.S. overtures to engage Iran.
"We do not attribute any particular meaning, with respect to the range of issues that we are looking to address with the Iranians, from this particular statement," Clinton said at a news conference when asked about an Iranian statement that it was now running 7,000 enrichment centrifuges.
She also cast doubt on Iranian claims of major progress in its nuclear program. "We don't know what to believe about the Iranian program. We've heard many different assessments and claims over a number of years," she said.
Iran announced further progress in its disputed nuclear program on Thursday, one day after world powers said they would invite Tehran to direct talks, but the declaration met some Western skepticism.

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Report: US may axe Israel missile defense system support

The Hetz-3 (Arrow 3) missile is crucial to Israeli defense. The importance of this change in American policy, if the report is true, should not be underestimated. The substitute offered, the SM-3 is far more expensive and is in an earlier stage of development. Moreover, Ratheon are the manufacturers of the Patriot missile interception system, which did not prove to be effective against SCUD missiles in the Gulf war. While their transfer to Israel had an important psychological effect, psychology will not be enough to combat an Iranian nuclear ICBM attack.  
Congress to discuss plans to cut security budget, including funding of Arrow-3 missile defense system; Israel fears policy may also jeopardize future sale of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft
Yitzhak Benhorin
Published:  04.06.09, 00:53 / Israel News
WASHINGTON – The Obama administration is once again considering offering Israel the Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) anti-ballistic missile system instead of helping Israel finance most of the development of the Arrow-3 system, Ynet has learned.

Congress is expected to discuss the matter shortly. Israel has rejected a similar offer in the past.

Unlike the Arrow, which is placed on land and is only aimed at intercepting ballistic missiles, the SM-3 is used by the US Navy and is aimed at intercepting aircraft, ships and missiles threatening warships.

The Arrow-3 system, an advanced model of the Arrow interception missile, is slated to help Israel intercept ballistic missiles in a much wider range than the range reached by Arrow-2 missiles, which are now being operationally used as part of the Israel Air Force's antiaircraft lineup.
The new missile, which is in its development stages in an Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) factory, should also be able to intercept ballistic missiles in heights of more than 100 kilometers (i.e. outside the atmosphere).
The Americans are attributing this change in policy to cuts in the US security establishment's investments in foreign technologies, but it appears that pressure from Raytheon, the company that manufactures the SM-3, has also played a role in this development.
Following his meeting with a delegation of US senators and congressman Saturday evening, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a closed Labor Party forum "we have joint projects with them (US); I'm not talking about the Iron Dome missile defense system, but about defense against long-range missiles.
 "But due to the economic crisis in the US, they are cutting budgets and want to allocate some of funds toward purely American projects that better suit the US' needs," he said.
"We are trying to convince them to continue funding the Arrow, or rather the 'Super-Arrow', so we may complete its development," Barak said without elaborating.

'Crucial to Israel's existence'
On February 21, 2008 the USS Lake Erie, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired a single SM-3 missile, hit and successfully destroyed the satellite, with a closing velocity of about 22,783 mph while the satellite was 133 nautical miles above the Pacific Ocean.
Israel objected to the development of the SM-3 at the expense of the US funding of the new Arrow program, as the Defense Ministry prefers to provide work to Israeli industries and because the cost of the new SM-3 is estimated at $10-12 million per missile, while the Arrow-3 will only cost 1.5-2 million per unit.
Another reason is that the Arrow missiles have already been successfully tested as an anti-ballistic missile system and would better serve Israel's defense needs.
The need for the Arrow-3 missile has become crucial in light of the progress made in the Iranian nuclear program. According to estimates, it would be possible to place first operational Arrow-3 batteries within three years, should the development carry on with no budgetary and technological delays.
Experts have claimed that Israel cannot give up on the development of the Arrow-3, with one of them saying it was "crucial to Israel's existence."

Congress is also expected to discuss the possibility of reducing its investment in the manufacturing of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft. The US has already approved the sale to Israel of 25 of these aircraft and an option for 50 more in coming years – a deal valued at up to $15.2 billion.
Should the US reduce its funding of the manufacturing of these planes, fewer orders for the plane and a subsequent price hike are expected, possibly making the deal undesirable for Israel.
 Ron Ben-Yishai contributed to the report

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Obama is going to have to deal with terrorism - Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

This is the voice of someone who understands the Middle East. Not a "Zionist" either. The Obama administration would do well to heed it.
Electing Obama is Not Enough!
Thursday 09 April 2009
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed

In a speech last week US President told his audience that there were those that thought that electing "Barack Hussein Obama" was enough to solve the country's problems. Obama himself must have thought at one moment or another that things would actually get easier the more distance that he puts between himself and his predecessor George Bush, but he has seen with his own eyes that things are becoming more difficult.

Less than twenty-four hours had passed after Obama made a statement warning that terrorists would target Europe when there was an attack in New York, followed by a Taliban statement claiming responsibility. To Obama's good fortune the perpetrator [of the shooting spree in New York] was Vietnamese, and had personal motives for the attack, otherwise the Presidential honeymoon may have come to an end, and Obama would have been accused of being complacent on the threat of terrorism.

The problem is real and not a psychological one and evidence of this can be seen in that Obama has done many good things without seeing a result. He began his presidency by ordering the release of Muslim detainees from Guantanamo Bay and banned the military trials [of detainees], he made his first televised address as President to the Muslims, sent a message of reconciliation to Iran, and pledged to withdraw from Iraq sooner than George W. Bush had planned to. At the same time his Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, announced that there no longer exists any such term as "war on terror" in US foreign policy. Yet despite all of this, violence has increased.

The vicious cycle of violence continues with regards the Taliban and Al Qaeda, indeed the Taliban have stepped up their operations in spite of the public message from Washington on the possibility of reconciliation. Secret messages and media references have not succeeded [in bring the Taliban to the table], and this issue is one that requires caution for it is likely that the Taliban are no different than Al Qaeda. Evidence of this can be seen in the principles of the Taliban which have not changed from forcibly preventing girls from receiving an education, and burning down their schools and murdering their teachers, not to mention banning music.

The Taliban agenda is one of local governing, unlike that of Al Qaeda, the international organization which has benefited from the modest ambitions of its ally the Taliban, and which has attempted to infiltrate the entire world and destroy it.

I expect that Obama will return to the notorious Bush ethos, for he will have no other choice in the fight against Al Qaeda, confronting Iran, and confining North Korea.

I repeat that he will not find another option because these parties – despite all that Obama has achieved since coming to power – will not ever change their stance. For every step forward that Obama has taken his opponents have challenged him saying that he has done so without receiving anything in return.
Tehran has announced - via more than one official - that by electing Obama Washington has acknowledged its weakness in the face of Iran. Even the Taliban, who were not concerned with foreign affairs, have begun to undertake activities outside of the tribal areas.
Finally, in his speeches Obama has begun to mention something that Bush repeated, namely the three dangers; a nuclear Iran, the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, and North Korea. Obama will find that there is no escape from a return to widespread confrontation, politically, economically, and militarily.

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Iran inaugurates first nuclear production plant - for plutonium producing reactor

The important point is that the heavy water reactor is capable of producing plutonium. It is the route by which others have made bombs.
Last update - 18:33 09/04/2009       
Iran inaugurates first nuclear production plant
By News Agencies
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday inaugurated the country's first nuclear fuel manufacturing plant (FMP) located near the central Iranian city of Isfahan.
Ahmadinejad has announced the plant's opening during a ceremony in the central city of Isfahan on Iran's so-called Nuclear Day.
He also said that Tehran would be ready for talks with the West if they are based on respect and justice.
"The Iranian nation has from the beginning been after logic and negotiations, but negotiations based on justice and complete respect for rights and regulations," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech.
The nuclear fuel manufacturing plant will produce pellets of uranium oxide to fuel the heavy-water research reactor, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009 or 2010.
The process is distinct from uranium enrichment, which produces fuel for a light-water reactor. Highly enriched uranium can be used to build a warhead as well. Iran's enrichment program presents more immediate concerns to the West than the hard-water reactor, because it is far more advanced.
Iran denies any intention to build a nuclear weapon. The U.S. and its allies have expressed concerns Iran could reprocess spent fuel from the heavy-water reactor into plutonium for building a warhead.
Iran earlier on Thursday said it will decide on an offer of nuclear talks made by the United States and five other world powers after reviewing the details, a senior adviser to Ahmadinejad said.
"We will review it and then decide about it," Ali Akbar Javanfekr told Reuters.
Javanfekr's comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that her country would be a "full participant" in talks by major powers with Iran over its nuclear program.
"Obviously we believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense. There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon," Clinton told reporters.
Clinton's announcement marked another significant shift from former U.S. President George W. Bush's policy toward a nation he labeled a member of the Axis of Evil.
On Wednesday, the State Department said the U.S. would be at the table from now on when senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue.
The Bush administration had generally shunned such meetings, although it
attended one last year.
U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the decision to engage Iran was conveyed to representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia by the third-ranking U.S. diplomat William Burns at a Wednesday meeting in London.
That group, known as the P5+1, announced earlier that it would invite Iran to attend a new session aimed at breaking a deadlock in the talks.
"The U.S. remains committed to the P5+1 process; what is different is that the U.S. will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on," Wood said, adding that Washington was hopeful Iran would attend.
"If Iran accepts, we hope this will be the occasion to seriously engage Iran on how to break the logjam of recent years and work in a cooperative manner to resolve the outstanding international concerns about its nuclear program," he said.
Any breakthrough will be the result of the collective efforts of all the parties, including Iran.
Wood said the administration wants a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear
issue and believes that requires a willingness to engage directly with each other on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interests.
"We hope that the government of Iran chooses to reciprocate," he added.
The invitation is to be sent to the Iranians by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. In a statement the group said it welcomed the new direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. No time frame was given for a date of the meeting.

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Jewish like me

This little movement can be the start of a revolution in Judaism.  
The jubilation in Philadelphia's Temple Beth'El's packed sanctuary overflowed into the aisles, with members dancing, clapping and singing as they welcomed their first Torah from Israel.
A new sacred scroll - the holiest object in Judaism - is cause for celebration in any synagogue. But for this congregation, it meant much more. It signified a tentative step toward the mainstream of American Jewish life.
"We have been unable to sleep and to eat," said Debra Bowen, who is the rabbi. "We have Torah fever!"
Temple Beth'El is a predominantly African-American synagogue formed more than 50 years ago by the daughter of a Baptist preacher at a time when many blacks were rejecting Christianity as a slave religion. The same motivation led many African-Americans to move toward Islam.
The founder of Temple Beth'El, Louise Dailey, studied with a rabbi, but was not ordained by a recognized branch of Judaism. The synagogue has a kosher kitchen and a mikvah, or ritual bath, but Dailey also adopted some traditions that are alien to the ancient faith. Congregants called her "Mother Dailey," and she ordained Bowen, her daughter, before she died.
Yet, recently, Bowen has been reaching out to the broader Jewish community, holding joint services with other congregations and speaking to service groups such as Hadassah. Her timing is good. American Jews have been showing a new willingness to build ties to African-American Jews.
Rabbi Capers Funnye, cousin of first lady Michelle Obama, has just started receiving invitations to speak to white congregations. He is chief rabbi of Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago, one of the largest black synagogues in the country.
The San Francisco-based group Be'chol Lashon, which means "In Every Tongue," has been working to persuade Jews to break through the racial divisions that have alienated African-American, African and other ethnic minority Jews from the larger community.
Estimates of the number of American Jews and the makeup of the community vary. But Be'chol Lashon says that about 600,000 of the 6 million or so U.S. Jews identify themselves as nonwhite or from non-European countries.

The question of who can be considered a Jew is a subject of intense debate, since individual streams of Judaism have different ways of deciding the question under Jewish law. But in the case of most African-American Jews, the issue is even more complicated, since many did not follow any generally accepted religious law when they joined the faith.
"What makes somebody Jewish is not the congregation you belong to, but whether you were converted appropriately," said Jeffrey Gurock, a professor at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox school in New York.
Still, Bowen has had some success in her outreach. The fruit of her work could be seen at the recent Sunday service dedicating the Torah. Funnye read a prayer at the event. In the audience was Gloria Gelman, a white Jew from the liberal Reform branch, who had heard Bowen's presentation to Hadassah. She is encouraging the synagogue to start its own Hadassah group.
Dan Ross, a 21-year-old University of Pennsylvania student, is a white Jew who is writing his senior thesis on Beth'El and has brought many other Jewish students to visit. At the Torah commemoration, he said, "It really hits you how significant it is that they have it."
Lewis Gordon, director of Temple University's Center for Afro-Jewish studies, has also been a frequent visitor at other services. "These are people who are proud of being African-American and are absolutely proud of being Jews," Gordon said.
The ceremony was a mix of Hebrew readings and shouts of "Hallelujah!" - a worship style typical of African-American churches. The booming music came from what Christians would call a "praise band" - with electric guitars, drums and keyboard. There was a dress code - another unusual tradition for Jews - of blue, silver or white clothing. Bowen's garb was far from typical for a rabbi. She wore an elaborate, flowing white gown - like a wedding dress - with matching white shawl and a yarmulke.
The Torah was acquired by Rabbi Emmanuel "Manny" Vinas, who leads a Spanish-Jewish synagogue in Yonkers, N.Y. Vinas noted that many suppliers had been reluctant to sell a Torah to Temple Beth'El because of its history, and he expected strictly traditional Jews would criticize him for brokering the purchase.
"I saw the service that was held for the Torah," Vinas said. "You see those people crying and so deeply moved...That's a congregation that's going to honor and uphold the Torah."
The synagogue in the city's West Oak Lane neighborhood grew from a prayer group in the living room of Dailey's North Philadelphia home. She was working as a maid in a Jewish home and felt drawn to their religious rituals, such as not working on the Sabbath and covering mirrors during mourning. When she died in 2001, she had a Jewish funeral and was buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Bowen, 63, said the synagogue had lived "quietly" for decades in order to worship without distraction, scrutiny and questions of whether the congregation was truly Jewish.
But now she said, "doors are opening."
"The greater Jewish community," she said, "has been amazingly welcoming."

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The Middle East War of Words goes on

The war of words has always been one of the deadliest battlefields in the Middle East conflict, and Israel has been losing that war.
Israeli leaders mislabelled by foes
Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor | April 09, 2009

Article from:  The Australian
OVER the next year or two, probably for as long as it stays in office, there will be a sustained effort to demonise the Israeli Government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The speech last week by Netanyahu's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in which he explicitly supported a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute but was reported as if he had said the opposite, is a case in point.
But even the way Netanyahu and Lieberman are typically described is entirely misleading. Netanyahu, not least in the Australian media, is almost always called "hardline right-wing". This would be the equivalent of calling the government of John Howard or Malcolm Fraser hardline right-wing, or calling the recently defeated government of Helen Clark in New Zealand hardline left-wing.
Netanyahu leads the Likud Party, which has been Israel's main centre-right party for decades. Under Menachem Begin in the 1970s, a Likud government gave up the whole of the Sinai desert in a land-for-peace deal with Egypt. Netanyahu, who has held many portoflios in previous governments, has as part of his coalition the left-of-centre Israeli Labour Party.
It would be much more honest to label Netanyahu's Government centre-right. This question of language is of the first order of importance. The ancient Chinese sage Confucius, when asked what would be the main political reform he would carry out if he achieved state power, replied: "It would certainly be to rectify the names." Israel's enemies, heirs to ancient anti-Semitism, are on a relentless quest to delegitimise and demonise it at every point. Mislabelling a democratic government of mainstream, democratic politicians as hardline right-wing is an important part of that quest.
What about Lieberman's speech? Lieberman is the leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. Lieberman too has previously been a cabinet minister. His party is mainly supported by Russian immigrants. It is fair to say he is to the right of Netanyahu but not fair to say he is an extremist. His policies mix a hard line on national security with social liberalism.
Russian Israelis often have a somewhat attenuated connection to Orthodox Judaism and can therefore be disadvantaged in rulings concerning conversion, marriage and other family matters, where religious parties have considerable influence. There is nothing sinister about this. It is the sort of debate Ireland had in recent years about allowing divorce. Lieberman wants to secularise these matters.
On security issues his sharp language marks him out as a polarising figure. But there is no doubt he is a democrat and, by broader Middle East standards, an extremely mild politician. He is most famous for wanting all Israelis to take a loyalty oath. This is seen as insulting to Israel's Arab citizens. I think it is an unhelpful and unnecessarily polarising proposal, but it is not the black hand of fascism.
Similarly, Lieberman wants all Israelis to be forced to undertake military or other national service. This is also seen as hitting at Israeli Arabs, as they may not want to serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. But Lieberman also wants this provision enforced on Orthodox Jews, who do not do military service either.
Further, in Lieberman's vision of a two-state solution he is keen to transfer Israeli Arab towns into a Palestinian state. Some territorial swap is inevitable if a two-state solution is to work, but presumably no Israeli citizen would be forced to give up their citizenship, whatever happened to the land underneath them. So Lieberman's proposal cannot remotely be classed as ethnic cleansing or anything like it.
I think Lieberman's rhetoric is often unhelpful to Israel and exacerbates problems, but it is certainly not unreasonable for Lieberman to want to debate the civic identity of Israel's Arab citizens.
In his initial speech as Foreign Minister on March 30, Lieberman said the Annapolis peace process, which has been running for the past couple of years, is dead. But Lieberman fully committed himself to the road map negotiated and endorsed in 2002 by the US, the European Union, the UN and Russia, which also involves commitment to a two-state solution.
There is only one difference between the road map and Annapolis. Annapolis was based on the idea that the Israelis and Palestinians negotiate a final status agreement now on who would have what territory, and then one day the Palestinians will be able to form a government that can rule its own territories and provide proper security.
The road map, on the other hand, provided for reciprocity: that both the Palestinians and the Israelis had to undertake certain obligations along the way. Israel had to dismantle illegal Jewish settlements (that is, illegal under Israeli law) and prevent any territorial expansion in the existing settlements. (Lieberman is at times even critical of the previous government for not doing this.) The Palestinians had to form a functioning government and suppress terrorism.
When the Israelis withdrew unilaterally from Gaza, this was a kind of road test for Annapolis. But all they got, after a temporary ceasefire, was a constant barrage of rocket attacks. The Netanyahu Government is now inclined to stress reciprocity.
Indeed, in responding to Lieberman's remarks US spokesmen did all stress reciprocity.
Netanyahu, when in office previously, made a number of agreements that involved Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian land and all of which had as their object a two-state solution. Like Lieberman, Netanyahu is committed to the road map, which has as its goal an independent Palestinian state. But this is dependent on the Palestinians forming an effective and sensible government and meaningfully renouncing terrorism.
This is completely out of the question at the moment because half the potential Palestinian state, Gaza, is ruled by the terrorist death cult Hamas. Despite the protestations of Hamas sympathisers in Australia, the Hamas leadership, the charter which it still upholds and all Hamas spokesmen say Hamas will never recognise Israel's right to exist or to occupy a single inch of territory. This is not the occupied territories we're talking about but Israel proper. Hamas has also said it will never give up terrorism. Hamas may one day change its mind on all this, but at the moment it is inconceivable that the Palestinians could meet their obligations under the road map. That rules out a Palestinian state for the moment.
It remains an ambition of the vast majority of Israelis that they can live in peace beside a peaceful neighbour, both behind agreed borders. In saying this is not available at the moment, neither Netanyahu nor Lieberman rules it out forever in the future. The international press might at least get this basic fact right.

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Obama uses the "A" word - a signal of bad times ahead for Israel?

April 9, 2009
On the White House

With 'Annapolis,' a Warning to Israel
WASHINGTON—Watchers of Middle East politics were quick to take note of a line in President Obama's address before the Turkish Parliament on Monday in Ankara, in which he mentioned "Annapolis."
By bringing up the word, Mr. Obama was sending a warning to the government of new Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that reneging on the goals outlined during the Annapolis Middle East peace conference in 2007 would put Mr. Netanyahu on the wrong foot with the Obama administration.
The issue sprouted last week when Israel's hawkish new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that agreements reached at the American-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Md., have "no validity." Mr. Lieberman said that the Israeli government "never ratified Annapolis, nor did Parliament."
The aim of the Annapolis process, as it became known, was to agree on the framework for a Palestinian state alongside Israel by the end of 2008, a goal which was never reached.
Mr. Obama had not referred to the Annapolis conference in any of his major public remarks on Mideast peace since he took office.
But there he was on Monday, directly rebutting Mr. Lieberman's comments in his most high-profile address about America's relationship with the Muslim world, before Turkish legislators. He would push for a two-state solution, Mr. Obama said, despite the view of many foreign policy experts that such a goal will be even more difficult to reach because of the makeup of the new Israeli government under Mr. Netanyahu, not to mention the fractured state of internal Palestinian politics.
"Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Mr. Obama said. "That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president." The road map refers to a 2003 outline of steps toward a peace agreement.
Asked why Mr. Obama suddenly decided to start tossing the word "Annapolis" around, Denis McDonough, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, did not elaborate much, apparently deciding to let his boss's statement speak for itself. "I think the president is speaking directly about his views and his hopes for relations among Israelis and Palestinians, as well as his hopes for a broader Arab-Israeli peace," Mr. McDonough said.
But privately, several administration officials and Middle East experts said that Mr. Obama is girding for a protracted showdown with the new Israeli government over the pursuit of Palestinian statehood.
Taken by themselves, Mr. Lieberman's comments are not that significant, many foreign policy experts said, because most Israeli foreign ministers are not that relevant to the peace process; that portfolio is usually held by the prime minister. Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister, broke that mold somewhat, when she demanded the portfolio and got it, but even she was eventually usurped there by Ehud Olmert, a former prime minister.
The bigger issue for the Obama administration is whether Mr. Lieberman is channeling Mr. Netanyahu, the man who is likely to control the peace process file. Mr. Netanyahu is viewed as a hawk, but one who is capable of being dragged to the peace table, as President Clinton did when he pushed and prodded him to continue peace negotiations at the Wye River Plantations after former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
By forcefully rebutting Mr. Lieberman's repudiation of Annapolis, and in such a public fashion, Mr. Obama is issuing a warning to Mr. Netanyahu that the United States will push for a two-state solution, and will expect him to publicly articulate his own support for such an initiative, many experts said.
"At a minimum, Bibi will need to disown these statements and come out explicitly in support of the two-state solution before his meeting with President Obama," said Ghaith Al-Omari, a former Palestinian negotiator who now works with the American Task Force on Palestine. "If not," Mr. Al-Omari said, "the issue will become the focus of the meeting."
Fresh from his first overseas trip as president—a weeklong trip in which he drew stellar reviews—Mr. Obama may soon be jetting off again. He has a series of trips, both announced and unannounced planned, and will also be hosting several overseas visitors to the White House. Somewhere in all of that will be a first meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu; it's bound to be pretty interesting.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Plot to assassinate Obama foiled in Turkey

A few seconds that could have changed the world....

Plot to assassinate Obama foiled in Turkey

April 6, 2009

By Ed Henry
CNN Senior White House Correspondent

ISTANBUL, Turkey (CNN) -- U.S. officials have taken "very seriously" a plot to assassinate President Barack Obama involving a Syrian man who was arrested late last week in Turkey, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

But the officials strongly cautioned that American presidents are frequent targets of threats that are all watched very carefully, and in this case the alleged plotter did not appear to get anywhere close to Obama during his European tour.

The officials also noted that while Obama gets more threats than usual as the first African-American U.S. president, this particular threat did not force any change to his schedule.

"Life goes on," said one of the officials familiar with the matter, who suggested the threat may be getting more attention because there has been a heavy international focus on Obama's first overseas trip since taking office.

White House officials declined to comment on the matter, citing a policy of not talking about security and threats around the president. U.S. Secret Service officials spoke only briefly about the case.

"We work closely with the host country whenever there is an arrest, which we are doing in this matter," Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said.

The plot was first reported by the Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Watan, which revealed that Turkish security services arrested a man of Syrian origins Friday in connection with a plan to kill Obama during his visit to Turkey. Obama was in Strasbourg, France, on Friday for a NATO summit and did not arrive in Turkey for the final leg of his trip until Sunday.

The Saudi paper reported the suspect, who was carrying an Al-Jazeera TV press credential in the name of "M.G.," confessed to authorities after his arrest that he and three alleged accomplices plotted to stab Obama with a knife during the Alliance of Civilizations Summit in Istanbul, which Obama attended on Monday evening. The U.S. officials confirmed those allegations, but stressed to CNN that the information provided by the man is still being verified.

Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Ankara, Turkey, Yucef al-Sharif, told the newspaper his news organization knew nothing about the man and suggested he may have obtained a forged press credential. According to U.S. officials, it's unclear whether the man, a permanent resident of Istanbul, had obtained a real press credential.

On Sunday, U.S. and international journalists covering Obama's trip did face more extensive searches of their baggage than usual by the U.S. Secret Service before boarding a press charter flight from the Prague, Czech Republic, region to Ankara. The same extensive searches were conducted Monday before a flight from Ankara to Istanbul.

But U.S. officials downplayed the possibility the more extensive searches were done out of concern that plotters may have infiltrated the media. Instead, the officials suggested that since Turkish security officials had not necessarily handled such a large crush of media before, U.S. Secret Service officials simply wanted to go the extra mile in their searches.


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Doubts about President Obama's religion resolved

Right wing neocon bloggers who insisted that President Obama is a Muslim, as well as Muslims counting on his support, were a bit surprised by the news below

Obama to host seder

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- President Obama will host a Passover seder Thursday evening in the White House.

The president's schedule for the rest of the week, released on Tuesday evening, said that Obama would mark the beginning of the holiday with a seder for friends and staff. No other information was provided. It is believed to be the first presidential seder held in the White House.

William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the United Jewish Communities Washington office, said the seder was scheduled on the second night so as not to disrupt first night family seders and is "a testament to how far we have come as a Jewish people in America.

"Jews are a vital component in the mosaic that is American culture and society," he said. "Our welcome through the front door, and the dining room door, of the White House speaks to the inclusiveness of today's America and of President Obama. This night is indeed different from all other nights."


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What should Israel do about the UN War crimes investigation?

The investigation itself can have only one outcome, known and declared in advance by one of the investigators on the panel.  The UN Human Rights Council has named the respected South African jurist and war crimes investigator, Richard Goldstone, to head a panel investigating alleged war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. The official mandate of the panel, as one may expect from the UNHRC, prejudges the outcome of the investigation, since the mandate is directed only at uncovering Israeli war crimes. Goldstone insists however, that the panel would examine the behavior of both sides. The appointment of Goldstone, presumed to be a Zionist, has led many to believe the the investigation would be fair. But it may be more relevant to focus on other panel investigators. In particular, we should consider the record of Christine Chinkin, who has already been involved in Gaza "war crimes" investigations.

The panel, in addition to Goldstone, consists of British Professor Christine Chinkin, Retired Irish army officer Desmond Travers, and Pakistani jurist Hina Jilani. Notwithstanding Goldstone's membership of the Board of Trustees of the Hebrew university, Goldstone, Jilani and Travers are signatories of a recent letter to Amnesty International calling for an investigation of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. Jilani is a well known and courageous defender of women's rights in Pakistan. She has also appeared in hearings on behalf of Palestinians in Israel as a member of the board of the Frontline Defenders organization. Continued: Should Israel cooperate with the UN Investigation of Gaza war crimes? 

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel, Gaza and Accountability

Published: April 7, 2009
To the Editor:
Re "Israel on Trial" (Op-Ed, April 4):
I believe that George Bisharat unfairly pillories Israel. He acknowledges that there is a special fact-finding investigation under way. Why does he not wait for the results to be reported, rather than pre-empt them with his own accusations based on his presuppositions and limited information?
If Hamas is also guilty of war crimes, as Mr. Bisharat alleges, why does he call only Israel to accountability? Is Lady Justice blind, or does she peek out to select her favorites and use the assertion of legal principles to advance their interests where advantage can be gained by allegation?
Peter A. Pettit
Allentown, Pa., April 4, 2009
The writer is a member of the executive committee of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama tells Muslims: Don’t demonize Israel

It takes a great man to say this while courting Muslim public opinion, and a greater one to be respected for it. Barack Obama may turn out to be the best advocate Israel has had in a long time.
By Ron Kampeas · April 7, 2009
WASHINGTON (JTA) - President Barack Obama urged Turkish students to help overcome the tendency in the Muslim world to blame Israel.
Obama told university students at a round table in Istanbul on Tuesday that he was committed to bringing about an Israeli Palestinian peace, whatever the difficulties, and appreciated Turkey's role in helping to broker such a peace.
"It will depend on young people like you being open to new ideas and new possibilities," he said. "And it will require young people like you never to stereotype or assume the worst about other people. In the Muslim world, this notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance -- because there's two sides to every question. That doesn't mean that sometimes one side has done something wrong and should not be condemned. But it does mean there's always two sides to an issue.
"I say the same thing to my Jewish friends, which is you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians," Obama continued. "Learning to stand in somebody else's shoes to see through their eyes, that's how peace begins. And it's up to you to make that happen."
Obama later made a surprise visit to U.S. troops in Ira

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Man bites dog: British academic union UCU will not call for Israel boycottl

British academic union drops call to boycott Israel

Apr. 5, 2009
Jonny Paul, Jerusalem Post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POST

The trade union behind previous attempts to boycott Israeli academia will not call for a boycott at their congress next month.

Though the University and College Union (UCU), the UK's largest trade union for academics, lecturers and researchers, will raise a number of motions critical of Israel, it is the first time since 2003 that an academic trade union will not propose a boycott of Israeli academia.

Last year the UCU was forced to drop its proposed boycott call following a threat by members to take legal action.

This year, several motions, with various degrees of hostility towards Israel, have been submitted by the union's branches for debate at the conference.

One motion calls for the "ending of apartheid and lifting of all barricades in Gaza; recognition of the democratically elected Gaza [Hamas] government; the establishment of free independent Palestine; respect for human rights in Palestine and the stopping of killing of defenseless Gazans."

The same motion call for Israel to be tried for "human rights violations."

Another motion calls for an arms embargo on Israel, a ban on settlement goods and that "the British government expel the Israeli ambassador."

However, a motion proposed by the union's National Executive Committee (NEC) calling for solidarity with the Palestinians also condemns "the use of rockets against Israeli civilians."

Last year the NEC submitted a motion that revived a call for a boycott of Israeli academia that had been aborted in 2007.

"The absence of a motion on boycotting Israel is undoubtedly a sign of progress," said Jeremy Newmark from Stop the Boycott, a campaign group launched in 2007 to oppose trade union boycott initiatives.

"We also welcome the NEC's more balanced position on Israel, especially as last year the executive itself proposed a boycott.

"However, the draft motions still attack Israel from all directions, this is an 'anything but boycott' document that singles out Israel as the only country for condemnation and sanction. UCU members should reject these motions at their congress," he added.

"Very little has changed apart from the absence of a boycott motion for the first time this decade," said Ronnie Fraser, chair of the Academic Friends of Israel. "The UCU continues to be the most anti-Israel union in Britain with five motions this year condemning Israel's actions in Gaza.

"It is regrettable that the union continues to place Israel at the top of their list of international issues without balancing it with a condemnation of those in the Arab world who are not willing to recognize the existence of the State of Israel."

Fraser said that a boycott motion could still be raised before the conference, as any UCU branch can still propose an amendment motion. He also questioned the motivation behind a motion calling for a campaign against anti-Semitism.

The NEC has also proposed a motion calling for a campaign against anti-Semitism, and for a one-day commemoration on Holocaust Memorial Day each year that "commemorates the different groups targeted by the Nazis and looks at how to campaign against racism and fascism today with other education unions."

Notes Fraser: "The UCU's motives for a campaign against anti-Semitism now are unclear, as one asks how can the UCU, which has previously said that it does not accept the recommendations in the Parliamentary Committee against Anti-Semitism report or the European Monitoring Center on Racism definition of anti-Semitism, now want to campaign against the rise of anti-Semitism.

"It first has to clearly understand and publicly acknowledge that anti-Semitism exists on both the left and the right and is a threat to Anglo Jewry," Fraser said.

The UCU congress will take place May 27-29 in Bournemouth, on the southern coast of England.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Paris Imam denies scandalous accusations that he is not anti-Semitic

Imam Boubakeur of the Paris mosque stands accused of the scandalous charge of lack of Anti-Semitism. He is quoted also as alleging that Jews have the right to self-defense and might be intelligent. Consider these insufferable remarks:
"Concerning the latest event in Gaza, I personally believe that when organizations like Hamas bomb Israel over several years, they essentially generate Israeli reactions and expose the Palestinian population to reprisals," he told the magazine...
Boubakeur denied allegations that he will visit Israel although he said he had received an invitation from the Jewish community in France.
"The Paris Mosque has always supported Palestinians," Boubakeur added, referring to the humanitarian aid the mosque sent to Gaza via the French Foreign Ministry. The mosque also played a role in saving several Jews during World War II, he told the magazine.
Boubakeur, who is of Algerian origins, also told the magazine that he admired the intelligence of the Israeli people and that the Quran refers to Jews as God's chosen people.
Of course, every right thinking and progressive person understands that such remarks cannot be tolerated. What a shameful scandal it would be, if the Imam of the Paris mosque was not an anti-Semite! 
As for Dalil Boubakeur, he has tried to dispel the suspicion (perish the thought!) that he is not a vicious racist warmonger:  
"The magazine took my statements out of context and I am taking the necessary measures to file a lawsuit," he said.
Boubakeur is well aware that if he is suspected of lack of  anti-Semitism, it may be bad for his health.
Ami Isseroff

Continued (Permanent Link)

Taking on racist comments about Israeli war crimes

I got fed up with racist, gormless, ignorant commenters about Israeli "war crimes" who invent their own facts and use our Web logs as a place to exhibit their cretinous venom  So I wrote about a racist comment on Israeli war crimes.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Danny Zamir, whistleblower: No Gaza war crimes by Israel

Danny Zamir, who planted the stories of Israeli war crimes in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead that raised a sensation all over the world, tells us it is not so. It is rather incredible that Zamir didn't think of all the damage he would do before he opened his mouth. The toothpaste is out of the tube. None of the media and Web logs that carried the earlier story will carry this one. It won't get to the New York Times, or or radioislam or stormfront or drivethezionazisintothesea or any of the other progressive and peace loving outlets of the friends of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
It is hard to t understand why he hits out at the New York Times, which was only basing itself on the story that he, Zamir, planted in Ha'aretz.
Such a clever man, and yet so stupid.
He wants our camp to be pure. That's fine. If the enemies of Israel have their way, there will not be any camp. Critics like Zamir are helping to throw the Zionist baby out with the bathwater of social criticism.
Apr. 7, 2009

A number of articles published recently in The New York Times quoted or were based on words spoken by myself and by graduates of the pre-army leadership development program which I head (the "Rabin Mechina") - graduates who participated as combat soldiers in Operation Cast Lead and who met recently to process personal experiences from the battlefield.

Both explicitly and by insinuation, the articles claim a decline in the IDF's commitment to its moral code of conduct in combat, and moreover, that this decline stems from a specific increase in the prominence of religious soldiers and commanders in the IDF in general, and from the strengthening of the position of IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky in particular.

It was as if the media were altogether so eager to find reason to criticize the IDF that they pounced on one discussion by nine soldiers who met after returning from the battlefield to share their experiences and subjective feelings with each other, using that one episode to draw conclusions that felt more like an indictment. Dogma replaced balance and led to a dangerous misunderstanding of the depth and complexity of Israeli reality. The individual accounts were never intended to serve as a basis for broad generalizations and summary conclusions by the media; they were published internally, intended for program graduates and their parents as a tool to be used in the process of educating and guiding the next generation.

I chose as well to submit the soldiers' accounts to the highest levels of the IDF, directly to the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, out of my deep faith in the solid moral foundations of IDF policy and in complete confidence that the accounts would receive serious and thorough attention, including both investigation and corrective measures, if and when necessary. This faith was and is based on my personal experience of more than two decades - as a combat soldier, a major in the IDF and as mentor for hundreds of the Rabin Mechina's graduates who are soldiers serving in combat units (active and reserve).

There are, to be sure, important political differences between myself as a social-democratic Zionist and Zionists of other political opinions. But there exists among us a very broad consensus regarding the moral character of combat - a moral character to which the IDF is committed and educates its soldiers, a character positively influenced by religious mechinot and by the special personal qualities of my colleague Rabbi Ronsky.

THE GUIDING principle that directs IDF combat soldiers, both in their planning and conduct in combat, encompasses a balance between two needs: to defend soldiers' lives and to minimize harm to the civilians behind whom terrorists try to hide. This is expressed in the tension between the necessity of opening fire when the soldiers' security and battle conditions require, even when there's a danger to civilians (providing advance warning to the extent possible), and the absolute obligation to hold fire and to act with due compassion toward civilians when it appears that they have no evil intent. In addition, basic respect toward civilians' belongings and their religious and spiritual property is part of this moral code.

These guidelines and the obligation to uphold them are an inseparable part of the Jewish-Zionist world of IDF soldiers, and deeply anchored in generations of Jewish heritage, particularly in the doctrine of military conduct renewed by the early socialist-Zionists a century ago. They called this principle by a name that's unlikely to have been given by any other nationalist movement fighting for its independence: "Purity of Arms" - that is, preventing harm to those not involved in or supporting the combat.

This moral commandment remains a central motto of the IDF; it is the complete opposite of the code of conduct of Islamist terror organizations such as Hamas, whose judgment on every Israeli and Jew is death. "Purity of arms" is not part of their world, not even in theory.

The outsider may not understand this, but we - the Jews of the State of Israel - live this every day, every hour.

In order to appreciate this moral code, one must note the context in which it operates. The State of Israel is under a prolonged attack by the Hamas movement - a fundamentalist Islamic terror movement, based on a racist and ultra-nationalist ideology that seeks the killing of Jews for being Jews and the actual elimination of the State of Israel as its declared aspiration, and formally part of its foundation platform. And bear in mind that Hamas is not a marginal extremist underground, but a movement freely chosen by the Palestinians to head their elected government.

Our war against an unrestrained terror organization that uses civilian populations as human shields in various ways, such as hospitals and masquerading as women and children, presents the IDF - an army obligated to an ethical code of combat based on humanism and international law - with almost impossible complexities. The nature of combat in complex conditions (such as in Gaza) brings with it difficulties and failures. The greatness of an army fighting under such conditions lies in its aspiring to "zero errors" and in its openness to examining its failures - finding them and fixing them.

IF IT'S possible to learn something from the real Israel - and not that which the media (including Israeli media) makes such efforts to portray - it would be from the uproar of emotions and the frank discussions that have taken place within Israeli society in the wake of the soldiers' accounts. It is out of their commitment to the moral code that the soldiers spoke and their accounts were submitted; purity of arms requires continuous examination of our actions and intentions.

"May our camp be pure." This is the watchword borne by my soldiers in the IDF, not only because this is how they've been educated by their commanders and their officers, but because this is the essence of their belief and their national heritage, a belief and heritage shared by and uniting us all: secular and religious, right and left, in the IDF and outside it. It is a source of pride and of confidence in our way, even in times of venomous attacks from every quarter - such as transforming a sensitive, personal discussion among combat soldiers back from the battlefield to mendacious claims of policies that involve so-called war crimes.

And so may it be.

Atty. Danny Zamir (Major, IDF reserves) Director, Yitzhak Rabin Pre-army Leadership Development Program.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel's whistleblower "Operation Cast Lead was justified," recants "war crimes" atrocity stories

In an article in the Jerusalem Post by Herb Keinon, Dani Zamir, who "blew the whistle" on "Israeli war crimes" in Gaza, is quoted as recanting the stories of misdeeds of Israel soldiers. Too bad he did not understand the damage he was going to do before he did it. Amos Harel, the reporter who published the accusations, remained adamant that he was "improving" the morality of the IDF, despite complaints that he had launched a blood libel. Curiously, this story has not made many headlines around the world. Here is the story.

Operation Cast Lead was completely justified, isolated acts of vandalism do not make the IDF an army of war criminals, and religious graduates of the military preparatory programs add to the morality of the IDF, Danny Zamir, the head of the Rabin Pre-Military Academy in Kiryat Tivon, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Zamir's comments came after the Post obtained a copy of an article he wrote for circulation abroad, in which he tried to put into context the brouhaha that resulted from publication of a discussion among nine graduates of his program after Operation Cast Lead. The discussion included allegations of two instances in which soldiers deliberately shot and killed innocent Palestinians, and of wanton vandalism.

"The whole story spun out of control," Zamir said. "From an internal discussion where soldiers talked about what was difficult and painful in the war, and which I took to the army because I expected them to deal with the issues raised, the international media turned the IDF into war criminals."

The transcript of the soldiers' comments, which appeared in an internal newsletter that was posted on the Internet, led to a media sensation, with numerous articles using the soldiers' comments to substantiate allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

Last week, Judge Advocate-General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit exonerated the IDF and closed a Military Police investigation into the affair, saying it was based not on eyewitness accounts, but on hearsay.

Referring specifically to articles in The New York Times, Zamir wrote that "both explicitly and by insinuation, the articles claim a decline in the IDF's commitment to its moral code of conduct in combat, and moreover, that this decline stems from a specific increase in the prominence of religious soldiers and commanders in the IDF in general, and from the strengthening of the position of IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Ronsky in particular.

"It was as if the media were altogether so eager to find reason to criticize the IDF that they pounced on one discussion by nine soldiers who met after returning from the battlefield to share their experiences and subjective feelings with each other, using that one episode to draw conclusions that felt more like an indictment," he wrote.

"Dogma replaced balance and led to a dangerous misunderstanding of the depth and complexity of Israeli reality. The individual accounts were never intended to serve as a basis for broad generalizations and summary conclusions by the media; they were published internally, intended for program graduates and their parents as a tool to be used in the process of educating and guiding the next generation," he said.

Zamir, an officer in the reserves whose children are in the IDF, said that if he believed the IDF was an army of war criminals, he would not be in it.

"It is important to put it in context, and very difficult to explain to the American public how complicated the situation is," Zamir told the Post.

Zamir said he had no way of knowing whether the alleged shooting incidents ever took place, though he felt isolated incidents of vandalism described by soldiers did occur.

"I think that some of the acts of vandalism inside homes were done, but you have to put it in context. That doesn't turn them into war criminals," he said. "When the American army conquered Fallujah three years ago, tens of thousands of people were killed. When the Russian army conquered Chechnya in 2000, it turned Grozny into dust.

"Operation Cast Lead was justified; the IDF worked in a surgical manner. Unfortunately, in these types of operations, civilians will be killed. The IDF operated in a way in which it tried to protect civilians in the most crowded place in the world," he said. "There were no orders to kill civilians or any summary executions or things like that. There were problems, but problems that the army can deal with."

Zamir said that what disturbed him the most was an article in The New York Times under the headline "A religious war in Israel's army," which left the impression that a veritable kulturkampf between religious and secular soldiers was under way. Zamir also said he felt the article left the feeling that he was at loggerheads with Ronsky, someone he considers a close friend.

"I respect the religious Zionists a great deal, even though we have gaps in our world view, regarding the settlements and other things," he said. "We are friends. To use a metaphor from the army, we are all carrying the stretcher. To make it as if we are enemies is ugly; to put all the problems on the religious soldiers is simply wrong."

In fact, he said, "the most amazing thing that happens during battle and in the army is the cooperation between the Left and the Right, the religious and the secular. We have great relations, with a great deal of respect and faith in one another."

Zamir said the more graduates of the religious preparatory academies, and the more rabbis being taught by Ronsky, the better.

"There will be a higher moral level in the army," he said. "The religious Zionists are leading the camp in many areas - in the army, in the communities in the periphery, in education - and an impression is wrongly created that they are ayatollahs who are ruling the world. It's not right, and I'm saying this as someone who is a leftist and secular."

In 1990, Zamir, then a paratrooper company commander in the reserves, was tried and sentenced to prison for refusing to guard a ceremony where Torah scrolls were brought to Joseph's Tomb in Nablus. A 2004 book entitled Refusnik: Israel's Soldiers of Conscience, compiled and edited by Peretz Kidron, contains words Zamir wrote at the time explaining his decision.

Zamir said Monday that until the recent events, he did not even know that he had appeared in that book.

"They took something I wrote in 1990 and included it," he said. "They didn't ask me, and I didn't know about it."

He explained that "that was before Oslo, and I thought that Israel was using methods that were not in keeping with the Jewish and democratic nature of the state. Since 1992 I have made it clear that there is no rationale for refusing to serve, and I believe that to this day."

According to Zamir, anyone in his preparatory academy who says they do not want to serve are asked to leave.

"We have 100 percent enlistment," he said, "and 30% of our soldiers become officers."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas will not recognize Israel today either

This is your (almost daily) dose of "Hamas will never recognize Israel." It is to be taken by everyone who insists against all logic and evidence that Hamas.  will recognize Israel, that Hamas.  accepts a two state solution.
Understand that they will not even reconzie Israel as the PLO does. The PLO does not accept Israel as a Jewish state, but it accepts the existence of Israel..
Apparently, more than one dose is needed. Send to J-Street, M.J. Rosenberg, Betselem and all other advocates of negotiations with Hamas.  
Official: Hamas won't form government recognizes Israel  2009-04-07 18:45:02    
Special Report: Palestine-Israel Conflicts        
    GAZA, April 7 (Xinhua) -- A senior Islamic Hamas movement official reiterated on Tuesday that his movement wouldn't accept forming a new unity government that recognizes the Jewish state.
    Ismail Radwan said in a statement sent to reporters "We won't deal with any proposal or project, presented to the movement, that calls for abiding by the international Quartet requirements or recognizing Israel."
    The commitments to the Quartet's requirements is the core of substantial differences between the Islamic movement that rules the Gaza Strip and west-supported President Mahmoud Abbas.
    So far, a marathon and intensive dialogue held in Cairo between the two sides in March, which will be resumed on April 26, had failed to overcome major differences, mainly to agree on the platform of any new unity government.
    "Forming any Palestinian government that commits itself to the Quartet's requirements and recognizing Israel as a legitimate state on the land of Palestine is not on Hamas Agenda," said Radwan.
    Radwan expressed hope that the coming third round of dialogue expected on April 26 "would be more flexible and positive in order to overcome our differences and achieve our national unity."
    Meanwhile, chief Palestinian negotiator to the dialogue with Hamas Ahmed Qurei said in a statement that the coming round of inter-reconciliation dialogue "will be final and decisive."
    He accused Hamas movement for being hard in its position and not changing it in spite of several rounds of dialogue, adding that "Fatah is keen to make this dialogue success and is not intending to give up."
    "We are still having the same differences on four major issues: reforming the PLO, the security forces, the political platform and the upcoming elections. So far we haven't moved on inch in any of the four issues," said Qurei.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Falsely accused IDF soldiers call for probe of Ha'aretz, Libel action

Reservists ask Mazuz to probe 'Haaretz'

Apr. 7, 2009

IDF reservists have asked Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to launch a criminal investigation against Haaretz for publishing "testimonies" by soldiers of alleged misconduct and serious human rights violations during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip earlier this year.

The "testimonies" were reported widely in the media. Last week, Judge Advocate General Brig.-Gen. Avichai Mandelblit exonerated the IDF and decided to close a Military Police investigation into the accounts, claiming that they were based on rumors.

The letter, signed by 65 reservists who served in Operation Cast Lead, sent the letter to Mazuz on Monday and asked that he launch an investigation against Haaretz on charges of slander for reporting on the testimonies as if they were fact and not hearsay.

"It appears to us that Haaretz did not do the minimum of checking before reporting false accusations," the letter read.

"We are fed up with being called murderers and war criminals," said Amit Barak, who initiated the letter. "We will not tolerate being treated this way after as reservists we contribute to the state and come to serve in the IDF. We expect the state to stand up for us, its soldiers."

Barak said that some reservists were considering requesting that an investigation also be launched against head of the Rabin Pre-Military Academy Danny Zamir, who they claimed was instrumental in promoting the false accusations by leaking them to the press.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Haaretz: Obama to visit Israel, West Bank, in June

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz Correspondent and News
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Israel and the West Bank in June, according to an announcement circulated among American diplomatic representations in the region. A senior diplomatic source confirmed to Haaretz that a decision was made in recent days to include a short visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority during a visit in June to France, where President Nicolas Sarkozy will host Obama.
The decision to visit Jerusalem several weeks after his first meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington is meant to emphasize Obama's commitment to an active role in achieving a two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Before Obama's visit to Israel, the special envoy to the Middle East, former senator George Mitchell, will make another visit to the region.
 An American official told Haaretz over the weekend that contrary to the Bush administration, Obama does not oppose the inclusion of Hamas in a Palestinian unity government. However, the United States insists on the criteria set by the international Quartet - the U.S., EU, UN and Russia - as preconditions for any diplomatic exchanges with Hamas. It insists that the militant Islamic group cease violence, recognize Israel and accept previously signed accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Americans also ask that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has resigned, return to head the next Palestinian government and be responsible for the PA's finances.
A Palestinian source told Haaretz Monday that in the coming days PA President Mahmoud Abbas is likely to ask Fayyad to form a new government, without the participation of Hamas. The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have failed in recent weeks to agree on a reconciliation package, mediated by Egypt. They have also failed to form a unity government comprising mostly technocrats.
In Israel, Obama will also discuss Iran's nuclear program with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
Last July, during a visit to the region as a presidential candidate, Obama said a nuclear Iran would alter the "rules of the game," not only in the Middle East, but in the entire world. He promised that if elected he would work to prevent a nuclear Iran.
But in a speech in Turkey Monday, Obama emphasized the need to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, not a nuclear Iran.
The change in tone was interpreted in Jerusalem as an American willingness to compromise with Tehran so Iran would be able to acquire nuclear technology for civilian purposes.
The two-state solution and the nuclear question were dominant in Obama's speech Monday, as he began his first visit to a Muslim country since being elected. Speaking before the Turkish parliament, Obama said he will "actively pursue" a two-state solution in the Middle East and reiterated the U.S. commitment to the Annapolis process.
"Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," he said. A two-state solution "is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis," and that is "a goal that I will actively pursue as president."
Obama's mention of Annapolis comes less than a week after Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said Israel was not bound by the Annapolis process, which calls for discussions on final-status issues. Lieberman, however, expressed a commitment to the 2003 road map for peace.
Obama also said Turkey could "help the Palestinians and Israelis make this journey" and praised the Turks for supporting recent talks between Syria and Israel.
"We must not give in to pessimism and mistrust," he said. "We must extend a hand to those Palestinians who are in need, while helping them strengthen institutions. And we must reject the use of terror, and recognize that Israel's security concerns are legitimate."
Obama also said that peace in the region "will also be advanced" if Iran "forgoes any nuclear weapons ambitions," reiterating his interest in engagement with the Islamic republic and giving Iran's leaders a choice between building a weapon or a "better future for their people."
In response, a spokesman from the Prime Minister's Bureau said the Netanyahu administration pledges to work with the United States for Mideast peace.
"The government of Israel is committed to both of these goals and will formulate its policies in the near future so as to work closely with the United States," the bureau said in a statement, without mentioning Annapolis or Palestinian statehood.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel tests Arrow II Missile Interceptor

Israel carries out missile test: Defense Ministry
Tue Apr 7, 2009 4:52am EDT

 JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel carried out a test launch of its Arrow II interceptor missile on Tuesday, the Defense Ministry said, a system designed to defend against possible ballistic missile attacks by Iran and Syria.

"It was a successful test," the ministry said.

The Arrow intercepted a target missile, simulating an Iranian Shehab, launched from an Israeli aircraft over the Mediterranean, a Defense source said.
Israel Radio said it was the 16th test launch of an Arrow. The Defense source said 90 percent of those tests have been successful.

The project is jointly funded by Israel and the United States to serve as a strategic shield against ballistic missiles in the arsenals of Iran and Syria.
At least two Arrow batteries have been deployed in Israel, which has been testing the system to improve its performance at high altitudes and against multiple incoming missiles.

Israel fears that Iran's uranium enrichment program is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, an allegation Tehran denies.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller, Editing by Dan Williams)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Mugged by Leftist Anti-Semitism

Mugged by Leftist Anti-Semitism
by nick Cohen Monday, Apr. 06, 2009 at 12:05 PM

Anti-semitism on the left
On the Saturday of the great anti-war demonstration of 2003, I watched one million people march through London, then sat down to write for the Observer. I pointed out that the march organisers represented a merger of far left and far right: Islamic fundamentalists shoulder to shoulder with George Galloway, the Socialist Workers Party and every other creepy admirer of totalitarianism this side of North Korea. Be careful, I said. Saddam Hussein's Iraq has spewed out predatory armies and corpses for decades. If you're going to advocate a policy that would keep a fascist dictator in power, you should at least talk to his victims, whose number included socialists, communists and liberals - good people, rather like you.

Next day I looked at my e-mails. There were rather a lot of them. The first was a fan letter from Ann Leslie, the Daily Mail's chief foreign correspondent, who had seen the barbarism of Ba'athism close up. Her cheery note ended with a warning: "You're not going to believe the anti-Semitism that is about to hit you." "Don't be silly, Ann," I replied. "There's no racism on the left." I worked my way through the rest of the e-mails. I couldn't believe the anti-Semitism that hit me.

I learned it was one thing being called "Cohen" if you went along with liberal orthodoxy, quite another when you pointed out liberal betrayals. Your argument could not be debated on its merits. There had to be a malign motive. You had to support Ariel Sharon. You had to be in the pay of "international" media moguls or neoconservatives. You had to have bad blood. You had to be a Jew.

My first reaction was so ignoble I blush when I think of it. I typed out a reply that read, "but there hasn't been a Jewish member of my family for 100 years". I sounded like a German begging a Gestapo officer to see the mistake in the paperwork. Mercifully, I hit the "delete" button before sending.

Rather than pander to racism, I directed my correspondents to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a member of the Socialist International which had decided after being on the receiving end of one too many extermination drives that foreign invasion was the only way. No good. I tried sending them to the Iraqi Communist Party, which opposed the invasion but understood the possibilities for liberation beyond the fine minds of the western intelligentsia. No good, either.

As the months passed, and Iraqis were caught between a criminally incompetent occupation and an "insurgency" so far to the right it was off the graph, I had it all. A leading figure on the left asked me to put him in touch with members of the new government. "I knew it! I knew it!" he cried when we next met. "They want to recognise Israel."

I experienced what many blacks and Asians had told me: you can never tell. Where people stand on the political spectrum says nothing about their visceral beliefs. I found the far left wasn't confined to the chilling Socialist Workers Party but contained many scrupulous people it was a pleasure to meet and an education to debate. Meanwhile, the centre was nowhere near as moderate as it liked to think. One minute I would be talking to a BBC reporter or liberal academic and think him a civilised man; the next, he would be screaming about the Jews.

Politicians I'd admired astonished me: Tam Dalyell explained British foreign policy as a Jewish conspiracy; Ken Livingstone embraced a Muslim cleric who favoured the blowing up of Israeli women and children, along with wife-beating and the murder of homosexuals and apostates.

I could go on. The moment when bewilderment settled into a steady scorn, however, was when the Guardian ran a web debate entitled: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man anti-Semitic". Gorgeously, one vigilant reader complained that the title was prejudiced - the debate should be headlined: "David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen are enough to make a good man, or woman, anti-Semitic."

Mustn't forget our manners now, must we?

I resolved then to complete two tasks: to apologise to Ms Leslie, which was a matter of minutes; and to work out if there was now a left-wing anti-Semitism, which took a little longer.

As I'd had little contact with Jewish religion or culture, I'd rarely given anti-Semitism a thought. I suppose I'd assumed it had burned out in the furnaces of Auschwitz. When the subject came up, I dutifully repeated the liberal mantra that "not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites" and forgot the corollary "but all anti-Semites are anti-Zionists".

You have to clear away a heap of rubbish before you can distinguish between the two. At first glance, there's a good case for saying that the liberal left is Jew-obsessed. Israel receives more criticism than far worse societies, most notably Sudan, Syria and pre-war Iraq. You can call the double standard anti-Semitism if you want, but I'm not sure it gets you anywhere. It is simply the ineluctable workings of what is known in the human rights trade as "selection bias". Israel is a democracy with an independent judiciary and free press. Inevitably, it is easier in an open country to report abuses of power than cover, say, the deaths of millions and enslavement of whole black tribes in Islamist Sudan. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, came up with "Moynihan's Law" to encapsulate the process. It holds that the number of complaints about a nation's violation of human rights is in inverse proportion to its actual violation of human rights.

He wasn't absolutely right, and the law certainly doesn't work in Israel's case, but you get the point. As long as people know biases exist, no harm is done. In any case, it's not a competition, and it's no defence of Israel to say it's better to be Palestinian than Sudanese. Human rights are universal.

The issue is whether the liberal left is as keen on universal principles as it pretends. An impeccably left-wing group of Jewish academics, who are against the war in Iraq and occupation of the West Bank, gathered recently at <>, as they could see parts of the left retreating into special pleading. Their union, the Association of University Teachers, had proposed that academics abandon the freedom to exchange ideas, on which intellectual life depends, by boycotting Israeli universities. Asked why the boycott applied only to Israel and not nations with far greater crimes to their names, the AUT had no reply.]

Racism is often subtle in England. David Hirsh, an Engage supporter, caught it well when he wrote that "the act of singling out Israel as the only illegitimate state - in the absence of any coherent reason for doing so - is in itself anti-Semitic, irrespective of the motivation or opinions of those who make that claim".

I'd agree, if it weren't for a brutal counter-argument that few have the guts to make. Get real, it runs. Universal values are for the birds. The left had a respectable record of exposing the dark corners of the right in South Africa, the Deep South, Pinochet's Chile, Franco's Spain and the Colonels' Greece. Only the bravest had much to say about the Soviet Union, China or Cuba. On the whole, those monstrosities were opposed by the right. Looking back, you can see that good came out of the activism of both sets of critics. Equally, good will come from our obsession with Israel. The Palestinians need help and you shouldn't ask too many questions about the helpers.

All of which sounds reasonable, until you ask a question that I've delayed asking for too long: what is anti-Semitism?

In its 19th- and 20th-century form, it was a conspiratorial explanation of power from the radical right. In this it differed from standard racism, which is generally resentment of powerless outsiders who look odd, lower wages and take jobs. The template was set by the reaction against the American and French revolutions. How could Americans proclaim such insane ideas as the rights of man, the counter-revolutionaries asked. How could the French overthrow the king who loved them and Holy Mother Church which succoured them? They couldn't admit that the Americans and the French wanted to do what they had done. Their consent had to have been manufactured by the new rulers of the world. Originally these were the Freemasons, who were damned for peddling enlightened ideas. Only after Jewish emancipation opened the ghettos were the Jews press-ganged into the plot. They represented everything that was hateful about modernity: equal rights, religious toleration and the destruction of tradition.

I don't like the term "Islamo-fascism" - fascist movements are national movements, not religions. Still, no one can fail to have noticed that in one indisputable respect the west is the "root cause" of Islamist terror: militant Muslims have bought the ideology of the European counter-revolution wholesale.

The appeal is understandable. There is a chosen people: the Germans, the Italians or the Spanish in classic fascism; Sunni Muslims in totalitarian variants of Islam. Domination is theirs by right, but they are denied their inheritance by a conspiracy of infidels, be they westernisers, Jews, sell-out leaders or the corrupters of women and youth.

You can read for yourselves the histories of the links between Nazism and the Arab world in the 1940s, but to bring you up to date, here is what Article 22 of Hamas's covenant says of the Jews: "They were behind the French revolution, the communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions and others in different parts of the world for the purpose of sabotaging societies and achieving Zionist interests."

That's right, Rotary Clubs.

Please don't tell me that it helps the Palestinians to give the far right the time of day, or pretend that Palestinian liberals, socialists, women, gays, freethinkers and Christians (let alone Israeli Jews) would prosper in a Palestine ruled by Hamas. It's not radical, it's barely political, to turn a blind eye and say you are for the Palestinian cause. Political seriousness lies in stating which Palestine you are for and which Palestinians you support. The Palestinian fight is at once an anti-colonial struggle and a clash between modernity and reaction. The confusion of our times comes from the failure to grasp that it is possible to have an anti-colonialism of the far right.

While we're at it, don't excuse Hamas and Islamic Jihad and all the rest by saying the foundation of Israel and the defeat of all the Arab attempts to destroy it made them that way. Anti-Semitism isn't a local side effect of a dirty war over a patch of land smaller than Wales. It's everywhere from Malaysia to Morocco, and it has arrived here. When the BBC showed a Panorama documentary about the ideological roots of the Muslim Council of Britain in the Pakistani religious right, the first reaction of the Council was to accuse it of following an "Israeli agenda". The other day the Telegraph reported that Ahmad Thomson, a Muslim lawyer who advises the Prime Minister on community relations of all things, had declared that a "sinister" group of Jews and Freemasons was behind the invasion of Iraq.

To explain away a global phenomenon as a rational reaction to Israeli oppression, you have once again to turn the Jew into a supernatural figure whose existence is the cause of discontents throughout the earth. You have to revive anti-Semitism.

The alternative is to do what the left used to do. If you look at the list of late-20th-century leftist causes I have mentioned, you will see that the left, for all its faults and crimes, was against fascism. It used to know that the powerful used racism to distract the powerless, as they do to this day in Egypt, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where the deployment of Jew hatred is positively tsarist. Although I know it's hard to credit, the left also used to know that the opponents of fascism, including the opponents of Saddam, had to be supported.

But the liberal left has been corrupted by defeat and doesn't know much about anything these days. Marxist-Leninism is so deep in the dustbin of history, it is composting, while social democracy is everywhere on the defensive. Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Christian fundamentalism are beating it in the struggle for working-class and peasant minds. An invigorated capitalism is threatening its European strongholds. There's an awful realisation that Tony Blair and Bill Clinton may be as good as it gets. The temptation in times of defeat is to believe in everything rather than nothing; to go along with whichever cause sounds radical, even if the radicalism on offer is the radicalism of the far right.

In 1878, George Eliot wrote that it was "difficult to find a form of bad reasoning about [Jews] which had not been heard in conversation or been admitted to the dignity of print". So it is again today. Outside the movies of Mel Gibson, Jews aren't Christ killers any longer, but they can't relax, because now they are Nazis, blood-soaked imperialists, the secret movers of neoconservatism, the root cause of every atrocity from 9/11 to 7/7.

It's not that the left as a whole is anti-Semitic, although there are racists who need confronting. Rather, it has been maddened by the direction history has taken. Deracinated and demoralised, its partisans aren't thinking hard enough about where they came from or - and more pertinently - where they are going.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obama: Changing policy toward Israel will not appease Al-Qaeda

Quite a few people have the impression that Al-Qaeda is going to get a free ride from the Obama administration. Others are insisting that if only the United States did not support Israel, it would not be an al-Qaeda target. And yet others are insisting that the Obama administration has decided to abandon Israel in order to appease extremists. None of that seems to be true. According to the CNN Transcript of a student question and answer period in Strasbourg, President Barack Obama said:
...And I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I'm now president and George Bush is no longer president, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected president, suddenly, everything is going to be OK.

It is going to be a very difficult challenge. Al Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is-- al Qaeda is still bent on carrying out terrorist activity. It is, you know, don't fool yourselves because some people say, well, you know, if we changed our policies with respect to Israeli/Palestinian conflict or if we were more respectful towards the Muslim world, suddenly, these organizations would stop threatening us.

That's just not the case. It is true that we have to change our behavior in showing the Muslim world greater respect and changing our language and changing our tone. It is true that we have to work very hard for Israeli/Palestinian peace.

But what is also true is that these organizations are willing to kill innocent people because of a twisted distorted ideology and we, as democracies and as people who value human life, can't allow those organizations to operate.
That's what he said

Continued (Permanent Link)

Hamas: We will not recognize Israel-period

[Palestine TImes]
The leadership of the Palestinian Islamic resistant movement, Hamas, has reasserted its principled refusal to recognize the Zionist entity ( Israel), saying that Israel is an illegitimate state based on ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Ismael Haniya, the legitimate Palestinian Prime Minister, told foreign dignitaries visiting Gaza last month that Hamas wouldn't abandon its principles under pressure.
"We will not cave in to pressure, we will not betray our people's trust, we will not recognize the illegitimate Zionist entity. This has always been our stance, and it will never change."
Haniya suggested that when it comes to recognizing the evil Zionist entity, the PLO represented only itself, not the entire Palestinian people.
He pointed out that acknowledging the legitimacy of the Zionist regime effectively meant a tacit recognition of all the hideous crimes committed by Israel, including the expulsion and ethnic cleansing of millions of Palestinian refugees from their ancestral homeland.
No person under the sun, he said, has the right to compromise the right of the refugees to return to their homes and towns from which they were expelled at gunpoint.
"These people were expelled from their homes. This is the problem. And the solution is very clear. They must return to their homes."
The democratically-elected Palestinian Prime Minister said Israel wanted to destroy the Hamas movement in order to impose capitulation upon the Palestinian people.
Speaking during a reception in Gaza in honor of the Jordanian Medical Mission on Friday, 27 March, Haniya said the Palestinian people and its Arab and Muslim brothers thwarted Zionist efforts.
"We and you are facing the same enemy, it is the enemy of all Arabs and Muslims, we will not allow Israel to liquidate the paramount cause of the refugees. The refugees have only one destination, it is Palestine."
He said both Jordanians and Palestinians strongly rejected Zionist efforts and conspiracies to resettle Palestinian refugees in neighboring Arab countries.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders both at home and in the Diaspora have rejected pressures from the American-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) and some Arab regimes to give tacit or indirect recognition of Israel in order to facilitate the formation of a Palestinian national reconciliation government that would be acceptable to the United States and the Zionist regime.
PA ex-president Mahmoud Abbas has been saying that the success of the Egyptian-mediated national reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas won't reach a breakthrough unless Hamas accepts "all PLO commitments."
This obviously includes the recognition of the apartheid Israeli state, although Israel doesn't recognize a Palestinian state and has actually killed all prospects for the creation of a viable Palestinian state on the West Bank.
Hamas's refusal to accept "all" PLO commitments has been praised by the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
In a statement leaked from his prison cell at the Askalan jail, PFLP leader Ahmed Saadat the PLO recognition of Israel and other unpopular agreements with the Zionist regime were the main cause of the present Palestinian rift.
He pointed out that the Zionist entity never really respected these agreements, saying that the opposite was true.
Meanwhile, Hamas leader Salah al Bardawil said the Islamic liberation movement would never ever even contemplate recognizing Israel.
In an interview published on 27 March, Bardawil argued strongly for national reconciliation, saying that Hamas wouldn't spare any efforts to reunite the Palestinian people.
"If we were to recognize Israel, then all problems would end, and the siege would end and the United States and Israel and Europe would embrace us. We would become the darling of the west and we wouldn't need reconciliation talks because we would be equal to the organizations that recognize Israel."
Bardawil, who is also head of the Hamas caucus in the Palestinian legislative council, said no prospective government of national unity would recognize Israel under any circumstances.
"Such a government would represent and reflect existing political forces."
Bardawil castigated as "cheap disinformation" claims by the Ramallah leadership that a government of national unity that doesn't recognize Israel will perpetuate the siege.
"This is nonsense and unrealistic because the platform of the national unity government was rejected first and foremost by those who are at America's beck and call, not by the world.
"If we press the world to recognize such a state, then the world will recognize it, but the problem is inside the Palestinian house, this is why we have to put our house in order but we should do so in a dignified manner."
Bardawil said a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas was dependent on real trust between the two sides.
"Our problem is that we don't have mutual trust for true partnership."
As to the election law, Bardawil said there was a likelihood that all contentious issues will be overcome, adding that Hamas was favoring a mixed system based on a combination of local circuits and proportional representation.
He argued that having the entire country as one electoral circuit would be unfair for independents.
"The proportional system would serve Fatah and Hamas, but there are many Palestinians who are not affiliated with either movements, and that won't be fair to them."
Some leaders within Hamas have demanded that solid international guarantees be provided in order to enable transparent and free elections to take place.
(Israel and the United States interfered heavily in favor of the Fatah organization during and after the 2006 elections, with the CIA giving Fatah millions of dollars to finance its elections campaign.)
Bardawil said disagreements regarding the PLO can be resolved democratically. He asserted that the PLO needed revival, reactivation, reform and reconstruction, adding that "we have agreed to organize elections for the Palestinian National Council which would facilitate the formation of a more representative Central Council."
Bardawil said the "real problem with the PLO of today is that it doesn't truly represent all the Palestinian people because there are popular Palestinian groups that are not represented in the PLO bodies."
No precise date has been designated for the resumption of reconciliation talks in Cairo. However, it is widely expected that the talks will be resumed after the Arab summit conference which would take place in Qatar in April.
Arab and Palestinian observers suggest that the success of the Arab summit will reflect positively on the Egyptian-mediated Palestinian reconciliation talks.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF commandos decorated for not killing people!

Last update - 08:12 06/04/2009       
IDF commandos cited for not wounding innocents in battle
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent
An Israel Defense Forces officer and three combatants received a citation Sunday for refraining from hurting innocent people in clashes with Palestinian fugitives in the West Bank.
The four soldiers, from the Duvdevan special forces unit, received the citation from GOC Central Command Gadi Shamni.
Both incidents took place in the densely crowded Nablus casbah.

In one incident the officer and soldiers broke into a house as the fugitive they were after fired at them and fled through a tunnel. They wounded him without hurting his wife who was with him.

Continued (Permanent Link)

"Reversal Technique" - Iran calls on US to dismantle nuclear arsenal

Amir Taheri noted that "reversal" is a common Shia rhetorical technique....
Last update - 13:17 06/04/2009       
Iran: We aren't a nuclear threat, U.S. must dismantle own arsenal
By News Agencies
Iran criticized on Monday U.S. President Barack Obama for saying Tehran posed a threat with its nuclear program and urged Washington and other countries possessing atom weapons to dismantle their arsenals.
"It seems that the repetition of the past U.S. administration's accusations [against Iran] would be in contrast with the slogan of change [by Obama]," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference. "And such a thing - nuclear armament - does not exist in Iran to be inferred as a threat."
Qashqavi made the comments a day after Obama, who is seeking to engage Iran diplomatically in a sharp policy shift from George W. Bush's approach, set out his vision for ridding the world of such arms.
North Korea launched a rocket on Sunday, in defiance of warnings from the U.S. and its Asian neighbors, saying it was putting a communications satellite called Kwangmyongsong-2 into orbit. Analysust surmise that the launch was effectively a test of a ballistic missile designed to carry a warhead as far as the U.S. state of Alaska
Delivering a speech in Prague given new urgency by North Korea's rocket launch, Obama also said the United States would go ahead with plans to build a missile defence shield in Europe as long as Iran posed a threat with its nuclear activities.
Qashqavi on Monday stressed the lack of any links between Tehran's and Pyongyang's missile programs, and urged countries in that "sensitive region" to stay calm and apply their efforts to securing peace and stability.
"We believe all countries in the sensitive region of East Asia must maintain their efforts to help securing peace and stability there," he told a news confernce.
"Especially the current global economic crisis requires that differences in that sensitive region turn into peace and friendship."
Tehran insists the nature of its missile program is completely peaceful and for scientific purposes. "Our missile program is quite separate and independent from North Korea's programs ... There is no link between these two programs," Qashqavi insisted.
The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is a cover for developing bombs. Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil producer, says it is a peaceful drive to generate electricity.
Obama last month offered Iran a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement, following three decades of hostility. Iran has responded cautiously to the overture, saying Washington must show real policy change towards Iran rather than in words.
Qashqavi said nuclear weapons had no place in Iran's defense doctrine and that the existence of such arms was a serious threat to the global community.
"We, like the rest of the world community, are awaiting a world free of nuclear arms," Qashqavi said.
"Our expectation from the U.S. and others is to take serious and practical measures towards nuclear disarmament and dismantling of weapons of mass destruction," he said.
Obama pledged on Sunday to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal, to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force and to seek tough penalties for those that broke rules on non-proliferation.
He presented Iran with a "clear choice" of halting its nuclear and missile activity or facing increased isolation.
Tehran has repeatedly rejected international demands to stop its most sensitive atom work and officials say Iran will unveil "good news" when it marks its national nuclear day on Thursday.

Continued (Permanent Link)

IDF on ethical warfare

Gee, I wonder if the Hamas send out a letter like this for Eid? What do you think?
In a Passover Letter to IDF Soldiers and Commanders, the Chief of the General Staff Discusses Preserving Morality While Fighting a Terrorist Threat

(Communicated by the IDF Spokesperson)

In honor of the upcoming holiday of Passover, the IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, addressed the soldiers and commanders of the IDF in a letter released this evening. The Chief of the General Staff discussed the value of freedom that is celebrated during the holiday. Lt. Gen. Ashkenazi related this value to the challenges faced by the IDF as it is required to protect the people of Israel and their freedom while fighting a terrorist threat that relentlessly uses civilians as human shields.

In the letter, the Chief of the General Staff wrote:


The ethos of the IDF is based on combining our strength with our righteousness; on the one hand, our need to hold a deterring sword against those who threaten to destroy us, and on the other hand, our continuous effort to reach peace. We fulfill this task with determination, while preserving out morality as Jews, as Israelis, and as followers of the 'Spirit of the IDF' [the IDF's ethical code].

"This ethos has been put to test in all of Israel's wars, as well as recently, during Operation Cast Lead. Following a long period of restraint, we emerged in a battle against Hamas and other terrorist elements, determined to protect our homes and people, and to remove the terror that threatened the residents of  Israel's south. Our enemy used their people as human shields and as hostages, choosing to launch their deadly attacks from schools, hospitals, mosques, and houses, forcing upon us a battle zone where an uninvolved civilian population was largely present.

"We focused our fighting against these terrorists and their infrastructure, determined to mark the entire terrorist network and deliver it a severe blow, while doing our utmost to preserve the lives of our soldiers and avoid any harm to civilian populations unassociated with terrorism.

"This is the ideological and normative basis of our culture and identity.  Thus, I was disturbed like many others by the so called 'testimonies' published by soldiers, describing unacceptable actions and intentional harm supposedly done to civilians. The testimonies were investigated and looked into thoroughly by the Investigating Military Police, and were found to be groundless and lacking any factual basis.

"If a shade of a doubt is to be uncovered that any deviations from the IDF's norms took place, they will be investigated and thoroughly dealt with. The IDF is determined to rigidly maintain its values and morality. This is where our strength lies. We will never embrace the ideologies of our enemies and will forever be loyal to the tradition and values of our people."

Continued (Permanent Link)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Khenin: Tel-Aviv is not a Zionist city

Khenin was speaking drivel of course. Tel-Aviv is what Zionism is all about.
9:42 AM PDT, April 5, 2009
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Well past the Sabbath midnight, hours before the Mideast erupted once again into war, Tel Aviv was doing what it loves most — partying.
For a place founded a century ago to be the world's first Jewish city, the atmosphere was decidedly un-kosher. Christmas decorations lined the bars and the delis were open, selling pork. In the clubs, the dancers dripped sweat. Outside, tipsy women in revealing fashion stumbled in the streets, and at 2 a.m. drivers were hunting in vain for parking spots.
Inside the "Zizitripo" lounge, Omer Gershon downed a shot of vodka.
"The nightlife here is crazier than anywhere in the world. I've got people drinking here all night long," the 34-year-old owner yelled over the thumping electronic music. "There's a lot of escapism involved. Carpe diem (seize the day) takes on a whole new meaning here."
And there was plenty to escape from that night. An hour's drive south, Palestinian militants were firing missiles at Israeli communities, and Israel would shortly invade the Gaza Strip with air and land strikes to stop the barrages — an operation that ultimately claimed well over 1,000 lives by both sides' count.
It was hardly an auspicious prelude to a year in which Tel Aviv has begun celebrating its 100th birthday with art shows, outdoor concerts, a marathon and the inevitable all-night street party. But this is a city hardened to the shocks of Middle East conflict.
In the 1991 Gulf War it was hit by Saddam Hussein's Scud missiles. A decade later it suffered an onslaught of Palestinian suicide bombings. In the 2006 war against Hezbollah the fear loomed that Tel Aviv might be hit from Lebanon by Iranian-supplied missiles, and during the Gaza war similar fears were felt.
But whatever threats may loom, the party goes on.
Tel Aviv was founded on April 11, 1909, on deserted Mediterranean sand dunes north of the Arab port of Jaffa. Its name, which it took later, means "Hill of Spring," and is drawn from the writings of Theodor Herzl, modern Zionism's visionary founding father.
Its first inhabitants were Jews from Russia, Germany and Poland. Successive waves of European anti-Semitism culminating in the rise of Nazi Germany swelled the immigrant population. In 1934 it was declared a city. After World War II came Holocaust survivors and Jews from the Middle East.
The founders built theaters, museums, promenades and universities. The political and military bodies of the state-to-be were born here and today, nearly 61 years after Israel became a state, Tel Aviv is a world-class, high-tech metropolis and financial capital of 400,000 people. With its suburban sprawl, the population swells to 3 million, more than half the Jews in Israel.
Baruch Kipnis, a geography professor who recently published a book celebrating Tel Aviv's centennial, said the city "controls almost every aspect of life" in Israel and has become "an enormous head on a shriveled body."
Some critics say Tel Aviv's dominance has cut a wedge between it and the rest of the country. Some deride it as "the bubble," detached from the "other" Israel of religious purists, kibbutzniks, the communities under missile attack from Gaza and the military occupation of 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank, just 20 miles away.
Forty miles southeast in the mountains is Jerusalem, the capital recognized as such by no government but Israel itself, and divided among secular Jews, Orthodox Jews and Arabs.
While Jerusalem suffers from bouts of religious and Arab-Israeli strife, Tel Aviv's defenders counter that their city is leaping forward into the future.
"Tel Aviv is the model for what Israel needs to be," said Yael Dayan, chairwoman of the city council and daughter of the late war hero, Moshe Dayan. "Jerusalem is not a city, it's a symbol, it's a place people are leaving. We are the exact opposite. We are a city of live-and-let-live."
Tel Aviv has always prided itself on being both a bastion of secular Jewish life and a place where the religious live in peace alongside their bohemian neighbors. Trendy Sheinkin street has an unwritten agreement: On Fridays it's open to gay parades, tattoo parlors and fresh fruit juice stands; on Saturdays it shuts down to respect the Sabbath.
It's a city where young religious men on street corners beckon secular Jews to say a prayer to the beat of Techno music. It has separate beaches for religious women, religious men and gays.
Religion in Tel Aviv often comes with a touch of irony, like the elegant woman strolling on a small street wearing large sunglasses and a low-cut tank top that quotes from the Ten Commandments: "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
It is a city of refuge for Arab homosexuals rejected by the conservative societies in which they have grown up. But while there is nothing to bar Arabs from living in Tel Aviv, only a few hundred do, city officials say. The Arab population is concentrated in Jaffa — Yafo in Hebrew — and the two are merged under the formal Hebrew name Tel Aviv-Yafo.
In last year's mayoral election, a third of the vote went to Dov Khenin, a Jewish member of a mixed Arab-Israeli party.
Seated on a motorcycle outside the cafe he runs, 31-year-old Oren Chen says "living in a bubble" is not necessarily a bad thing.
"People say 'bubble' in a negative context, but this is actually an island of sanity," he said. "It's a place of freedom, in the most Israeli way possible."
For all of Tel Aviv's desire for normalcy, it can never truly escape the troubles around it.
The Hassen Bek mosque, built by the last Turkish ruler in the Holy Land before World War I, is virtually unused today by Muslim worshippers. Wedged between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, lit up in green as part of the nighttime seaside skyline, it serves as a stark, mute reminder of the absence of Arabs in the neighborhood it stands in.
After Israel's independence, Tel Aviv spread to encompass several Arab villages whose inhabitants had fled or been driven out in the 1948 war. Still, having been founded as an entirely Jewish city on empty land purchased from its Arab owners, "In that regard it is not a Zionist city, because in no way was it based on the oppression of the Arabs," said Khenin, the mayoral runner-up.
Tel Aviv is where the young state of Israel nearly came to civil war in 1948, when its first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, ordered the army to fight the Jewish militant Irgun group unless it laid down its weapons. One of Ben-Gurion's officers was Yitzhak Rabin, the future prime minister, assassinated in 1995 by a Jewish extremist in front of City Hall.
Unlike biblical cities such as Jerusalem, where Jews resettled after thousands of years of exile, Tel Aviv was the first attempt to build a Jewish city from scratch, and Dan Karmon, a 33-year-old marketing manager, is glad of it.
"It's a place where you can live a secular life, without having to escape your Jewish past," he said. "Tel Aviv best represents the struggle to live a normal life in Israel."
But never completely normal. Paul McCartney recently gave a concert in Tel Aviv, joined by the audience in singing "Give Peace A Chance." Three months later the Gaza war broke out.
Even music can be a sensitive subject. The Tel Aviv-based Israel Philharmonic Orchestra doesn't perform music by Richard Wagner because of its associations with Nazi Germany.
However, the city has a powerful German heritage, on vivid display in the 1930s Bauhaus-style buildings designed by Jewish architects who fled Nazi Germany. The 4,000 boxy white structures have earned Tel Aviv a rare UNESCO designation as a World Heritage Site.
On the Net:
Tel Aviv 100 Web site:

Continued (Permanent Link)

EU report on Jerusalem distorts history

Published April 2009
Vol. 8, No.26    2 April 2009

The European Union Report on Jerusalem: Distortions and Omissions

Nadav Shragai

  • An imbalanced EU position paper on Jerusalem written in December 2008, and recently leaked to the media, completely ignores Israel's historical and legal rights to its capital. The EU attack refers primarily to the City of David, located just beyond Jerusalem's Old City walls, an area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of King David's capital some 3,000 years ago. Archaeological excavations took place there during Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and they have continued under Israeli rule as well.
  • About 20 years ago a wave of new, illegal construction by Palestinians began on the site, causing significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the antiquities there. The Jerusalem municipality intends to offer the delinquent residents generous compensation and alternative land in the city.
  • Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years - at least since 1864. Israel's position in Jerusalem under international law derives from the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations recognized "the historical tie between the Jewish people and Palestine," and called "for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine."
  • The 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan did not fix the final boundaries between the parties, but only the lines of military separation at the close of the 1948 war. At the demand of the Arab side, the Armistice Agreement stipulated that it did not serve to predetermine the rights of any party in the final resolution of conflict. In other words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the 1967 lines enjoyed no diplomatic status.
  • In 1967, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious conflict at one of the world's most sensitive sites. This was a huge concession on Israel's part that has never been properly recognized. By doing so, Israel has underscored its intention to assure freedom of access to members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

An internal European Union position paper on Jerusalem prepared in December 2008 by the EU ambassadors in Tel Aviv was leaked to the media in March 2009 by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.1 The "EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem" accuses the Israeli government of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem, noting that Israeli actions "in East Jerusalem will only make eventual Israeli concessions on Jerusalem much harder."2 The report states, "there are currently around 190,000 Israeli settlers living inside East Jerusalem, in addition to around 96,000 in settlements around Jerusalem, the majority living in large settlement blocks such as Givat Ze'ev, the Etzion bloc and Ma'ale Adumim."3

Yet this biased and one-sided document ignores Israel's longstanding legal, national and historical rights to its own capital city. The document also displays an utter disregard of the vast empirical evidence that attests to the 3,000-year-old link between Jerusalem and the Jewish people. With its holy places, the Old City, the region of the Holy Basin and the Temple Mount, the State of Israel - as the state of the Jewish people - has exercised its rights in the city in accordance with the principles of law and natural justice, and has sought to anchor the city's status as Israel's united capital.

The City of David - An Historical Treasure

The EU attack on Israeli activities in Jerusalem refers primarily to the City of David - also known as the Arab village of Silwan - located just south of the Old City walls. The City of David is the area identified by archaeologists and historians as the location of King David's capital some 3,000 years ago. David's son Solomon established the First Temple on the summit of Mount Moriah, where Isaac was bound for sacrifice, a location known today as the Temple Mount.

Archaeological excavations in the City of David took place during Ottoman rule, as well as under the ensuing British Mandatory rule, and have continued under Israeli rule as well, unearthing discoveries of Jewish life and artifacts from various ancient periods. Work at the site has received high praise and vast esteem from throughout the world archaeological community.

Israel has been accused of digging under Palestinian homes and thus endangering them. Yet this argument is a distortion. While part of the supervised excavations do indeed take place under homes, Israel has excavated in the very same way under the houses of Jewish residents in the Jewish Quarter, endangering no one.

Adjacent to the City of David is an area called the King's Garden, described in the books of Nehemiah and Ecclesiastes, as well as in many other historical sources. Scholars, visitors and pilgrims have attributed the area to King David and Solomon. About twenty years ago the Jerusalem municipality repaired a drainage problem at the site after it would turn into a swamp each winter, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests.

New Palestinian Construction Spreads Over an Archaeological Site

Israel's resolution of the drainage problem brought in its wake a wave of new, illegal construction by Palestinians on the site. While Palestinian Arab residents in Jerusalem can obtain building permits like the city's Jewish residents, the eastern part of Jerusalem has been afflicted with large-scale construction often undertaken without any building license.4 This construction often occurs on land zoned for public use (i.e., clinics or parks or, as in this case, an archeological site). In response to the illegal construction in the City of David, the Jerusalem municipality issued demolition orders for 88 structures. Testifying a year ago at the Knesset, the director general of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Joshua Dorfman, estimated that the illegal construction did significant and sometimes irreversible damage to the antiquities at the site. However, only a number of isolated demolitions were carried out.

The Jerusalem municipality is insisting today on carrying out these orders, but given the sensitivity of the issue and international criticism, it intends to offer the delinquent residents generous compensation that includes land at an alternative site in the city. The residents, supported by ideological groups and the Palestinian Authority, have opposed this offer and are engaged in a campaign of incitement against the state's authorities and their attempts to enforce the law. However, after extensive deliberations, the municipal planning committee in early March turned down a plan submitted by the residents to "whitewash" the illegal construction at the site.

As Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat explained, "This is one of the most strategic sites in the city, on an international level, which must be an open public area....I would like to see what [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg would say about illegal building in Central Park. Would he give up Central Park because there is illegal building there?"5 

The Jewish Return to the City of David

An additional issue that has served as a pretext for attacks on Israel is renewed Jewish residency in the City of David itself. Scores of Jewish families now live in this area in houses legally purchased at great cost from former Arab residents. No one forced Arab owners to sell properties to Jews and earn substantial profits. The sales were made by individuals acting of their own free will and in many cases were even documented on video, in order to refute the litany of complaints that were subsequently made by politically motivated groups.

In fact renewed Jewish settlement in the City of David rests on empirical Jewish historic, religious, and cultural ties to the area. Relations between the Jewish and Palestinian residents of the neighborhood are reasonably warm as long as political elements remain uninvolved and do not incite the Palestinian residents. Police sources testify that ever since the Jews began moving into the area, crime and nationalist incidents there have declined sharply.

The EU's Problematic Policy Shift on Jerusalem

The recent EU report was not issued in a diplomatic vacuum. Rather, it is the latest manifestation of a problematic shift in EU policy on Jerusalem that began in 1999. The German ambassador to Israel at the time, whose country served as rotating President of the EU, proposed re-dividing Jerusalem by reviving UN Resolution 181 of 1947, that had been drafted before Israel was invaded by the neighboring Arab states in the 1948 war of independence. In fact, Resolution 181 had not proposed that Jerusalem be divided, but rather that it should be internationalized, becoming a corpus separatum - a proposal declared by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, to be "null and void."6

The diplomatic resurrection of the idea of denying Israeli sovereignty over its united capital also energized the longstanding Palestinian denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie stated at the time in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al- Ayam, "The (EU's) letter asserts that Jerusalem in both of its parts - the Western and the Eastern - is a land under occupation."7

Israeli Rights in Jerusalem

According to the new EU document, "The EU policy on Jerusalem is based on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242." However, Resolution 242, drafted in the aftermath of Israel's defensive Six-Day War in June 1967 and unanimously approved by the Security Council on November 22, 1967, does not mention Jerusalem at all. Moreover, the operative clauses of the resolution never insisted on total withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, but only on withdrawal from "territories" to "secure and recognized boundaries." The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in 1967, Arthur Goldberg, wrote retrospectively: "I never described Jerusalem as an occupied area....Resolution 242 does not refer to Jerusalem in any way whatsoever, and this omission was deliberate."8

In this context, it should be recalled that between 1948 and 1967 during the period of Jordanian rule in Jerusalem, in contravention of its international legal obligations, Jordan refused to allow Jews access to the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives, and additional places sacred to Jews under its control. Over 50 synagogues in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were either destroyed or desecrated, and hundreds of tombstones in the most important Jewish cemetery in the world on the Mount of Olives were desecrated and smashed. The reunification of Jerusalem by Israel in June 1967 restored freedom of religion and worship to all residents of the city - Jews, Muslims and Christians alike.

The European Union report on Jerusalem also ignores the historical progression of Jewish rights and seniority in the city. Jerusalem has had a Jewish majority for the last 150 years - at least since 1864. Israel's position in Jerusalem under international law derives from the Palestine Mandate, where the League of Nations, the repository of international legitimacy prior to the establishment of the United Nations, recognized "the historical tie between the Jewish people and Palestine," and called "for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine." The League of Nations did not distinguish between Jewish rights in Jerusalem and their rights in other areas of Palestine.

Israel's Knesset established Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel in 1950. The Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan, signed a year earlier, did not fix the final boundaries between the parties, but only the lines of military separation at the close of the 1948 war. At the demand of the Arab side, the armistice agreement included a clause that stipulated that nothing in this agreement would predetermine the rights of any party with regard to the final resolution of the outstanding issues through peaceful means. In other words, upon the outbreak of the Six-Day War, the 1967 armistice lines enjoyed no legal or diplomatic status.

On June 5, 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to Jordan's King Hussein saying that Israel would not attack Jordan unless it initiated hostilities. Nevertheless, Jordan launched an attack on Israel along the municipal boundary line in Jerusalem. With the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in the course of the Six-Day War, Israel's Knesset applied Israeli law, jurisdiction, and authority to the eastern part of the city.

At the same time, in a concession unprecedented in modern international diplomatic history that has never been properly recognized, Israel agreed to allow the Muslim Waqf to manage the Temple Mount area, with a view toward preventing inter-religious conflict at one of the world's most sensitive sites. By doing so, Israel underscored its intention to assure freedom of access to members of all faiths at all of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

*     *     *


1. Rory McCarthy, "Israel Annexing East Jerusalem, Says EU," Guardian (UK), 7 March 2009.

2. "EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem," EU Observer, 8 March 2009,

3. Ibid.

4. Justus Reid Weiner, Illegal Construction in Jerusalem: A Variation on an Alarming Global Phenomenon (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2003).

5. Etgar Lefkovits, "Barkat May Relocate Silwan Residents," Jerusalem Post, 19 March 2009,
6. Dore Gold, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Washington: Regnery, 2007), pp. 193-4.

7. Ibid.

8. Gold, p. 174.

*     *     *

Nadav Shragai is the author of Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2008), At the Crossroads, the Story of the Tomb of Rachel (Jerusalem Studies, 2005); The Mount of Contention, the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Jews and Muslims, Religion and Politics since 1967 (Keter, 1995); and "Jerusalem Is Not the Problem, It Is the Solution," in Mister Prime Minister: Jerusalem, ed. Moshe Amirav (Carmel and the Florsheimer Institute, 2005). He has been writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz since 1983.


Continued (Permanent Link)

Establishment of the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department (Minhal Shimur) and Western wall conservation department

The Inauguration of the National Project to Conserve the Stones in the Western Wall and the Establishment of the Israel Antiquities Authority
 [Transmitted by the Israel Government Press Office]
The Western Wall and the monuments around it are among the most important cultural heritage sites in the world. Every year millions of people come to Jerusalem to see them. In order to ensure a safe and comfortable experience, the site should be constantly maintained and new services developed for the benefit of the visitors.
A year ago the Western Wall Heritage Foundation conducted a survey of the state of the wall, which revealed that the physical condition of the stones was deteriorating. It was against this background that the Israel Antiquities Authority decided to take urgent action: the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department conducted an extensive physical and engineering survey of the Western Wall's condition which culminated in the submission of a work plan. Conservation measures are currently being carried out there.
The work is focusing on the conservation treatment of the stones in the Western Wall and their stability, in accordance with their degree of preservation and the level of risk they present to the visiting public.
The project to conserve the stones in the Western Wall in particular, and the conservation and development of the Western Wall compound in general, is one of the most complex projects of its kind ever undertaken in Israel. The Western Wall compound project is an example of the enormous task that confronts us in conserving and presenting Israel's cultural heritage. Such a cultural heritage site that is important on both a local and international level which involves large number of visitors, the need for constant maintenance, and the conservation of the Western Wall's original appearance for us and for posterity, is first and foremost a challenge. This undertaking requires knowledge and professionalism in a wide range of fields. The project is being directed by the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Department, which is staffed with architects, engineers and conservators that specialize in different areas. The Conservation Department manifests the Israel Antiquities Authority's obligation to create a body that will lead the way in the field of conservation in Israel, as a result of the state's responsibility to the cultural heritage in its territory. In touching the stones of the Western Wall the conservators of the Israel Antiquities Authority are touching what has been the very heart of Jewish heritage for generations.
The Conservation Department carries out conservation work throughout the country. The department is engaged in preserving heritage sites that date to a variety of periods. A professional team of fifty five people implements the conservation work: conservators, architects, engineers, planners, chemists, geologists and archaeologists. The conservation experts of the Israel Antiquities Authority provide an answer to the totality of aspects that constitute the conservation process, among them, documentation, research, planning, execution and maintenance. Conservation of the heritage sites is done with an overall view of the conservation process, from its inception to its culmination, and is implemented based on a defined and explicit policy and in accordance with the rules of professional ethics.
High resolution pictures can be downloaded from the following
Photographic credit: Courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
For further details, kindly contact: Meyrav Shay, Acting Spokesperson, Israel Antiquities Authority - 052-4284408

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israel Prepares for the Papal Vist


The Tourism Ministry launches a dedicated mini website in advance of the Papal visit under the slogan:

A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – A Bridge for Peace

Israel Government Press office  

In its first cabinet meeting, the Government today (5.4.09) decided that the Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov will head the inter-ministerial panel preparing for the May visit of Pope Benedict XVI.


Tourism Minister Misezhnikov announced today that a forum of representatives from all the relevant bodies related to the visit had been established, including the President's Residence, Government ministries, security forces, local authorities, the Chief Rabbinate and Yad Vashem. The forum will meet in the next few days to coordinate the necessary arrangements.


The Tourism Ministry continues with its preparations for the visit of the Pope under the slogan:  A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – A Bridge for Peace. Today, the ministry launched a dedicated mini-site:


The website will be supported by a Google and web 2.0 campaign in those countries which represent the most important source of pilgrim tourism to Israel (Italy, USA, Spain, Germany, France, Poland and Brazil). Currently available in English, the site will also be accessible in six languages in mid-April: Spanish, Italian, German, Polish, Portuguese and French. The site includes information on the Pope's itinerary, information on the holy Christian sites throughout Israel (from a religious aspect), pilgrimage routes, information on tour operators and travel agents catering to the pilgrim market and more. The Press Room will also offer relevant information for the hundreds of foreign journalists who are expected to accompany the Pope on his pilgrimage.


The Tourism Ministry is handling all aspects of the visit including marketing activities to promote pilgrimages to Israel during and after the Papal visit; renovations and preparations of the sites included in the Pope's itinerary; preparation of promotional material for distribution to the journalists accompanying the Pope; arranging tours and visits to tourist sites for the media delegations etc.


Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov: "The Pope's visit to the Holy Land inspires an atmosphere of understanding, reconciliation and peace between peoples and religions. His visit will encourage thousands of pilgrims around the world to follow in his footsteps."


Lydia Weitzman, Foreign Press Adviser to the Ministry of Tourism

Tel: 052 3584395   Email:




Continued (Permanent Link)

Challenging Media Bias against Israel

Are those media biased against the right wing hawkish expansionist colonialist imperialist ultranationalist baby-eating state of Israel? Do they favor the progressive, moderate Hamas, and the oppressed Palestinian activist rocket launching crews?  
Nah, just Jewish paranoia.
Below is from the Irish Independent.
Some newspapers have a mission. Others do not. Some newspapers take a line on issues, involving all staff. Others confine this to balance, accuracy and discovery. Some newspapers declare what they are for and whose champions they want to be. Others mind their own business about this -- believing it is self-evident in what they do -- and avoid being champions because it can lead to lack of balance and embarrassment.
Readers ask me what the Irish Independent stands for and why I work for it. I find it difficult to say. I would like to think it stands for me and for my right to comment.
If you ask this from an 'Irish Times' journalist you will be referred to the paper's website. There you will discover that the 'Irish Times' is 'the only independent newspaper in Ireland'.
You will also discover, from the editor-in-chief, Geraldine Kennedy, that the 'Irish Times' aims "to lead and shape public opinion" and "to champion specific causes".
I champion what I choose. That is the precise point about being a commentator, in defence of industrial school victims, in favour of the 'No' vote on the Lisbon Treaty, in favour of a fair deal for Israel in its state of siege, surrounded by Palestinian enemies.
But please defend the Irish Independent from doing the same. It is a cradle for all views and long may it remain so. It is the main reason I work for them.
I write about this difference because of the speech by Israel's new foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman, redefining Israeli objectives. The speech is a revelation in which Liberman says that "the priorities of the international community must change, and that all the previous benchmarks -- the Warsaw Pact, the NATO alliance, socialist countries, capitalist countries -- have changed. There is a world order that the countries of the free world are trying to preserve, and there are forces, or countries or extremist entities that are trying to violate it".
The violation, he says, comes "from the direction of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq".
This comes in the aftermath of a serious period of conflict during December 2008 and January 2009 when devastation threatened Israel and when, to the dismay of peace-loving peoples everywhere -- that country reacted massively.
The Irish Times, unlike the Irish Independent, was already on the Palestinian 'side'. Despite the paper's website statements -- possibly because of them -- it was committed to what I would call 'advocacy journalism'.
The primary focus, in the period covered, was on accusations of Israeli wrongdoing and human interest stories about Palestinian casualties. There were condemnations of Israel's military campaign and the effect of the campaign on Arab society. The same was missing the other way round.
The Hamas anti-Israel, anti-semitic and anti-Jewish agenda; the rejection of a diplomatic solution; the mission to replace a Jewish state with an Islamic caliphate: these were not examined. Also missing was Israel's complete withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, whereupon Hamas took the territory as a launching pad. This is the danger of advocacy. It has an initial appeal, a kind of bullish, 'we know where we stand' approach. And it has to be countered by careful use of balance and probity. I am not sure at all how well the Irish Independent approached this. But I am sure that in my own writing during this period I enraged pro-Palestinian opinion in Ireland, much of which seemed to come out of prejudice and ignorance about the issues.
This was better concealed by the 'Irish Times'. That paper clothes its advocacy in a firm and determined level of condemnation and disdain for the sudden and seemingly ferocious demonstration of serious military force and, ultimately, strategy and tactics that were superior to Hamas.
Advocacy is dangerous. It leads to pre-judgment based on pre-defined mission. The trouble is that the advocacy supersedes the more basic commitment to responsible and ethical journalism.
In the event, we who wrote about this had to look at the overall focus, the balance and the context. We then had to ask the question: "Were both sides of the story told? We told them. Did the 'Irish Times'?
I believe it did not. I believe that, having chosen to 'champion' the Palestinian cause, and promote its narrative of the conflict, the condemnation of Israel outweighed the support for Israel in 'Irish Times' articles by three to one. More seriously, news coverage was allowed to serve as a platform for unchallenged, anti-Israel allegations.
This directly contravenes Geraldine Kennedy's stated guidelines for her paper in its mission on all coverage of controversy in divided circumstances. This mission statement is to "eliminate any trace of partisanship". It is also to be "scrupulous to quote sources accurately" and "never to go to publication without seeking both sides of the story".
Her advocacy mission is that "the truth is presented having made every reasonable effort to establish it on the basis of verifiable fact and reliable sources".
My considered view at the time was that this worthy objective was neither sought nor achieved in respect of Israel. I also believe that it has been literally thrown out of the window in respect of the Lisbon Treaty.
I have strong views on both. I was horrified by what was done by the paper during that tense Middle East conflict. I have been horrified at the consistent bias in favour of the Lisbon Treaty adopted by the 'Irish Times' for a full year now, since the campaign on the referendum began in April 2008.
On both issues, the 'Irish Times' has fallen victim to the widespread inaccuracies that come from advocacy journalism. And the inescapable result of this is a general lack of confidence in both their coverage of news and their choice of those who comment and of the line taken by the paper in its own comments.
But it is the approach, overall, that matters. The very heart of the paper's thinking is distorted, in my opinion, by its declared commitment "to champion specific causes". This is what it says it should be doing. It is also what explains the reason why I am here and have written what I see as the distinction between the two newspapers that have occupied places in my professional life.

Continued (Permanent Link)

Israelis teaching Hebrew in Egypt

Hebrew on the Nile, bridging Egypt-Israel divide

Sun Apr 5, 2009 9:41am BST

By Dan Williams

CAIRO, April 5 (Reuters) - When speaking Arabic, Gabriel Rosenbaum is assiduous about observing the Egyptian variations of the language so alien to many of his fellow Israelis. Three decades into a peace accord that has not much deepened understanding, he considers such immersion key to running the Israeli Academic Centre in Cairo, where Egyptians can similarly grow intimate with the Hebrew language and culture.

"I think the problem is that neither side knows the other," says Rosenbaum, a professor on leave from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and also affiliated with Cambridge University. "When you get to know a place, when you get to know the people, when you get to know the culture, you see that there is nothing to be afraid of. And that's what we do here at the academic centre."

Scholarly interest in Hebrew is nothing new for Egypt, a nexus of antiquity. The Jewish state's founding in a 1948 war lent the language a tactical utility for Egyptian intelligence, as well as for the broadcasters who, in often comically unidiomatic Hebrew, would air messages urging Israelis to surrender.

Talk of historical conflict, or the more recent bilateral tensions over Israel's Gaza offensive and hawkish new government, is largely avoided in the Academic Centre. It's an airy apartment on the Nile waterfront converted to house three reading rooms, shelves lined with literature and criticism.

According to Rosenbaum, several universities in Cairo and beyond offer Hebrew classes, which are taken by 5,000 to 6,000 students a year.

One graduate was Eman Gamal El Din, a guide who tends to the trickle of Israeli tourists, and whose conservative Islamic headscarf contrasts with her comfort and fluency in Hebrew. "I began with wanting to know more about the holy scriptures, and about the Jewish people, and it grew from there," she says.

While Rosenbaum, 61, says many Hebrew students are simply discharging a syllabus obligation, others use the language in careers in academia, the leisure industry or civil service.

Funded by Israeli universities, the Academic Centre provides contemporary texts that may be unavailable on Egyptian campuses. Cairo's cultural unions have long boycotted Israel, partly in protest at its policies towards the Palestinians.

"What we have here is everything that a student needs in order to learn Hebrew," says Amr Zakareya, an Egyptian who first came to the centre as an undergraduate in 1989 and wound up becoming its administrative director.

Rosenbaum admits that the political situation hurts turnout for the lectures by visiting Israeli academics and artists that he and his wife, Michal, put on. The centre is also under close police guard, which can discourage casual browsers from coming.

"We are not on a diplomatic mission. We are academics," he says. "But still, we try to explain the Israeli point of view in any field. Some of those who come here are just curious to find out more about their ex-enemy, who is now their friend." (Additional reporting by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Continued (Permanent Link)

Report: Moderate Fatah peace partner hast resumed moderate and peaceful terrorist attacks

Last update - 08:03 05/04/2009       
Security sources: Fatah has resumed terrorist activities
By Amos Harel
Defense officials said over the weekend they are concerned about the increased involvement of Fatah-affiliated militants in attacks against Jews in the West Bank over the past two months.
Fatah members stopped attacks against Israel around two years ago, but the involvement of Fatah members in the recent deadly attack in Bat Ayin and the murder of two policemen in the Jordan Valley is being investigated.
The investigation into these attacks and the attempted bombing at a mall in Haifa are under strict censorship restrictions, as requested by the Shin Bet security service.
Officers from the Israel Defense Forces' Central Command said they had a lead regarding last week's attack in Bat Ayin, in which a 13-year-old boy was killed with an ax. The assailant has not yet been caught.
Foreign elements are cooperating with Fatah militants, defense officials say. In 2003 and 2004, when Fatah was responsible for a considerable part of terrorist attacks in the West Bank and beyond the Green Line, most teams were handled by Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad operatives based in Beirut and Damascus, who supplied funds and leadership.
In addition to a possible Hezbollah connection, terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip appear to have also increased their involvement in the West Bank, the officials say.
As Israel and the Palestinian Authority have tightened security cooperation in the West Bank, Fatah members have gradually ceased to carry out attacks against Israelis. Members of the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades have also stopped targeting Israelis.
Moreover, hundreds of members of Fatah's military wing pledge, in agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, to have ceased terrorist activity in exchange for the Shin Bet's promise to stop pursuing them. Some of these men still enjoy a form of protective custody in the West Bank. Others became officials in the Palestinian Authority's security forces.
However, intelligence reports suggest that several Fatah militants have resumed planning and implementing attacks against Israel. Some of the militants who signed pledges are also thought to be in violation of the contracts.
This trend could indicate a loss of power by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.
Alternately, political activists could be encouraging Fatah militants to carry out attacks to preserve a military option and out of the assumption that the relationship with Israel could severely deteriorate now that Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister.

Continued (Permanent Link)

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